Devin's Debut

Billy Chadwick watched his former Ole Miss tennis star play arguably the best player in the history of the sport on Monday. On Tuesday, the Rebel head coach was still amazed at what he had seen.

Devin Britton, the 18-year-old NCAA Singles Champion from Ole Miss, met Roger Federer in the opening round of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadow, Queens, N.Y. Federer, holder of 15 Grand Slam tennis championships, most by any male player in history, is the No. 1 seed.

The Swiss is ranked No. 1 in the world and has won this event five straight years. Britton was ranked 1,370th in the world Monday and turned pro two months ago.

"I thought he did an outstanding job," said Chadwick, who only had Britton in his program one semester. "You can't win on the scoreboard against the best in the world. But Devin was able to win in other ways. He showed moments of brilliance. He won the crowd over. Everybody who watched said ‘Hey, that's a star in the making.' And he did it on the biggest stage in the world against the best player in the world."

Chadwick talked to Britton before and after the match. Prior to Monday afternoon's event, his former college coach gave him some sage advice.

"I told him that no matter what, that every second he was out there to keep his head up," Chadwick said. "There are going to be times you are frustrated. Don't be surprised if you get killed. Don't be surprised if it's close. Don't be surprised if you play well and are up at some points in the match. Be prepared for everything and every situation. Most of all enjoy it and take advantage of the moment."

Britton did just that.

"My goal was to not get crushed and make it interesting for a little while, at least. I got up a break a couple of times and that was fun for the little while that it lasted," said the Jackson native.

He was down 0-3 in the first set, battled, but lost 6-1. He certainly made a match of it in set two, falling 6-3, and even moreso in set three, which he lost 7-5.

Britton said after the match, played in 24,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium, the interaction between the two was brief. But Federer did offer some words of encouragement.

"He just told me good luck with the career," Britton said. "You know, there's not much time to talk then, but he did say that. That was nice."

It was also nice that Ole Miss got some exposure through it all. Chadwick said junior players there for the U.S. Junior Open, which starts this weekend, are aware of Britton and where he played.

"Every junior player knows who Devin is and that he went to the University of Mississippi," Chadwick said. "This speaks volumes for our program. The better he does, the better we do. It's great for our program, for the University, and for the state of Mississippi."

Britton acknowledged his semester at Ole Miss was beneficial.

"I grew a lot as a tennis player there, and also as a person," he said. "School, to balance the two, I think it takes a little bit. Helps you mentally a little bit, also. Ole Miss was a great school and definitely helped me very much for the professional level."

Britton now moves on to the mixed doubles portion of the U.S. Open, paired with current NCAA Women's Singles Champion Mallory Cecil of Duke.

Chadwick, meanwhile, will remain in New York to watch the qualifying rounds of the U.S. Junior Open this weekend and the first two days of that competition Monday and Tuesday – looking for the next Devin Britton to play for the Rebels.

OM Spirit Top Stories