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Murray, Clijsters lead US Open wildcards

Andy Murray and Kim Clijsters have both been granted wildcards for the US Open.

The 2020 US Open will be played behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September, and it has already been confirmed that some big names – most notably world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty and defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal – will not be present.

But two former champions certainly will be in the field as Murray and Clijsters head the list of players who have been granted wildcards for the Grand Slam tournament.

Murray, who won his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2012 when he defeated Novak Djokovic in five sets in the final, told British media last week that he was planning to play the tournament despite some health and safety concerns because he ‘[didn’t] know how many’ chances to play majors he had left.

The former world no. 1 is currently ranked world no. 129 and hasn’t played an official tournament since last November, as he works to rebuild his career after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery in January 2019. He last played the US Open in 2012, losing to Fernando Verdasco in a sweaty second-round encounter.

Murray may not actually need his wildcard, depending on how many players withdraw, as he may get into the main draw as an alternate.
Kim Clijsters will certainly need her wildcard to get into the main draw. The 37-year-old Belgian is attempting to un-retire for the second time, having won her three US Open singles titles – in 2005, 2009 and 2010 – on either side of her first retirement.

Kim Clijsters made her last US Open appearance in 2012 (Photo by Corinne Dubreuil/ABACAPRESS.COM # 332540_098)

Clijsters has not played a major since the US Open in 2012 and has only played two official matches since then, in Dubai and Monterrey earlier this season, losing both. Shortly afterwards, the global health crisis forced the shutdown of the ATP and WTA Tours in early March, but Clijsters put the time to good use playing World Team Tennis where she scored victories over Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, former US Open winner Sloane Stephens, Danielle Collins and Monica Puig in the abbreviated format.

Clijsters has also taken a wildcard into the Western & Southern Open, usually played in Cincinnati but relocated to New York for one year only to form a two-tournament bubble with the US Open.

Murray and Clijsters are the two big names among the wildcards, which are otherwise dominated by American players.

The other men’s wildcards went to:

• Brandon Nakashima (19)
• Ulises Blanch (22)
• Maxime Cressy (23)
• Sebastian Korda (20)
• Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (25)
• Michael Mmoh (22)
• JJ Wolf (21)

Korda is the son of the 1998 Australian Open men’s singles champion Petr Korda, and won the juniors at the same tournament in 2018.

Blanch, Cressy, Kwiatkowski and Wolf all won Challenger Tour titles in early 2020 before the sport was shut down.

The women’s wildcards have gone to:

• CiCi Bellis (21)
• Usue Arconada (21)
• Francesca di Lorenzo (23)
• Caroline Dolehide (21)
• Ann Li (20)
• Robin Montgomery (15)
• Whitney Osuigwe (18)

The best-known among them is Bellis, who made a brilliant US Open debut in 2016 as a young teenager when she qualified for the main draw and reached the third round. Bellis went on to record victories over opponents as impressive as Petra Kvitova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Karolina Pliskova, Madison Keys and Kiki Bertens and was ranked as high as world no. 35, but did not play at all from March 2018 until November 2019 due to wrist and elbow injuries. Despite starting 2020 outside the world’s top 800, Bellis reached the third round of the Australian Open in January.

Former US Open champions Kim Clijsters and Naomi Osaka are among players granted wildcards for the Western & Southern Open.

Naomi Osaka will be playing the US Open, her team have confirmed, after the Japanese-Haitian player was listed among the five players receiving wildcards for the warm-up event.

It’s not clear why Osaka didn’t simply enter the Western & Southern Open by the entry deadline, but after her absence from the player entry list raised eyebrows, the 2018 US Open champion’s management team confirmed she’ll be playing both events.

World no. 10 Osaka is the sixth top-10 player in the field, joining Karolina Pliskova, Sofia Kenin, Kiki Bertens, Belinda Bencic and Serena Williams.

World no. 1 Ashleigh Barty announced on Thursday that she won’t be playing the Western & Southern Open or the US Open, citing the ‘significant risks’ involved in travelling from Australia to the USA at this time.

A notable absence is that of defending US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, who has not played since last October due to injury. If Andreescu is not playing the Western & Southern Open, relocated from Cincinnati to New York in 2020 to form a two-tournament bubble with the US Open, it is unlikely that she will be defending her title.

Naomi Osaka will be competing at the Western & Southern Open (Photo by Corinne Dubreuil/ABACAPRESS.COM)

The other Western & Southern Open wildcards have been awarded to Kim Clijsters, Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and Caty McNally.
Clijsters, a three-time US Open champion, announced her intention to un-retire in 2020 after last competing in 2012, but only got the opportunity play two WTA Tour matches in Dubai and Monterrey – losing both, to Johanna Konta and Garbine Muguruza respectively – before the season was shut down. Clijsters said the global pandemic would not affect her plans to return to competition and has put the suspension time to good use, playing for the New York Empire in World Team Tennis in the USA. World Team Tennis uses an abbreviated format, but Clijsters still leads the league in women’s singles wins, and has beaten Sofia Kenin, Stephens, Danielle Collins and Monica Puig.

The Belgian will also be one of the seven former Western & Southern Open champions in the women’s field, having triumphed in 2010 during her first successful unretirement when she beat Maria Sharapova in the final. The others are defending champion Madison Keys, Kiki Bertens (2018), Garbine Muguruza (2017), Karolina Pliskova (2016), Serena Williams (2014-15) and Victoria Azarenka (2013).

Alongside Osaka and Clijsters, two more US Open champions have received Western & Southern Open wildcards: Venus Williams, who won back-to-back US Opens in 2000-1, and 2017 champion Sloane Stephens.

The fifth Western & Southern Open wildcard has gone to Caty McNally, an 18-year-old currently ranked world no. 38. McNally reached the second round at the US Open last year where she won the first set against Serena Williams before succumbing in three. She is a native of Ohio, the state where the Western & Southern Open is usually played in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason; the tournament has been relocated to New York for one year only to form a two-tournament bubble with the US Open.