ATLANTA – Day 1 of the Qualifying Round at the BBT Atlanta Open
In front of 100 local fans on Grandstand Court in Atlantic Station, Macon resident, Becker O'Shaughnessey defeated Mexico’s Santiago Gonzalez in straight sets, 6-4; 6-2.
Craig Jones along with his wife, Donna coordinated a bus trip with nearly 40 of his academy players, all of whom sported shirts with the word, 'Believe' on them. Another sixty fans traveled up separately to cheer for O'Shaughnessey.
"It's cheesy in a way," smiled O'Shaughnessey in a post-match interview. "I mean, I see them (the shirts) every day. But to look up," O'Shaughnessey paused, "I can't thank Craig enough for all the support and getting the entire city behind me."
Jones, head coach at the Craig Jones Tennis Academy at Idle Hour Country Club, never takes his coaching hat off. "I look at Becker and I see how much he's improved but I also see the things he isn't doing right.” Jones worked with Becker over the summer to tweak his strokes, etc.
"I'm proud to see him play good tennis again. I'm very excited," Jones said.
O'Shaughnessey started out the match a little nervous dealing with unfamiliar things like having ball kids on court and towels at the ready. "It was different," he said, "but I adapted to it."
Another factor contributing to his nervous mode: long points. "When the points got long, I had to adapt my game."
And adapt his game he did. Down 3-1 in the first set, O'Shaughnessey kept his cool.
"This is what was great today," said Jones. "He didn't break down. He was down 3-1 in the first set. When you're down it's very easy to get mentally (down). I felt he (Becker) kept his positive energy up. He didn't break down when he could have. That was a really big plus."
O'Shaughnessey feels college tennis contributed to his mental toughness. He led Alabama's Crimson Tide team with 22 singles wins. "There is so much weight on your back. You’re playing for your team. The big points are even bigger and you learn how to handle them. But in professional tennis you're playing for yourself," he said. “Playing college tennis helps you."
For O'Shaugnnessey's father, he had this to say, "You walk by all these huge banners with the faces of The Byran Brothers, Sam Querry, Iohn Isner, Leyton Hewitt, Monfies, and you say 'Wow, my son is playing in the same tournament as these guys.' It is just surreal. He has worked hard and sacrificed to get to this point and I just want him to enjoy the experience. It was awesome so many people from Macon came to watch. So now we enjoy his victory and start preparing for tomorrow's match and hope he keeps getting W's. "
Becker added, "I felt honored to get this so close to home. It's a great atmosphere. I'm really excited to see how far I can go."
USA’s Kevin King defeated O’Shaughnessey 6-3; 6-2.
Next up, O’Shaughnessey will play doubles with Korey Lovett against Germany’s Benjamin Becker and Frank Moser.