WTA Rogers Cup: Begu, Osaka, Vekic secure main draw berths; Canadian Zhao, top seed Rybarikova fall in final round of qualifying

A day before the official kickoff of main draw action at the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank, the remaining 28 players still in contention for a spot in the 64-player main draw battled it out Sunday at the Aviva Centre, with most of the matches delivering their fair share of surprises.

WTA Rogers Cup: Begu, Osaka, Vekic secure main draw berths; Canadian Zhao, top seed Rybarikova fall in final round of qualifying
Donna Vekic celebrates after winning a point during her final-round qualifying match against Patricia Maria Tig at the 2017 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. | Photo: Max Gao

Sunday marked the final day of qualifying action at the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank, with the remaining qualifiers still in contention for a spot in the main draw battling it out on a warm and pleasant second day of action at the Aviva Centre on the campus of York University. While second, third and fifth seeds Irina-Camelia Begu, Naomi Osaka and Donna Vekic all secured berths in this week’s main draw, top seed Magdalena Rybarikova and the last Canadian standing, Carol Zhao, did not share similar fortunes.

Rybarikova Falls to Resilient Lepchenko; Alexandrova Ends Zhao’s Hopes

In the first match of the day on Court 4, top seed Magdalena Rybarikova saw her qualifying hopes come to an end as the recent Wimbledon semifinalist met her match in 14th-seeded American Varvara Lepchenko, falling 7-5, 6-0. In what turned out to be a very eventful opening set, Rybarikova actually thrice found herself up a break but just couldn’t seem to hold onto the advantage as Lepchenko refused to go down quietly, making life very difficult for the Slovak. But it wasn’t until the tenth game of the opening set that things really took a decisive turn in the favour of the left-handed American as Rybarikova, serving for the set, just couldn’t take her chances, thus allowing Lepchenko to take control of the match from there. Reeling off the last nine games in a row, the American swiftly breezed into the main draw, dropping just five points in the shutout second set.

Ekaterina Alexandrova hits a drop shot during her final-round qualifying match at the 2017 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. | Photo: Max Gao
Ekaterina Alexandrova hits a drop shot during her final-round qualifying match at the 2017 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. | Photo: Max Gao

Later in the day, all Canadian hopes laid on the shoulders of 22-year-old Canadian Carol Zhao, the last Canadian left standing in qualifying after day one, as she took on big-serving Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova for a spot in the main draw. Despite putting up a strong fight, the world number 414 was ultimately no match for the unseeded Russian, who went 4/6 on break points to end the qualifying hopes of the host nation, earning a comfortable 6-2, 6-3 victory in just 62 minutes.

Flipkens Edges Out McHale in Three-Set Thriller for Main Draw Berth

In arguably the match of the day, 22nd-seeded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens appeared to have things all under control when she served for the match against American Christina McHale, a set and 5-4 to the good, before the resilient American hit back, reeling off three games in a row to force an unexpected decider. After a tense first couple of games of the third, it was Flipkens who would use her variety and notable experience to charge ahead once more before eventually clinching the victory in front of a full house on Court 1, edging McHale, 6-1, 5-7, 6-3.

Kirsten Flipkens hits one of her signature backhand slices during her final-round qualifying match at the 2017 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. | Photo: Max Gao
Kirsten Flipkens hits one of her signature backhand slices during her final-round qualifying match at the 2017 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. | Photo: Max Gao

Begu, Osaka, Vekic, Cirstea Advance; Doi Falls to Unseeded Colombian Duque-Mariño

Elsewhere on day two, Romanians Irina-Camelia Begu and Sorana Cirstea both advanced within minutes of each other: Begu, seeded second, survived a tight opening set to cruise past Australian teenager Lizette Cabrera, 6-4, 6-2, while seventh-seeded Cirstea edged out big-hitting Camila Giorgi, 6-4, 6-4, with a break in the final game of both topsy-turvy sets enough to secure the victory for the former finalist.

Later in the day, fifth-seeded Croat Donna Vekic joined the likes of Begu and Cirstea in the main draw with an impressive victory over another Romanian in Patricia Maria Tig, securing her place with a comprehensive 6-4, 6-2 victory that saw her break four times and dominate on her own serve, winning 81% of the points behind her booming first serve.

Naomi Osaka celebrates after winning a point during her final-round qualifying match at the 2017 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. | Photo: Max Gao
Naomi Osaka celebrates after winning a point during her final-round qualifying match at the 2017 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. | Photo: Max Gao

Meanwhile, third seed Naomi Osaka was forced to battle from a set down to secure her spot in the main draw, defeating dangerous Czech Barbora Krejcikova, 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-0. After a nightmarish opening set, the Japanese number one was forced to dig deep, trading holds with the Czech youngster for the entire set and even saving a match point on her own serve in the tenth game before taking it in a topsy-turvy breaker, 7-4. From there, Osaka seemed to shift into a new gear, overwhelming Krejcikova with her easy power to clinch a shutout final set and with it, an elusive spot in this week’s main draw.

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the day, Colombian Mariana Duque-Mariño came from a set down to stun 20th seed Misaki Doi, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, much to the delight of a strong Colombian contingent that packed the stands of Court 4. Doi seemed to have things well under control after going a set to the good before surrendering a late break in the second that would later prove decisive for the 27-year-old Colombian in forcing a decider. In a roller coaster final set, it was ultimately Duque-Mariño who was able to hold her nerve, using a vital break in the ninth game to close out the match in the ensuing game, winning 6-4 in the third.

Mariana Duque-MariƱo celebrates after winning a point during her final-round qualifying match at the 2017 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. | Photo: Max Gao
Mariana Duque-Mariño celebrates after winning a point during her final-round qualifying match at the 2017 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. | Photo: Max Gao

Other players to qualify on day two included eighth seed Ashleigh Barty, 12th seed Lara Arruabarrena, 17th seed Heather Watson and unseeded American Sachia Vickery. While Arruabarrena, Watson, and Vickery were able to hold off late charges from their respective opponents to clinch straight-set wins, Barty was forced to go the distance, recovering from a blowout opening set to eventually down American Madison Brengle, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Qualifiers Placed in Main Draw

Here are where the 14 qualifiers landed in the main draw:

[Q] Osaka vs. [Q] Watson

[Q] Vickery vs. [Q] Alexandrova

[Q] Vekic vs. Eugenie Bouchard

Katerina Siniakova vs [Q] Duque-Mariño

[Q] Begu vs. [9] Venus Williams

Océane Dodin vs. [Q] Barty

Ana Konjuh vs. [Q] Flipkens

[Q] Cirstea vs. Caroline Garcia

[Q] Lepchenko vs. [12] Jelena Ostapenko

Daria Gavrilova vs. [Q] Arruabarrena

Donna Vekic hits a forehand during her final-round qualifying match at the 2017 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. | Photo: Max Gao
Donna Vekic hits a forehand during her final-round qualifying match at the 2017 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. | Photo: Max Gao

Of all the first-round matches that will feature a qualifier, the one that features Osaka and Watson—a battle of the qualifiers on Monday morning—and Vekic’s clash with Canadian number one Genie Bouchard on Tuesday night could be matches to highlight on anyone’s list.


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