Potential Wimbledon qualifiers to know — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, June 27, 2023

Howdy, y’all and Happy Tennis Tuesday! The main draw of Wimbledon is just around the corner and you know what the means — qualifying is first!

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Now, looking at the qualifying draw, a few first-round matchups are ones to watch. My personal go-to is Irina Falconi Hartman (a friend of The IX) who will be retiring following the tournament facing Sofia Kenin. Diana Shnaider, who was playing college tennis not even two months ago, is set to face off against last year’s junior champion Liv Hovde, while Greet Minnen and Genie Bouchard will go head-to-head in Roehampton.

That being said, there are three players that are on my radar to qualify and could do some damage at SW19.

First, let’s discuss Emina Bektas. Currently sitting at No. 139, the University of Michigan alum has a game that is tailormade for grass. She carries huge serve, big groundstokes and fantastic touch that has already seen her enter the Top 100 in doubles. She’s been quietly taking advantage of ITF World Tour events on fast surfaces — including a $60,000 singles title on the grass in Japan earlier this year. The European grass swing has been incredibly kind to the American, where she’s already picked up her first career WTA main draw wins. Following her ITF win in Kurume, she qualified and made the quarterfinals of the Libema Open and last week in Birmingham, qualified and reached the second round before losing to fellow “servebot” Rebecca Marino in a third-set tiebreaker. She’s set to play the No. 3 seed, Clara Tauson, who defeated Bektas to capture a $25,000 ITF in Italy late last year. Bektas has gained a lot more confidence since that match, so don’t be surprised if in three weeks, she’s the latest American/NCAA grad to enter the Top 100.

Next up is Hsieh Su-Wei, who is participating in her first Grand Slam singles play since the 2021 US Open. She’s currently ranked No. 954 thanks to her one comeback victory in the Strasbourg qualification the week before her Roland Garros doubles victory. While Bektas has the power and serve to cause some trouble on the grass, Hsieh is on the other end of the spectrum. Taking the ball super early and flat and variety you can only dream of can help her in her tough opener against Sachia Vickery — who is also having a productive grass court campaign. The former Doubles No. 1 has won three Wimbledon doubles titles, including the last two she’s played in 2019 and 2021. She’s also progressed to the fourth round in 2018 and the third round on two other occasions. Her section in qualifying is tougher than Bektas’, as the Chinese Taipei native could face the winner of Minnen-Bouchard in the final round. Still, she’s a joy to watch because nobody does tennis quite like her and Hsieh on a grass court is 50 shades of fun.

The last name you must have on your radar is Ashlyn Krueger, the 19-year-old American who won last week’s WTA 125 event in Gaiba, Italy. It’s alright if you’ve never heard of Krueger, she’s been quietly paying her dues in ITF events and WTA qualifying under the tutelage of coach Michael Joyce. Yes, the same Michael Joyce who made the junior final and the senior fourth round of Wimbledon as a player but also coached Maria Sharapova to the 2004 crown. The week prior to her Gaiba win — that ended with an upset over reigning Wimbledon semifinalist Tatjana Maria — she also made the quarterfinals of the Libema Open alongside Bektas. Among her scalps was a straight-set upset over Victoria Azarenka. Last year, Krueger qualified for the US Open, so it’s not like she doesn’t have some experience at her young age. She also has a game revolved around big serves and groundstrokes, but she’s also not afraid of the net thanks to her near-Top 100 doubles ranking as well.

Sure, we’re not even at the main draw yet, but qualifiers have stormed deep at the All England Club. In 1999, Alexandra Stevenson made the semifinals and defeated fellow qualifier Jelena Dokic in the quarterfinals. In 2019, Coco Gauff made her breakthrough to the tennis world with a fourth-round run that included upsetting Venus Williams as a 15-year-old. The last qualifier to make the quarterfinals at Wimbledon was Kaia Kanepi in 2010, so perhaps one of these three can potentially etch their own name in the records books?

Time will tell. Until then, onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

The WTA officially celebrated their 50th anniversary last week and released this great video that included Charlotte Maria, the 10-year-old daughter of Tatjana Maria:

At the bett1open in Berlin, Petra Kvitova captured her 31st WTA singles title with a win over Donna Vekic. The doubles title went to Caroline Garcia and IX friend Luisa Stefani, who had to save championship points over Katerina Siniakova and Marketa Vondrousova.

At the Rothesay Classic in Birmingam, Jelena Ostapenko won her first title of the year and sixth of her career with a victory over Barbora Krejcikova. In doubles, Krejcikova and Marta Kostyuk defeated Storm Hunter and Alycia Parks in straight sets.

Nastja Kolar and Alexandra Riley were officially banned for life from professional tennis after being found guilty of 40 combined charges of match-fixing.

The trailer for Zendaya’s tennis-based movie, Challengers, came out and it — as well as Tennis Twitter’s reaction to it — was interesting:

Kim Clijsters would like the next chapter of the WTA to include a merge with the ATP, which I personally don’t see happening any time soon.

Venus Williams and Elina Svitolina were named two recipients of the first batch of main draw wildcards into Wimbledon.

Kathy Rinaldi is stepping down as captain of the US Billie Jean King Cup team, but will still be Head of Women’s Tennis at the USTA.

Y’all means all:

In withdrawal news, reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina pulled out of Eastbourne due to a continued viral illness while two-time quarterfinalist and Break Point star Ajla Tomljanovic was hoping to return next week, but her knee isn’t ready:

Li Na, Gaby Dabrowski and Vania King supported Berlin’s Special Olympics World Games as the tour continues to partner with the organization.

Billie Jean King was announced as one of 2024’s stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

LOL Magda Linette:

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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