Challenger Stars Making Noise At US Open Qualifying
At No. 226 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, Norrie is showing he belongs among the game's best. But this is far from a surprise considering his near-perfect run of form leading up to the last Grand Slam of the year.
Norrie is one of many players carrying successful summer hard-court swings on the ATP Challenger Tour into Flushing Meadows. A maiden title in nearby Binghamton and subsequent semi-final finish in Lexington have fueled the former Texas Christian University standout.
"I beat some great players in Binghamton and it ensured me that I'm at this level," Norrie told ATPWorldTour.com. "I just got out of college at the start of the summer and it's nice to know I can play with these boys. I played in Binghamton and Lexington which were really hot conditions, so it's perfect preparation. I feel in good shape to get through."
Under the tutelage of coach Facundo Lugones, Norrie has translated his success on the Challenger circuit to the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. He faces Go Soeda in the final round of qualifying on Friday, following a pair of straight-set wins over Alexander Bublik and Sekou Bangoura.
Norrie isn't the only player riding momentum from Challenger titles to US Open qualifying. #NextGenATP Aussie Akira Santillan is on a tear since lifting his first trophy in Winnetka last month, proceeding to claim his first ATP World Tour match wins in Newport and Los Cabos. A spot in his first Grand Slam main draw will be on the line when he faces American wild card JC Aragone on Friday, having battled past Sebastian Ofner and Uladzimir Ignatik.
Evan King and #NextGenATP Michael Mmoh are leading the American charge at their home Grand Slam. King is enjoying a breakthrough run to the final round of qualifying after years of battling on the ATP Challenger Tour. He enters on the heels of back-to-back quarter-finals in Floridablanca and Santo Domingo and a first ATP World Tour match win in Los Cabos.
Mmoh, meanwhile, is cruising towards the main draw, having dropped just eight combined games through his first two matches. The 19 year old is riding a seven-match win streak after clinching his second ATP Challenger Tour title earlier this month in Lexington. Mmoh and King will face off on Friday with a coveted main draw berth on the line.
"I'm over the moon," said King. "I've been on a roll this summer and I'm glad to stay true to form. I won a match at an ATP (in Los Cabos) and then reached the quarter-finals at two straight Challengers, so it showed me that I can compete at this level. Those are the guys that are playing here in qualies. It's just about getting wins and feeling comfortable. I'm playing at the US Open but I'm not overthinking the situation. It's just another tennis match."
"The win in Lexington was huge for me," Mmoh added. "It's one of the few times that I've won a ton of matches going into a Slam. Especially at this level, it's key going into the week. When I was struggling earlier in the year, I was over-analyzing things, so I settled down in Lexington and just had fun. I'm going to stick to that."
Other recent ATP Challenger Tour titlists into the final round of qualifying include Sergiy Stakhovsky, champion in Portoroz, Slovenia earlier this month, and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, winner in Vancouver, Canada on Sunday. Learn more about Stebe's inspirational story.
Canadian teen Denis Shapovalov has become a household name following his fairytale ATP World Tour Masters 1000 run to the Montreal semi-finals and second Challenger title in nearby Gatineau. But keep an eye on countryman Peter Polansky as well. The 29 year old is bidding to reach his third US Open main draw after streaking to three consecutive finals on home soil, in Winnipeg, Gatineau and Granby.
Despite failing to win a title, Polansky believes the matches and experience gained from those tournaments are greatly beneficial to a strong run in New York.
"It really helps, because I was under pressure many times during those three weeks," said Polansky. "I think playing a lot of matches recently helps with that. Keeping the nerves loose on the big points and playing some really big shots on those important points. It all has to do with being comfortable being in that moment. Sometimes when you're low on match play, you get to big moments and the racquet slows down. I'm playing aggressive and playing to win."
Shapovalov will face Jan Satral in the final round of qualifying, while Polansky battles familiar foe Tim Smyczek. This is their sixth FedEx ATP Head2Head clash and third at the tour-level. Most recently, Polansky prevailed at the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2016 and Smyczek got his revenge in Delray Beach qualifying earlier this year.