The first section is an absolute treat to friends. No. 99 Aleksandra Krunic is the 1st seed in the Wimbledon qualifying draw. The Serb’s 3rd Round performance two years ago and a final at the $100K Manchester ITF. 16th seed Petra Martic is coming off of a 4th Round run in Paris, where she equaled her best run from 2012. She will be hoping to do the same at Wimbledon where she reached the 3rd Round in 2013. That said, Martic lost her first match in Ilkley qualifying, so the Croat’s chances are not looking great. Rebecca Sramkova and Arantxa Rus are the two dangerous unseeded players. The 20-year-old Sramkova is a Giorgi-esque hitter, and when she is on, she’s unstoppable. The Slovak hasn’t played since Roland Garros qualifying and isn’t proven on grass. Arantxa Rus made good on her wild card in s-Hertogenbosch, beating Babos and later Hlavackova. Rus is hoping for her first Wimbledon main draw appearance since 2013. Mihaela Buzarnescu, Rus’ opponent, has an 8-match win streak but no experience with grass. I think it will be Krunic who will get through and beat Arantxa Rus in the final round.
My Pick: Aleksandra Krunic
2nd seed Alison Van Uytvanck is a former Top 50 player and Ilkley finalist. The Belgian is definitely the favorite for this qualifying spot. British wild cards Gabriella Taylor and Katy Dunne didn’t have incredibly impressive lead-ups, reaching a quarterfinal each. Ivana Jorovic is a talent but lost first round qualifying last year, and only reached 2nd Round of Junior Wimbledon. Van Uytvanck should come through, probably against Sachia Vickery or Tereza Martincova in the final round of qualifying.
My Pick: Alison Van Uytvanck
Ons Jabeur is hoping to follow up on her performances at the French Open, where the Tunisian reached 3rd Round as a lucky loser. Jabeur doesn’t have loads of experience on grass but qualified for Mallorca by beating Antonia Lottner and Yanina Wickmayer before losing to Ana Konjuh in three sets. It won’t be easy for Jabeur as she plays the 2015 Junior Wimbledon winner Sofya Zhuk. Zhuk won Junior Wimbledon at just 15 years of age. Now at 17, she is ready to make waves on the main tour, as she enters her first slam qualifying. This first round match will decide the qualifier. 17th seed Asia Muhammad and any of the unseeded players haven’t been impressive. Sofya Zhuk will find the edge over Jabeur and go on to qualify for her first slam at Wimbledon.
My Pick: Sofya Zhuk
Of the three Russians in Section 4, it is again the youngest who is the favorite. Anna Kalinskaya qualified for Mallorca before losing to Mona Barthel. 4th seed Lin Zhu and 23rd seed Francoise Abanda are nothing special on grass, and even though Zhu has been on the rise this year, she went 0-1 on grass. Perhaps former No. 56 Alla Kudryavtseva could remember how she made the 4th Round at Wimbledon. However that was back in 2008, 9 years ago, and Kudryavtseva is now outside the Top 200. Kalinskaya could come through here without having to perform outstandingly.
My Pick: Anna Kalinskaya
The draw continues with the Russian junior theme with 5th seed Anna Blinkova. Still only 18 years old, Blinkova was Zhuk’s opponent in the 2015 Junior Wimbledon final. Blinkova reached 2nd Round at Australian Open out of qualifying and lost in the final round of qualifying to Marketa Vondrousova in Paris. A worrying factor for Blinkova is that she went 2-3 in the grass lead-up, including a straight set loss to No. 249 Danielle Lao. Jana Fett is expected to make at least final round due to pretty good grass season. The Croat went 6-3, only losing to Watson, Barty, and Giorgi, all players that are of higher quality than the qualifying field. It is Fett’s only 3rd ever appearance at qualifying of a slam. The 20-year-old missed the majority of 2016 due to injury and missed Australian Open qualifying because she reached semifinals at Hobart. I would give Fett the edge over Blinkova, but I expect the match to go deep into the final set.
My Pick: Jana Fett
6th seed Kristie Ahn is the presumptive favorite for this section. The 25-year-old American surprised everyone by her quarterfinal run in Nottingham where she beat Naomi Osaka. None of her competitors are great on grass. 13th seed Aryna Sabalenka has experienced Fed Cup heroics on indoor hard court, but that’s an entirely different atmosphere. Kristie Ahn will beat Kudermetova, Kozlova, and Sabalenka to qualify.
My Pick: Kristie Ahn
Nothing Tops Star Power At U.S. Open
Charleston Post and Courier columnist James Beck reflects on this year’s US Open.
NEW YORK — Tennis is still all about who’s playing the game.
Parents watch their kids grow up through their junior tennis days. Then maybe college tennis.
But when it comes to watching big-time tennis such as at the U.S. Open, nothing tops star power. That was never more evident than Friday and Saturday in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
NEW YORK CROWD UNSURE ABOUT MEDVEDEV
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev is red hot this summer, first on the U.S. Open series where he lost in two finals before winning in Cincinnati. And then he made the U.S. Open final.
But the New York crowd doesn’t get very excited about the 6’6″ wonder. Empty seats were plentiful Friday afternoon when Medvedev knocked off Grigor Dimitrov in the first men’s semifinal. Even if the crowds weren’t excited about Medvedev, they should have been thrilled to see Dimitrov. Obviously, the fans weren’t too happy that Dimitrov had taken down Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.
But, suddenly, when Rafa Nadal took center court for the second semifinal, fans were everywhere. That was for a match against a relative newcomer to big-time tennis. Matteo Berrettini could play, but he was no equal for Nadal.
NADAL MAKES EMPTY SEATS DISAPPEAR
Yet, it was time to be sure you were in the correct seat. The empty seats had disappeared.
The U.S. Open had switched gears. It had gone from the frenzied atmosphere of young
Americans Coco Gaulf, Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend to a different reality.
The old-timers, better known as all-timers, might be nearing the end of the road in big-time tennis. Yes, the list includes even Serena Williams.
Nadal took care of his end of the bargain with the fans by turning away Berrettini in sraight sets to secure his day, and a spot in the final against Medvedev.
Serena couldn’t save her day in Saturday’s women’s final, despite the efforts of a packed stadium of wildly cheering supporters. Nineteen-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu simply was better on this day.
ANDREESCU MIGHT BE FOR REAL
Of course, Andreescu has plenty of time to set records and win fans. Serena rallied from 5-1 down in the second set, and appeared headed for another possible magical win when she tied the set at 5-5.
In the end, Serena failed again in her attempt to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title in a 6-3, 7-5 loss to Andreescu.
Serena might have made 2018 champion Naomi Osaka’s career a year earlier when Serena couldn’t notch Grand Slam title No. 24 then, either. Now, Andreescu may be ready to make her mark on the game. Getting by Serena was a big step. Andreescu might join the all-timers one day.
When another Grand Slam season gets underway in January in Australia, the tennis world really might be turned upside down. Novak Djokovic’s early departure along with the 38-year-old Federer’s and Stan Wawrinka’s losses in the next round were shocking, along with the early collapse of all of the super women’s stars except Serena.
SERENA, FEDERER AND NADAL IN A DIFFERENT WORLD
The young women’s stars such as Osaka, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Simona Halep and Ashleigh Barty, along with Medvedev, Berrettini, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime among the men aren’t likely to evolve into all-time stars the way Serena, Federer and Nadal have.
That’s just the reality of big-time tennis. Serena, Federer and Nadal are players for the ages, just like Rod Laver was. Their fan bases are in for a major change, or they can switch to the sometimes unpredictability of this new group.
James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at
2019 US Open: A common road led by contrasting routes for Dominik Koepfer and Hyeon Chung
Amid the huddle of early-round exits and some scattered withdrawals, a couple of players made the most of opportunities they received at the 2019 US Open. Dominik Koepfer and Hyeon Chung came through the qualifying rounds to win their initial couple of rounds with conviction and make their way forward even as rest of the playing field blew open around them.
Being qualifiers is the denominator common to them this week. Yet, in a way, the 23-year-old Chung is trudging a familiar route as compared with the 25-year-old Koepfer who is a relative newer face to watch at the Slams.
In 2018, Chung had made it to his first semi-final at a Major – at the Australian Open – taking down then six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round. The 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals’ titlist reached a career-high of 19 in the world after his Australian Open jaunt in 2018. Koepfer, on the other hand, is yet to break into the top-100 – with a career-high of no. 113 attained in the second-week of August. His best result at the Majors – before his fourth-round appearance at the US Open – was reaching the second round at Wimbledon this year.
None of these differences in the respective roads they have travelled on the Tour mattered as they tried to make it to the main draw. Chung’s injuries that kept him away from the circuit (for almost five months this year) meant he had to start from scratch, at the Challenger level. Koepfer’s being a mainstay on the Challenger circuit – for now – meant he, too, would start from the same position.
In doing so, the sport has made levellers out of them. Their past results do not matter. It is how they do against the opponent of the day that matters. Three qualifying rounds followed by the sterner main-draw test that also comes by way of lengthier matches. In this regard, Chung has already faced two such difficult matches in his first two rounds this week against Ernesto Escobedo and Fernando Verdasco in which he had to play five-setters to extricate himself.
The draw’s narrowing has also meant the task ahead of them has gotten harder. This is also where their paths diverge once again. If Tulane University alumnus in Koepfer is the equivalent of a dark horse, Chung’s previous experience makes him a dangerous floater.
If the two end up being truthful to this tag of theirs, the chaos component at this year’s US Open will be the accentuation separating itself from the monotonous.
2019 US Open, And The Growth In The Divide Between Players And Officials
The 2019 US Open has barely begun but off-court news surrounding the sport’s refereeing officials have reverberated more than the on-court results.
Argentinian chair umpire Damian Steiner was removed by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for giving interviews without consulting the ATP about accepting those. Among the players, Nick Kyrgios and Serena Williams continued with their less-than-respectful behaviour. Kyrgios towards the ATP which docked him $113,000 in fines for his rants against Fergus Murphy in Cincinnati. And, Williams towards Carlos Ramos, who umpired her 2018 US Open final against Naomi Osaka.
These incidents are revealing of the dichotomy spanning the players and the officials’ positions. Let us look at the players’ side of this chasm first. Kyrgios’ had no remorse about his behaviour against Murphy. Neither was he upset about being fined. Nonetheless, he attempted to duck from his mistakes by blaming the ATP for the penalty.
“Not at all. The ATP is pretty corrupt anyway, so I’m not fussed about it at all,” Kyrgios replied to a question about the fine in his post-match press conference. He, then, turned into a quasi-interrogator as if perplexed by the question, and the fine. His rhetorical question was, “I got fined 113K for what? Why are we talking about something that happened three weeks ago when I just chopped up someone first round?”
Kyrgios’ lackadaisical approach towards rectifying his errors was infuriating. But perhaps not to the same level as the exasperation evoked by Williams’ words, in her press conference.
After her first-round win over Maria Sharapova, Williams, in response to a question about Ramos not umpiring her matches at the event this year, chose to be snarky instead of giving a straight answer. “Yeah, I don’t know who that is,” she stated impassively as though the person and the events of the previous year did not concern or involve her.
Now, imagine a scenario in which either Murphy or Ramos, or both wanted to speak up and finally decide to share their vexations about receiving such attitude from the players in an interview. They cannot even do that without seeking permission from the sport’s governing authorities. Moreover, a message was sent in making an example out of Steiner that umpires did not have the backing of their job if they decided to forgo the rules.
The game’s viewers may take it as in indication that tennis’ rules belonged to the “never to be broken” category. However, this move will only embolden the players to be more abrasive and impolite to the umpires. Instead of looking at them as maintainers of the game for the duration of the match.
Case in point: Stefanos Tsitsipas’ ranting at Damien Dumussois when the Frenchman asked him to quicken his time at change of ends. “You have something against me. You’re French, probably. … You’re all weirdos,” he went on, insulting not only the umpire but also his nationality, and his countrymen.
Undoubtedly, it was said in momentary anger because of how the match was turning against him. Yet, if the rules are to be so correctly enforced – and they were in this instance, in Dumussois asking the eighth-seed to speed up – players ought not to complain.
However, grievances – actual and perceived – are bound to come up. As such, sanctioning players with fines (and even suspension) for raging at the umpires is a stop-gap remedy. Players will not – and did not – hesitate to fulfil the terms of their punishment. They will also continue with their tirades, as and when things do not go their way in a match.
On the other hand, for the umpires, this is like a repetitive cycle of viciousness. Tennis’ managerial authorities need to incorporate a system in which the umpires get to openly communicate about the players’ misconduct without being isolated, and treated as the sport’s second-rung members.
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