- 26 Dec 2020
Six Australians should be smiling on Christmas Eve. A present has arrived under their tree: a wildcard for the main draw of the Australian Open, which will take place from February 8 to 21, 2021. Four wildcards for the women’s draw and two for the men’s draw have been issued so far. The recipients so far are, Christopher O’Connell, Marc Polmans, Daria Garilova, Astra Sharma, Maddison Inglis and Lizette Cabrera.
Christmas has come early for these #AO2021 wildcards.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) December 23, 2020
Gavrilova back for Australian Ipen
Since her Grand Slam debut in 2013, Daria Gavrilova had never missed a single Australian Open. However, that’s what happened in 2020, when a foot injury saw her drop to 788th place. The former world No. 20 (in August 2017) logically received an invitation to the Australian Open, and she managed to get through a round at Roland Garros, facing Dayana Yastremska. A performance that Gavrilova will no doubt have to repeat if she wants to improve the 450th place she occupies, and make a comeback in the top 100.
The three other invitations have, for the moment, been granted to Australian women. Astra Sharma, 129th in the world, will be there. 85th in 2019, the 25-year-old player made it through the first round in Melbourne this season in only Grand Slam victory.
Maddison Inglis has yet to win a match in a Major despite three attempts. The world’s 130th will have the opportunity to do so in 2021. This will also be the case for Lizette Cabrera (140th), the fourth recipient. The Townsville native has lost five times in the first round of Grand Slams, including twice in 2020.
Four invitations will be granted during January. Three will be distributed by Tennis Australia. Sam Stosur (112th), Priscilla Hon (148th), Arina Rodionova (169th) or Destanee Aiava (215th) could be the beneficiaries. The last one will be awarded to the winner of the Asia-Pacific tournament. South Korea’s Na-Lae Han won it in 2020.
Polmans, the push for the top 100
Only two wild cards have been distributed for the men’s draw so far. Marc Polmans is one of them. The local – he lives in Melbourne – became known to the general public after having beat Ugo Humbert in the first round of Roland-Garros 2020. Already invited last year to the Australian Open, the 23-year-old (124th) made it through the first round, beating Mikhail Kukushkin.
Like Polmans, Christopher O’Connell is not far from reaching the top 100. The Sydney native, 120th in the world, could come close if he makes it through the first round of the Australian Open, where he received an invitation. He won his first Grand Slam match at the last US Open against Laslo Djere, then ranked 81st in the world.
One invitation from the Asia-Pacific wild-card playoff tournament, where players compete for a place in the Australian Open main draw, and five invitations from Tennis Australia remain to be awarded. Alexei Popyrin, 113th in the world, is next in the rankings and either directly – depending on defections – or by a wildcard might have a chance at participating. Alex Bolt (171st), Aleksandar Vukic (196th), Bernard Tomic (226th), Andrew Harris (229th) and Thanasi Kokkinakis (260th) will follow. And let’s not forget possible non-Australians who could benefit from it: Andy Murray and Eugénie Bouchard were awarded one at the last French Open.
Finally, there is a major change compared to previous editions: the agreements between the Australian, French and American federations will not be in force this year. No French or American will receive an invitation for the first Grand Slam of the season. The same thing already occurred at 2020 Roland-Garros, where no Aussies or Americans were invited.