Americans Struggle In First Day Of Connecticut Open Qualifying

Friday was a rough day for Americans at the Connecticut Tennis Center.

Only two of 12 Americans to play in Friday’s qualifying round advanced. Whitney Osuigwe defeated fellow American Asia Muhammad in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, while Sofia Kenin defeated Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, 7-6, 6-4.

Americans Claire Liu, Bernarda Pera and Sachia Vickery each lost their matches in three sets. Liu won her first set against Italian Camila Giorgi 6-1, but couldn’t put her away, losing 6-3, 6-2 in the other sets.

Christina McHale, a 26-year-old from New Jersey, played well at the start against Australian Samantha Stosur, but lost nine straight games and 11 out of 13 to fall in straight sets 6-3, 6-2.

“Even though it was nine games straight, it didn’t necessarily feel like I was completely cruising,” said Stosur, currently ranked No. 65 and trying to land one of six spots in the main draw available via the qualifier. “There were still a couple of close games...but I think just started hitting the ball deeper and a bit harder.”

McHale was playing aggressively and was up 2-1 in the first set, serving for the fourth game when an usher passed out from the heat in the grandstand, interrupting the match for 30 minutes.

While McHale closed out the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead, Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, stormed back.

“I had a lot of time to think about a few things,” Stosur said of the stoppage in play. “I certainly started playing better and more freely.”

Stosur spoke highly of Americans in the Connecticut Open field, both in qualifiers and in the main draw. The former No. 4 ranked player in the world pointed to her tough match against McHale and other young Americans making strides in the game.

“American tennis, especially in women’s tennis, is in a really good spot right now,” Stosur said.

Local Representation At The Connecticut Open

Caroline Dunleavy, who plays at Yale, struggled in the morning match at the grandstand court losing 6-2, 6-0 to Anna Blinkova. Dunleavy, 19, of Darien, recently transferred to Yale from Notre Dame and entered into the qualifying round via a wild card.

“It was really an amazing experience to play [in the qualifiers] today,” she said. “It was really such a privilege. Since I was 7 or 8 years old, I grew up going to watch this tournament in New Haven.

See The Results Of The 2018 Connecticut Open Main Draw »

“It’s incredible to see the professionalism, the warmups, the nutrition and the coaching. It’s really amazing for me to have the opportunity to see all that and be in the locker room with [the pros].”

Dunleavy said she won her first junior tournament at the same set of courts she played on today, and added she’s excited to continue representing Yale for the next three years.

This is the second consecutive year the Connecticut Open has given a wild card spot to a Yale player. This year, Dunleavy was selected upon recommendation from her coach Danielle Lund McNamara.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for a player to experience what it’s like to play on the pro tour,” Connecticut Open tournament director Anne Worcester said. “It’s just the exposure — even if they lose first round like [Caroline] did — and it really makes the difference if they want to go on to play professionally.”

Dunleavy will also get the chance to play in a mixed doubles exhibition Monday night with Fairfield native James Blake and Lindsay Davenport, along with freshman Yale men’s tennis player Michael Sun.

The 2018 Connecticut Open qualifying round continues Saturday morning at the Connecticut Tennis Center.

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