Preseason Preview

It’s been only a month since the ATP World Tour Finals, the last event of the season for the sport’s top two professional tours. It’s been only two weeks since the last ATP Challenger and women’s ITF tournaments above the $25k level. Yet players are already arriving in Australia to train for the 2014 season. For some former stars and young talents not ranked high enough for direct entry into the 2014 Australian Open draw—and for hardcore tennis fans who need a fix—meaningful tournaments start up again this week. Tennis never stops.

Tennis Australia, the United States Tennis Association, and the Fédération Française de Tennis have agreed to provide wild cards for one man and one woman from each of their countries in each of the slam tournaments they run. The French simply nominate their wild cards, but for the Australian Open the American wild cards and two of the Australian wild cards go to winners of playoff tournaments.

The first such playoff is the Australian one, and it’s held this week at Melbourne Park. Monday is dedicated to the men’s first round, with play starting at 10:00 am local time. (Monday update: Matches will be streamed live on the Australian Open Youtube channel.)

The player field is highlighted by former #25 Jarmila Gajdosova, who returned to action in the Nanjing WTA $125k event in late October after missing six months with mononucleosis, and former #4 Jelena Dokic, who has missed nearly two years due to injuries and family problems. Unfortunately, with Dokic unranked and unseeded, they drew each other in the first round. The women’s field also features top seed Casey Dellacqua, sisters Anastasia and Arina Rodionova, and 19-year-olds Storm Sanders and Viktorija Rajicic.

The men’s field is led by John-Patrick Smith and Matt Reid, and features 19-year-olds Jordan Thompson and Luke Saville. Eighteen-year-old Nick Kyrgios withdrew with an elbow injury.

The draws are here:

Australian Wild Card Playoff Women’s Draw

Australian Wild Card Playoff Men’s Draw

The American playoff begins on Friday, December 20th in Atlanta, and is likely to be streamed as well.

(Monday update: Chase Buchanan completes the field.)

(December 19 update: The order of play is here. Julia Cohen has withdrawn, and is replaced by Sanaz Marand.)

Here’s the player lineup:

USTA Wild Card Playoff
Ranking Women Men Ranking
125 Shelby Rogers Dennis Kudla 114
150 Madison Brengle Rhyne Williams 131
154 Grace Min Steve Johnson 156
168 Victoria Duval Tennys Sandgren 183
175 Maria Sanchez Austin Krajicek 241
185 Nicole Gibbs Bjorn Fratangelo 303
196 Sachia Vickery Chase Buchanan 306
301 Sanaz Marand Jarmare Jenkins 339

Melanie Oudin had been scheduled to play in the USTA wild card playoff, but her offseason was derailed two weeks ago when she was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which damaged muscle cells break down rapidly. The dying cells release a flood of chemical breakdown products into the bloodstream, which in some cases can lead to kidney failure. The disorder can be triggered by multiple factors, including physical trauma and certain drugs, but Oudin believes her case was triggered by overtraining, possibly combined with dehydration. Fortunately, she says she has been cleared by her doctor to resume training. But she’ll need time to recover lost strength, and her readiness to compete by January is in doubt.

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