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.