Yoshihito Nishioka and Xinyun Han Earn Australian Open Wildcards
Photo Credit: Tennis Australia

The 2016 Australian Open Asia Pacific Wildcard Playoff was held in Shenzhen, China this year and awarded main draw wild cards to the victors of singles, doubles and junior competitions. In the men's draw rising Japanese star Yoshihito Nishioka staged a three-set comeback over Taiwan's Jason Jung, while Chinese veteran Xinyun Han easily handled her top-seeded compatriot Yafan Wang to earn the women's wildcard. Nishioka will play in the Australian Open main draw for the first time in his young career, having successfully qualified into both the French Open and US Open draws this year. Han will make her second appearance in the main draw of the Australian Open having qualified in 2010. 

Nishioka stages comeback against cramping Jung

Entering the final as the top-seed the 20-year-old Nishioka looked to be the favorite over his 26-year-old opponent, but Jung quickly went ahead in the match playing aggressive and taking risks. The former Michigan college player who switched from representing the United States to Taiwan earlier this year kept the points short and dictated with power and depth to prevent his small counter punching opponent opportunities to impose himself. Looking in control of the match Jung took the first set 6-3 with his third upset victory of the week looking likely.

The second set opened with some tight games as Nishioka improved in handling the power from his opponent as Jung's error count began to grow. As the rallies grew long advantage went to the fast left-handed Japanese player who seemed to grow in confidence as he constructed excellent points. Nishioka took the second set 6-2 and never looked under serious threat in the third as Jung began to tire and cramp. Nishioka claimed the title with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory and will head to Australia without having to face the pressure of playing qualifying. Nishioka has shown he can compete at the Slam level reaching the second round of the US Open and is now on the verge of ATP top 100 with a ranking of 117. This will likely be the last time Nishioka needs any help entering the main draw of a Slam for some time.  

Han to play first Slam draw in six years

The women's final was not nearly the contest as the men's as 25-year-old Han easily defeated 20-year-old Wang 6-0, 6-1. The left-handed Han absorbed the pace of her opponent's flat ground stroked and was able to use angles to force Wang into committing many errors. The veteran Chinesewomen has shown flashed of great talent over the years but has never been able to breakthrough onto the tour level. In 2010, Han qualified into the Australian Open as a teenager and took a set off Samantha Stosur before eventually falling but has struggled with consistency and financial support over the years, resulting in her ranking dropping outside the top 300 for some time. 2015 has been a great year for Han as she moved back up the rankings and showcased her talent once again in a big match against US Open champion Flavia Pennetta at the Beijing Open

Doubles Wildcards also decided

The men's playoff winner for a doubles wildcard was the Taiwanese team of Tsung-Hua Yang and Cheng-Peng Hsieh. The Australian Open will mark a homecoming of sorts for the pair as they captured the boy's doubles title at the tournament in 2008, as well as winning the Wimbledon boy's doubles title the same year. The Women's doubles wildcard went to the Japanese pair of Shuko Aoyama and Makoto Ninomiya winning as the top seeds. Veteran doubles specialist Aoyama is ranked high enough to play in the Australian Open main draw with a different partner, but the wildcard ensures that she can team up the lower-ranked Ninomiya in a partnership which could last all of 2016.