Haruka Kaji and Mai Hontama Participate in the U.S. Open!
Haruka Kaji and Mai Hontama, both professional players of “SHIMADZU Breakers” tennis team, competed in the qualifying rounds of the U.S. Open 2023! This was Kaji’s first appearance in a Grand Slam tournament.
Here is a look back at the tournament and their journey together so far!
Kaji’s First Grand Slam Appearance!
Kaji turned professional and became a member of SHIMADZU Breakers in 2017. Kaji’s strong points are her sharp serve and strokes played from her well-balanced form.
(Photo taken by H. Mano)
Despite the pressure of this tournament marking her Grand Slam debut, Kaji won in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 over Valentini Grammatikopoulou (Greece) in the first qualifying round. This was a valuable first win at a Grand Slam! In the second round, she put up a good fight against Kaja Juvan (Slovenia) but lost a close match at the end of the full set.
|1st Qualifying Round||Valentini Grammatikopoulou (Greece)||○6-3, 6-3|
|2nd Qualifying Round||Kaja Juvan (Slovenia)||●3-6, 6-4, 2-6|
Last fall, Kaji won two titles at international tournaments (total prize money: $25,000) in just three weeks. She continued to climb steadily up the world rankings and, for the first time in her career, reached the low 200s, the borderline for qualifying for Grand Slam tournaments. Kaji has made it to the coveted stage that all tennis players dream of, and we can expect even greater things from her in the future!
Comment from Haruka Kaji
I am very grateful for all the support I have received. I was nervous since this was my first Grand Slam tournament, but I was happy to play there. It was disappointing to lose the game, and I found many points to improve. However, I am now more determined than ever to try and win other Grand Slam tournaments from here as a starting point.
I could compete this time thanks to the support and encouragement of many people, team members, and others involved in the Breakers team, who stood by me and supported me even when the results were not as good as I wanted. I would like to take a firm look at myself and grow from this point to become stronger.
Hontama Continues to Stand on the Big Stage
Since her first appearance in 2021, Hontama has participated in the U.S. Open for three consecutive years.
(Photo taken by H. Mano)
In the first qualifying round, Hontama defeated 29th-seeded Zhuoxuan Bai (China) 7-5, 7-6 (6) to advance to the second round. In the second round, she lost in straight sets to Arianne Hartono (Netherlands). Nevertheless, she showed her characteristic tenacity and gave her very best until the end.
|1st Qualifying Round||Zhuoxuan Bai (China)||○7-5, 7-6 (6)|
|2nd Qualifying Round||Arianne Hartono (Netherlands)||●4-6, 3-6|
Hontama continues to maintain a high ranking in the world rankings, which are updated weekly, and has qualified for a Grand Slam every year since 2021. Last year at Wimbledon, she made it through the qualifying rounds and qualified for the main draw.
In addition, she has been steadily gaining experience on the big stage by representing Japan in national tournaments. In doubles, she has already won four titles this season and is ranked 127th in the world (as of October 2, 2023). In the future, she will aim to compete in Grand Slams in doubles as well!
Comment from Mai Hontama
I am very grateful for all the support in this year’s U.S. Open. I expected a little more from myself because I played in great form through the first round. So, I was very disappointed that I could not play as well as I wanted in the second round. However, my play has improved a lot. I will continue to do what I need to do and work hard at whatever challenges are in front of me!
And this year, Ms. Kaji, my teammate, also competed in the qualifying rounds! We will do our best to get both of us into the main draw at the Australian Open!
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