Alexei Popyrin and veterans John Millman and James Duckworth are set to be at the mercy of Tennis Australia selectors for next year’s Australian Open.
None of the trio has so far been able to stage a late-season climb in the ATP rankings, meaning they will either have to qualify for the Melbourne Park grand slam or rely on main draw wildcards.
The development is a blow to some of Australia’s rising stars, whose hopes of a wildcard plummeted with Popyrin (ATP rank 131), Millman (155) and Duckworth (171) all likely to miss direct entry.
There are still Challenger events until the end of November, with Popyrin and Jason Kubler (105) – whose ranking should only improve – playing in France this week.
Popyrin is the only one of he, Millman and Duckworth who could yet mount what would be a shock late charge by the December 5 cut-off but the likelihood of that is slim.
Another wildcard contender, Aleks Vukic (165), is entered in the Calgary Challenger, while Millman, Chris O’Connell (84, after winning the Yokohama title on Sunday), Rinky Hijikata (167), Li Tu (196) and Dane Sweeny (237) are competing in Japan.
Hijikata, 21, looks certain to score one of the five discretionary wildcards that usually go to Australians, while Vukic, 26, is favoured for the other one, assuming Popyrin, Millman and Duckworth are also beneficiaries.
Duckworth, who had hip surgery after this year’s Australian Open, has lost four of his past six matches and his season may be over.
The 30-year-old slipped 61 spots in this week’s rankings because his 2021 Paris Masters quarter-final points dropped off his rolling tally, after he reached his career best of No.46 in late January.
That obvious upside is what Duckworth will bank on in the wildcard discussion but TA will also be aware it has already given him six such entries into the Australian Open across his career.
There has been speculation about how much longer Millman, 33, will play for but he vowed to fight for his grand slam future after a five-set first-round US Open loss in late August.
Like Duckworth, he has significant runs on the board, including a career-high ranking of 33 and eight consecutive years of being ranked at some stage in the top 100.
Millman is also a past Davis Cup representative and highly regarded for his leadership and wider contributions.
Popyrin, 23, was a star junior and peer of Alex de Minaur but stalled since peaking at No.59 in the ATP rankings in August last year, winning only five of 22 matches at Tour level in 2022.
But the likes of Tu, Sweeny, Davis Cup doubles representative Max Purcell, Omar Jasika, Marc Polmans, Tristan Schoolkate and Alex Bolt seem destined for qualifying.
There is no AO Wildcard Playoff this year, with TA instead holding a series of training camps.