NEW YORK, NY, USA - Ten players will break new ground at Flushing Meadows this week by debuting in the main draw of a major for the first time via, variously, qualifying, direct entry and wildcard. Get to know more about them here at wtatennis.com.
Marie Bouzkova (CZE)
Four years after lifting the US Open girls' trophy, Marie Bouzkova has returned to the site of her greatest junior triumph to mark her biggest senior breakthrough yet. The Czech, whose 2014 run included victories over Jelena Ostapenko, Caroline Dolehide and, in the final, Anhelina Kalinina - also a main draw debutante at this year's US Open - has gone on to rack up 11 ITF Pro Circuit titles as she's climbed the senior rankings, cracking the Top 200 in June last year.
Now ranked World No.171 and playing her sixth major qualifying competition, Bouzkova has navigated her way through one of the toughest sections of the draw: in-form 2017 Wimbledon girls' runner-up Ann Li, 16-year-old prodigy Marta Kostyuk and big-serving Georgina García Pérez have all been dispatched for the loss of just one set in total. In her previous four WTA main draw appearances - as a wildcard at Acapulco 2015, then as a qualifier at Biel 2017, Nurnberg 2017 and Monterrey 2018 - the 20-year-old has yet to win a match, something she'll hope to rectify this week.
That moment when ... you’re heading to the @USOpen main draw!
Buckeye alum Francesca Di Lorenzo earned a spot in a major main draw for the first time with three straight-set wins in qualifying. #USOpen #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/yMVmLWdE6d
— Ohio State Women’s Tennis (@OhioStateWTEN) August 24, 2018
Francesca Di Lorenzo (USA)
During her first two years at Ohio State University, Francesca Di Lorenzo quickly established herself as one to watch both in the collegiate system, where she compiled a 74-7 overall record in her freshman and sophomore years and was a two-time All-American in singles, and on the pro circuit, where she managed to reach the Top 300 playing a limited holiday schedule in 2017.
So when the Pittsburgh-born, Columbus-raised 21-year-old chose to turn pro at the end of 2017, with two years of college eligibility remaining, it was no surprise that her subsequent progress has been a smooth upwards arc into the Top 200, hitting a career high of No.171 in June.
Di Lorenzo, whose parents hail from Salerno, Italy and whose father is a pediatric gastroenterologist, scored her first Top 100 win over Risa Ozaki in the ITF $60,000 event in Saguenay last October, and qualified for her first WTA main draw in Charleston this April. The World No.193 navigated her second US Open qualifying competition without dropping a set, defeating former Top 100 players Veronica Cepede Royg and Mona Barthel and, in between, rising German Antonia Lottner.
Anhelina Kalinina (UKR)
In June 2015, an 18-year-old Anhelina Kalinina cracked the Top 150 - progress that meant that the Ukrainian was keeping pace perfectly with the rest of the 1997-born cream of the crop. Jelena Ostapenko, Daria Kasatkina and Naomi Osaka were all ranked within 20 spots of Kalinina, who had been runner-up at the junior US Open to Marie Bouzkova the previous year, at that point. At the end of 2015, though, disaster struck. As her peers went on to storm the upper echelons of the tour, Kalinina was sidelined for 10 months as she was forced to deal with a shoulder injury.
Since returning in August 2016, the 21-year-old, who trains in Trnava at the Empire Academy, has formerly been under the tutelage of Dinara Safina and now shares Vladimir Platenik's coaching services with Belinda Bencic, has been rebuilding her career. Three ITF $25,000 titles in 2017 boosted her ranking from No.527 to No.157 that year; this year, she started the year by winning 17 of her first 18 matches, still at ITF $25,000 level. A maiden Top 100 victory, over Taylor Townsend in Charlottesville, followed in May; and a month ago, Kalinina qualified for her first WTA main draw in nearly three years in Washington. Now ranked No.136, the Ukrainian's run through qualies here seals her Slam debut - coincidentally, in the same tournament as Bouzkova - and could put her on the brink of a belated breakthrough.
Karolina Muchova (CZE)
When Karolina Muchova rose from outside the Top 400 to the brink of the Top 200 between October 2015 and October 2016, scoring wins over Carina Witthoeft and Jana Cepelova en route, the Czech seemed ready to continue her progress upwards. But injuries hindered her momentum over the next two years: 2017 started with a three-month hiatus and, despite making her WTA main draw debut as a qualifier in Seoul, Muchova's limited schedule was not enough to maintain her ranking.
This year, her performances have been strong - when she's been able to play, that is. The 22-year-old stormed to back-to-back ITF finals in February and March - but had to hand Anna Blinkova a walkover in the second, in Croissy-Beauborg, and thence was limited to just two matches until June. Muchova impressed with her all-court game on grass, stretching Eugenie Bouchard to three sets in Wimbledon qualifying, before making a run to another final at the ITF $80,000 tournament in Olomouc - a result that finally saw her crack the Top 200. Now just outside at No.202, an impressive run through qualifying has included wins over Vitalia Diatchenko, Maria Sharapova's Wimbledon conqueror, and Françoise Abanda - for Muchova to seal her first Slam main draw at her fourth attempt.
Whitney Osuigwe (USA)
The 2017 Roland Garros girls' champion, Whitney Osuigwe made her Slam qualifying debut at the US Open a year ago, falling to Anna Blinkova in the first round - but victory at the USTA U18 Girls' Nationals earlier this month, where she defeated Cori Gauff and Kayla Day in the final two rounds, earned the 16-year-old a main draw wildcard this time round.
Having conquered the junior ranks last year, ending as the World No.1, Osuigwe has been easing through the junior-to-pro transition in 2018. The Bradenton resident - where she trains at the IMG Academy - reached her first $25,000 final in January in Wesley Chapel, Florida, and has kept the momentum going to rise from World No.1120 at the end of 2017 to her current No.391.
Osuigwe, who likens her game style to Victoria Azarenka and who made her WTA debut in Miami this March via wildcard, hit another timely milestone this week with her first victory in WTA qualifying, over fellow US Open wildcard Asia Muhammad in New Haven. In the second round, she would even stretch Belinda Bencic to three sets before falling 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-2 - her second three-setter against a Top 100 player in as many encounters, having pushed Taylor Townsend to a 6-0, 1-6, 7-5 scoreline in Charleston in May.
La balle de match et la réaction de Harmony Tan, c'est ici ! pic.twitter.com/nj6k8jtUzj
— FFT (@FFTennis) May 24, 2018
Harmony Tan (FRA)
Harmony Tan first turned heads in 2014 when she reached her first $25,000 final as a 16-year-old, finishing runner-up at the Caracas ITF $25,000 event to María Irigoyen, and since then the Frenchwoman has racked up five titles at the ITF $10,000 and $15,000 levels.
This year, though, Tan has started to make noise at a higher level. As a qualifying wildcard into Roland Garros, the 21-year-old - now under the tutelage of former Wimbledon finalist Nathalie Tauziat - notched up her first two Top 200 wins, over Arina Rodionova and Liu Fangzhou, to come within a match of making her main draw debut. Though a loss to Georgina García Pérez meant that had to wait, the World No.399 would rectify matters by winning a July playoff for the reciprocal French wildcard in New York, defeating Diane Parry, Fiona Ferro and Australian Open girls' finalist Clara Burel to emerge as the victor.
Jil Teichmann (SUI)
In 2015, Jil Teichmann graduated from the junior ranks on a high after she defeated Viktoria Kuzmova and Marketa Vondrousova to reach the final of the European Junior Championships at home in Klosters. Since then, the Swiss player's progress has been steady, cutting her ranking from World No.439 at the end of 2015 to No.221 one year later and a career high of No.132 this March. Along the way, the former junior World No.3 has notched up five ITF trophies and five Top 100 wins, including on her WTA main draw debut at Strasbourg in 2016, over Kurumi Nara. The following year, a wildcard into Wuhan enabled Teichmann to shock Samantha Stosur in the first round, beating the 2011 US Open champion 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Though the 21-year-old's preference is for clay - the US Open is her first event off the terre battue since Indian Wells in March - wins such as that indicate that the World No.168 is certainly capable on hard courts, as her run of upsets through qualifying also proved. The first round saw Teichmann stun No.1 seed Zheng Saisai, the World No.63 fresh off a final run in Nanchang, 7-6(1), 3-6, 6-0, before eliminating Mayo Hibi and 2015 Wimbledon girls' champion Sofya Zhuk in straight sets. Her run seals a strong cross-generational qualifying tournament for Switzerland, with 39-year-old mother-of-one Patty Schnyder also coming through to the main draw; Teichmann was born one year after Schnyder made her own Grand Slam debut at Roland Garros 1996, and one year before Schnyder defeated Stefanie Graf to make the US Open quarterfinals in 1998.
Kathinka Von Deichmann (LIE)
For Kathinka Von Deichmann, qualifying for her first Slam isn't just a personal milestone but a national one: the 24-year-old has become the first player from the tiny Alpine principality of Liechtenstein, population 38,000, to compete in a Slam main draw. "We are a very small country, but I'm really proud to represent my country, and this I think means everything for everybody in Liechtenstein," she told usopen.org after defeating Martina Trevisan 6-4, 6-3 in the final qualifying round.
Von Deichmann, who boasts a nifty one-handed backhand and an array of spins and slices, had a breakthrough 2017, compiling a 50-30 win-loss record on the ITF Pro Circuit to sneak into the Top 200 by the end of the year. In 2018, she has built on that: in April, Von Deichmann became the second Liechtensteiner ever to compete in a WTA main draw, following former World No.137 Stephanie Vogt, when she qualified for Lugano - and the first to then win a main draw match with a defeat of Laura Siegemund. An 11-match winning streak followed as Von Deichmann mopped up her third and fourth ITF $25,000 titles in Wiesbaden and La Bisbal d'Empordà - results that have propelled her to her current position of World No.166.
The last country to join the women's Grand Slam stage was Turkey, when Cagla Buyukakcay and Ipek Soylu both debuted at Roland Garros in 2016. Liechtenstein, as the sixth smallest nation in the world by area, is the smallest representative at the US Open this year; only one smaller country has ever fielded a Slam competitor - Monaco, for whom Emmanuelle Gagliardi played at the start of her career in 1997 before switching flag to Switzerland.
Dayana Yastremska (UKR)
Last month, 18-year-old Dayana Yastremska became the first player born in the new millennium to crack the Top 100 following a stellar two months on the ITF Pro Circuit, winning a $60,000 title in Rome and finishing runner-up at $100,000 events in Cagnes-sur-Mer and Ilkley - a run that sealed direct entry to her first Slam main draw. But the Ukrainian has been on fans' radar for a while - thanks to both her endearing social media presence and her no-holds-barred power game.
In 2016, she lost the Wimbledon girls' final to Anastasia Potapova - but the battling manner in which she saved six match points, two with Hawkeye challenges, before going down went viral. A year later, competing in just her second WTA main draw, she ploughed through to the quarterfinals in Istanbul, defeating Andrea Petkovic en route. The former junior World No.6 also arrives in New York in form, qualifying and winning a round in New Haven - including victories over Belinda Bencic and Danielle Collins - before taking a Top 10 player to three sets for the first time, losing to Julia Goerges 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
Yastremska leads a wave of exciting, emergent Ukrainian talent seeking to follow in the elite footsteps of Elina Svitolina, the country's first Top 3 player: coming up behind her and fellow Slam debutante Anhelina Kalinina are 16-year-old prodigy Marta Kostyuk, who has risen nearly 400 ranking spots this year; 18-year-old Katarina Zavatska, who made her maiden WTA quarterfinal in Rabat this May; and 15-year-old Dasha Lopatetskaya, who has kickstarted her pro career this year by winning her first two ITF $15,000 tournaments and compiling a perfect 11-0 record. Fed Cup watchers, take note of what's sure to be a formidable future team.
Tamara Zidansek (SLO)
Few players have won as many matches as Tamara Zidansek this season: the Slovenian has now put together a 52-15 win-loss record in a year that has seen her transition from ITF winning machine to legitimate Tour threat.
Having finally overcome a string of injuries that delayed her breakthrough, an extended run of health has seen the 20-year-old zoom from outside the Top 200 in March to a career high of No.74 just four months later, taking her form from one level to the next with apparent ease: a WTA main draw debut in Rabat in May was followed a month later by a title run at the Bol 125K, Zidansek's biggest trophy to date. In July, a maiden Top 20 win over Daria Kasatkina followed on the Russian's home turf in Moscow en route to Zidansek's first WTA semifinal.
An all-round athlete as a child who divided her time between tennis, snowboarding and athletics, Zidansek's game has been honed on clay, with a rock-solid topspin forehand capable of dictating points the bedrock of a game that also features neat point construction and clever defence. But there's no doubt that, despite being a hard court novice, the World No.77 has the nous to adapt.