ATLANTA, GA, USA & MELBOURNE, Australia - The second and third play-off events for Australian Open wildcards took place over the weekend, at opposite ends of the globe as well, with Australia's Bojana Bobusic and America's Madison Keys earning berths in 2013's first Grand Slam.
Over at the Australian wildcard play-off, the No.5-seeded Bobusic beat a trio of Top 3 seeds - No.2 seed Ashleigh Barty in the quarterfinals, No.4 seed Arina Rodionova in the semifinals and No.3 seed Monique Adamczak in the final - to gain entry into a Grand Slam for the second time, having been a wildcard into the 2012 Australian Open (where she fell first round to a No.30-seeded Angelique Kerber, 61 63).
In Atlanta, a No.3-seeded Keys took out one higher seed - No.2 seed Alexa Glatch in the semifinals - then beat No.4 seed Mallory Burdette to gain entry into a Grand Slam for the third time in her career, having already been a wildcard into the 2011 US Open (reaching the second round before falling to Lucie Safarova in three sets) and the 2012 Australian Open (losing to Zheng Jie first round).
"It'd be great to go to Australia and not get killed in the first round this year," Keys said. "I'm pretty happy with how I've been playing. I'm just excited to go down to start playing some tournaments again."
Though she didn't win the wildcard, Burdette is one to watch in 2013 - after a glittering college career, she made a splash in her first WTA events in 2012, including reaching the second round in Stanford and the third round of the US Open. She is in the Top 150 with nothing to defend until next July.
"I've very much enjoyed playing at the WTA level so far," Burdette said. "I enjoy being pushed when I go on the court and it's good for me at this point to really just go for it and see what I can do. I'm excited for these next couple of months where I'm not defending any points - I'm just playing with house money."
Burdette talked about the differences between college-level tennis and WTA-level tennis.
"Everybody at the WTA level is really fit and nobody really has any weaknesses," she said. "Everyone's really solid - in college tennis, everybody has a weakness, or at least something they don't do as well.
"Now it's just about taking it one point at a time and giving your best."
The other Australian Open play-off tournament came earlier in the fall in Nanjing, China, with Chinese teenager Zhang Yuxuan prevailing to earn her spot in the main draw in Melbourne (read more here).