Tennis Australia has chosen not to give a wildcard to Arina Rodionova, Australia’s top-ranked women’s tennis player, despite her high global ranking — and she believes it’s over some personal beef dating back “years and years”.
A wildcard at a Grand Slam tournament is reserved for players who haven’t ranked high enough to automatically qualify, but a selection panel draws them so they can still have a spot. Wildcard spots are usually given to up-and-coming young stars to give them a chance at top competition, or veterans who have historically ranked well and are known to be talented but have slipped up in recent games. So, you know, perhaps Rodionova.
Rodionova had a killer 2023, in which she won 79 matches and seven International Tennis Federation (ITF) titles before being ranked at 105 in the world, which is pretty damn impressive and a career high for her.
However, after she was beaten in the first round of qualifying at Melbourne Park, Tennis Australia gave the local wildcard spots to Kimberly Birrell (who ranks at 117), Olivia Gadecki (who ranks at 121), Daria Saville (who ranks at 195) and Taylah Preston (who ranks at 203). Yes, someone ranked almost 100 spots lower than Rodionova was chosen for a wildcard over her.
The tennis star tweeted on X that she wasn’t “surprised” she wasn’t drawn when the wildcards, and said she reckons the decision was personal. Yikes.
“The only regret I have from today is I think I gave Tennis Australia something to celebrate,” she said after her loss, per ABC News.
“I think they’re very pleased with my result today, and that’s what makes me upset.”
Rodionova reportedly said she “absolutely” felt the decision to omit her was personal and stemmed from “so many incidents that happened between myself and people in charge” from “years and years ago”.
“It is very clear to me that I am not liked, and it’s not just clear to me, it’s clear to every single Australian tennis player,” she said.
So far, Tennis Australia hasn’t commented on Rodionova’s accusations.
John Millman, Australia’s men’s former world number 33, told the ABC Tennis Podcast that he was “baffled” Rodionova had been snubbed.
“You can’t be Australia’s top-ranked player in female tennis and be overlooked,” he said.
“I am a bit baffled. I think she should have been one of the first names given an opportunity.
“It came down in the end to Arina and [Daria]. I don’t think it should’ve even come down to that because they should’ve been the first two ladies that were given a wildcard.
“ (Rodionova) has gone out there and shown an unbelievable appetite for hard work and winning matches, and she’s done it the hard way.”
Rodionova said she has no hard feelings with Saville, but instead aired her frustration at Tennis Australia, who she accused of dragging out the suspense when she believes the institution never planned to give her a wildcard.
“I didn’t really have an issue with them not giving it to me, I had more of an issue with [how] they left it for so long and they pretended they were looking at the results in Brisbane,” she said, per Fox Sports.
“The decision was probably made before that they didn’t want to give it to me, and they should’ve announced it way before because it just brought such unnecessary stress to myself, also to [Daria] … she was also thinking about it.
“It’s just disrespectful towards players because I found out Friday evening and had to play in two days.”
Ooft. I’ve never been a sports girlie, but suddenly I’m interested in tennis.
The Australian Open kicks off this Sunday, if you’re as invested in tennis tea as I now am, and you can catch it on Nine.
PEDESTRIAN.TV has reached out to Tennis Australia for comment.
Image: Chris Hyde/Getty Images