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A wildcard is the name given to an entrant to a tennis tournament who has been invited to enter rather than being there as a reflection of their world ranking. In the major tennis tournaments such as Wimbledon, the US Open and the French Open, the competitors are chosen on the basis of their world ranking, with a few lower ranked players gaining entry through playing qualifying rounds. The exceptions are the wild card entries, which are a handful of players invited by the organisers to take part. Each tournament has its own criteria for inviting wild card players, but they are generally older players with a sentimental attachment to the tournament, younger players who are extremely promising, local players who may appeal to the home crowd and occasionally controversial figures who will create a buzz around the tournament.
Betting on a wildcard who is an old favourite returning to the scene of past triumphs may feel good emotionally, but it’s rarely a very wise bet to place. Although a wildcard player may be able to make their way through the earlier stages and the lower seeded players, the chances are that they’ll come unstuck against tougher opposition. There could, therefore, be some value on betting on a wildcard to make the second or third round on adrenalin alone, although it would be wise to wait until the draw is made to see who they’re likely to face. There are always exceptions to every rule, of course. In 2001 Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon on a wild card entry, despite at the time being ranked 125th in the world, and in 2009 Kim Clijsters won the US open after emerging from a two year retirement during which time she’d also had a baby. Both players doubtless offered extremely good odds before the tournament started, but very few experts would have tipped them to get anywhere near the final, let alone win the tournament.