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Paris • What's in a name? For Tennys Sandgren, a sport and a career. And as of Sunday, the man called Tennys can say he's played at tennis's highest level.
Sandgren, a 25-year-old from Tennessee, made his debut in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament, losing in the first round of the French Open 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 against Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.
Sandgren's parents gave him his great-grandfather's first name.
"I don't think it was so much tennis related, but I think maybe a little bit. My parents liked the name. They wanted to keep it going," he said. "And I think I had a little bit of expectations just to be not terrible, because you can't be kind of named so similar to a sport and not be at least adequate at that sport.
"I don't think there's been expectations to be really good, because my parents never put that kind of pressure on me. I had to be at least decent, and I think I've at least fulfilled that," Sandgren continued. "So that's a good thing. I can at least say that I've fulfilled the name, at least somewhat."
As one might expect, he says he gets a lot of questions and comments about the name.
"People are kind of like, 'Whoa' a little bit taken aback," he said.
During a recent dinner at a restaurant, Sandgren recounted, a couple at another table struck up a conversation and asked his name.
"And it's like, 'Uh, Tennys,'" he said. "And they're like: 'What? Really?'"
Sandgren, who is ranked 112th, got into the field at Roland Garros by earning a wild card from the U.S. Tennis Association based on results in lower-tier events.
The other USTA wild-card recipient, 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova of New Jersey, also made her Grand Slam debut Sunday.
She was up a break and a set before losing to Kurumi Nara of Japan 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. Anisimova, who reached the junior final in Paris last year, was the youngest player to compete in the French Open main draw since Alize Cornet in 2005.
The money that accompanied Sandgren's recent wins allowed him to hire a coach; Sandgren had been traveling around solo to play in events.
Before this French Open, he tried previously to qualify for major tournaments without success.
As for his first taste of Grand Slam tennis?
"It was special. Last night and today's been pretty fun. Some nerves and whatever, but that's a good thing, because you play this sport for a long time at a similar level and you kind of get used to it and comfortable. But to be at a slightly higher level has been exciting," Sandgren said. "It didn't go my way, but I definitely enjoyed the experience. ... Good motivation going forward."