Hewitt survives pressure-cooker, wins USTA event at Miller Tennis Center - The Buffalo News

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Hewitt survives pressure-cooker, wins USTA event at Miller Tennis Center

If Ashley Hewitt didn’t know how to play tennis under pressure before, he certainly learned this weekend.

The 22-year-old native of Great Britain took home the championship in the USTA Pro Circuit Sargent & Collins Men’s Futures Tournament at the Miller Tennis Center in Williamsville on Sunday after a series of close calls and comebacks.

Hewitt defeated Brazilian Henrique Cunha, a former Duke standout, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, after falling behind 5-1 in the first set.

“I think my best tennis came out under pressure today,” Hewitt said. “It was a little hot out there and I was a little nervous. Obviously, I wanted to get off to a good start. I think in the second set I came out with a lot of energy.”

This came after a semifinal against American Dan Nguyen in which both sets went to a tiebreaker, 7-6 (12) and 7-6 (3) and a quarterfinal where Hewitt had to battle back against Jason Tahir of the U.S. after a second set loss.

“Yesterday was tough because I was up 5-1 in the second set and I had a little shake, but I managed to come through both times,” Hewitt said.

After a shaky start Sunday, Hewitt won 14 of the final 20 games to earn the victory. After he got used to Cunha’s patience and ball control, he countered with quick serves and powerful backhands.

Meanwhile, Cunha became visibly flustered in the second set. He yelled to himself after a few bad hits and even got in a brief verbal disagreement with the chair umpire after being told not to communicate with his coach in the crowd.

In the second and third sets, Cunha struggled serving and receiving Hewitt’s serves on more than a few occasions.

“I think he’s a great player” Cunha said. “He hits the ball really heavy. The key today was he served better than me. I could only have so many chances. But in the second and third set, he served so much better than me.”

The tournament was played on an outdoor clay court, marking the first time Cunha had played on the surface this season. When playing on a clay surface as opposed to a hard one, adjustments must be made.

“It’s a completely different game,” Cunha said. “On clay, you have to adapt to sliding, the balls are heavier, the points are longer.”

The win was Hewitt’s third on the USTA Pro Circuit. He took home $1,440 and 17 ATP points with the win. Cunha earned $848 and nine points. Semifinalists were given $502 and five points, quarter-finalists $292 and two points and those who made the round of 16 took home $172 and one point.

This is the first time the Miller Tennis Center has hosted a men’s USTA Futures $10,000 tournament. For the last three years, the site has played host to the women’s version of the same tournament.

Other highlights from this year’s tournament included top seed Liam Broady (Great Britain) falling to fellow countryman Toby Martin in the first round and wildcard Nathan Pasha advancing all the way to the semifinal round.

email tnigrelli@buffnews.com

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