Former top-30 player Bethanie Mattek-Sands (Rochester, Minn.), former US Open junior champion Jack Sock (Lincoln, Neb.) and two-time reigning NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson (Orange, Calif.) are among the players competing in the Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs, held December 14-16, at Life Time Athletic & Tennis at Peachtree Corners in Norcross, Ga., a certified USTA Regional Training Center.
Eight men and eight women will compete in the fourth annual Wild Card Playoffs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with each winner earning a singles main-draw wild card into the 2013 Australian Open. The USTA secured the opportunity through a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia, where the two national tennis federations exchanged wild cards for the 2012 US Open and 2013 Australian Open.
Sock, the 20-year-old who reached the third round of the 2012 US Open and claimed the 2011 US Open mixed doubles title with Melanie Oudin, headlines the men’s field at his career-high rank of No. 150. Since winning the 2010 US Open junior championship, becoming the first American to do so since Andy Roddick in 2000, Sock has won three USTA Pro Circuit titles, including a Challenger this October, to rise nearly 500 spots in the rankings in the last two years.
The 22-year-old Johnson, who won back-to-back NCAA singles titles at Southern California in 2011 and 2012, also headlines the men’s field after advancing to the third round of the US Open and winning a USTA Pro Circuit Challenger title this summer.
Leading the women’s field is Mattek-Sands, who was ranked a career-high No. 30 in the world in July 2011 before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. The 27-year old Fed Cup veteran has played in 12 straight US Opens and reached the fourth round at Wimbledon (2008) and the third round of the French Open (2011).
The men’s field also includes Bradley Klahn (22, Poway, Calif.), the 2010 NCAA singles champion at Stanford who reached the second round of the 2012 US Open; Rhyne Williams (21, Knoxville, Tenn.), a former All-American at Tennessee who qualified for the 2012 US Open; Denis Kudla (20, Arlington, Va.), a one-time US Open junior finalist who, in 2012, qualified and reached the first round of the Australian Open and won two USTA Pro Circuit Challenger events; Tennys Sandgren (21, Gallatin, Tenn.), a former Tennessee standout who has won three USTA Pro Circuit Futures titles this year; Daniel Kosakowski (20, Huntington Park, Calif.), a former UCLA star who won back-to-back USTA Pro Circuit Futures championships in September; and Christian Harrison (18, Shreveport, La.), who, with older brother Ryan Harrison, advanced to the quarterfinals of the US Open doubles main draw in 2012.
Also competing in the women’s field are former top-ranked Georgia Tech singles star Irina Falconi (22, Jupiter, Fla.), the one-time world No. 73 and Pan American Games gold medalist who reached the third round of the 2011 US Open; Mallory Burdette (21, Jackson, Ga.), the former Stanford standout who reached the third round of the 2012 US Open after winning a USTA Wild Card; Madison Keys (17, Rock Island, Ill.), last year’s Australian Open Wild Card Playoff winner who is the second-youngest player ranked in the WTA top 140 after winning a $75,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Phoenix this November; Maria Sanchez (23, Modesto, Calif.), once the top-ranked college singles player at Southern California who won a $50,000 and a $75,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in 2012 to boost her ranking more than 560 places since 2011; Alexa Glatch (21, Newport Beach, Calif.), who was the runner-up to current World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the 2005 US Open junior championship; Julia Cohen (23, Philadelphia), who broke through to the WTA top 100 in (No. 97) in July; and Alison Riske (22, Pittsburgh), who has played in the main draw of the Australian Open (2011-12) and Wimbledon (2010-11) twice.
Keys, at 16 years old, and Jesse Levine won last year’s events, while current top-100 players Ryan Harrison and Lauren Davis are among previous champions.
To help kick off the fourth annual Australian Open Wild Card Playoff, 2012 Olympic men’s doubles gold medal winners and 12-time Grand Slam doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan will play a unique exhibition, the "Battle of Georgia," taking on five select doubles teams from the state each in a first-to-four-games exhibition match on Friday, Dec. 14, at Life Time.
The competing teams are: Danie Van Den Heever and Henry Darko of Winward Tennis Academy in Alpharetta, Ga.; Grant Stafford and Allen Simmons of Life Time Tennis & Athletic at Peachtree Corners; Jason Parker and Julius Robberts of Olde Town Athletic Club in Marietta, Ga.; Cameron Mistr and Jordan Delass of Universal Tennis Academy in Marietta, Ga.; and a team pairing a player each to be named from the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.
Tickets for the Battle of Georgia exhibition and each day of the Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs are on sale at http://www.australianwildcard.com
, giving fans the opportunity to purchase reserved seats for the first time. Groups of 10 or more receive a 20 percent discount on all tickets, while children age 15 and under can attend a full day of the wild card playoffs for just $10. Additional discounts are available for purchasing three-day passes and for being a USTA member or for being a Life Time member. Fans also will have the chance to win prizes by voting for which doubles team they think will do the best against the Bryans, while Life Time will showcase several new upgrades at its suburban Atlanta facility.
Additionally, the winners will receive engraved, luxury watches from Brera Orologi, while official tournament artist Stephen Gamson will be donating several pieces to the winners and for auction.