Wozniacki, Birrell among Australian Open wildcards

Darren Walton |

Ex-Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki has been granted a wildcard for the 2024 tournament.
Ex-Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki has been granted a wildcard for the 2024 tournament.

Former champion Caroline Wozniacki, veteran James Duckworth and Aussie women’s No.1 Kim Birrell are among the first recipients of wildcards into next month’s Australian Open in Melbourne.

Tennis Australia on Wednesday revealed the first six wildcards for the season’s first grand slam, with 2018 Melbourne Park women’s winner and ex-No.1 Wozniacki top of the list.

After retiring following the 2020 Open, Wozniacki had two children before announcing her comeback to tennis in June.

The Dane enjoyed almost immediate success by reaching the fourth round of the US Open and was stopped only by eventual champion Coco Gauff to prove she remained a grand slam force even at 33.

“I have so many wonderful memories of Melbourne, and of course winning the Australian Open is an all-time career highlight,” Wozniacki said of her impending return to Melbourne.

“Coming back to my favourite slam as a new mum – and bringing my two kids – will be a huge thrill. The whole family is so excited.

“I’m truly grateful to everyone for the wildcard and having the opportunity to compete again at the AO in January.”

Duckworth, who reached as high as No.46 in the rankings last year, only missed direct entry by about 10 spots and received news of his reprieve just four days after being married in Queensland.

“I’m very excited to be back playing the Australian Open again. It’s my favourite tournament of the year,” said the world No.116.

“I have so many great memories playing in Melbourne. I felt like I was starting to gain some momentum towards the end of the year and I’m looking forward to building on that for the Australian summer.”

After an injury-plagued career, Birrell returned to prominence this year with a successful qualifying campaign at the French Open and moved past injured stars Daria Saville and Ajla Tomljanovic to become the Australian women’s No.1.

“It’s a huge honour to receive a main-draw wildcard,” she said.

“There’s no better feeling as an Australian than playing at Melbourne Park at our home grand slam.”

Other wildcards were issued on Wednesday to rising locals Olivia Gadecki, Taylah Preston and Adam Walton and consistent performer Marc Polmans.

The 2024 Open will feature a Sunday start for the first time and get underway on January 14.