Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Rabbit, run; Wyss does that in victory

About the time his prospects were looking the most bleak Saturday, he smacked the ball into the net and shouted to the clouds.

"Running like a RABBIT!" he screamed.

Uhhh...OK. Never heard that one at a tennis match before. Running like a rabbit?

"Running like a rabbit, yes," Sergio Wyss explained afterwards. "He was making me move, and I just couldn't take it. I can't let him dictate the points like that. I need to play my game, which is aggressive. Otherwise, I cannot win."

Call this guy anything but unaggressive. The seventh-seeded Wyss eventually rallied past former Virginia Tech standout and second-seeded Nicolas Delgado de Robles 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 in the biggest upset of the Roanoke Valley Invitational Tennis Tournament men's open singles division.

Wyss is clearly the most colorful player left in this tournament. He shouts in Swiss. He bellows in German. He squawks in Spanish.

And, of course, he can work some English euphemisms, too.

"FUDGE!!!!!" he barked, after one ill-fated point.

But he's winning. Wyss, the only lower seed to advance out of the quarterfinals on Saturday, is happy about that. A 19-year-old University of Maryland recruit, he hadn't played a tournament since October before entering the summer tennis showcase in the Roanoke area.

"I've been so busy with my school," said Wyss, who recently graduated from The German School in Potomac, Md. "I thought it would be a good experience for me to play other college players. Good preparation. Good competition."

Delgado de Robles certainly gave him that. The former Hokie, who just completed his final year of eligibility, grabbed a 3-0 lead in the third set before Wyss overtook him.

"He was playing very aggressive, attacking me well," Wyss said. "I wasn't able to play my aggressive game. I thought I could just hang in there, fight, make him play as much as possible. He started getting tired towards the end. I was able to play my aggressive game again and pull it out, so I feel pretty good."

The Hollins University courts were just the latest stop on Wyss' globe-trotting agenda. Born in Switzerland to a member of the Swiss Embassy, he took up tennis at age 8 in the South American country of Bolivia. He lived in Cape Town, South Africa, before moving to the U.S. about four years ago.

"Every four years we got transferred to a different country," Wyss said. "That's how it works. I've had the honor and luck to travel so much and get to know different cultures and see different places."

And learn different languages. Some of which he can safely curse in during a tournament like this.

"Correct. Correct," Wyss said with a smile. "But I know some will understand, so I try to keep it low. I don't want to explode too much. I know people know Spanish. I try to keep it to Swiss/German. No one will understand that one."

But they understand this: He's a surprise participant in today's 9 a.m. semifinals against No. 3 seed Ignaci Roca, two wins away from a title.

Not a bad run by the rabbit.

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