Donald Young is presented with a wild card into the BNP Paribas Open during the Oracle Challenger Series on Friday March 1, 2019 in Indian Wells, California. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Oracle Challenger Series)
The 2018-2019 Oracle Challenger Series concluded on Sunday in Indian Wells, marking the end of the tournament’s four-city tour throughout the United States over the past year. With stops in Chicago, Houston, Newport Beach and Indian Wells, rising American contenders vied for the opportunity to earn main draw entry into the BNP Paribas Open.
On the men’s side, Reilly Opelka and Donald Young outshined the rest of the competition on the Road to Indian Wells and each earned a main draw wild card. Young utilized impressive performances at Oracle Challenger Series events throughout this year to steadily climb the leaderboard and put himself in position to earn a wild card this week. Participating in both the Chicago and Newport Beach events before heading to the desert, he advanced to the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively. A veteran on the ATP Tour with 15 years of experience, Young, who has been ranked as high as World No. 38, is no stranger to the BNP Paribas Open. Having competed in Indian Wells over ten times throughout his career, he will look to continue his recent wave of momentum into his best BNP Paribas Open performance yet.
For Opelka, this is the second consecutive year in which he has been awarded a wild card into the BNP Paribas Open main draw from the Oracle Challenger Series. In Chicago, Opelka made a statement to the rest of the field with an exciting run to the finals that included wins over top ranked opponents. Along with his success at the Challenger, Opelka is having a breakout start to his 2019 season. At the Australian Open in January, he won the biggest match of his career with a first round upset over World No. 10 John Isner. He then carried his momentum into the New York Open where he won his maiden ATP Tour title. Opelka rose 33 spots to a career-high of No. 56 in the ATP ranking after overpowering a slew of worthy opponents including Adrian Mannarino, Denis Istomin, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Brayden Schnur.
For the women, a tightly contested race for the two wild card spots was eventually won by Jessica Pegula and Lauren Davis. A semifinals appearance in Houston and a finals appearance in Newport Beach last month catapulted Pegula up the Road to Indian Wells leaderboard. Currently sitting at her career high ranking of World No. 93, Pegula has taken advantage of the opportunity to play multiple Oracle Challenger Series events in the past several months.
While Davis was eliminated early in the Oracle Challenger Series Indian Wells event this week, her stellar performances in both Houston and Newport Beach earned her enough points to position second in the Road to Indian Wells and nab the final women’s wild card. She battled through qualifying all the way to the finals in Houston and followed up her performance with an impressive semifinal run in Newport Beach. No stranger to Tennis Paradise, Davis, who was once ranked as high as World No. 26 in 2017, will once again have the opportunity to make the most out of this chance. Davis has seen success in the desert in past years, defeating then World No. 4 Victoria Azarenka in the second round in 2014 and advancing to the fourth round in both 2014 and 2017.
Keep an eye out for all four of the Oracle Challenger Series wild card winners as BNP Paribas Open main draw action gets underway on Wednesday, March 6th.