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Sunday, December 27, 2020

2020 Junior Champions Mayot and Jimenez Kasintseva Receive Australian Open Qualifying Wild Cards; Wang, Vukic Awarded Main Draw WCs; Daniell Regrets Passing on College Tennis

With Australian Open qualifying set to begin in two weeks in Doha and Dubai, the announcement of the main draw and qualifying draw wild cards have come earlier than usual, with Tennis Australia handing out all but two over the weekend.

The 2020 Australian Open Junior champions have typically been offered qualifying wild cards for the following year, and despite all the changes prompted by the pandemic, that tradition held this year, with Harold Mayot of France and Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra receiving invitations. Mayot, who was recently named the ITF World Junior champion for 2020, has retired from his last two first round matches earlier this month at $15,000 ITF World Tennis Tour events in Tunisia, so his health status could be a concern. Jimenez Kasintseva and Mayot both lost in the second round of the only other junior slam of the year in Paris, where they were seeded No. 1.

Also receiving a men's qualifying wild card is University of North Carolina sophomore Rinky Hijikata. Olivia Gadecki, an 18-year-old who is 97 in the ITF Junior rankings and 16-year-old Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz, who is 145, also received qualifying wild cards.

Men's Australian Open qualifying wild cards(Doha):

Tristan Schoolkate (AUS)
Jason Kubler (AUS)
Akira Santillan (AUS)
Rinky Hijikata (AUS)
Dane Sweeny (AUS)
Max Purcell (AUS)
Blake Mott (AUS)
Harold Mayot (FRA)

Women's Australian Open qualifying wild cards(Dubai):

Abbie Myers (AUS)
Seone Mendez (AUS)
Storm Sanders (AUS)
Ivana Popovic (AUS)
Olivia Gadecki (AUS)
Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz (AUS)
Alexandra Bozovic (AUS)
Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva (AND)

After six main draw wild cards were announced last week, all but two have now been awarded, with 2018 US Open girls champion Xiyu Wang of China receiving the wild card set aside for a player from the Asia-Pacific. Sumit Nagal of India received the men's Asia-Pacific wild card.

Former University of Illinois star Aleks Vukic was given a main draw wild card, saving him a trip to Doha for qualifying; he is currently 196 in the ATP rankings. 

Men's Australian Open main draw wild cards:

Christopher O'Connell (AUS)
Marc Polmans (AUS)
Alex Bolt (AUS)
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS)
Aleksandar Vukic (AUS)
Andy Murray (GBR)
Sumit Nagal (IND)

Murray also received a wild card into the ATP 250 in Delray Beach and will play his first match on Friday January 8, according to this Palm Beach Post article.

Women's Australian Open main draw wild cards:

Daria Gavrilova (AUS)
Astra Sharma (AUS)
Maddison Inglis (AUS)
Lizette Cabrera (AUS)
Arina Rodionova (AUS)
Destanee Aiava (AUS)
Wang Xiyu (CHN)

For more on the wild cards, see this Australian Associated Press article

A few days ago I read this Steve Flink tennis.com article about the charitable efforts of New Zealand's Marcus Daniell, one of the ATP's top doubles players, and was surprised to see the quote below. Most players who go on to have success on the tour don't express any regrets about the path they chose, but Daniell does.

That is a choice Daniell is happy he made. But he regrets moving from his native New Zealand to train in Slovakia at 17.

He explains, “It was a huge mistake. I had offers from colleges in the U.S. but I thought if I went to an American college I would just start partying and forget about tennis, but my generation of players proves that completely wrong with the Steve Johnson’s and the like. If I could do it over again, I would let my body mature and go to college in the U.S."

If you read the article about his charity High Impact Athletes, you'll get a good idea of how thoughtful and generous he is and how committed he is to making the world a better place. I'm sure the colleges that offered him scholarships would have benefitted even more than he would have.