NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennis player Tennys Sandgren reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open after years of battling for a single win in a grand slam tournament.
Tennys (that's, right, pronounced like the sport, tennis) was a standout junior player and helped UT to plenty of wins during his time in college, but upon reaching the pro circuit, Sandgren had difficulties, like many other players, breaking through.
At this year's Australian Open, ranked 97 in the world, Sandgren got his first grand slam win. Then his second. Then his third. And now after his fourth win, Sandgren is in the quarter-final.
"This is the stuff that story books are written about. It can't be real, right? It's amazing!" Sandgren's mother, Lia, said.
Lia was born and raised in South Africa, but moved to the states along with her husband and oldest son and landed in Tennessee.
Once in Gallatin, Tennys was born, and now at 26-years-old, he's become the talk of the tournament.
"You can only talk so many times about a ball being hit back and forth over a net, so everybody's looking always for a human interest story," Lia said. "Of course, his name supplies amply in that department."
While both of Tennys' parents played tennis, Tennys was named after his great grandfather, born 100 years before him, and who was not a tennis player.
Lia knew that when Tennys started playing tennis that it could be strange, but they decided to name him Tennys anyway.
"We didn't really care that much about that, because we love family names," Lia said.
Tennys ended up playing at UT and making his way to the tour. His most recent win was over top-10 ranked Thiem.
"We found ourselves starting to watch at 11:30 pm, and the match was over like at 4 am," Lia said. "We have a whole tribe of sleep deprived people up there where I live (in Gallatin)."
Tennys also beat Stan Warwrinka on his way to the quarter-finals. Warwrinka won the Australian Open in 2014, and people in Tennessee are recognizing how great of a feat this whole run has been.
"People have reached out to me, people that I don't even know, just to say, 'we're with you, we're supporting him, we're so proud of him, he's one of our own,'" Lia said.
It hasn't been an easy road for Tennys. Playing as a professional tennis player who is not in the top-50 is tough. It's hard to make money as you don't always have direct entry into tournaments, and you're always on the road.
Tennys loves Tennessee, according to his mother, and he's still even taking online classes at UT to set up a future, even while playing tennis tournaments, like this Australian Open.
"He had 3 assignments due and he just had beat Thiem and he's in Australia, and he had to knock those assignments out, and he did!" Lia said.
Tennys was set to play his quarter-final match on 8 p.m. CST on Tuesday, and for the match, his older brother who he played tennis with growing up and at UT has flown down for the match, and Lia plans to stay up as late as it takes to watch her son play.
"We hope for a good match and an entertaining match tonight," Lia said.
Regardless of the outcome, Tennys' ranking will skyrocket, and he'll likely be able to bring a new confidence into future matches.