Delray Beach Open – Wildcards get offered to all sorts of players for a wide variety of reasons, but they can broadly be split into the following categories:
- promising players from the country of the event
- older, yet good players from the country of the event
- up-and-coming talents from whichever country
- former stars showing the desire to come back
- players with good results in the weeks prior to the event
But on a tournament by tournament basis, how does this actually work? Well, below are the wildcards that have been given out at the three ATP Tour events in the coming the week. You may note that one of these tournaments has taken a rather different approach:
- Main draw wildcards – Gregoire Barrere, Antoine Hoang, Harold Mayot
- Qualifying wildcards – Arthur Cazaux, Elliot Benchetrit
We’re off to a good start with all five wildcards going to promising young French players. Barre and Hoang have both been making strides in the professional game lately, both at Challenger-level and on the main tour. Mayot, meanwhile, won the boys’ singles title at the Australian Open, beating his countryman Cazaux in the final, and Benchetrit just cracked the top 200 for the first time in his career.
Rio de Janeiro
- Main draw wildcards – Felipe Meligeni Alves, Thiago Seyboth Wild, Carlos Alcaraz Garfia
- Qualifying wildcards – Mateus Alves, Orlando Luz, Pedro Boscardin Dias
Nothing to criticize here. The Rio Open handed five wildcards to up-and-coming Brazilian players, two for the main draw and three in the qualifying. The sixth went to the Spanish 16-year-old Alcaraz Garfia, who has been playing some excellent tennis at Challenger-level and will get the chance to try and make an impact on his tour-level debut.
- Main draw wildcards – Jack Sock, Brandon Nakashima, Ryan Harrison
- Qualifying wildcards – Stefan Kozlov, Preston Brown
Nakashima looks to have an exceptionally bright future, whilst Harrison has been as high as 40th in the world, but has been struggling with injury and form of late, falling to 392nd in the world as a result. Kozlov has been short of wins lately, but the 22-year-old, who showed such promise as a teenager, is still young enough to suggest he can establish himself on the main tour. But the other two wildcards that have been handed out at the Delray Beach Open are rather harder to explain.
This is the second year in a row that Brown has received a qualifying wildcard at the Delray Beach Open. Last year, he did at least manage to keep it close against the big-hitting Australian Alexei Popyrin, before ultimately succumbing. But if that’s what encouraged the tournament organisers to hand him a second opportunity, they were surely mistaken to do so. Brown looked every inch the world #1513, a ranking he does not have sole claim to, in losing 2-6 0-6 to Ecuador’s Emilio Gomez. The match lasted just under an hour, with Brown winning a meagre six points in the second-set.
Sock does have name recognition. The American has won a Masters 1000 tournament and three Grand Slam titles in doubles. But is that enough to justify the award of a wildcard when his recent approach to his career is considered? He ended 2017 inside the top ten, but he hardly won a match in 2018, before an injury derailed the first half of his 2019 campaign. But that still gave him almost six months to try and win a match on tour. Barring a victory over Fabio Fognini at the Laver Cup, he did not succeed in that ambition.
Nor could he pick up a win at Challenger-level, something he attempted three times in the last month of the 2019 season in his efforts to maintain an ATP ranking. He was nowhere close to being fit enough to compete, retiring after losing the first set in two of the three matches he played. And his attitude does not appear to have changed in the intervening period. After all, he was awarded a wildcard last week at the New York Open and he wasted that, losing in straight-sets to Marcos Giron.
That loss is put into context by the fact that Giron lost in the second round to Ugo Humbert, winning just one game. Yet Sock was still handed a place in the main draw at the Delray Beach Open. He might even get a win, with defending champion Radu Albot, his first-round opponent, carrying an injury. But he’s still probably a long shot to beat the Moldovan and should he withdraw, any lucky loser will surely be desperate to play Sock. Which begs the question, why give him a wildcard?
Particularly as there are a whole host of American players who might have been given Sock’s wildcard in his place. Players who actually possess a top 300 ranking, such as:
- Mitchell Krueger (playing Delray Beach qualifying)
- Christopher Eubanks
- Sebastian Korda
- Maxime Cressy
- Bjorn Fratangelo
- Ulises Blanch
- JC Aragone
- Noah Rubin (playing Delray Beach qualifying)
- Jenson Brooksby
- Donald Young
- Thai Son Kwiatkowski
- J J Wolf
- Michael Mmoh
Wouldn’t every single one of them, even Donald Young, whose attitude to getting opportunities is admittedly not the best, have been a better choice?
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