It didn't matter that he was younger or less experienced. Nineteen-year-old Reston resident Phillip Simmonds stepped to the baseline on stadium court at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center yesterday and served his way into the main draw of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.
Simmonds gained entrance into his first ATP tournament, winning in the singles qualifying draw, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, over No. 2 seed Jamie Delgado, a 28-year-old with more than 30 ATP appearances.
"It's great, especially being home," said Simmonds, who attended South Lakes High before switching to private- and home-schooling to focus on tennis. "This is probably the best [win of my career]. I was placed in a situation I've never been in. I'm kind of speechless."
Both players said the match was decided by Simmonds's serve, which he called "the engine in my car." The engine was running well yesterday as he tallied eight aces, seven coming in the last set.
"I was thinking too much in the beginning of the second set," Simmonds said. "I tried to stop and gather myself for the third set and be a little more aggressive."
Today, Simmonds takes on Wayne Arthurs. Despite losing, Delgado will still enter the main draw of the Legg Mason. He will take the spot of Mardy Fish, who withdrew with a sore wrist.
Tyler Hochwalt, 16, had the chance to become the youngest player ever to qualify for the Legg Mason, but fell short, losing to No. 3 Nathan Healey, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).
Hochwalt looked ready for the task in the first game, putting Healey out without a point. The Australian came back though, rattling off three straight games and seizing the momentum.
"I was quite impressed," Healey, 25, said of Hochwalt. "His attitude didn't waver, usually at that age it does. I had to take it to him."
"For my first ATP tournament it wasn't bad," said Hochwalt, who entered the qualifier through a wild card he received from his win at the USTA Boys' 16 National Clay Court Championship in Rockville last weekend. "I'm pretty excited with the way I did."
Down 5-3 in the second set, No. 5 Robert Smeets saved five match points and rallied back to grab a qualifying spot, defeating No. 4 Sebastien De Chaunac, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4. Top-seeded Ivo Heuberger also advanced to the main draw, beating No. 6 Richard Bloomfield.