It does not get any better than a Grand Slam tournament in the sport of tennis. Every tennis player dreams of playing at one of the four Grand Slam tournaments while growing up. But the road is tough, and qualifying for any Grand Slam tournament is harder than most people think.
Tennis players qualify for Grand Slams in three different ways. Players ranked higher than 104 at the ATP and WTA automatically qualify, while lower-ranked players get a chance to compete for the main draw through three qualification rounds. Players can also get a wild card.
Winning a Grand Slam is every tennis player’s dream. The road is long, and hard for most tennis players to even get the chance to compete at the highest level, let alone make it to a Grand Slam main draw. So, how can tennis players qualify for Grand Slams?
Tennis Players Can Enter A Grand Slam In 3 Different Ways
Players dream of winning a Grand Slam, but the reality is that even just being able to participate in a Grand Slam is a big achievement for a tennis player. Out of the thousands of professional tennis players, only 128 players get to compete for a Grand Slam trophy.
There are three ways tennis players can be added to a Grand Slam main draw:
- The player is ranked higher than 104
- The player wins the qualifying rounds (16 Players)
- The player is granted a wild card (8 Players)
Let us explore these three methods further.
The Player Has A Ranking Higher Than 104
Most players you see play in a Grand Slam are there because their current ATP or WTA ranking is higher than 104. Year-round players compete in tournaments worldwide, hoping to rise in the rankings and qualify for Grand Slam tournaments.
Players ranked just outside the top 104 still have a chance of getting into the Grand Slam main draw, as not all of the 104 best-ranked players request to play at a Grand Slam tournament.
Players always have to miss out on Grand Slams because of injuries or other issues that force them to pull out. Thus, players ranked outside the top 104 still have a chance to be part of the main draw.
If ten players ranked within the top 104 are not able to participate, players ranked 105-114 qualify for the main draw without having to go through qualifying. The remaining twenty-four spots are reserved for qualifiers and wild cards.
Players Can Use Protected Rankings
Players who were at one point high enough to play in the main draw but were sidelined due to injury for a significant amount of time can protect their rankings from participating in following grand slam events.
For example, Andy Murray, a very successful tennis player, needed surgery when he was ranked number 2 in the world. Murray could protect his ranking and automatically qualify for the main draw at the Australian Open in 2019 even though he had taken several months off and fell through the rankings.
The Player Wins The Qualifying Round
Players not fortunate enough to reach the top 104 in rankings (or automatically take the place of an injured player) still have a chance to compete for access to the main draw.
Days before the Grand Slam tournament begins, 128 players compete for the 16 spots available in the main draw. Players hoping to qualify need to win three rounds of matches.
Players who qualify can be proud to be part of a Grand Slam main draw, but this is when the real tournament begins. Following qualifying, players would need to win an additional seven matches against top players to win the tournament.
Players eligible for the qualifying rounds are the 128 players ranked below 104 that did not automatically qualify for the main draw due to a player ranked higher than 104 not participating.
Do Players Get Paid For Qualifying Rounds?
Players participating in qualifying receive the following prize money for participating in Wimbledon Qualifying:
The Player Gets A Wild Card For A Grand Slam
The third option for players to be added to a Grand Slam draw without going through the qualifying rounds is receiving a wild card. The tournament organization hands out these wild cards.
Grand Slam tournaments make an effort to award some of the eight available wild cards to local players, which is why you see a lot of local players in the early stages of Grand Slam tournaments.
The tournament organizations also award wild cards to talented young players and high-profile players returning from injury. Tennis stars like Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray have recently benefited from wild cards at Grand Slams after being out of action for months due to injury.
Grand slams also do wild card swaps. To illustrate, Wimbledon can give a wild card to a French player in exchange for the French Open giving a wild card to a British player.
How Do Doubles Players Qualify For Grand Slams?
In doubles, sixty-four players can be part of the main draw; however, only fifty-seven of those pairs automatically qualify for the main draw based on ranking. Wild cards fill the remaining spots.
Players can use their singles or doubles ranking to qualify for a grand slam doubles main draw.
A player’s ranking is added up with their doubles partner ranking; players with a low ranking have a greater chance of being added to the main draw.
Has A Grand Slam Qualifier Ever Won The Tournament?
The only tennis player to win a Grand Slam as a qualifier won the US Open two years ago. Emma Raducanu, the British tennis player who was eighteen years of age, won ten matches in a row to be crowned the US Open champion. She did so without dropping a set.
Emma Raducanu not only made history by becoming the first-ever player to win a Grand Slam event as a qualifier, but she also ended the forty-year drought of no Grand Slams for Britain.
Tennis players can qualify for Grand Slams in one of three ways. Players qualify for a Grand Slam main draw if they are ranked in the top 104; players not ranked high enough can qualify for a Grand slam by winning three qualification rounds, and players can obtain a wild card from the tournament organizers.