Three of Turkey’s highest ranking tennis players are competing in the qualifiers for a place in this year’s 2021 Australian Open in Melbourne, which starts on 8 February.
Top female seeds Çağla Büyükakçay and Pemra Özgen are playing in the women’s qualifiers in Dubai, while Turkish men’s no.1 Cem İlkel will be on court in Doha for the men’s qualifiers.
Büyükakçay, who is currently seeded 178 in the world, has already won her first round qualifying match, beating Andorra’s unseeded teenager Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva 6-4, 6-4. She will play Croatia’s Ana Konjuh, seeded 476, in the second round.
Özgen, seeded 212, plays Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, who is seeded 163, in a first round qualifier on Monday, 11 January.
İlkel, seeded 219 in the Men’s Singles Rank, has a tough challenge against Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk, who is ranked 76 places higher at 146. The two will face each other on Monday.
Qualifiers are played by tennis players who are outside the top 104 rankings in the world. Competitors must win all three qualifying games to enter into the main tournament.
A total of 128 tennis players are competing in the Australian Open qualifiers, which for the first time are not being contested on Australian soil.
“Instead, as the tennis world continues to adapt to life in the time of COVID-19, the men will play at Doha’s Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex in Qatar, while the women head to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium and Complex in the UAE,” says a statement posted on the Australian Open website.
The men’s and women’s qualifying tournaments are being staged simultaneously on 10-13 January. The 16 successful qualifiers from each event will secure “their seat on a flight to Melbourne”, where they must quarantine for two weeks on arrival.
This season’s first Grand Slam tournament will be played at Melbourne Park from 8 to 21 February.
Main image (L-R), top, of Çağla Büyükakçay (top left) at 2019 Wimbledon Qaulifyers. Photo © si.robi, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia , Cem İlkel via Hürriyet, Pemra Özgen at 2019 Wimbledon Qaulifyers. Photo © si.robi, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia