With the Wimbledon qualifiers entering the final round and a place in the main draw at the most prestigious tournament in the game almost within reach, the competition on the grass courts in Roehampton will be fierce. And with a line up of big names from the past and possible stars of the future, the quality of the matches should be excellent. Here are five to keep an eye on.
Eugenie Bouchard vs Mariana Duque (2)
Bouchard’s fall from grace was almost as swift as her rise. The Canadian had been tipped for great things since her teens, and in 2014 it seemed as though she was living up to those expectations. She reached back-to-back semifinals at Melbourne Park and Roland Garros, before reaching the final at Wimbledon. There she was dismantled by Petra Kvitova, but being just 20, it seemed like there would be plenty more chances for her in the future.
There may be yet, but four years on from that defeat she finds herself ranked at world #194, down from a career high of #5. Though she is clearly still capable, her form has suffered from both misfortune and disinterest. And she will have to play well to get past second seed Duque. The Colombian has twice reached the third round at Slams and has defeated Kerber in the past. But Bouchard is the more comfortable of the two on grass, which may be enough to tip a close one in her favour.
Bernard Tomic (30) vs Ruben Bemelmans (2)
He may not be one of tennis’ most popular figures, but there is something undeniably compelling about Bernard Tomic. Seven years on from his teenaged run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals, where it took Novak Djokovic in all his pomp to stop him, the Australian finds himself in rather reduced circumstances. Though his talent remains unquestioned, his attitude problems make Nick Kyrgios look like Lleyton Hewitt. But he looked sharp in beating Donati of Italy and Brkic of Bosnia in straight sets.
That earned him a place in the final round of qualifying where he takes on Ruben Bemelmans. The Belgian veteran has been a stalwart for his Davis Cup team, and though perhaps not the most gifted of players, his effort at least has never been brought into question. He too is yet to drop a set, beating the American Eubanks 6-4 6-4 and Spain’s Lopez Perez 6-4 6-2 in Roehampton. With both men capable of playing well on the grass, this should make for an interesting clash.
Vera Zvonareva vs Caroline Dolehide (6)
Another former Wimbledon finalist looking to return to the main draw is Russia’s Vera Zvonareva. The 33-year-old reached the final at the All-England Club in 2010 and was once ranked as high as world #2. But injuries and the birth of her daughter in 2016 kept her away from the game and her ranking has fallen to 141st in the world. But Zvonareva has beaten Japan’s Eri Hozumi and Sabina Sharipova of Uzbekistan in straight sets to stand just one match away from the main draw.
In her way is sixth seeded American Caroline Dolehide. Dolehide, just 19, is at the start of what looks to be a promising career, and impressed in defeating Miyu Kato of Japan 6-0 7-6 and Italy’s Jessica Pieri 6-2 6-3. Dolehide is the more powerful of the two, but will be tested by Zvonareva’s consistency from the back of the court and the Russian brings more quality than either Kato or Pieri. It may well be a close contest, and should certainly be an enjoyable one.
James Ward vs Benjamin Bonzi
The last British man left in qualifying James Ward will look to reach the Wimbledon main draw for the ninth year in a row when he takes on Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi. Ward, now 31, has endured a difficult time with injuries for much of his career, and has struggled to turn promise into results, although he did break into the top 100 on the back of a run to the third round at Wimbledon in 2015. So far he has not dropped a set, defeating Marco Trungelliti 6-3 7-6 and Bjorn Fratangelo 6-4 6-4.
Bonzi, just 22, may have plenty more chances to make his impact at the Championships, but he will be eager not to let the chance pass him by. He recovered well to defeat Yosuke Watanuki 4-6 6-4 6-2 in his first match in Roehampton before downing the big-serving Alexander Bublik 6-3 6-4 to reach the final round. Both men will understandably desperately want the win, but Ward’s greater experience and the advantages of playing on home soil may well be enough to return him to the main draw.
Marta Kostyuk (23) vs Sara Sorribes Tormo (3)
In one of the stories of the qualifying rounds, 16-year-old Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine stands just one win away from reaching her second Grand Slam main draw. Earlier this year she made history by becoming the youngest player to win a match at the Australian Open proper since Martini Hingis in 1996 and the youngest to reach the third round of a Slam since Mirjana Lucic-Baroni at the US Open in 1997.
But to progress she will have to beat Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, who at just 21 might be accounted the young gun in most clashes but here is a veritable veteran. Kostyuk has been made to work hard for her place in the third round of qualifying, winning an epic clash with Kristie Ahn of the USA 6-7 6-3 9-7 after beating another American Lauren Davis 6-3 6-3 in the first round. Whether she will have enough left in the tank to get past Sorribes Tormo is uncertain, but her star is certainly rising fast.
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