By Steve Gorten
KEY BISCAYNE – When Ingrid Neel learned she had received a wild card in women’s singles qualifying for the 2015 Miami Open, she was ecstatic for her first chance to play in a WTA event.
On Monday, the 16-year-old American had a debut she’ll always remember.
Neel knocked off seventh-seeded Donna Vekic of Croatia, the world’s 85th ranked women’s player, 6-1, 6-2 to advance to Tuesday’s qualifying match against Alison Van Uytvanck. The winner of that second-round qualifier will earn a spot in the main draw.
Neel’s win was one of several surprises on the first day of qualifying at Crandon Park Tennis Center, including multiple upsets in the men’s bracket.
“It feels really good. I didn’t expect this at all. I’m just going to try to do the same thing [Tuesday] and see how it goes,” said Neel, who has been training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. since moving with her family from Rochester, Minn. three years ago. “I wanted to have a lot of fun and enjoy the experience, and it worked out well for me.”
“My serve was extremely good,” she added. “I got a lot of first serves in and won a lot of second-serve points. And then I was aggressive on her return. I just played my game. I didn’t worry about what she was going to do.”
Neel said she wasn’t intimidated by Vekic’s credentials, and that Monday’s win “gives me a great deal of confidence.”
Earlier in the women’s bracket, China’s Lin Zhu beat top seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-4, 6-0. While No. 2 seed Alexandra Dulgheru advanced in a tough three-set match and No. 3 Saisai Zheng moved on in straight sets, No. 4 Carina Witthoeft fell to Urszula Radwanska 6-2, 7-5. No. 6 seed Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor retired at 1-6, 0-0 of her match against Lourdes Dominguez Lino and ninth-seeded American Nicole Gibbs also failed to move on, losing to Julia Glushko 6-4, 6-3.
On the men’s side, the top two seeds – Brazil’s Joao Souza and Japan’s Tatsuma Ito – were beaten by a pair of Germans. Alexander Zverev knocked off Souza 6-3, 7-5 and Michael Berrer pulled out a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3 victory against Ito.
Seventh-seeded Daniel Gimeno-Traver lost to wild card Elias Ymer of Sweden 6-3, 6-4, No. 9 Tobias Kamke was upset by Adrian Menendez-Maceiras 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-3 and No. 10 Maximo Gonzalez fell to Eduoard Roger-Vasselin 6-4, 6-4.
In one of the most entertaining of Monday’s qualifying matches, No. 8 seed Lukas Lacko outlasted American Denis Kudla 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-5.
The men’s and women’s qualifiers will continue on Tuesday at the Crandon Park Tennis Center, starting at 10:00 am.