Eight players will break new ground at Wimbledon 2022 by contesting the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time. Get to know them here.
Maja Chwalinska (POL)
As a junior peer of Iga Swiatek, Maja Chwalinska was the yin to her fellow Pole's yang. While Swiatek overwhelmed opponents with power and spin from an early age, the slightly-built Chwalinska brought delicate finesse and creativity, marking her as the spiritual successor to former World No.2 Agnieszka Radwanska. Together, Chwalinska and Swiatek were Junior Billie Jean King Cup teammates and the 2017 Australian Open girls' doubles runners-up (to Bianca Andreescu and Carson Branstine). When Chwalinska transitioned to the ITF World Tour, clips swiftly emerged of hot shots that included tweeners and all manner of dropshots.
But though Chwalinska and Swiatek made their pro debuts, and then their WTA qualifying debuts, at the same tournaments, their paths diverged. Almost exactly one year ago, Chwalinska revealed that she had been struggling with depression since 2019, and would be taking an indefinite break from tennis.
How Maja Chwalinska overcame depression to make her Wimbledon debut
Four months later, Chwalinska resumed her career - and has been going from strength to strength ever since. Ranked No.347 in November, she is now at a career high of No.172 after compiling a 32-9 record so far in 2022, including her second ITF W60 title in Prague.
In Wimbledon qualifying, Chwalinska's touch was a perfect fit for the nuances of grass courts all week; she also demonstrated real grit in winning a trio of three-setters over former Top 100 opponents, Aliona Bolsova, Alexandra Cadantu-Ignatik and CoCo Vandeweghe. Against Vandeweghe, Chwalinska was initially overpowered by the two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist; but as the match went on, successfully blunted the American's weaponry to seal her first Grand Slam main draw. In the first round of Wimbledon, Chwalinska will face Katerina Siniakova.
Down to the wire!— wta (@WTA) March 6, 2022
🇺🇸's @catharris0n and @sabs_santamaria are your doubles champions in Monterrey! 🙌#AbiertoGNPSeguros pic.twitter.com/Igu8ok8uvn
Catherine Harrison (USA)
After closing out Yuan Yue 6-1, 7-6(3) in the final round of qualifying, 28-year-old Catherine Harrison described the moment as the result of "a decade of work". The American had never previously competed in a Grand Slam qualifying draw and, ranked No.264, only snuck into Wimbledon as an alternate.
Eleven years previously, Harrison had made her WTA main draw debut at Memphis 2011 as a wildcard, falling to Sorana Cirstea in the first round. Subsequently, she opted to take the college tennis route, majoring in anthropology at UCLA, where she was teammates with Jennifer Brady. Since graduating in 2016, Harrison's rise has been a patient one.
The Tennessee native first cracked the Top 300 in 2019, the year she won the first of her two ITF W25 titles to date; but with her ranking inching towards Grand Slam qualifying territory in 2020, Covid struck. But she has made a series of breakthroughs over the past year - qualifying for Cleveland last August; winning the Monterrey doubles title this March alongside Sabrina Santamaria. Harrison will bid for another when she takes on Arantxa Rus in the first round.
Mai Hontama (JPN)
A former Top 15 junior, Mai Hontama's pro breakthrough came last year when she compiled a 41-15 record to shoot from No.330 to No.150 over the course of 2021. Success on the ITF World Tour enabled the Japanese player to make her Grand Slam qualifying debut at the US Open, and she continued to excel on US hard courts in the autumn.
The tournament that put Hontama on fans' radar was the Chicago WTA 500 event last September, where she qualified for her first ever WTA main draw before upsetting Caroline Garcia and Shelby Rogers to make the quarterfinals. There, in her first match against a Top 10 opponent, she impressed with her battling baseline game and deft dropshots before falling to eventual champion Garbiñe Muguruza.
Highlights: Hontama d. Garcia, Chicago 2021 | Hontama d. Rogers, Chicago 2021
Hontama came within a set of making her Grand Slam main draw debut at the Australian Open this year, losing 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-3 to Zheng Qinwen in the final qualifying round. But at Wimbledon this week, the No.138-ranked 22-year-old pulled off two comebacks from a set down against Lizette Cabrera and Lulu Sun to hit another milestone. Hontama will open against Clara Tauson in the main draw.
Ylena In-Albon (SUI)
Back in 2019, a 20-year-old Ylena In-Albon was on the rise. That was the year in which the Swiss player won her first ITF W60 title in Kyoto, cracked the Top 200, played in the qualifying draws of Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open, and made her WTA main draw debut as a wildcard in Lugano. But In-Albon finished the year in a slump, losing 12 of her last 14 matches - and the following season, Covid struck the tour.
By the start of 2021, In-Albon's ranking had fallen to No.428, and she was back at ITF W15 level. But last year saw her put together an impressive resurgence, compiling a 56-26 record to finish the season at No.166.
In 2022, the Visp native has kept on going. She notched her first Top 100 win over Clara Burel at the Andrézieux-Bouthéon ITF W60 in January, won her 11th ITF title at the Saint-Gaudens ITF W60 in May, and reached her first WTA 125 quarterfinal on the grass of Gaiba two weeks ago. Additionally, her first match against a Top 50 opponent saw her push No.1 seed Camila Osorio to a third set in Bogota before cramping forced In-Albon to retire.
Consequently, the 23-year-old arrives at Wimbledon at a career high of No.110. Having gained direct entry to the main draw, In-Albon will start against No.28 seed Alison Riske.
Sonay Kartal (GBR)
After Emma Raducanu's shock victory at the US Open last year, a clip of a brilliant all-court rally she played as a nine-year-old went viral on social media. Raducanu's opponent - and the girl who nailed the winning pass - was fellow Briton Sonay Kartal, who has received a wildcard into this year's Wimbledon.
"We grew up playing each other," Kartal told PA News last year. "We'd be in the same national tournaments and we'd always end up meeting each other in the finals and we'd alternate almost every week who won."
As Raducanu's junior career took off, Kartal's teenage years were blighted by injury: a wrist problem that she struggled with between the ages of 14 and 17, and then two abdominal tears. She dipped her toe into the ITF World Tour in 2019, then did not compete professionally again until October 2021.
But since then, Kartal has been near-unstoppable. In the past eight months, the 20-year-old Londoner has compiled a 46-6 record, including six titles. Unranked last October, she has zoomed to a career high of No.228 this week after reaching her first ITF W100 semifinal in Ilkley.
Last year, another Raducanu parallel provided another promising omen for Kartal. Raducanu had won the UK Pro League domestic event in 2020 - a triumph that set her up for a breakout 2021. A month after Raducanu won the US Open, Kartal succeeded her erstwhile junior rival as the UK Pro League champion.
Kartal will open her first Wimbledon against Danka Kovinic, with a potential second-round meeting with No.1 seed Iga Swiatek on the line.
Yuriko Miyazaki (GBR)
As a teenager, Yuriko "Lily" Miyazaki grew up in the London suburb of New Malden, which is situated equidistant between Surbiton and Wimbledon. This year, Miyazaki's grass-court journey has also taken her from the ITF W100 at Surbiton four weeks ago to Wimbledon after she received a wildcard to make her Grand Slam debut.
It continues a breakout season for the 26-year-old, who qualified for her first WTA main draw in Lyon in February, then posted her first win at that level in Nottingham over Magdalena Frech. Along the way, Miyazaki has shown off an exciting style that blends an aggressive, flat forehand with creative shotmaking - a game that's well-suited to grass, as her tight loss to eventual Nottingham champion Beatriz Haddad Maia demonstrated three weeks ago.
Miyazaki, who represented Japan until this year, is the product of an international background. Born in Tokyo, her family moved to Switzerland when she was five years old, and then to London when she was 10. She played college tennis at Oklahoma University between 2014 and 2019 where she excelled academically, gaining first a bachelor's degree in mathematics and then a Masters in information technology management.
"I feel like I'm catching up on time," No.206-ranked Miyazaki told the LTA this month. "When I was 18 I wasn’t ready to go on tour. I was quite small and not as strong as the other girls, so four years in college really helped me."
Laura Pigossi (BRA)
Laura Pigossi played her first pro match in 2009, but as she began 2021, had yet to crack the Top 200 or win a title above ITF W10 level. But the past two years have been career-changing seasons for the Brazilian, now ranked No.124, who has gained direct entry into Wimbledon for the first time.
Pigossi's crowning glory was her Olympic bronze medal in doubles, partnering Luisa Stefani - a run that was all the more unexpected given that the duo only made the cut at the last minute, with their spot in the Tokyo draw confirmed just a week before the Games began. Having upset teams including No.4 seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jessica Pegula to make the semifinals, Pigossi and Stefani then saved four match points to overcome Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina 4-6, 6-4, [11-9] in the bronze medal play-off.
In singles, Pigossi also enjoyed a career-best season, cracking the Top 200 last November after compiling a 47-21 record. That set her up for a shock run to her first WTA final in Bogota this April, upsetting Dayana Yastremska and Camila Osorio along the way before falling to Tatjana Maria.
Pigossi will play the first grass-court match of her career against Kristina Kucova in the first round.
🤩La belle surprise YUE YUAN🤩— Open P2i Angers Arena Loire (@LoireOpen) December 10, 2021
Yue YUAN poursuit sa belle aventure, toujours aussi impressionnante depuis les qualifications ! 🇨🇳🔥
Elle obtient le 1er ticket des 1/2 finales ! 🎫
Plus d'infos ici 👉 https://t.co/RDMCDhEzF6 pic.twitter.com/Spz5LzgNxa
Yuan Yue (CHN)
As recently as last October, Yuan Yue was ranked No.326. The Chinese player, who made her WTA main draw debut as a wildcard at Tianjin 2018, had climbed to the edge of the Top 200 by February 2020 after a series of eye-catching results. These included an upset of Ons Jabeur, her firt Top 100 win, in 2019 Beijing qualifying, and a defeat of Eugenie Bouchard in 2020 Australian Open qualifying.
But then Covid struck, and when Yuan resumed international travel at the start of 2021, she struggled for form during her first overseas stint between January and July. But after a three-month spell at home, the 23-year-old was rejuvenated on European indoor courts in the autumn. Between October 2021 and January 2022, Yuan won 22 out of 27 matches, including her first WTA 125 semifinal in Angers last December and her first ITF W60 in Traralgon to kick off this season. Her ranking rose to a career high of No.141 in May.
At Wimbledon, Yuan fell in the final round of Grand Slam qualifying for the third time in her career (having made that stage at the Australian Open in 2020 and 2021). But this time, she gained entry to the main draw as a lucky loser following Wang Xinyu's withdrawal, and made her major debut against Amanda Anisimova in the first round.
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