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AUSSIES IN US OPEN WILDCARD CONTENTION

Posted By Jedd Zetzer  
15/08/2021
22:00 PM

There will be eleven Australians in main draw action at this year's US Open.

Four on the women's side, and seven on the men's side.

However, those numbers include a wildcard on each side, which have not yet been awarded. 

On the women's side, we have Ash Barty, Ajla Tomljanovic, Sam Stosur, and a wildcard!

World No. 1 Ash Barty will lead the charge for the Aussies, aiming to claim her third major title and her first US Open title. 

Barty reached the round of 16 in her last two appearances at Flushing Meadows in 2018 and 2019. 

Ajla Tomljanovic is also in the main draw. The World No. 49, who has reached the second round in New York on four occasions will be looking to go at least one step further this year, especially after reaching her maiden major quarter-final at Wimbledon. 

The third Aussie in the women's draw is a former champion at Flushing Meadows. Enter Sam Stosur. Despite sitting outside the top 100 in the ranks, Stosur enters the main draw with her protected entry. The 2011 US Open champion is certainly a floater who the women in the draw will not want to face in the opening round. 

The fourth Aussie will be a wildcard entrant. 

So, who's in the race for the final prized entry?

Six Australians currently sit in between 100-200 in the rankings who are all in contention, but you'd have to suggest three Aussies have their hands raised slightly higher than the rest when it comes to earning this wildcard. 

Astra Sharma sits at 116 in the ranks and will be hoping to enter her third consecutive US Open main draw. The 25 year old has enjoyed a solid season, which has seen her claim her maiden WTA Tour title, and she has certainly put her hand up as a worthy candidate for the main draw wildcard. 

The second Aussie who is a serious chance is Storm Sanders. She sits at 139 in the ranks and comes into the US swing in solid form. The 27 year old has only played in New York once, when she went down in the opening round of qualifying back in 2013. 

Also a genuine chance for a wildcard is 23 year old Maddison Inglis, who featured in the main draw at Flushing Meadows last year for the first time, and sits at 147 in the rankings. The Western Australian is in relatively solid form having moved past the first round in four of her past six tour level tournaments. 

Also in contention - Arina Rodionova, Lizette Cabrera and Priscilla Hon

31 year old Arina Rodionova sits at 155 in the rankings and has featured in the US Open main draw twice. She reached the second round in 2017 and bowed out in the first round last year. 

Lizette Cabrera, who's ranked three spots behind Rodionova at 158 has also featured twice in the main draw, but went down in the first round on both occasions in 2018 and 2020. 

Priscilla Hon, who is currently in Australia and not playing in the States is also a chance for the wildcard. Her only main draw appearance at Flushing Meadows was in 2019, where she gained a lucky loser entry and went down in the first round. 

Whilst you could make a case for all six women, I do believe Sharma is the front runner, alongside Sanders and Inglis. 

On the men's side, there will be seven Aussies in action. Alex de Minaur, John Millman, Jordan Thompson, James Duckworth, Nick Kyrgios, Alexei Popyrin, and a wildcard! A strong field for our Aussies who largely come into the tournament in solid form.

World No. 18 Alex de Minaur is the highest ranked Australian in the main draw, and this is a massive tournament for the Demon, who is defending 360 ranking points after his quarter-final run last year.

John Millman has also reached a quarter-final at Flushing Meadows and enters the draw sitting at 43 in the ranks, ten spots shy of his career high 33. Millman is certainly one of the unseeded entrants that fellow players will not be wanting to meet in the first round. 

James Duckworth is another unseeded Aussie who players would not like to meet in the first round. The Duckmeister comes into the US Open in ripping form. Fresh off qualifying and making it through to the round of 16 at the Toronto Masters, Duckworth sits at a career high 69 in the live rankings. 

Another floater in the main draw is Jordan Thompson. Thompson comes into the tournament in almost career best form, having reached three quarterfinals and a semi-final in his last five tour level tournaments. Thompson also made a run to the third round of Wimbledon, defeating Casper Ruud and Kei Nishikori on the way. 

And speaking of serious floaters, enter - Nick Kyrgios. This man is capable of beating anyone on his day, and you'd imagine with the crowds he draws, he would feature on one of the stadium courts in Flushing Meadows. 

The last of the Aussies who is a direct entry into the main draw without requiring a wildcard is Alexei Popyrin. The 22 year old has won just one of his last ten singles matches and will be hoping to hit some form in New York. Whilst he might not be in the best form, Popyrin performs at the majors, and is another Aussie floater. 

So, the question is - who will be joining these six Aussies in the main draw? 

There are four Aussie men ranked between 100-200. Christopher O'Connell, Alex Bolt, Marc Polmans and Thanasi Kokkinakis. But one of the strongest candidates sits just outside the top 200, at 204. That man is Max Purcell

Max Purcell would have to be one of the hot favourites to receive Australia's wildcard into the men's singles draw, with the 23 year old in career best form. 

Purcell's impressive form started on the grass in Eastbourne approximately six weeks ago. The New South Welshman took down former Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson in Eastbourne qualifying, in an incredibly impressive performance, but unfortunately did not qualify for the main draw. However, luck was on the Aussies side. He entered the draw as a lucky loser and took down No. 1 seed Gael Monfils en route to reaching the semifinals. In his next singles tournament, Purcell claimed his second ATP Challenger title in Nur-Sultan, just before heading over to Tokyo to play in the Olympic Games. 

Once again, luck was on the Aussies side at the Olympics, but as the old saying goes: luck's a fortune. Purcell was not initially in the singles draw in Tokyo, but when two time gold medalist Andy Murray withdrew, Purcell gained entry as an alternate. And boy, did he take his chance. Purcell took down Canadian seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in a career best win, once again announcing himself to the tour. 

His ranking may not be as high as O'Connell, Bolt, Polmans or Kokkinakis, but he is certainly a chance at earning the wildcard, and would be a worthy recipient. 

Christopher O'Connell is the highest ranked Australian outside the top 100, sitting at 122 in the ranks, and comes into the US Open in outstanding form. 

The 27 year old has performed well at the highest level whenever he's had the opportunity to, and that includes his performance at the US Open last year. O'Connell reached the second round before going down to Daniil Medvedev, and was certainly no push over. He also claimed a fantastic win over Jan-Lennard Struff at the Australian Open this year. This guy can play - especially on his favourite surface which is hard court. 

In his only hard court tournament so far in the lead up to the US Open, O'Connell took down Italian star Jannik Sinner en route to reaching the quarterfinals in Atlanta, before being pipped by eventual champion John Isner in an incredibly tight three-setter, which could've easily gone his way. 

O'Connell you'd have to imagine is the red hot favourite to claim the wildcard. 

The next Aussie in contention is Alex Bolt. And he is also in fantastic form. 

Bolt left Australia later than the others, and was in a serious form slump when he arrived on the tour, losing his first eight matches. But then something changed. Bolt's year took off, and in a big way, as he qualified for the Nottingham Challenger and went on to win the whole thing - which saw him earn a wildcard into the Wimbledon main draw. The South Australian then defeated Serb Filip Krajinovic at The All England Club, advancing to the second round for the first time. 

Since Wimbledon, Bolt has only played two tournaments, but competed well at both - navigating his way through qualifying to reach the main draw in Newport, as well as reaching the quarterfinals in Los Cabos. 

Also in contention is Marc Polmans, who sits at 150 in the ranks. The 24 year old was in the main draw last year, but went down in five sets in the first round to American Marcos Giron. 

Polmans' year got off to a shaky start as the Aussie found himself in a form slump. However, he has managed to turn it around, qualifying for Wimbledon and making it through to the second round, as well as reaching the second round of the Swiss Open a few weeks back. Polmans, is definitely another worth candidate. 

Next up - Thanasi Kokkinakis

The fact that Thanasi has been able to compete on the tour all year without suffering any injuries has personally been a highlight of mine, from an Australian point of view, regardless of his results. I'm a firm believer that if Thanasi can stay fit, the results will come. 

The 25 year old reached the second round in New York in 2019 and will be hoping to be given the chance to better that this year. 

Kokkinakis is also in nice form, fresh off a semi-final run at the Lexington Challenger, where he beat the highly rated, in form American youngster Jenson Brooksby. 

Now, you're probably reading this thinking all five are genuinely worthy recipients. I truly believe that is the case. There is no doubt those who select the wildcards have a selection headache on their hands. 

Regardless of who is awarded the wildcard, you'd have to say that all five of these men are a serious chance at earning a spot in the main draw through qualifying anyway, but a wildcard would be a sweet reward for solid form for all five Aussies. 

Listen to The First Serve, this Monday at 7pm AEST on 1116AM SEN Melbourne, 1629AM SEN SA / replayed at 8pm AEST on 1170am Sydney or listen live and catch up on the SEN App. 

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