Devin Britton thought his Octagon agent Kelly Wolf was kidding him when she said his first-round opponent in his debut US Open was Roger Federer . But, in a sign of the times, it took the teenager’s mobile phone to convince him.
“I was pretty shocked. When Kelly told me I didn’t believe her at first, but then I got 15 text messages in the space of 10 minutes and I knew it was true," he says. "I thought, ‘This is crazy.’ Later, when I walked into the locker room, the American guys – Brendan Evans, Jesse Levine andRobby Ginepri – just started laughing at me. But everyone has been supportive.
“I have a sort of love-hate relationship about it. It’s once-in-a-lifetime experience to play Roger Federer at the US Open, but at the same time it doesn’t make winning the first-round at a very important tournament very easy.”
So, if he could choose, would he rather play Federer for the experience or have a better shot at reaching the second round - and collecting a $31,000 cheque - by playing an unknown qualifier? “I’ll take the unknown qualifier and then Federer in the second round,” Britton jokes.
Britton, 18, reached the US Open junior final last year, falling to Grigor Dimitrov. He turned professional earlier this year after becoming just the third player in history to win the NCAA title in his freshman year, at the University of Mississippi. “I want to be a tennis player and after winning the NCAA I felt like there was not much more I can accomplish. I want to go after my pro career.” To this point, he has played just 10 Futures matches (2-8 record), two Challenger matches (0-2) and one ATP-level match (0-1) – a 6-3, 7-5 loss to countryman Rajeev Ram in the first round of Indianapolis last month.
In the first six hours after the draw was made, Britton says that he received about 100 phone calls and text messages. And the number of his followers on Twitter (@DevinBritton) has jumped from 831 to more than 900. “Ten minutes after the draw the phone started ringing off the hook. I’ve heard from people I have spoken to in forever. I’ve had a lot of requests for tickets, but unfortunately they are all being used.”
Should he play on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Britton will receive 15 box seats. His parents, Scott and Cindy, sister Katie (22), coaches Mike Sell andHugo Armando and a couple of USTA trainers will be in the box, along with some of his mother’s friends. One person missing will be his eldest sister, Tara Chez (25), whose busy work schedule will keep her grounded back home in Mississippi.
Looking ahead to the biggest match of his career, Britton says: “I’m a little nervous about it. It’s definitely not a match I have a lot of expectations in. I’ll just play my hardest and hopefully give him some resistance. I’d love to play a night match. If I’m playing Roger at the Open I may as well get the full vibe and really soak it up.”