Twickenham tennis ace Alastair Gray is eyeing up more opportunities on the ATP Challenger Tour after a spirited performance in the second round of the Surbiton Trophy to Christopher O’Connell, writes Oli Dickson Jefford in Surbiton.
Gray, who is a member of the LTA’s Men’s & Women’s Programme, through which the governing body provides a range of support to players aged 16-21 with the potential to progress towards competing in Grand Slams and representing Great Britain in Davis or Billie Jean King Cup, lost 6-3 7-6(5) to Australian O’Connell after an encouraging performance.
The 23-year-old pointed to experience as one reason why his opponent was able to get the better of him, as he found positives in his defeat.
“It was a tight match in the second set. I think he played well, he served better than me. There were a lot of break exchanges. I didn’t serve my best, that’s for sure,” said Gray, who beat fellow Brit Mark Whitehouse in the opening round.
“I found ways to stay in the match, until the end. It was close, just 7-5 in the second set breaker. There is things to improve on, there always is, but I come off that match feeling that I could’ve done a little bit more.
“He’s very solid, he’s got very heavy groundstrokes and on grass, they come through quick. I think he’s very calm, which comes with experience. It’s definitely something to learn from him.”
Gray has gained plenty of experience on the Futures tour since graduating from the US collegiate system and is now targeting more Challenger tournaments similar to that in Surbiton.
Though acknowledging it will take time to adjust to a step up in level, he believes he is more than capable of finding his feet.
Gray added: “Every match at this Challenger level, which I’m now moving into, is exciting and a new experience. I’m playing a lot of Futures and I’ve got my ranking to a point where now I can be playing these Challengers against these better players.
“It’s just about gaining experience and feeling more comfortable at this level from each match, because I fully believe my level is there to play and beat these guys. It’s just about experience and about feeling happy with that level consistency.
“Generally, I feel good. I played one Challenger this year in France, qualified and reached the quarter-finals. This is my second challenger of the year, so I’ve barely started really.
“I had a win yesterday against a good player and today was a tight one. It’s a bit too early to say really, but I’m happy with how I’m progressing and I think if I keep taking care of things the way I’m taking care of them, then things will come.”
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