'I felt like a kid': UNC star Fiona Crawley recounts unlikely run at U.S. Open


I Felt Like a Kid’: UNC Star Fiona Crawley Recounts Unlikely Journey at U.S. Open

UNC Junior Fiona Crawley and Sophomore Carson Tanguilig Showcase Tennis Prowess in 4-0 Victory Over Maryland Terrapins on January 27, 2023, at The Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center

Two weeks before the U.S. Open doubles tournament in mid-August, Fiona Crawley was hitting with her partner, Carson Tanguilig, and former UNC tennis standout Jamie Loeb when she received big news. Loeb was texting another former Tar Heel, Makenna Jones, who had just earned a wild card into the singles tournament. Moments later, another text came in. Crawley received a wild card to play in the singles tournament as well. Prior to Crawley’s run at the U.S. Open, when she first received word of her wild card from Loeb, panic set in. Before that day, Crawley said she hadn’t touched a racket in two weeks — a short break from tennis after competing all summer.

Crawley already knew she’d be competing with Tanguilig in doubles, but the wild card meant she had to change her flight and gear up quickly to play against professionals a week earlier than expected. These players were older, ranked higher and did not have schoolwork to keep up with like Crawley, an English and Comparative Literature major[1]. In her first match against No. 249 Reka Luca Jani on Aug. 23, Crawley faced a close contest with multiple tie-breaks. However, she managed to clinch a 6-1, 6-7 (7-5), 7-6 (10-6) victory and record her first ever Grand Slam match victory.

Crawley faced No. 193 Timea Babos in the second round, scraping by with another win in a last-ditch tiebreak of the third set, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (10-5). The final points of the match had to be played the next day after it was postponed due to bad weather.

Credit By: edition.cnn.com

During her improbable run in the qualifying tournament, UNC senior Fiona Crawley faced a mix of emotions. As she advanced further, the pressure to win and secure a spot in the main draw grew. With her doubles partner, Carson Tanguilig, present to support her, she found the strength to push through.

Crawley’s journey took a turn during the third round of the qualifying tournament when she realized that another win would propel her into the main draw, while a loss would end her remarkable run. The stakes were high, and she couldn’t help but get inside her own head.

However, the presence of her loved ones in the crowd provided a source of comfort. Crawley heard Tanguilig’s voice among the spectators, and it reassured her that her closest supporters were there for her. With their unwavering support, she secured her place in the main tournament with a convincing 6-3, 6-3 victory over the No. 13 seed, Kimberly Birrell. At the time, Crawley was ranked No. 731 in the WTA rankings.

UNC’s head coach, Brian Kalb, expressed his pride in Crawley’s achievement, emphasizing its significance for both UNC and college tennis.

After her qualifying victory, Crawley and Tanguilig walked together through the tunnel, and Crawley was overcome with a mix of stress-induced and happy tears. She struggled to put into words the overwhelming emotions she felt at that moment.

In the main draw, Crawley faced off against No. 82 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova but was defeated with a score of 2-6, 4-6. This loss shifted her focus to doubles play.

Two days later, on August 31, she and Tanguilig competed against No. 179 Daria Saville and No. 69 Irina Khromacheva. Despite their best efforts, Crawley and Tanguilig struggled to gain momentum against their more experienced opponents, resulting in a 2-6, 2-6 loss.

Despite the setback, Tanguilig expressed gratitude for the opportunity to compete in her first Grand Slam tournament, emphasizing that the professional level of play isn’t as distant as it may seem.

Looking ahead, Crawley has her sights set on traveling to Europe next year and pursuing her tennis career at the professional level.



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