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June 27, 2022
Tennis

Roehampton | Sun downs Grey as Jimenez Kasintseva and Aussies step up

Britain’s Sarah Beth Grey revealed pride in her Wimbledon qualifying run after being beaten by Switzerland’s Lulu Sun 6-3 6-2 in the 2nd-round on Wednesday.

The one thing I do feel is really grateful to be able to be able to be back playing and be healthy playing. I’m looking to get back on the road straight away. I’m really aiming to get to US Open qualifying, which is in a few months time. I need to try and work on my ranking a little bit to get into the mix for that. Sarah Beth Grey

It has been a tumultuous few months for Grey, who thought she might have to hang up her racket after a heart operation earlier in the year, but the 26-year-old is more determined than ever to rise up the rankings – with a main draw appearance next summer her goal.

“Overall I’m really proud of my efforts,” she said. “I haven’t played much at all this year, so to comeback and be able to have the opportunity to play here, and have the match that I had [against Olivia Gadecki] and lucky enough to have the match I had today, that’s a big bonus for me right now.

“There always is a lot to work on. This has given me a lot of really good confidence, knowing that I can compete and win at this level, and gives me confidence to push on and to be back here, even in the main draw next year hopefully.

“I thought I would have this big awakening after what I went through, that I would have this whole new outlook when I got back on the court, but to be honest I feel just as competitive as I did before and I have the same drive and determination.

“The one thing I do feel is really grateful to be able to be able to be back playing and be healthy playing.

“I’m looking to get back on the road straight away. I’m really aiming to get to US Open qualifying, which is in a few months time.

“I need to try and work on my ranking a little bit to get into the mix for that. That’s my main goal for the end of the year and looking ahead to next year, I really want to be at the ranking where I can be in the main draw here. They’re my two main goals.”

Before attempting to boost her singles ranking, Grey will have the opportunity to play at Wimbledon next week with a wild-card into the doubles event.

“I’m playing with Lily Miyazaki and we’re really good friends,” Grey said. “Our games suit each other really well for the doubles, so I’m looking forward to it.

“I’ve played doubles and mixed doubles last year and in 2019, I’ve got a couple years worth of experience there and every time it’s been a great atmosphere.

“I actually played against Venus and Tiafoe one year in the mixed, that was a really good experience and the whole crowd was packed on Court 12.”

Grey’s departure brought British hopes at Wimbledon qualifying to an end in the 2nd-round.

Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva to round three of qualifying at Roehampton on Wednesday

© AELTC/Florian Eisele – Pool/Getty Images

Andorran Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva is just one match away from fulfilling her dream of qualifying for The Championships at Wimbledon after the 16-year old scored wins over Barbara Haas and Conny Perrin, two vastly experienced opponents, to line up a winner-take all contest with Australia’s Astra Sharma on Thursday.

“I always wanted my first main draw slam to be here,” she said after her 6-4 6-3 win over Perrin, whop is from Switzerland. “My father always said I would be a really good grass player because I’m left handed, and I believe it so much that I actually think that I’m good here.

“It would be very special to win tomorrow, but I would like to take it day by day. I’ll get prepared now for tomorrow and I’ll give my best.

“My idol was Maria Sharapova and she won her first Grand Slam here, and she was only 17.

“I guess just seeing all the professional tennis players winning here, it’s very special. The fact they’re all wearing white, grass, I just love it here. It’s different, and that is what makes it special.”

Last year Jimenez Kasintseva reached the last 4 in the Girls Singles, which provided valuable experience on the grass.

“I just remember last year being super special,” she continued. “It was my first Wimbledon, it was the first time I came here and all the good vibes I felt last year, all the happiness and all the emotions, reaching the semi-finals was just amazing and, I think, that I’m bringing that this year, so I’m very happy right now to be in the third round of qualies.

“I’m playing better than I expected. I came here last year for the juniors, so being here this year in the pros is definitely very special. I’m feeling very well and I hope to continue like this for tomorrow’s match.”

A break-through run two years ago put the Andorran on the map when, aged just 14, and in her Grand Slam debut, Jimenez Kasintseva won the Girls’ singles title at the Australian Open.

“When I think about it, I just can’t believe it was my first Grand Slam and I was just 14. I don’t know how, but I just arrived there 24 hours away from home, got there and just won,” she said.

At any other time she would have had the opportunity to build on her historic triumph – the first Grand Slam title at any level won by an Andorran – but, like with so many athletes, the pandemic put a stop to that.

“The covid stop was a bit difficult. From September to February, when I won Australia, I won so many tournaments and I climbed up to the World No 1 rankings.

“Right after that was my first WTA tournament, which I lost, but after that it all stopped and I think it wasn’t very easy for me.”

An intriguing part of the teenager’s story is her Andorran roots; despite her age, she is already the most successful tennis player in the small state’s history.

“I’m very happy to be from a small country. I’m very proud to be from Andorra,” Jimenez Kasintseva added.

Astra Sharma is one of four Australians on the cusp of qualifying at Roehampton

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Her next opponent, Sharma has experienced the rush of competing at SW19 twice before, and the 10th seed battled past Spain’s Irene Burillo Escorihuela, 6-3 4-6 6-3, to reach the 3rd-round.

Four other Aussies advanced too, with 5th-seeded Madisson Inglis, Priscilla Hon, Zoe Hives and Jamie Fourlis poised on the cusp of their Wimbledon main draw debuts, with at least one guaranteed when Hon and Hives meet on Thursday.

After more than two years battling chronic fatigue, 25-year-old Hives admitted while it had been a slow road back, but her compatriots’ company and success at Roehampton this week had spurred her on.

“We’ve got a lot of girls coming through,” she said. “It’s nice to be at these tournaments and have other Aussies around. If you see them do it, you think, ‘yeah, I can do it too’.”

Hives breezed past American Sachia Vickery, 6-0 6-3, while 22-year-old Fourlis stopped last year’s Roland-Garros semi-finalist Nadia Podoroska from Argentina, 6-4 7-6(5).

Inglis ended Luxembourg veteran Mandy Minella’s career, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2.

Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup captain Alicia Molik told the Wimbledon Channel that Barty’s retirement was sad for all involved in tennis but had given compatriots in her shadow the space to step up.

“Currently, competing in the main draw we just have Daria Saville, with a wild card, and Ajla Tomljanovic,” Molik said. “We need this younger crop to break through.

“Once someone makes that dash into the top 100 or the main draw of a Grand Slam it often helps carry the rest of the field … Ash dominated our headlines in Australian tennis but someone else can make a name for themselves now.”

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