US Open Qualifiers to Watch for This Week
It was make-or-break day on Friday, August 23, Day 4 of the U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament. Thirty-two men and 32 women battled on the bubble for the final 17 spots in their respective draws (one additional spot in each draw is available as a result of Mardy Fish and Maria Sharapova withdrawing).
A spot in the main draw would also guarantee a first-round U.S. Open check for $23,000 which is no small sum for many of these up-and-comers who have travel and coaching expenses.
The cold front which moved into the New York area on Thursday led to challenging wind conditions Friday, and many of the players struggled not only with their nerves, but also with wind gusts which threw off ball tosses and disguised spins and depth. Players committed more than their usual share of double faults and unforced errors.
Here is a look at three victorious qualifiers who stood out from the pack and are poised to do some damage in the main draw.
Camila Giorgi (ITA)
As I approached the ladies match on Court 10 on Friday, I heard a sound coming from the court unlike anything I had heard in a women’s match during the tournament. It wasn’t a grunt or a scream or any of the other noisy exhalations that plague the WTA today.
Rather, it was a deep thud which sounded like “WHOOMP” coming off the racket of Italy’s Camila Giorgi. Standing at only 5’6”, Giorgi isn’t one of the bigger players on the tour, yet her power brings to mind a Serena Williams or a Sam Stosur.
Giorgi absolutely crushes balls from her forehand and backhand side, and her serve has some pop as well. Her groundstrokes were so hard during her Day 4 match against USA’s Julia Cohen, Cohen could barely stay in a point and managed to win only one game in a 6-1, 6-0 loss.
Camila’s caliber of play is much higher than her No. 137 ranking suggests. She battled a shoulder injury which hurt her performance during the first half of 2013 and forced her to take time off. Now that she is healthy, she is a legitimate Grand Slam threat. She had great results at Wimbledon the past two years making the fourth round in 2012 and third round in 2013.
Expect Camila’s wrecking-ball groundstrokes to cause some problems for opponents in the main draw of the U.S. Open this coming week.
Vicky Duval (USA)
Off the court, 17-year-old Vicky Duval is as bubbly and happy-go-lucky a teenager as there ever was. She smiles and jokes around with her mom before practices. On the court, however, Duval is a fierce competitor who plays an aggressive baseline game.
Duval earned a wild-card entry into last year’s U.S. Open by winning the USTA Girls' 18s National Championship. In her first round, she faced former World No. 1, Kim Clijsters.
This past week, Duval, who recently turned pro, tore through her qualifying draw without dropping a set. She seems to have a knack for staying calm under pressure. During her second-round qualifying match on Thursday, Duval had to endure two long breaks in play.
First, her opponent, Valeria Solovyeva of Russia, took an extended bathroom break after losing the first set. Then there was a rain delay toward the end of the second set. Many players get rattled and lose their momentum after such disruptions. Duval calmly finished business where she left off and cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 victory.
When I spoke to Duval, she said that she is feeling no pressure right now and is just going for her shots. She still has some work to do on her serve, but a player with that attitude could be dangerous in the main draw.
Ivo Karlovic (CRO)
Ivo Karlovic, the No. 2 seed in the qualifying tournament, spent the first half of 2013 fighting a severe case of viral meningitis. He didn’t play his first tournament of the year until Newport in July, where he made the quarterfinals. The following week, he won his fifth ATP title in Bogota.
Karlovic did not drop a set in the qualifying tournament this week. I spoke to him after his Day 4 victory over Andrey Golubev, and he said that he feels good about his game and his health. Although Karlovic is old for a tennis player (34 years old), he still has one of the fastest serves in the game, and at 6’10”, he could give a lot of players trouble on the hard courts of the U.S. Open.