Ten days from today, one lucky American woman in Norcross, Georgia will land herself a trip down under. The USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs features up-and-comers on both the men’s and women’s sides at the Racquet Club of the South outside Atlanta from December 16-18. We’ll break down the women’s field today and feature the men next week. All seeds are based upon the current field and their USTA ranking of November 28.
#1 Coco Vandeweghe: The twenty year old Vandeweghe, ranked #122 internationally, has played in 25 events this year and reached her career high of World #89 in April. Even with an 18-25 singles record, she was able to appear at all 4 Grand Slam main draws and reach the second round at Flushing Meadows. She is an AO Wild Card former finalist and champion. Last year, as a quarterfinalist at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, she knocked off Julia Georges, Tathiana Garbin, Jarmilla Gajdosova, Klara Zakopalova, and Aravane Rezai IN THE SAME WEEK! Vandeweghe, the 2008 US Open girls’ singles champion, is definitely a strong favorite. Her expected first round opponent would be Taylor Townsend. And yes, we believe Vandeweghe will the tallest competitor in the field at 6’1″.
#2 Alison Riske, a Tennis Maryland favorite, has had a very busy 2011 with a respectable 35-27 singles in 29 events. She is tied with Oudin for the most 2011 appearances of any player in the field and showed up at the main draw of every Grand Slam except Roland Garros this year. Currently the world #135, her expected first round opponent would be Grace Min.
#3 Jamie Hampton: Currently the world #141, Hampton has a middling 26-24 singles record this year, having played in the main draw of the Australian and US Opens this year. She could face Madison Keys in the first round. Unbelievably, Hampton is the ‘oldest’ player in the field, meaning that she will turn the ungodly age of 22 between the Playoffs and the Australian Open. She also trains in Marietta and can be considered a local at the event.
#4 The Melanie Oudin: Marietta native Oudin is clearly going to be a crowd favorite as the darling of the host facility where she trains and former darling of the entire nation in 2009. At #164, she probably wishes she didn’t have to pull a play-in to the Australian Open after sitting pretty at #31 less than 18 months ago. Though she’s composed a 10-33 singles record in 2011, she has played a lot of tennis in 29 events. She may face Gail Brodsky in the first round quarterfinals.
#5 Gail Brodsky: Brooklyn’s Brodsky brings an impressive 42-22 year-to-date singles record to the Playoffs. Her world ranking of #227 may be deceptive given her run this year. She would likely face Melanie Oudin in the opener, which could be the best Friday match-up on the women’s side.
#6 Madison Keys (#270): With only 9 events behind her in 2011, the 16 year old excited tennis fandom with a first round victory at the US Open while being ranked #455. She is the current defending Wild Card Champion, having plowed through the field at the US Open Playoffs in College Park, Maryland in August. Keys is likely to face Jamie Hampton in the opener.
#7 Grace Min (#352): At 17, Atlanta native and local fave Grace Min would like to be the next Madison Keys in terms of a run into the main draw. She boasts a 2-1 record over Keys in 2011 and has competed in 9 events this year. She won the US Open Girl’s singles championship in September after taking the Wimbledon Girl’s Doubles title earlier this year. Min would probably take on the #2 seed Alison Riske.
#8 Taylor Townsend: 16 year old Stockbridge, GA resident Townsend is the only southpaw in the field. At #432, we admit that this is all we know about her: 1) she will likely face #1 seed Vandeweghe, 2) she was coached by Donald Young, Sr. and 3) Richard Williams thinks “she’ll be beating a hell of a lot of people.” She is currently competing in the third round at Orange Bowl 18s as the #16 seed.
Like the top 30, the Women’s Wild Card field is equally competitive and probably just as topsy-turvy. The players in this field haven’t met as often as one might initially surmise. While Grace Min and Madison Keys have played each other three times this year (with Min winning twice), no other players have that much head-to-head experience in 2011. Melanie Oudin, although posting only 10 wins in 43 singles matches this year, is 4-0 against the field, having defeated Hampton twice and Riske and Brodsky once.
Min, Townsend, Oudin and even locally-trained Hampton will have large local cheering contingents, but no one will get more crowd support than Melanie. Madison Keys recent emergence makes her a very strong threat to the five higher-ranked players above her. And Vandeweghe, Riske and Hampton could be considered #1 co-seeds.
Tennis Maryland is going to go with Oudin or Vandeweghe based on expreience to win for the automatic main draw berth but a team effort by Riske, Brodsky, Hampton and Keys will force it to stay intensely interesting. We’re predicting close matches, especially Hampton/Keys and Oudin/Brodsky in the Friday openers.
Tennis Maryland is thrilled to be able to be on location during the Playoffs to provide you with live twitter coverage of all matches of the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs, all well as press conference video and interviews with key players throughout the event. Live coverage will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, December 16. If you can make it to Racquet Club of the South, tickets are reasonably priced, available at australianwildcard.com and linked here. There’s a reason they call it wild, because anything can happen.
Most recent case and point: #6 seed Madison Keys, with the same seeding at Racquet Club of the South and at the Tennis Center at College Park in August.