Britain’s Heather Watson kept the flag flying as she secured a place in the final round US Open qualifying in New York on Thursday, when she comfortably beat Vitalia Diatchenko, 6-2 6-3, but Katie Boulter, seeded 25, missed out on her chance to reach the main draw after a 6-3 6-4 defeat by 18-year-old American Ashlyn Krueger.
It would be amazing. I’d love to be back in the main draw. I’m just taking it one step at a time. I haven’t had the best year, but I think I’m starting to get on the right track and turn around my mentality and this is just so important, these matches. Astra Sharma
Watson, a former British No 1, who lost just one game in her 1st-round match on Wednesday, continued her fine form by seeing off the 19th seed Diatchenko from Russia in an hour 22 minutes on Court 13.
Once ranked 38 in the world but now at No 161, Watson lists 5th amongst British players but, at the age of 30, probably has the most match experience of all active players, but the former US Open junior champion has never won a main-draw match at Flushing Meadows, although she did make it through qualifying 4 years ago.
For a place in the main draw, Watson faces 16-year old Sara Bejlek, one of 3 talented Czech teenagers making waves in the game, and all of whom cruised into the final round of qualifying with the loss of just 12 games between them over 6 sets.
Bejlek, who ousted former World No 10 Kristina Mladenovic from France in her 1st-round match on Wednesday, ended the day with a 6-4 6-1 win over Australia’s Priscilla Hon.
She is joined in the final round by her compatriots Linda Fruhvirtova and Linda Noskova, both 17-years old.
Noskova kicked off the day on Court 17 where she needed just 55 minutes to dispatch 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard from Canada, 6-2 6-3, before Fruhvirtova was even more impressive on Court 11 with a 6-0 6-2 win against Brazil’s Carolina Alves, taking 8 eight games in a row ahead of triumphing after just 64 minutes.
Firing 5 aces to Bouchard’s 3, Noskova had an 88 per cent win rate on first serve to the Canadian’s 63 per cent, while the Czech also won 3 of her 5 break points.
28-year old Bouchard had posted a 6-3 6-3 win over Yuki Naito of Japan in qualifying on Tuesday, her first win since March 2021 after being sidelined with a shoulder injury that required surgery and only returning to action last week, when she lost to Arianne Hartono of the Netherlands in the 1st-round of a WTA 125 event in Vancouver.
Top seed Ana Bogdan was upset by Mexico’s Fernanda Contreras Gomez, 2-6 6-3 6-4, who is bidding to reach her 3rd Grand Slam main draw of the season after having successfully qualified for both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Meanwhile, Daria Snigur was one of 5 current or former Ukrainian tennis players who represented their country with pride on Wednesday night during Tennis Plays for Peace, a special exhibition event that will help the US Open raise more than $1.2 million for humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine
Less than 24 hours later, 20-year old Snigur was back on court in a much more competitive setting, and she was victorious there, too.
The 2019 Wimbledon junior champion fought back from a set down to top 2009 US Open semi-finalist Yanina Wickmayer from Belgium, 2-6 6-3 6-3, and moves through to the final round of qualifying in her second trip to New York.
Snigur has yet to reach the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament in her fledgling professional career but, now breaking new ground, the 22nd seed will have to beat Japan’s Nao Hibino, a 3-6 6-3 6-1 winner over 30-year old Wang Qiang from China.
Elsewhere, Australians Astra Sharma and Maddison Inglis also progressed through to the final round, Sharma recovering from 2-6, 0-4 down to defeat Hungary’s Reka-Luka Jani, eventually winning 2-6 6-4 6-3, while Inglis notched up a 6-4 6-3 win over American wild-card Valerie Glozman.
Another Aussie, Kimberly Birrell, came extremely close to setting a final-round qualifying battle against Sharma, but fell in a high-quality match to Swiss Viktorija Golubic, 6-2 2-6 6-4, who is a former World No 35 and Wimbledon 2021 quarter-finalist.
For Sharma, this was a second straight dramatic match at Flushing Meadows, after saving a match point to beat Jessika Ponchet from France, 1-6 6-1 7-6(10), in her opening round.
The former World No 84 had lost 5 of 6 matches before arriving in New York, and said gritty victories such as these were especially rewarding in what had been a trying season.
“I just really focused on getting my energy up and being competitive,” Sharma told tennis.com.au after the two-and-a-half-hour tussle. “[I was] not really competing until I hit that point [down 2-6, 0-4] so I was just, like, ‘I gotta do something, if I’m gonna lose, I gotta do this the right way and actually compete more’.
“I’m just really proud of myself, because this is exactly what I’ve been trying to work on the whole week, and just making it a habit to always come out like that.”
Despite having slipped to No191, Sharma holds an impressive streak of 14 consecutive Grand Slam main-draw appearances, having qualified for Wimbledon, and also at the US Open last year.
“It would be amazing. I’d love to be back in the main draw. I’m just taking it one step at a time,” Sharma added. “I haven’t had the best year, but I think I’m starting to get on the right track and turn around my mentality and this is just so important, these matches.”
Earlier, Inglis enjoyed a smoother passage than her 3-hour epic in round 1, storming through 7 consecutive games from 4-all in the opening set against Glozman to lead 6-4, 5-0, when she got a little tight as her opponent lifted her level, but the Australian was able to serve out the match on her second attempt after an hour, 15 minutes on court.
“Today it was awesome to get through that,” Inglis told tennis.com.au. “These are her first WTA or Grand Slam matches, so she has kind of nothing to lose in some respects.
“So it was pretty nerve-wracking, and it got a little bit tighter in the end than I was hoping, but it was really good to get over the line, and prove to myself that I can play through those nerves.”
Inglis, who has won 7 of her past 9 matches, also qualified for the main draw at Wimbledon, and will take that confidence into her final-round match against China’s Yuan Yue.
“Wimbledon was the first time I’d been past the second round in qualifying, so to actually break through that [barrier], and also know that you can qualify, and play through those nerves, I think is massive, for this time and the match tomorrow,” she said.
“I’m going to recover today and prepare the best I can, and give it everything I’ve got tomorrow, because I want to be playing on Monday and Tuesday next week.”