It’s a Day of Dreams at Friday’s US Open
Steve Fogleman in New York
Friday qualifying has always been my favorite day of the year, and it’s finally upon us. When some people think about dreams coming true, they think of someone like Naomi Osaka winning a grand slam final in her first attempt. I don’t completely agree. Osaka’s run to the 2019 US Open title was indeed an incredible feat, but it’s likely to happen to less than 1% of pro players in their entire careers. For the rest of them, the dream isn’t winning the US Open, it’s playing in it. These athletes spend enormous amounts of cash to come to New York with their team and it’s a gamble unless you make it to the third round. A win in the third round, though, and it’s all gravy and glory: a $90,000 check awaits today’s main draw qualifiers.
These athletes won’t be talking about the money today, though. They’ll be talking about how they’ve watched the US Open since they were kids and always wanted to play here. They’ll be talking about their success stories in the past in juniors here and how they always wanted to compete with the grown-ups in the main draw.
Today’s qualifiers, by and large, harbor no delusions of grandeur. They’d love to win majors, but they know you’ve got to play in the main draw to reach the next career goal. Yes, dreaming of winning the US Open final may tantalize them, but in the end they can achieve a manageable goal of playing in the US Open main draw and come in here next week with house money looking to knock out a top seed. Today could also be a pinnacle career highlight for some qualifiers, the greatest memory they ever have when they finally put the racquet down for the last time.
Either way, it’s a day of dreams come true for the best 32 players on an uncharacteristically cool August day in New York. You must be dreaming if you think I’d miss it for anything.
11 Americans on 4 Courts Looking for a Ticket to a @USOpen Qualifying Final Today
Steve Fogleman in Queens
It’s last call to be a part of a dream-making Friday at the US Open where 16 men and 16 women will emerge from the hundreds of competitors who came for the very same thing. 11 Americans play on Thursday to attempt to join Taylor Townsend and one Jenson Brooksby as qualifying finalists.
Court 4 features Asia Muhammad against Bulgaria’s Isabella Shinkova. American Asia Muhammad faces #16 seed Barbara Krejcikova in the third and final match.
Caroline Dolehide takes on Australian Zoe Hives in the opener on Court 7 and 15-year-old Katrina Scott tries to stun the Russian Anna Kalinskaya in the third match.
Courts 11 and 12 boast an American player for every match. In one case, two compatriots will clash. Robin Anderson and Nicole Gibbs go head to head for the third time and Anderson holds the 2-1 head to head edge. Before the all-American match on Court 11, fans will look forward to perennial American qualifier Mitchell Krueger battle Egor Gerasimov followed by a bout between Hailey Baptiste and British talent Harriet Dart.
Home-grown pros Noah Rubin and Christina McHale are showcased on Court 12 today, after the opening match pitting American Varvara Lepchenko against Georgina Garcia Perez.
Q2 Matches to Watch at US Open Wednesday
Steve Fogleman in Queens
The rubber hits the road today as players can almost smell the $90,000.00 first round prize money and the glory of a three-match winning streak. A win in the second round today will lead you to the wall that is one more match to qualify for America’s biggest tennis prize, main draw at the U.S. Open in New York.
D. Kovinic (MNE)  vs. V. Gracheva (RUS)
24-year-old Danka Kovinic hasn’t won a main draw tour level match all year after injury but put together a superb comeback in three sets against Allie Kiick on Monday. Today, she faces #184 Varvara Gracheva, who looked sharp in qualifying matches in Washington last month.
I. Begu (ROU)  vs. J. Cepelova (SVK)
Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu looks like it’s her match to lose today to the always upset-minded Czech Cepelova, but you might want to re-think that. Cepelova is 3-0 against Begu, with their last meeting at New Haven in 2017.
S. Napolitano (ITA) vs. H. Chung (KOR) 
Two years ago, you wouldn’t have been surprised to find Chung in the round of 16 here. Injuries and bad luck have taken their toll, but we’ll find out where his game is in a match against Italy’s Stefano Napolitano, who’s trying to qualify for any tour-level main draw, let alone a grand slam. This is a first meeting, but Chung is 8-2 in his last 10 hard court matches, so edge to him.
T. Townsend (USA)  vs. V. Cepede Royg (PAR)
Can Taylor Townsend unplug the VCR today? Paraguayan Cepede-Royg is 2-0 against the American overwhelming crowd favorite and higher-ranked player.
J. Brooksby (USA) vs. Y. Sugita (JPN) 
Japan’s Yuichi Sugita is always around at the slams and the bigger tournaments qualifying draws. American Jenson Brooksby, a wild card recipient, shares one thing with Sugita: they’re both playing excellent tennis on hard courts right now. Brooksby took out lesser-known Japanese player Kaichi Uchida on Monday in straight sets, but this is Yuichi Sugita.
A. Raina (IND) vs. D. Allertova (CZE)
Can India’s #1 player inch closer to her first main draw of a Grand Slam today? Denisa Allertova stands in the way and as these players have never met and both went three sets in round 1, this is a true toss-up.
Qualifying Week @USOpen Gets Better Every Year
Time was when a tennis fan could go to the qualies down at the National Tennis Center and feel like they were getting away with something. The crowds were lighter and the concession lines were shorter. The secret slowly sneaked out over the years and the USTA embraced the growing interest in what is now Fan Week. Though any old timer is wistful about some changes, Week Zero of the Open is going to feel more like the main draw party it’s become.
This year the USTA is opening up Ashe during Fan Week and featuring nightly concerts and legends matches. Couple that with more autograph opportunities and seeing big players practicing on big courts and you’ve got an event that dwarves many other tournaments main draw excitement. If the New Haven Open WTA premier tournament was still around, this would have surely killed it off, with free admission to Fan Week.
FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y., July 24, 2019 – The USTA today announced that US Open Fan Week, a week-long tennis and entertainment festival, will kick-off the 2019 US Open and run from Monday, August 19 through Sunday, August 25, on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Anchored by the US Open Qualifying Tournament, the week’s activities also include free evening concerts, open practices featuring the world’s top players, a new Kids’ Zone and a host of other family activities and special events created to give fans more access to the world-class US Open experience. All activities scheduled during the week are free and open to the public.
The new Fan Week Center Stage located in the South Plaza will serve as home for many activities, including a nightly Heineken Happy Hour, free Chase Sound Check evening concerts, the US Open Draw Ceremony, Tennis Talks and Legends Interviews, and other entertainment events. The stage will be programmed daily from Tuesday through Friday. Other major US Open Fan Week events include the 24th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day, taking place on the grounds and inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday, August 24, a US Open Pride Event to be held on Thursday, August 22, public access to US Open Media Day on Friday, August 23, and a new Net Generation Kids’ Zone presented by Emirates that will be located in Backyard Court 17.
A full list of events, which can be accessed at usopen.org/fanweek, include:
US Open Qualifying Tournament: 128 men and 128 women compete to qualify for the final 16 positions in the main draws of the US Open. The qualifying tournament, which offers the fifth- largest purse for a tennis event in the U.S., takes place from Monday, August 19, through Friday, August 23.
Featured Practices: From Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, top ATP and WTA players will be showcased in featured practices in the Grandstand. Players will sign autographs for fans at the conclusion of each practice.
Legends Matches presented by Mercedes-Benz: A series of late-afternoon Legends matches with a targeted 4:30 pm start time will take place in Grandstand from Wednesday through Friday. Wednesday’s match will feature John McEnroe and Jim Courier, with Thursday’s pitting Andy Roddick against James Blake. Friday’s featured match will be a women’s doubles match featuring Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin, Lindsay Davenport and Aranxta Sanchez Vicario. Other former players and tennis celebrities will be added to the schedule closer to the start of Fan Week.
Fan Week Center Stage: This stage will serve as the focal point for all Fan Week activities and the site of all major Fan Week Events. The hosted stage will include player interview and autograph opportunities, as well as ticket and merchandise giveaways, and will be the site of free pop-up entertainment and special guest appearances.
Access to Arthur Ashe Stadium: For the first time during Fan Week, fans will be able to register to gain access to Arthur Ashe Stadium which is typically closed to the public prior to the main draw of the US Open. The stadium will feature top player practices and other activities over the course of the week.
US Open Fan Access Pass: Similar to past years, fans can register for US Open Fan Access Pass for and have a chance to win tickets and prizes. Fans who sign up for Fan Access Pass can make the most of their Fan Week experience and gain access to reserved seating in Grandstand for featured practices and Legends matches as well as access to Arthur Ashe Stadium. Those who register for Fan Access Pass are also entered into drawings for the chance to win US Open tickets and other prizes.
US Open Experience: Fans will be able to take in the total US Open Experience which includes a vast array of food offerings, unique merchandise and shopping opportunities and a wide range of activations hosted by US Open sponsor in booths located across the site.
Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day powered by Net Generation: The 24th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day will take place on Saturday, August 24 throughout the grounds of the National Tennis Center, with a concert and television program taking place in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Again this year, access to the grounds and all grounds activities are free. For the first time, courtesy of the USTA Foundation, general admission promenade seats in Ashe Stadium for the concert are free. Reserved Courtside and Loge tickets are available for purchase via Ticketmaster.com.
Net Generation Kids’ Zone presented by Emirates: At the Net Generation Kids’ Zone presented by Emirates, located at Backyard Court 17, fans of all ages can play in a range of fun sports activities, including tennis target practice, soccer dribbling, a basketball shootout, golf putting challenge, an agility course and a hockey shooting accuracy area. The Kids’ Zone introduces fans to the USTA’s American Development Model: a multi-sport approach to building tomorrow’s future athletes and tennis greats.
Holiday Inn Kids Eat Free: Kids eat free at Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts – and will be able to do the same during Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day and US Open Fan Week, as well. In partnership with Honest Juice, the Holiday Inn brand will provide free meal vouchers to kids 12 and under (limit two per family).
Festival Elements: The USTA will bring some of the most popular elements from Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day powered by Net Generation to the Fan Week Grounds, including face painting, roving performers and pop-up performances.
Heineken Happy Hour: Taking place on the Fan Week Center Stage, the Heineken Happy Hour will be held Tuesday through Friday from 6pm to 8pm. Each night, the Happy Hour will feature top DJs, including DJ Niks, DJs Coco and Breezy, and DJ MAAD. Drink specials will be available from 6pm to 7pm all four nights.
Chase Sound Check: For three evenings, from Wednesday, August 21, through Friday, August 23, US Open sponsor Chase, will bring an exciting line-up of live music to the Fan Week Center Stage through the Chase Sound Check platform. The concerts will follow Happy Hour and begin at 8 pm. Check usopen.org/fanweek for the full schedule.
US Open Draw Ceremony: The US Open Draw Ceremony, which determines the match-ups and order of play for the main draw of the US Open, will take place on Thursday at noon, at the Fan Week Center Stage. The ceremony will feature top ESPN talent and analysts discussing all of the tournament’s potential highlights, and potential pitfalls. The ceremony concludes with a special appearance by US Open defending singles champions Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka.
US Open Pride Event: On Thursday, August 22, the US Open will host a special Pride event in Louis Armstrong Stadium from 6:30-7:30 pm, entitled “LOVE ALL – An Open Conversation.” The event will feature former athletes and other notables who will comment on the role of sports, and especially tennis, in, and on the LGBTQ+ community.
US Open Media Day: Scheduled for Friday, August 23 at 11 am, in Louis Armstrong Stadium, fans will have free access to US Open Media Day at which the international tennis media interview top male and female players. Players participating in the 2018 US Open Media Day included Roger Federer, Sloane Stephens, Rafael Nadal, Simona Halep, Andy Murray, and Caroline Wozniacki. In addition, other tennis players and Hall of Famers are scheduled to be part of the interview rotation that fans are welcome to observe.
It was the best of times. It was the worst times. Maybe it was a little of both, depending on how qualifying at the US Open turned out for you or your favorite player. But for me, it was a great time watching 2010 finalist Vera Zvonareva face sudden death a couple of times today to pull herself through a tough three set match against Lin Zhu to qualify for the main draw, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 win in 2 hours and 43 minutes. It wasn’t the prettiest tennis Zvonareva has played, saving 5 of 9 break point opportunities, but it was enough to get back to the main draw.
After the match and right before trotting off to the Tennis Channel, I asked her how special it was to do it the hard way.
“Well of course it’s very important,” she told me. “I’ve been playing on the big stages before, but now I had to go through the qualifying. You know, when I started last year, I won in the first round but lost in the second round of qualifying. So I was happy to come back here again and thought ‘well, I’ll give it another try’ and of course, I’m very happy to be in the main draw now.”
If the fans on Court 4 today were any indication, there’s a lot people very happy she’s in the main draw.
The Return of the Cutest Mahut: @NMahut Brings Out His Secret Weapon Again, This Time at @USOpen
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Nicolas Mahut’s cutiepie valet has made his first official appearance at the US Open. Natnel Mahut, 6, made his tennis debut at Roland Garros in June and made many fans himself when he rushed on court to celebrate Mahut’s doubles title in Paris.
Today, he was even cuter, assisting Mahut with towels and even offering them up to the fans as Papa Mahut posed for selfies after a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 win over Norbert Gombos of Slovakia at US Open qualifying in New York.
As Natnel tugged on Mahut’s bag to stay with Dad, I asked Mahut if it made him extra proud to win in the presence of Natnel.
“I am proud, and he likes it alot,” he told me after the match. “But I have to win. When I lose, it’s a different story.”
Does Natnel plan to follow in Nico’s footsteps?
“He wants to be a professional but I don’t think he knows how difficult it is, but so far, I will let him dream about it,” he said.
I wondered if Natnel knows all the details about his dad making tennis history at Wimbledon a few years back.
“No, for him, I’m just his Dad, and that is good enough for now. He knows I won the French Open doubles, and for him, that’s big enough.”
Here’s another detail: Mahut faces Tommy Robredo in a blast-from-the-past matchup for a main draw berth tomorrow. If Mahut’s secret weapon is there, odds look good for the Frenchman.
Americans D. Young, DiLorenzo Headed For @USOpen Qualifying Finals
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Nothing ever comes seems to come easy to Donald Young and today was no exception. Today at US Open qualifying in New York, he sleep-walked through the first set against Simone Bolelli and was bageled in front of a roaring American crowd. Yet, as the Donald does, he persevered in three to fight another day, 0-6, 6-4, 6-2.
“I don’t know I did it,” he told me after the match and in between being hounded for autographs and selfies. “I kept fighting and got the W somehow. I don’t know, really. I’m happy to just be moving on.”
He appreciated the fan support from Court 11, the same court where American Ernesto Escobedo won a tough three-setter yesterday afternoon.
“It’s great,” he said. “US Open, the crowd is always good here. It’s always special to be here and play well.”
Young needs to beat Canadian Peter Polansky on Friday to advance.
Another American into the final round of qualifying before lunch was over was Francesca DiLorenzo in a straight sets win against Germany’s Antonia Lottner, 6-4, 7-5. Lottner has qualified before here in New York, but DiLorenzo shut the door on her today in a close one.
“I think there was a little bit of nerves for both sides in the beginning,” DiLorenzo said. “Neither of us were really able to break each other. But once I got into the match a bit and got more comfortable, I started getting in the zone and being a little more aggressive. So it was good.”
The US Open experience is special to her, too.
“I mean, it’s the US Open and it’s New York,” she said. “It’s incredible. I always love playing here. You get all the US fans supporting you on big courts. It’s just amazing. There’s no other place like it.”
DiLo plays former world top 10 Mona Barthel tomorrow for a main draw berth.
The first matches on Armstrong didn’t go particularly well for American players today. Sebastian Korda made history by winning the first game on the newly-constructed stadium, but dropped both sets making Facundo Bagnis the first winner there ever. He did it by a count of 6-4, 6-4. American Kristie Ahn was knocked off the court and out of qualifying in 45 minutes by Ons Jabeur by a score of 6-2, 6-2. Evan King took the first set from Stefano Travaglia on Armstrong this afternoon before Travaglia ‘prevaglied’ by a score of 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. That leaves Ernesto Escobedo as the last American of the day to say he won on New Armstrong the first day.
Tomorrow is Media Day at the US Open and this year, for the first time ever, it’s open to the public in Armstrong. Some in the pressroom are not excited about it, some because it gives them less exclusive access, and others because they think it will turn into a cheapened “Super Bowl” media experience. For the fans, it sounds like a welcome improvement and I look forward to it becoming a tradition at the US Open.
In the City of Dreams, a Few More Realized at US Open Qualifying
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
It was another glorious day in a vainglorious city. I like the way that sounds, but it’s not correct because this part of New York never cared much for keeping up appearances, unless you count all of the auto body shops that want to get those ugly dents out of your ride. Yes, all of the glory in New York was solidly in Queens yesterday, as 32 players punched their ticket to the biggest dance of all at the US Open.
For Viktoria Kuzmova, it was fitting that her first grand slam main draw should be in New York. A 2016 US Open Junior Finalist, Kuzmova showed the poise on these courts that took her so far in juniors, and the fact that they’re playing on outer courts, and not Arthur Ashe Stadium, made it all so familiar.
She beat Francoise Abanda yesterday, who qualified for the main draw last year. “I feel amazing,” Kuzmova said after the match. “I played this year for the first time in qualifying at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and I didn’t pass, but now I made it to the main draw so I’m really happy..I’m really excited it happened here,” she said. She meets Venus Williams in Round 1. Welcome to the big leagues.
For French journeyman Vincent Millot, who’s played in every grand slam main draw except New York, it was equally gratifying. The 31-year-old let out a primal scream after the win against Simone Bolelli. “On the court, at the end, I was so tense because I was thinking about this thing,” he said. “Actually, since I’m young, this is my favorite one, and all these years, I was so tense when I was playing here. And qualifying for me this year, so good,” he added with a smile as you watched the tension release from his body and mind. Millot can now check this off of the bucket list and get on to beating Santiage Giraldo in round 1.
Maximilian Marterer, who impressed me in his qualifying run to Cincinnati, backed that up with his maiden trip to a grand slam main draw by taking out top seed Leo Mayer in a 6-4, 7-5 affair. Mayer was disgusted and smacked his racket after the handshake. Marterer, in typical German understatement style, didn’t whoop it up like Millot or the others. He casually told me after the match, “yeah, I’m really happy with my travel here to the United States. It’s the first time for me playing grand slam main draw. I’m feeling incredible right now,” he said, without much emotion on his face. “I already lost twice against (Mayer) before, so I’m happy I did it better,” he said. He was content. Contentment buys him an opener against Donald Young. For his part, Mayer made it through as a lucky loser and faces Gasquet.
Tereza Martincova admitted that she got a little nervous when she saw compatriot Andrea Hlavackova watching her qualifying final. “It’s so good when she was here. I started to be a little nervous. We are friends but it’s perfect when you have some friends and they want to support you. It’s a big help for me,” she said. She had some fans in her corner and not surprisingly, she’s a big fan of the US Open. “Of course, because it’s amazing here,” she said. “They’re so many fans and it’s great to play here. I think it’s the best grand slam here,” she added. Martincova makes her grand slam main draw debut next week against Caroline Garcia after knocking out Georgia Brescia 7-5, 6-4 on Court 16. Interestingly, Court 16 was the only court yesterday where no player had ever been to a major main draw. That was bound to change, and Sofya Zhuk also reached her career pinnacle on Court 16 to advance.
I felt like the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Prize Patrol yesterday as I walked around the outer courts and reminded the players that they had just won qualifying tennis’ greatest prize. ‘You just won $50,000 and the memory of lifetime! What are you going to do now?’ A: Um, practice even harder?
I noticed this morning that the Connecticut Open drew 45,688 fans through eight days of qualifying and main draw matches with some of the biggest names in women’s tennis. The US Open qualifying tournament, which offers free admission, drew 41,612. It looks like the secret is out. As much as I’d hate to see it, the US Open might want to consider charging for it to tip the balance in favor of Connecticut. New Haven is a great tournament, but unfortunately it’s an afterthought for New York and Connecticut tennis fans as the Open sucks up all of the oxygen in the region. With the level of drama in New York on Friday, it might still be a challenge for the WTA tournament 72 miles up I-95.
The Highs and Lows of the @USOpen Qualifying Opening Round
Steve Fogleman in New York
The 128 match-strong first round of the 2017 US Open qualifying tournament is finally in the books, some 34 hours and two different climates after it began yesterday morning. Joris De Loore became the last player to join the 127 other hopefuls to advance shortly before 9:00 p.m. tonight.
That means 128 singles players were sent packing, and that means that 128 dreams live on tonight in New York.
One of those who lives on to dream another day is Vera Zvonareva, who’s already achieved more in her days on tour than many of the qualifying crew could imagine. She’ll face Jamie Loeb tomorrow.
Generally speaking, I don’t interview players who step off a court after a loss. They usually don’t speak freely, they’re in a bad mood, and you get the feeling that they’d rather be anywhere else. The tours usually don’t require press conferences for the vanquished at the main draw of smaller events. But Conny Perrin used to contribute to Tennis Atlantic, and she’s the highest ranked player with whom I am a Facebook friend. I have watched her ups and downs and all that she has given to be here, and she was so close to the upset of the qualifying tournament today. In the end, Perrin was narrowly defeated by the #3 seed, Danka Kovinic, 6-1, 3-6, 7-5.
Kovinic said it best after the close match today. “Oh my god, tennis is so difficult. Everything can change in a minute,” she said. She’s been to the big dance twice already in New York. Winning here is obviously contagious, because you see a lot of the same faces advance year after year. For every two of those, there are players who hit their emotional Nirvana when they qualify for the first time, and those moments are the greatest displays of the magic of a slam that I’ve ever seen.
To wit, Antonia Lottner. The German waxed poetic about last year’s US Open, her first and only run into a slam in her career.
How about Mitch Krueger? The American has never been to a US Open main draw and he’s never even reached Friday’s third round. He scored the comeback of the qualifying rounds, down two breaks in the third set before escaping with the win today. With an 0-3 second round record, making it to the 3rd will be his 2017 season takeaway memory. He had to find a way to get to that pesky second round by outlasting Canada’s Braydan Schnur in a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 thriller.
I know that the pro tours have done everything they can to contrive a Road to Singapore or some other far-flung metropolis into a fifth grand slam, but to this old fan, it isn’t working. The US Open will always be the last big stop in a season. For most American fans, the buck always stops at the US Open. These players know it, too. They won’t be in on the big fun of the year-end finals, and they appreciate everything the US Open has to offer. I always call the tour the traveling circus. Well, this my friends, is the Greatest Show on Earth, since the other one folded after 146 years.
There’s something surreal about New York and US Open qualifying and all that’s at stake, and the players– who hail from all over the globe with their hopes and their racket bags and their moms and their dads and not much else–know it.