The 2017 Australian Open added two players to the men’s and women’s main draws respectively via wild-card playoffs that took place this offseason. The first took place in Zhuhai, China in early December and featured non-Australian players from the Asia-Pacific region.
On the women’s side, Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum, a 23 year old who failed to win a WTA match last season, won the qualifying tournament, defeating an in-form Kai-Chen Chang of Taiwan in the final. Kumkhum qualified for two slams last season, including the Australian open, and is at her best on fast surfaces. Still, she struggled against higher ranked competition last year, and will need to up her game if she hopes to win matches in Melbourne.
On the men’s side, ATP veteran Denis Istomin was both the top seed, and the most experienced member of the field, and he showed his superior abilities by capturing the wild card over the deaf Duck-Hee Lee, a rising talent from Korea who is an inspiring story. Istomin had just one tough match in the wild-card playoff, and will be looking to improve on his miserable 6-20 record at the ATP level last season. Istomin reached the third round in Melbourne as recently as 2014 and depending on the draw he gets he could get back there again.
Young gun Omar Jasika wasn’t seeded in the playoff for Aussie players that concluded yesterday, but he showed off his range of talents and fulfilled his promise by battling past his countryman to earn a coveted main draw spot. The 19 year old Jasika made his ATP debut in 2014, and his slam debut at the 2016 Australian Open. He’s mostly been grinding away on the challenger tour to improve his ranking and went 26-18 below the ATP level in 2016. Jasika hopes to join Aussies Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic, and Thanasi Kokkinakis, as an ATP regular this coming season. He has as much talent as his contemporaries, but his game is more raw at this point in time.
Former Tennessee volunteer J.P. Smith, a challenger tour regular, was the finalist on the men’s side in the wild card challenge, and still may nab a wild card from Tennis Australia.
17 year old Melbourne local Jaimee Fourlis earned the biggest result of her career when she defeated Abbie Myers in the Aussie women’s playoff. Fourlis will be making her WTA and Grand Slam debut in front of friends and family in her home tournament and could be the next great female Aussie tennis player.
18 year old Scott Jones, a freshman at the University of Tennessee who hails from Perth, Australia, won the under 18 boys playoff to grab a wild card for the right to make his grand slam debut. 16 year old Destanee Aiva did the same on the girls singles side, and is the first player born in the year 2000 or later to play in a grand slam main draw, presuming she’s able to take part in her first round match next month.
18 year old Michael Mmoh, and US Open junior champion Kayla Day have already earned main draw USTA wild cards to the AO as well by virtue of their strong play in this Fall’s pro circuit challengers. Both Mmoh and Day made their grand slam debuts at the 2016 US Open without earning a win. Hopefully the experience in New York will aid their hopes of making noise in Melbourne.
Quentin Halys, who won two Grand Slam matches last year, in Melbourne, and Paris, was the French tennis federation wild card selection on the men’s side, while Myrtille Georges, a 25 year old journeywoman who made her grand slam debut last year in Paris, was the selection on the women’s side. Lizette Cabrera, another Aussie Teen, has also been announced as a wild card selection on the women’s side by Tennis Australia.