Four Americans at the Little Rock Challenger, Art by Shawn Adair

They come to Little Rock from all over the world: Australia, Ecuador, The Bahamas, Canada, Portugal, Argentina, Colombia, Japan, India, Barbados, Chile, the Dominican Republic. They come to fight for points.

Ryan Harrison, recovering from elbow surgery, must arrive five days early and win a Wild Card tournament of 32 players just to get into the Little Rock Challenger. He wins it, then immediately loses in the first round, earning 520 dollars and 0 points.

Ernesto Escobedo is killing Donald Young in the first round, seems clearly the better player to the naked eye. After losing a point, Donald rockets a ball into the unsmiling sky: “I’m quitting the sport, he shouts.” Now 31 years old, Donald Young reached a career high ranking of #38 nine years ago in 2012. No way he gets there again. 520 dollars, 0 points.

Escobedo plays Jack Sock in the second round. Escobedo stoic throughout as a Roman warrior while Sock mumbles to himself the entire time. Sock grumbles about bad luck this and bad luck that as if he’s on the wrong side of an envelope unfolding with a message like the one I heard Paul Annacone say a few months later on the Tennis Channel: “not sure Jack Sock has the mental fortitude” to fight and claw all the way back to the regular ATP tour by playing challenger after challenger after challenger. Escobedo’s expression never changes after he hits big booming serves and forehands for winner after winner after winner. His expression never changes after having numerous match points and losing to Sock in three tiebreaker sets. 7 points, 1,000 dollars.

Sock will win three more close matches and the tournament, his first win in four years after struggling with injuries. It’s a big moment before hundreds of fans in Little Rock. He earns 7,200 dollars and 80 points. Five months later he is ranked #157 in the world. He still must play challenger after challenger after challenger.

Welcome to Little Rock. Welcome to Orlando, Las Vegas, Charlottesville, Knoxville. Welcome to Bratislava, Milan, Lima, Guayaquil . . .  

Artist Bio (taken from website): Shawn Adair has a MFA in sculpture and is the recipient of an Arkansas Arts Council Individual Fellowship and an award in sculpture from the International Sculpture Center. Shawn enjoys making short films and has an accomplished background in the field of video production.  He also creates 2-Dimensional, 3-Dimensional and motion video art that addresses the needs and sensibilities of those with disabilities. You can check out some of his many projects on his website.