Falconi falls in U.S. Open qualifying

Sophomore Irina Falconi became the third player in Tech history to participate in the U.S. Open when she earned a wild card from the United States Tennis Association for this past Tuesday in the women’s qualifying singles draw in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

Her entry as a wild card into the Open was due to her success on the USTA Pro Circuit over this past summer. Falconi won a pair of USTA Pro Circuit singles titles and one doubles title as she swept through the Norman Wikerson Tennis Experience in Atlanta, Ga. and the Heartland Clinic USTA Women’s Classic in St. Joseph, Mo.

Falconi had to win three matches to qualify for the main draw. The qualifying round consisted of 128 women competing for 16 spots in the U.S. Open singles draw.

She was one of only two college players competing in the final Grand Slam of the season, but did not get too far. In the opening round this past Tuesday, Falconi dropped her match to University of Florida freshman Lauren Embree at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Falconi was tied at 4-4 in the first set, but Embree was able to break her serve and hold for the set. Embree held strong in the second set to finish her 6-4, 6-1 victory, eliminating the rising Tech sophomore.

The only other Jackets to compete in the U.S. Open have been senior Amanda McDowell (last year) and Kristi Miller (2005 – doubles). Neither fared all that well in the Open, as Miller was the only one to make it past the first round. After winning the 2008 NCAA Singles Championship last year, McDowell was unable to continue her success into the professional tourney and lost her opening match to former Clemson player Julie Coin, who earned a decisive 6-1, 6-1 victory.

Back in Sept. 2005, Miller teamed with former University of Miami Megan Bradley to defeat Columbia’s Catalina Castano and Spain’s Laura Pous Tio in the first round in two sets, taking the match 6-4, 6-2. Miller and Bradley lost in the second round, though, as they faced the duo of Corina Morariu and Patty Schnyder of Switzerland. They ended up losing in two sets to Morariu and Schnyder with the score 6-2, 6-3.

Falconi now heads into her second season She received a national ranking as high as No. 5 last season and will come back for her second season with the Jackets along with five other returning players, so the team will be strong despite losing graduated senior Christy Striplin.

The Jackets will also welcome freshman Elizabeth Kilborn this season. Kilborn went to four straight region and state championships in high school and played No. 1 as a junior and senior on a team that went 116-0 in all four years.