29-year-old American Tim Smyczek is putting himself in good position to win the 2018 USTA wildcard challenge to the Australian Open main draw in January. Smyczek, who’s now ranked #158, won the Charlottesville Challenger this past weekend, which was the first Challenger he’s won since 2015 in Tiburon. Smyczek hasn’t had much success this season, but a title was a step in the right direction for the Milwaukee native. He reached his career high of #68 in 2015, and is showing that he still has something left in the tank.
Smyczek started working with USTA coach Dustin Taylor over the summer which may explain the success as of late. He qualified for the US Open without dropping a set before falling to Phillip Kohlschreiber in the first round. These next two weeks are crucial for Smyczek as he looks to secure a wildcard to the Australian Open main draw which would be his first time receiving direct entry in to a Grand Slam since the 2015 US Open. He’s off to a good start this week in Knoxville after defeating fellow American Stefan Kozlov today.
Right now Smyczek has a big advantage over everyone else after week one. Tennys Sandgren is right behind Smyczek in the race, but his ranking should be good enough to get direct entry in to the Australian Open without the wildcard. Michael Mmoh and Stefan Kozlov, who both reached the semifinals last week in Charlottesville, lost in the first round this week in Knoxville.
If Smyczek were to earn the main draw wildcard, it would be the fifth time in his career playing in the Australian Open. Besides reaching the third round of the Us Open in 2013, it’s the Slam where he’s had the most success at. It’s also the site of the most notable match in his career, where he took world #1 Rafael Nadal to five sets in a night session on Rod Laver Arena. At 6-5 in the third set, Nadal was serving for the match when a fan screamed while Nadal was serving, disrupting his service motion. The umpire ruled that since the serve was out it should be a second serve, Smyczek kindly overruled that and allowed Nadal a first serve again. His act of sportsmanship won him a lot of fans, and put him in contention for the Stefan Edberg sportsmanship award in 2015, which was eventually won by Roger Federer.
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