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Americans set sights on Australian Open qualifying tournament

January 12, 2016 03:28 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

The first Grand Slam of 2016 is still five days away, but for the players not given direct entry into the draw, the so-called 'Happy Slam' starts now. Eleven American men and eight U.S. women will compete in the Australian Open qualifying draw this week in a bid to secure one of the final coveted spots into the main draw, which begins Monday, Jan. 18.

Those in the qualifying draw need to win three matches to punch their ticket to the 128-player tournament, with 16 spots available in the men’s draw and 12 in the women’s.

Austin Krajicek, ranked No. 104 in the world, initially missed out on direct entry to the main draw, but he was given a spot when Andreas Haider-Maurer withdrew with a leg injury last week. That leaves Daniel Nguyen, Tim Smyczek (pictured), Bjorn Fratangelo, Ryan Harrison, Frances Tiafoe, Jared Donaldson, Taylor Fritz, Mitchell Krueger, Dennis Novikov, Tennys Sandgren and Connor Smith hoping to join the nine American men (led by world No. 11 John Isner) already set for the main draw.

At least one American man is guaranteed a place in the second round of qualifying, with Donaldson, seeded No. 21, and Tiafoe drawn against each other in their opening match. Smyczek (No. 3), Fratangelo (17), Harrison (19) and Novikov (32) are also seeded, giving them a greater likelihood of advancing on account of facing no more than one other seed in the tournament.

In the women’s qualifying draw, the U.S. is represented by world No. 109 Nicole Gibbs, the highest-ranked American woman not to gain direct entry, in addition to Jessica Pegula, Louisa Chirico, Katerina Stewart, Sachia Vickery, Alexa Glatch, Julia Boserup and Maria Sanchez.

A further 15 American women – the most of any nation and led by world No. 1 Serena Williams – are already guaranteed of their spot in the main draw, either through direct entry, a protected ranking or a wild card.

Last year, two men – Smyczek and Michael Russell – and one woman – Anna Tatishvili – advanced out of qualies into the main draw.

The total prize money at the Australian Open is $44 million, with main-draw first-round losers taking home $34,500.

The Australian Open runs Jan. 18-31.