Last week, James McGee was not in the draw at the Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, U.S.A. Now, Irish eyes are smiling on the Dublin native after claiming his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title. The 29 year old rallied past Ernesto Escobedo 1-6, 6-1, 6-4 in Sunday’s final.
The circumstances surrounding McGee’s win make it even more remarkable. Initially scheduled to play at the tournament in Nanchang, China, he was denied a visa by the Chinese government due to the G20 Summit in nearby Hangzhou. With visas being rejected for foreigners, McGee was forced to reassess his options and would choose to enter qualifying in Cary. He battled all week for the crown, reeling off eight wins in eight days.
McGee tweeted after his win;
“It’s a dream for me to finally get a Challenger title,” McGee told ATPWorldTour.com. “Last year, I was in the final in two events, in San Luis Potosi and Savannah, and it didn’t quite happen there. In the middle of the year I had a surgery on my knee and it was a blow to my confidence. I wasn’t feeling as good as I knew I could be. But in the last few months I’ve been feeling better and playing better.
“Coming into this event, I thought I was playing well but I never thought I’d win the whole thing. To win eight matches in a row is amazing.”
The sixth qualifier to prevail in 2016 – one more than last year – McGee is just the third player from Ireland to lift an ATP Challenger Tour trophy, joining Conor Niland and Louk Sorensen. He soars to a Top 200 return at No. 194 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
“It’s nice to be part of the club (with Niland and Sorensen), to now have said that I won a title. It’s not my biggest goal in tennis, but it’s a step in the right direction and I’m looking forward to what’s next. The win puts me in the Top 200 range and it’s a step forward to get in the Top 100 and play in the biggest tournaments in the world.”