MELBOURNE, Australia — There are familiar names left everywhere on the men’s side of the 2024 Australian Open draw: Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Carlos Alcaraz. It’s the seeded players who mostly remain in the last 16. But there’s one man who has the designation “WC” after his name.
It’s France’s Arthur Cazaux, a 21-year-old reciprocal wild-card recipient, who has shocked the tennis world by making the second week of a Slam, upsetting 8-seed Holger Rune in the second round, and 28-seed Tallon Griekspoor in the third.
Coming into this tournament, he had won just one ATP tour match. Not a Grand Slam match — a regular, 250-event tour match, over compatriot Adrian Mannarino in Geneva in 2021.
He’s the first wild card to make the fourth round of the Australian Open since Denis Istomin in 2017 — though Istomin was a veteran at the time, and a one-time top-40 player on tour.
But while some, including Cazaux’s fourth-round opponent Hubert Hurkacz, are scrambling to find out more about the wild card’s game, Cazaux said he hasn’t shocked himself.
“I know I could play this kind of level, but I never prove it, you know, in a real match,” he said following what ended up being a routine straight-sets win over Griekspoor.
“So yeah, in me I was confident, but, you know, to prove it in the first round gave me more confidence, and yes, now I know I can beat this kind of player during real match.”
It’s hard to quantify how much of an unknown Cazaux is. After all, he’d played one ATP-ranked top-40 player in his career entering this tournament, having lost to Andrey Rublev in the first round of last year’s US Open. He was a lucky loser after failing to progress through qualifying there.
He’d been toiling away on the Challenger tour, notching just one tournament win in 2023 — in Thailand at the start of the year. He beat just three top-100 opponents throughout that year.
This year has already been more fruitful. He started the season with a Challenger tournament win in Noumea. And now entering the second week of the Australian Open, he has not only played, but beaten three top-40 players in…