US Open Military Appreciation Day - A Story About “Two Joes” - UBITENNIS
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US Open Military Appreciation Day – A Story About “Two Joes”

Annually, the US Open celebrates Military Appreciation Day on what is known as Labor Day, the first Monday in September. This year, the tournament honored a former champion. In 1943, Joe Hunt won the US National Championships singles title. In 1945, as a Navy pilot, he was killed in a WWII training mission becoming the only US champion to die while servicing his country. Recognition as a player and individual has long been overdue, which makes it fitting that there now is Lt. Joe Hunt Military Appreciation Day.

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Joe Hunt and Jack Kramer Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum Newport Rhode Island

In early July, the USTA announced that it would recognize a former champion on the day it annually fetes those who have dedicated portions of their lives to serving the country. There is a great deal more to story about the decision for the US Open to celebrate Lt. Joe Hunt Military Appreciation Day. It is much bigger than resolving to honor the 1943 US National singles champion whose extraordinary accomplishments have, for the most part, been lost to all, but a few who cherish the game. 

 

In truth, this is a story about two “Joes”. But, it is much more meaningful then the days when “Joe” was slang for a good guy. It is more significant than a reference to an American soldier, and it surely does not relate to a mere cup of coffee. These Joes are special. They are distinctly different, yet very much alike. One easily could be a movie character straight out of Hollywood’s “Golden Age.” The other seems to be a regular Joe but has proven to be much, much more.

The first Joe is Joseph (Joe) R. Hunt. He was born in San Francisco, California but raised in Los Angeles. He had it all. Based on his looks alone – he was blond and blue-eyed and built like he worked out at Muscle Beach in Venice, California rather than on the Los Angeles Tennis Club courts-he was ready for the “Big Screen.”

However, there was a problem. He was also a great athlete. He won the National Boys’ 18 and 15 titles. By the time he was 17, his playing ability earned him a 1936 US Men’s Top 10 ranking. Playing No. 1 for USC, in 1938, he never lost a team singles or doubles match. He rounded out the season taking the NCAA Doubles Championship with teammate Lewis Wetherell.

He teamed with Jack Kramer in the 1939 Davis Cup against Australia. With the US leading, 2-0, the youngsters came up short in the critical match. John Bromwich and Adrian Quist, a veteran duo, triumphed 5-7, 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. (Australia, in the only time the country ever trailed 0-2 in the final, ended up claiming the Cup, 3-2.)

At the US National Championships played in Forest Hills, New York, that same year, Hunt was a singles semifinalist losing to Bobby Riggs, the tournament winner, 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. In 1940, he was again a semifinals and Riggs again ended his run, narrowly slipping past him, 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

Hunt was almost too good to be true. Besides his good looks and being a stellar player, he had charisma. And, people really liked him. What’s more, he was exceedingly realistic. He was aware of what was taking place in the world during the late ‘30s. His concerns led him to leave USC and transfer to the Naval Academy in 1939.

Two years later, Hunt was able to garner time from his duties and became the first (and only) player from the Naval Academy to win the NCAA Singles title. His military commitment kept him from participating in the US Nationals later in 1941 and again in ‘42.

But, he returned to Forest Hills in 1943. World War II was ravaging Europe and the Far East, so the US was only Grand Slam tournament held that year. As it turned out, the final between Hunt and Jack Kramer was a contest between two players on “leave”. Hunt represented the Navy and Kramer, the US Coast Guard.

On a brutally hot and humid day, the Naval Lieutenant downed the Coast Guard Seaman 6-3, 6-8, 10-8, 6-0. For both players, it was a heroic performance. When Kramer’s last shot sailed long, Hunt collapsed on the baseline of the worn grass at the Forest Hills with leg cramps. His opponent, who had suffered a bout of food poisoning during the tournament, slowly made his way to where the winner was sitting to shake his hand. It was a dramatic end to an unforgettable match.

Jack Kramer and Joe Hunt Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport Rhode

The second Joe is Joseph (Joe) T. Hunt. He is the great-nephew of the first Joe.  As is the case with almost all of those in the family, he grew up playing tennis. For him, it was in Santa Barbara, California. By trade, he is a lawyer, and practices in Seattle, Washington. He is also a member of the Pacific Northwest, (one of the 17 USTA sections), Board of Directors and serves as the Section Delegate. 

Whenever he has an opportunity, Hunt heads to the court – not the legal one – but the one where he can play. He is as passionate about the game as he has been in leading the family’s effort to ensure that the first Joe isn’t forgotten.

His dedication to this quest has been “Clarence Darrow-like.” As the clever 20th Century lawyer, pointed out, “Chase after the truth like all hell and you’ll free yourself, even though you never touch its coattails.” 

Initially, Hunt sought to have “The Original” Joe’s name added to  the Court of Champions, located between the South Plaza and Courts 10 and 13 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. According to the USTA website, “The US Open Court of Champions celebrates the legacy of the greatest singles champions in the history of the US Open and US Championships. Each champion defines the essence of the talent and the character required to win at tennis’ ultimate proving ground. Inductees, selected by media from around the world, represent the tournament’s all-time greatest “the best of the best” whose electrifying performances have contributed to making the US Open one of the world’s top sporting events.”

The facts reveal that the Court of Champions was launched in 2004 and prior to 2019 only eleven more enshrinements had taken place recognizing ten men and eight women.

Joseph R. Hunt was killed on February 2, 1945, fifteen days before his 26th birthday. He was on a training flight when his Navy Hellcat, a WWII combat aircraft, went into a spin at 10,000 feet. It crashed into the ocean off the coast of Florida. His body and the plane were never recovered.

The second Joe has done his utmost to see that the first Joe would be remembered. It hasn’t been an easy. He has been focused on the task since 2013 and has been aided by the entire Hunt family. Still, it has been a slog. Borrowing from Navy slang, throughout it all, he has always been “Above Board.”

As an example of the way he is, Hunt delighted in revealing,  “I know that Joe was not the only player to not have a chance to defend his US National title. Ted (Schroeder) won it in 1942 and was not able to defend in 1943. They both were Navy pilots stationed in Pensacola, Florida.  Neither was granted leave to play Forest Hills in 1944 so they both entered a Pensacola tournament held at the same time as the National Championships.  Of course, the local tennis community couldn’t believe their lucky stars to have the 1942 and the 1943 champions playing a local event.  It was billed as the ‘Clash of Net Champions’ and would supposedly determine the true No. 1 player in the country, despite that ‘other’ tournament taking place in New York.  

“Joe and Ted both reached the final where ‘urban legend’ has it that they played their match in front of thousands of spectators on September 4, 1944, while Frank Parker was playing Bill Talbert in the final of Forest Hills – and winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.  I have spent hours trying to vet the truth of this story. I know that it is true, I just don’t know if it is 100% true that the two finals were played simultaneously.   In any event, Joe beat Ted 6-4, 6-4.  Despite what many have written, this was, in fact, the last tournament match of Joe’s life.”

Hunt pointed out, “Joe went out for football at the Naval Academy because he loved that sport too and wanted to be part of a team…”

 

Joe Hunt was a halfback on the Navy football team. Acme Photo

But, as it is with many of the stories about the first Joe, there is much more to the tale…Imagine, in 1939, being one of the best tennis players in the country and, in the world for that matter, then deciding to play football and being assigned to the junior varsity. That’s what happened to Hunt. The next year, he played halfback on the varsity and was good enough to help the team achieve a six win, two loss, one tie season. In 1941, he was a standout on a team that finished with seven wins, one loss and one tie, and ended up ranked No. 10 by the Associated Press. Hunt played so well in the game against Army, (the Midshipmen’s third win in a row over the Cadets) that he was given a game ball signed by the entire team.

As mentioned in the beginning of this piece, Joe R. Hunt’s life, ( his death aside), was fairytale-like. As the second Joe recalled,  “…He left his immensely successful life in Southern California to enter the Naval Academy, knowing that it would make it nearly impossible to achieve his dreams of becoming a great tennis champion… He put the right things ahead of the game.”

All of the Hunts are pleased that US Open Lt. Joe Hunt Military Appreciation Day will recognize a one-of-a-kind former tournament winner. Speaking for the Hunts the second Joe said, “The family of Lt. Hunt will be forever grateful to the USTA and the US Open leadership for taking this action to honor Joe by permanently assigning his name to the annual Military Appreciation Day.”

He further noted, “Connecting a real person to Military Appreciation Day will help the US Open achieve its inspiring purpose for the event, and there is no more fitting figure in the history of tennis to connect with the sport’s ideals of patriotism and sacrifice than Lt. Joe Hunt.”

Joe T. Hunt continues to believe that the first Joe’s life and the sacrifice he made for his country has earned him a place in the Court of Champions…and he also looks forward to collaborating with the USTA regarding how best to memorialize the lost aviator and other military service veterans at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Simply said. during a divisive period in the world, people like Lt. is Joseph (Joe) R. Hunt need to be remembered and not covered by the dust that results from the passage of time.

Lt. Joseph R. Hunt, USN, training at Daytona Beach, Florida, where he was killed when his fighter plane crashed at sea.
Cover of the March 1945 issue of American Lawn Tennis

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Compelling Matchups Scheduled All Around the Grounds on Thursday

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A look at the grounds of The All-England Club (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 4 play is headlined by top names such as Rafael Nadal, Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff, and Stefanos Tsitsipas.  Those names are all considerable favorites in their second round matches, so other matchups on Thursday’s schedule may be more compelling and competitive.  And with many of those encounters scheduled at the same time, multiple screens are recommended.

 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Filip Krajinovic (26) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Second on No.2 Court

Despite his usual poor behavior, Kyrgios survived in five on Tuesday against British wild card Paul Jubb, who is ranked outside the top 200 in the world.  But Nick is in strong form this month, with an 8-3 record on grass, having reached the semifinals of both Stuttgart and Halle.  Krajinovic is also in the midst of a strong grass court season, coming off a run to the final of Queen’s Club.  Like Kyrgios, he also required five sets to advance in the first round.  That was actually Filip’s first-ever win at SW19, as he was 0-4 prior to this fortnight.  Krygios leads their head-to-head 3-0 at all levels, though they haven’t played since 2015.  On grass, Nick’s formidable firepower should be plenty to prevail again over Filip, as long as he can maintain his composure.


Elena Rybakina (17) vs. Bianca Andreescu – Second on Court 12

On Tuesday, Andreescu achieved her first career victory at The Championships.  Bianca had only played five tour-level matches on grass ahead of this year, though she’s now 5-2 on grass this month.  Rybakina reached the fourth round of Wimbledon a year ago, but lost two of her three grass court matches coming into this event.  In their first career meeting, I give the slight edge to Andreescu based on recent form.  And while Elena has accumulated 22 wins this season, only four of them have come at Majors, and none of those four against a top player like Bianca.


Barbora Krejcikova (13) vs. Viktorija Golubic – Second on Court 18

This is only Krejickova’s fourth singles match since February due to an elbow injury.  Her opening round victory was her first since returning to the tour.  Golubic was a surprise quarterfinalist here a year ago, when she defeated both Danielle Collins and Madison Keys.  Yet she has not been able to follow-up on that result, as she has a losing record since that run.  They have split four previous meetings at all levels.  Their most recent clash occurred two years ago in Dubai, with Barbora prevailing 6-1, 6-2.  But her lack of match play, along with Viktorija’s grass prowess, make Krejcikova an underdog on this day.  While results on other surfaces have not followed, Golubic is now 13-7 on grass since last season, which includes a semifinal appearance earlier this month in Nottingham.


Karolina Pliskova (6) vs. Katie Boulter (WC) – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Pliskova was the runner-up a year ago, losing the championship match to Ash Barty 6-3 in the third.  Unfortunately a hand injury forced her to miss the first two months of 2022, and she’s only 9-10 this season as a result.  Boulter is a 25-year-old Brit who pushed Aryna Sabalenka to three sets at last year’s event, and is 8-3 on grass at all levels this season.  And just like week, Boulter beat Pliskova on grass in Eastbourne 6-4 in the third.  Now can Katie repeat that result on her country’s most prestigious court?  She’ll certainly have the full support of the Centre Court audience, and her experience last year on this court could prove extremely valuable.  Considering Pliskova has only twice won back-to-back matches this year, an upset on Thursday feels entirely possible.


Alex de Minaur (19) vs. Jack Draper – Third on No.1 Court

This could easily become the most competitive show court match of the day.  And the British crowd will be vociferously behind Draper, especially late in the day on the tournament’s second biggest court.  Jack is a 20-year-old Brit who last year took a set off Novak Djokovic on Centre Court.  And he’s collected 31 match wins at all levels this season, which includes four Challenger titles as well as a semifinal run just last week in Eastbourne.  But de Minaur is also having a strong season.  The Australian has 25 wins, all at tour level, and was also a semifinalist in Eastbourne.  Both players won their first round matches in straight sets, so they’re surely feeling fresh and confident.  While Alex’s defensive skills will force Jack to strike some extra balls, Draper’s offensive weapons will be rewarded on this surface.  And the crowd’s encouragement may be the x-factor Draper needs to prevail.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Jordan Thompson – Tsitsipas prevailed in four sets on Tuesday, bringing his Wimbledon record to just 4-4.  He’s 1-0 against Thompson, who is only 8-12 this season at tour level.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Ricardas Berankis – Nadal is now 31-3 on the year, and seemed rather unbothered by his chronic foot injury in the opening round.  Earlier this season in Australia, he defeated Berankis in straight sets.

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove (LL) – A victory for Swiatek on Thursday would be her 37th consecutive win, tying her with Martina Hingis for the longest women’s singles win streak across the past three decades.  Lesley is a 30-year-old ranked 138th in the world who at last year’s Wimbledon earned for first-ever main draw win at a Major by defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Simona Halep (16) vs. Kirsten Flipkens – Halep is on an eight-match win streak at Wimbledon, dating back to her title run in 2019.  36-year-old Flipkens has said this will be her last-ever singles tournament.  She was a semifinalist here in 2013. 

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu – Gauff scarcely survived the first round, overcoming Elena-Gabriela Ruse 7-5 in the third.  But Coco should be able to settle into the tournament from here, especially against Buzarnescu.  She’s currently 127th in the world, and on Tuesday won her first WTA-level match in nearly a year.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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WIMBLEDON: Day Two Talking Points as Rafa Nadal wins but Serena Williams falls agonisingly short

Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams had contrasting results on day two of Wimbledon.

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Serena Williams (@USTA - Twitter)

Yesterday at SW19 again saw crowds flock to see the world’s most recognised tennis faces.

 

And it did not disappoint.

Contrasting comebacks for the sport’s stars

Two-time champion Rafa Nadal was playing at Wimbledon for the first time in three years.

And the Spaniard showed some majestic touches on his return to the surface.

He stormed into two sets to love lead against Argentina’s Francisco Cerúndolo, 6-4, 6-3.

But the Argentine fought back to take the third 6-3.

The crowd sensing an upset on the cards where cheering every time Nadal staved off some dangerous moments.

In particular, midway through the fourth as Cerúndolo was up 4-3 and had a sniff on the Spanish legend’s serve.

But he came through and went onto break the 23-year-old from Buenos Aires, and made no mistake in serving for the match.

6-4 in the fourth as the 22-time Grand Slam champion breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The win keeps alive his hopes of winning an unprecedented calendar Grand Slam after taking the Australian and French Open titles.

Meanwhile, for Serena Williams it wasn’t to be a fairytale comeback after a year away from the sport.

But she did play very well against an inspired Harmony Tan.

A nervous start saw the American surrender her serve. 

She then come back to lead in the opening set before losing it 7-5.

We then witnessed the Serena of old as she dominated the Frenchwoman to take it 6-1.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion then came out of the blocks fast in the third, forging a 3-1 lead.

But she was pegged back by the plucky Tan and it took some vintage Serena to seize the break, meaning the 40-year-old would serve for the match.

Some loose serves cost her the game and Serena was forced to save a match point as a final set tie-break was the only way to separate the two.

The tennis icon zoomed into a 4-0 lead and looked the likely winner but Tan again fought back with some sublime shots of her own.

In her first match on Centre Court and with such little Grand Slam pedigree, Tan continued to relish the big stage as she saw off some nerves to take the breaker 10-7 and the biggest win of her career.

This was arguably the match of the tournament so far.

Serena can hold her head up high as it was a strong performance and a couple of points here or there and we would have been talking about a stunning win.

Another good day for the Brits

More Brits are through to round two!

Jack Draper continued his impressive form as he saw off Zizou Bergs in straight sets.

The Belgian going down 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).

And Ryan Peniston, fresh from making the quarter-finals of Queen’s is also through.

He saw off Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen comfortably 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

Katie Boulter beat Frenchwoman Clara Burel 7-5, 6-3.

And Heather Watson beat Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch 6-7 (7-9, 7-5, 6-2.

But British number two Dan Evans was left stunned after he lost to Australia’s Jason Kubler in straight sets 6-1, 6-4, 6-3.

Iga breaks Venus’ record

One stat that seemed to fly under the radar with Rafa and Serena taking all the headlines was Poland’s Iga Świątek breaking Venus Williams 35-match unbeaten run.

The pole extended her own streak to 36 with a convincing performance against Croatia’s Jana Fett.

The world number one opening Centre Court in style 6-0, 6-3.

There were also wins for 2019 champion Simona Halep, fifth seed Maria Sakkari, Paula Badosa, Coco Gauff and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Grigor exits along with Sloane Stephens

Former semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov was forced to pull out injured after being a set up and 5-2 down in the second set against American Steve Johnson.

Whilst, former US Open champion Sloane Stephens slumped to China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-6 (7-1), 7-5.

And the oldest man in the draw, Feliciano Lopez who in doing so, equalled Roger Federer’s record of 81 main draw appearances at Grand Slams.

But the Spaniard lost in straight sets to Botic van de Zandschulp.

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Andy Murray Faces John Isner in the Second Round

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Andy Murray during his first round victory on Monday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Six years ago, Andy Murray won his third Major title at The Championships, and ended that year by achieving another career milestone: becoming the No.1 player in the world for the first time.  Unfortunately, the following years were filled with injuries and surgeries.  In 2022, despite an ab injury he suffered leading up to this fortnight, Murray appears as fit as he’s been since his last Slam title run in 2016.  But in the second round, 2018 semifinalist John Isner stands in his way.

 

Wednesday’s Centre Court schedule is headlined by the same three names as Monday, as Murray shares the stage with defending champion Novak Djokovic and US Open champion Emma Raducanu.  Other action on Wednesday features 2018 champ Angelique Kerber, Roland Garros finalist Casper Ruud, and two multi-time champions in 2022: Ons Jabeur and Carlos Alcaraz.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Casper Ruud (3) vs. Ugo Humbert – 11:00am on No.2 Court

Ruud has become a formidable player on both clay and hard courts, yet his first round victory on Monday was only his third career win on grass, and his eighth match on the surface overall.  By contrast, Humbert is quite accomplished on grass.  Ugo advanced to the second week of this tournament in 2019, and went 8-2 on this surface last season, which included a title run in Halle.  But after battling injuries and fatigue in recent months, the 24-year-old Frenchman is just 7-17 this year, and only 2-3 on grass.  Humbert leads their head-to-head 2-1.  He has prevailed in both their hard court meetings, while Ruud prevailed on clay.  All three of their matches have gone to a deciding set.  But despite his lack of experience on grass, Casper should be favored to even their head-to-head based on recent form.


Angelique Kerber (15) vs. Magda Linette – Second on No.2 Court

Kerber is now 37-12 lifetime at Wimbledon, but she also has a recent history of losing early at Majors.  Angie has failed to make the second week in eight of her last 12 Slam appearances.  And Linette upset a top seed just a month ago at a Major, when she took out Ons Jabeur in the first round of Roland Garros.  However, Magda has only played accumulated seven tour-level win on grass in her career.  Their only previous encounter occurred earlier this year on clay in Strasbourg, with Kerber prevailing in three.  On grass, a much stronger surface for Angie, the 2018 champion should be able to prevail comfortably.


Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Djokovic overcame a stern test in the opening round from Soonwoo Kwon, eventually winning 6-4 in the fourth.  That was Novak’s 80th win at The Championships, making him the only player to ever win 80 matches at every Major.  On the same day, Kokkinakis procured his first-ever victory at SW19, and only his fourth tour-level win on grass.  Thanasi’s battles with injuries are well-documented, but the Australian has been healthy and more active on tour the past 18 months than he has in many years.  Earlier this season in his hometown of Adelaide, he captured his first ATP title.  But defeating the three-time defending champion, who is 61-3 in the second round of Majors, would be a monumental upset.  While Kokkinakis has some weapons that can provide Djokovic with another test, Novak remains a considerable favorite to advance.


Emma Raducanu (10) vs. Caroline Garcia – Second on Centre Court

Raducanu overcame a lot of pressure in the opening round, as well as a tough opponent in Alison Van Uytvanck, who was 12-2 on grass this season at all levels.  But the 19-year-old’s draw gets no easier on Wednesday.  Garcia is a former top five player who won her second French Open doubles titles a few weeks ago, and is currently on a six-match win streak in singles.  Last week on the grass of Bad Homburg, Caroline won tight three-setters over both Alize Cornet and Bianca Andreescu to win her first singles title in three years.  When these players met earlier this year in Indian Wells, Raducanu was victorious 6-1 in the third.  If Emma can continue to withstand the overwhelming attention she’s currently receiving from the British public and press, she possesses enough firepower and consistency to collect another win over the Frenchwoman.


John Isner (20) vs. Andy Murray – Third on Centre Court

While they have not played in nearly six years, their history has been completely one-sided.  Murray is 8-0 against Isner, and has secured 20 of 24 sets contested.  And John did not arrive in London with much form.  The 37-year-old is just 14-12 on the year, and played no grass court warmup events.  On Monday, he required five sets to get past a player ranked outside the top 200.  While Isner’s serve always makes him a threat to pull out a tight match, gaining his first victory over an in-form Murray on Wednesday would be surprising.  Andy is coming off a run to the final of Stuttgart earlier this month, and appeared uninhibited on Monday by the ab injury that forced him to withdraw from Queen’s Club. 


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Anett Kontaveit (2) vs. Jule Niemeier – On Monday, the second seed broke a three-match losing streak, and also won her first match on grass in over a year.  Niemeier is a 22-year-old who in the opening round claimed her first main draw victory at a Major.

Carlos Alcaraz (5) vs. Tallon Griekspoor – Alcaraz defeated Jan-Lennard Struff on Monday 6-4 in the fifth, which is only his second career win on this surface.  Griekspoor took out Fabio Fognini in four, and has never advanced beyond the second round of a Slam.   

Ons Jabeur (3) vs. Katarzyna Kawa (Q) – Jabeur is now 31-9 on the year, and has taken 16 of her last 18 matches on grass.  Kawa is a 29-year-old who had never earned a win at a Major prior to this tournament.


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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