For former Baylor University standout Roy Smith, there’s something extra special about the first event of the 2019-2020 Oracle Challenger Series. That’s because Smith is from right here in New Haven, undoubtedly using his hometown pride to fuel what he hopes will be an impressive run in his backyard this week.
The New Haven native is off to a strong start, dispatching fellow American countryman Felix Corwin 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 in his opening match of the tournament. Smith looked dominant early on, easily overpowering the American upstart in the first set behind the strength of impressive service play. But Corwin would not give in, battling back to tie up the match and make things interesting. Smith’s signature resilience was on full display in the third and final set, saving 69% (9/13) of his opponent’s break point opportunities to claim the victory. It was no fault of Corwin’s, but Smith simply would not go down in the opening round in his hometown.
It’s been an impressive recent run for the 20-year-old Baylor product. In just over a year, he’s notched career defining accolades such as his first career professional final at the Oracle Challenger Series Houston, immediately followed by another final at the USA F28 Futures in Waco, TX. He also competed in ten futures tournaments, all while leading the Baylor University Men’s Tennis team as a sophomore. At the conclusion of the 2018-2019 college season, Smith was named to the Big 12 All-Tournament team for doubles and declared pro during the spring.
Now in his third career Oracle Challenger Series event, the field is open for the taking for Smith. While some might crumble under the pressure of representing their hometown with less than a year of professional experience under their belt, the New Haven native looks ready to put the city on his back.
Smith will need to bring his A-game on Wednesday, as he next meets No. 1 seed and ATP Tour veteran Andreas Seppi in the second round.
Whatever happens, safe to say New Haven will be behind him.