QUALIFYING ROUNDS TO GET UNDERWAY
Thursday, 9 January, 2003
by Scott Spits
American teenager Ashley Harkleroad is the leading contender for one of up to 12 spots available to qualifiers in the women's draw of the 2003 Australian Open.
In the men's draw, the Rochus brothers of Belgium,uhh.. it's only christophe
Zimbabwean Wayne Black and American Paul Goldstein are among the contenders vying for one of up to 16 spots available to qualifiers.
Harkleroad, 17, is yet to reach the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament other than the US Open and lost to former French Open champion Iva Majoli in the first round at Flushing Meadows in 2002.
The American meets Anousjka Van Exel of the Netherlands in her first qualifying match on court four on Thursday.
Other women vying for spots available to qualifiers include Milagros Sequera of Venezuela, Kristie Boogert of the Netherlands and Hungarian Rita Kuti Kis.
Sequera made her Grand Slam debut at Roland Garros last year but lost in the first round to No.20 seed Patty Schnyder. The Venezuelan has a career-high singles ranking of No.106.
Tour veteran Boogert made her Grand Slam debut at the 1992 French Open but has not got past the third-round of any of the Slams since. The 29-year-old has a career-high singles ranking of No.29 which she obtained in 1996.
Kuti Kis played in all Grand Slam events since the start of 1999 until last year's Australian Open. The 24-year-old reached the third-round at Roland Garros in 2000 and the second round at Melbourne Park in 2000 and 2001. The Hungarian has a career-high singles ranking of No.47 achieved in June, 2000.
There are also a number of home contenders battling for positions in the main draw including Lauren Cheung, Cindy Watson (Australian No.4), Lauren Breadmore, Gabrielle Baker, TJ Welford and Amanda Grahame (Australian No.5).
f the men playing qualifying matches, Christophe Rochus, 24, has played in all Grand Slam tournaments since the start of 2000 except the latest US Open. He reached the fourth-round at Melbourne Park in his Australian Open debut three years ago.
His brother, Olivier Rochus, who will turn 22 during this year's Australian Open, reached the third-round in his Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon in 2000. But he has not got past the first-round at Melbourne Park in the past two Australian Opens. ollliiiviieer iisss innnn thhee maindrawww LOL
Zimbabwean Black, 29, reached the fourth-round at Melbourne Park in 1999 and has a career-high singles ranking of No.69. He plays Frenchman Lionel Roux in his first qualifying match on court 10 on Thursday.
Goldstein, 26, made the third-round of the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 1999 as well as the third-round at Wimbledon in 2000.
Other names of interest in the men's qualifying draw include Giovanni Lapentti (younger brother of Nicolas) and Australian contenders Raphael Durek , Paul Baccanello (Australian No.10), Jordan Kerr, Alun Jones, Adam Kennedy and Adam Feeney.