By Steve Gorten
KEY BISCAYNE – Austin Krajicek had to wait for a bus to take him back to his hotel after winning his first qualifying match at the 2015 Miami Open.
After Krajicek’s triumph in his men’s first-round match Wednesday, he was picked up at Crandon Park Tennis Center by a car.
That’s one of the perks of being in the main draw that qualifiers don’t get. It’s a perk Krajicek earned as a qualifier this week by beating Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) in his first match Monday, and then Elias Ymer 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to earn entrance into the main draw.
As a qualifier in pro tennis, you aren’t afforded much luxury. That includes sometimes having to pay out of your own pocket for the hotel room you stay in at a tournament.
“It’s definitely different,” said Krajicek, a 24-year-old American ranked No. 146 in the world. “It’s nice to have that [luxury] as something to work for and earn. Once you get to the main draw, you’re spoiled a little bit.”
Even then, it can be a short reward. At Indian Wells, for the first time in his career, Krajicek, who won the 2011 NCAA doubles championship with Texas A&M teammate Jeff Dadamo, received a wild card into the tournament. He lost his opening match in straight sets.
“It was nice to rebound from that,” he said. “I played a really good match to start off on Monday. That helps get you relaxed a little bit.”
“As a qualifier, it’s tough because it adds a couple of more matches,” he added. “But if you can have them not be physically stressful matches, it’s an advantage [entering the main draw] because you’ve played well on the courts.”
Krajicek, whose career earnings since turning pro in 2012 were $319,670 entering this week, said to become a regular entrant in the main draw, he must continue to string together wins.
“You have to be able to stay in the moment,” he noted. “Easier said than done.”
Krajicek reached the quarterfinals of the Memphis Open earlier this year, winning three qualifying matches to make the main draw and then beating veteran Ivo Karlovic in the round of 16 before losing to Kei Nishikori in three sets.
He said his best tennis memory is playing in the main draw of the 2008 U.S. Open after winning the USTA Boys’ National Tennis Championships that year. His run so far at this year’s Miami Open in his home state is “definitely up there” as well.
“It’s definitely been a good year,” he said, “and something I can build on for sure.”
Krajicek was one of three men’s qualifiers to win first-round matches Wednesday. Robin Haase and Filip Krajinovic also advanced. On Thursday, the trend continued when Alejandro Falla beat fellow qualifier Michael Berrer 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 to set up a second-round matchup against Karlovic, the tournament’s No. 20 seed.