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16-year-old Whitney Osuigwe clinches Australian Open wild card

The American, who's of Nigerian descent, has been handed a wildcard for the 2019 Australian Open by the USTA

Whitney Osuigwe, who became the second player born in 2002 after Marta Kostyuk to feature in the main draws of a Grand Slam at this year’s US Open, has been handed a wild card for the 2019 Australian Open by the United States Tennis Association after she came out tops in the Wild Card Challenge, where the lower-ranked American players competed for the Australian Open main draw ticket.

The USTA Pro Circuit events in Macon, Tyler, Las Vegas and Houston served as the battlefield, with the player with the three best results clinching the challenge and securing the ticket to compete down under.

It all came down to the very last match in Houston—which is the biggest event out of four, offering 160 points—where China’s Shuai Peng defeated America’s Lauren Davis 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 to win the title and allow Osuigwe to top the Wild Card Challenge standings and book her place at the Australian Open.

Varvara Lepchenko and Osuigwe led the pack before the event in Houston, but Osuigwe defeated Lepchenko in the second round as a qualifier to move past the closest rival and inch closer to a spot in Melbourne.

Lauren Davis was seventh on the list and had a chance to move ahead of Osuigwe with the title in Houston, a $125K event, and seal the Australian Open ticket. But after racing to an opening set win against Shuai Peng, her nerves betrayed her, allowing Peng to take the second set and level the match, and eventually the title to leave Davis empty-handed.

Whitney Osuigwe endured a poor outing in Macon in October, but bounced back in style to win her maiden Pro Circuit title at the $80K event in Tyler, Texas. She then backed that up with a run to the quarter-finals in Houston, earning just enough points to stay ahead of Davis.

Osuigwe has enjoyed success on the junior stage — she won the girls’ singles title at the French Open in 2017 at the age of 15, a feat that saw her become the first American to win the title since Jennifer Capriati in 1989. She also picked up titles at Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl that same year, ending the year as the Junior world number one.

Having failed to make a statement at the US Open this year by falling in the first round, Osuigwe will seek to go a notch higher this time when she takes to court on the biggest stage alongside the very best in the sport.

The Australian Open begins January 14, 2019.

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