Nathan Thompson and Damiisa Robinson jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first set of the doubles final at the Legg Mason Wild Card Challenge. But that's when their opponents began to clamp down.
Joey Atas and Matt Scott slowly but surely reeled them in and won, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. The doubles title in the Wild Card Challenge qualifies Atas and Scott to play in the doubles main draw of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, which runs July 30 through Aug. 7 at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Northwest Washington.
"Not getting crushed in that first set was key," said Scott, 23, a former tennis player at the University of Notre Dame.
Scott and Atas, 20, withstood the initial onslaught and won the next three games before Robinson and Thompson, who attended Clemson University together, closed the first set.
Atas and Scott dominated from there, winning the second set and storming to a 5-1 lead in the third. But Robinson and Thompson didn't go down without a fight.
"I just told [Thompson], 'Let's take this one point at a time,' " Robinson said. "There's plenty of tennis left. Now the pressure is on them to close. All we have to do is keep making it close."
They kept it plenty close, tying Atas and Scott at five games apiece.
"To their credit they made a lot more returns in the third set," Scott said. "They were forcing us to finish them off."
During the stretch, 17 deuces were called, but the run ended as neither Thompson nor Robinson could keep the ball in play during the final two games.
The small crowd on hand at the Arlington Y Tennis & Squash Club was wowed by several of Atas's drop-volley winners.
"If he's going to hit a drop volley where it barely grazes the net, there's not much you can do," Thompson said. "They came up with the shots when they needed to."
The singles final was decided by serves. Old Dominion University alumnus Izak van der Merwe defeated two-time Wild Card champion Trevor Spracklin, 6-2, 6-2, in what was expected to be a closer match.
Spracklin had difficulty breaking van der Merwe's serve throughout the match.
"I didn't serve that well, but I served smart," van der Merwe said.
"He got down love-30 or so and it put a lot of pressure on him."
Spracklin, meantime, struggled with his service.
"My serve betrayed me," Spracklin said. "I couldn't beat my mother with that."
With the win, van der Merwe, who is from South Africa, will move into the qualifying rounds of the Legg Mason.