Americans Madison Keys and Rhyne Williams booked their places in the main draw of the Australian Open Sunday with respective wins at the Wildcard Playoffs held in Norcross, Georgia.
The 17-year-old Keys notched her second straight Wildcard Playoffs title after winning it there a year ago. The world No.137, seeded third in Georgia, made her way past former Stanford standout Mallory Burdette in the final, winning 7-5, 6-3.
Williams, also the third seed, needed four sets to make his first-ever Australian Open main draw, beating top seed Tim Smyczek 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.
The Americans join Australians Ben Mitchell and Bojana Bobusic who won their playoffs held at Melbourne Park over the last week.
Keys opened the weekend with a convincing win over former top 30 player Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who is ranked No.169 after a series of injuries in 2012. In the semifinals, Keys took down second seed Alexa Glatch in their first-ever meeting.
At 178cm and a possessing a powerful serve, Keys has been on the radar of American tennis fans since she made a run to the second round of the US Open in 2011, losing in three tight sets to Lucie Safarova. It was in Melbourne that she lost to Jie Zheng in the first round a year ago.
Just 17, she will most likely be the second-youngest player in the Australian Open draw, older than only Donna Vekic, the 16-year-old Croatian.
Williams, a 21 year old who played college tennis at the University of Tennessee, opened his wildcard weekend by beating former fellow collegiate player Daniel Kosakowski in the quarterfinals before taking out No.2 seed Denis Kudla in a tough three setter, 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-1.
Ranked a career-high No.190, Williams sealed his first Australian Open main draw berth by beating the top seed Smyczek in the only best-of-five match to be played over the weekend. Smyczek hadn’t dropped a set coming into the final.
Williams had lost his last two matches to Smyczek at USTA Pro Circuit events, both played last month. But after splitting the first two sets, it was Williams who got break leads in the third and fourth and didn’t look back, beating the world No.128.
Williams qualified for the US Open main draw to compete in his first major in August, where he lost to Andy Roddick in the opening round. The American was just 0-2 in ATP matches last year, going 40-22 on the challenger circuit and winning a Futures event in Madrid in June.
Keys has also found success at challengers, going 25-9 this year and winning a title last month at the $100K stop in Phoenix. She also was victorious at the stop in Saguenay, Canada, in October.
The inaugural Asia Pacific playoff winners were decided last month with China’s Wu Di and Yuxyuan Zhang winning the men’s and women’s events.