NEW YORK, NY, USA - It was a morning of firsts for 21-year-old Jil Teichmann. The Swiss qualifier's maiden major main draw appearance not only ended in a straight-sets victory over Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic, but her efficient scoreline made her the first winner of the 2018 US Open.
"I didn’t know before that I was the first one to finish," the already beaming Teichmann said after booking her spot in the second round. "For me, this win means a lot. I’m very happy; it’s my first win in the main draw, so it’s very important."
Born in Spain and honing her tennis between Barcelona, Biel, and back again with coach Karim Perona, very little has gone wrong for the World No.168 (and rising) since stepping onto the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
"I’ve been here a few times already, playing juniors and as a pro. It’s a bit stressful in New York. It’s like they say, ‘the city that never sleeps.’ But I really like it, the atmosphere. People come to watch and cheer, so that’s very cool."
She upset top seed Zheng Saisai in the first round of the qualifying tournament and dropped just three games against Jakupovic on Court 14, smiling through each winner and correct Hawkeye challenge, available on non-stadium courts for the first time this year.
"I’ve played on Hawkeye before, but I’m always excited when I’m right! I’m always joking that I see very well, and my coach tells me, ‘No, not always!’ That’s why I was smiling; I was just happy to be right."
Playing her first clay court tournament since March, the free-swinging southpaw nonetheless insisted hardcourts were her favorite - having won the girl's doubles title at the US Open with Ipek Soylu in 2014 - and cited scheduling issues with keeping her off concrete for the last six months.
"For those of us ranked between No.100 and No.200, it’s always a bit difficult to plan before the US Open, because there are only the Premier events. We end up changing and mixing up the schedule a bit. Every year is a bit different.
"At the moment, this is my favorite tournament in my life, so for sure, I’ll keep playing on hardcourts!"
Teichmann's surprise success mirrors another, more well-known Swiss lefty in former World No.7 Patty Schnyder who, at 39, became the oldest woman to make it through Grand Slam qualifying on Friday. Two years after Schnyder made her first Grand Slam quarterfinals in 1998, Teichmann started to play tennis, aged three.
"We shared an emotional week in Romania, playing Fed Cup together in February," she recalled. "I know her pretty well, and I’ve seen her around on tour because we’ve had a similar ranking since she started coming back. She was in lower tournaments when I was younger, so we were moving up together in the rankings."
Making it to this level gets her closer to her dreams of a Top 10 ranking and Grand Slam glory, and also affords her the opportunity to join an elite squad of Swiss stars that includes dream mixed doubles partner, Roger Federer.
"Roger and Rafa are my biggest idols and legends for me. There aren’t many WTA players who play like me besides Schnyder, which is fun that she’s still active."
Initially projected to play World No.1 Simona Halep, the qualifier came to press just as news hit that the reigning Roland Garros champ had fallen to six-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi. Playing Kanepi just once before on clay, it's perhaps an opportunity for Teichmann to go even farther in Flushing Meadows.
"She’s a very aggressive, dangerous player. We all know that on hardcourts, she’s even more dangerous. She’s always there, earning results like this that you might not expect, but suddenly she beats a very good player. She has a very high level. I’m going to talk to my coach about my tactics, and try to do my game."
As she edges closer to a Top 100 debut, this fortnight is just another adventure for the natural-born wanderer.
"I would definitely be traveling, even if I didn't play tennis. I would have spent a year traveling around the world. I like South America a lot and Australia, as well. I’m fluent in Spanish. My parents are from Zurich, so I grew up speaking Swiss-German, but in Biel, it’s a bilingual city, so I learned French, as well."
As the English portion of her press conference ended, the floor was opened for international journalists, to which Teichmann joked:
"Which language? Don't forget, I'm from Switzerland; there's so many!"