NEW YORK, NY, USA - For thousands of fans at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the US Open began in earnest on Tuesday morning. The four-day Qualifying Tournament features a mix of veterans, rising stars, and, of course, Sesil Karatantcheva.
Miss any of the action from Day 1? I tracked down several of the winnners in a series of quick hit interviews conducted just off-court.
Schnyder makes 40 the new 20.
"You don't look a day older than 22," a fan yells as former World No.7 Patty Schnyder signs an autograph for a flag-waving child after a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 win over Maryna Zanevska.
"Oh, come on," Schnyder laughs, heading back to the locker room just two wins away from her first Grand Slam main draw appearance since the 2011 French Open.
But it's no idle compliment from the crowd, and instead one of many devotees who've watched the Swiss star play 14 US Opens make the second week five times.
"It’s cool," the two-time quarterfinalist says of the fan support. "It’s such a big event and still, people come to the court and know my name, know my game, and my history, so it’s a great feeling that they’re out there and supporting me."
Court 13 could hardly contain itself as Schnyder, just three months shy of her 40th birthday, won five of the last six games in the final set against Zanevska, cementing the comeback with a searing forehand on the run to pass her 24-year-old foe.
"That’s the best way to end it, actually, with a winner. Actually, I got really nervous there, once I got the break. It still means so much to me, that I get nervous on the court. I'm starting to find my game a bit, but I’m happy with my serve. My game definitely has to improve."
Schnyder left the game seven years ago, giving birth to daughter Kim in 2014. A year later, she was slowly making her way back on the circuit, and is looking for her third WTA main draw appearance of 2018 and first since making the second round of the Ladies Championship Gstaad.
"Once I get my game together, I think I play more dominant on the court, but definitely I couldn’t see it now, in this match. I had it a few times this year, and I’m just trying to improve and get that feeling back."
She will get another chance to recapture that feeling on Thursday against No.20 seed Veronika Kudermetova.
Govortsova joins growing cohort of tour moms
Olga Govortsova thought she was done with tennis when she discovered she was pregnant with son Dominic.
"It’s crazy, life changed completely," the former World No.35 said after beating 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki, 6-4, 7-5. "I didn’t plan to come back, but I had a nice break, a nice rest, so now I look at it different, and I'm just enjoying my game."
A tough 2016 season sent her out of the Top 100 - where she had been for much of the last decade - but the Belarusian hopes to get back there and better since resuming her career in the spring after 13 months away.
"I played a few ITF Pro Circuit events already, but this is my first Grand Slam. I’m planning to beat my best ranking, that’s my goal.
"There’s so many girls now like Serena and Vika [Azarenka], but also Mandy Minella, who’s my really good friend. It’s inspiring, I think it’s going to be more and more girls like this."
Govortsova made the third round in Flushing Meadows back in 2012, and had to hit the ground running against Lisicki, herself in the midst of an injury comeback.
"We actually practiced the day before yesterday, and were talking about how tough qualies is now. Then I looked at the draw yesterday, and saw I’m playing against her. I was like, ‘Wow, this really is tough, first round qualies!’
"This is my favorite Grand Slam, US Open always has been since juniors. This court, Court 7, I think I had good results here in particular. So I’m just enjoying everything again."
The 29-year-old will play No.21 seed Fiona Ferro for a spot in the final round of qualifying.
Around the grounds...
- Broady beats the heat: In an all-Brit battle on Court 8, Naomi Broady survived an in-form Katie Boulter, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
"I love the conditions here, I always play quite well," Broady said. "It’s hotter today, for the first day in a couple days, but that speeds the court up, which is good for my game."
Boulter enjoyed a solid run on grass courts this summer, reaching the quarterfinals of the Aegon Open in Nottingham.
"I knew that when she plays well, she’s going to hit a lot of winners, and I tried to accept that she was going to hit a lot of those, even though I’m aggressive as well. I tried to just hang on in there and wait for a moment that she makes a couple errors, and she started to do that at the start of the third set. I just tried to stay as solid as I could in that time."
- Huracán Georgi hits New York: Georgina García Pérez made a thunderous debut at the US Open, knocking out Anne Schaefer, 6-3, 6-3, to book a second round clash with Broady on Thursday. The big-hitting 26-year-old played her first major main draw two months ago Roland Garros, and recently cracked the Top 150 for the first time this spring.
"I was so nervous before the match because it’s always difficult to play the first round - more than the others, because you don’t know how you’re going to play and everything! I’m happy with how I played. I started a bit shy in the court, then I started to play more aggressive
"It was very hot. I’m sweating a lot; I was thinking, 'MaybeI should change the dress every two games!'"
- Zhuk triumphs in friendly rivalry on Court 4: Sofya Zhuk played her first Grand Slam main draw at the US Open last summer, and the 18-year-old will need to make it through qualifying for a second straight year to make it back at one of her favorite tournaments. The Russian made a confident first step on Tuesday with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Victoria Duval.
"We are friends, because we’re both living in Bradenton and we both train at IMG," Zhuk said after the match. "I think it was tough to play her, because I think we’re in a good relationship, we trained three days in a row together. It’s tough to play against friends."
Zhuk enjoyed a solid summer run at the Coupe Rogers, earning a big win over 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur, and will next play Lesley Kerkhove.
"I’m just trying to take it match by match, and just trying to enjoy the courts here, because I missed this place real bad! I haven’t been here for a year, so I’m just trying to enjoy it."
- Badosa Gibert comes home: Paula Badosa Gibert last played the US Open as the next logical step in what had been a rapid ascent from winning the 2015 Roland Garros junior title. A leg injury soon derailed her progress but the 20-year-old has shown signs of improvement - reaching the quarterfinals of the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem back in April - and believes even better results are possible in New York's concrete jungle.
"I try to play aggressive always," she said after beating American wildcard Sophie Chang in straight sets. "I like to take the point first and to serve hard. I think hardcourts suits that game well, so that’s what I’m doing."
The Spaniard was born in New York to model parents, and thrived on Court 7 with the help of Fed Cup captain Anabel Medina Garrigues.
"I think it’s my favorite Grand Slam, because I like the people, the atmosphere is amazing in the courts, so I really like this tournament. I feel very good here."
Badosa Gibert next plays former World No.26 Alexandra Dulgheru in the second round.
- More from Marta: catch up with Marta Kostyuk after her titanic victory over Valentyna Ivakhnenko, with additional insight from World No.35 Lesia Tsurenko.