Australian Open Wild Card Challenge presented by the USTA
(as of November 13)
(November 13, 2017) Taylor Townsend performed so well while competing for a main draw wild card into the 2018 Australian Open that even though she earned that wild card, she very well may not need it.
The 21-year old Townsend clinched the Australian Open Wild Card Challenge presented by the USTA by winning the singles title at the $80,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Waco, Texas, on Sunday. Townsend’s victory – her third USTA Pro Circuit singles title in the last month – also elevated her ranking to No. 97, which is more than likely to guarantee her direct entry into the main draw in Melbourne when the entry lists are announced on December 4.
Should that happen, the Challenge’s wild card entry would go to second-place finisher Kristie Ahn, who earned 116 points compared to Townsend’s 136. Ahn, the 25-year old Stanford product who earned 115 points by winning the singles title at the $80,000 event in Tyler, Texas, two weeks ago, is ranked No. 112.
The men’s wild card recipient will be decided this week. Tim Smyczek continues to lead the way, with 95 points, as he and much of the contending field take to the courts at the USTA Pro Circuit $75,000 Challenger in Champaign, Ill.
Second-place Denis Kudla is not playing this week, and third-place Tennys Sandgren’s ranking, at No. 85, is good enough for direct entry. Therefore, Michael Mmoh, Bradley Klahn, Bjorn Fratangelo, Alex Sarkissian and Taylor Fritz are the only players who can overtake Smyczek, but each of them would have to win the singles title in Champaign to do so. Should Smyczek reach the final there, he would clinch the wild card.
USTA Player Development will award an Australian Open main-draw wild card to the one American man and one American woman who earn the most ATP World Tour and WTA ranking points in a series of hard-court events this fall. The women’s challenge concludes the week of Nov. 6, while the men’s challenge concludes the week of Nov. 13. Both challenges will include the best two results during the three-week time period.
New this year for the men’s wild card challenge, USTA Player Development will consider all American players’ results worldwide for the wild cards (main draw and qualifying). USTA Pro Circuit tournaments and U.S. and international ATP World Tour events at the ATP Challenger-level and above played on a hard-court surface will be included. The women’s challenge will include select $80,000 USTA Pro Circuit hard-court events (main draw only).
Only Americans who did not otherwise earn direct entry into the Australian Open are eligible. In the event of a tie, the player with the best ATP (on Nov. 14) or best WTA (on Nov. 7) singles ranking will be awarded the wild card. The USTA and Tennis Australia have a reciprocal agreement in which wild cards into the 2017 US Open and 2018 Australian Open are exchanged. The 2018 Australian Open main draw will be held Monday, Jan. 15, through Sunday, Jan. 28.
All USTA Pro Circuit tournaments will be streamed live on www.procircuit.usta.com. Follow the USTA Pro Circuit on Twitter via #USTAProCircuit.
The USTA first used this wild card format in 2012 to award wild cards into the French Open and US Open and has been doing so ever since. Last year, young Americans Michael Mmoh and Kayla Day earned wild cards into the 2017 Australian Open by winning the wild card challenge; both players have since broken into the Top 150. This year, then-15-year old Amanda Anisimova and Sandgren, who was on the comeback from hip surgery, won the Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge for wild cards into the French Open, and young Americans Sofia Kenin and Tommy Paul earned US Open wild cards by winning the US Open Wild Card Challenge this summer; Kenin reached the third round in New York to face Maria Sharapova in Arthur Ashe Stadium.