Monday, August 24, 2009

US Open Day 1: The First Curtain Call

Curtain call
Player: Giovanni Lapentti
Nation: Ecuador
Age: 26
Current Ranking: #182
Tour Page:
Today's Match: loss to Simon Greul (Germany) in 5 sets, 7-6 in the 5th

Lapentti has been around for a while but this was his first US Open, having gained his spot as a qualifier, a distinction explained further below. He is the younger brother of Nicolas Lapentti, a former Top 10 player who is also in the draw.

The main draw of the tournament began today but for 128 players, the US Open began last Tuesday in the qualifying tournament. For those not fortunate enough to gain automatic admission to the main draw on the strength of their ranking or to receive a wild card or other exemption, the only way to get in is to play the qualies. 16 spots are up for grabs in each singles draw and a player must win three matches to get one of them. Other spots do occasionally become available due to injury but that's a discussion for another time.

There is little glory in the qualifying rounds. They're only playing for a chance to get to the big stage. Bear in mind, this is still high quality tennis with professional players. Fan admission to the qualifying tournament is free at the US Open as it is at many tournaments around the world. It's a great chance to see the sport in person without breaking the budget.

So, any player who makes it through has already accomplished a great deal. For many, the chance to play at a Slam tournament may come but once in a career. For many more, that chance may never come. For Giovanni Lapentti, reaching the US Open for the first time is worthy of praise in itself.

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