By Benjamin Snyder
The qualifying event of this year’s Western & Southern Open will kick off Saturday at 10:00a.m. at the Lindner Family Tennis Center with a number of Americans, including two Ohioans, headlining play.
Among the top names for American women entered the event is 2009 US Open quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin, the World No. 109. The Georgia native claimed her maiden WTA title earlier this year at Birmingham on grass.
World No. 74 Coco Vandeweghe, the No. 11 seed, is also enjoying a breakthrough summer and is one of the women competing for twelve spots into the main. She reached the Stanford final after fighting her way through the qualifying event. After advancing to the main draw, the New York City-native defeated former top-ranked Jelena Jankovic, the Cincinnati runner-up last year, and Yanina Wickmayer, a semifinalist at the US Open in 2009. In the championship match, Vandeweghe succumbed to recent London gold medalist and Wimbledon winner Serena Williams in straight sets.
No stranger to Williams’ style of play is reigning NCAA singles and doubles champion Nicole Gibbs of Stanford University. She lost to the 14-time major champion on her university’s courts 6-2, 6-1. Hailing from Cincinnati, Gibbs will enjoy a home court advantage as she attempts to advance to the main draw at the Lindner Family Tennis Center for the first time in her budding professional career.
Lauren Davis, another Ohio-native, joins Gibbs in her bid to claim a spot in the main draw of the WTA event. At 18-years old, the diminutive Davis, who stands at 5’2", secured career highlights earlier this season by advancing to the second round at Indian Wells and Roland Garros. She is currently ranked World No. 140, having been as high as No. 127 in June. Another qualifier from Mason, Ohio, Komal Safdar, who plays for Syracuse University, also received a wild card into the event.
Other noteworthy Americans in the draw include last year’s doubles champion Vania King, the No. 3 seed, Birmingham quarterfinalist Irina Falconi, former Top 30 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who is making a comeback after enduring a hip injury, 17-year old Madison Keys, and Baku runner-up Julia Cohen.
In addition, Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan will compete for a spot in the main tournament after enjoying two of the strongest runs of her career as the top seed. Shvedova qualified for and advanced to the second Roland Garros quarterfinal of her career. Only weeks later, she repeated the effort at the All England Club, claiming a "golden set," or winning 24 consecutive points, versus Roland Garros runner-up Sara Errani, along the way.
Britain’s Laura Robson, an Olympics silver medalist in mixed doubles with Andy Murray, and the tournament’s oldest entrant Kimiko Date Krumm, 41, of Japan are among other qualifying entrants.
On the men’s side, six Americans will fight in the 24-man event for one of seven spots into the main draw. Jack Sock, a recent quarterfinalist at Atlanta this summer and winner of the 2011 Mixed Doubles title at the US Open with Melanie Oudin, also makes an appearance.
Joining him is former World No. 15 Robby Ginepri, who advanced to the semifinals at the Western & Southern Open and US Open in 2005. While the oldest American qualifier is Michael Russell at age 34, the youngest entrant is 18-year old wild card recipient Christian Harrison, the younger brother of Ryan Harrison.
World No. 85 Jesse Levine and Rajeev Ram, another wild card qualifying recipient, round out the American men vying for main draw positions.
Another noteworthy entrant is Belgium’s David Goffin, who earned recognition at Roland Garros for making the fourth round. There, he pushed his idol and World No. 1 Roger Federer to four sets in his major event breakthrough. He followed the result by advancing to the third round at Wimbledon, defeating fellow Western & Southern Open qualifier Levine in the process.