By Steve Pratt
LONG BEACH, Calif., (Jan. 18, 2015) – For three straight days Takanyi Garanganga dropped the first set at the USTA Pro Circuit Long Beach Futures Pro Tournament, and teetered on the brink of elimination. And each time he came back to pull out improbable victories, including Sunday’s final match of the $15,000 tournament played at the El Dorado Park Tennis Center.
The 24-year-old Garanganga, of Harare, Zimbabwe, rallied once again to defeat No. 6-seeded Frederik Nielsen of Denmark, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4, in the final to capture the $2,160 first-place check and 27 valuable ATP ranking points.
Ranked No. 382 in the world, Garanganga did it the hard way all week. Having traveled from Amsterdam where he was training, he missed the entry deadline and showed up last week to sign into qualifying needing a wild card. Garanganga sat through two days of rain delays last Saturday and Sunday where not one ball was hit and then played and won every match he played for seven consecutive days, including two in qualifying and five in the main draw.
“I missed the deadline but I had to come here anyway on my way to Maui (for next week’s USTA Pro Circuit Challenger),” Garanganga said. “It was actually good for me to get the matches at the start of the year. I wasn’t playing very good at the beginning so it was good for me.”
The final was a match of momentum shifts and the large crowd on hand enjoyed the high-level tennis. Nielsen opened strong with an early break and led 4-1 in the first when midway through the sixth game Garanganga reached wide for a forehand and seemed to roll his right ankle.
He took a medical timeout and had his ankle wrapped, proceeded to break Nielsen’s serve and quickly got it to 4-4. In the first-set tiebreaker, Nielsen fell down 5-2 and on the eighth point following a missed forehand wide, Nielsen launched a ball halfway to downtown L.A. and was given a ball abuse warning.
But that seemed to lift his level of play as Nielsen then hit two big serves to pull it to 5-4. Garanganga missed a critical overhead long to make it 6-5 Nielsen, who then served out the set, which finally ended after an hour and 15 minutes.
Garanganga said he didn’t think back to the quarterfinals and semis where he also dropped the first set before coming back. “I just keep playing,” he said. “I just kept waiting for my chances. I was just playing in the moment and wasn’t thinking about past.”
He added: “I’m tired. I’m tired and my body is feeling it. But I will take a day off and then fly to Maui probably on Wednesday.”
Final Singles Results:
Takanyi Garanganga (q), Zimbabwe def. Frederik Nielsen (6), Denmark, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4
Final Doubles Result:
Nick Meister, U.S. / Eric Quigley (3), U.S., def. Dimitar Kutrovsky, Bulgaria / Dennis Novikov (4), U.S., 6-3, 6-2