The last Grand Slam tournament in 2023 is practically underway, as the qualifying stage has started on Monday with one of three rounds already been completed. 128 players have tried their luck in the journey to the main draw of US Open in both the WTA and ATP fields. Half of them are already eliminated, and as always, some sort of surprising results were not missing in such a wide and competitive field of players fighting for a really big stake.
Just 19 out of 32 seeded players have stayed in contention after first round of qualifying. Nao Hibino headlines the group of competitiors, who already need to give up a dream of playing in main draw on Flushing Meadows this year. The Japanese, who has celebrated her 3rd career's WTA title by winning the WTA 250 event in Prague just about 2 weeks ago, was a top seed of qualifying field. Missing the cut-off just by a narrow is always unlucky in the Grand Slam and it was surely unlucky for Hibino, who got already defeated by Louisa Chirico. The American advanced into second round after defeating the favorized opponent by 7-6(3) 6-3 despite being rated with an odd 3.22.
Jule Niemeier approached New York after her last year's surprising run into 4th round of the US Open. Achieving a great result like this does also mean some sort of pressure related to the defence of multiple ranking points at the same time in the following year. The task was even more difficult to handle this time, as the German did not manage to get a direct entrance into main draw, and started the qualifying campaign as 4th seed. Niemeier faced a big upset as early as in the opening round of qualies, losing to Despina Papamichail in straight sets. The 30 years-old Greek ranked 193th in the WTA list was rated as an underdog before the match against the German, but prevailed there, winning by 6-3 6-4. The 4.48 pre-match odd for the victory of Papamichail makes this result the most valuable upset of all the qualies first round matches.
Jacqueline Cristian was celebrating a comeback to the top 100 of WTA rankings after advancing into final in WTA 250 event in Prague. Both the finalists of this tournament failed to overcome the first round of qualies in New York, as Cristian has repeated the fate of Nao Hibino. The Romanian was a slight favorite against Iryna Shymanovich, but the Belarusian did not give too many chances for Cristian, scoring a confident 6-3 6-1 victory.
Yue Yuan is another notable name already eliminated from the qualies. The Chinese was a 7th seed there, playing just after a good run in the WTA 125 challenger in Stanford, where she approached the semifinals. The Chinese was a favorite in a match against McCartney Kessler, placed 363th in the world rankings. The American performed a sensational win after 2:44 hours of intense fight ended in decisive tiebreak with a score 4-6 6-2 7-6(4).
This week is not a fortunate one for Fruhvirtova' sisters. Linda Fruhvirtova has appeared in Cleveland, falling out in the opening round of the WTA 250 event with a bad luck in draw, losing to the top seed Caroline Garcia. It was a 6th loss in a row for the young Czech. On the contrary, her sister Brenda Fruhvirtova approached the New York's qualies in a really great form. The 16 years-old clinched two consecutive ITF titles with 10 straight sets wins scored in a row. All those were achieved on clay and the immediate switch into hard courts has definitely not work out for the youngster, who faced an upset from Moyuka Uchijima. The current world's number 173 has defeated the Czech with a crushing score 6-2 6-1, despite being rated as an underdog with an odd 4.24 before the match.
Matches to watch in 2nd round
Thursday will be a busy time on Flushing Meadows, as all the 32 matches of qualies second round are scheduled to be played at the same day. Some of them are expected to be exciting battles with really good names showing up there.
Eugenie Bouchard vs. Dayana Yastremska is an absolute hit of the second round. Both the players scored comfortable wins in their opening matches. Bouchard defeated Katherine Hui by 6-2 6-3, while Yastremska prevailed in an interesting match-up against Heather Watson, winning by 6-3 6-2. The Ukrainian, seeded with number 12 in qualies, will be a favorite against the Canadian, while having much more match practice under her belt and being in a really good form right now. Yastremska climbes back through the ranking in a winning style, as she clinched the title in WTA 125 event played in Poland last week.
Two top seeds out of all the players who are still in the draw, will set up some interesting match-ups in second round. Diana Shnaider, seeded with #2, plays against Ingrid Jacquemot, while 3rd seed Yannina Wickmayer meets with Harriet Dart in a battle for the spot in qualies final round.
The home crowd will surely cheer on the 11 of Americans who checked in the second round. Katie Volynets and Emina Bektas are the only two seeded players out of this group. Volynets meets Celine Naef, while Bektas plays against Julia Riera on Thursday.