Players battle for Australian Open wildcards
Updated: 2013-10-08 18:24
By Sun Xiaochen (chinadailiy.com.cn)
Top tennis players from across the Asia-Pacific region, including several Chinese hopefuls, will compete in November for a valuable wildcard place in the Australian Open in 2014.
The rivals will meet at the Asia-Pacific Wildcard Playoff in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, in the second such event in China's tennis history.
The play-off was announced in Beijing on Tuesday at an event attended by Grand Slam champion Li Na, who was a finalist at the Australian Open competitions in 2011 and 2013.
"In 2013 we staged the first Asia Pacific Wildcard Play-off in China, with the winners Wu Di and Zhang Yuxuan going on to compete in the main draw of the Australian Open," said Glenn Findlay, Tennis Australia's senior vice-president of sponsorship.
"This set another important milestone for the sport in China, as Wu became the first Chinese man ever to compete in a Grand Slam singles main draw," he said.
The tournament will take place in Luohu Tennis Club in Shenzhen from Nov 18 to 24, with 16 male and female players fighting for four coveted wildcards.
The playoff tournament is open to players from all nationalities within the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Australians, with a world ranking of 105 or higher for men and 109 or higher for women. The rankings are based on the Australian Open cut off for men of 104 and 108 for women.
The final acceptance list will be published on Nov 5.
"As the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific, our constant focus is to promote tennis in the region, and we have no better ambassador for our sport than Li," said Findlay.
"Your inspirational performances at the Australian Open have made you a favorite with tennis fans around the world, and your influence in growing interest and participation in tennis, particularly here in China, is immeasurable. We can't wait to welcome you back to Melbourne Park in January," he said.
The successful wildcard winners will be offered hospitality in Melbourne by Crown Resorts, and the company's chairman, James Packer, was also at the Beijing launch event.
"Crown is thrilled to support Tennis Australia's initiatives to promote tennis, especially the Asia-Pacific Wildcard Play-off in 2014. Li Na is the perfect ambassador to ignite passion in the sport, especially in China," said Packer.
For the first time, junior wildcards will also be awarded to male and female singles players under the age of 18, allowing them to play in the Australian Open Junior Championships, which will be staged after the senior tournament.
Other initiatives to promote tennis and the Australian Open within the Asia-Pacific region include the 3rd Australian Open Asia-Pacific Trophy Tour. The event will see the tournament trophies - the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup and the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup - visit Korea, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong this month.
The exchange program for ball boys and girls has drafted two "top guns" from Australia to work at the China Open. Meanwhile, six ball boys and girls from the China Open will travel to the 2014 Australian Open next January.
The final two days of the playoff (Nov 23 and 24) will be broadcast on Guangdong TV sports channel and Fox Asia.
The winners of the wildcard playoff event in 2013 were: men's singles, Wu Di (CHN); women's singles, Zhang Yuxuan (CHN); men's doubles, Jimmy Wang (TPE) and Danai Udomchoke (THA); women's doubles, Xinyun Han (CHN) and Yimiao Zhou (CHN).