By Sally Milano, USTA.com
Shelby Rogers and Alex Kuznetsov have earned wild cards to compete in the 2013 French Open main draw by winning the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge. Rogers and Kuznetsov won the challenge by accumulating the greatest number of ATP and WTA ranking points at two of three clay-court events held the last few weeks on the USTA Pro Circuit.
The USTA and the French Tennis Federation have a reciprocal agreement in which wild cards into the 2013 French Open and 2013 US Open are exchanged.
The men’s events comprising the challenge included the $100,000 Challenger in Sarasota, Fla., held the week of April 15; the $50,000 Challenger in Savannah, Ga., the week of April 22; and the $50,000 Challenger in Tallahassee, the week of April 29. The women’s tournaments consisted of three $50,000 events – in Dothan, Ala., the week of April 15; in Charlottesville, Va., the week of April 22; and in Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., the week of April 29.
Rogers rose to the top of the women’s standings by winning the Charlottesville title, and she also reached the quarterfinals in Dothan and the round of 16 in Indian Harbour Beach. She clinched the wild card on Saturday when Alison Riske, the only player who could have overtaken her, lost in the semifinals in Indian Harbour Beach.
"Going into Indian Harbour Beach, I lost second round there, but it was a tough situation at the end because I was just kind of waiting for people to lose because I was at the top of the points," Rogers said. "I was just hoping somebody wouldn't take the title and pass me. But I got the wild card in the end, and I'm really happy about it."
Kuznetsov secured his berth in the French Open main draw when he advanced to the quarterfinals in Tallahassee, while his nearest competitor in the challenge, Wayne Odesnik, lost in the round of 16.
"It was hard not to think about the wild card this week," said Kuznetsov, following his 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 win over Peter Polansky in the Tallahassee round of 16. "I've been focusing on my matches and just playing my tennis. I have never played the French Open main draw before, only in the qualifying. Any time you play in a Grand Slam, it is a really special event. It is always a great experience playing three-of-five sets in front of tons of people. It will be a lot of fun."
After capturing the title in Charlottesville, Rogers, who trains at the USTA National Training Center – Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., is currently ranked a career-high No. 190. Rogers has claimed one additional singles title on the USTA Pro Circuit, in 2012, when she beat US Open junior girls’ champion Samantha Crawford in the final of the $50,000 event in Yakima, Wash.
As a junior player, Rogers won the USTA Girls’ 18s National Championship to earn a wild card into the main draw of the 2010 US Open for her only appearance in a Grand Slam main draw.
Kuznetsov, a 26-year-old from Richboro, Pa., and Tampa, Fla., will return to Roland Garros nine years after advancing to the boys' singles final. With his victory in Sarasota, he climbed back into the world's Top 200 and is currently ranked No. 171, his highest ranking since January 2012.
A native of Kiev, Ukraine, where his grandfather was a handball champion, Kuznetsov was a standout junior and the boys’ runner-up at the 2004 junior French Open, where he lost to Gael Monfils. Following a severe leg injury suffered in a 2005 car accident, Kuznetsov came back to play in his first US Open main draw in 2006.
In 2007, he won his first Grand Slam match at the Australian Open, reached the round of 16 in doubles at the US Open and posted career-best rankings of No. 158 in singles and No. 78 in doubles. Kuznetsov qualified for the 2012 Australian Open for his first appearance in a Grand Slam main draw since 2007 and faced Rafael Nadal in the first round. He has played in French Open qualifying on four occasions.
Kuznetsov joins Brian Baker as the second consecutive French Open junior boys’ finalist to earn a USTA wild card into the French Open. Baker, who reached the boys’ final at the French Open in 2003, advanced to the second round at last year’s French Open after earning the USTA wild card and subsequently broke into the Top 100.
Melanie Oudin secured the women’s French Open wild card a year ago, also advancing to the second round.
for the final 2013 Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge standings.