DECATUR - Hinsdale Racquet Club tennis instructor Carlos Llanes did not expect to still be in Decatur today.
Llanes, a 32-year-old left-hander, had a couple days off and decided to enter the Ursula Beck Pro Tennis Classic qualifying tournament for something to do and get a little tennis in. He won his first match of the qualifier 6-1, 6-0, then two more to make the main draw. On Wednesday, he beat Jean Andersen 3-6, 6-1, 6-3, and Thursday he moved into the quarterfinals by winning 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 against Louisville's Andrew Carter in a match that can only be described as bizarre.
"This is kind of funny - I honestly wasn't expecting this," said Llanes, a native of Argentina. "The draw has turned out well for me. It seems like the players I've went up against so far can run better than me, but they haven't hit the ball as well. They're having to work a lot in this heat."
After winning the first set, Carter - who the previous day had knocked off top seed Nicolas Santos in three sets - ran out of gas and Llanes took advantage by running him back and forth with powerful ground strokes. Carter, who also advanced to the main draw through qualifying, had already been to the hospital Monday because of heat exhaustion and said he was tired before the match even started.
"This was my third three-set match of the tournament, and all of them had been at noon and lasted like three hours," Carter said. "I'm just exhausted - I have nothing left. I was tired when I started. The past couple matches I felt the same way but I kept fighting and ended up winning. I wanted to give it all I had. But now it's over and I'm going to rest."
As Carter tired, he became frustrated. The match took place on court 5 - the furthest court from the clubhouse - but his yelling after mistakes ("come on Carter!") could be heard throughout the Fairview Park facility. Carter was treated a couple times for a sore shoulder, he collapsed to the ground after points more than once - prompting the chair umpire to ask him if he was OK - and his post-point yelling began to sound more and more like jibberish. And at one point after he lost a tough point and a fan sitting on the hill overlooking the court applauded for Llanes, Carter turned to the fan and yelled, "Why are you clapping? Do you want me to die?"
"By the middle of the second set I didn't have much left," Carter said. "Frustration is a symptom of being tired, and I definitely got frustrated."
But right when it appeared Carter might give up, Llanes had a couple of bad games and Carter closed to within 5-3 in the third set.
"It seemed like he was just trying to find something to throw me off with his behavior, and it worked for a couple of games where I played bad," Llanes said. "But I'd been making him run around since the beginning of the first set. He got a few shots and got closer, but he was beat up and couldn't recover. It was just going to get longer for him and it was only going to get worse. I just tried to think like a snake - squeeze him until he didn't have anything left."
Llanes - who played collegiate tennis at Drury University in Missouri - competed in some Futures events in 2008, but this year's Beck is his first once since then. He said he never played regularly on the USTA circuit.
"The first tournament I played when I was 21 or 22 I got a point, but I didn't have money and I didn't think it was possible for me - I never gave myself a chance," Llanes said. "Now I look back and think I got out of it too quick. I don't think I got it out of my system. I wish I would have stayed and kept playing."
Llanes said his success at the Beck will prompt him to enter more tournaments, but he has no desire to leave his job as a tennis instructor to head out on the tour as a regular.
"I just don't know if that life is for me at this point - staying in hotel rooms and all that," Llanes said. "It's a lot of effort and now I'm almost 33, so I'm not going to make it. This is a good moment for me and I'm enjoying it. I'm going to keep playing to win. But I have a motorcycle trip planned in two weeks, and I'm not changing that plan."
Llanes will play in the quarterfinals at 10 a.m. today against Tennys Sandgren.