Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Duval leads comeback pack on Day 1 of US Open qualies

From 1000 miles away, I could only imagine the drama unfolding on Court 5 of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It was the third match of the day, following two losses by Americans (one a wrenchingly close one, one a bit of a blowout), and Victoria Duval came to the plate. Like all the players on the day, Duval was playing in the first round of the 2015 US Open qualies, but unlike all the other players, she had survived a diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma a mere 13 months prior.

Unfortunately, even though last year we were able to watch plenty of qualifying matches via streaming (I vividly recall seeing Katerina Stewart overpower Yuliya Beygelzimer and Francis (now Frances) Tiafoe lose a squeaker to Tatsumo Ito), this year due to different broadcasting contracts, those of us not on site had to rely solely on live scores and Twitter updates to find out how the matches were going. And Duval had herself a doozy, it seemed, against Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand. The match started topsy-turvy with Duval going up an early break, then Kumkhum roaring back to serve for the first set, then finally breaking Duval to take a 7-5 lead. But Duval, as one might expect given what she's gone through recently, refused to back down. She took the second set 6-3 and then ran away with the third, winning 6-1 in front of what seems to have been a boisterous crowd.

Duval is now undefeated (3-0) in her comeback.

Duval had her breakout moment on these same grounds two years ago when she upset former champion Samantha Stosur in a dramatic first round match. Another player who also had her breakout moment in Flushing Meadowns, and who also has suffered frightening health issues recently, is Melanie Oudin, a 6-3 7-5 victor over Bulgarian Elitsa Kostova. Oudin gets 24 seed Wang Yafan next in a rematch of the 2nd round of Wimbledon qualies, won by Wang 6-4 6-3.

And another player whose health issues were more prosaic (knee surgery) but who still was out all of 2014 (save one $10K tournament in the fall) was Jessica Pegula. The 21-year-old Buffalo native, who is coached by Michael Joyce, has slowly crept back up the rankings to her current #257. Along the way, she reached the final round of qualies at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon this year, but has yet to see a main draw at any grand slam. It won't be easy here - she'll play top seed Margarita Gasparyan in the second round, and could get Oudin in the final round.

Those were just 3 of 7 total victories for US women on the day, to go with 5 losses. Notably, all 5 of the losses were to higher ranked players, as were 6 of the 7 victories. In fact, the only American to play a lower-ranked player was Shelby Rogers, who faced countrywoman Grace Min and won in straight sets.

Shelby Rogers at 2014 Quebec City. (c) Jonathan Kelley

The 7 wins equaled the number from last year's women's qualifying first round. 9 women will play their first-round matches on Wednesday in the hopes of increasing last year's total. This time, 3 of them will be ranked higher than their opponents, although as we have seen that counts for very little in qualies.

Teens provided the other three American wins on the women's side today. Most high profile was 16-year-old CiCi Bellis, who beat a woman not far from three times her age in Kimiko Date-Krumm, 4-6 6-1 6-4. Most surprising was 17-year-old Raveena Kingsley, ranked #940, who upset #30 seed Andrea Hlavackova 6-3 6-4. And most historic was 15-year-old Claire Liu (this year's Easter Bowl champ), who saved 2 match points in coming back to beat Paraguayan #1 Veronica Cepede Royg 4-6 7-5 6-2 in 2 hours and 14 minutes.

On the other side of the ledger were Edina Gallovits-Hall and Alexa Glatch (in the throes of a comeback of her own), both of whom lost in three sets, and Tornado Alicia Black, who fell in straights.

The men's side had far fewer matches and far fewer highlights, with only 3 Americans out of 7 getting wins. All of the American men had rankings disadvantages compared to their opponents, although Alexander Sarkissian is ranked just 2 spots below 33-year-old Jan Mertl (CZE). The closeness of their rankings was reflected in the closeness of their match, with the American going out to a set lead, then having breaks early in each of the last two sets before succumbing 4&3. Also falling short on Day 1 were Jarmere Jenkins and world #1 and #2 juniors Taylor Fritz and Michael Mmoh, all of whom failed to win a set on the day.

On a brighter note, Dennis Novikov looked to be down for the count against Gastao Elias, a player who had beaten him earlier this year in a Challenger. But from 1-3* down in the third, Novikov rallied for 6-7(3) 6-3 6-4 win and a chance to face Matthew Ebden, aka Mmoh's conqueror on the day.

The other two American matches featured recent junior Grand Slam champions.

Noah Rubin (2014 Wimbledon) saw his Taiwanese opponent, Huang Liang-Chi, serve for the second set but the Long Island native put the kibosh on that notion, and won the last four games of the match for a 6-2 7-5 scoreline. This article features quotes from Rubin, his coach, and his dad.

And in the final match, 18-year-old Tommy Paul, he of the 2015 French Open Junior title, survived getting broken at 4-5 in the second set to beat Ohio State alum Blaz Rola 6-3 4-6 6-4 in the 3rd. The key game was at 3-3 in the third, when Paul went up 0*-40 on Rola's serve, only to see the Slovenian get it back to deuce. But 2 points later, Paul grabbed the break, and (I imagine) calmly served out the match with two love holds.

Tommy Paul, 2015 Kalamazoo. (c) Jonathan Kelley

Last year, 7 American men won their first round qualifying matches (against 7 losses). On Wednesday, 6 more men (all of whom again are ranked lower than their opponents) will have a chance to add to the 3 Tuesday wins.

1 comment:

  1. Cảm ơn bạn đã chia sẻ bài viết rất hay và chi tiết
    Huyền Sport
    Quần Vợt
    bong88 l bong88