Are 'qualies' the best-kept secret for true tennis fans?
Nov 01, 2023
At pro tournaments, casual tennis fans want to see big names on stadium courts. However, diehard tennis fans often arrive early to check out the qualifiers (aka "the qualies") which feature two or three rounds of matches pitting lower-ranked players against one another for a few coveted spots in the main draw.
Andy West at atptour.com provides a fascinating look into "the qualies" and interviews a handful of pros to get their perspective on this highly competitive tournament-before-the-tournament. West explains that the qualies "holds emotional and financial implications for a player’s career."
"Qualifying is a unique part of tennis’ ecosystem... an intriguing blend of battle-hardened pros seeking access to the greater ranking points and prize money on offer in the main draw, with fledgling young talents just starting their journey to the very top," writes West.
According to Danish rising star Holger Rune, "Even though you're a qualifier, you are still there with all the players... [and] that gives you extra motivation and confidence to do better. And from there on, it's a journey, you know. It's a long journey to the top.”
Above: Earlier in his career, Holger Rune played "the qualies" to work his way up the rankings. Photo: si.robi (CC BY-SA 2.0).
“For me it was a whole different ball game,” reflects Australian pro Alex de Minaur. "You can feel it in your gut it's something extra special when you're able to qualify for an ATP event.” He adds, "You’ve got qualifiers beating guys in the main draw without a problem, and they're bloody good players."
“I played Tiafoe to qualify for my first ATP Tour event," said de Minaur. "If I have to play someone now who's young or unknown, well, I know they're coming for me, because I was in that position a couple of years ago as well."
“It builds up a lot of confidence. If you qualify, come into the main draw, you’ve played some matches, it feels much better. You feel kind of in rhythm," explains Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff who reinvigorated his career after a string of qualifying successes.
Struff adds, "“Some players are very dangerous, upcoming players who are playing qualifying [rounds]... it is sometimes very, very tough.”
So next time you're headed to a pro tournament, you might want to check out the qualies a few days earlier. It's typically free to watch and there isn't much of a crowd. You can watch some incredible tennis with up-and-coming players who are on the verge of a breakthrough.
It could be the best-kept secret for true tennis fans.