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Mag By Craig Gabriel

CHANGE THE AWARDING OF WILD CARDS AT THE MAJORS
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CHANGE THE AWARDING OF WILD CARDS AT THE MAJORS

The French Open announced its qualifying and main draw wild cards for the singles events. Everyone in the qualifying was French and in the main draw six of the eight nominated are French, the exceptions are one each as nominated by the USTA and Tennis Australia.

The USTA named Taylor Townsend and Noah Rubin and Tennis Australia named Alex de Minaur with a play-off to decide who gets the women’s one.

In my view something needs to change on how a wild card is awarded at the four majors. These four events, the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open are the four biggest events in the world and the most important and sought after. You will notice that there is no wild card exchange program between the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and the other three majors, that’s because Wimbledon is not run by the LTA.

I have no issue with the program between the USTA, French Federation and Tennis Australia with reciprocal agreements, but there needs to be a much better way to distribute wild cards overall. Right now, it is a relatively closed shop and that is not fair and equal.

What happened to French ideology of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality?

The four majors are the most global of all events and should be treated like that. Tennis Australia has taken one step forward to assisting the situation by having an Asian wild card play-off for the Australian Open main draw in addition to the reciprocal wild cards that are decided by the FFT and USTA, but the issue can be taken further.

The distribution of wild cards should be split right down the middle. Half the allocation goes to the national federation running the major or in the case of Wimbledon discussion with the LTA, and the other half should be determined by an independent panel.

Main draw wild cards are not a right, they are a privilege and that’s why their awarding needs to be so much more refined. 

When it comes to qualifying draws that’s when national federations could have the opportunity to hand all to their own players. Players, especially promising juniors and the like, should be working for the privilege to get into a main draw and not be handed a free passage when there are others probably more deserving.

Last year at Wimbledon in the men’s six wild cards were handed out of which three went to Brits but none of the WC’s advanced to the second round and of the six women who received the wild cards, three got past the first round, one to the second round and two to the third round and from that group one was a local.

At the 2017 US Open six of the eight men were American and only two of them reached the second round, while in the women’s five were American and one got past the first round and made it to the third round. And as a memory jolt one of the wild cards was Maria Sharapova who made the last 16 but her getting a wild card was well documented as being a controversial decision.

And at this year’s Australian Open from the eight wild cards, five were Aussies just one got to the second-round while in the women’s again there were five Aussies with one advancing to the second round. The rest of the wild cards were made up of the reciprocal arrangements with the French and Americans as well as the beforementioned Asian wild card play-off held in China.

The present method is outdated and needs to be brought into the present as there are so many other deserving players for these much sought after awards.

It needs to be made fairer for all, or maybe the whole concept should just be scrapped and either open up more places from qualifying or drop the ranking cut-off for direct acceptance into the main draw.