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Sugi Still Going Strong

Playing in her record 61st straight Grand Slam main draw, Ai Sugiyama won through to the last 32.

Published June 24, 2009 10:09

Sugi Still Going Strong
Ai Sugiyama

LONDON, UK - While the megastars of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour were battling it out on the main courts Wednesday, one of its quieter champions was keeping the dream alive in her amazing 61st straight Grand Slam main draw, the most among any player - male or female - in the history of professional tennis.

Japan's Ai Sugiyama - now 33 years old - followed up her first round upset of No.21 seed Patty Schnyder with a 76(5) 63 second round win over a qualifier, Arantxa Parra Santonja, and in the third round will face her good friend and doubles partner, Slovak Daniela Hantuchova, who beat No.16 seed and 2008 Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie, also in straight sets.

"Today I was down 5-3 in the tie-break but I just tried to hang in there, and I got through," Sugiyama said. "It's good to be playing against Daniela in the third round, and not in the first round. We are very close friends, but on the court we are very professional, so this isn't a problem for either of us."

When asked about the tactics she'll use, Sugiyama held her cards close: "It's a secret! I know how she plays but she knows how I play. It'll be a mental game."

Sugiyama has won six of 10 career meetings with Hantuchova, although in their only match on grass it was the Slovak who prevailed, at Eastbourne in 2004. But both players have reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon before, so this third round match-up is not new territory for either.

By playing the 2008 Wimbledon main draw, Sugiyama surpassed the ATP World Tour's Wayne Ferreira as the all-time leader for consecutive Grand Slam main draws played, that being her 57th (Ferreira had 56). By playing the 2008 US Open and the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2009, the Japanese veteran has now extended her streak to 61.

Sugiyama has played 62 Grand Slam main draws total, one lone appearance coming before she went on her current streak of 61. Only three women have ever played more overall Grand Slam main draws: Amy Frazier (71), Martina Navratilova (67) and Conchita Martínez (64).

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