Dark horses to watch out for in Wimbledon qualifying

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, June 25, 2024

Howdy, y’all, and happy Tennis Tuesday! We’re almost halfway through the year, which means one thing — Wimbledon is upon us! Today, the qualifying tournament begins and like I usually prefer to do when that section of play starts is finding three players that you should circle to check out, but could also have a chance to go deep in the main draw. Lets hop right into it!

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Rebecca Marino

The unseeded Canadian has the weaponry to be an absolute force on grass courts. Her huge serve combined with her flat groundstrokes are the perfect formula. Unfortunately, her movement — and sometimes health — is usually what holds her back. That being said, I don’t think she should even be playing qualifying and should have received the main draw wildcard that Ajla Tomljanovic ultimately got. Historically, players that perform well in the grass ITF World Tour events leading up to Wimbledon get a wildcard if they don’t earn direct entry. She just captured the W100 title in Ilkley, where she had to battle in a few three setters along the way, including over her first round opponent this time McCartney Kessler. The week prior, she qualified for the WTA 250 in Nottingham, beat grass court queen Viktorija Golubic before losing to defending/eventual champion Katie Boulter in the second round.

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Alycia Parks

If there was a player begging for their luck to turn around, it would definitely have to be Alycia Parks. Another tall, powerful player with a game that is led by one of the world’s biggest serves, you would think grass would be perfect for the American. Her initial breakthrough in 2022 came on the surface in Berlin, but she hasn’t fared anywhere near as well as she plays indoors. However, her 2024 has been utterly disastrous and she soared out of the Top 100 while losing 13 matches in a row and only winning one set in the process. She won a round of qualifying at Roland Garros and did have a close two-setter against Karolina Pliskova in Nottingham. This past week, she qualified and won the WTA 125 event in Gaiba, Italy but also captured the doubles title with Hailey Baptiste. A confident Parks is by far one to recognize as a darkhorse and she has a decent draw to qualify. If she can just keep her tennis focused and a little more confined, she can outlast all of the other qualifiers in the main draw. The downside is that when she’s bad, she’s bad and she can lose in 20 minutes with the wheels off. We’ll just have to see which Alycia shows up.

Amanda Anisimova

The last time Amanda Anisimova played Wimbledon in 2022, she just finished her quarterfinal match against Simona Halep. Her victims en route to her second-best Grand Slam result included Coco Gauff and Harmony Tan, who upset Serena Williams in the opening round. Like Parks and Marino, Anisimova has the tools to be a force on grass. I’d even argue that she has the best movement of the three and she definitely has more than just a Plan A. We should also be mindful that she hasn’t played as much because of a mental health sabbatical, but a fourth-round appearance at the Australian Open does headline her year. She did play a grass court match in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, losing in three sets to Elizabeth Mandlik. Not the most ideal circumstances for the former World No. 21 who now sits just inside the Top 200. Because of her history, though, you have to predict she’ll come out of the section that is headlined by Hailey Baptiste, the No. 4 seed.

Some other names to write on your list? No. 1 seeded Katie Volynets, who is technically No. 71 in the WTA rankings, but was outside of main draw status when the deadline was put in. Former NC State standout Amelia Rajecki won a qualifying berth, winning one of the two pre-qualifying wildcards the week after she scored two Top 100 wins in Birmingham. Maya Joint has had a banner season already and a deep run could be the difference between turning pro or playing at the University of Texas in the fall. Zarina Diyas is coming back after a long injury layoff and plays Mananchaya Sawangkaew, who turned pro after one season at Oklahoma State in 2022.

Next week, we’ll discuss the main draw and see where my predictions will go. Until then, onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

Happy Anniversary, WTA!

In just her second tournament back after a brief injury situation, Jessica Pegula saved five championship points to knock out Anna Kalinskaya and win her first career grass title at the ecotrans Ladies Open. Wang Xinyu and Zheng Saisai defeated Chan Hao-Ching and Veronika Kudermetova to take the doubles title.

Yulia Putintseva was also able to capture her first grass court title at the Rothesay Classic with a straight-sets win over Ajla Tomljanovic. Hsieh Su-Wei and Elise Mertens rebounded from their disappointing Roland Garros appearance by winning the doubles with a win over Zhang Shuai and Miyu Cato.

Unfortunately, one Olympic prediction of mine was incorrect ,with Top 10er Nicole Melichar-Martinez not being selected by the USTA, even though her ranking technically allows her to pick any doubles partner she wants. The Tokyo Olympian posted a note on X to confirm she wasn’t selected:

Caroline Wozniacki opened up about changes needed for the WTA, including a deeper focus on their maternity leave policy.

Colette Lewis had a conversation with NCAA champion Alexa Noel, who isn’t sure just yet if she’ll return to Miami or fully turn professional. I’ve played a few times but not its SO congested.

Alize Cornet didn’t get nominated for the Olympics, but she got to participate in the torch relay ahead of the opening ceremony.

WTA Insider recorded some sitdowns with Ons Jabeur, Coco Gauff, Emma Raducanu and Karolina Muchova, who is coming back this week following surgery!

Serena and Venus Williams stole the show this past weekend at Vogue World Paris:

Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Emma Raducanu were all recipients of main draw wildcards for Wimbledon.

Ashleigh Barty has agreed to play the Legends draw at Wimbledon, reuniting with Casey Dellacqua for some doubles.

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Tweet of the Week

Congratulations to Sloane Stephens, who was named as one of ESPY’s Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award nominees for the work she does with the Sloane Stephens Foundation:

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Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon