It took a little more than three hours, but No. 8 seed Daniel Nguyen advanced to the men's singles final in the Lewis and Clark Men's Pro Tennis Classic, a USTA Pro Circuit event, on July 26, preventing his opponent from getting the chance to win both the singles and doubles titles.
Nguyen, a 2012 graduate from the University of Southern California, dropped the first match 6-4 to Great Britain's Luke Bambridge 6-4, then wound up winning the second and third sets both by the score of 6-4.
Nguyen, serving with a 5-4 edge in the third set, dropped a shot just above the net that bounced twice before Bambridge, running hard toward the net from the baseline, had the opportunity to make an attempt at it.
Once the ball took its second bounce, Nguyen raising his arms and looking toward the crowd, yelled, "Let's go!"
Nguyen was serving for the win with a 5-2 advantage, but Bambridge battled to get within 5-4 before Nguyen got the match's final point.
The match's time was three hours, 11 minutes, according to a USTA official.
"I just tried to stay mentally tough out there," Nguyen said. "He was serving well. I was having trouble with his serve. I just kept trying to stay persistent and he finally missed a few first serves, and I was able to get the opportunity break him. Towards the end my legs were getting really tired and I just kept telling myself, 'Keep fighting.'"
Trailing 1-0 in the second match, Nguyen was serving and the game went to eight deuces. The point went in his favor, and allowed him, he says, to prevent Bambridge from gaining momentum.
"I was pretty tired after that game but happy," he said. "I knew if I would have lost that game he would have had the confidence and momentum to pull away. I was getting so frustrated because I think I had like 10 game points and I wasn't able to close it out. I stayed in there and just trusted myself."
The players were dealing with sunny conditions and a high of about 95 degrees, with a heat index into the triple digits.
"Brutal, it was hot there," Bambridge said shortly after the match. "I was fortunate enough to get the break in the first set to get the win, I was happy with that."
The temperature began climbing in the second match.
"It got hotter and tougher," Bambridge said. "He started to serve better and it became more of a physical battle, and it was a good match. I have no regrets. I left it all out there."
Bambridge, 19, took the doubles title, along with Liam Broady, on July 25. He trains in London and has been touring for the past six weeks in the United States.
This was his first time competing at the event hosted by Lewis and Clark.
"I love the states," he said. "I love traveling around here. This is a good tour that we're playing right now. I enjoyed the tournament, it was well run. I came through a few tough matches to get to the semis. Overall, a pretty good tournament."
This is Nguyen's third time competing in Godfrey and his first trip to the final. The furthest he advanced before was to the quarterfinals.
Nguyen will take on Mitchell Frank Sunday, July 27, at 10 a.m. in the single's final in Godfrey.
Nguyen says he likes the venue, and added the courts are a little bouncy and rubbery. Since graduating a couple of years ago, he has been playing tennis full-time
After Sunday's final, Nguyen plans to compete in Decatur in August, then in California.
Frank advances in other semifinal
Mitchell Frank dispatched Ronnie Schneider 6-0, 7-5 in the second semifinal match.
Frank took advantage early on, cruising to a relatively smooth 6-0 first set win.
"I thought the first set, he was struggling so I was like kind of lucky to get through that," Frank said. "I was playing pretty well until about 5-0 or so, but I hadn't quite been tested yet. In the second set, he was battling. You kind of go from this very relaxed state to doing what you want. Then, all of a sudden he turns it on, and it becomes a battle. You've got to find a way to get through it. He's an unbelievable player, so I was expecting a tough match."
Playing in much warmer weather Saturday morning appeared to take its toll on both players.
Frank, who had sweat dripping much of the time while he was on the court, was on his third shirt early in the second match. Both players took multiple breaks to gather themselves and wipe off the sweat with a towel.
"For me, it was kind of like a shock to the system," Frank said. "We came out to Tulsa and Godfrey and we were expecting it to be hot. But it hasn't been the past two weeks. One day it was semi-hot, but then it was just cool. You're not accustomed to the heat, so you're feeling it more than if it had been hot the whole way through."
Schneider said the warmer temperatures were a challenge.
"This week, every match I've played wasn't anywhere close to this hot," he said.
Frank, originally from Annandale, Virginia, near the Washington, D.C. area, was an unseeded player who will be a senior competing collegiately at the University of Virginia in Charlotteville, Virginia later this year.
This was the second time competing in Godfrey for both Frank and Schneider. Frank, now 21, competed as a 16-year-old and at the USTA event hosted by Lewis and Clark the past two summers.
Schneider, from Bloomington, Indiana, will be a sophomore at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Despite the semifinal loss, he was pleased with his effort in this year's tournament.
"It was a great week for me, going through qualifying, winning three rounds, and getting to my first true semifinal, so that was good. Mitchell was just too tough today. I came out and had an awful, awful, awful start. I don't know if there's a level of awful to describe how awful that was," he said.
Schneider wanted to show he belonged in the semifinals after getting shut out in the first set.
In the second set, Schneider told himself, "I'm going to battle as hard as a I can."
Long, back-and-forth volleys by Frank and Schneider in the second likely gave those in attendance the impression the second match would be longer.
Schneider took leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 early on but wasn't unable to translate that into a match win.
"I think the whole week kind of got to me a little bit, maybe the heat. More than anything, it was Mitchell, doing what he does, and me just not having quite enough firepower at the end," he said.
After their semifinal Frank, planned to check out the other semifinal, but Schneider said sleep was on his mind.
Both Frank and Schneider stayed with host families during this year's tournament.
"I had some support here, so that was good," Schneider said.
In addition to players from the United States, there were individuals from France, Canada, Spain, Great Britain, China and Libya competing in the Men's Future Tournament on the campus of Lewis and Clark.