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The Top 5: US Open Qualifier Classes of the 2000s
It's hard to believe that some of today's top pros once had to qualify—and often together.
Published Aug 26, 2022
US Open qualifying is underway this week at Flushing Meadows, with many up-and-comers looking to earn one of 16 spots in the main draw. Emma Raducanu did that last year—and didn’t stop there, of course, with an unprecedented title run.
As rare as the Brit’s feat was, the Millennial/Gen Z players on the WTA and ATP tours have made their presence felt in the Big Apple over the years—and often in bunches. Here’s a look at some of those future stars that graduated to the big time, and the classes in which they did so. (Ages at the time in parentheses)
- Svetlana Kuznetsova (17)
- Bethanie Mattek (17)
- Marion Bartoli (17)
Kuznetsova’s progression through US Opens in her early years on tour was staggering: from a singles qualifier in 2002, she reached the doubles final each the next two years, and was the singles champ in 2004. A third of Mattek-Sands’ nine major doubles titles have come in Flushing. And while she didn’t particularly make her mark at the Open, Bartoli became a major champion more than a decade later at Wimbledon.
- Milos Raonic (19)
- Ryan Harrison (18)
- Kei Nishikori (20)
- Adrian Mannarino (22)
- Benoit Paire (21)
Though they’ve both been plagued by injuries throughout their careers, Nishikori and Raonic went on to reach Grand Slam finals: Raonic at Wimbledon in 2016, and Nishikori in New York four years after qualifying. The Frenchmen Mannarino and Paire have gone on divergent paths but have had steady careers, while Harrison looks to find his former form again after suffering through health issues the past few years.
- Jessica Pegula (21)
- Jelena Ostapenko (18)
- Anett Kontaveit (19)
- Maria Sakkari (20)
- Johanna Konta (24)
- Kiki Bertens (23)
Less than two years after reaching the main draw in New York, Ostapenko was a Grand Slam champion, winning the 2017 French Open. Pegula, who kicked off 2022 with a run to the Australian Open final, is one of the top contenders in New York this year. Neither has made a major final appearance yet, but Sakkari and Kontaveit have steadily occupied spots in the Top 5. Former Top 10ers Konta and Bertens, meanwhile, are content watching their former peers from the sidelines, as both have retired and moved on to family life.
- Alexander Zverev (18)
- Nikolaz Basilashvili (23)
- Yoshito Nishioka (19)
- Andrey Rublev (18)
- Tommy Paul (18)
Zverev has worked himself into a position that could at once be both enviable and a burden: he’s arguably the best active player yet to win a major. He did come awfully close, though, with a run to the final at the 2020 US Open. At this point, Rublev is also among the best that hasn’t broken through with a Slam victory. Basilashvili has been a prolific title winner on tour the past few years, while Nishioka and Paul are definitely on the upswing.
- Felix Auger-Aliassime (18)
- Casper Ruud (19)
- Hubert Hurkacz (21)
- Lloyd Harris (21)
Auger-Aliassime went from junior success in New York (boys’ doubles title in ’15, singles win in ’16) to making the main draw in no time, and is considered to be one of the brightest young talents in the men’s game. His fellow qualifier, Ruud, is further ahead in terms of accolades, with a French Open final and multiple titles under his belt. Hurkacz has established himself as one of the game’s biggest threats on hard courts, while Harris will be looking to get back on track next year after shutting his campaign down early due to surgery.