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Qualifiers shine in main draw upsets

Camila Giorgi
by Vivienne Christie
Monday 25 June 2012

Far from the spotlight and a long way removed from the thousands of supportive fans who flocked to the All England Club on Monday, some committed competitors had already claimed three qualifying match wins to earn their entry into Wimbledon’s main draw.

As 20-year-old Camila Giorgi showed in a first-round upset of 16th seed Flavia Pennetta, that hard work in the qualifying path can lead to some stunning rewards.

At world No.145, Giorgi is the seventh-ranked Italian behind a string of her increasingly influential countrywomen on tour and could easily have been intimidated by her vastly more experienced and highly credentialed opponent.

But qualifying offers a chance to gain match play, momentum and – perhaps most importantly – confidence. All of those factors showed as the younger Italian took just 66 minutes to claim the 6-4, 6-3 win.

Other qualifiers had to toil harder, but the results were no less rewarding.  The 152nd-ranked Spaniard Inigo Cervantas showed how much it meant to compete in his first Wimbledon, battling from a two-sets deficit to defeat the higher-ranked Italian Flavio Cippolla 2-6, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2, 6-1.

Guillame Rufin, also showed his ability to back up his qualifying run with a hard fought main draw win; the 168th Frenchman overcoming world No.63 Steve Darcis 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in three hours and 41 minutes – an impressive effort given it was also Rufin’s Wimbledon debut.

Ruben Bemelmans, a 22-year-old Belgian, was similarly stretched as he overcame Argentina’s Carlos Berocq 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-7(2). It was a win that must have been particularly satisfying given Bemelmans, who achieved a career-high ranking of world No.152 earlier this month, qualified for Wimbledon last year but lost in the first round.

In a high-stakes encounter between two qualifiers, Jerzy Janowiz, a 21-year-old from Poland, claimed his first Grand Slam win over Italian Simone Bolelli.

But no qualifier would have valued his first-round win more than Michael Russell, who at age 34 is among the 34 men aged 30 or above competing in Wimbledon’s main draw. The American played professional tennis for 14 years before progressing to his first tour-level semi-final in Houston earlier this year. His straight-sets win over Adrian Menendez-Maceira – another qualifier – marked another milestone in his best season to date.

Ryan Sweeting, another American qualifier, also progressed when Italian opponent Potito Starace retired injured after just 10 games.

Not every qualifier, though, could claim victory but many will use their first-round matches as springboards to further success in the months ahead – particularly after pushing some highly credentialed opponents.

Jimmy Wang, a 28-year-old from Chinese Taipei, stretched 17th seed Fernando Verdasco to a first set tiebreak.  Vesna Dolonc took a set from Tsvetana Pironkova in the women’s draw, and Sandra Zaniewska stretched the seeded Shuai Peng to a 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-3 win.

Amid the inevitable disappointment with their Wimbledon run coming to an end, none could truly complain about the path that had taken them this far. 

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