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.