By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Darian King didn’t want to go to a third set.
He had taken the first set from Alex Sarkissian and was just one set away from claiming the USTA Freeman $10,000 Futures tournament on Sunday at Millennium Tennis and Fitness Center.
But Sarkissian had broken King’s serve twice to grab a demanding 5-2 lead in the second set, just one game away from forcing a decisive set.
“I didn’t want to go to a third set,” said King, the runner-up in last year’s tournament. “Sometimes in the third set you get tentative and you don’t play your game. Everything changes, your mentality and everything. I had to fight and try to close it out.”
That’s exactly what he did.
King broke Sarkissian’s serve during a rally to tie the third set and then eventually won a tie-breaker to claim the title 6-4, 7-6 (3).
“I played great tennis and I fought my way through,” King said. “Last year I had to defend points here so my mentality was to fight for every point.”
King, a 21-year-old from Barbados ranked 430 in the world, looked to be cruising toward the win. After winning the opening set, he broke Sarkissian’s serve in the first game of the second set after Sarkissian twice had advantage and twice gave it away with double faults.
King then held serve to go up 2-0, but Sarkissian broke King’s next two serves and won five straight games to go up 5-2, visibly frustrating King.
“When I’m playing my best I’m serving good and using my forehand to attack the ball,” said Sarkissian, a 23-year-old Californian. “And that’s what I had going during that stretch.”
But King answered, breaking Sarkissian’s serve and eventually tying the set at 5-5.
Sarkissian took a 6-5 lead before King tied it again and then quickly won the tie break 7-3.
“I think it was just a mental lapse,” King said of falling behind. “I was playing good, but it’s tennis. You play good tennis and sometimes things don’t go your way. But I came back strong as soon as I got the break back. My confidence went back up.”
He said his confidence was especially high after breaking King’s serve to cut the deficit to 5-4 in the second set, a game that ended with a Sarkissian double-fault and loud scream.
“At 5-3, that first point of the game is important, especially when your opponent is serving,” King said. “Once you get that you just feel ready to run and that’s what I did. I ran down every ball and put pressure on him. Pressure was the key. It was who handled it best and I did. “
Sarkissian, with a powerful serve and forehand, entered the week with a singles ranking of 1,025. He was more than a worthy title-round opponent for King, cruising to wins during games in which he eliminated errors.
“I thought I started playing really well and I was playing aggressively and that got me the lead,” Sarkissian said. “But he was still hanging in there and started making me play and making me play. He came back and fought hard to win it.”
The match was moved to one of Millennium’s indoor courts by the overnight rains that were still hanging around when the 11 a.m. match time came around.
That didn’t seem to bother either player, especially King, who seemed determined to pick up his first tour win of the season regardless of match location.
He said his experience from last year in Joplin and from playing indoor tennis in Germany helped.
“I was accustomed to everything, the crowd, the ball boys ... and I’m used to playing indoors,” he said. “It was nothing new to me. My confidence just went up and I played great tennis.”