The Luck of the Loser: Tennis’ Legendary (LL)s
While several of the WTA’s brightest young stars have recorded big upsets at the Brisbane International – only to flame out in their next match – the story of the women’s event in Brisbane thus far has been a Russian veteran who’s taken full advantage of her second chance.
Alla Kudryavtseva, entering her 10th professional season, has never been ranked inside the WTA’s Top 50. She is best known for her dislike of faux-tuxedo Nike kits, and this second-round defeat of Maria Sharapova at the 2008 Wimbledon Championships. These two things are connected.
She wasn’t even supposed to be here. The Russian, seeded No. 5 in the qualifying draw, was defeated in the final round and was set to be competing in Brisbane in the doubles draw with Alexandra Panova. That all changed after Garbiñe Muguruza withdrew from the tournament due to an ankle sprain on Monday, and as the highest-ranked loser in qualifying, Kudryavtseva took her place.
In the first round, Kudryavtseva defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands, herself on the comeback from hip surgery, 6-2, 6-4 before defeating Karolina Pliskova in the second round on Wednesday, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. The win over Pliskova, currently ranked World No. 23, was Kudryavtseva’s best win in nearly four years. Her last win over a T0p 50 player came nearly four years ago, when she defeated then-No. 22 Yanina Wickmayer via retirement in the second round of the US Open in 2011.
Before Kudryavtseva faces Varvara Lepchenko for a spot in the semifinals on Thursday, here’s a look back at some of tennis’ most successful lucky losers of tournaments past.
Justin GIMELSTOB (USA)
Tournament: Wimbledon (Grand Slam)
Replaced: Andre Agassi
Result: Third Round (d. Adrian Garcia, Nicolas Massu, l. to Lleyton Hewitt)
Gimelstob lives in infamy in lucky loser lore (say that three times fast!) as his run at Wimbledon in 2005 was allegedly responsible for the change in the ITF rule regarding lucky losers at Grand Slams. Scheduled to play George Bastl (SUI) in the final qualifying round, Gimelstob planned to withdraw after aggravating a chronic back problem after his second round match. Instead, he decided to play due to the likelihood that someone would withdraw and to preserve his lucky loser eligibility; he retired trailing 0-1 in the first set, and indeed entered the main draw after Agassi’s withdrawal.
Due to concerns about how a similar situation could be manipulated in the future, the Grand Slam lucky loser rule changed the next year. Beginning in 2006, the rule was changed to stipulate that should a lucky loser be needed, he or she would be selected from the four highest-ranked players to lose in the final round of qualifying at random. However, this is a rule that did not extend to ATP and WTA Tour events. For 2015, however, the ATP made a change to its lucky loser policies, and has now instituted a policy for random selection.
A. Lucky Loser Selection
A player may be entered in the main draw of a tournament if he meets the criteria
outlined for a lucky loser.
1) Lucky losers are players who have lost in the final round of the qualifying event or, if more lucky losers are required, those players who have lost in the previous qualifying round(s). Lucky Losers shall be selected based on the computer rankings used for the determination of qualifying seeding as follows: The order of the two (2) highest ranked players shall be randomly drawn, thereafter the order shall follow the players’ rankings, unless there are two (2) or more withdrawals at the time the Qualifying competition is finished in which case the size of the random draw will be the number of withdrawals plus two (2). In the case where players from the previous round are included in the draw they will be placed behind all players who have lost in the final round of qualifying. Only those accepted into the qualifying competition may sign in as lucky losers.
Better late than never.
Melinda CZINK (HUN)
Tournament: Canberra International (WTA Tier V)
Replaced: Katarina Srebotnik
Result: Runner-Up (d. Dally Randriantefy, Anna Smashnova, Marlene Weingärtner, Lindsay Lee-Waters, l. to Ana Ivanovic)
A 22-year-old Czink made her first WTA final in Canberra, defeating No. 2 seed Anna Smashnova en route to the championship match. Once there, her run came to an end against an 18-year-old qualifier by the name of…
Czink’s run is notable if only for the fact that Ivanovic defeated her twice in the same tournament – 6-1, 6-3 in the final round of qualifying, and 7-5, 6-1 in the final for her first career title. #imadeyou
Sergiy STAKHOVSKY (UKR)
Tournament: PBZ Zagreb Indoors (ATP 250)
Replaced: Michael Llodra
Result: Champion (d. Ivo Karlovic, Viktor Troicki, Janko Tipsarevic, Simone Bolelli, Ivan Ljubicic)
Stakhovsky, ranked No. 209 at the time, became the first lucky loser to reach an ATP World Tour final in nine years when he reached the final at the PBZ Zagreb Indoors in 2008. In the title match, the Ukrainian took it one step further and defeated Ljubicic in straight sets to become the first “lucky winner” on the ATP since Argentina’s Christian Miniussi won Sao Paulo in 1991.
David GOFFIN (BEL)
Tournament: Roland Garros (Grand Slam)
Replaced: Gael Monfils
Result: Fourth Round (d. Radek Stepanek, Arnaud Clement, Lukasz Kubot, l. to Roger Federer)
Before he became the juggernaut he is today, Goffin became the first lucky loser to reach the fourth round of Roland Garros since 1978 in his main draw debut in Paris three years ago.
While his play was making headlines, so was his very public idolization of Roger Federer – the man whom Goffin played in the fourth round. The Belgian said he grew up admiring the 18-time Grand Slam champion, even going so far as to say that his childhood room was “plastered with photos” of the Swiss.
While Goffin managed to take the first set from Federer in their fourth round encounter, he didn’t have what it took to unseat his hero on this day, as Federer rallied to win, 5–7, 7–5, 6–2, 6–4. We didn’t get the upset, but the match did give us one of the greatest on-court interviews of all time.
All in all, Goffin’s lucky loser run was a big win.
CoCo VANDEWEGHE (USA)
Tournament: Bank of the West Classic (WTA Premier)
Replaced: Bojana Jovanovski
Result: Runner-Up (d. Melinda Czink, Jelena Jankovic, Urszula Radwanska, Yanina Wickmayer, l. to Serena Williams)
Vandeweghe became the first lucky loser to reach a WTA final since Czink when she finished runner-up to Serena Williams at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford in 2012. She was looking to be only the second to win a WTA tournament, after Andrea Jaeger (1980, Las Vegas.)
Although she came out on the losing end in the championship, Vandeweghe’s Cinderella run resulted in the first all-American final in the United States in eight years.
Lesia TSURENKO (UKR)
Tournament: Brisbane International (WTA Premier)
Replaced: Maria Sharapova
Result: Semifinal (d. BYE, Jarmila Gajdosova, Daniela Hantuchova, l. to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova)
“I, like, invented this, Alla.” #quotememaybe
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