Sweet(ing) win for young American

Wild card Ryan Sweeting won his first-round match Wednesday. However, Greg Garber explains why Sweeting can't collect on the $26,000 prize money for the victory.

Updated: August 30, 2006, 11:28 PM ET

WILD CARD SWEETING DEFEATS CORIA

NEW YORK -- A year ago, a gangly 18-year-old from the Bahamas named Ryan Sweeting blew through the draw here and won the U.S. Open junior title. Considering the achievement -- Stefan Edberg, Andy Roddick and Marcelo Rios are all former champions -- there was a widespread presumption that Sweeting would turn pro.

Oddly enough, he did not. He decided to go to college, the University of Florida, instead. And now, after a tantalizing and turbulent year, Sweeting is playing the best tennis of his life. He faces that same decision with an even greater sense of urgency.

"It's 50-50," Sweeting said on Wednesday, after he advanced to the second round of the U.S. Open. "It's great to play matches and travel all over the place. But it's a big difference playing tennis for a living."

Sweeting, who recently became a U.S. citizen, was declared the winner when Guillermo Coria retired after five games with a thigh injury. Because Sweeting is an amateur he cannot collect the $26,000 he earned for the victory.

The USTA handed out wild cards to seven rising American men, including the celebrated Donald Young. Sweeting was the first to deliver a victory. (Another wild card recipient, Sam Querrey, also won his match later in Day 3.)

Ryan Sweeting
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
American Ryan Sweeting was one of only two players awarded wild cards to win in the first round.

If you search the ATP database, one of the few facts available is that Sweeting is ranked No. 495 in the world. In a press conference in the smallest interview room with six reporters, Sweeting listed his vitals -- he's 6-foot-4, 180 pounds -- and discussed his journey from the Bahamas, where he lived for a dozen years, to New York.

In the wake of the Open triumph, Sweeting was a popular fellow. He was pursued by agents and was invited to the Bollettieri Tennis Academy, where he won a practice match against Maria Sharapova 7-5, 6-3 -- after losing the first five games. He was also dismissed from the Florida tennis team after he was charged with DUI.

Life on the court has been smoother. Sweeting fashioned a victory over Justin Gimelstob in the first round at Washington and had qualifying wins over Vince Spadea and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in New Haven, Conn. Next up is No. 26 seed Olivier Rochus, a winner on Wednesday over Olivier Patience. A week after the U.S. Open, Sweeting will travel with the U.S. Davis Cup team to Moscow where he'll serve as a practice hitter leading up to the semifinals.

He said he is enrolled for his sophomore year at Florida, but although classes have already begun he's working in New York. His coach, former professional Harold Solomon (winner of 22 ATP tournaments) is urging him to turn pro. His Gators ball cap, enthusiasm over his first apartment and generally laid-back approach suggest that it's no guarantee.


KENDRICK ON USTA: "THEY GAVE UP ON ME"

NEW YORK -- Robert Kendrick said lingering fatigue from having made his way into the main draw through the qualifying tournament helped cost him a first-round match against 17th seed Andy Murray. But he was upbeat about his season, which includes a valiant five-set second-round loss to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon.

Kendrick, 26, spent three years in college at the University of Washington and Pepperdine and sat out most of last summer with a wrist injury, but still feels he has a chance to be a top player. Kendrick said he isn't discouraged at being overshadowed by younger up-and-coming Americans.

"The organization I'm from, if you go to college, they give up on you," he said, referring to the U.S. Tennis Association. "They gave up on me. But that's just all the more motivation."

He is 4-5 in ATP events this year and won a lower-level Challenger event on clay.


PHOTO OF THE DAY
Bethanie Mattek
AP Photo/Louis Lanzano
Wearing beribboned tube socks and a semi-sheer angel wing top, American Bethanie Mattek had the most talked-about outfit at the U.S. Open. Mattek, however, lost in straight sets to Daniela Hantuchova.
ADVANTAGE LUKE JENSEN
Effects of rain delay
STAT OF THE DAY
6 -- In the Open era, years that ended in six (1976, '86, '96) both the men's and women's No. 1 seeds won the U.S. Open.
1996: No. 1 Sampras def. No. 2 Chang, No. 1 Graf def. No. 2 Seles
1986: No. 1 Lendl def. No. 16 Mecir, No. 1 Navratilova def. No. 7 Sukova
1976: No. 1 Connors def. No. 2 Borg, No. 1 Evert def. No. 2 Goolagong.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Asked if she has regained her conditioning and if she has been spending hours and hours in the gym, Serena Williams said, "I would never really tell you everything I do. I was at the pool sipping lemonade; that way everyone else will do that."