Just months after almost walking away from tennis, Victorian Tammi Patterson was today awarded a wildcard entry into Australian Open 2016.
The 25-year-old was forced to the sidelines earlier this year following a string of injuries, but is now preparing for her maiden Australian Open campaign after a remarkable return to form.
For the first time in 2015 one women’s wildcard was up for grabs for the best-performed Australian female at Australian Pro Tour events in Canberra and Bendigo. Patterson earned the wildcard after progressing to the semifinals of the Pro Tour event in Bendigo last week.
The world No.461 will be hoping to emulate the success of fellow Victorian Daria Gavrilova, who won the Australian Open Wildcard Play-off in December 2014 to earn her entry into the first Grand Slam of the year, setting up a breakthrough season on tour.
“It still hasn’t sunk in, I’m so happy. If I can have a year like Dasha did, that would be amazing,” Patterson said.
“Throughout the years I’ve always had the hitting ability and I think now I can see that I’ve got that and I’m believing in myself a bit more. I think I’ve grown up and I understand the game a little bit better.”
Tennis Australia Head of Women’s Tennis Nicole Pratt said the Pro Tour wildcard initiative was critical to the development of women’s tennis in Australia.
“It’s a new initiative we’ve put in place this year, we feel it’s really important the players earn their spot in tournaments and we feel like Tammi can go in there confident she’s earned the right to play in Australian Open 2016 and also have the confidence that she belongs among the very best in the world,” she said.
“While I want [the players] to enjoy themselves I think they can do a little bit better than that and get some wins on the board as well. I’d like to see someone like Tammi move up [the rankings] very, very quickly.”
Meanwhile, Gavrilova will earn direct entry into Australian Open 2016 after rocketing up the rankings this season. Under Pratt’s guidance the 21-year-old shot to a year-end No.36 – 197 places ahead of her 2014 result – and has earned a nomination for the WTA Rising Star of the Year award.
Following her best ever season on tour Gavrilova has high hopes for the year ahead.
“I’m obviously confident and I feel like I belong in the rankings where I am right now,” she said.
“I feel like beating Maria [Sharapova] and Ana [Ivanovic] and all those girls who have won Grand Slams and have been inside the top 10, I feel like I can do that now and I can beat them.”
Also on the road to Australian Open 2016 following successful results in Canberra and Bendigo are Jessica Moore (WA) and Storm Sanders (WA), who scooped the women’s doubles wildcard, and rising star Priscilla Hon (Qld), who earned a qualifying wildcard for her performances – including a title victory – at Pro Tour events in Cairns, Toowoomba and Brisbane.
Pratt, Patterson and Gavrilova will join the biggest names in Australian tennis for the Newcombe Medal, Australian Tennis Awards in Melbourne on Monday night as the countdown to Australian Open 2016 continues.