By John Delong
Michael McClune has spent his entire professional career on the Challenger and Futures circuits, so he’s not used to the kind of royal treatment he is getting at the Winston-Salem Open.
The exciting part for the 22-year-old Californian is, he’ll get that royal treatment a little longer than he expected.
McClune, ranked No. 313 in the latest ATP rankings, beat Jack Sock 6-3, 6-3 on Sunday afternoon to advance through the third round of qualifying and into the 48-player Main Draw.
It’s the first time in McClune’s five-year professional career that he has made it through to the Main Draw of an ATP World Tour event – although he was awarded a wildcard into the 2007 US Open after winning the USTA Boys 18s title in Kalamazoo.
"It’s actually the first time that I’ve qualified, so it means a lot," McClune said. "It’s the best tournament of my career. I’m playing well. To beat Jack, I mean, he’s obviously had an unbelievable career already and he’s obviously one of the up-and-coming Americans. So I’m very happy."
McClune, who won three qualifying matches and then reached the quarterfinals of a Challenger in Aptos, Calif., last week, was attempting to qualify for an ATP World Tour event for just the second time all year. He lost in the first round of qualies in San Jose last winter.
He spent all of May in South Korea, playing three Futures events and one Challenger, and has bounced around from Sacramento to Lexington to Binghamton to Chico in the time since.
"It’s a grind on the Challenger tour," McClune said. "You’re traveling 30 weeks a year and it’s really tough. So when you come to ATP tournaments, it’s a little easier, it’s nicer. This is great. I love this facility. Obviously I’m not used to this type of facility when I’m playing Futures and Challengers, so I can’t ask for anything more than this."
McClune broke Sock, a two-time USTA Boys 18 champion who came to Winston-Salem ranked No. 252, in the first game and seemed in control of the match throughout.
"I knew I had to come out really strong really early so he couldn’t get in a rhythm, try to keep the points a little shorter," he said. "So I came out firing from the beginning. I’ve been playing with a lot of confidence and everything was going in today."
McClune beat Jeff Dadamo in the first round of qualifying and Guillaume Rufin in the second round on Saturday.
Benjamin Becker, Ernests Gulbis and Sergiy Stakhovsky also advanced through qualifying into the Main Draw. Becker beat Chris Guccione 6-3, 3-6, 6-3; Gulbis beat Jerzy Janowicz 5-7, 6-2, 6-3; and Stakhovsky beat Sanam Singh 6-7, 6-3, 6-3.