US Open Qualifying – These Kids Can Play!

US Open qualifying Elliot Benchetrit

While a person needs to be 21 years old to be served a drink at the US Open, players younger than that can still be the toast of the day. On Monday, August 19, nine players age 20 and under advanced to the second round of the US Open Qualifying Tournament. For these younger players, critical wins like these help build rankings and ensure prize money. Each of the nine both survive to play qualifying Round 2 on Wednesday and capture at least $18,000.

Young Men Lead the Upsets

On the men’s side, four players age 20 or under advanced. The damage done by these youngsters included eliminating the #1 seeded player in the event and a victory by a player barely ranked in the world’s top 400.

20-year-old Frenchman Elliot Benchetrit stunned World #81, Italy’s Stefano Travaglia. Seeded #1 in the qualifying tournament, Travaglia looked to have the advantage over the Benchetrit, who entered the event as an alternate on the acceptance list. But, the ball and lines do not know rankings or age. Benchetrit fired nine aces and converted two critical break points to surprise the #1 seed, 2-6 7-6 6-2.

Ranked well outside the direct acceptance line at World #393, Jensen Brooksby accepted a wild card entry into the event. The 18-year-old made the most of his opportunity by upsetting Japan’s Kaichi Uchida. Despite being ranked over 100 slots lower than his opponent, the young Brooksby won 6-3 6-2 in just over an hour.

Playing in the opening match on stadium like Court 17, Sweden’s 20-year-old Mikael Ymer bounced American Thai-Son Kwiatkowski from the tournament. After dropping the first set 7-5, Ymer won the second 6-3. The third went to a tiebreaker where the young Swede prevailed while dropping only 2 points.

19-year-old Nicola Kuhn of Spain converted on all three of the break points he generated to narrowly slide past Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-4 6-4.

Young Women Make Their Mark

In women’s matches, five 20-and-unders moved on to the second round of qualifying. The youngest to advance, 18-year-old Xinyu Wang of China, defeated #31 seed Barbara Haas 6-1 5-7 6-2.

19-year-old Australian Jaimee Fourlis needed 2 hours and 21 minutes to outlast Antonia Lottner in a grueling match. Fourlis won 5-7 6-4 6-4. While Fourlis needed well over 2 hours, Russia’s 19-year-old Varvara Gracheva needed just over an hour to win 6-0 6-1 over Martina Trevisan.

The #1 women’s seed, 20-year-old Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, actually had to play a younger opponent. Age overcame youth quickly as the top seeded Rybakina pushed aside 18-year-old Emma Navarro 6-1 6-1 in a brisk 48 minutes. The #22 seed Anheliana Kalinina did not fare so well; 19-year-old American Ann Li took down the higher seeded Ukranian 6-0 6-3.

Not Just Child’s Play

The qualifying tournament is more than simply young guns arriving on the scene. Old hands look to keep themselves relevant as well. Two men age 33 and over also moved on to Round 2.

The oldest veteran to advance to Round 2 was 37-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. After dropping the first set to Maxime Cressy, 15 years Mahut’s junior, Mahut turned the tide to outlast the youngster 3-6 7-5 6-1.

33-year-old Tobias Kamke, ranked #230 in the world, outlasted an opponent both younger and ranked over 100 slots higher in the world rankings. Kamke knocked off #104 ranked Guido Andreozzi in three sets, 6-4 6-7 6-3.

Nine players aged 20 or younger along with two who are past their 33rd birthday moved on while world class players were sent packing. Such are the swings in US Open Qualifying. The first round continues today, Tuesday, August 20.

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