The first major of the year is about 6 weeks away as the Australian Open for the first time in its long history will begin in February as the calendar reshuffle continues into the New Year.
Despite the first major of the year being over a month away some news out of Melbourne has confirmed some attendees, absences and some questions…
Andy Murray receives wildcard
It was anticipated following the announcement from Murray he would be playing Delray Beach that a wildcard for the Australian Open would be on the horizon.
Murray’s current ranking meant that he would have to directly go through qualifying without a wildcard but that clashed with qualifying for the Australian Open which is taking place in Doha.
Craig Tiley the tournament director for the Australian Open had this to see on Andy’s return in 2021:
“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.”
There is also a possibility that once Murray has completed his isolation in Melbourne he could play one of the ATP 250 events in Melbourne before the Australian Open
Thanasi Kokkinakis & Daria Gavrilova amongst wildcards
Most of the wildcards for the Australian Open have been announced and two key Aussie names on the list are Thanasi Kokkinakis and Daria Gavrilova.
Both players have been struct down in the last few years with injuries but have begun comebacks and there is no better place for these two to kick off their year than Melbourne Park.
Both players are fantastic to watch and are crowd pleasers, after a long time out to be able to play again and be back in front of a crowd will be absolutely fantastic and I wish them the best going forward!
Other wildcards include Alex Bolt who has some big wins the last couple of years in Melbourne and Destanee Aiava who will be making her fourth appearance in the main draw but the 20 year old was absent last year and had to play qualifying but lost in the final round.
Katie Boulter to play in Melbourne
Katie Boulter who in 2019 missed a lot of tennis with a back injury after her Fed Cup heroics which then turned out to be not required as the tournament re-structured is using her protective ranking of 85 to jump straight into the main draw.
It was sad to Katie, to watch her achieve these results on the tour and in Fed Cup including breaking into the top 100 and the being struck down by injury was a great shame but it will be great to see her back in action this year.
Another player using a protective ranking is Lu Yen-hsun, the former world number 33 hasn’t been seen on the main tour since 2017 but once again is using his protective ranking to come to Melbourne…
Will Kim be back in Melbourne?
There is still a wildcard to be announced for the Australian Open but one name that is not on the list at the moment is Kim Clijsters.
Kim came back in Dubai last year but lost to Garbine Muguruza in her first match but showed plenty of promise, it was the same result in Monterrey before the pandemic took hold losing to Jo Konta.
Once tennis resumed the former four time major champion played at the US Open but lost again this time to Ekaterina Alexandrova from a set up to end her comeback year winless.
Since then we haven’t heard anything from Kim who didn’t play in the small European clay swing to end the year with questions over whether her comeback will continue.
Kim is currently ranked at 1030 in the world so would need that last wildcard to be able to play in Melbourne where she won the Australian Open in 2011.
Roger Federer withdraws from the Australian Open
Over the last week or so Roger Federer has been spotted on Dubai practicing but the six time Australian Open champion who has played at Melbourne Park for 21 consecutive years will not be there for a 22nd.
Roger who hasn’t played since last years Australian Open has had a couple of surgeries on his knee but he isn’t where he will need to be to be able to make his comeback just yet.
Federer hasn’t spoken about the withdrawal but his agent has said it would be the “best decision for him in the long run” and it is likely they will look at some European hard court events to kick off his season.
The withdrawal also means Stan Wawrinka will have to re-think his plans as Switzerland are no longer eligible for the ATP Cup as Stan is not the next highest ranked player in the ATP Rankings. Instead the space goes to Canada with Denis Shapovalov’s ranking of No.12.