After winning two highly competitive tournaments just to earn a wild card into the qualifying draw of the US Open, this year’s US Open National Playoffs winners kept the dream alive with first-round qualifying victories on Wednesday.
Caitlin Whoriskey and Sanam Singh won sectional qualifying tournaments earlier this summer to get into the US Open National Playoffs in New Haven, Conn., where they prevailed in the championship matches on Monday. After the 90-minute drive to New York City and a few photo-ops the next day, the pair got down to business and began focusing on their Grand Slam debuts as professionals.
Facing off against much higher-ranked opponents, both players rose to the occasion and pulled off upset wins. Whoriskey beat No. 5 qualifying seed Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, while Singh defeated Flavio Cipollaof Italy, 6-1, 7-6.
The wins marked the first time in US Open National Playoffs history that both singles champions won their first-round qualifying matches. Only two other previous National Playoffs winners, Blake Strode (2010 and 2011) and Mayo Hibi (2013), had posted a qualifying victory.
“It has been a little intimidating playing here. I am used to playing at parks and small clubs here and there,” said Whoriskey. “To have this many people and to have the magnitude of the whole US Open environment here has been a tad overwhelming, but it has been a lot of fun. Many people were cheering for me today, so it has been really great. I am really happy.”
A former standout player at the University of Tennessee, Whoriskey won her first career USTA Pro Circuit singles title in May at the $10,000 event in Hilton Head Island, S.C. She has also won seven USTA Pro Circuit and ITF-level doubles titles. Her next opponent in the second round on Thursday is Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty, a former top junior and three-time Grand Slam doubles finalist.
Singh, a former star player at the University of Virginia who competes for India, is currently ranked No. 390 in the world. He has won 14 USTA Pro Circuit and ITF-level titles throughout his career and has also represented India in Davis Cup. He competed in the US Open junior events in 2006, the same year he reached a career-high junior ranking of No. 4 in the world.
His next opponent in the second round on Thursday is No. 7 qualifying seed Andreas Beck of Germany.
"The last few years, I've come to the US Open just to practice," Singh said. "I told my buddy that the next time I go there, I want to be playing in the tournament. I'm really glad that [I’m] able to do that."