In April of 2016, a lot was made about a lack of eligibility restrictions when 69-year-old Gail Falkenberg played Taylor Townsend in qualifying at the ITF $25,000 in Pelham, Ala.
But what about the player Falkenberg lost just one game against to set up her meeting with Townsend?
Enter Rosalyn Small. Since debuting in qualifying at an ITF $10,000 event in Sumter, S.C. seven years ago, Small has appeared in 68 ITF tournaments, playing singles qualifying at 64 of those events. The result? She has won zero sets, eating 121 bagels along the way—10 of those in doubles.
Can anyone with any tennis integrity please tell me how this player Rosalyn Small is in WTA New Haven draw? She was a Lucky loser but never even played in qualifying, then got a BYE. She also lost a set 0-6 to pensioner Gail Falkenberg https://t.co/gqaCXlJUKE pic.twitter.com/aWWpVRTGbT— Chris Goldsmith (@TheTennisTalker) September 4, 2019
On Wednesday, the unlikely occurred at the WTA 125K Series event in New Haven. Jana Cepelova, who has a career win over Serena Williams, was due to face Laura Siegemund after winning her first-round match over Maria Sanchez. Instead, the No. 8-seeded Siegemund withdrew with a lower back injury and Small moved into the German’s second-round slot as a lucky loser.
Cepelova would win 6-0, 6-0, dropping five points in each set to finish her day of work in 33 minutes.
Rosalyn Small getting a cult following for being bad at tennis and finally getting a streamed match. How exciting— Harry (@hecairns) September 4, 2019
Make no mistake, Small got in fair and square. She signed in as an alternate into qualifying, and when lucky loser spots opened up, the American moved into the main draw. New Haven had a four person qualifying draw, and two lucky losers (including Small) would end up in the main draw. And in Small's defense, world No. 18 Wang Qiang lost in 44 minutes to Serena Williams on Tuesday night at the US Open, lasting just 11 more minutes than she did.
But it begs the question: when players like Cepelova are forced to spend court time against an opponent who does not meet professional standards, how can tennis be taken seriously? When someone like Small is on the order of play alongside the likes of Lauren Davis, who defeated Simona Halep this year, or a matchup between Americans Nicole Gibbs and Whitney Osuigwe, the integrity of the sport will be rightfully questioned.
Small has every right to play the sport, and dreams deserve to be chased, but at some point, the line may have to be drawn between dream, and fantasy.