Six local players have received an early Christmas present from Tennis Australia, in the form of a wildcard into February’s Australian Open.
The wildcards mean the players earn direct entry into the main draw, bypassing the need to go through the qualifying tournaments which will be held overseas.
The men’s qualifying tournament will be played in Doha, while the women’s event will be held in Dubai.
TA has now guaranteed a spot in the men’s main draw for Christopher O’Connell and Marc Polmans, while Daria Garilova, Astra Sharma, Maddison Inglis and Lizette Cabrera have been added to the women’s draw.
“While 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year, we’re proud of the strength and resilience this group of players has shown during this difficult time,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.
“Chris, Marc, Dasha, Astra, Maddy and Lizette have all inspired us with their efforts both on and off the court, here at home and in unprecedented conditions overseas. We are excited to give them the opportunity to compete at Australian Open 2021.
“The Grand Slams are the pinnacle of our sport and the chance to play at home is an experience we know these deserving players will cherish,” Tiley continued.
O’Connell, who took 17th seed Andrey Rublev to four sets at Melbourne Park earlier this year, was over the moon at the news he would play in his third Australian Open.
“I was super pumped to get the call. I was lucky enough to receive a wildcard last year and it was an amazing experience,” O’Connell said.
“I’m extremely excited to play in another Australian Open and compete against some of the best players in the world.”
Gavrilova, who made the fourth round in Melbourne in both 2016 and 2017, missed this year’s tournament after having surgery on her Achilles.
“I’m really excited to play in the AO next year. I’ve been training really hard to prepare and I’m just super excited to get the opportunity to compete, especially in front of a crowd, we haven’t had that for a while,” she said.
“I was thinking the other day that Victorians have had such a rough year with the pandemic, so I’m hoping that the AO is a good chance for people to come out and watch, and be excited that tennis is back. I’m going to make sure I bring double the energy, so I hope the crowd will too.”
The Australian Open will begin on February 8.
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!