Veteran journalists and people with many years inside the tennis industry know exactly what does — and doesn’t — govern the granting of wild cards at various tennis tournaments.
I asked Jonathan Levine, the tournament director of the brand-new ATP Challenger Tour event, the Arizona Tennis Classic, about the granting of wild cards at his tournament, which starts on March 11 at the Phoenix Country Club.
“In qualifying we have two (wild cards) and five in the main draw,” Levine said. “It depends on the size of the draw.”
I asked him if there were any constraints for the wild cards, any mandates handed down by the ATP. Levine said there are none.
To be clear, then, the granting of a certain number of wild cards is not a reflection of prize money. The Arizona Tennis Classic is a $125K challenger, as opposed to a $25K or a $15K. That is not relevant to the number of wild cards available in quallies or the main draw. The 48-player singles field is what matters. The number of wild cards would be different with a 32-player draw or a 64-player draw. That is the relevant point as Levine explained it to me.
Levine also offered this note about process and structure at the ATP Challenger Tour level, given that Levine is getting a new event off the ground in the United States. If the USTA sponsored a challenger event, it might change the points of emphasis governing wild cards. Levine was not tied to any USTA mandate, given the lack of USTA sponsorship of the Arizona Tennis Classic, so he faced zero pressure to allot wild cards in a certain way.
“If the tournament was affiliated with the USTA, which is part of many challengers – it sponsors lots of challenger events,” Levine explained. “Those tournaments, typically, are strategically placed on the calendar to make it easier for Americans to play and get into the tournament. This event would not be in their wheelhouse because at the prize money level they don’t foresee a lot of Americans being in it.”