While qualifying for a grand slam tournament invariably focuses on the up-and-coming talent trying to take the next step, it’s also a place to see familiar names battling it out for a berth in the main draw. On Thursday at Melbourne Park, several veterans attempted to book their place in Australian Open 2013, but were left to rue missed opportunities.
Among those battling for a place in the year’s first grand slam tournament were American Jill Craybas, Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn, Spain’s Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and France’s Virginie Razzano, all journeywomen of the tour. It’s been more than a decade since all four contested their maiden grand slam main draws, yet even in the twilight of their careers, they are still scrambling for every ball. But things didn’t go to plan for the quartet, with all four eliminated in the opening round.
Tanasugarn didn’t go without a fight, beaten by Turkey’s Cagla Buyukakcay 4-6 6-2 10-8 in a marathon match that finished just shy of three hours.
The popular 35-year-old was aiming for a 17th straight appearance in the Australian Open main draw in what was her 19th consecutive year playing at Melbourne Park.
Buyukakcay, 23, was competing at Melbourne Park for the third time and is yet to play in the main draw.
A disappointed Tanasugarn said after the match that despite being one of the veterans on tour, her love for the game was still strong.
“My motivation is just to have fun and do my best with every match,” she said.
“With my age it is not easy to keep up with the recoveries. I have to be more careful with a lot of things about my body and take the time to take care of it.”
When asked whether she would be back next year, Tanasugarn said: “I hope so. The Australian Open is one of the best grand slams. Everybody is so friendly and warm and welcoming with us. Every year I come here it is always improved - whether it’s the stadiums or facilities. They are doing a good job, so I love to come.”
Razzano, who shocked the tennis world with her defeat of pre-tournament favourite Serena Williams in the opening round of the 2012 French Open, was eliminated in straight sets by rising American talent and no. 12 seed Maria Sanchez, 7-5 6-2.
The Frenchwoman and former top 20 player was aiming to make her 13th appearance in an Australian Open main draw, but proved no match for Sanchez, who is now two wins away from a maiden Melbourne main draw debut.
Two-time Spanish Olympian Martinez Sanchez, who first contested an Australian Open main draw in 2001, was outplayed by 19-year-old Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand.
Kumkhum, playing in her first grand slam qualifying tournament, won 4-6 6-3 6-1.
The 38-year-old Craybas, the oldest player in the qualifying draw, lost to Ukrainian teen Maryna Zanevska 4-6 6-2 6-2.
Japan’s Kimiko Date Krumm will be the oldest player in the women’s singles draw this year. Date Krumm, a former world no. 4 and Australian Open semi-finalist in 1994, is 42. She first contested the tournament in 1990.