UPDATED, 9:04 p.m.: Former Georgia Tech tennis star Irina Falconi won her first-ever grand slam match Monday, taking out world No. 44 Klara Zakopalovan 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Former Georgia Tech tennis star Irina Falconi will play in the main draw of her fifth consecutive grand slam event Monday with a match against Klara Zakopalovan of the Czech Republic. (Update: I wrote earlier it was 11 a.m. I stand corrected. It’s the third match on Court 8, the first of which began at 11.) It’s a pretty tough draw for Falconi, who has risen from No. 184 at the beginning of the year to No. 78, making her the No. 5 American. Zakopalovan is No. 44 in the world. She’ll also play doubles with Edina Gallovits-Hall.
She has made the semifinals of two of her past three tournaments, smaller events in Washington D.C. and Vancouver.
Falconi, from New York, calls the U.S. Open the best of the four slams. (For the record, she calls the Australian Open “the nicest,” the French “the grindiest” and Wimbledon “the most prestigious.”) She said she’s loved every minute of being a professional tennis player, that tennis is not work and that the travel and opportunities to meet people have been fun.
After completing her career at Tech in 2010 as an All-American, 2011 has been Falconi’s first full season. She has played world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki twice (both losses) and played then-world No. 5 Francesca Schiavone tough in a May tournament in Brussels, losing 6-4, 6-4.
“Playing the top players just helps me so much experience-wise, just learning so much about what they’re doing, it helps me so much,” she said.
Falconi said she and coach Jeff Wilson are excited that she’s moved up the rankings so quickly and want to try to keep the momentum going.
Some notes from my phone interview with her Friday:
On playing Wozniacki in her native Denmark: “It was very, very interesting to play in Denmark. Not a lot of people were cheering for me. She doesn’t miss a ball. It’s tough.”
Goals for the U.S. Open: “Just, obviously, to do really well match-wise in singles and doubles.” She said she doesn’t have a particular round as a goal. “We take it one match at a time. Get through my first match and go from there.”
Ranking goal for the end of the year: “Probably if I’m in top 70 by the end of the year, that’s a good thing.”
By Ken Sugiura, AJC