Chase on for Open wild­cards

Sunday Mail - - SPORT -

A SHARE in the record $60 mil­lion prize­money pool is at stake when 32 Aus­tralian Open hope­fuls start the chase for wild­cards into the Jan­uary grand slam.

Alex Bolt and Arina Ro­di­onova head the 16 men and 16 women jostling for two places in Mel­bourne Park’s main draw from Mon­day.

Alex de Min­aur and Des­ta­nee Ai­ava claimed wild­cards last De­cem­ber, guar­an­tee­ing first-round che­ques of $50,000 in a tour­na­ment of­fer­ing $55 mil­lion. With a $5 mil­lion in­crease next month, it is likely open­ing-round losers will re­ceive a slightly higher fig­ure.

A fi­nal­ist last sea­son, SA’s Bolt again faces stiff op­po­si­tion. He will be chal­lenged by James Duck­worth, John-Pa­trick Smith and emerg­ing tal­ents in­clud­ing Akira San­til­lan, Mav­er­ick Banes, Max Pur­cell, Blake El­lis and Rinky Hi­jikata.

Ro­di­onova and Ai­ava will be pushed by de­vel­op­ing play­ers, in­clud­ing Jaimee Fourlis, Zoe Hives, Lizette Cabr­era, Ellen Perez and As­tra Sharma.

Thanasi Kokki­nakis has opted to by­pass the play­off, hope­ful of earn­ing a dis­cre­tionary wild­card. Queens­lan­ders Priscilla Hon and Ja­son Kubler have al­ready been given wild­cards.

Aus­tralia has 10 play­ers as­sured of a spot. Alex de Min­aur, Nick Kyr­gios, John Mill­man, Matt Eb­den, Jor­dan Thomp­son and Bernard Tomic are al­ready in the field. Ash Barty, Daria Gavrilova, Ajla Toml­janovic and Sam Sto­sur lead the women’s charge. ALEX DE MIN­AUR NICK KYR­GIOS JOHN MILL­MAN MATTHEW EB­DEN JOR­DAN THOMP­SON BERNARD TOMIC ASH BARTY DARIA GAVRILOVA AJLA TOML­JANOVIC SAMAN­THA STO­SUR

Pic­ture: Miguel MEDINA/AFP

RIS­ING STAR: Alex de Min­aur is an im­por­tant part of Aus­tralia’s ten­nis re­nais­sance.

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