Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sunitha Rao's US Open dream shattered

Seven years. Seven attempts. Seven failures. Sunitha Rao had been on the verge of making it to the 2007 US Open singles event, but a 6-4, 6-4 loss to 78th-ranked Zi Yan of China put paid to her dream.

Rao has been playing in the qualifiers at Flushing Meadows each year since 2001, but had never gone past the second round. This year, the US-based Indian had come closest to her goal - just one match away from the main draw.

The 21-year-old's third round loss was not unexpected given the wide gap that separated the world number 219 from the second-seeded Zi in terms of WTA ranking. But Rao's wins over players ranked above her in the first two rounds of qualifying had raised expectations of the Florida-based player joining India's Sania Mirza in the singles main draw.

Ironically, the Chinese player had also beaten Rao in the first round of qualifying at the 2003 edition of the Grand Slam. Zi now leads their head-to-head tally 3-1 with Rao having snatched a lone win at Strasbourg in 2005.

Earlier this week, Rao had defeated 125th-ranked Varvara Lepchenko of Uzbekistan and 218th-ranked Romanian Monica Niculescu in the US Open qualifiers.

With Neha Uberoi (playing for the US) also succumbing in the first round of qualifying, Sania Mirza remains the only Indian-origin player in the singles main draw of the year's final Grand Slam.

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With Somdev Devvarman (January 13, 2009 and October 4, 2007)

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