No.4 seed Anna Kalinskaya, Strasbourg semifinalist Jule Niemeier and idiosyncratic stalwart Monica Niculescu were among a varied cohort of winners on the first day of Wimbledon qualifying.
Kalinskaya, the highest seed in action, faced a former standout junior peer in Dalma Galfi for the second time in Grand Slam qualifying this year. Back in 2015, Kalinskaya was the Roland Garros girls' runner-up (to Catherine Bellis) and Galfi the US Open girls' champion. Six years on, Kalinskaya defeated the Hungarian, 6-4 6-7(5), 6-3 in the first round of Australian Open qualifying, and reprised that win 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 on the grass of Roehampton.
Germany's Niemeier, 21, has caught the tennis world's attention with breakthrough performances across both clay and grass in the past month. As a qualifier in Strasbourg, she upset Shelby Rogers en route to her first WTA semifinal, where she stretched Barbora Krejcikova in a 5-7, 6-3 6-3 loss two weeks before the Czech became Roland Garros champion. Last week, Niemeier qualified for Berlin and, in her first meeting with a Top 20 opponent, pushed Belinda Bencic all the way in a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 first-round loss.
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Making her Grand Slam qualifying debut, Niemeier battled for two hours and 12 minutes to beat former World No.54 Natalia Vikhlyantseva 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. She struck 32 winners to 33 unforced errors, and landed nine aces.
Niculescu, Hibi slice paths to victory
Former World No.28 Niculescu, 33, reached the fourth round of Wimbledon back in 2015, and has had a renaissance on grass in 2021. The Romanian lost her first eight matches of the season, but is now 4-1 on grass after a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Norway's Ulrikke Eikeri.
Niculescu's famed forehand slice was in its element, and she wasn't the only player demonstrating the value of the shot. Mayo Hibi also delivered a beguiling performance to ensnare Whitney Osuigwe 6-2, 6-4. The Japanese World No.77's backhand slice scythed consistently low, and she proved adept at coming up with point-winning volleys on the offence and lobs on defence.
Osuigwe, 19, attempted at times to engage in soft touch rallies with Hibi, and then to hit through her. Neither strategy led to success, and the American wound up committing 52 unforced errors over the course of the match. Though Osuigwe threatened a turnaround in the second set, Hibi would triumph in a crucial six-deuce game at 4-4 before serving out victory.
Kalinina, Gasanova continue surging seasons
Along with Niemeier, two of this season's standout performers in the Wimbledon qualifying draw are Anhelina Kalinina and Anastasia Gasanova. Both made it through their openers safely.
No.14 seed Kalinina needed one hour exactly to dismiss Georgina García Pérez 6-1, 6-1, firing 18 winners to 11 unforced errors. The Ukrainian had put together a 14-match winning streak on clay that culminated in a first-round upset of Angelique Kerber at Roland Garros, and her aggressive game translated superbly to grass.
Gasanova, 21, already owns victories over Karolina Pliskova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova this year. The Russian only played on grass for the first time in her career three weeks ago in Nottingham, and scored her first win on the surface 6-4, 6-3 over compatriot Valeria Savinykh.
No.11 seed Mayar Sherif also overcame a lack of familiarity with the surface to progress. The Egyptian trailblazer had not set foot on it since her junior days in 2012, but won her first pro match on grass 6-3, 6-1 over Irina Fetecau in only 57 minutes.
Moore, Silva pull off upsets on home soil
Britons Tara Moore and Eden Silva have been in sync throughout this year's grass swing. The pair both qualified in Nottingham, and clashed in the first round with Moore triumphing 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(3). They have also been doubles partners, making the quarterfinals of both Nottingham and Birmingham.
As wildcards into Wimbledon qualifying, Tuesday saw the two home players both oust seeds. World No.459 Moore took out No.27 Renata Zarazua 7-6(3), 6-2, while World No.452 Silva stunned No.5 Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-4, 7-5. Having scored the first Top 200 win of her career over Astra Sharma in Birmingham qualifying last week, Silva has immediately backed it up with another by upsetting Friedsam.
Ahn, Shinikova come back from the brink
Both No.13 seed Kristie Ahn and Isabella Shinikova seemed to be on their way out of the tournament as they found themselves trailing by a set and 1-3. But both fought back to overturn their deficits - and ended up running away with victory.
Three weeks ago, Ahn had scored her first WTA main draw win since 2019 in Nottingham. Grass continued to be a happy hunting ground for the American, who defeated compatriot Caroline Dolehide 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 in one hour and 44 minutes.
Bulgaria's Shinikova, competing in her 12th Grand Slam qualifying draw, took one step towards an elusive main draw debut in the longest match of the day. The World No.220 survived Francesca Di Lorenzo 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 in two hours and 20 minutes.