Jamie Loeb very “up” in her run through Chicago qualifying
(September 3, 2018) CHICAGO-Jamie Loeb has had an “up and down” year by her own admission. Ending 2017 ranked No. 139 in the WTA, she had high hopes for 2018. But after reaching the final at the $100,000 tournament in Midland, Michigan, she has failed to reach an ITF semifinal and failed to qualify in her five attempts at WTA-level events. Three of those events were majors, and in each case she fell to a former Top 25 player in the second or final round of qualifying.
But over the past two days at the XS Tennis Village, Loeb won two matches to become the first player to qualify for the inaugural Chicago WTA $125K – a mixed event alongside the ATP Challenger Series. In the second and final round of qualies, Loeb played what she called “one of her top-five matches ever to beat hard-hitting Asia Muhammad 6-1, 6-2. Loeb was fortunate to finish before multiple delays in weather (including a tornado warning) forced the event to finish qualifying indoors – a necessary move for an tournament already shortened by a day in order to accommodate players who were in the US Open.
Jamie Loeb (@jloeb308) was kind enough to give an interview immediately after her FRQ win at the Chicago @OracleChallngrs pic.twitter.com/racMcskPPL
— J?NATHAN (@jokelley_tennis) September 3, 2018
Loeb was one of 25 former and current collegiate players in the qualifying draw, and 11 others are in the singles draws. The first day of qualies featured three college conference show-downs, and all were tight matches:
* Pac 12 – Robin Anderson UCLA d. Maria Sanchez USC 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 (first qualifying round)
* Big 10 — Jared Hiltzik (University of Illinois) d. Strong Kirchheimer (Northwestern) 7-5, 7-6(9) (first qualifying round)
* SEC – Sekou Bangoura d. Tom Jomby (University of Kentucky) 6-4, 6-4 (second qualifying round)
On Monday, Anderson then played the most dramatic match of the qualifying tournament, winning in a final set tiebreak against her American compatriot Kayla Day to reach the main draw. Day was up 6-2, 2-1 (up a break) before the long weather haitus, and the new conditions seemed to suit the New Jerseyan Anderson. She rolled off a string of games to win the second set 6-3 and went up a break in the third before Day mounted a comeback. Day, and 18-year-old lefty from Santa Barbara, California, even had match point on Anderson’s serve, but missed the return long. Two points later, Anderson held; the final set tiebreak went back and forth until Anderson finally prevailed 7-5.
Anderson had gone up a break in the third, but missed some key put-away shots as she’d done throughout the set. “I was down 6-5 and was about to serve and was thinking that I should have been up 5-3 [earlier], I had a couple of swinging volleys that I missed right on top of the net. But I had to put that aside and try to go forward.”
Bangoura followed up his win with an upset of No. 2 seed Kaichi Uchida to reach the main draw, but 2013 NCAA champion Giron came up just short against Frenchman Hugo Nys.
Muggy conditions contributed to three retirements over the two days, including top qualifying seed Mikael Ymer, who was showing the effects of dehydration in the first few games of his match against Venezuela’s #1 player, Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace.
Other highlights from the qualifying rounds:
- Michaela Krajicek has been at this a long time (with some breaks involved). She lost her first round qualifying match in straight sets to Irina Falconi but will play doubles and will also be in Quebec City next week.
- University of Illinois men’s tennis head coach Brad Dancer was on hand on Day 1 to watch 8 former and current Illini take the court. Several won matches but Ruan Roloefse was the only U of I guy to make the main draw, as a lucky loser.
- In the final match of the day, former Stanford Cardinal star Kristie Ahn came back from a set and two breaks down to beat former Notre Dame Fighting Irish star Quinn Gleason 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in two hours and 31 minutes.
Jonathan Kelley is in Chicago covering the Oracle Challenger Series tournament for Tennis Panorama News.