Polansky's Destiny: The Luckiest Loser Of Them All
It's one of the most sought-after prizes in all of tennis: the 'lucky loser'. The ultimate second chance, it turns losers into winners in an instant. Fall in the final round of qualifying and your dream of lifting the trophy remains intact.
But they call it the 'lucky loser' for a reason. While what transpires between the lines is in your control, it all comes down to luck when drawing the chips. For Peter Polansky, karma was in his corner all year.
While some might only dream of scoring a coveted lucky loser berth into a Grand Slam, Polansky's fortune extended to not just one major in 2018, but ALL FOUR. At the Australian Open, he was the first lucky loser selected. Then, at Roland Garros, he was the second drawn. And at Wimbledon he smashed the single-season record with a third lucky loser entry of the year.
On Friday, the Canadian was defeated by Donald Young 7-5, 1-6, 6-3, in the final round of US Open qualifying. Hours later, Polansky raised his arms in triumph as he emerged from the tournament office. It was a Grand Slam of luck in one year.
"Before the match, I heard that one guy withdrew, but you still can't think about it when you're out there," Polansky told ATPWorldTour.com. "It would be stupid to think like that. I blocked it out and then after the match was thinking how I needed to go through the process again, which is pretty nerve-wracking. In the end, I kind of knew it was going to happen. I was still nervous though."
LL-SLAM COMPLETE ✌🏻PEACE OUT pic.twitter.com/dcbRSclLDv— Peter Polansky (@PPolansky) August 24, 2018
When Mitchell Krueger claimed the final qualifying spot, marking the conclusion of qualies week, all that was left to do was draw the chips. At the US Open, the four highest-ranked players who lost in the final round are the first competitors eligible for a 'lucky loser' entry. When Pablo Cuevas and Jared Donaldson both withdrew due to injury, two spots opened up.
That meant that two players among Polansky, Lorenzo Sonego, Ruben Bemelmans and Nicolas Mahut were selected at random. Numbered chips were assigned to each player and Polansky took matters into his own hands. Literally. As is standard practice, anyone can pull chips, and under the careful eye of a tournament official he fortuitously picked out his own number from a blind draw.
"I drew the chips myself as soon as Krueger's match ended. I was thinking I'll take matters into my own hands. I picked it for Australia and I picked myself. At the French Open and Wimbledon, I wasn't around for it. Today, I was just thinking that it's the last one of the year and I've already gotten it three times, so I might as well go for it. I picked the chips and I selected myself first. The second one was Sonego. Just too good."
At No. 120 in the ATP Rankings, 30-year-old Polansky has been pushing towards a Top 100 breakthrough in recent months. The Toronto native ascended to a career-high No. 110 in June and lifted his fourth ATP Challenger Tour trophy last month in Granby, Canada. Playing the best tennis of his career, he believes that everything happens for a reason and this is the time to make some noise on one of the biggest stages.
"Last time I played in the main draw here was when I qualified in 2009 and 2010 back-to-back. I lost in the last round of qualies five times, including last year, and I never got the lucky loser. It's a great tournament and I'm playing really well now. I'm playing Alexander Zverev on Tuesday and there's a possibility for a night match on one of the stadiums, so it would be really cool. I'm feeling good with my game, so why not do some damage.
"There's some big points and prize money on the line and I'm feeling great. I just turned 30, but it's a young 30. I would say that last year I was playing my best tennis of my career, but I'm playing even better this year. I've had a good summer and I hope I can keep improving. As long as I'm able to feel good physically and not break down, my goal is to just keep improving."
And perhaps the biggest twist of fate from the final round of qualifying came from another Canadian. Felix Auger-Aliassime drew close friend, countryman and fellow teen Denis Shapovalov to open his first Grand Slam main draw. The #NextGenATP duo will clash on Monday evening, with Polansky opening his quest against Zverev on Tuesday.