At 36, Hernandez advances in final tournament
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Among the sea of teenagers and young players just starting out their careers in this year's US Open qualifying draw, the oldest man competing in singles this year is one win away from making the main draw in his final professional tournament.
Spaniard Oscar Hernandez, 36, has reached the close of a tennis career that began in 1998 – and he is going out on a memorable note. After dismantling No. 2 qualifying seed Go Soeda of Japan in the opening round, 6-3, 6-3, he returned to the court on Thursday and pulled out another win over Guido Andreozzi of Argentina, 6-3, 1-6, 7-5.
"I think the key in the match was after getting broken in the second set; I didn't fight anymore and saved my energy for the third set," he said. "That was what helped me keep going."
Hernandez stopped playing in the summer of 2010, four years after reaching his career-high ranking of No. 48, and announced his retirement the following year. But after a few years away, he got the itch to play again and used an injury-protected ranking to play a handful of tournaments just for fun.
He has struggled in his return to competitive tennis, only advancing past the first round once in seven events. His injury-protected ranking is only valid for 12 tournaments, and with a current world ranking of No. 1,563, Hernandez said he has no interest in starting over on tour.
"I came to New York and did this like it was a holiday," he said. "I arrived here one week ago, practiced one hour before the tournament and here I am!"
Hernandez has made three previous main draw appearances at the US Open, all of which resulted in first-round losses. But having not played in the main draw here since 2008, he said that qualifying here would be the perfect way to end his career.
"I'll try my best for sure, but either way it's going to be my last tournament," he said. Hernandez will play Niels Desein of Belgium in the final round of qualifying on Friday.
In other men's second round qualifying matches, American teenager Ernesto Escobedo continued is dream run by upsetting James Duckworth of Australia, 6-2, 7-6 (3). The 18-year-old wild card will play No. 4 seed Facundo Bagnis of Argentina in the final round of qualifying on Friday.
On the women's side, former Wimbledon semifinalist and No. 13 seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia easily defeated American Irina Falconi, 6-3, 6-3. Her final-round qualifying match will be against Sofia Shapatava of Georgia.
Wild card Maria Sanchez was the first American to advance into the final round of qualifying, beating No. 20 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, 6-2, 6-4. She will play No. 16 seed Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus on Friday.