The Wimbledon 2014 Qualifying Tournament was held from Monday 16 to Thursday 19 June. This article by Liz Curran explains why it’s a great event to add to your tennis calendar.
Most people know that Wimbledon fortnight starts on a Monday towards the end of June at around the time when the strawberry season reaches its peak. The days are at their longest and the summer sun finally starts to shine strongly in the UK. Less people are aware of the prequel to the main tournament – Wimbledon “qualies”.
In common with the other three Grand Slam events the qualification tournament takes place to determine who will earn one of the coveted places in the main draw. Over three rounds of matches the 128 place men’s field is whittled down to sixteen places and on the women’s side a field of 96 becomes 12.
Wimbledon Qualifying Prize Money
It’s all pretty competitive and the stakes are high. The prize of taking part in the famous Wimbledon Championships is huge and there is also the very practical point of prize money. For these players the winnings from even a first round loss will make a good contribution towards covering their tour costs.
First Round Losers £3,375*
Second Round Losers £6,750*
Third Rounds Losers £13,500*
Getting through to the main draw via Qualifying means at least the First Round Prize Money.
*Sourced from the Wimbledon website.
I’ve attended the other three Grand Slam qualification tournaments so I made it a goal to complete my qualies (lifetime) “fan slam” this year.
How are Wimbledon qualies different to the other slams?
Wimbledon qualies take place off site – a short distance away at the Bank of England Sports Club in Roehampton. The other three grand slams all hold this tournament on site, however due to Wimbledon being played on grass, which is a fragile surface, it would simply not be practical to hold another tournament on the precious Wimbledon courts the week before the main event.
The Wimbledon qualifying tournament is scheduled to last four days. It starts on the Monday before Wimbleon, a day earlier than the other Slams. I don’t know for sure why this is the case but I have always assumed that it may be because of the potential for rain to delay the schedule.
Most matches are three sets (with no tie break in the final set) however the men’s final qualifying round matches are played over five sets.
Wimbledon also has a small two round qualifying draw for four places in both the men’s and the women’s doubles tournaments. Again this is unique for the grand slams and is fairly unusual even for the main tours.
The ball kids are a bit older than those at Wimbledon and they also wear the uniform normally worn by the grounds staff (green shorts and shirts). It’s also a bit more informal than at the main event.
What is the Wimbledon Qualifying Tournament like and who will you see there?
I always enjoy qualies. It’s a slightly more relaxed atmosphere, at least for the punters, as there are less spectators around. You will see well known players whose ranking has dropped due to that great revolving door that is the tennis top 100 eg Tamira Pazcek , Ryan Harrison or Gilles Muller.
You can also watch exciting upcoming young players such as Vicky Duval, Luke Saville and Oli Golding (both former junior grand slam champions), Ana Konjuh or Ash Barty as well as more established players like Australia’s Sam Groth fighting their way through to new heights as well as those players that appear perennially in the grand slam qualies tournaments such as Rhyne Williams and Ricardas Berankis.
You will also see the wildcard entries, mostly from the UK, who get the opportunity to try to achieve an upset by knocking out one of the more experienced players. Sixteen year old Brit Gabriella Taylor did just this in R1 beating Sofia Arvidsson. 17 year old Katie Boulter and 19 year old Katy Dunne also knocked out 8th seeds Foretz / Tanarugarn in the doubles. However both these lost at the next hurdle. Getting all the way through as a wild card entry is very tough given the quality of the field.
Roehampton has a very British feel because of the location and the grass
It felt a bit like a summer fete to me with people sitting around on grassy banks or on plastic chairs by the side of the court. It’s not grand! It’s quite a compact event and everywhere other than the small players lounge is accessible to everyone so I enjoy bumping into coaches, players and journalists who I know from the tour. Nick Kyrgios (who is already in the main draw via a wildcard) was seen cheering on his fellow Aussie Luke Saville. Judy Murray was courtside for many of the British women’s matches. I spotted Dan Evans who has a wildcard into the main draw and 16 year old Stefan Kozlov from the USA who is one of my personal “one to watch” players who will be playing the US juniors in the second week.
The tournament is free to attend and the public are welcome to come along to watch and support the players. It is bit of a trek but it is possible on public transport. The best routes from Central London are:
- Rail to Barnes station and then it is about a 20/25 minute walk.
- Tube to Hammersmith and then the 33 bus to the top of Priory Lane and then it is about a 10 minute walk.
The entrance to the club is on Bank Lane which is off Priory Lane. There is a café in sports club main building which serves reasonable meals and sandwiches. There is also a bar where you can purchase drinks to take outside while watching the tennis. It’s very relaxed and informal, there are no bag searches and so you can also take in your own food and drink for the day. In 2014 play started at 11am Day 1 was men’s R1 matches Day 2 was women’s R1 matches and R2 men’s matches (not before 3pm) Day 3 was women’s R2 matches Day 4 was all final qualifying matches The doubles matches took place across all four days.
In summary I thoroughly recommend making the effort to track down this rather lovely event if you have a free day or even just a few hours to spare in the week before Wimbledon.
Thanks to @lizcurran for another fabulous guest article, and I hope to be back with more Wimbledon updates soon.
Grand Slam Gal