Veteran Vesnina, Teen Osaka Play into Main Draw

Wary should the players be who face a qualifier in the first round: They’re the ones with two matches under their belts on the soft green clay of the Volvo Car Open, and ready to win a third straight, this time against a higher-ranked player in the main draw.

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Sunday the qualifying event wrapped up, eight players punching their tickets to the week’s main event. Chief among them is former world No. 21 Elena Vesnina, 2011 Charleston finalist, as well as 18-year-old Naomi Osaka, a power hitter from Japan who packs some serious punch.

Other qualifiers include Sesil Karatantcheva, Aleksandra Krunic, Cagla Buyukakcay, Kristina Kucova, Lesley Kerkhove and Cindy Burger. Each of the eight qualifiers won a pair of matches, played over Saturday and Sunday.

Vesnina, a doubles standout, qualified for the main draw in both Brisbane and Doha, the latter of which she made a run to the quarterfinals.

Osaka had a coming out party of sorts at the Australian Open, qualifying and then winning two main draw matches in her first-ever Grand Slam appearance.

On Monday Vesnina does battle with fellow qualifier Burger, a Dutch player ranked No. 159 in the world. Buyukakcay faces Danka Kovinic, who – as a qualifier a year ago – made the quarterfinals.

Qualifiers are always a lurking danger in Charleston: Last year Czech Lucie Hradecka made the semifinals. Belinda Bencic made it all the way to the final four in 2014, while Genie Bouchard marched into the quarterfinals herself in 2013, a year before she would be the breakthrough story in women’s tennis, when she made the Wimbledon final.

Two “lucky losers” (players who falter in qualifying but get into the main draw) were slotted in Sunday night: Patricia Maria Tig and Jana Cepelova, the 2014 finalist. They replace Jelena Jankovic and Petra Cetkovska, who withdrew with injury.

But luck will have little to do with what these qualifiers can accomplish next. Can they make a run in the Volvo Car Open main draw? Let’s watch and see.