ADELAIDE, Australia – The air quality dipped significantly Monday afternoon in Melbourne, just in time for the start of the Australian Open qualifying
From Tuesday, 128 men and 128 women will try to win three rounds to make the main draw, and earn a guaranteed minimum of $90,000 AUD ($62,222 USD at today’s exchange rate).
Just to make it into the qualifying is already a pretty good payday. A player who loses in the first round of the qualies still earns $20,000 AUD ($13,827 USD)
Making it to the final round is worth $50,000 AUD ($34,567 USD)
Of the five Canadians in the qualifying, only Genie Bouchard will see action Tuesday, as the first round is split over the first two days.
Unseeded and playing another unseeded player in Xiaodi You of China, Genie Bouchard nevertheless earned an assignment on 1573 Arena (the old Show Court 2), which is the biggest court used for the qualifying.
She’s second up on that court, with a 10 a.m. AEDT start. So she’ll likely get on court somewhere after noon Tuesday (which is 8 p.m. Monday night in Montreal, 5 p.m. on the west coast of Canada).
The rankings disparity between the two couldn’t be smaller.
With the release of Monday’s updated rankings, You stands at No. 210.
Bouchard, who had dropped to No. 262 when her points from last year’s quarterfinal effort in Auckland dropped off last Monday, rallied back as she defended those points last week. She is currently ranked … No. 211 – right behind You.
Doable draw for Bouchard
The Canadian, who turns 26 next month, has a pretty doable qualifying draw. That’s especially true in comparison to the quality of opposition she faced (and defeated in the first two rounds) in Auckland.
It will be the first time Bouchard has had to qualify in Melbourne since her first trip in 2013; she lost to Daria Gavrilova in the second round that year.
Her semi-final effort in 2014 came in her first career appearance in the main draw.
Fernandez makes debut
For 2019 French Open junior champion Leylah Annie Fernandez, this will be a first career attempt at qualifying for a major on the pro level.
The No. 2-ranked female player in Canada at No. 206 – a career high – the 17-year-old will take on No. 7 seed Patricia Maria Tig of Romania in the first round.
Tig, who returned last spring after having her first child, had been in the final of the $25K ITF in Bendigo, Australia over the weekend. But she withdrew before her match against Magdalena Frech of Poland due to a “foot and calf” injury.
Three aspire on the men’s side
Of the three Canadians in the men’s qualifying draw, only Peter Polansky has ever played in the main draw.
Polansky, who typically is seeded in Slam qualifying, has a drop in ranking fortunes in 2019 and found himself out of the top 32.
He made it into the Melbourne main draw as a lucky loser in both 2017 and 2018. This qualifying draw is something he can do something with, assuming he’s playing well enough.
As the No. 3 singles at the ATP Cup, Polansky knew he wouldn’t see action. In fact, he got into the doubles in the final day, once the quarterfinal tie against Serbia was decided in the opponents’ favor.
But that was it for live action.
Two looking for Oz breakthrough
Brayden Schnur was only a few spots out of the main draw, and is the No. 3 seed.
He was defeated in the first round of the Australian Open qualifying the last two years.
While the first two rounds are winnable, whoever comes out of that bottom group of four will make a tough final-round opponent for anyone.
For Steven Diez, who is at a career-best ranking of No. 134 but who has yet to play in the main draw of a major at age 28, this will be the third consecutive attempt to qualify.
He lost in the second round of Wimbledon qualifying last summer to Schnur, and lost a tough three-setter in the final round of the US Open.
This will be his first attempt in Australia.
A year ago, he was doing through a pretty tough patch and, outside the top 400, wasn’t even close to making the qualifying cut.
But during the second week of the Australian Open, Diez was in Burnie (Australia) winning a $60,000 Challenger. Things began looking up in a major way from there.