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2016 US Open Player to Watch: Louisa Chirico

September 1, 2015 - Louisa Chirico in action against Johanna Konta (not pictured) in a women's singles first round match during the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. (USTA/Ned Dishman)

The Louisa Chirico File

Age: 19
Height: 5-9
Residence: Westchester, N.Y.
Current Rank: 76
Career-High Rank: 76 (May 2016)
Best US Open Finish: 1R (2015)

The Baseline

Louisa Chirico became the youngest American woman in the Top 100 this week following a run to the semifinals of the Madrid Open. The 19-year-old came through qualifying on the red clay – her favorite surface – and secured wins over six Top 100 players in reaching the final four of a WTA Premier tournament for the first time.

The breakout saw the New York native leap 54 places in the rankings, from 130 to 76. And with the clay-court season in full swing heading into Roland Garros, there’s a good chance Chirico could climb even higher before this summer’s hard-court campaign.

Chirico first displayed glimpses of her potential as a junior in 2013, when she reached the girls’ singles semifinals at the French Open and Wimbledon and the girls’ quarters at the US Open. After a year spent transitioning to the pro ranks, she broke through in 2015, making her Grand Slam debut at the French Open and competing in the main draw of the US Open for the first time. At the end of the year, she reached the semifinals of an ITF event in Nantes, France, and contested the final of a WTA 125K Series tournament in Limoges, France.

Chirico began 2016 at a career-high No. 120 in the rankings, and a return to the clay this spring has prompted a return to the form that saw her reach the quarterfinals in Washington, D.C. last summer – her previous best tour result. The teenager, who turns 20 on May 16, toppled No. 15 Lucie Safarova en route to the third round in Charleston in April, and she beat Daniela Hantuchova and Camila Giorgi in the qualifying rounds of Stuttgart earlier this month to make the main draw of just her second WTA event this season.

Chirico came into Madrid with a career 2-8 record against Top 50 players, but consecutive wins over Monica Niculescu (No. 31), Ana Ivanovic (No. 14) and Daria Gavrilova (No. 39) in the Spanish capital proved that the athletic American has the game to compete with the top women on tour.

With her result in Madrid, Chirico will likely earn direct entry into both Wimbledon and the US Open. And if she’s able to transition her recent clay-court play to the other surfaces, she could be a popular under-the-radar pick to make some deep runs in Emirates Airline US Open Series tournaments – and even the US Open – as soon as this summer.