The US Open National Playoffs, held at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., came to a conclusion on Sunday. Defending champion Blake Strode retained his title in a hard fought win 7-6 (8), 7-6 (4) over Nathan Healey, while unseeded Robin Anderson capped off a dream week by upsetting No. 2 seed Yasmin Schnack in the final 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.
The women were up first in the second match of the day on stadium court. Perhaps overwhelmed by the chance to compete in the US Open qualifying draw, Anderson opened up the match with three double faults to give Schnack an early break and struggled with her timing early on.
“I was very aware of my surroundings and the crowd,” said Anderson. “It took a little while to settle in.”
The first set was a back-and-forth encounter featuring numerous service breaks, but it was Schnack’s gutsy trips to the net that got her to prevail in the opening set. She followed up a forehand drive with a volley winner to reach set point at 6-5, and a backhand error from Anderson gave the California native a one-set lead.
Anderson had a break point in Schnack’s first service game of the second set, but missed it with a routine overhead. However, a forehand error from Schnack in her next service game gave Anderson a 3-1 lead.
Schnack gained the break back in Anderson’s next service game, but a forehand winner from the Matawan native gave her a 4-2 lead, and she rode the momentum through to the rest of the match, reeling off eight consecutive games in total.
“I just tried to stay more consistent and make her play one extra ball,” said Anderson. “She started missing a bit towards the end, which was definitely good for me.”
The final set was one-way traffic for Anderson. Schnack struggled to find the timing on her serve, hitting a pair of double faults to go down 2-0, and a double fault to also lose her next service game. Down 0-5, Schnack managed to hold serve and get on the board, but an ace down the middle from Anderson on her first match point gave her the match and the wildcard into the US Open qualifying tournament.
“I like my chances at qualifying,” said Anderson. “I think I’ve been hitting the ball pretty well this week.”
Despite the loss, Schnack was gracious in defeat afterwards.
“I want to thank the crowd for coming out here today and congratulate Robin for playing such a well-fought match,” said Schnack. “She definitely deserves it. I’m just glad that a Bruin will still be competing in the US Open.”
The men’s final was delayed by more than two hours due to rain, with Strode serving at 1-1, 40-0. Play was moved indoors and the quick courts led to easy service holds throughout the set, with no break point opportunities.
In the tiebreaker, both players held mini-break advantages on several occasions. Strode was the first to hold a set point opportunity at 6-5, and then Healey had his own opportunity to close out the set at 8-7. In the end, a backhand sent wide from Healey at 9-8 wrapped up the opening set.
“Honestly, that tiebreak is a blur now,” said Strode. “There was a goofy volley on set point that I missed and some bad calls on both sides. I was just able to hang on in the end.”
A forehand winner from Strode in the opening game of the second set gave him an immediate service break off Healey’s serve. The Aussie veteran had a break point opportunity at 3-2 in the second set, but was unable to convert.
With Strode serving for the championship at 5-4, the timing on his shots began to abandon him. A forehand error on Healey’s first break point opportunity leveled the match at 5-5, but a backhand passing shot in the next service game gave Strode the break back at 6-5. Serving for the match once again, Strode was unable to convert and another tiebreak took place.
“It was more that he played a couple of very good return games rather than me choking or missing a couple of easy shots,” said Strode. “There’s a reason he has accomplished all he has.”
The players remained on serve in the tiebreaker until 4-4, when a slice backhand into the net from Healey gave Strode the mini-break. On his first match point at 6-4, a backhand sent long from Healey wrapped up the match and secured Strode a spot in the US Open qualifying draw.
“It’s really cool to be the inaugural champion and then come back to win it again,” said Strode. “I’m just really glad they have this because it’s gotten me into the US Open twice now!”
The US Open qualifying tournament will be held from August 23-26 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. The US Open National Playoffs for the mixed doubles event will be held at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University in New Haven, CT, from August 24-27. Schnack, Healey and Strode have also qualified for this event.