One of the players that caught my attention this past week at Legg Mason was Wayne Odesnik. I first watched him in a second round match against Argentinean Juan Martin del Potro. I like del Potro, and was excited about seeing him play in person. I was actually watching a different match (Isner vs. Becker) when the scoreboard flashed the scores on a changeover and I saw del Potro was in trouble. I scooted over to the court to watch, and was instantly won over by Odesnik.
In the world of tennis, he is considered a small guy - 5'11". He is a lefty. But what impressed me the most was how hard he worked for every single point and how never gave up. After losing the first set to del Potro, Odesnik won the second in a tiebreak (I think it was something like 12-10, but not sure). He just kept on going, not getting down if he missed shot, and just looked like he was having the time of his life. He got a break of serve in the third set, and on his first match point he running for a drop shot and ended up doing a perfect slide almost into the bleachers. There are baseball players who can't slide that well, and he was doing this on a hard court! He missed the shott, but he bounced right back up, walked it off, and closed out the match.
He eventually became one of John Isner's victims, and is the one opponent that nobody talks about. When they talk about Isner, they talk about how he beat Henman, Haas, Becker, and Monfils...all these top players! And, oh yeah, Odesnik. But of all those players, Odesnik gave him the hardest test in three tiebreak sets with NO breaks of serve!!! He is almost a foot shorter, but he held his serve every time against the 6'9" Isner. He had the crowd against him (except for me and a few other people) but just kept going and would not give up. Above all else, I admire that in a tennis player. It is easier for people like Isner, who has such a physcial advantage, to develop big serves and weapons on the court. But I would rather root for the Michael Changs, the Andre Agassis, the Wayne Odesniks...who have to work so much harder to get the same results. It shows just how much more they want it and how much work they are willing to put in to get the results.
Odesnik turned pro a few years ago, and is still young at 21. He has had success on the challenger level, but usually has to go through qualifying to get into the bigger events. He was the #1 seed in qualifying at Legg Mason, and didn't lose a match until the three set thriller with Isner in the third round.
At Montreal this week, he also had to fight through qualifying. His reward? A first round date with #11 seed Ivan Ljubicic, the Croat with the big serve and big game, but an underachiever at bigger events, most notably grand slams. And tonight, David and Goliath played out once again, just like in DC, and this time, David wore the giant down. Odesnik just defeated Ljubicic 6-3, 4-6, 7-6. The fighter makes it through another round.
His opponent in the second round is being decided as I type this. Canadian Frank Dancevic, who got some attention by beating Andy Roddick two weeks ago, is serving for the first set against...you guessed it...Juan Martin del Potro. Dancevic and Odesnik have met once, with Dancevic winning. With his win last week, Odesnik pulled the head to head with del Potro even at 1-1. Either way, I think Odesnik will have a battle in front of him.
But that is what he does best.