2009 US Open champion and Rio Olympics silver medalist Juan Martin del Potro headlines the list of men's players who have received a wild card to compete in the 2016 US Open in New York City later this month.
Andy Murray proved to be too much for del Potro in Sunday’s gold-medal match, but the 6-foot-7 former champion cracked his merciless ground strokes at will and proved he could play with the best in the world. More importantly, the oft-injured star showed that his wrist could withstand the rigors of some grueling matches, making him the most dangerous unseeded floater at this year’s Open.
Joining del Potro in the men’s main draw are Olympic mixed doubles silver medalist Rajeev Ram, USTA Boys’ 18s National Champion Michael Mmoh and USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge winner Ernesto Escobedo.
The 32-year-old Ram is currently ranked No. 103 in the world in singles after reaching a career high of No. 56 last April. His veteran status is in sharp contrast to 18-year-old Mmoh, ranked No. 386, and 20-year-old Escobedo, ranked No. 207. Mmoh, who reached the quarterfinals of the US Open junior tournament 12 months ago, will be making his main-draw debut after falling in the opening round of qualifying in 2015.
Rising Americans Bjorn Fratangelo, ranked No. 116, Francis Tiafoe, No. 123, and 2016 NCAA singles champion Mackenzie McDonald, No. 416, were also awarded direct entry into the main draw.
Fratangelo and Tiafoe both appeared in the main draw of the US Open for the first time in 2015, losing to Tomas Berdych and Viktor Troicki, respectively, in the first round. McDonald will be making his Grand Slam main-draw debut after turning pro earlier this year. A final wild card will be issued to an Australian player through the USTA’s exchange program with Tennis Australia.
But all eyes will be on the fan-friendly Argentinian del Potro, who could draw any one of the 32 seeded players in the first round and who is arguably playing the best tennis of anyone not named Murray.
Prior to a slew of injuries, del Potro is best remembered for his breakout season in 2009, winning the US Open in a five-set marathon over Roger Federer and reaching the semifinals of the French Open and the quarterfinals in Australia.
Wrist injuries derailed large parts of his 2010, 2014 and 2015 seasons, and after a second-round loss in Melbourne in 2014, he did not play in the main draw of a major until Wimbledon earlier this summer, where he upset No. 4 seed Stan Wawwrinka en route to the third round.
Del Potro represented his country in Rio earlier this month, shocking world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the first round and upending Rafael Nadal’s bid for a second Olympic gold in the semifinals. Now he has his sights set on creating more upsets at the final major of the year.
In addition to those players earning a wild card into the main draw, the USTA announced eight of the nine players who will receive a wild card into this year's qualifying tournament.
The runner-up in the boys’ 18s National Championships, Vasil Kirkov, will play in qualies, alongside fellow Americans Mitchell Krueger, ranked No. 191, Sekou Bangoura, No. 247, 18-year-old Reilly Opelka, No. 364, and 25-year-old Tennys Sandgren, No. 263.
Kirkov, 17, is currently ranked outside the Top 1,000, but he is coming off a junior career that saw him compete in the boys' events at Wimbledon and the French Open this year and the US Open juniors last year. He also reached the semifinals of the Easter Bowl this spring and represented the U.S. at last year's Junior Davis Cup.
Also receiving wild cards into qualifying are University of Virginia standout Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, who took part in the USTA Collegiate National Camp during the U.S. vs. Croatia Davis Cup tie last month; Ryan Shane, ranked No. 666; and Christian Harrison, ranked No. 829.
The final spot will be awarded to the winner of the US Open National Playoffs Men's Singles Championship, which will wrap up this weekend at the Connecticut Open in New Haven, Conn.
The qualifying tournament for the US Open begins next Tuesday, Aug. 23, and is free to the public.