LONDON — When Robin Montgomery was younger, she hated practice sets. So her childhood coach found a compromise: tiebreaks. Montgomery’s eyes would light up every time.

It’s apt that the American — still 19 years old — would go on to record victory in the first-ever Wimbledon qualifying match to go to three tiebreaks, defeating No.10 seed Kamilla Rakhimova 7-6(0), 6-7(4), 7-6[4] to advance to the final round.

“When the set goes 6-6, I relax,” Montgomery said after the 3-hour, 1-minute win. “I’ve had so much experience playing them — we’d practice first to seven, first to 10, first to 15, first to 21. So I think, here we go — practice time!”

Nonetheless, coming through the twists and turns of such a tightly contested match is something Montgomery feels is a new development in her career. She’s been working with a psychologist since last year’s US Open, and learning tips to have a “goldfish mind,” as she puts it, such as deep breathing and counting numbers. Those came in useful after the loss of the second set.

“Younger me would have hated it and freaked out,” Montgomery said. “Like damn, I gotta go through this again. But now I embrace it and enjoy it. These are the matches you want tro win. Obviously the 6-2, 6-2 ones feel great, but you want to know you actually can dig deep and come out on top.”

Montgomery bests Niemeier in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, makes first WTA quarterfinal

In recent months, Montgomery has enjoyed both notable successes and tough setbacks, and she cites both as essential learning experiences. In Madrid, she reached the third round and pushed Aryna Sabalenka all the way in a 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-4 loss. Two weeks ago, she reached her first WTA quarterfinal in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. In between, there was a heartbreaking 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 loss to Leolia Jeanjean in the final round of Roland Garros qualifying.

“That one hurt,” she said. “A lot of the matches I have been losing have been pretty close and they do sting, but they’re helping me become a stronger player. I give myself five minutes to cry about it, and then I put it under my belt.”

There are advantages to being in the thick of such battles though. To Montgomery, there’s a certain liberation in being able to go off piste from her pre-planned strategy.

“I put pressure on myself with tactics, like I have to execute them perfectly,” she said. “[Today]both of us were digging deep, trying to figure out how to get the other one to crack. In the beginning both of us probably had a tactical game plan but once we realized those game plans weren’t working, it was like. … At a certain point in the match the tactics go out the window and you just have to make the ball in the court.”

Montgomery will next face Valentina Ryser for a place in her first Wimbledon main draw.

Klugman, 15, comes through rollercoaster to upset Fruhvirtova

Hannah Klugman is already the breakout star of this year’s Wimbledon qualifying competition. The 15-year-old junior No.6 is only competing in her 10th professional tournament this week — though she’s already ranked No.623, the highest-placed player born in 2009. Having defeated Petra Marcinko in the opening round, Klugman backed it up with a remarkable 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 upset of No.28 seed Linda Fruhvirtova to come one match away from a place in the main draw.

The result was Klugman’s first defeat of any player who has been ranked inside the Top 100, and showcased both her clean power — she struck 33 winners to Fruhvirtova’s 18 — and her resilience in bouncing back from a one-sided second set.

“If you dwell on it, you don’t have much chance in the third set,” Klugman said. A bathroom break helped her reset, and the support of her home fans re-energized her in the decider.

“The crowd got me going, and I just stuck in it and fought,” she said.

This time last year, Klugman — who went to school down the road, and has been coming to Wimbledon every year she can remember — was helping Mirra Andreeva prepare for her grass-court debut. The pair practiced together for a week, after which Andreeva promptly made the last 16 of Wimbledon as a qualifier.

“She’s obviously so special,” Klugman said. “She was beating me every time, but it was close!”

Both on and off the court, Klugman’s composure for her age is remarkable. Only one thing flusters her: being asked what she’s just watched or listened to. After her first-round win, she needs to scroll through her phone to recall her walk-on music (“Bad Vibe” by M.O, Lotto Boyzz and Mr Eazi). A day later, she tells the press that she prepared for her match by watching the England football game and a film the previous evening. Asked what the film was, Klugman dissolves into laughter as, once again, she can’t remember.

“Oh God, I did it again! What was it? It was a romantic comedy.”

It turns out to be “No Hard Feelings”: officially unmemorable, but possibly the perfect way to switch off for the biggest match of your life so far.

Klugman will next face a stern test in big-serving Gaiba 125 champion Alycia Parks. The American extended her winning streak to eight matches with her second dominant win of the week, racing past Tereza Martincova 6-1, 6-3 in just 61 minutes.

Other notable second-round qualifying results

Amanda Anisimova was one of several players who pulled off remarkable comebacks, overturning a 4-0 second-set deficit to defeat No.4 seed Hailey Baptiste 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-1.

Elsewhere, Alexandra Eala saved eight match points en route to upsetting No.14 seed Tamara Zidansek 1-6, 7-6(9), 6-3 and Anca Todoni came from 3-0 down in the decider to best No.32 seed Kimberly Birrell 6-7(2), 7-5, 6-4.

Playing just the fourth event of her comeback from a two-year injury hiatus, Zarina Diyas came from 5-2 down in the third set to edge No.29 seed Sachia Vickery 3-6, 7-5, 7-5.

No.23 seed Lulu Sun narrowly avoided being on the wrong side of a similar comeback. The New Zealander led 5-1 in the deciding set against Gabriela Knutson, only to lose five straight games to trail 6-5. Sun had to save one match point in that game before coming through 4-6, 6-4, 7-6[6].


Leave a Reply