Wayne Odesnik didn’t go so far as to say he hit rock bottom, but the American acknowledged he was forced to start this year in a pretty big hole — one that he dug for himself.
His 7-5, 6-4 win in the championship match of the Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships over No. 1-seeded James Ward of England was a step out of that rut.
“To know the work that I’ve put in the last year with my trainer and coach, and to come out here and have the success — it’s one of the most self-gratifying things,” Odesnik said. “Words can’t even express how good of a feeling it is.”
It was one of his biggest tournament wins, points- and money-wise, since he returned from a year-long ban from tournaments by the International Tennis Federation after pleading guilty in 2010 to importing Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to Australia.
Although Odesnik maintains that he never took HGH, he understands the implications that come with such charges and knows he has to win his fans back.
“You live and learn,” Odesnik said after his semi-final win on Saturday. “I’m trying to put it behind me, but also use this as motivation to show everyone what kind of person I am.
“After something like this, you appreciate things a lot more, and you learn who your true friends are.”
Because of his absence from tennis, he entered 2011 with no ranking. He entered the Fifth Third Championships ranked No. 218 in the world and said he expects it to climb up to around 160 after his win.
He’ll play in the U.S. Open qualifiers and aim for a spot in the main draw.
“My confidence is high and I’m playing well,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. My main goal is to get my ranking as high as possible and get as many points as possible.”
The No. 2-seeded Odesnik fought off a pesky Ward, who came back in the second set down 5-1 to cut it within 5-4. Odesnik didn’t drop a service game the whole match until his 5-1 advantage, eventually dropping two straight.
But he capitalized on his one and only match point to capture the win.
The women’s final between unseeded Americans Chichi Scholl and Amanda Fink, a qualifier, was far less competitive.
Scholl took control early and frustrated Fink from the beginning. She cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 victory to finish the clean sweep for the tournament.
She and doubles partner Tamaryn Hendler defeated the top-seeded team of Lindsay Lee-Waters and Megan Moulton-Levy in three sets on Saturday to capture the doubles title.
“I felt like I played pretty well and I was aggressive,” she said. “I’ve played Amanda before and I know she’s a good player, she’s dangerous. She’s beaten some pretty good players in this tournament.
“She had three extra rounds of qualifying, so maybe at the end, physically, I felt a little better. But I just stuck to my game plan and didn’t think of anything else.”