This is Wimbledon — the third grand slam of the calendar year — but the venue and the participants are not quite as most know it. The crowds are smaller at this tennis club, the cheers are quieter and the courts are closer together than the All England Club, three miles away.
While the Wimbledon main draw can’t start until next week, the journey to it has already begun for more than 250 players.
The four-day qualifier in London’s Roehampton could be a golden ticket to the Wimbledon main stage – a place some players have dreamed of throughout their careers.
“And actually, where we stay is right next to the Wimbledon gate. Every day I’m so close – I can see it, but I haven’t actually been through the gates in 10 years, so of course that would be great to still be there once to be.”
Prior to Monday, Krueger had never won a match at the Wimbledon qualifiers – affectionately referred to as ‘qualies’. But with a 6-1 6-4 win against Briton Luca Pow, the 28-year-old took a small but important step towards the main draw.
“I played a lot of close matches in the first rounds, but I never really crossed the threshold,” Krueger continues. “The fact that I was almost able to get out is really big. I’m pumped to keep my lawn season going.”
Most players qualify for grand slams through their rankings, but up to eight places in each draw are reserved for wildcards – determined by the tournament organizers – and 16 for qualifiers, meaning those far outside the top 100 stand an unlikely chance. have on grand slam glory.
Even making progress through qualifying is no small feat. Players must either win all three of their matches, or hope to secure a spot as a “lucky loser” after a late pullout from the main draw.
“There will always be some nerves, especially before a slam, but I think the good thing about qualifying is that you have the most behind you,” said Krueger, who qualified first for the main draw of a grand slam. at the 2018 US Open.
“You get three tough games behind you, while the rest come in with nothing. If you can handle it physically, it is certainly an advantage to be able to qualify.”
Qualifying success can also be a significant reward for those lower in the rankings.
The qualifying men’s and women’s singles will have a combined prize pool of £3,648,000 (approximately $4,465,000) — a 26% increase over 2021 — and making it to the first round of the main draw alone is enough to earn a one-time payment of £50,000 (about $61,000).
‘Dream come true’
During this year’s Wimbledon qualifier, some courts will be equipped with temporary stands, while other spectators will be able to take a viewing position that is meters away from the action, creating an intimate atmosphere for the players.
Adjusting to playing conditions can take time, especially for those with limited experience on grass courts. The Swiss Alexander Ritschard, the number 192 in the world, participates in his second grass field tournament.
“It’s super different. I’m absolutely not used to it,” Ritschard told DailyExpertNews Sport after his 4-6 6-1 6-2 win over Briton Stuart Parker. “But it’s definitely a fun surface with bounces that I’ve never seen before. I feel like I don’t have as much ball control as I usually have on other courts.
“I’m also surprised that despite being a bit fast, it’s also a bit slow,” he adds. “I can’t quite figure it out yet — I’m working on it.”
Ritschard has never played in the main draw of a grand slam, but he came close to the French Open this year when he lost in the third round of qualifying. Going one step further at Wimbledon, he says, would be “very special”.
“That would definitely be a dream come true,” he says. “As a kid you always talk about Wimbledon.
“I’d also love to play on the main site — that would be great. Those courts look beautiful… The last time I was there I think I was eight years old, just as a fan to go and watch. I don’t know what it looks like anymore.”
Some players taking part in qualifying have already graced the Wimbledon main podium. Ukraine’s Daria Snigur won the girls’ singles title at Center Court three years ago and is now making an offer to compete in her first senior grand slam.
“I love the grass track,” she told DailyExpertNews Sport after winning her first qualifier. “This is my favorite place… and grass is my favorite surface. Of course I want to play in the main draw.”
Snigur plays in Roehampton with the flag of Ukraine pinned to her tennis equipment and thoughts of her homeland close to her heart.
Snigur fully supports Wimbledon’s decision to exclude Russians and Belarusians, which she says is “very important” for her as a Ukrainian: “It doesn’t matter to me – with or without points,” she adds.
The removal of ranking points from this year’s Wimbledon has not prevented players from taking part in the tournament, which will include nine of the top 10 players in the women’s standings and seven of the top 10 men’s. The four absentees are due to injury and the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian players.
The tournament has the added incentive of additional prize money — the total purse is just over £40 million ($49 million), a 15.2% increase from last year — but the prestige of taking part in Wimbledon is also an attraction — like those who play in qualifying are fully aware.
For some, simply stepping onto the tournament’s manicured lawns is the realization of years-long dreams.
“Wimbledon is Wimbledon and it will always be special no matter what happens,” says Krueger. “Playing on the Wimbledon main set is everyone’s goal – it doesn’t matter if there are points or not.”