Extended stay in Flushing: Clijsters, Murray lead US Open wild cards

Extended stay in Flushing: Clijsters, Murray lead US Open wild cards

The pair of former champions received spots in the main draw alongside Americans Brandon Nakaskima, CiCi Bellis and J.J. Wolf, but reciprocal wild cards were noticeably absent from the selections.

Earlier this week, Kim Clijsters and Andy Murray accepted main draw wild cards to play the Western & Southern Open, moved from Mason, Ohio to New York this year as part of a two-tournament bubble planned at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. On Thursday, USTA confirmed that the pair of former world No. 1s would be extending their time at Flushing Meadows after heading up the US Open wild card selections.

Clijsters, a three-time event champion, is no stranger to making the most of an opportunity granted by the hard-court major. In 2009, after coming out of retirement in July, the Belgian became the first wild card to win the title when she defeated Caroline Wozniacki. In 2012, she hung up her racquet following her ninth US Open appearance and five years later, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. But this past February, Clijsters began her third WTA stint in Dubai, falling to Garbine Muguruza in a competitive return. She later lost in the opening round of Monterrey to Johanna Konta, before the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted her comeback on tour.

Murray, who lifted his first of three Grand Slam trophies eight years ago in Queens, hasn’t played a major singles match since the 2019 Australian Open. Not knowing what his playing future entailed, Murray underwent a successful resurfacing procedure on his right hip, and later earned 2019 ATP Comeback Player of the Year honors thanks to a singles title at Antwerp in October 2019 and triumphant homecoming at Queens Club in June 2019—winning the doubles crown with Feliciano Lopez. The Dunblane, Scotland native did not appear in any 2020 tour-level events before the shutdown, recovering from an injury setback sustained at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals.

Noticeably absent from the wild card distribution: reciprocal wild cards. Neither Australia or France received an allocation in either field. American highlights included rising 19-year-old talent Brandon Nakashima, fellow 21 & Under Club member J.J. Wolf, set to make his debut in a tour-level main draw, and CiCi Bellis, who successfully recovered from four separate surgeries to reach the third round of the 2020 Australian Open.

The remaining main draw wild card recipients in the women’s draw are: Usue Arconada, Caroline Dolehide,, Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ann Li, Robin Montgomery and Whitney Osuigwe. Ulises Blanch, Maxime Cressy, Sebastian Korda, Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Michael Mmoh rounded out the men’s beneficiaries.