Bolt strikes wildcard

Murray Bridge tennis star Alex Bolt has been awarded a wildcard into this year's Australian Open.

Bolt is one of eight players to score a main draw wildcard, including fellow South Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis and Great Britain's Andy Murray.

He reached the second round of last year's Australian Open, when he played a marathon five-set match against eventual finalist Dominic Thiem.

He also made the Launceston Challenger final a month before COVID-19 halted professional tennis.

Bolt is currently ranked 172 in singles and was given the wildcard for his great performances on tour in 2020.

After the announcement of being awarded a wildcard, he posted on Twitter that he was "looking forward to the Aussie summer of tennis".

Sharing the same sentiment is Tennis Australia director of performance Wally Masur.

"It's been a difficult year in so many ways, all our players have had a truncated season and we've not had the usual flow of results and changes in rankings we'd usually see," he said.

He said this year, the decision about who would receive a wildcard at the Australian Open leaned on the UTR rankings than previously.

"We had a lot of players who were just outside the cut-off, and as they were on the cusp, they deserve a wildcard and a guaranteed spot in the draw to enable them to plan their preparation," he said.

"For a lot of these players the circuit is pretty arduous and complex even without the challenges they've faced this year.

"They've all been through a longer than usual pre-season and generally not had nearly as many matches as they would have normally. This will be the case with almost all the players coming into the AO and it's going to be fascinating to see what unfolds."

It is certainly the case for Bolt, who had a six-month break between games last year due to COVID-19, before playing in ATP Challenger Tour event Prostejov in the Czech Republic, then at Roland Garros (France) and two other ATP Challenger Tour events in Spain.

His last professional match was at Alicante (Spain) in October, when he went down to Inigo Cervantes 6-1 5-7 3-6.