Alabama alums make Wimbledon debut

WIMBLEDON – An American representing Chile, and a Canadian who returned to her New Zealand roots met, of all places, at the University of Alabama.

And on Thursday, Alexa Guarachi and Erin Routliffe will make their Wimbledon debut.

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Routliffe came to Canada at age four and went through the Tennis Canada national training centre program before going the college route.

She decided at the last minute to fly over when Guarachi, four years older and her semi-regular doubles partner on the ITF circuit, urged her to come to try the doubles qualifying.

They were last in. Then they were out. Then they sneaked into the draw at the last minute.

And after two match wins at Roehampton, they will play No. 3 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic on Court 11 later today.

Switching nations, and the college tennis experience

It will be hard to find two happier players making their Wimbledon debuts.

Here they are right after their winning moment last week.

Guarachi and Routliffe talk about how it all came about, how they met, why they’re representing nations other than their own – and how college tennis was a great experience and a stepping stone to their dreams of making it in the pros.

A decade later, Guarachi debuts at the AELTC

At 27, Guarachi has been on the ITF circuit for a few years, after completing her college career.

She returns to the All England Club a decade after playing there in the juniors. As it happens, she qualified and lost in the first round of the main draw to then 14-year-old Laura Robson.

Robson ended up winning the whole thing.

Routliffe was a top-20 junior back in 2013. And although she always had better results in doubles – less nervous, she says – she also did very well on the South American junior clay court circuit in singles.

She played the Wimbledon and US Open juniors in 2012, but got awfully tough draws: Ana Konjuh in the first round at Wimbledon, and Belinda Bencic in the first round in New York.

Routliffe and partner lost to Belinda Bencic and Ana Konjuh in the junior Wimbledon doubles in 2012. Routliffe also lost to each of them, in singles, in tough first-round draws at Wimbledon and the junior US Open that year. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Routliffe is at a career-high No. 116 in doubles after winning a pair of $25,000 ITF events in Thailand – where she was on vacation with her sister when she got the call from Guarachi.

The two won a pair of $80,000 ITFs in Charleston and Dothan this past winter, as well as two other $25,000 tournaments this year.

That’s eight, in total, for Routliffe in 2018 in addition to one singles title in Egypt.

At No. 112, Guarachi is six off a career high in doubles reached in late May. She has 19 career doubles titles on the ITF circuit.

Kids in a candy store

The pair had to wait a week before their first match, since they qualified at Roehampton last Thursday.

So they’ve been taking full advantage of their Wimbledon experience – and that lovely main draw per diem.

For their first practice, they were even assigned Court 18 – a lovely show court.

They’ve been watching the big stars practice, and soaking it all in.

On Thursday, they get to show what they can do.

2012: Routliffe and partner Daria Salnikova discuss strategy during their match against Belinda Bencic and Ana Konjuh in the quarterfinals of the junior Wimbledon girls’ doubles. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)
2018: Routliffe and Guarachi discuss strategy on a changeover during the Wimbledon doubles qualifying. (Stephanie Myles.Tennis.Life)

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