Teenage prodigy Alex de Minaur has been handed Australia’s reciprocal wildcard into the French Open, starting on Sunday week.
Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt is a huge admirer, even partnering de Minaur in doubles at this month’s Estoril Open, and had no hesitation offering a wildcard to the 19-year-old for the second-straight year.
De Minaur has slashed his ranking by almost half already in 2018 to rocket to world No.106, almost good enough to secure direct entry for the clay court grand slam in Paris.
He started the year on fire, storming to the semi-finals of the Brisbane International with victory over 2017 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic, then going one better to reach his maiden ATP Tour title decider in Sydney.
The Sydney-born talent was raised on clay in Spain and looms as a player to avoid in the opening round at Roland Garros.
“Alex has put in some quality performances over the past six months and it’s a great effort to be only a handful of places out of main draw on ranking at the young age of 19,” Hewitt said on Friday.
“He’s already reached an ATP tour final this year and this wildcard gives him another opportunity to gain experience against the best players in the world.”
The former Wimbledon junior runner-up joins fellow Australians Nick Kyrgios, John Millman, Matt Ebden and Jordan Thompson in the French Open men’s main draw.
Thanasi Kokkinakis, injury permitting, and Bernard Tomic plan to contest qualifying.
Australia have four players in the women’s main draw, headed by seeds Ashleigh Barty and Daria Gavrilova, 2010 runner-up and four-times semi-finalist Samantha Stosur plus Ajla Tomljanovic.
Eight more will feature in a cut-throat playoff next week in Paris for Australia’s women’s wildcard offered by the French Tennis Federation.
When Rafael Nadal steps on to the red clay to try and claim his 12th French Open title next week, it will be a day that the world of tennis will remember for a long time. And it will have nothing to do with the Spaniard’s latest assault on Grand Slam history.