The Grand Slam tournaments, also called majors, are the 4 most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world. They offer the most ranking points, public media attention, and of course the biggest prize pools.
The Grand Slams consists of 4 tournaments, the Australian Open played in January, French Open in May, Wimbledon in July, and the US Open in September. But how do tennis players qualify for these prestigious tournaments? Don’t worry, we will go through all the different ways for a player to qualify for a grand slam in this article.
To be one of the 128 players to qualify for a grand slam tournament, a player can go with one of these three options; Being ranked inside the 104 best players in the world in the ATP ranking, by qualifiers or getting a tournament wildcard.
Most of the players that are playing the grand slam tournaments have qualified through the rankings. Every Grand Slam tournament consists of 128 players, and of those 128, 104 are picked through the ATP rankings.
Protected Rankings: If a player is injured for greater than six months, which means there are sometimes players technically outside the current top 104 who might still get qualified directly because of their protected ranking, thus bumping a player just inside the top 104 out of qualifying range. In most cases, there are more absentees and injuries than there are protected players returning, but it is possible under this system to be in the top 104 and still not get directly qualified.
Unable To Play: If a player ranked inside the top 104 is unable to play due to injury or for any other reason can’t play, then the player that is ranked 105th gets to participate in the tournament instead.
By the 128 slots in a grand slam tournament, 16 players got to the tournament through the qualifiers. All 4 of the grand slam tournaments have a qualifying tournament that takes place a week prior to the main event. The qualifiers are a three-stage tournament, where the players need to win 3 matches in a row to qualify for the main event.
How To Qualify For The Qualifiers: In order to participate in the qualifiers for a grand slam, a player needs to be ranked between 105-232th in the world. This means that there are 128 players qualifying for the grand slams. After the qualifier tournament, there should be 16 players left, that have won all 3 matches, these players get rewarded with a ticket to the main draw at the grand slam tournament, which usually starts the next day.
Women/Doubles: In the women’s qualifying singles, three rounds are played by a starting field of 96 entrants. Any vacancies that occur in the few days between the end of qualifying and round one of the main tournament are filled by “lucky losers” from the third round of qualifying, in order of ranking. In both men’s and women’s doubles, only one round is played by eight pairs, with the four winners advancing.
120 of the 128 total spots in a Grand Slam tournament are players qualifying through the rankings and qualifiers. For the last 8 spots, there are what are called “wild cards”. Wild cards are given out at the discretion of the tournament committee, they are in some cases reserved for players who garner a specific tournament.
They are also awarded for other reasons, like fan favorites that draw large crowds or more commonly local players. Both the main draw and the qualifying draw have wild card slots available. Wildcards can not be given to players that have participated in the qualifiers.
These are the most common reasons why players get wildcards.
- Promising young talents
- Players from the home country
- Players who once were ranked higher
- Fan favorites and other players that draw large crowds
- Tournament legends that have won the title in the past
As we mentioned above, a wildcard could be given by winning other specific tournaments. Here are the tournaments that reward the winner with a ticket to the main draw for the 4 grand slams.
Australian Open: For the Australian Open, USTA rewards the American man and woman who wins the Australian Open Wild Card Challenge a ticket to the singles main draw.
French Open: Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge, is a tournament that utilizes clay-court pro tournaments to award an American man and woman a main draw wild card into the main draw.
Wimbledon: A week prior to the tournament, Ilkley Challenger is played in Bradford, where the winner as a tradition receives a main draw wild card.
US Open: USTA US Open Wild Card Challenge is a tournament where the winners of other smaller tournaments across the US, are playing against each other for a ticket to the main draw at the US Open.
You can read more about how tennis players receive wild cards in this post.
Another way for players to get a wildcard for the grand slams is through exchanges. For example in the Australian Open, the tournament directors in Australia usually give a french player a wildcard to their tournament.
They do this because when the french open comes around a few months later, the French directors at the french open will give a player from Australia a wildcard for their tournament, just because they gave a wildcard to a french player at the Australian Open.
These exchanges increase the opportunities for French, American, and Australian players, but at expense of those from less privileged tennis nations. It would be fairer to give out wild cards to rising players, who have proven in recent months that they have great potential, irrespective of their nationalities.
This is usually how the 6 wildcards are given for the Australian Open
- The winner of the Australian Open Wild Card Challenger
- 1 French player (In exchange of getting an Australian to get a wildcard at the French Open)
- 1 British Player (In exchange of a wildcard to an Australian player at Wimbledon)
- A local player/Fan favorite
- 1 American Player (In exchange of a wildcard to an Australian player at the US Open)
- 1 is given to an Asian player (Australian Open is also known as the grand slam of the Asia-Pacific)
Now when you have gone through the whole article, you should know everything that you need to know about how tennis players can qualify for the 4 grand slams.