Re: 2008 Australian Open Wildcards
Smeets receives Australian Open wildcard
Thursday December 13, 2007
Queensland left-hander Robert Smeets has been rewarded for the best season of his career with a wildcard to the main draw of Australian Open 2008.
This year Smeets, 22, has lifted his world singles ranking from 391 to a career high 149 (it is currently 150), with a 53-25 win/loss record in the 34 events he has contested.
“Robert has had an outstanding year,” Tournament Director Craig Tiley said. “He has massively improved his ranking, been our best performed under 23 player on the circuit and is close to direct entry into the Australian Open.
“Those achievements, in addition to our youth policy, means that Robert has already earned a wildcard, so it makes sense for him to get it now and begin preparations for the Australian Open.
“We’ve made this decision early because it frees up another position in the 16-man field for the Australian Open play-off and provides opportunity for another young player to get some valuable experience against the country’s best talent,” Tiley said.
A very happy Smeets said he was grateful for the opportunity to try and improve on his second round appearance at the Australian Open main draw this year.
“I got to play against (Czech) Tomas Berdych on Margaret Court Arena in the second round and I am really looking forward to coming back and trying to go further in 2008,” he said.
In 2007 the Queenslander won a Challenger in the United States and Futures tournaments in Great Britain, Spain, Kuwait and Australia (Wollongong). He credits a lot of his improvement to the AIS Pro Tour program, better scheduling and his AIS program coach James Trotman.
“In the past I have gone along and won or lost and not really been able to analyse where I went right or wrong. Working with James has been fantastic and allowed us to really break down all aspects of my game and focus on what needs to be done to get better.”
The final four wildcard places in the men’s draw and seven wildcard places in the women’s draw for the Australian Open play-offs have also been announced today.
Victorian Rameez Junaid, South Australian Colin Ebelthite, New South Welshman Adam Feeney and West Australian Miles Armstrong have secured places in the 16-player men’s event. Replacing Smeets is West Australian Matthew Ebden, aged 20 and ranked 541 in the world.
Junaid won a Futures tournament in Poland earlier this year before finishing runner-up at a Challenger in Burnie last week to move to a career-high ranking of world No.309.
Ebelthite also reached a career-high ranking earlier this month, while Feeney claimed one title and reached another final on the Futures circuit.
In his best season on the senior circuit, 19-year-old Armstrong won his first title in Gloucester in October after reaching the final in Sawtell the week before.
On the women’s side, the following players received wildcards into the Australian Open play-off: Alison Bai (ACT), Marija Mirkovic (VIC), Alenka Hubacek (VIC), Tyra Calderwood (NSW), Isabella Holland (QLD), Sally Peers (VIC) and Olivia Rogowska (VIC).
All the above players added into the women’s draw are teenagers, which is in line with Tennis Australia’s youth policy.
Holland, Peers and Rogowska were members of the Australian Junior Fed Cup team which won the 16/u world championship teams event this year.
One place in both the men’s and the women’s draws has been reserved for the singles winners of the Optus 18s Australian Championships.
With a protected ranking of 119, Mark Philippoussis heads the men’s draw while world No.142 Jarmila Gajdosova leads the women.
The winners of the Australian Open play-offs, which take place at Melbourne Park from December 15 to 21, are awarded main draw wildcards into the Australian Open.