By Brent Shearer
BRONX, New York (August 16, 2022) – Even when unseeded American Sophie Chang hit back-to-back aces in the final set tiebreaker in her first round qualifying match against Nigina Abduraimova on Monday at the New York Tennis and Learning $60K Bronx Open, she knew the match could still go either way.
“You can’t take anything for granted at this level, I knew I had to keep fighting,” said the 238th ranked Chang after her 6-4, 7-5 upset of her 12th seeded opponent from Uzbekistan.
Chang, a 25-year old from Maryland, eked out a break in the first set and held serve to secure it. In the second set, she was able to overpower Abduraimova, working the points to get in position to finish with her booming forehand.
“I’ve always been an aggressive player, Chang said. As the match went on, her pace off both sides, but especially on the forehand put her opponent in the position of having to block or come under the ball as the American’s pace didn’t give her time to come over the ball.
Chang is one match away from getting to the main draw in the Bronx. She is hoping to get a wild card into the US Open singles qualifying later this month. At 74, her doubles ranking is high enough to ensure that she will get into that event at the year’s final Slam.
But due to the impact of the pandemic on the WTA tour, there are more players with protected rankings than in a normal year, which may make the cut-off for singles wild cards lower this year, she said.
Chang credits her long-time coach, Baltimore-based Ross Coleman, as being instrumental in honing her game to the point where she is on the verge of making an impact in the majors. She also cites the USTA’s training center in Lake Nona, Florida for helping develop her game.
As a child she watched Federer and Sampras and was inspired by them as much as by Serena Williams and other WTA players because her dad and her brother always had the mens’ matches on.
In the second round of qualifying, Chang will face the 7th seed Anna Blinkova of Russia.
In other matches on Monday, local favorite Christina McHale of New Jersey lost 6-2, 6-2 to Yue Yuan of China, the third seed.