Tennis

New York | Watson falls at last hurdle as 3 young Czechs arrive in the main draw at the US Open

Britain’s Heather Watson let a 3rd set lead slip and narrowly missed out on a main draw place at the US Open when 16-year-old Czech Sara Bejlek edged past her, 3-6 6-4 7-5, in the final round of qualifying.

Bejlek is one of a trio of young Czechs who claimed the last remaining spots in the main draw on Friday.

Watson, who reached a career high ranking of 39 in February 2019, led 5-3 in the 3rd set before Bejlek reeled off 4 games in a row to topple the Brit.

The defeat means there will be only 2 British women in the singles draw, with defending champion Emma Raducanu and Harriet Dart already in as direct entries but, having reached the 3rd-round of qualifying, the British No 4 still has an outside chance of being picked as a lucky loser should any of the 128 women in the field pull out ahead of their 1st-round matches next week.

Bejlek needed 2 hours 19 minutes to get past Watson in a rain-affected contest that was interrupted several times because of storms in the New York area and, although the Brit won the first set, it was her teenage opponent who eventually prevailed.

Watson, a former British No 1 who is now ranked 161, looked to be in good form this week, brushing aside two Russians, Maryna Melnikova and Vitalia Diatchenko, the 19th seed, with the loss of just 6 games.

Sara Bejlek is one of a trio of young Czechs to qualify for the main draw at the US Open in New York

© Pete Staples/USTA

The rainy Friday did not stop the Czech Republic’s rapidly rising teenagers from qualifying, with Linda Noskova and Linda Fruhvirtova, both 17, also making it through the final round.

Noskova, the 4th seed, was the highest to successfully navigate her way through, backing up her 2nd-round win over Canadian Eugenie Bouchard with a 6-2 7-5 victory over Anastasia Zakharova, yet another Russian.

Both hit a similar percentage of shots in attack and defence, but it was the young Czech who converted an impressive 71% (48/68) of points when she was on the attack, and Fruhvirtova also showed her defensive skills by claiming an incredible 48% (34/71) of points when on defence.

The World No 87 made her Grand Slam main-draw debut at Roland Garros, where she also was a qualifier.

Fruhvirtova, ranked 158, booked her Grand Slam main-draw debut on Friday with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 win over Chloe Paquet, dropping her first set of the week against the 12th-seeded Frenchwoman, but holding onto the third to claim her spot.

17-year old Linda Fruhvirtova dropped her first set of the week but prevailed against Chloe Paquet to make the main draw on Friday

© Darren Carroll/USTA

Meanwhile, 28th seeded Clara Burel, also from, outlasted Misaki Doi, the No 7 seed from Japan, 2-6 6-4 7-6[12-10] after staving off 5 match points and withstanding two separate rain delays late in the match.

Doi held 4 match points at 6-5 in the 3rd set and, after fending off 2 match points for Burel at 9-7 in the match tiebreak, the Japanese had a 5th at 10-9, but the Frenchwoman ran off the next 3 points to snatch the win after 2 hours and 45 minutes on court.

Swiss Viktorija Golubic, the 5th seed, sealed her main-draw spot after a 6-4 6-4 win over Astra Sharma of Australia.

Golubic posted her career-best Grand Slam showing last year when she made the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

After getting a wild-card into qualifying, 18-year old American Ashlyn Krueger earned her way into a second US Open, and first as a qualifier. Last year, she was a wild-card into the main draw as the USTA Girls’ 18s national champion.

Krueger upset Britain’s Katie Boulter, the 25th seed, in the 2nd-round, 6-3 6-4, and defeated Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove from the Netherlands, 7-5 6-3, to advance.

Viktoria Kuzmova, a 24-year-old from Slovakia, dropped to No 182 in the WTA rankings, but this week has captured some of the form that once took her to a career-high ranking of 48, and over her 6 sets played, she lost just 19 games.

On Friday she upset 8th-seeded Viktoriya Tomova from from Bulgaria, 6-4 6-4.

China’s Yuan Yue was the first woman through to the main draw, and needed just 53 minutes to win up-ended Maddison Inglis, the No 11 seed from Australia, 6-1 6-0, while Moldovan-born Spaniard Cristina Bucsa took out another Aussie, Sachia Vickery, 6-4 6-2.

Court workers dry the court during Qualifying interrupted by rain on Friday at Flushing Meadows in New York

© Pete Staples/USTA

Other qualifiers from earlier on Friday included Catherine Harrison of the United States, and Ukraine’s Daria Snigur.

For the first time in 6 attempts, former Wimbledon junior champion Snigur is through to the main draw of a Grand Slam after defeating Japan’s Nao Hibino, 6-1 6-4.

When the rain finally stopped for the day, more qualifiers emerged after scoring evening wins, including Mexico’s Fernanda Contreras Gómez, Léolia Jeanjean from France, Italy’s Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Russia’s Elina Avanesyan and Erika Andreeva,

The first lucky loser scoring a place in the main draw is Kamilla Rakhimova from Russia.

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