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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Veterans Move Closer to Main Draw Berths at US Open; Britton, Buchanan Get World Class Tests in First Round Next Week

With one notable exception, it wasn't the youngsters or the wild cards that made the biggest impact in the second round of qualifying Thursday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It was three U.S. veterans who survived of the women's side, all of them seeded: Angela Haynes (27), Carly Gullickson (25) and Shenay Perry (24). Perry was given a real test by University of Florida freshman and wild card Lauren Embree, who kept the 25-year-old Floridian on the court nearly two and a half hours before falling 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 6-4. Perry will play No. 9 seed Pauline Parmentier of France in Friday's final round of qualifying.

Wild cards Asia Muhammad and Kristie Ahn lost in straight sets, leaving 15-year-old Laura Robson of Great Britain as the only wild card still playing in either men's or women's qualifying. Robson defeated Aniko Kapros of Hungary 6-4, 7-5 Thursday and will become the youngest player in the main draw if she can get by Eva Hrdinova of the Czech Republic Friday. The BBC posted this story about Robson's victory today.

On the men's side, four U.S. players have reached the final 32: Donald Young, Scoville Jenkins, Jesse Witten and Michael Yani. Jenkins won the battle of the former Kalamazoo 18s champions, defeating wild card Michael McClune 6-3, 6-4, while Donald Young, a two-time winner at Kalamazoo in 2005 and 2006, defeated Spain's Guillermo Olaso 7-5, 6-2 in an evening match that Ken Thomas broadcast on radiotennis.com. Young plays Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic on Friday, while Jenkins faces the challenge of No. 1 seed Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil.

Both Yani and Witten got off to very slow starts in their second round matches, but were able to adjust to take the last two sets. Yani overtook Raven Klaasen of South Africa 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-2 and Witten, who stopped by to chat with Ken Thomas after his match, came back for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 victory over No. 21 seed Stephane Bohli of Switzerland. The former Duke Blue Devil Yani will play another former collegiate star, Australia's Peter Luczak, who competed for Fresno State. Luczak, who is seeded No. 3, has been on a serious run on European clay this summer, and has raised his ranking to 78. Witten will play unseeded Alexander Peya of Austria in the final round of qualifying.

The draws were released at noon today in a 30-minute ESPNews program featuring Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez. NCAA champion Devin Britton didn't have to wait long to see his name, as he appeared immediately as five-time defending champion Roger Federer's first round opponent. The 18-year-old from Mississippi is at least assured of a televised Grand Slam debut. National junior champion Chase Buchanan drew No. 7 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.

The women's NCAA champion Mallory Cecil will make her debut as a professional against unseeded Tathiana Garbin of Italy. Cecil has decided not to return to Duke, and the Spartanburg, SC Herald-Journal talked with her about her decision and her opening round match in this story. Christina McHale, the national junior champion, also drew an unseeded player, Polona Hercog of Slovenia, who is 18.

For the complete draws, see usopen.org.

For additional coverage of the qualifying, see College Tennis Examiner.