The eight men's singles wild cards at the upcoming U.S. Open are a mixed bag.
RYAN HARRISON: The 22-year-old, often criticized earlier in his career for receiving far too many wild cards in relation to his ranking and accomplishments, gets one here after going through the qualifying at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Ranked a career-high No. 43 two years ago, he's currently at No. 164.
TIM SMYCZEK: The undersized Smyczek, 26, reached the third round in New York a year ago, and is in the top 100 for the first time after doing well in Washington, D.C. and last week in Toronto. Those results came too late for him to qualify for the main draw on his own; if the deadline were today, he would make it with room to spare with his ranking of No. 92.
NOAH RUBIN: Rubin won the junior title at Wimbledon last month, after winning two matches in the qualifying just to get in. He defeated countryman Stefan Kozlov, who received a wild card into the qualifying and is college-bound.
JARED DONALDSON: At 17, the youngest of the bunch. He won three Futures tournaments in the U.S. this summer and qualified two weeks ago in Washington, D.C.
MARCOS GIRON: The UCLA student won the NCAA men's singles title.
WAYNE ODESNIK: Odesnik is best known – infamous, really – for getting caught with samples of human growth hormone in his luggage on a trip to Australia in 2010 and being served with a suspension that was later shortened because of his "cooperation" with investigators. The extent of that cooperation was never fully explained, which fairly or unfairly gave him a reputation as a "snitch" and has not made him the most popular man in the locker room. A better clay-court player than hard-court player, Odesnik earned his wild card by winning the USTA's wild-card challenge over its minor-league events this summer.
BERNARD TOMIC: Tomic was the one designated by Tennis Australia to receive the reciprocal wild card they have at the U.S. Open. Perhaps the federation could have given the free pass to promising teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis, but he's probably better served trying his luck in the qualifying and getting experience against some solid, but more reachable opponents.
Tomic is next in line after the Aussies who earned direct entry; his ranking was No. 124 at the time of the deadline. Since then, he won the ATP event in Bógota, Colombia; his current ranking stands at No. 70.
MICHAËL LLODRA: The 34-year-old Frenchman is wrapping up a fine 15-year career, during which he reached a ranking of No. 21 in singles (with five titles) and No. 3 in doubles with 26 titles (at least one every year since 2003) including the 2003 and 2004 Australian Opens and the 2007 Wimbledon.
His back has been barking at him for months, affecting not only his singles but eventually his doubles as well. But Llodra has been a longtime, loyal Davis Cup soldier for France, which commemorated his career with an emotional on-court ceremony after back woes scuttled his chances in what turned out to be his final singles match against Fernando Verdasco at the French Open. The wild card, through the reciprocity agreement between the French and U.S. Opens, is undoubtedly a reward for meritorious service in the final Grand Slam tournament of his career.
This particular Frenchman, however, took a sly dig at it on Twitter. And you could certainly argue his case.
Départ demain pour New York. Pas de WC pour moi donc il faudra passer par les qualifs #allez— ph herbert (@p2hugz) August 13, 2014
Pierre-Hughes Herbert is a rising 23-year-old currently ranked No. 135. There are 13 French players (!!!) who qualified for the main draw on their ranking; Herbert is the next one in line and likely would have received the wild card, were it not for Llodra's unique situation.
Here's the list of players receiving wild cards into the qualifying.
The first seven are Americans; Bourgue benefits from the reciprocal agreement with the French federation.