Tennis can be a difficult sport to break into. There are so many talented athletes out there that it can be hard to make a name for yourself. In order to even the playing field, many tournaments offer wildcards to up-and-coming players.
But how do these players get chosen? And what is the criteria for receiving a wildcard? This blog post will explore the process of how tennis players receive wildcards and what it takes to qualify. Stay tuned!
Wildcards are one of the ways to enter into a tournament draw. Wildcards are generally given to tennis players that the organization thinks fans will like. Despite being one of the most popular sports in the world, tennis can be quite exclusive at times. In order to make it into some of the more elite tournaments, players often need a wildcard.
The organization director sends them to different types of players – rising young players, older players returning after injuries, wildcard tournament winners, local players, and wildcard swap recipients.
What is a Wildcard?
Tennis players require a certain rank to be able to qualify for a high-level tournament. While this is a guaranteed way to enter, there are a few other options as well. One of the ways to get entry into a tournament draw is through a wildcard. A wildcard is when a player receives an invitation to enter an event without qualifying with the ranking.
For example, a player with a current ranking of 500 cannot directly qualify for a Grand Slam tour. However, he/she can enter directly in the main draw if given a wildcard. Not all events follow the same rules for handing out wildcards, but this is how they are unique and exciting. They can be a great way to get an aging player a chance to show up or a rising young player to break into a big tournament.
How Players Get Wildcards?
Every tennis event has a small number of spots reserved for wildcard receivers. Grand Slams and some WTA/ATP events can have up to 8 wildcard spots while smaller tournaments keep it small at just 2 or 4. In any case, there is a large number of people competing for a wildcard than the number of spots available. This is why organizers are quite selective on who they hand them out to.
Below, let us discuss a few ways tennis players can get wildcards. While this is not the complete list, it covers most reasons players get this opportunity.
Wildcards given to local players are generally for smaller tournaments interested in bringing in good players. Fans will be interested in paying for such tournaments if there is local interest. Organizations do this to give an opportunity to players living in the same city or state where the event is held.
A player may not get a chance to participate in a big tournament if he does not possess a qualifying rank which is where a wildcard proves to be the only opportunity. Such organizations generally have many candidates for the wildcards. Most often, there is some level of bias behind the scene when it comes to deciding who gets the wildcard.
Young & Upcoming Players
Wildcards are also given to young and rising players looking to break in. Such players have a good fanbase and skills to have good rankings in the future but don’t have it yet. Tournaments gift them wildcards to be the first place where they can attract attention by giving exceptional performance.
One of the most recent examples of such an entry is Coco Gauff. When she entered the scene, she did not have sufficient ranking to appear in big tournaments. But tournaments were happy to offer her wildcard entry because they knew she was capable of competing with top players of the world.
Wildcard Tournament Winners
Big tournaments usually hold wildcard competitions to decide who receives wildcard spots. This is a fair method where players can compete and win to earn one of the reserved spots in the big events. Such tournaments don’t count for the ITF or ATP rankings and often allow only local players to participate. The Australian Open, for instance, holds three wildcard tournaments and gives direct entry to the main draw to winners.
Players Returning After Injuries
Another group of wildcard recipients includes famous players who want to return after injury breaks. If a player has been off-court for a long time to recover from an injury, he loses rankings to the point that he no longer qualifies for a big tournament. By handing out a wildcard, the organization gives an opportunity to such a player to return. This deal also benefits the tournament as big-name players generally draw huge crowds.
Finally, you can receive a wildcard through a swap for a tournament. Many tennis organizations have agreements to exchange wildcards for tournaments. For example, the French Tennis Federation and the United States Tennis Association have entered into an agreement that gives one wildcard for the French Open to an American player and a wildcard for the US Open to a French player.
Favors to Grand Slam Hosts
There has always remained an unspoken ritual of Grand Slam countries helping each other with wildcards. For example, the US Open generally ensures some wildcard spots are given to players from France, Australia, and England. This is true for the other three hosts of Grand Slams. Each country makes sure it represents its side well. Wildcards favors are one of the advantages Grand Slam countries enjoy.
How many wild cards are in a Grand Slam?
The number of wildcards given out to any one tournament will depend on the level at which it is classified. Generally, Grand Slams give away eight, Masters 1000 events four or five, and ATP 500/250 3.
However these numbers are not set in stone – sometimes tournaments might award more than this number while very occasionally they might hand out fewer than usual!
How do players get a wild card for Wimbledon?
The Wimbledon Committee is responsible for deciding who gets a wild card and they have been known to offer it on the basis of past success at Wimbledon or in order to increase British interest.
Wimbledon is one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world. And if you’re looking to get an advantage at this tournament, there are a few ways that you can secure yourself a wild card for Wimbledon.
These wild cards allow players with lower rankings than others into The Championships draw, giving them more opportunity to compete and be noticed by scouts who work with pro teams.
One great way to earn yourself a wild card is through past performance- i.e., scoring well during previous visits to Wimbledon or showing potential as someone worth watching out for in future years.
Other Ways to Receive Wildcards for Grand Slams
Apart from these popular ways of giving away wildcards, each Grand Slam tournament has a few other ways you can qualify for a wildcard.
US Open – A tournament called USTA US Open Wild Card Challenge lets players participate if they win in other smaller tournaments across the country. Players compete against each other at this tournament to get a chance to enter the main draw.
French Open – Clay court pro tournaments are used at the Ronald Garros Wildcard Challenge to give a wildcard to the main draw of the Grand Slam to an American man and woman.
Australian Open – A ticket is awarded to an American man and woman winning the Australian Open Wildcard Challenge. The winner gets a direct entry into the singles main draw.
Wimbledon – Ilkley Challenger events are held a week before the tournament in Bradford and the winner gets a wildcard to the main draw.
There are several players who won Grand Slam titles as wildcards and some others have won smaller tournaments as wildcard entries. While there are many controversies around who receives a wildcard entry, wildcards are, in general, beneficial for both players and tournaments.
Wildcards are often given to players ranked outside the top 100. The number of wild cards varies depending on how many spots there are in any tournament, but it is not unheard for a player who has won before or has achieved other Grand Slam results to be awarded one as well.
As you can see from this article, there are several ways that players receive wild cards for Wimbledon and other tournaments.