Trojan tandem plays with the big boys

first_imgThe World Cup. The Super Bowl. The World Series.Every sport has its championship competition.Big stage · Daniel Nguyen, along with soon-to-be teammate J.T. Sundling, gets his shot at the US Open. – Dieuwertje Kast | Daily TrojanFor tennis, one of the more renowned and prestigious competitions is the US Open.Today, USC sophomore Daniel Nguyen and freshman J.T. Sundling will compete in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., at that very tournament.“It’s definitely one of the highlights in my tennis career,” Nguyen said.“This is definitely the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” Sundling added.It’s not much of a surprise that the two teenagers, who have known each other since they were nine, would find success as a doubles pair. Nguyen played a key role in USC’s NCAA team championship in May and while Sundling leaves high school as one of the more decorated players in the nation.To earn a wildcard entry into the tournament, the pair, who had the No. 1 seed, won the Boys 18s National Outdoor Hardcourt Championship in Kalamazoo, Mich. Each year the doubles and singles champions earn a draw in the US Open.“Well we were both really excited before we got here, but once we got here and we see how they treat all the players, it’s pretty amazing,” Sundling said.But the road to the US Open has not been easy for the Trojan duo. While they defeated their first four opponents in Kalamazoo in straight sets, semifinal competition proved to be more challenging.Nguyen and Sundling lost the first set 4-6 to Mitchell Frank and Junior Ore, but came roaring back in the second to take it 6-0. The third set ended in a 6-4 decision for Nguyen and Sundling, advancing them to the final round.The final round was no less of a challenge. With Sundling serving at 4-5 in the first set, Sekou Coker Bangoura and Nathan Pasha had several opportunities to close out the set. Sundling and Nguyen, however, fought back to take the set 7-6(2) and the next set 6-3 to secure their ticket to New York.“The semis and the finals were tough,” Nguyen said. “We almost lost the first set in the final. We were down three set points so it was really close.”Sundling and Nguyen are no strangers to the Kalamazoo tournament. Back in 2006, when the duo first teamed up, they walked away with a doubles championship in the Boys 16s age group. That should have earned them a ticket to the US Open juniors, but luck was not on their side and they did not receive the wildcard entry.This year, however, a dream becomes a reality for both Sundling and Nguyen as they take off for New York to compete against world-class tennis players.“I’ve been dreaming about it since I was a kid, being here with all the tennis players that I look up to,” Nguyen said. “Just seeing Roger Federer in the locker room and saying, ‘What’s up?’”As expected when dealing with a tournament as prestigious as the US Open, the first round competition for Sundling and Nguyen will be far from easy. First up for the Trojan duo are Maximo Gonzalez and Juan Monaco of Argentina.The Argentinean pair has enjoyed steady careers in professional tennis, with Monaco earning more than $2 million in prize money. In 2008, Monaco and Gonzalez teamed up at the US Open and reached the semifinal round before being eliminated.“We’re just going to take each match point by point and see how it goes,” Nguyen said.Former Trojan and NCAA doubles champion [with now senior Robert Farah] Kaes Van’t Hof will also compete in the US Open doubles competition.In the 2009 NCAA season, Nguyen teamed up with Abdullah Magdas in doubles en route to a team title. Magdas has since completed his eligibility and will be the only member of the 2009 championship squad not returning. Sundling, however, seems like he’ll fit in just fine on the championship team as well as possibly in the role of Nguyen’s doubles partner.“We complement each other,” Nguyen said. “He’s got a big serve and I’ve got a great return.”last_img


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