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James Duckworth, Ellen Perez earn US Open wildcards

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James Duckworth (NSW) and Ellen Perez (NSW) have been awarded wildcards into this month’s US Open, joining at least seven fellow Australians in the main draw.

Twenty-four-year-old Duckworth will contest the main draw at Flushing Meadows for the third time in his career after overcoming an elbow injury that threatened to derail his 2016 season.

 

“I’m really excited about being able to play main draw at the US Open and would like to thank Tennis Australia for the wildcard,” Duckworth said.

“I had a tough start to the year, missing nearly four months with an elbow injury, but I’m fit and injury-free now and really looking forward to this great opportunity in New York.”

The world No.199, who reached a career-high rank of No.82 in April last year, returned to the circuit in remarkable form in May by taking out a third career ATP Challenger Tour title with victory in Bangkok.

Duckworth will join countrymen Nick Kyrgios (ACT), Bernard Tomic (Qld), Thanasi Kokkinakis (SA), John Millman (Qld) and Jordan Thompson (NSW) in New York, with a raft of Aussie hopefuls aiming to qualify for the event this week.

Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt said Duckworth was a worthy recipient of the men’s wildcard.

“Ducks spent most of the 2015 season inside the world’s top 100 and that’s really the calibre of player he is. It was unfortunate to see Ducks forced to the sidelines for a few months this year but he bounced back with a great win in Bangkok and his ranking will continue to improve.

“Ducks is one of the hardest workers on the circuit, he’s proved himself before on the Grand Slam stage and he’ll put up a really gutsy effort in New York.”

Twenty-year-old Perez will make her Grand Slam debut after winning the Australian women’s wildcard play-off in Florida (USA) at the weekend. Perez defeated fellow young gun Ash Barty (Qld) in the final to scoop the prized wildcard entry.

The University of Georgia representative won her maiden ITF title in Brussels (BEL) in July, and earlier this month reached the final of the ITF event in Rebecq (BEL). She boasts an impressive 19-2 record since returning to the ITF circuit in July and this weekend added three more wins to her name – over Naiktha Bains (Qld), Arina Rodionova (Vic) and Barty – to secure the US Open wildcard.

“I’m really excited to utilise this opportunity to be amongst the best in the world and thank Tennis Australia for the wildcard, which could be a big breakthrough for me,” Perez said.

“I believe the matches over in Europe really helped with my confidence and belief in my own game. I am most looking forward to the opportunity to compete in my first Grand Slam singles event, to play in front of the crowd and to learn from this experience for the future.”

Tennis Australia Head of Women’s Professional Tennis Nicole Pratt said Perez was in great form ahead of the year’s final Grand Slam.

“Ellen was extremely competitive this week and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. She played aggressively, using her forehand and serve to dominate points. Clearly she has gained an incredible amount of confidence from her recent run in Europe, with a win-loss record of 19-2.”

Perez joins Sam Stosur (Qld) and Daria Gavrilova (Vic) in the women’s draw.

Qualifying for the US Open commences today, with seven Australians among the 128 men and 128 women competing for 16 qualifying berths in both the men’s and women’s singles draws.

Main draw action gets under way at Flushing Meadows on Monday 29 August.