2022-Wimbledon Qualifiers: A short distance from Centre Court, players dream of reaching the main draw

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That is Wimbledon — the third grand slam match of the calendar yr — however the venue and the rivals should not fairly as most understand it. At this tennis membership, the crowds are smaller, the cheers quieter, and the courts packed nearer collectively than on the All England Membership three miles away.

Whereas the Wimbledon important draw might not get underway till subsequent week, for greater than 250 gamers the journey to get there has already begun.

The four-day qualification match within the London district of Roehampton could be a golden ticket for the Wimbledon important stage — a spot at which some gamers have dreamed of competing their entire careers.

“And truly, the place we keep is true subsequent to the gate at Wimbledon. Every single day I am so shut — I can see it, however I have not truly been by way of the gates in 10 years, so that may clearly be wonderful to be there as soon as once more.”

Previous to Monday, Krueger had by no means gained a match on the Wimbledon qualifiers — affectionately referred to as “qualies.” However a 6-1 6-4 victory towards Britain’s Luca Pow noticed the 28-year-old take a small however vital step in the direction of the primary draw.

“I’ve performed lots of shut matches within the first rounds, however I’ve by no means truly received over the hump,” Krueger continues. “The truth that I used to be in a position to near out is admittedly huge. I am pumped to maintain my grass courtroom season going.”

Krueger competed in the boys' singles competition at Wimbledon in 2012.

Qualifying perks

Most gamers qualify for grand slams through their rating place, however as much as eight areas in every draw are reserved for wild playing cards — determined by the match organizers — and 16 for qualifiers, which means these ranked effectively outdoors the highest 100 have an unlikely shot at grand slam glory.

Till final yr, no qualifier had ever gained a grand slam title. However Emma Raducanu’s victory against Layla Fernandez within the US Open remaining produced one in every of tennis’ most well-known storylines because the then-18-year-old triumphed with out dropping a set throughout the course of the match.

Even progressing by way of qualification is not any imply feat. Gamers should both win all three of their matches, or hope they will choose up a spot as a “fortunate loser” after a late withdrawal from the primary draw.

“There’s at all times going to be some nerves, particularly for a slam, however I feel the benefit of coming by way of qualifying is you sort of get most of that behind you,” says Krueger, who first certified for the primary draw of a grand slam on the 2018 US Open.

“You will have three powerful matches underneath your belt, whereas everybody else is coming in with nothing. In the event you can deal with it bodily, it is undoubtedly a bonus to have the ability to qualify.”

Success in qualifying may also be a considerable payday for these decrease down rankings.

The lads’s and ladies’s qualifying singles have a mixed prize fund of £3,648,000 (round $4,465,000) — a 26% improve on 2021 — and simply attending to the primary spherical of the primary draw is sufficient to earn a one-off cost of £50,000 (round $61,000).

‘Dream come true’

At this yr’s Wimbledon qualifying, some courts have been kitted out with momentary stands, whereas at others, spectators are in a position to take up a viewing place meters from the motion, creating an intimate ambiance for the gamers.

Adjusting to the taking part in situations can take time — notably for these with restricted expertise on grass courts. Switzerland’s Alexander Ritschard, ranked No. 192 on the planet, is competing in simply his second grass-court match.

“It is tremendous completely different. I am completely not used to it,” Ritschard tells CNN Sport after his 4-6 6-1 6-2 victory towards Britain’s Stuart Parker. “Nevertheless it’s undoubtedly a enjoyable floor with bounces I’ve by no means seen earlier than. I really feel like I haven’t got as a lot ball management as I often do on different courts.

“I am additionally shocked that regardless of it being sort of quick, it is also sort of sluggish,” he provides. “I can not fairly make it out but — I am engaged on it.”

Ritschard plays a forehand during the first round of Wimbledon qualifying.

Ritschard has by no means performed in the primary draw of a grand slam, however he got here shut at this yr’s French Open when he misplaced within the third spherical of qualifying. To go one step additional at Wimbledon, he says, can be “very particular.”

“That will be a dream come true, for certain,” he says. “Rising up, you at all times discuss Wimbledon as a child.

“I might additionally simply like to play on the primary web site — that may be nice. These courts look attractive … The final time I used to be there I feel I used to be eight years previous, simply as a fan to go and watch. I do not fairly keep in mind what it appears to be like like.”

Rating factors

Some gamers competing in qualifying have already graced Wimbledon’s important stage. Ukrainian Daria Snigur gained the women’ singles title on Centre Courtroom three years in the past and is now bidding to compete in her first senior grand slam.

“I really like the grass courtroom,” she tells CNN Sport after profitable her opening qualifying match. “That is my favourite place … and grass is my favourite floor. In fact, I wish to play on the primary draw.”

Snigur is taking part in at Roehampton with the flag of Ukraine pinned to her tennis package and ideas of her homeland near her coronary heart.

Russian and Belarusian gamers have been banned from this year’s Wimbledon — a transfer that has proved divisive among players — and the ATP and WTA Excursions have responded by stripping the match of all rating factors.

Snigur is totally behind Wimbledon’s determination to exclude Russians and Belarusians, which she says is “essential” for her as a Ukrainian: “For me, it does not matter — with factors or with out factors,” she provides.

Snigur defeated Suzan Lamens in her opening qualifying match at Roehampton.

The elimination of rating factors from this yr’s Wimbledon hasn’t deterred gamers from competing within the match, which can embody 9 of the highest 10 gamers within the ladies’s rankings and 7 of the highest 10 within the males’s. The 4 absentees are as a consequence of damage and the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian gamers.

The match does have the added incentive of additional prize cash — the whole purse is simply over £40 million ($49 million), a 15.2% improve on final yr — however the status of competing at Wimbledon can also be an attract — as these taking part in at qualifying are totally conscious.

For some, simply stepping foot on the match’s manicured lawns is the belief of years-long goals.

“Wimbledon being Wimbledon, it is at all times going to be particular no matter no matter’s happening,” says Krueger. “Taking part in on the primary set of Wimbledon is everybody’s aim — it does not matter if there are factors or not.”

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