NEW YORK, NY, USA - Eight players will break new ground next week at the US Open by contesting the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time. Get to know more about them here at wtatennis.com.
Usue Maitane Arconada (USA)
A former junior World No.5, Usue Maitane Arconada enjoyed standout results at that level, posting wins over future star names from Sofia Kenin to Bianca Andreescu and winning the 2016 Wimbledon girls' doubles title alongside Claire Liu. That year, the Argentina-born American also turned heads on her WTA debut in Washington, where as a 17-year-old wildcard ranked World No.620 she defeated Francoise Abanda in the first round and, in her first ever meeting with a Top 50 player, stretched Yulia Putintseva all the way in a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 thriller.
But it was only last year that Arconada made her own big move in the pros, surging from World No.345 to World No.140 over the course of 2019 after compiling a 47-18 win-loss record. June and July were particularly fruitful months, Arconada winning 17 out of 18 matches and collecting her first ITF W25 titles in Bethany Beach and Denver, the latter immediately followed by a maiden ITF W60 trophy in Honolulu. This set the stage for a run to her biggest final yet in September at the New Haven 125K, a tournament where Arconada also captured the first two Top 100 wins of her career over Tatjana Maria and Astra Sharma.
The 21-year-old impressed prior to the Tour shutdown in 2020, narrowly losing a two-hour, 42-minute epic against Petra Martic 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in Auckland - Arconada's first encounter with a Top 20 player - and had been in line for a US Open wildcard before Hsieh Su-Wei's withdrawal moved her into the main draw to face Kaja Juvan in the first round.
Hailey Baptiste (USA)
Few players enjoy a WTA debut as memorable as Hailey Baptiste's in her home town of Washington, DC last July. The 17-year-old No.283-ranked wildcard was plunged straight in at the deep end in facing former US Open runner-up and World No.17 Madison Keys off the bat - but proved herself equal to the task, emerging a 7-6(4), 6-2 winner over her illustrious American compatriot in front of a crowd of family and friends.
A famous win at a tournament she had been attending since she was five years old was the highlight of Baptiste's 2019, but it was part and parcel of a steady rise up the rankings: the teenager kicked last season off with her first ITF W25 title in Plantation, Florida, and by the end of the year had added another two, with her 29-13 win-loss record enabling her to rise from World No.457 in January to a career high of World No.229 in December.
Now 18 years old and a wildcard into the US Open, Baptiste will seek to build on positive showings in her first two Grand Slam qualifying appearances, where she won a round as a wildcard at last year's US Open and on her direct entry debut at the Australian Open in January, against No.30 seed Kristina Mladenovic - whom she took to three sets in the second round of Washington last year.
Varvara Gracheva (RUS)
The sheer volume of Varvara Gracheva's wins in 2019 was rivalled by few other players: the Russian teenager rocketed from World No.447 to World No.105 over the course of a season thanks to a phenomenal 70-26 win-loss record including her first three ITF W25 titles in Chiasso, Caserta and Montpellier and, in a 14-match autumn winning streak, her first two ITF W60 trophies in Saint-Malo and Valencia.
Though a former Top 20 junior, Gracheva largely flew under the radar even as she flew up the rankings. Her appearances on the WTA Tour have come the hard way, grafting through qualifying rather than receiving wildcards. On those occasions, though, Gracheva has proven she belongs, displaying an all-court game and the requisite level to go toe-to-toe with Tour veterans. Few who watched her in Washington last August, where she defeated Anna Blinkova before stretching Hsieh Su-Wei all the way in a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(6) thriller, or in her home town of Moscow, where she scored a career-best win over Ajla Tomljanovic then led Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova by a set and a break before falling 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, will have been left in any doubt as to her potential.
The 20-year-old had lost in the final qualifying round of her first two Grand Slam appearances, at the US Open last year and the Australian Open in January - but, having cracked the Top 100 just before the Tour shutdown in March, has easily gained direct entry into Flushing Meadows this year and will face Paula Badosa in her opener.
Katarzyna Kawa (POL)
The trajectory of Katarzyna Kawa's career may have been a slow bubble - but once it popped off, it did so in a big way. The 27-year-old Pole made her WTA qualifying debut all the way back at Warsaw 2010, losing to former World No.5 Anna Chakvetadze; in 2013, she cracked the Top 300 and got one round away from making it to a WTA main draw in Nurnberg.
But it wasn't until 2019 that Kawa first appeared in a Grand Slam qualifying draw, at Roland Garros - and two months later, her results finally began to fizz. At the inaugural Baltic Open in Jurmala, Kawa navigated through WTA qualifying for the first time - and in her main draw debut, ranked World No.194, promptly went all the way to the final, scoring a second Top 100 victory over Bernarda Pera en route. Facing a Top 20 opponent for the first time, Kawa even came within two games of stunning home favorite Anastasija Sevastova to take the title before eventually falling away 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.
The Krynica-Zdroj native had hit a career high of World No.121 in February after reaching the second round of Hua Hin, where winning a remarkable rally against Wang Qiang garnered Kawa Shot of the Day honors - and, having previously come within a match of making her Grand Slam main draw debut at Wimbledon last year, her frozen ranking of World No.125 has been sufficient to ensure direct entry at the US Open, and a first-round date with No.27 seed Ons Jabeur.
Tamara Korpatsch (GER)
In years to come, this could be a tennis trivia question beloved of tennis hipsters: Who defeated Coco Gauff in the tournament she would eventually win for her maiden title? The answer, of course, is Tamara Korpatsch, who dispatched the 15-year-old prodigy 6-4, 6-2 in the final round of Linz qualifying last October before Maria Sakkari's withdrawal opened up a fortuitous lucky loser spot for Gauff in the main draw.
Read more: Korpatsch overcomes Gauff in Linz qualifiers
The smooth-hitting German has been showing potential of her own for some time, though. Korpatsch has been a consistent Top 200 player since 2016, and in that time has made three WTA quarterfinals - at Gstaad 2017, Lugano 2018 and Prague 2019 - before breaking through to her maiden semifinal in Lausanne with wins over Eugenie Bouchard, Anastasia Potapova and Jil Teichmann last year, continuing her clear affinity for Swiss clay courts. In that time, she has racked up 12 victories over Top 100 players, twice reached the final round of Grand Slam qualifying at Wimbledon 2017 and Roland Garros 2018, and lifted the biggest trophy of her career at the 2018 Biarritz ITF $80K by defeating two-time Roland Garros semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky in the final.
The 25-year-old's career to date has been a self-financed one, and affected by various health issues. In contrast to many juniors who have travelled around the world before they even turn pro, Korpatsch's Grand Slam qualifying debut at the 2016 US Open marked the first time she had ever flown in an aeroplane; to date, she has mostly travelled to tournaments via train or bus within Europe. Just after she hit a career high of World No.107 last August following her Lausanne run, an ankle injury forced her to withdraw from the US Open - and then a bout of sinusitis in the off-season stymied what would have been an Australian Open debut.
Having shown good form in the series of German exhibitions during the tour shutdown, though, a belated first appearance in a Grand Slam main draw via direct entry is sure to be even sweeter for Korpatsch, who will face wildcard Catherine Bellis in the first round.
Robin Montgomery (USA)
Coco Gauff's meteoric rise into the Top 50 over the past year may have captured the spotlight, but the 16-year-old's generation of compatriots has strength in numbers. The second highest ranked 2004-born player on the WTA rankings is World No.597 Robin Montgomery, the junior World No.5 and a wildcard into this year's US Open. Montgomery, who will not turn 16 until midway through the tournament, will be the youngest player in the main draw.
At the end of 2019, the American surged on the junior circuit to win the prestigious Orange Bowl event in December - form she had carried over into 2020 and at higher levels before the Tour shutdown. January saw Montgomery reach the Australian Open girls' quarterfinals, narrowly losing 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 to eventual champion Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva, and the Washington, DC native followed that with a run to her maiden ITF W25 title in Las Vegas - just her fourth professional tournament.
Montgomery's precocity in the world of tennis hasn't just been showcased on court - in 2013 she won the USTA NJTL Arthur Ashe Essay Contest, expounding on the need to give back to the game by bringing tennis to countries where girls do not play sport in a piece titled 'Let the girls play!' The nine-year-old wrote: "It is important for girls to play tennis like boys because girls would learn important life skills. The life skills that I have learned from tennis are the importance of being disciplined, prepared, and dedicated and determined."
Having acquitted herself well against higher-ranked opposition in two WTA qualifying outings thus far, stretching Destanee Aiava to three sets in Washington last year and falling 6-1, 6-4 to Sorana Cirstea in Cincinnati last week, Montgomery is ready to showcase those life skills on the big stage - starting against No.23 seed Yulia Putintseva in the first round in Flushing Meadows.
Katrina Scott (USA)
The third highest-ranked 2004-born player behind Coco Gauff and Robin Montgomery is another American, 16-year-old World No.637 Katrina Scott - and the California native has already made an impact at Tour level. Making her WTA debut as an unranked qualifier in San Jose last year, Scott pushed former World No.25 Timea Babos all the way for two-and-a-half hours before falling 7-5, 2-6, 7-5; a month later, awarded a qualifying wildcard into the US Open, she stunned Katie Swan 6-3, 6-3 to win a round. In Scott's most recent professional event, she reached her first ITF W25 semifinal in Malibu last November as a qualifier, upsetting former US Open junior champion Dalma Galfi en route.
There was also success in the juniors: as a wildcard, Scott reached the US Open girls' quarterfinals, beating best friend Montgomery for the second time en route - before joining forces with Montgomery and Connie Ma to become 2019 Junior Fed Cup champions a month later in Orlando. There, Scott demonstrated her long-term thinking regarding her career, telling USTA.com: "I definitely gained some confidence after that [US Open qualifying] win - but I didn’t want it to get to me too much because you have to keep moving forward, you can't just get stuck in the same place." It's unlikely that Scott, who will take on Natalia Vikhlyantseva in the first round next week, will remain stuck in her current place for much longer.
Katarina Zavatska (UKR)
To date, Katarina Zavatska's biggest claim to fame is her victory in 2019's longest WTA main draw match, an epic 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-4 comeback over Fiona Ferro in the first round of Guangzhou over three hours and 27 minutes that showcased the grit and stamina that are increasingly becoming the Ukrainian youngster's trademark.
That gruelling encounter was part of a surge that took Zavatska from World No.205 last May to the edge of the Top 100 at a career high of World No.103 in February just before the Tour shutdown: having already collected her biggest title to date at the Contrexéville ITF W100 event in July, Zavatska continued her stellar Asian autumn by immediately following her Guangzhou marathon with a run to her maiden WTA semifinal in Tashkent. Having come within a match of making her Grand Slam debut by reaching the final qualifying round of Roland Garros last year, this has ensured Zavatska of direct entry into the US Open.
Though still only 20, Zavatska has been bubbling under for a while: a former Top 20 junior, she won two of her first six ITF Pro Circuits as a 15-year-old in 2015, stretched Magda Linette to three sets in her WTA main draw debut as a No.562-ranked wildcard at Kuala Lumpur 2017, and defeated former World No.26 Alexandra Dulgheru to reach her first WTA quarterfinal at Rabat 2018. She is also part of a richly promising Ukrainian tennis scene that has emerged in the wake of Elina Svitolina's success: a 2000-born peer of World No.25 Dayana Yastremska, the pair have already contested a pro final, with Yastremska winning the 2017 Dunakeszi ITF W60 title 6-0, 6-1 - and hot on their heels are rising teenagers Marta Kostyuk, Daria Snigur and Daria Lopatetska.
In the New York bubble this month, Zavatska has again demonstrated her penchant for longueurs, battling for three hours and 13 minutes before losing 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(2) to the experienced Kirsten Flipkens in the Western & Southern Open qualifying; No.11 seed Elena Rybakina will be a stern test in the first round of the US Open, but Zavatska will be buoyed by the memory of stretching the Kazakh to - what else? - a third-set tiebreak back in their junior days in the Umag Grade 1 final in 2016.
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