Quest to Qualify with Irina Falconi: Wimbledon Scoop on Qualies vs Main Draw Luxuries

Follow American tennis player Irina Falconi in this “Quest to Qualify” player blog as she continues her journey through Europe playing Wimbledon qualifying this week. Currently ranked No. 182 in singles and 71 in doubles and traveling the tour most weeks of the year, she’s lost or damaged her smartphone more times than she wants to admit! So she’s glad she can rely on Protect Your Bubble’s Gadget Insurance to quickly cover her every need. Follow Falconi on Twitter for more of her fun insights at @IrinaFalconi! (Catch Part 1 of her blog here.)

Happy Monday everyone!!

Before I get started, I want to just suggest a music video for everyone to watch. The name of the song is “Waiting All Night” by Rudimental ft. Ella Eyre. No, they didn’t pay me to promote them on my blog, I just think it’s an awesome video about overcoming a life change. The video is based on a real life-story so it’s pretty intense, but the song itself is super as well.

Now that we’re all inspired, back to a little something called Wimbledon, right?

I’ve been in my place for a few nights now, and I’ve already started calling it “home” oddly enough. The reason why any tennis player has a hotel room is to sleep pretty much. I’m not trying to state the obvious but there can be days (especially during Wimbledon) where you can stay on site the entire day.

Irina Falconi on Skype with her cat

Irina Falconi on Skype with her cat

Two years ago, I remember finishing a match, and about two minutes after I was done, the rain started. It didn’t stop for three days. How do you think us tennis players possibly deal with that? The answer is internet. And books. Lots of music. And games. Cards, Uno, backgammon, and the wonderful Skype. I mean, how do you say “decline” to a Skype video call from your cat? I don’t think that it’s possible.

Anyway, so here we are, playing in Roehampton. Not in Wimbledon, you ask? Oh no, sir. Wimbledon is so prestigious that you HAVE to be in the main draw (whether doubles or singles) to have access to the Wimbledon grounds. They don’t play around over here. Granted, the Roehampton courts are super nice, but there’s something almost magical about Wimbledon. It’s a combination of tradition and prestige, along with the amount of history and the all-white code. Gets you every time. I have discussed with players before about which Grand Slam they would like to win if they could choose, and a lot of the times it’s Wimbledon.

Roehampton is about ten minutes away from Wimbledon. At first it looks like there is just a huge grass field, and nothing but fields. But if you look past the field, you’ll see these green six foot curtains that hide the beautifully kept grass courts. The practice courts are even past that, and they too, have been kept nicely until us crazy tennis players come, and go nuts on the baseline. The baselines and service lines look like dirt patches by the end of the qualifying tournament.

Irina Falconi on the greens of Roehampton

Irina Falconi on the greens of Roehampton

There are a few differences between Bank of England (Roehampton) and the All England Club (Wimby.) For one, the facilities. Two, the size. And three, the most obvious: it’s NOT Wimbledon.

Now, now, I don’t want to step on any toes here, or make anyone upset, but I have a feeling the fans should know the difference between qualifying and main draw.

The joy of qualifying at Wimbledon is super thrilling. I remember two years ago when I qualified, it was the best thing ever. I had never been so happy. For having only played one pro tournament previous to Wimby qualis that year, it was truly amazing. For me, it was more the idea of being able to be at Wimbledon that gave me the most incentive. The locker rooms are nicer there, the atmosphere is brighter, and you stakes are higher.

As many will attest to, qualifying is amazing. That last match, that last point, is legendary. But think about it, it’s all about that first match! Once you have that one under your belt, I feel that it’s anybody’s game. Why? Because grass is so different from any other surface. Clay can be grindy. You can get it together in the third set if need be, and get it done. Hard can be anybody’s game as well, depending on how fast the hard court is. Grass? I mean, it can change in a second. I know that overall the women’s game is just a game of momentum, but it can go so so quick. There are matches that could have gone 6-2, 6-3, and finished in about 40 minutes. That’s unheard of in a clay court match due to its slower pace.

It’s all about the first match. That first point. That first serve or return. That is when the tension is most high. By the third match, you have found a sort of grass groove, and it’s anybody’s game. But get that first match, and as British recording artist Ellie Goulding would say, “Anything could happen.”