NEW YORK, NY, USA - Just three players will make their Grand Slam main draw debut in Flushing Meadows this year: qualifier Mariam Bolkvadze, a former Wimbledon girls' doubles finalist; wildcard Katie Volynets, a Top 30 junior last year; and lucky loser Wang Xiyu, last year's girls' champion. Get to know them below.
Mariam Bolkvadze (GEO)
For Mariam Bolkvadze, the 2019 US Open will be not just her Grand Slam debut but her first WTA-level main draw. Indeed, the 21-year-old had only contested three previous WTA qualifying draws - all in this year's grass swing - and failed to win a set in any of them. This week, though, she opened her Flushing Meadows campaign with a career-best win over No.8 seed Heather Watson, who had been fresh off the Vancouver ITF W100 title, and followed it up with battling three-set triumphs over Han Na-Lae and Xu Shilin.
Bolkvadze becomes the first Georgian to compete in a Grand Slam main draw since Sofia Shapatava qualified for Roland Garros 2014 and just the fourth overall, following former World No.12 Leila Meskhi, Anna Tatishvili (who now represents the USA) and Shapatava. Based in London for much of her teenage years, the left-hander won her first ITF Pro Circuit title in Ashkelon in 2015 and was the girls' doubles finalist at Wimbledon 2016 alongside Catherine McNally - but her rise up the rankings to a career high of World No.201 this month only began in earnest last year after a six-month layoff. Returning to action in March 2018 ranked World No.569 and starting from the bottom in ITF W15 events, Bolkvadze compiled a 56-24 win-loss record throughout the rest of the year. This year, she has maintained her form by reaching her first three ITF W25 finals, lifting the trophy in the third of them in Obidos in April, part of a 30-18 record in 2019 so far. In the main draw, Bolkvadze will seek to keep her career-best streak going against Bernarda Pera in the first round, with a potential meeting against No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova awaiting the winner.
Katie Volynets (USA)
17-year-old Katie Volynets is the 2019 recipient of the US Open wildcard awarded annually to the winner of the USTA Billie Jean King 18s National Championships, a competition whose roll of honour over the past decade alone includes future Top 30 players Christina McHale, Lauren Davis and Sofia Kenin, and which the Californian captured this year with a 6-2, 6-4 final defeat of Roland Garros junior runner-up Emma Navarro. Having reached World No.21 in the junior rankings last August, Volynets has been making steady inroads on the professional circuit ever since, gaining a WTA ranking for the first time last October before rising to her current World No.407. Highlights to date include a pair of ITF W25 semifinals in Florence, SC and Norman, OK last autumn, and Volynets marked her WTA debut at 125K level in style in January with a 6-0, 6-0 defeat of Mari Osaka before falling 6-2, 7-6(7) to eventual champion Bianca Andreescu - whom she coincidentally faces in the first round next week again.
A bright future beckons... 🇨🇳🏆
Xiyu Wang is congratulated by ITF President Dave Haggerty after becoming China's first girls' Grand Slam champion at the #USOpen👏 pic.twitter.com/CXOR8AwoJT
— ITF (@ITF_Tennis) September 9, 2018
Wang Xiyu (CHN)
Last year's junior champion in New York, 18-year-old Wang Xiyu has long been tapped as one of the most likely Chinese up-and-comers to take on Li Na's mantle at the top of the sport. The Taixing native served notice of her promise in 2016, when she scored a victory over Danka Kovinic in her WTA main draw debut in Tianjin as a 16-year-old wildcard ranked World No.933, but it was last summer that Wang started to roar towards the main tour in earnest. Between July and September, she compiled a 27-4 win-loss record: 10-1 in juniors as she rounded off her time there with the US Open trophy, defeating Clara Burel in the final, and 17-3 in the pros, culminating in an eye-catching run out of qualifying to the second round of Wuhan, where Wang held four match points against Daria Kasatkina before falling 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(8). In doubles, meanwhile, she joined forces with near-namesake (but non-relation) Wang Xinyu - who has also qualified for the US Open this week - to win the Wimbledon girls' doubles crown.
Having zoomed from No.592 to No.200 over the course of 2018, the powerful left-hander has continued to build on her success this season. A title run at the La Bisbal d'Empordà ITF W60 event in May garnered Wang her biggest trophy to date, while wins over Monica Puig in Miami and Rebecca Peterson in Toronto took her tally of Top 100 wins to four. Consequently, the teenager hit a career high of World No.115 last week - and although she fell in the final round of qualifying at Flushing Meadows to Harriet Dart and was subsequently drawn last in the pool of six players to fill lucky loser spots in the main draw, Lesia Tsurenko's withdrawal ensures that the teenager will make her Grand Slam debut this week. Ironically, Tsurenko had originally been slated to face Mona Barthel, who was the fifth withdrawal - meaning that Wang will face fellow lucky loser Kirsten Flipkens.