Smyczek, Townsend win
AO Wild Card Challenge
Pat Mitsch | November 16, 2017
Americans Tim Smyczek and Taylor Townsend are headed Down Under to the main draws of the Australian Open after Smyczek clinched the men's AO Wild Card Challenge presented by the USTA on Thursday. Townsend clinched the women's wild card this past weekend.
The USTA and Tennis Australia have a reciprocal agreement in which wild cards into the 2017 US Open and 2018 Australian Open are exchanged. USTA Player Development awards the wild cards to the American man and woman whose ranking won't qualify them for direct entry into the main draw, based on their performances throughout a series of pro events over the last several weeks.
Smyczek defeated compatriot and world No. 85 Tennys Sandgren, 6-4, 6-4, Thursday in the quarterfinals of the $75,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger in Champaign, Ill., meaning there are no American men left who can catch him in the Challenge standings. Smyczek now has 109 points, a total that could grow if he continues to win in Champaign, putting him out of reach from lead challengers Sandgren and Denis Kudla.
Smyczek, ranked No. 152, earned 80 points for winning the singles title at the $75,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger in Charlottesville, Va., and 29 points for reaching the semifinals this week. The Challenge counts only each players' best two results over a three-week period.
Smyczek, a 29-year old Milwaukee native, has reached the second round of the Australian Open three times, including in 2015, when, late in the fifth set of an eventual second-round loss to Rafael Nadal, Smyczek allowed Nadal to take a second first serve after a fan interruption caused the Spaniard to fault. The gesture drew praise from Nadal following the match and earned international media coverage.
Townsend clinched the women's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge by winning the singles title at the $80,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Waco, Texas, on Sunday. Townsend’s victory – her third USTA Pro Circuit singles title in the last month – also elevated her ranking to No. 97, which is more than likely to guarantee her direct entry into the main draw in Melbourne when the entry lists are announced on Dec. 4.
Should that happen, the Challenge’s wild card entry would go to second-place finisher Kristie Ahn, who earned 116 points compared to Townsend’s 136. Ahn, the 25-year old Stanford University product who earned 115 points by winning the singles title at the $80,000 event in Tyler, Texas, two weeks ago, is ranked No. 112.