NEW YORK, NY, USA - In the midst of so much red, white and blue at Flushing Meadows, Lara Arruabarrena and Georgina Garcia Perez are making sure that the Spanish flag is flying high at the US Open.
In the main draw, two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza, Carla Suarez Navarro, Sara Sorribes Tormo and Aliona Bolsova lead the Spanish charge. But the strength is just as deep in the qualifying draw, where three of four Spanish players have already advanced to the second round: Paula Badosa Gibert, Arruabarrena and Garcia Perez.
For Arruabarrena, it was smooth sailing on Tuesday, defeating Canada’s Katherine Sebov, 6-1, 6-2. In a match against an unknown youngster, Arruabarrena said, it was all about the mental side of the game.
“I didn’t really know my opponent too well,” Arruabarrena admitted. “But she’s young, and I noticed that she’s at her highest ranking, so I supposed maybe it was the first Grand Slam she’s playing. I tried to take advantage of her nerves, because everyone is nervous during their debut at a Slam.
“So that was what made the difference. That and when I started to get ahead in the score, her seeing that I was quite solid, and I think she wasn’t able to find a way to hurt me. That was all the key.”
It’s a solid showing for the Spaniard, who hasn’t played a hardcourt match since Monterrey in April after suffering a hip injury during the clay swing.
“I had injured my hip in Madrid, and so I was out for two months,” she explained. “When I came back, I wanted to come back on clay courts, just to feel how the hip would respond. Once I saw that I was feeling good, I decided to play some more clay tournaments to keep testing it. And then I came here - thankfully the hip is feeling perfect, so it’s all good.”
Her countrywoman, Garcia Perez, was also in action on the second day of qualies, but had a much more difficult path into the next round. She had to come back from a set down to take out Romania’s Jaqueline Cristian 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-4.
“I try to remind myself that opportunities like this don’t come every day,” she told wtatennis.com. But honestly, it still hasn’t hit me that I won, because I played so badly,” she added, with a laugh.
“Yes, I made 15 aces, but I started the first game making like three double faults, which I never do. I faced a lot of break points, she won the first set. This match has been… just drama.”
Garcia Perez pointed to the support of her team as her source of motivation, and today that team included a number of interesting faces, including countryman Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, and good friend Aleksandra Krunic.
“I had seen her around for a long time,” Garcia Perez recalled. “But I think we really connected when we played on the same team in France, and there I had the opportunity to get to know her better. Honestly, we get along great, great feelings.”
Krunic, who is competing at the NYJTL Bronx Open and contesting her quarterfinal in doubles tomorrow, was providing bilingual support for her friend, cheering in English and Spanish as Garcia fought her way back into the match.
There are currently no plans for the towering Garcia Perez and the diminutive Krunic to take the court together, but it’s a possibility that the Spaniard won’t rule out just yet.
“By the time I brought it up, it was too late,” she lamented. “She had already agreed to play US Open with Shuko Aoyama, they won a title together [in ‘s-Hertogenbosch] and all that. But I hope one day we can play together.”