There were seven players with college ties in action on Friday in the final round of the qualifying draw at the US Open and by the time the dust had settled six of them had secured a spot in the main draw. JC Aragone, Evan King, and Danielle Lao will each be making their grand slam debuts next week while Cameron Norrie advanced to his second grand slam main draw, JP Smith his fourth grand slam main draw, and Nicole Gibbs her 13th grand slam main draw.
For the first time since 1987 there will be four men in the main draw that played college tennis in the same year because Aragone and Norrie join Thai Kwiatkowski and Chris Eubanks who were both granted main draw wild cards. In the 1987 US Open there were five same-year college players to make the main draw – Phil Williamson (Columbia), Andrew Burrow (Miami FL), Richey Reneberg (SMU), Shelby Cannon (Tennessee), Rick Leach (USC).
Aragone was the most improbable of the six to qualify after playing at No. 5 and No. 6 for most of his collegiate career at Virginia. In the opening match of the day on court 7, Aragone found himself down a quick break at 2-1 against Australia’s Akira Santillan however he’d immediately break back, hold, and then break again to go up 4-2. Santillan got it back on serve with a break for 4-3 but Aragone broke back and then held at love to take the opening set 6-3.
The second set started off with five routine holds before Santillan broke Aragone in a four-deuce game for 4-2 and then two games later he’d break again to take the set 6-2.
Aragone bounced back in the third set by breaking Santillan in a two-deuce game for 1-0 but Santillan broke back from 15/40 to even it at 1-1. Aragone made it three breaks in a row to go up 2-1 and he’d hold on from there to win it 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
Evan King and Michael Mmoh had met twice prior to Friday with Mmoh winning both matches in straight sets however Friday was King’s day. The lefty from Chicago held serve all nine times, and broke Mmoh three times, in a 6-3, 6-3 win.
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Danielle Lao got off to a rough start on Friday after dropping the opening set in 22 minutes but a little over an hour later she’d be celebrating the biggest win of her career. Lao only won 12 of 36 points in the first set against Jana Fett but the former USC Trojan quickly righted the ship and won the next two sets 6-1 and 6-2.
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Cameron Norrie will play in his second grand slam main draw after the former TCU Horned Frog knocked off Japan’s Go Soeda 6-1, 7-6(5). Norrie only needed 24 minutes to claim the opening set and then in the second set he broke Soeda from 15/40 to go up 5-4. Norrie’s serve had been dominant up until that point (only had faced one break point) but Soeda managed to break back from 15/40 to even it at 5-5. After an exchange of holds, Norrie went up 3-1 in the tiebreak but Soeda evened it at 3-3 at the changeover. The server won the next five points until Norrie took the last one to win the tiebreak 7-5.
JP Smith played his way into the main draw with a 6-4, 6-4 win over American Mitchell Krueger. Smith earned the only break of the first set when he broke Krueger for 3-2 and then in the second set he went up a double break at 4-1. Smith fought off seven break points in his next service game but he couldn’t fight off an eighth as Krueger broke for 4-2. It was all holds the rest of the way as Smith closed it out in 1 hour and 27 minutes.
Two-time NCAA singles champion Nicole Gibbs punched her ticket to the main draw with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win over Great Britain’s Naomi Broady. Gibbs broke Broady six times in the 2 hour and 3 minute match.
2015 NCAA singles champion Jamie Loeb was the only player with college ties to come up short as she fell 6-3, 6-4 to fellow American Sachia Vickery.
Below are the other results from today along with all the first round matchups with each player’s Universal Tennis Rating in parenthesis.