Dramatic comebacks were the theme of Day 1 at US Open qualifying, with a bevy of players storming back from a set down to reach the second round.
Making his Grand Slam qualifying debut, Sebastian Korda turned in an impressive 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 comeback over countryman Dennis Novikov on Tuesday. Boys’ champion at the Australian Open earlier this year, Korda stormed back from a set and a break down, eventually prevailing after one hour and 53 minutes.
With his mother and father, former World No. 2 Petr Korda, in the crowd, the American teen battled back from a 4-2 deficit in the second set and recovered once again after conceding a break to open the decider. He will hope his good run of form continues against Argentine veteran Facundo Bagnis on Thursday.
“I just stayed in there and fought my hardest,” Korda told ATPWorldTour.com. “I saw that he was struggling a little bit and I took advantage. I started playing really well after that. It feels pretty good. And I had my dad and my mom here and that’s always great to have them supporting me. I’ve had some tough three-set losses against some good players this year, so it feels good to get it done.”
A New Korda Era Begins
Korda wasn’t alone in providing the heroics on Tuesday. In front of a packed crowd on Court 11, Christian Harrison overcame former World No. 10 Ernests Gulbis 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The Louisiana native faced a 0/40 deficit while serving down 4-3 in the third set. He would deny four break points to stay alive and eventually triumph after two hours and six minutes.
“I was just trying to think about playing the next point,” said Harrison following the match. “Nothing really crazy, but just thinking about how I want to execute. It was awesome to see so many fans come out too. I wasn’t expecting this at all. It’s great for the players and makes it a lot more fun for us.”
Harrison, who made his US Open main draw debut as a qualifier in 2016, is hoping to replicate that dream run this week. The 24-year-old seems to have a flair for the dramatic, having rallied from a set down in all three qualifying matches that year. He faces #NextGenATP Spaniard Pedro Martinez on Thursday.
Other Americans advancing to the second round include JC Aragone, who edged Thiemo de Bakker 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-6(5), and Evan King, a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 winner over Christian Garin. Both made their Grand Slam debuts last year as qualifiers. Also, Bjorn Fratangelo downed Roberto Cid Subervi 6-3, 7-6(4) and awaits Dominican veteran Victor Estrella Burgos next.
In a highly-anticipated all-Aussie clash, Thanasi Kokkinakis also rallied from a set down, upending Bernard Tomic 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 in one hour and 25 minutes. The 22-year-old fired 20 aces and saved five of six break points to advance on Court 12. Kokkinakis is riding a wave of momentum after lifting the trophy at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Aptos, California, two weeks ago. It was his first singles title in three years.
“I gave him the break by hitting three double faults in my first service game,” said Kokkinakis. “In the second set, I tried to make a few more balls and put a little more effort in myself. Then it was one-way traffic. The crowd was packed and it didn’t feel like first round of qualies. But I need matches like this.”
Other notable winners on Day 1 include #NextGenATP stars Hubert Hurkacz and Lloyd Harris. Hurkacz, No. 9 in the ATP Race To Milan, routed John-Patrick Smith 6-3, 6-2, while Harris dismissed Roberto Quiroz 7-6(5), 6-3 in a swift 79 minutes. The South African is in the midst of a dominant 12-2 stretch after winning his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title in Lexington, Kentucky, earlier this month.
The first round continues on Wednesday, with top seed Jozef Kovalik and Americans Ernesto Escobedo, Reilly Opelka, Christopher Eubanks and Ulises Blanch opening their qualifying quests.