In professional tennis, past success, confidence and prize money do not guarantee future results; but they don’t hurt either. In the first day of the men’s 2018 US Open qualifying tournament, three former world top 40 players, who each have earned more than $4 million in career prize money, played against professional grinders with less than $400,000 in career earnings. Despite the lopsided historical statistics which connected these matches, the competition was strong. In three closely contested matches, two the past top 40 players advanced to the second round of the three-round qualifying tournament.
Christian Harrison Grabs one for the Little Guys
In the first match scheduled between prize money haves and have nots, upstart American Christian Harrison, winner of barely $315,000 in over 5 professional seasons and ranked #236 in the world, outlasted former world top ten player with career earnings in excess $6 million, Ernests Gulbis, 3-6 6-2 6-4. After splitting the first two sets and waiting out an injury timeout for Gulbis, serving at 3-4 in the deciding set, the underdog Harrison overcame a 0-40 score to knot the set at 4-4.The veteran Gulbis seemed to lose focus after the critical game, losing his service game on a double fault then played passively as Harrison served out the set and the match. One victory for the little guys.
Giraldo Begins his Return
Next, Colombian Santiago Giraldo, coming back from injury that limited him to only 3 matches in 2018, and using a protected ranking to gain entrance to the US Open qualies, looked to begin to regain the form that brought him nearly $4.4 million in career prize money and the 28th slot in the world rankings. Viktor Galovic of Croatia, despite winnings that are less than 10% of Giraldo’s and never having achieved a ranking inside the top 150, put up fierce resistance, losing both sets by the score 6-4. Each set reached 4-4 before Giraldo nabbed the critical break of serve, “I knew if I stayed confident, I would get my chances and I did,” reflected Giraldo as he discussed his late set toughness that allowed him to advance to Thursday’s semi-finals. A win for the big guys.
Young Takes Battle of the Lefties
The final rich man-poor man matchup of Day 1 of qualifying was between two left-handers, former World #38 and multi million dollar winner, American Donald Young, and German Mats Moraing–who has averaged less than $30,000 in winnings in five years as a professional, barely reaching a career high inside of the top 150 in the world rankings. Young streaked out to a quick lead and won the first set easily, 6-2. Some sloppy play by Young and powerful serving by Moraing led to a second set tiebreak won 7-2 by Young to cap off the straight set victory; the second for the big guys in this intriguing collection of Day 1 matches.
Veterans returning from injury or diminished play, journeymen with upsets and slots in Grand Slam main draws in their sights, and upstart youth looking to make their name all can converge in the qualies, so it was today with the rich guys taking two of three from the poor guys. 64 more hopefuls yearning for a qualifying spot in the main draw will be at it tomorrow on the courts at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.
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