Sunday’s final at the 2014 Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championship began an hour earlier than scheduled, due to potentially bad weather late in the afternoon. The decision to move the match up in order to avoid rain delays in a third set is just one example of the intelligent way this tournament is run; everything is planned with the logical aim of creating the best possible experience for the players and the spectators.
The third set rain never interfered, however, and it took the talented and charming Fernando Verdasco only two sets to win his first title since 2010, when he defeated Nicolas Almagro with a final score of 6-3, 7-6 (4).
It wasn’t always clear who would win in the one hour and 52 minute match. The world No. 26 had trailed by a break in the second set. After getting back on serve he faced the challenge of saving five set points at 4-5. At that point, Verdasco forced a tiebreaker. Once he achieved that, he continued to battle his way to victory. In doing so, he captured his first singles title since 2010 (in Barcelona).
But that was just the final moment in a week of great tennis and even better weather, at a tournament that knows how to create and sustain an environment of entertaining and exciting tennis-going. What really makes a tournament great? The people, of course. And there’s just something about the crowds at River Oaks that makes it one of the friendliest places to watch great tennis around. The tournament celebrates its 80th tournament this year (the first one was played in 1931), which probably accounts for the high level of tennis knowledge amongst the spectators. While in the area outside the stadium, it may appear that everyone showed up for a fun social event (looking good and happy to see one another), don’t be fooled. These folks know their tennis and they are a great audience — respectful and enthusiastic and supportive of a good match.
Here are just a few photos I was able to take from a great week of play on the Texas clay…