May 16, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Race to the Roland Garro$ deadline has $eriou$ $take$

Last week was the last week before the six-week advance entry deadline, to get into the main draw at Roland Garros this year.

For the women, it fell poorly; there were no WTA-level tournaments at which a great performance might make the difference between the big pot available even to a first-round, main draw loser.

So some had to grind at the ITF level, and hope for the best.

For the men, there was a Masters 1000 (admittedly a lot tougher for players on the bubble to get into) and a number of Challenger events in the last-minute scramble.

Protected rankings legion among the women

The top 104 players in each of the men’s and women’s rankings on Monday are theoretically in, with the rest of the 128 slots going to qualifiers and wild cards.

Except … it’s hard to remember when there were so many players working on protected rankings. And awhile those players can’t be seeded with those rankings, they do bump everyone else down that acceptance list.

It’s too soon to know how far down the bumping will happen; most players with protected rankings will at least enter a Grand Slam, even if it’s unsure if they’ll be healthy enough to play by the time the actual tournament rolls around.

Here are the protected rankings that are in the Rome WTA entry list, which is a 96-player draw. It’s not a perfect guide, but it’s pretty good.

#31 – Angelique Kerber

#34 – Paula Badosa – At No. 93, Badosa should make it on her own. Barely.

#46 – Naomi Osaka

#49 – Irina-Camelia Begu

#51 – Shelby Rogers

#54 – Daria Saville – Saville has used up her two allotted GS entries but at No. 95 in the actual rankings, should make it.

#59 – Lauren Davis

#61 – Amanda Anisimova

#99 – Aleksandra Krunic

#103 – Emma Raducanu

Add to that some players who aren’t playing Rome but could, possibly, try to take advantage of their ranking: Zhang Shuai (No. 48); Bianca Andreescu (No. 64); Julia Grabher (No. 73), Katerina Baindl (No. 86), Zheng Saisai (No. 89), and even Wang Qiang (No. 94) and Alison Van Uytvanck (No. 97).

Grabher, notably, has played the last two weeks, after being out since before last year’s US Open. Wang Qiang, who had been out since Sept. 2022, played a $40K ITF in China last week. Out since last September, Davis returned at Charleston two weeks ago.

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Andreescu is training in Monte Carlo, although she’s not entered in Rome.

Even allowing for those who might enter, but not make the date, there could be as many as 10 players with protected rankings amongst the 104.

And that means the cutoff could be as low as the mid 90s.

With first-round losers likely to pocket some $75,000 US this year, it’s a big deal.

You can add a few spots there as a few players in the top 100 are … a little busy with babies coming (Kvitova, Bencic) or dealing with a long-term injury (Muchova).

So here are the players between the two lines above who are very much on the bubble with Monday’s deadline.

Even if they significantly improve their lot in the weeks leading up to the tournament, it won’t change their order in this entry list. At best, it would improve their seeding in the qualifying.

The biggest winner the last few weeks was the Spaniard Jessica Bouzas Maneiro, who launched herself into pretty safe territory. At the end of March, she was ranked No. 127.

Fewer issues with the men

There aren’t nearly as men working on protected rankings these days.

But there are some.

Notable among them is Rafael Nadal, whose PR is No. 9 but who obviously won’t need to use it at the tournament he’s won… a time or two.

Others likely to use their protected ranking:

#21 – Marin Cilic

#27 – Denis Shapovalov

#80 – Kwon Soonwoo

Milos Raonic’s PR is No. 33, but he’s not expected to play Roland Garros.

So that leaves the likely cutoff at No. 101 or No. 102.

It’s not as dire as a year ago, when those lists were longer – and very different from this year’s group:

Notables on the bubble

Thanasi Kokkinakis did himself a TON of good on Sunday – just in time – when he won the Sarasota Challenger and got his ranking up to No. 94. So did France’s Corentin Moutet.

Matteo Berrettini did himself a lot of good with his title in Marrakech; it insulated him from the points he drops Monday from Monte Carlo 2023. He, too, should make it.

But former Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem may have put himself out of the running (although he, like Caroline Wozniacki and former champion Simona Halep, will lobby hard for wild cards even as the French Federation hugely prioritizes its own players).

They will closely be watching the injuries, and the withdrawals, in the coming weeks.

But for the players who are even half-healthy, they’ll typically leave a withdrawal to the last minute. Once the qualifying begins, it’s over for the alternates – who must then try to fight through three rounds of qualifying.

That’s especially true as they can still grab part of the prize money with a late withdrawal, giving a healthier player from the qualifying a chance to play.

That’s a rule added in recent years as players were showing up for the payday either in no shape to play, or retiring after a few games.

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