Wrapping up the Challenger of Dallas

Even though Mark Knowles is retired he still has game. Photo Courtesy: Bridget Samuels
Even though Mark Knowles is retired he still has game. Photo Courtesy: Bridget Samuels

By Jay Betsill and Austin Haden

The 16th Challenger of Dallas mens tennis event at T Bar M Racquet Club was full of storylines ranging from two-time NCAA champion Steve Johnson’s dominating the singles draw to a run to the doubles finals by three-time grand slam champion Mark Knowles.

Johnson, the No. 155 ranked player in the ATP rankings, took full advantage of the early exits of top seed Michael Russell (No. 98) and second seeded Alex Bogomolov, Jr. (No. 96) to power his way to the finals. It would be the first time in Challenger of Dallas history that all four semi-finalists were unseeded players. He would drop only one set the entire week en route to a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 164-ranked Malek Jaziri in the finals.

Johnson won his third ATP Challenger Tour title in his third final and collected the winner’s check of $14,400.

“I was struggling with confidence a little before the start to this year,” Johnson said. “To come out and win the tournament here makes it more special.”

The doubles final matched 42–year-old Mark Knowles and 2012 Davis Cup player Ryan Harrison against the top seeded team of Australians Samuel Groth and Chris Guccione. Groth, who has the fastest recorded serve on record at 163.4 mph during a 2012 tournament at Busan in South Korea, and Guccione were never broken on their way to a 6-4, 6-2 victory.

The capacity crowd was very pro-Knowles and Harrison. Knowles, a Southlake resident who is a native of the Bahamas, appeared in the 115th final of his illustrious doubles career that includes titles at Wimbledon, the French Open and the U.S. Open and multiple stints at being the No. 1 in the world rankings between 2002-2005.

“I’m retired now but it’s fun to come out here,” Knowles said. “It was a real treat to play with Ryan. He’s got a bright future.”

As for the 21-year-old Harrison, just playing with someone of Knowles’ stature was a great experience. Harrison, who has a career-high ranking of No. 43 and currently sits at No. 121 in the world, is in the field for this week’s ATP Tour event, the U.S. National Indoor Championships in Memphis.

“It’s tough to back up someone with 115 championship or runner-up speeches,” Harrison said. “To play with Mark on court is an absolute pleasure. I’ve been watching him play since I was a young kid. It was a blast to be here in Dallas.”

Next up for tennis fans in North Texas is the third annual Dallas Tennis Classic ATP Challenger, March 10-16 at Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas.


Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/02/08/5552772/hard-serving-australian-duo-takes.html#storylink=cpy