As anticipated, it was a scorching day of qualifying action Saturday at the Tallahassee Challenger, both on and off the courts. The temperature was predicted to reach a near-record 92 degrees, and it did not let us down. Nor did it let up, once the sun broke through the muggy morning clouds. This led to some heated tennis action on the DecoTurf as well as some heated exchanges off of it.

While the clouds still blanketed the ground in some sort of meteorological mercy, I started out beside Court 14 at the Forestmeadows Tennis Complex – a court which, despite its name, is really more like a grandstand/show court. It was there that 19-year-old Australian Mark Verryth, the former world junior #23 and 2009 Eddie Herr International doubles champ (with partner Harry Fowler), kicked off his long day, playing 22-year-old Macon, Georgia wild card Deo-Ray Brown.

Call It In The Air Like You Just Don’t Care

From the outset, it was clear that Brown was overmatched by the 6 foot 6 inch man from Melbourne (Australia, not Florida), as Verryth hammered home 11 aces and never faced a break point the entire match. Though he only put 50 percent of his first serves in, his kicking second delivery had Brown off balance throughout.

To his credit, Brown got more of a read on the Aussie’s serve toward the end, framing some short replies and delaying the point for at least one more shot, as Verryth supplemented his service profile with some blistering forehands.

But the match was over before 60 Minutes would’ve gotten to Andy Rooney. It wasn’t the most flawless performance (5 double faults, a number of unforced errors, and repeated self-admonishments that his serve was “too short”), but it didn’t need to be. It was still impressive enough that ball kids lined up for autographs afterwards.

And it was good that he conserved his energy, as the big man from the land Down Under would go on to play a 2 hour QR2 match in the midday sun, upsetting qualifying fifth seed Woong-Sun Jun 6-7(3) 7-6(5) 6-3. I didn’t get to see that one – as I can only be in so many places at once, you see – but I hoped to check out at least some of his final qualifying match against another Korean, Daniel Yoo. (Thank yoo verryth much.)

For the next match, I was intrigued to see how Devin Britton was doing these days, as the young American’s been struggling since he made his big splash against some dude named Federer in the 2009 US Open (losing twice as many matches as he’s won since that day). DevBritt came out a bit disheveled (TM Brad Gilbert) and never seemed quite at ease against his 23-year-old formerly Greek (now American) opponent, Vlademyros Mavropoulos-Stoliarenko (a spirited guy whom I unfortunately could not tweet about by name, as his name alone accounts for half a tweet as it is).

For his part, Stoliarenko (as the chair ump called him) came out guns blazing, breaking Britton at 15 with an inside-in forehand and a blistering forehand return winner up the line for an early 2-0 advantage.

Of course, he immediately was broken back to love, thanks to a double fault, a grunty drop shot wide, and a couple of D.Britted forehand winners. And that’s about how the whole first set went. Five breaks of service in all, with VMS getting the last of them for a 6-4 first set victory. Britton’s reviews of various parts of the first set: “That is so bad. So bad.” And “that’s embarrassing!” Can’t say as I disagree, especially since Devin missed a few fairly easy volleys, and his net play is supposed to be the strength of his game.

After the set, I overhear an awesome conversation between ballkids about their chosen craft. Highlight: “If it’s coming right at us, can we move or do we just have to wear it?” “You can move.” “OK, but are we allowed to wear it? I wanna leave with a battle bruise.”

Heh. Tough kid.

Meanwhile, back to the bruising battle on court: the second frame found Britton landing all the punches. And Stoliarenko sufferered from a few self-inflicted blows, to add to the punishment. For instance, when he smacked a groundie long down break point in the first game. Or threw in his only double fault of the set to help the Britton to a double break lead.

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