Gustav Hansson entered the USTA Edwardsville Futures without any first-place finishes on the pro tennis circuit, but he left with two of them.
Hansson, who is from Sweden, capped an impressive run at the tournament on Sunday afternoon with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Or Ram-Harel of Israel in the singles championship match at the Edwardsville High School Tennis Center.
The tournament, now in its seventh year, offers a combined $25,000 in prize money for singles and doubles.
On Friday night, Hansson teamed with partner Hunter Callahan to win the doubles championship.
“It feels fantastic. I’m a little overwhelmed and very happy,” Hansson said. “It’s been a lot of tennis, but I’ve been playing better and better for every match. I know Ram-Harel and he’s a fighter and I knew there were going to be a lot of long rallies.”
In the first set, the two players broke serve in the first three games, with Hansson taking a 2-1 lead. Hansson broke Ram Harel’s serve again in the fifth game to go up 4-1 and broke it one more time in the seventh game to close out the set.
The second set was tied at 1-1, with both players breaking the other’s serve. Hansson won the next two games to take a 3-1 lead.
Ram-Harel pulled within 3-2 by breaking Hansson’s serve for the last time, but Hansson clinched the set and the match by winning the next three games.
“I just tried to play aggressive with my forehand and it’s been working the whole week,” Hansson said.
Hansson, who came into the tournament with a No. 1,676 world ranking in singles, will be a senior at the University of Mississippi. He posted four straight wins to reach the title match, including a 6-1, 6-1 semifinal win over Genaro Alberto Olivieri of Argentina in the semifinals on Saturday.
Like Ram-Harel, Hansson earned a berth in the main draw of the tournament by being one of the top eight finishers in last week’s Edwardsville Futures qualifier. This was his final tournament of the summer and he’ll return to Ole Miss, where he played No. 1 singles as as junior, with plenty of confidence and momentum.
“I’m serving much better and that’s made a big difference,” Hansson said. “I’m just trying to take each point one at a time.”
An unexpected spectator at Sunday’s match was Ole Miss coach Toby Hansson (no relation), who drove up to watch his No. 1 singles player win his first pro singles title.
“He’s been knocking on the door many times and he has shown many times that he can compete at this level,” said Toby Hansson, who is also from Sweden. “It’s nice for him to prove to himself that he’s able to play here.”
Ram-Harel, meanwhile, came into the tournament with a No. 1,213 world ranking in singles. Three of his four victories in the main draw came in three sets, including a first-round win over top-seeded Nicolaas Scholtz of Russia. Ram-Harel advanced to the title match with a three-set win over Callahan, the other doubles champion.
This was the first Futures final for Ram-Harel, who recently finished his senior season at the University of Tulsa.
“It was a successful week, but I came up a little bit short today,” Ram-Harel said. “Maybe it was a little bit fitness, but (Hansson) played a little more offensive and I was a bit defensive. I’ll learn from that and the next tournament I’ll be better.”
Ram-Harel has one more semester at Tulsa before he graduates with a double major in communications and business management, and then he’ll turn his full attention to the pro circuit.
“This gives me a lot of confidence,” Ram-Harel said. “I wasn’t practicing as much before I came here because I’ve been in summer school, but I believe I can accomplish bigger things.”
Edwardsville Futures director Dave Lipe was pleased with the final day of the tournament, in terms of both the quality of tennis and the fan and community support.
“It was the perfect ending to a seemingly perfect two weeks of tennis, starting with the Pro Wild Card Challenge presented by the Bank of Edwardsville,” Liipe said. “The tennis was outstanding and the crowd was huge. Over 300 people were here today.
“In terms of numbers and enthusiasm, I’ll put this crowd up against any Futures in the country. There may be a Futures that has bigger attendance than this, but nobody has told me about it.”
The Edwardsville Futures, which is hosted by the EGHM Foundation and Edwardsville District 7, sponsors several community events throughout the tournament, starting with the Mitch n’ Friends tennis clinic for special needs players on Aug. 6 at the EHS Tennis Center. Other events included Kids’ Night on Monday, a high-performance junior clinic on Tuesday, an adult doubles clinic on Thursday, Fan Appreciation Day on Friday and Family Day on Saturday.
“The weather was fantastic and we really did luck out with that,” EGHM Foundation treasurer Paul Abert said. “The tournament was great and having a couple late afternoon and early evening matches really helped draw some folks that might otherwise have not been here.
“The folks that are staying here all week are also eating in the community and spending money. From our perspective, it helps us be able to raise the funds to run the tournament. It’s a challenge to raise the $25,000 purse and the cost of the officials, but weekends like this keep us coming back for more.”