Weather played a role throughout the Little Rock Open.
Rain forced indoor play through two days of the seven-day Association of Tennis Professional's Challenger Tour event. Play suspended by the rain led to fatigue from three matches in the last two sunny, seasonably humid days for the finalists, a facet evident in Dudi Sela's 6-1, 4-3 championship victory after fellow finalist Duck-hee Lee retired with severe abdominal discomfort.
Court-side doctors said a diagnosis of the pain was made difficult because of communication difficulties caused by Lee's deafness, but that seven sets in two days of uncomfortable heat likely contributed.
"We played way too much [Saturday], and it was very hot [Sunday]," said Sela, 34, of Kiryat Shmona, Israel. "Also for me, I felt really, really tired. My legs felt very heavy."
According to the National Weather Service, the temperature was 86 degrees with a heat index of 89 when Lee retired.
Lee advanced with quarterfinal and semifinal victories of 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 over Mitchel Krueger and 6-0, 6-0 over Darian King, respectively, on Saturday. In the Round of 16 on Friday, Lee, 21, of Jecheon, South Korea, defeated Zhizhen Zhang 6-4, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3).
In the doubles final, Matias Descotte and Orlando Luz defeated Treat Huey and Max Schnur 7-5, 1-6, 1-0 (10). Third sets in Challenger Tour doubles matches are decided by a 10-point tiebreak.
Luz, 21, of Balneario Camboriu, Brazil, praised Little Rock's first Challenger Tour event.
"This was an amazing tournament," he said.
Schnur, 26, of New York City, agreed.
"For me, it's really special to be here," he said. "Sure, we're bummed that we didn't win, but this was a great treat to be a part of. I'll cherish this forever."
"In regards to our first year as a Challenger, we've had a lot of great feedback from the players," tournament director Chip Stearns said. "Some of them have actually said it was the best Challenger they've been to. It's quite an honor to hear that considering it was our first go. We'll see what we've done well and what we can improve on and try to make it bigger and better next year."
After Sela's 6-3, 7-6 (9) semifinal victory over Thai Kwiatkowski on Saturday, he said as he has aged, he's had a tendency to overthink the mechanics of his game. Sela, ranked 209 in the world, said the fact he trailed in six of seven first-set games in the final match helped curb those thoughts. They returned in the second set as Lee, ranked 243, began to play more aggressively before he was overcome by pain.
"In the second set, from the first game, I started thinking," Sela said. "I just played short, and he was hitting winners. He had nothing to lose, and I have everything to lose. The second set was much harder for me."
Sela trailed 2-3 but held serve to tie the second set. He trailed love-40 in the seventh game, but he won after two deuce points to take a 4-3 lead, after which Lee chose to retire.
"This is very important to me," Sela said. "I'm making progress. I'm working very hard, and I'm trying to change some small things that can get me back in the Top 100. I didn't want the match to end that way, but I'll take it."
Sports on 06/10/2019