With nearly 50 American players in the main draw at the start of the Oracle Challenger Series Newport Beach presented by RBC Wealth Management, you couldn’t blame the international contingent if they felt a bit outnumbered. And after 17 Americans were victorious on Tuesday – a day in which not a single American player lost to an international player – the outlook became even more daunting.
But on Wednesday, Vernonica Cepede Royg (Paraguay), Yanina Wickmayer (Belgium) and Nadia Podoroska (Argentina) showed that although the international contingent may be small, they are mighty, as each recorded impressive victories against American opponents to advance to the Round of 16.
The No. 11 seed Cepede Royg needed to dig deep to overcome a tough young opponent in qualifier Quinn Gleason, outlasting the American 7-5, 2-6, 6-2. Despite being heavily outnumbered by American players, Cepede Royg thoroughly enjoys playing tournaments such as this one here in the United States.
“I love the USA – it’s better than Europe for sure,” Cepede Royg said following her match. “It’s different, the people are different, the atmosphere is different. It’s absolutely better to play here.”
Cepede Royg will face Podoroska in the Round of 16 on Thursday, who overcame a talented American opponent of her own on Wednesday, upsetting No. 7 seed Francesca DiLorenzo 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. The 22-year-old is off to a blazing start to the 2020 season, having won two consecutive ITF $25K tournaments, including the Oracle Pro Series Malibu earlier this month. Podoroska and Cepede Royg will face off on Thursday with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line against the winner of American Shelby Rogers and No. 4 seed Tatjana Maria.
No. 12 seed Wickmayer also put on a strong showing on Wednesday, dominating American Claire Liu 6-1, 6-3 to advance. The Belgian – who has two career WTA singles titles and three WTA 125K singles titles – will face No. 5 seed Madison Brengle in the next round. In three trips to the Oracle Challenger Series Newport Beach, this is Wickmayer’s first time advancing past the third round.
“If you lose early in Melbourne, it’s nice to have an event and play some matches and get back into the rhythm,” Wickmayer said. “So that’s basically why I came here to get some more matches in and really happy to be here. It’s a nice event, I’ve played it before, so I’m really happy to be back.”
The trio of players – along with Maria and No. 6 seed Stefanie Voegele – will all have their eye set on bringing home the Oracle Challenger Series title, which no American female has won since Danielle Collins did so at the inaugural event at Newport Beach in 2018.