Queenslander Ben Mitchell will commence his 2016 campaign at Brisbane International presented by Suncorp after securing a wildcard into the event.
The news caps a big week for the world No.231, who just days before Christmas withdrew from the final of the Australian Open 2016 Play-off at Melbourne Park to attend the birth of his daughter in Brisbane.
Mitchell joins fellow wildcards James Duckworth (NSW) and John-Patrick Smith (Qld) in a world class men’s draw that features eight of the world’s top 20 players, including Roger Federer (SUI), Kei Nishikori (JPN), Marin Cilic (CRO) and Milos Raonic (CAN).
At least six Queenslanders will now start their new season in Brisbane – the highest number ever to have contested the event – with Bernard Tomic, Sam Stosur, Ajla Tomljanovic and Priscilla Hon to join Mitchell and Smith in the line-up.
Of the eight Australians entered in next month’s event only Duckworth and 2015 Newcombe Medal winner Sam Groth (Vic) hail from interstate, a sign tennis is booming in the Sunshine State.
In March Mitchell climbed to a career-high ranking of world No.204 and last month he ended his season on a similarly strong note, taking out the ATP Challenger event in Canberra and ITF Futures title in Wollongong over consecutive weeks.
With less than a week to go until Brisbane International 2016 gets under way at Queensland Tennis Centre, Mitchell said news of the wildcard set up an ideal start to the new season.
“It’s a real reward for all my efforts over the last few months and it’s exciting,” he said.
“I think I’m playing some really good tennis and I know for a lot of the guys, Brisbane is their first tournament for the year so I think it’s a good time to play some big names and get some big wins under your belt.
“There are eight top 20 guys in the tournament so it’s obviously an extremely strong event and it’s exiting, you want to challenge yourself against the top players and that’s what I’ll be doing next week.”
Mitchell will hold a home ground advantage over his big-name international rivals, who will begin to descend on the city in the coming days.
“The home crowd support is definitely massive in Brisbane, I train here and it’s a real advantage to train at the home of the tournament,” he said.
“I’ve been training hard, even over the Christmas break I’ve kept plugging along and even though I have a baby girl at home I’ll be ready to go next week.”
Wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis (SA) was forced to withdraw from the Australian summer of tennis last week due to a shoulder injury.
The Queensland Government, through Tourism and Events Queensland, is proud to support Brisbane International 2016 as part of the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar, highlighting Australia’s best events in spectacular destinations.
Brisbane International 2016, presented by Suncorp and supported by Tourism and Events Queensland, will be held at Queensland Tennis Centre from 3 to 10 January. The tournament is part of the Emirates Australian Open Series, which also incorporates Hopman Cup (Perth), Apia International Sydney, Hobart International and World Tennis Challenge (Adelaide).
Tickets are on sale now through Ticketek.
For all tournament information please visit brisbaneinternational.com.au.