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Exciting Aussie stars join Australian Open draws

On the back of his fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon earlier this year, Jason Kubler headlines a group of six Australians awarded main-draw wildcards for next month’s Australian Open.

Ranked world No.107, Kubler was just short of automatic qualification, but his efforts this season have been rewarded by Tennis Australia with selection into the 64-player men’s singles field.

Kubler is joined by countrymen Alexei Popyrin and Rinky Hijikata in the men’s singles competition, while Storm Hunter (nee Sanders), Talia Gibson and Olivia Gadecki will contest the women’s draw.

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From the group, 23-year-old Popyrin has previously reached the third round of the Open in 2019 and 2020, however his compatriots are all still hunting their first singles wins at their home grand slam.

Hunter came close at last year’s slam after leading Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka by a set and a break at Rod Laver Arena, however the No.2 seed recovered to win the match in three sets.

Coming off the back of a career-best season in 2022 – which included three WTA doubles titles, her first rand slam title in the mixed doubles at the US Open and a streaking run for Australia at the Billie Jean King Cup finals – Hunter cannot wait to pick up her form.

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“I’m super excited to receive a wildcard into the Australian Open,” she said.

“Thank you to the Tennis Australia team for this amazing opportunity. I’m incredibly grateful to have the chance to play at home and want to continue playing at the level I was able to play at during the Billie Jean King Cup.”

Entered in their first major singles draw, promising youngsters Gibson and Gadecki will make their grand slam debuts when they step on court at Melbourne Park.

Gibson, who was recently named the Junior Female Athlete of the Year at the Australian Tennis Awards, began this season ranked outside the top 1000 but has since climbed to a career-best of the world No.342.

“I feel very honored and grateful to receive a wildcard into the main draw of a grand slam for the first time,” she said.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in a slam and it’s such a special feeling to know that I’ve been given an opportunity to do this in my home country at the Australian Open.

“The wildcard means so much to me and my development because I feel that the work my coach and I have put into developing my game throughout the year has been recognised.”

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Gadecki previously fell just short of entry last year, going down in the second round of qualifying.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl and I can’t wait to play with my heart on my sleeve in front of a home crowd,” she said of the announcement.

Hijikata returns to the limelight of a major slam after taking the opening set off Rafael Nadal during their first round clash at the US Open.

Aussie stuns Nadal by winning first set

Nadal ultimately triumphed in four sets, but then-world No.164 Hijikata gave the grand slam titles record-holder a good scare.

The Australian wildcards will also be joined by Americans Caty McNally and Ben Shelton, as well as two-time finalist at the tournament, Venus Williams.

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