“I lost every time,” he said. “I didn’t want to try again.”
And yet, amid all this net-play pessimism, there is Cressy, all 6-foot-6 of him, plus the mop of dirty blond curls that gives him an extra inch or two. He comes in behind his first serve, his second serve and on his opponent’s serve, whenever he senses a chance. He comes in after every shortish ball he sees and even after his opponent passes him on three consecutive points. He believes in serve-and-volley with the fervor of a cult member, even if it is a cult of one.
“This style can take me to the top,” he said after a first-round loss at the French Open, and when he says “the top,” he means the No. 1 ranking. After all, that loss was on clay, which has long been kryptonite to serve-and-volleyers.
Cressy has been battling conventional wisdom for a decade, trying to master the serve-and-volley since he was a promising junior player in France. France’s tennis federation basically told him to cut it out, as though he were goofing off during practice. If that was the way he was going to play, they didn’t want much to do with him. Cressy would not budge.
“I loved it,” he said Tuesday night after knocking off Auger-Aliassime, the sixth-seeded Canadian and a fashionable dark-horse at Wimbledon, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (9), 7-6 (5). He will play another American, Jack Sock, in the second round on Thursday. “If it is something I love, I might as well do it and make it as efficient as possible.”
Cressy trained at an academy during his last year in high school and was recruited to play at U.C.L.A., where coaches saw some potential for him in doubles. They were correct, and he became a collegiate doubles champion in 2019.
But Cressy never stopped believing in the idea that his sport was ignoring a style that could be incredibly efficient for a singles player with a big serve, an ability to move, unflappable confidence and a willingness to sprint, scurry, bend, crouch, squat and stretch for balls before they land. Hence the sore rear end after Tuesday’s match.