Can you hear it in the distance?
It’s the Call of the Main Draw Roll Call Down Under. One lucky American man will win an automatic main draw entry into the 2012 Australian Open during the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs at Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Georgia on Sunday. Tennis Maryland will be there and wants to afford you a cursory advance briefing on the situation.
In comparison to the women’s field, the men’s field celebrates diversity. Diversity of age, that is. While the women at the 2011 USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs range in age from 16-21, the men range from 19-29. In a microcosm of player development, it seems that the future of the future of American men’s tennis at the Wild Card Playoffs is slightly longer in the tooth than the women’s field. The men’s field is also ranked lower than the women. In fact, #3 seed Denis Kudla, with a world ranking of 275, would be the #7 seed on the women’s side.
The men’s draw also reflects the lack of volatility and the more rigid hierarchy of the men’s professional game at this time. Just like the top few players in the world, a man in the top four ranked players in the men’s draw at the Playoffs will likely ‘win it all’. However, in this case, the winner will only be flying off to Australia for a berth in the main draw and not necessarily be raising the trophy at Melbourne Park.
Based on the rankings of December 4, 3 of the top 4 players are the oldest in the contest, with Reynolds and Ginepri at 29 and Levine at 24. Of the top 4 players based on rankings, only Denis Kudla can’t legally buy a beer.
#1 Bobby Reynolds (#127): At 29, Bobby Reynolds from Acworth, Georgia, is the oldest player in the field, but only by a few months over Robby Ginepri. Reynolds, known locally for his play for the Washington Kastles and their 2011 undefeated dream season, also impressed with his commanding performance at the US Open Wild Cards. Though beset by injuries in the last couple of years, he seems to be on top form for the last half of the year. He should meet Rhyne Williams in the first round, who he beat in straights at the Wild Card semifinals in College Park.
#2 Jesse Levine (#164): The Canadian-born Levine is the only left-hander in the draw. He is likely to face Daniel Kosakowski in the opener. He’s battled back from injuries since his third round appearance at Wimbledon in 2009 and has climbed from #526 in August to his current ranking of #126. Levine defeated Reynolds in the duo’s only main draw meeting, in the round of 32 at Los Angeles in 2009.
#3: Denis Kudla (#275): Kudla is called ’Dangerous Denis’ for a reason. He can knock out a more experienced player at any given moment, such as he did at Newport in July, when he successively stunned Ivo Karlovic and Grigor Dmitrov to reach the Quarters. He should see first-round action against Jack Sock, who defeated him in the semis of this same event last year.
#4 Robby Ginepri (#318): The 29 year old Kennessaw native and 2005 US Open semifinalist looks to capture the crowd’s hearts. He could see Steve Johnson in the first round.
#5 Steve Johnson (#369): The 21 year old Californian saw his rankings reach the highest point of his career last month, and he has broken into the top 200 in men’s doubles.
#6 Jack Sock (#380): Sock drew an automatic berth into the US Open by virtue of his triumph at Kalamazoo last summer. He made the quarters in Sacramento before losing to James Blake and the second round of the 2011 US Open before being defeated by Andy Roddick. The 2010 US Open Junior Champion, he continues to move up the rankings and should be a joy to watch in an anticipated first rounder against Kudla.
#7 Daniel Kosakowski (#410): In his inaugural year as a pro, the 2011 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year was just one win away from the US Open Wild Card Playoffs in August. He has beaten Kudla and Johnson and lost to Rhyne Williams.
#8: Rhyne Williams (#511): Another freshly-minted pro, he left the University of Tennessee over the summer. He’s lost to Levine twice this year, and has beaten Ginepri and Kosakowski. He should face Reynolds for starters.
No surprises here. Bobby Reynolds dominance at the US Open Wild Card Playoffs in College Park, Maryland in August reflects his “one to beat” status and an overwhelming favorite to punch his ticket into the main draw at Racquet Club of the South next weekend. Or, it could go another way. Look at the draw posted above this entry. You’ve got Bobby/Robby on one side, and Levine/Kudla/Sock on the other. Consider Denis Kudla the Wild Card at the Wild Cards. That expected first round match against Sock could be Friday’s best action and possibly produce a finalist. Kudla and Sock are hungry to run the table. But, like Tulane Coach Taylor Fogleman told Tennis Maryland about Bobby Reynolds chances before the US Open Wild Card Playoffs just a few months back, “It’s his to lose.” That prediction still rings true and the title of our videos below from the US Open Playoffs sum it all up. If you don’t feel like clicking, the point is: Reynolds dominates Kosakowski and Williams. If Kudla or Sock get a chance to face Reynolds, anything can happen. Otherwise, it’s Bobby Time.
Don’t forget. Tennis Maryland will provide coverage of every match. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @TennisMaryland for the very latest in tennis ephemera. We’ll also have video and lots of it. Let us know who you want interviewed!