When Trevor Spracklin held up his trophies yesterday afternoon, fans around him whispered that he had established himself as a premier local player, boosted his world ranking and earned a chance to play against top-ranked ATP professionals.
Spracklin could think only about eating a nice, full lunch.
By winning both the singles and doubles championships at the Legg Mason Wild Card Challenge at the Arlington Y Tennis and Squash Club, Spracklin earned automatic spots in both draws at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in mid-August. More important, he ensured himself $2,000 in Legg Mason prize money, which will allow him a few weeks' break from his usual meal of Doritos and tuna.
Spracklin, 26, has been trying to break through as a professional tennis player for the past four years, and he relies on small-tournament prize money to make his living.
"I need that money badly," said Spracklin, who's won the Wild Card Challenge doubles championship three times and the singles title twice. "It will pretty much go hand-to-mouth. I've been cutting corners to get by. Basically, I need this to survive."
Spracklin played like his livelihood was in doubt yesterday. In the singles final, he easily dispatched Matt Scott, 6-4, 6-2. An hour later in the doubles final, he teamed with 37-year-old Carl Clark to beat Joey Atas and Christopher Groer, 6-2, 6-3.
In both matches, Spracklin's first serve proved to be the difference. In the first set of his singles final, Spracklin won 11 service points in a row. "It seemed like his first serve went in every time," said Scott, who graduated from Notre Dame in May. "He always had me on the defensive."
Spracklin's on-court demeanor mirrored his playing style: powerful, aggressive and intimidating. After he hit winners, Spracklin pumped his fist and shouted. When he missed chances, he criticized himself just as loudly.
After one of his first serves was ruled long in the singles match, Spracklin walked toward the umpire and questioned the ruling. "Where'd it miss?" Spracklin said. "That felt pretty good to me."
"He's animated," Clark said. "He's an exciting player, and we work pretty well together. He plays like everything is on the line."
That's not far from the truth. After an expensive trip to Europe yielded just $400 in winnings earlier this summer, Spracklin went from poor to broke. He stopped eating out and cut his cell phone usage in half. If he didn't win soon, he thought, he might have to change careers and get a job.
Not until last weekend, when he won $1,500 at a tournament in Virginia, did Spracklin finally begin to feel secure about his wallet -- and his career. Add that to yesterday's winnings and Spracklin, ranked No. 1,060 in the world, feels like he's practically in a position to splurge.
Plus, Spracklin could earn even more than the guaranteed, first-round Legg Mason prize money. In 2001, he teamed with Clark to beat Jan-Michael and Torrey Gambill in the first round of the ATP tournament's doubles draw.
"If we're both playing well, we could do some serious damage," Spracklin said. "We've got a chance to go out there and win a few matches. Man, if that happened, it would mean some really good money."