Behind The Racquet: Tennys Sandgren

Behind The Racquet: Tennys Sandgren

My dad passed away in October of 2011.

I had been pro for only about three months at this point and received one of the worst phone calls anyone could ever get. I was at a 10k future in Texas when I entered my housing for the week. It was around 8 or 9 p.m when my mother called me. I think a part of me is still in that room to this day.

I remember this conversation with my father, about four or five months prior to his passing. We were outside our house on a summer’s evening, while he was just drinking a beer and looking up at the stars. I go out and sit with him in silence. After a few moments, he just says to the air, ‘Is this all there is?’

I was twenty at the time and had no faculties to answer that question. He was a seasoned man, who worked harder than anyone I’ve ever met, to fund two kids’ tennis careers. I had no idea how to answer that question when a man who had been through the wringer couldn’t.

It was something that stuck with me.

While playing futures and challengers it resonated with me in a defeatist kind of a way. Thinking if this is all there is. That’s not how you should go about it, but it’s just how it sat with me.

When I started doing better, I took that mentality of more of a challenge than anything else. If I take care of everything that I can, how good can it be?! While going through the obstacles of playing challengers, with little hope week to week, I definitely thought about that often. When I have a good result, such as Auckland, I feel as though I am answering that question for my father, with each positive step I take. He was a tennis player, playing satellites back in the day, but he would never have believed that I would quarter the Australian Open.

The idea that all of his struggle and journey as a person is something that I can build upon is something I will never waste. He worked so hard to give us opportunities and all I am trying to do is fulfill, in any way, some of the dreams my father had for us.

— Tennys Sandgren (University of Tennessee 2011)

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  1. I knew Tennys dad Dave. We played high school tennis together at Manistee, Michigan. I’m sure he would be proud of his son’s success. I was sorry to hear Dave passed away.

  2. My husband was Bob Swanson who played tennis with Dave Sandgren at both Manistee H.S. and Alma College in Michigan, so I knew him well then. We lost contact with Dave when he started playing satellites and then met his wife in South Africa. (Though we knew he ended up in Tennessee.) I KNOW Dave would be thrilled with Tennys’ success. He is doing both his father AND his mother proud! Great match against Federer!!

    My husband, Bob, also passed away…in June 1999 at age 46. He would also have been so excited to see Dave’s son excel in a sport they both loved. Super sad that neither Dave nor Bob are around to see Tennys play in the majors… A solid college # 1 doubles team both gone much too soon.

    • Thanks Lynn!
      I also played college tennis w Dave at Alma College.He was a total badass!
      He and Bob were a great doubles team and led us to the NAIA National Championship Tournament in Kansas City.
      I miss them both as they were great mentors.
      I am so proud of Tennys.
      Tennys, your Dad walked on the court with a confidence that inspired us as his teammates

    • Lynn,

      I heard of Bob’s passing some time back. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried like a baby. Both Bob and Dave were great people and I cherish the memories I have of those times at Alma. Perhaps I wasn’t of their caliber on the tennis court, but we certainly enjoyed ourselves (along with Keith K, my doubles partner). It is with great interest that I follow the career of Tennys.

      Duane VanDuzen

  3. I played on the 1968 Manistee High School tennis team that won their first regional championship since 1919. I played no.1 singles, Dave Sandgren was no. 2 and Bob Swanson no.3. It was a great team enhanced by these two players. They were both great competitors but great people too who are sorely missed

  4. I’ve followed Tennys careers for several years now and the more I do and the more I read about him and see the comments here, the more I really become a fan. Hopefully he receives some of the encouraging comments I send him on IG because he definitely has a gift that few possess.


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