Sandgren, who unlike Paul stayed under the radar by playing college tennis, said Paul deserved patience as he developed. “When you’re young you sometimes don’t make the most optimal decisions; everybody’s guilty of that to some degree,” Sandgren said. “The more disciplined you can be, your odds are better.”
Sandgren has been more disciplined, but has streaky results. For a player of his low profile, never reaching the Top 40 in the ATP rankings, Sandgren has amassed a remarkable collection of big wins at Grand Slam events, including a run to the quarterfinals here in 2018. His win over Berrettini was his fourth victory against a top-10 opponent at a Grand Slam in six matches, a winning percentage few others could touch. Calling himself a “realist with a pessimistic bent,” however, Sandgren sought ways to play down his win over Berrettini.
“I’m thinking, ‘Well, it’s early in the year, and I don’t think he’d played an event,’” Sandgren said. “So that’s in the back of my head, that he’s not match tough. I’m searching for my own asterisks so I can pin myself down a little.”
Sandgren was particularly proud of his physicality against Berrettini, never flagging in the five-set match. After a toe injury last fall, Sandgren spent his off-season in the gym, improving his stamina and adding the muscle he said he needed to justify being the only man other than Rafael Nadal to wear sleeveless shirts here.
“Well, I’ve been working out — I think I can pull this off,” Sandgren said.
Reinventing his image among tennis fans may prove even harder work. During his 2018 run here, Sandgren drew scrutiny and criticism for his social media posts, in which he engaged with several far-right political figures and theories. After he was eliminated, he opened his news conference with a statement railing against the news media for “demonizing” him.
Sandgren said he now followed politics “less passionately.”
“I’m relatively good at one thing, which is playing tennis,” Sandgren said. “I wouldn’t want another interest I have, or a hobby — and following politics is a hobby — to bring that side of me down.”