Protected rankings rule on first Oz entry lists

With Monday’s deadline for entry into the Australian Open having come and gone, the theoretical notion that the top 104 players gain direct entry has been pushed up – way up – by all the players who have entered with injury-protection rankings.

On the women’s side, the last player in is Italy’s Camila Giorgi, who is ranked exactly No. 100.

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On the men’s side, it was even tougher.

The last player in is Egor Gerasimov of Belarus, ranked No. 98.

The best news? Juan Martin del Potro, who hasn’t played since beating Denis Shapovalov at Queen’s Club in June, is on the list. 

The bad news? The only eligible player on the women’s side who hasn’t entered the first Grand Slam of 2020 is Victoria Azarenka.

The wounded warriors return in Oz

Azarenka, who hasn’t played since losing to Aryna Sabalenka in the first round of the US Open and bypassed the entire Asian swing in the fall, won in Melbourne in 2012 and 2013.

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Those cutoffs will drop

Now, that doesn’t mean that the cutoff won’t drop as some players inevitably withdraw.

Although it’s worth noting that in 2018, the initial women’s cutoff was No. 107. By the time the tournament began, it was No. 110.

In 2017, it was also No. 107. But by the time the first main-draw balls were struck, it was down to No. 113.

This January, the women’s cutoff was No. 102. But almost everyone played; the eventual cutoff was No. 103 as only one player dropped out.

For the men in 2018, the cutoff was 100 (103). In 2017, it was 99 (105).

One recent difference is the option the players have to pull out late – very late – because of injury, but still take home half the first-round loser’s prize money.

That has made it tough for those who are on the bubble to plan the start of the season. Initially just off the list, they not only have to play qualifying (and risk an early loss); they also can’t play an ATP event the week before because it conflicts with the qualifying.

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Players on the bubble

Here are the players who have just missed the cut for 2020.

Some of them will end up getting in over the next few weeks – maybe.

The others are potentially out of luck.

And there’s a lot at stake; the prize money for first-round losers in 2019 was … $75,000 (currently about $51,300 US).

That was up 25 per cent from 2018. And although the tournament hasn’t yet announced the breakdown for 2020, you can be sure it will rise again.

The Grand Slams tend to be very competitive with each other – the Australian Open perhaps more than the rest. And tend to want to make announcements like, “Biggest Purse for a Grand Slam IN HISTORY!!!!!!”

Men sitting and waiting

Here are the next group of players who will be sitting there looking at the withdrawal lists over the next few weeks:

Lloyd Harris (RSA) – No. 99
Jarek Donaldson (USA) – No. 99 (PR)
James Duckworth (AUS) – No. 100
Kamil Majchrzak (POL) – No. 101
Marcos Giron (USA) – No. 102 (Giron won the USTA reciprocal wild card; if he gets in, that main-draw pass would go to Michael Mmoh).
Yuichi Sugita (JPN) – No. 103

Canadian Brayden Schnur is No. 9 on the list, at No. 106.

Women on the brink

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Kanepi (seen here at the 2011 Australian Open) will have to wait for someone to withdraw to get into the 2020 edition. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

The player on the hot seat No. 101 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.  

Kanepi, the former world No. 15, even played an entry-level $15,000 tournament in the Czech Republic two weeks ago, to try to move up from No. 105. She won it – beating no one in the top 500 en route to the title. She was able to rise four sports. And it likely will be enough by the time play begins. But for the moment, she’s right on the bubble.

American Coco Vandeweghe, whose protected ranking of No. 100 put her just below Giorgi, likely would have gotten in with that. But she earned the USTA Australian Open reciprocal wild card last month.

So she doesn’t have to “waste” the second of her two allowed Grand Slams in Melbourne. She can keep it in her pocket for the spring, if she still needs it. Which, of course, is bad news for the runner-up in the wild-card challenge, Katerina Stewart.

Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) – No. 102
Heather Watson (GBR) – No. 103
Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) – No. 104
Anna Kalinskaya (RUS) – No. 105
Nao Hibino (JPN) – No. 106

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