Sometimes things have a funny way of working out. Just ask Hailey Baptiste.
Baptiste fell in the semifinals last Friday in the doubles draw of an ITF event in Dallas. Suddenly her weekend freed up. The Mubadala Citi DC Open pounced, offering the DC native a last-minute wild card into the weekend’s qualifying draw.
Baptiste booked a late-nigh flight, arrived in DC at 2 a.m. and was on the grounds of the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center hours later Saturday morning. There was just one problem.
“They lost my bags,” she said of the ever-relatable travel experience. “So, the next morning, I had to go buy rackets, tennis shoes and match clothes.”
Baptiste was ultimately reunited with her equipment about two hours before her qualifying opener. Credit her father Qasim – affectionately known as ‘Q’ – for hustling to Regan National Airport for the pickup.
Suffice to say, the delayed arrival of her luggage has seemingly been the only hiccup for Baptiste, who has since made the most of her wild card invite.
After back-to-back straight-set triumphs over the weekend to reach the main draw, Baptiste backed it up Tuesday holding off former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova 6-1, 0-6, 6-3 on Stadium Court.
“It’s huge,” Baptiste said of the strong few days she’s strung together. “Obviously it’s much bigger level than most of the tournaments I’ve played this year, so it feels really good to be on this stage and doing well.”
Baptiste has primarily played ITF tournaments this year, reaching two finals and winning one title, but beating a decorated opponent like Pliskova at a 500-level event is a significant benchmark.
“I think it’s just more proof that I am where I belong,” she said, “and that I can continue to rise up in the rankings and that the goals that I do have are not out of reach and they are closer than I think.”
Baptiste, who grew up within walking distance of the Rock Creek Park on nearby Kennedy Street, made her WTA debut on these grounds in 2019 and beat then-No.17 Madison Keys for her first career win.
She’ll now aim for her first career Top-10 win on Wednesday night when takes on World No.7 Coco Gauff in a second-round blockbuster on Stadium Court.
“I think it will be a really interesting match,” Baptiste predicted. “We’ve grown up together since we were kids, but we’ve never played against each other, so I’m excited to see how it goes.”