Stosur, Pratt granted Sydney wildcards
Tuesday January 2, 2:52 PM, AAP
Four Australians have been awarded wildcards into the main draw of the prestigious $1.3 million Medibank International.
The two women's wildcards have gone to the nation's leading player Samantha Stosur and to Australian Fed Cup player Nicole Pratt.
The two men's wildcards have been given to Australian Davis Cup team members Chris Guccione and Nathan Healey.
"We are very pleased to give these coveted wild cards to four Australians who have been great ambassadors to the sport here," said Tournament Director Craig Watson.
"All four players have represented Australia and this is one way of paying them back for their services to Australian tennis."
Stosur, the world's best doubles player, narrowly missed out on making the singles main draw of her own accord.
The doubles Grand Slam champion has had an impressive year as well, taking her world ranking to a career high of 29. However the strength of the women's field for the Medibank International meant the direct entry cut-off was 21 which included 18 of the world's top 20.
The Queenslander started the 2006 season by reaching the last 16 of the Australian Open. She reached her third career final in Prague and was a semifinalist at New Haven and a quarterfinalist on three other occasions.
Pratt, ranked 77, found renewed energy in her tennis through 2006. For the first time in her career she reached the third round of Wimbledon after winning through the tough qualifying rounds. She was also a quarterfinalist at Montreal and made the second round of the US Open after wining through the qualifying draw.
Guccione, currently ranked 153, started the year with a big win over Juan Carlos Ferrero at the Medibank International. He was a brilliant competitor for Australia in the Davis Cup first round tie against Switzerland when he scored the point that gave Australia victory.
At 200cm, the Victorian is one of the tallest players in men's tennis.
He had most of his success on the Challenger circuit. He won titles at Medellin and Quito, he was a finalist at Geneva, a semifinalist at Manchester and Rome and a quarterfinalist at Bogota and Segovia.
Healey meanwhile, ranked 162, made the third round of the Australian Open where he lost a close match to world number three Nikolay Davydenko.
The 26-year-old from NSW performed well on the Challenger tour by making the semis in Burnie and Calabasas, and the quarters at four other events Birmingham, Caloundra, Granby and Quito.
The third and final wild cards in the respective singles draws will be determined by the wild card play-off tournament that is currently in progress at the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre.
Eight men and eight women are battling it out for the last available spots.