First I agree with what Louloubelle said in another post in that wildcards should be used 'with a look to the future'.
When awarding players wildcard they need to look at what progress has been made in the last 12 months, what achievements that player has made, what the players finances are like and also what their current form is.
They need to set minimum requirements for a main draw wildcards to the Aust Open. For example I think a player needs to be a top 20 Junior in the world, have won a $25K event or above, or strung two consecutive top 150 wins in a $50K event or above.
Hence I fully supported Dellacqua's main draw wildcard. She had shown before the Aust Open had some promising results with a rapid rise up the rankings that warranted her receiving one.
The Szili decision on the other hand was a disgrace, she had no results other than a few $10K finals, and no form coming into the Aust Open. She had even lost first round of the Aussie Training Camp tournament if I recall.
Granting the likes of Olivia Lukawicesz, Daniela Dominikovic and Lauren Cheung and Daniela Dominikovic qualifying wildcards was also beyond ridiculous. Most of these girls hadnt even played a Junior Grand Slam, the first 3 won a total of 6 games combined!!! Its not like they needed the money either! The Juniors already get humungous amounts of financial support, all their trips are paid for overseas, as well as all their coaches! The whole quick 'qualifying experience' at the expense of more worthy recipients was a waste of money!
If you look back five years to Dokic, Tennis Australia never gave her a wildcard to the Australian Open until she was 15.5 years and had played a year of Junior Slams, a WTA event, and a few challengers first, and thats the way it should be! There was no point rushing a qualifying wildcard to her before her 15th birthday, it was never going to gain her anything other than money that isnt required at that age and belies a false sense of success! All Olivia's humilation this year taught her was that she needs to develop power to her game which is obvious to a petite 14yo!
Getting back to the issue of wildcards though, they do need to be distributed carefully, and up and comers should get there fair share however Tennis Australia also need to support the players still trying to make that vital breakthrough and a big part of this support is financial!
One thing that should not be a factor when allocating wildcards is AGE!
How quickly people/Tennis Australia forget that at age 25 Nicole Pratt was ranked 180 before she qualified and won a round at Wimbledon and she wasnt the only late bloomer, look at her now! Kerry-Anne Guse former top 60 player made her big ranking rise aged 26-27. Both these players were well supported with wildcards right throughout their careers, its no wonder they made it! The finance from the wildcards allowed them to maintain their top 200 rank and play at the top level throughout the year. Catherine Barclay is another example of a player that peaked late having a successful Fed Cup doubles record before injury, Rennae Stubbs as well.
Last year was Cindy Watson's first year playing the Grand Slams and WTA events. It was a huge learning experience for her. You can say, yeah she hardly had any wins but in hindsight she went from Obscruity of a rank of 383 to a rank of 135 in 9 months at age 24! She had no prior experience at WTA level so it was always going to be a tough year for her. I thought she performed admirably at the French Open and Wimbledon winning a round at both. The experience she gained from last year was huge. In Hobart 2003 she lost a tight match to Cara Black 6-3 7-6. She was gearing herself up for the Aust Open only to have all her dreams shattered. Its no wonder she's disheartened. I would imagine too she's in a quandry whether or not to continue which is a shame given that she was Australia's third ranked player most of last year! Support for players ranked 120-280 is vital from Tennis Australia, they need to be recognised and acknowledged. A once off ranking breakthrough reward isnt enough in my opinion.
The same goes for Dittmann, snubbed her whole career by Tennis Australia until she finally cracked the top 250 she was awarded a wildcard into 2001 Aust Open qualies, she won a round, her ranking then improved to 210, she gained her own place in the 2002 qualifying and won a round there again, and then got inside the top 200 after winning a round at Wimbledon qualies. Unfortunately she was unable to defend some of her Australian Unity points and her rank slipped back for the first time in 4 years to 240. She was the 7th ranked Australian and yet didnt get a wildcard into qualifying. Do you think it was fair that a player that has battled so hard for so long to get where she had deserved such a snubbing? Especially since she was ranked so close to the cut off anyway and had won matches in 3 of her last 4 Grand Slam qualfying tournaments. I believe Mireille was left a bit bewildered after the whole Australian circuit which has definitely made her life a lot harder. I mean they couldnt even compensate her with a Doubles wildcard at the Australian Open even though her ranking in doubles was in the top 200 at the time and she had reached 2 WTA Q/F in doubles the previous year!!
People will say, yeah she's 28 and she had been playing for years and doesnt have the talent otherwise she would have made it by now, but that is small mindedness. If you had followed her results you would know that financially its been very tough and a very long haul. In her earlier years she was struggling to be able to afford to play up to 15 tournaments a year, and thats not a lot! Its difficult to build a good ranking from that when the tournaments are spaced out so much and having to compete against girls that have played a lot more and are more match tough. Finally though to her credit she did crack the top 300 which helped allow her to be able to afford to play more tournaments which is what helped her break into the top 200 briefly.
Think about this though, after the Australian Circuit, Australia's 7th ranked player had $300 in prize money to her name, and that was only because her ranking had been high enough to gain direct entry into the qualifying at Hobart where she lost in 3 sets. Dont you think thats somethings wrong in the system for this to happen?? Where is the support for her to continue??? That didnt even cover her plane ride to Hobart!! And now she is expected to finance her next ten months of travel with what?? Thats if she hopes to at least maintain a top 300 ranking which of course she wants!!!
On the other hand you have Szili walking away with about $22,000 dollars, a lazy attitude and winless! Spoon feeding our players straight out of juniors like this isnt going to help them. Szili is in for a rude shock next year, she may well find herself at the end of the Australian Circuit with $300 and a quandry on how she's going to afford her next 10 months travel expenses! I think if Szili hadnt been granted the Aust Open wildcard we would have been seeing a different Adriana now. She would be more desperate to win her matches knowing that the money was just as important as the ranking points. Instead she is doing all this travelling this year with plenty of money in the bank which she never really earnt in the first place. Her lazy attitude was shown at the Albury $10K masters when she couldnt even be bothered to go and play the doubles there after qualifying. Even when she had promised commitment to Van Elden to play the full series with her.
In hindsight Tennis Australia did make some mistakes whether they care to admit them or not. Looking at the rankings now its pretty obvious their mistakes have contributed to our now woeful rankings which have left a big gaping hole!
Looking down the list we have
1.) Pratt 49
2.) Molik 51
3.) Dominikovic 109
4.) Stosur 139
5.) Wheeler 156
6.) McQuillan 176
BIT OF A HOLE DEVELOPED HERE NOW, MAYBE DUE TO LACK OF WILDCARDS FOR OUR PLAYERS RANKED 200 to 350 at this years Aust Open!!!!!!!
7.) Grahame inj. 235 but falls to 260 next week
8.) Dittmann 262 but falls to 275 next week
9.) Watson 265
10.) Breadmore 268
11.) McShea 295
12.) Stewart 298
13.) Dellacqua 312
14.) Musgrave 332
15.) Horiatopolous 356
16.) Sekulowski 368
17.) Adamzcak 395
18.) Roberts 432
19.) Dowse 441
20.) Baker 460
21.) Belobradjic 467
22.) Van Elden 469
23.) Sewell 476
24.) Hewitt 500
25.) Cheung 517
26.) Szili 528
Yes she's number 26 in Australia and got preference over 19 players ranked higher than her!!!!
27.) Welford 599
28.) Cupac 666
29.) Stone 705
30.) Barr 758
I'd be the first to say the McQuillans, and Stewarts dont deserve more wildcards. But their are exceptions to late developers like the Watsons and Dittmann's etc. they may be 25+ now but they still deserved their chance this year on their improvements, even more so since they have basically never received wildcards or any support in the past from Tennis Australia! Its a pity TA didnt recognise this and we may soon find that these two will be hanging up their racquets this year.
Anyway I think I have typed enough anyway hehe, this has taken forever, have your say!