Polish Players Win First Tour Titles – Mondays with Bob Greene

Mondays with Bob Greene (Courtesy of WorldTennisMagazine.com)

STARS

Hubert Hurkacz beat Benoit Paire 6-3 3-6 6-3 to win the Winston-Salem Open in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA

Magda Linette beat Camila Giorgi 5-7 7-5 6-4 to win the NYJTL Bronx Open in New York, New York, USA

SAYINGS

“I was really surprised how many Polish people are around here, so I’m really thankful for them, that they came and supported me. It’s great because we don’t have a tournament in Poland, we’re not really used to having a home crowd.” – Magda Linette, who won the NYJTL Bronx Open.

“She’s our Jackie Robinson of tennis. I saw what it meant to be the best.” – Billie Jean King, who at 13 watched Althea Gibson play. A statute of Gibson, who broke tennis’ color barrier, will be unveiled on opening day at the US Open.

“For me, I love tennis. Sometimes I feel like I don’t, but I wake up every morning and if I don’t play, I feel like I’ve done nothing during the day.” – Naomi Osaka, the defending US Open women’s champion.

SNARES FIRST TITLE

Hubert Hurkacz won his first ATP World Tour title when he stopped top-seeded Benoit Paire to capture the Winston-Salem Open. The 22-year-old Hurkacz is the first Polish man to win a tour-level tournament since Wojtek Fibak won in Chicago in 1982. The champion beat four straight seeded opponents in the final week before the US Open begins its two-week run. “It’s a huge win for me today,” Hurkacz said. “Benoit is an amazing player, so it is a really great win for me. … I had to fight a lot, but I am so excited that I lifted my first trophy here.” In all three sets the first two games began with consecutive breaks of serve. And the match was slightly delayed by rain before the decisive set. Hurkacz played his best tennis in the final set, breaking Paire at love with deep returns. He converted his first match point when Paire netted a forehand. “For me it was a good week,” Paire said. “Honestly, I could have lost I (my second match), so it was really good to be in the final.”

SUPER WEEK FOR POLAND

It was a great week for Polish tennis. Not only did Hubert Hurkacz win in Winston-Salem, Polish qualifier Magda Linette captured the NYJTL Bronx Open in New York City, rallying from behind to down Italy’s Camila Giorgi. “I’m 27, so it’s not super super young,” Linette said after winning her first career WTA tournament. “So, it means really a lot. It gives a lot of boost, you know, for the confidence, and also a reward. Finally, it’s a reward for us, for all the hard work.” The champion played eight matches, including three rounds of qualifying. And Giorgi, who won their only other matchup, took the opening set. But Linette wo the first three games before Giorgi broke back to level the score at 4-4. Linette then broke back in the 12th game to level the match at one set apiece. Giorgi got the early break and led 3-2. It was all Linette after that as the Pole won the final four games. “I think it was a lot with the confidence,” Linette said. “I’ve played in practices with many top players and I know I’m able to beat them. But when I went to the matches, something was missing. And that was confidence.”

SICK BAY

Two former Grand Slam tournament finalists will miss this year’s US Open because of injuries. Canada’s Milos Raonic, the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up, pulled out because of an injured glute muscle. He was replaced in the men’s singles draw by Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak, who lost in qualifying.

Kevin Anderson withdraw with an injured right knee. The 33-year-old South African was runner-up to Rafael Nadal in the 2017 US Open and to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year. Anderson, who was seeded 16th, hasn’t played since losing in the third round of Wimbledon in July. He was replaced in the main draw by lucky loser Paolo Lorenzi of Italy.

An injured right foot forced Germany’s Mona Barthel out of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Her spot in the women’s singles draw was taken by 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, who lost in qualifying but now will compete in her 11th US Open. Barthel hasn’t played since losing her opening match at Lausanne, Switzerland, last month.

STATUE OF ALTHEA

Althea Gibson not only broke the racial barrier in tennis, she dominated the women’s field in 1956-58, winning 11 titles, including the French, Wimbledon and United States Championships, now the US Open. That was a decade before Arthur Ashe became the first black man to win the inaugural US Open in 1968. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) unveiled a statue of Gibson on the first day of this year’s tournament. Among those expected to attend the ceremony was Angela Buxton of Great Britain, Gibson’s doubles partner. “It’s about bloody time,” said the 85-year-old Buxton, who teamed with Gibson to win the French and Wimbledon doubles titles in 1956. When she retired from tennis two years later, Gibson had won 50 singles and doubles titles. But that was before the professional era began in 1968, so she broke the color line in women’s golf, joining the LPGA. No other African American woman won the US Open until Serena Williams in 1999 or Wimbledon until Venus Williams in 2000.

SET FOR SINGLES

Since he reached the semifinals at the Australian Open, Hyeon Chung of Korea has missed so much time because of a back injury that he had to qualify to gain a spot in this year’s US Open men’s singles. He missed more than five months due to a back injury and his ranking fell outside the top 150. Chung began his comeback by winning an ATP Challenger Tour event before traveling to New York. He beat Mikael Ymer of Sweden 6-1 6-3 to qualify for the main draw.

Other men’s singles qualifiers included 18-year-old American Jenson Brooksby, Italy’s Jannick Sinner; Elliot Benchetrit and Gregoire Barrere, France; Soonwoo Kwon, Korea; Ilya Ivashka and Ego Gerasimov, Belarus; Santiago Giraldo, Colombia; Evgeny Donskoy, Russia; Tobias Kamke and Dominik Koepfer, Germany; Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Spain; Sumit Nagal, India; Jiri Vesely, Czech Republic; and Marco Trungelliti, Argentina.

Joining two Americans, Caroline Dolehide and Taylor Townsend, in qualifying for the women’s singles draw were Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan; Magdalena Frech, Poland; Jana Cepelova, Slovakia; Peng Shuai and Wang Xinyu, China; Johanna Larsson, Sweden; Ana Bogdan, Romania; Mariam Bolkvadze, Georgia; Denisa Allertova and Tereza Martincova, Czech Republic; Harriet Dart, Great Britain; Timea Babos, Hungary; Richel Hogenkamp, Netherlands; and Anna Kalinskaya, Russia.

SENIOR FED

By playing in his 19th US Open, Roger Federer is closing in on another record. The Swiss star, then 19, made his US Open debut in 2000, losing to another promising youngsters, Juan Carlo Ferrero of Spain. Federer won five consecutive titles between 2004-08 and 85 matches. This year he’s seeded third, behind defending champion Novak Djokovic and French Open winner Rafael Nadal. Both also have won the US Open. Having just turned 38, Federer is now third behind two Americans on the most US Opens played. Jimmy Connors holds the mark, playing in 22 Opens, while Andre Agassi retired at the US Open in 2006 after playing in his 21st straight main draw appearance. Frenchman Fabrice Santoro played in 18 US Opens.

SET FOR DOUBLES

Youngsters Coco Gauff and Caty McNally will be seeking to add to their winning streak as a doubles team. The 15-year-old Gauff and 17-year-old McNally were granted a doubles wild card by the USTA. Each previously was given a wild card for the singles draw also. Last year, Gauff and McNally won the US Open junior girls doubles title. Then then paired up and won their first WTA trophy, capturing the doubles title at the Citi Open in Washington, DC, earlier this month.

SEEKING MATCHES

Great Britain’s Andy Murray is looking for work. Returning to the game after undergoing hip surgery earlier this year, Murray has decided to play a Challenger event in Mallorca, Spain, in order to get more singles matches. With his ranking of 329th in the world, Murray is ranked lower than any of the 41 players who earned direct entry into the Rafa Nadal Open. With most players competing in the US Open qualifying and main draw, the Mallorca tournament did not receive enough applications to run the usual qualification tournament. As a result, Murray’s first match will be against 17-year-old Imran Sibille, who is training at the Rafa Nadal Academy, which is hosting the event. Sibille does not have an ATP ranking and won total of USD $150 in his career.

SET ASIDE

Umpire Carlos Ramos will not be in the chair in any US Open matches involving either Serena or Venus Williams. Last year, Ramos officiated the women’s final when Naomi Osaka beat Serena 6-2 6-4. Ramos assessed Williams a penalty game, which gave Osaka a 5-3 lead in the second set. “This is our collective decision,” USTA president Stacey Allaster said in announcing Ramos would not umpire any Williams family matches. “We want to focus on the competition.” US Open tournament referee Soren Friemel said the tournament has made similar decisions in the past. “It’s not the first time that we made decision where it’s good for the tournament, good for the players, good for the umpires as well, to not be on those matches,” Friemel said, noting that Ramos “has worked all the other Grand Slams, he has done Davis Cup, Fed Cup, he’s going to the Davis Cup finals. He’s considered still for all high-profile matches.

SIGNED FOR TOKYO?

Japan could have a high-profile mixed doubles team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. There’s a small possibility that Kei Nishikori, the UP Open runner-up in 2014, could team with defending US Open women’s champion Naomi Osaka for the fight for the gold next year. “I will play men’s doubles, for sure,” Nishikori said. “With that condition – very hot, very humid – playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can. I haven’t (had to) think too much yet honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

SHARED PERFORMANCES

New York: Darija Jurak and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Margarita Gasparyan and Monica Niculescu 7-5 2-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Winston-Salem: Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo beat Nicholas Monroe and Tennys Sandgren 6-7 (6) 6-1 10-3 (match tiebreak)

SURFING

New York: https://www.usopen.org/index.html
New Haven: http://ww1.oracelchallengerseries.com/
Genova https://www.challengergenova.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

MEN and WOMEN

US Open, New York, New York, USA, hard (first week)

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

MEN

US Open, New York, New York, USA, hard (second week)
$162,480 Jinan Open, Jinan, China, hard
$162,480 Oracle Challenger, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard
$153,218 Aon Open Challenger, Genova, Italy, clay

WOMEN

US Open, New York, New York, USA, hard (second week)
$162,480 Oracle Challenger, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

Hubert Hurkacz

Hubert Hurkacz