Murray, Kokkinakis among latest to receive AO 2021 wildcards

  • ausopen.com

Andy Murray (GBR) has been awarded an Australian Open 2021 main-draw wildcard as the former world No.1 looks to build momentum in his return to the top of professional tennis.

“We welcome Andy back to Melbourne with open arms,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said. 

“As a five-time finalist he has been an integral part of so many amazing matches and storylines in the recent history of the Australian Open.

“His retirement was an emotional moment and seeing him come back, having undergone major surgery and built himself back up to get onto the tour again, will be a highlight of AO 2021. 

“We wish him all the best and look forward to seeing him in 2021.” 

Murray is one of eight main draw wildcard recipients to be announced today, joining Aussies Thanasi Kokkinakis (SA), Alex Bolt (SA), Aleksandar Vukic (NSW), Destanee Aiava (Vic) and Arina Rodionova (Vic). 

India’s Sumit Nagal and Wang Xiyu of China will also compete in the main draw after being named recipients of the tournament’s Asia-Pacific wildcards.

These players join Daria Gavrilova, Astra Sharma, Christopher O’Connell, Maddison Inglis, Lizette Cabrera and Marc Polmans, who were announced as AO 2021 main-draw wildcards prior to Christmas. 

READ MORE: AO wildcards bring early Christmas cheer

Several Australian players have also received a wildcard into Australian Open qualifying, which will be held offshore between 10-13 January, with the women competing in Dubai and the men in Doha.

They are Jason Kubler (Qld), Akira Santillan (Qld), Tristan Schoolkate (WA), Rinky Hijikata (NSW), Dane Sweeny (Qld), Seone Mendez (NSW), Abbie Myers (NSW), Storm Sanders (WA), Ivana Popovic (NSW), Olivia Gadecki (Qld), Charlotte Kempenars-Pocz (SA) and Alexandra Bozovic (NSW).

"Seeing him come back, having undergone major surgery and built himself back up to get onto the tour again, will be a highlight of AO 2021."
Craig Tiley on Andy Murray

Also earning qualifying wildcards were AO 2020 junior singles champions Harold Mayot of France and Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra.

“It’s been a difficult year in so many ways, all our players have had a truncated season and we’ve not had the usual flow of results and changes in rankings we’d usually see,” Tennis Australia Director of Performance Wally Masur said. 
 
“We’ve been lucky to run UTR events for our players across most of the year so they’ve had the opportunity to compete, and have a body of matches under their belt. And many of these players have fronted up, competed professionally and achieved good results. 
 
“In terms of making what are always difficult decisions on wildcards, we’ve stuck a little closer to the rankings than we may have done in the past. We had a lot of players who were just outside the cut-off, and as they were on the cusp, they deserve a wildcard and a guaranteed spot in the draw to enable them to plan their preparation. 
 
“For a lot of these players the circuit is pretty arduous and complex even without the challenges they’ve faced this year. They’ve all been through a longer than usual pre-season and generally not had nearly as many matches as they would have normally. This will be the case with almost all the players coming into the AO and it’s going to be fascinating to see what unfolds. Those with strong minds, and who can be ultra-professional, will be the ones in the best position to take advantage of the opportunity. 
 
“We wish all our players the very best of luck and look forward to seeing some great tennis,” Masur continued.

Murray returns to Melbourne Park

Murray is ranked equal fifth for the most singles matches – 48 – won in the Open Era at the Australian Open and is a firm fan favourite in Melbourne.

His incredible comeback from a hip injury and subsequent surgery was capped by winning the ATP Antwerp title in October 2019, and the three-time Slam champion has played just eight singles matches since that heartwarming result. 

He enjoyed some bright spots in 2020, including an upset of seventh-ranked Alexander Zverev to reach the third round at the Western & Southern Open, and a compelling five-set win over Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round of the US Open.

The five-time Australian Open finalist, looking to compete more regularly and consistently in 2021, has also received a main-draw wildcard at the ATP event in Delray Beach beginning 7 January. 

Aussies to star at home Slam

Kokkinakis is another on the comeback trail, with the former world No.69 set to take part in his fifth main draw at Melbourne Park after missing the 2020 event due to glandular fever.

“I’m super happy and thankful to have gotten a wildcard into the AO,” Kokkinakis said. 

“Shattered I couldn’t play this year due to illness but I’m feeling great now and can’t wait to get out in front of the home crowd and have some fun.” 

The South Australian, currently ranked 260th, has not played an officially-sanctioned match since September 2019, but did win a pair of UTR Pro Tennis Series events at Melbourne Park last month – a sign he is rounding into form at just the right time.

Higher up the rankings are Bolt and Vukic, top-200 players who have both been rewarded for their impressive performances on tour in 2020.

"I’m feeling great now and can’t wait to get out in front of the home crowd and have some fun.”
Thanasi Kokkinakis

Bolt, who stretched eventual finalist Dominic Thiem to five sets in the second round at AO 2020, reached the Launceston Challenger final a month before professional tennis was suspended due to COVID-19.

Vukic, a Monterrey Challenger finalist in early March, was impressive when tennis resumed in August, winning nine of his 14 matches – including three to qualify for the main draw at Roland Garros.

Aiava was another impressive performer in 2020, going 13-6 in the first two months of the year and continuing an impressive run across the UTR Pro Tennis Series.

Rodionova, a former world No.116, returns to the main draw of the Australian Open for the second year running after winning the AO Wildcard Play-off at Melbourne Park last December.

Asia-Pacific wildcards for Nagal, Wang

Nagal and Wang, among the highest-ranked players aged under 25 in the Asia-Pacific region, will be making their Australian Open main-draw debuts.

Nagal, 23, currently sits at world No.136 after attaining a career-best ranking of 122nd four months ago.

After strong performances on the Challenger circuit in 2019, he stepped up a level in 2020 by advancing to the second round of the US Open, beating Bradley Klahn for his first Grand Slam main-draw win before falling to eventual champion Dominic Thiem. Later in the year he qualified for ATP events in Sardinia and Cologne.

Wang, 19, was enjoying impressive form prior to the sport’s coronavirus shutdown in March, but played just one event after tennis resumed in August.

The Chinese teenager advanced to the semifinals of February’s WTA event in Acapulco after qualifying for the main draw, a run of five straight wins that was ended by eventual champion Heather Watson.

A week earlier she advanced to the quarterfinals in Hua Hin, Thailand – notching her first career top-20 win over second seed Petra Martic – which was then her best WTA-level result.

Those performances helped push her to the brink of the top 100, at a career-high ranking of No.106; she is currently ranked 123rd.

The annual Asia-Pacific Australian Open Wildcard Play-off tournament was not staged in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

AO 2021 main draw wildcards

(as at 27 December 2020)

Men's Women's
Christopher O'Connell (NSW) Daria Gavrilova (VIC)
Marc Polmans (Vic) Astra Sharma (WA)
Thanasi Kokkinakis (SA) Maddison Inglis (WA)
Alex Bolt (SA) Lizette Cabrera (Qld)
Aleksandar Vukic (NSW) Destanee Aiava (Vic)
Andy Murray (GBR) Arina Rodionova (Vic)
Sumit Nagal (IND) Wang Xiyu (CHN)
Wildcard - TBD Wildcard - TBD

AO 2021 qualifying wildcards

(as at 27 December 2020)

Women's (Dubai) Men's (Doha)
Abbie Myers (NSW) Jason Kubler (Qld)
Seone Mendez (NSW) Akira Santillan (Qld)
Storm Sanders (WA) Tristan Schoolkate (WA)
Ivana Popovic (NSW) Rinky Hijikata (NSW)
Olivia Gadecki (Qld) Dane Sweeny (Qld)
Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz (SA) Max Purcell (NSW)
Alexandra Bozovic (NSW) Blake Mott (NSW)
Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva (AND) Harold Mayot (FRA)
Wildcard - TBD Wildcard - TBD