The CNMI is represented in the prestigious U.S. Open for the first time, as Carol Lee made it to the main draw of the juniors competition at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City.
Lee made history for the Commonwealth in the Grade A event after winning two matches in the qualifying tournament over the weekend. The 17-year-old first stunned No. 16 seed Tara Malik of the U.S., 6-3, 6-4, to move one victory away from entering the 64-player main draw of the girls singles event.
The CNMI player went on to notch one of the eight qualifying slots following another straight set win over Hibah Shaikh of the U.S., 6-2, 6-3. Before losing to Lee, Shaikh came from an impressive 6-2, 7-5 upset victory against No. 6 seed Ana Luiza Cruz of Brazil.
With her pair of wins, Lee ended up becoming one of the only two unseeded players in the qualifiers to have marched into the main draw. The other one was Puerto Rico’s Lauren Anzalotto Kynoch, who topped No. 8 Charlotte Owensby of the U.S. and No. 2 Michaela Kadleckova of Slovakia.
Up next for Lee is a first round match against Robin Montgomery tomorrow at the top half of the draw. The world No. 127 Lee will be battling a U.S. player who is ranked in the Top 50 in the world. The world No. 41 Montgomery just came from a finals victory in the doubles event (with Latvia’s Karmila Bartone) of the Prince George’s County International in Maryland.
The CNMI bet, on the other hand, travelled to New York alone from Fiji and just less than a week after competing in Australia where she reached the semifinals (doubles) and quarterfinals (singles) of the 2019 Australian Winter International in Tweed Heads, New South Wales.
Dong Min Lee, Carol’s father and one of her coaches on Saipan, said he is proud of what her daughter has accomplished in New York since she came there without a coach or even a guardian.
“I am sad that we’re not able to be with her, but we are also proud of how brave and responsible she is. She’s been travelling to competitions since she was 10 and she has grown to become mentally strong,” said Lee, whose family also shouldered Carol’s travel expenses to New York, as it’s not included on the benefits she is getting from the International Tennis Federation.
“She will be playing against a very good opponent and we wish her good luck. Be patient, be confident, and play smart,” the Dong Min said.
The U.S. Open stint is the third Grade A (third in the rankings behind Junior Masters and Grand Slam) event for Lee this year, as she also saw action in the main draw of the Australian Open in January and in the 60th Trofeo Bonfiglio—Campionati Internazionali d’Italia Juniores in Milan, Italy in May.