American youngsters Sebastian Korda, 20, and J.J. Wolf, 21, secured their first main-draw berths at the ATP Masters 1000 level after remarkable victories in the final round of qualifying at the Western & Southern Open Friday in New York.
World No. 224 Korda, the 6’ 5” son of former Australian Open champion Petr Korda, won 11 straight games after dropping the opening set to stun veteran Frenchman Gilles Simon 3-6, 6-0, 6-1. Korda’s only tour-level main draw appearance to this point was a first-round loss at the 2018 New York Open.
With his father flying in for his next match, Korda will play fellow qualifier, Finnish 21-year-old Emil Ruusuvuori, in the first round.
“It’s definitely awesome, especially after all the time off,” Korda said. “It wasn’t easy mentally. I’m super happy to get through. It’s a big opportunity for me and I’m really excited to get out there and keep fighting.
“The first set was really close. We both had some break points. Second and third sets I played a little better and I think he was struggling a little bit on serve.”
Wolf, a native of Cincinnati, the traditional home of the tournament, will see his tour-level debut happen at the elite Masters 1000 level. The World No. 144 rallied from a set down Friday to beat highly rated 23-year-old Spaniard Jaume Munar 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. The match was a stark contrast to his emphatic 52-minute dismissal of Belarusian Egor Gerasimov on Thursday.
“It means the world to me, especially being the Cincinnati tournament, even if it’s not based in Cincinnati this year,” said Wolf, who fell in the final round of qualifying at the tournament the past two years. “It’s still very close to my heart and I wouldn’t want it to be anywhere else. To get over this hump is a big breakthrough for me.
“That’s what I practise for. I’ve always wanted to play against the best guys in the world. They know exactly what their game is and how to execute it. I want to one day be up there.”
Wolf will play veteran Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the first round.
Americans went four-for-four Friday, with Orlando-based MacKenzie McDonald clawing out a 6-7(0), 7-5, 7-6(5) win over German Dominik Koepfer. Californian World No. 102, Marcos Giron, who has just five tour-level wins, also rallied from a set down to defeat Frenchman Gregoire Barrere 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4.
In a cruel twist of fate, McDonald and Giron were drawn to play each other in the first round.
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Ruusuvuori will also make his Masters 1000 main-draw debut after Brazilian opponent Thiago Monteiro retired trialing 4-6, 1-2. Just 14 months ago Ruusuvuori was outside the Top 400. But after winning four Challenger titles he is now just one place away from cracking the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. In the first round of qualifying he ousted veteran Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-0, 6-4.
“It’s a good achievement. My team and I chose to play all the big tournaments as much as possible, just to be around with these top guys and play against them,” Ruusuvuori said. “I played well in my first two matches here, so I’ll try to do it again and we’ll see how it goes.”
Main draw play begins 11 a.m. Saturday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, with the men’s singles final set for Friday, 28 August. The US Open will follow, beginning 31 August.