Saturday School: Most successful qualifiers of the 2018 WTA season

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When a player has entered a tournament as a qualifier, his/her primary goal is to make it to the main draw of that event. Qualifiers are usually players with rankings that are insufficient to get them a direct entry into the main draw. Even if a player makes it to the main draw, he/she faces a stern test of fitness since the level of play keeps on getting tougher after each round. Here is a list of the most successful players as qualifiers (minimum 7 matches played) in the 2018 WTA season:

KATERINA SINIAKOVA (W-L: 6-2, Win rate: 75%)

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Katerina Siniakova began the season ranked 47th and played her first tournament at Shenzhen where she finished as the runner-up. However, since then for a major part of the remainder of the season, Siniakova lost in early rounds, failing to make an impact on the circuit. When the Asian Swing began, Siniakova entered the main draws of Wuhan and Beijing as a qualifier. In both tournaments she played impressively and finished as the quarter-finalist in both the Chinese events. At Wuhan, she got wins over former World No.1, Garbine Muguruza and defending champion Caroline Garcia. At Beijing, she defeated then No.11 Kiki Bertens in the Round of 16. Out of the six wins that she got at combined Wuhan and Beijing, four of them came against Top 50 players. A successful run in the Premier events meant that the Czech would end her season at a career high ranking of World No.31.

 

BELINDA BENCIC (W-L: 7-2, Win rate: 71%)

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After winning the 2018 Hopman Cup partnering Roger Federer, Belinda Bencic began her 2018 tour ranked No.78 at the Australian Open. Bencic had a disastrous start to her season, losing both her Davis Cup ties and failing to win three matches on a trot up until Wimbledon. However, Bencic’s ranking was steadily on the rise and it was up at No.43 when she entered New Haven as a qualifier. She lost in the final qualifying round but made it to the main draw as a lucky loser. The Swiss reached the quarterfinals where she eventually lost to Aryna Sabalenka. At the start of the US Open, Bencic was ranked No.38, the highest ranking spot she gained this year. But what followed was a horrendous run for Bencic. She lost in the first round at US Open and layered it with consecutive first round loses at Wuhan, Tokyo and Linz. Now ranked No.47, Bencic entered the final tournament of her season at Luxembourg as a qualifier. This was the phase of the season where a completely contrasting Bencic compared to the rest of the season showed up. She made it to the main draw and worked her way to the finals at the loss of only one set. She finished as the second best at Luxembourg, losing to World No.9 Julia Goerges in the finals. The runner-up finish at Luxembourg helped the former World No.7 leap ten spots higher to No.37.

 

SOFIA KENIN (W-L 8-4, Win rate: 66.7%)

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Sofia Kenin was ranked No.108 at the start of the 2018 WTA season and by the end of it, she was the player who had played the most matches as a qualifier. Kenin began her season reaching the quarterfinals at Auckland. Indian Wells was the first tournament which she played as a qualifier this year. She reached the Round of 64 in the main draw but her run was enough to help her break into the Top 100. The following week at Miami, Kenin yet again gained entry as a qualifier and this time she reached the Round of 32 where she lost to Petra Kvitova. A couple of weeks before the Roland Garros, Kenin was the qualifier at Rome and Madrid but lost in the first round of the qualifying draws. As a qualifier, the American’s best run came at Mallorca where she made it till the semi-finals. She defeated top seed Caroline Garcia in the quarter-finals but lost to Tatjana Maria in the next round. Kenin leapfrogged to World No.76 before the start of Wimbledon. During the build-up to the US Open, Kenin lost in the second round of the qualifying draws at Montreal, Cincinnati and New Haven. However, she reached the ranking of No.62 after getting a direct entry into the main draw Quebec City and finishing as the semi-finalist. Yet, it wasn’t enough for her to get a direct entry into Wuhan where she entered as a qualifier. Kenin reached the Round of 16 at Wuhan but lost to Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets. Kenin jumped to No.51 after Wuhan and entered Beijing as a qualifier yet again. Kenin did not have a pretty end to her season as she lost in the opening round of the qualifying draw at China Open against Heather Watson and lost in the first round of the main draw to Sabalenka. Despite an unwanted end, Kenin, who began as the World No.108, ended her season within the Top 50 and currently seats at a career-high ranking of World No.49.

 

DANIELLE ROSE COLLINS (W-L: 6-3, Win rate: 66.7%)

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Danielle Rose Collins began her season ranked World No.162 and played her first tournament of the season at the Australian Open as a qualifier. She was defeated in the final qualifying round with a score of 6-0 6-1. She broke into the Top 100 after Indian Wells and entered Miami as a qualifier. There she had an amazing run and finished as the semi-finalist. Those seven consecutive match wins at Miami starting from the qualifying rounds helped her jump forty spots higher to No.53. She lost in the first round at Madrid against Aliaksandra Sasnovich after making it through the qualifying rounds. A week later, she entered Rome as a qualifier yet again but lost in the second round to Daria Kasatkina. After Rome, she was placed at No.44 in the rankings and got direct entry into the main draws of all events she entered in the remainder of the season. The American ended her season with a career high ranking of No.35

 

ALIAKSANDRA SASNOVICH, CAMILA GIORGI (W-L: 5-3, Win rate: 62.5%)

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Aliaksandra Sasnovich began her season ranked No.88 and began her season at Brisbane. Entering as a qualifier, Sasnovich broke into the main draw and defeated four Top 40 players to face Elina Svitolina in the finals. Svitolina won the match but Sasnovich’s dream start to the season helped her jump to No.56 in the rankings. The Bulgarian rose to No.46 in the rankings but her early round exits at Miami, Lugano, Prague and Madrid lead to her dropping to No.58. This meant she would enter Rome as a qualifier. Things got worse as there she lost in the first round of the qualifying draw. She found her form gradually in the grass season and worked her way to break into the Top 40. At Cincinnati, she entered as a qualifier and lost in the first round of the main draw. In the next week, she entered New Haven as a qualifier but lost in the second round to second seed Caroline Garcia. Sasnovich finished her season by reaching the quarterfinals at Moscow and a career high ranking of No.30.

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Camila Giorgi was seated at No.80 in the world at the start of the 2018 season. She lost her first match at Shenzhen in the main draw which led her to fall 20 spots below and on the cusp of elimination of the Top 100. She entered Sydney as a qualifier and reached the semifinals without dropping a set. After losing to Angelique Kerber in the semis, Giorgi improved her ranking to No.71. At Dubai, she lost in the second qualifying round and lost in the first round of the main draw at Miami. The Italian found form at Prague where she reached yet another semifinal. Giorgi was the World No.56 before Rome and entered the clay court event as a qualifier. She lost in the second round of the qualifying draw and fell a spot below to No.57. Giorgi was the eighth seed at Nottingham but lost in the Round of 32. She entered Birmingham as a qualifier but lost to World No.179 Oceane Dodin in the second round of the qualifying draw. She stumbled out of the Top 50 after this result. At Wimbledon, Giorgi stunned everyone by reaching the quarter-finals. The result helped her get to World No.40. At Cincinnati she still had to enter as a qualifier. She lost in the second round of the qualifying draw but made it to the main draw as a lucky loser and lost in the second round. The Italian entered New Haven as a qualifier and reached the Round of 16 but lost to lucky loser Belinda Bencic. After the Asian Swing, Giorgi was within the Top 35 in the rankings. She entered her final tournament of the season at Linz. Seeded fifth, Giorgi won the tournament to be ranked within the Top 30 at the end of the tournament. Giorgi is ranked No.26 in the world currently.

 


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