In the seventh article of the series, the results on this website, displayed as statistics, answer the question:
WHAT ARE QUALIFIERS, LUCKY LOSERS AND WILD CARDS?
A qualifier is a player that does not qualify automatically to enter the draw. They therefore have to enter a qualifying competition. Normally they will have to reach the last qualifying round to reach the main draw. However, some players that have lost in the qualifying competition may still qualify as a lucky loser. A lucky loser is someone that replaces an existing player in the main draw if they pull out after the draw has been made. Often a lucky loser will only know that they have made it to the draw at short notice. Wimbledon first introduced qualifying way back in 1925. The Australian had main draws of 32 and later 64 and if they were oversubscribed they had a qualifying round with very few matches, which is often listed as a preliminary round in the main draw. Because there were few overseas players that played in the Australian Open, this meant that even quite lowly ranked Australian players could gain direct entry to the event. Despite the fact Mark Edmondson was virtually unheard of when he won the Australian in 1976, he didn't have problems gaining entry to the draw, as 40 out of the 64 players were Australian! This changed in the 1980s. By the time the tournament moved to Melbourne Park in 1988, the draws were of a similar standard to the other Grand Slams and the qualifying was a proper qualifying competition. You can generally tell when lucky losers were first used by a tournament because first round walkovers cease. Lucky losers first became widely used in the 1970s. It is rare that a lucky loser progresses to the latter stages of a Grand Slam.
A wild card is a player that does not qualify automatically to enter the draw or is a player that does qualify but wants to enter the tournament after the deadline. Wild cards are chosen by the tournament committee to play in the event. Wimbledon introduced wild cards in 1977. The other Grand Slams introduced wild cards in the early 1980s. Originally the purpose of a wild card was to boost the tournament's appeal by giving players of the home nation or past stars that weren't ranked high enough to gain direct entry the chance to play in the event. Typically there will be eight wild cards in a Grand Slam singles draw of 128 (just 6% of the draw). Many wild cards lose early, but there have been some notable exceptions over the years. Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon as a wild card in 2001. His ranking had slipped outside the top 120 so he could not gain direct entry. In the women's, Kim Clijsters won the U. S. Open as a wild card in 2009. Since the mid 1980s there have been few British male players that have been ranked high enough to gain direct entry to Wimbledon. For many years during the first few days at Wimbledon a lot of interest on outside courts was generated by British wild cards, even though most lost. However, in 2010 there was no English man in the singles draw at Wimbledon. This is because at that time the Grand Slams made a strange ruling that wild cards should be given only to players ranked inside the top 250.
One wild card system that could be adopted is that in every Grand Slam draw one wild card could be allocated to a former Grand Slam champion that still plays tennis to a reasonable standard. This 'champion' wild card would have little to lose by playing in the event, as their legacy is already secured. They could show just how good they were now in comparison to the current players. In golf the oldest winner of a major championship was 48, yet many past champions in their 50s (and sometimes older) compete in each major. They may not win, but as 59 year old Tom Watson showed in nearly winning the 2009 British Open, the old-timers can still play very well at times. Obviously golf is a less physically demanding sport than tennis, so the past champion wild card in each Grand Slam draw would have to be aged in their 30s or 40s and playing fairly regularly. You could give the 'champion' wild card to the winners of designated seniors events. The champion wild card would probably regularly win a few rounds in Grand Slams. Then there could be a set number of wild cards allocated to home players, with any remaining wild cards given to overseas players. Some people (such as those ranked just outside gaining automatic entry into the draw) may feel that it is unfair to have wild cards. However, eight places in a draw of 128 is very few. Tennis has a very fair qualifying system.
Below is a list of male players that have reached Grand Slam semi finals or better as a qualifier or wild card (there have been no lucky loser semi finalists). It has been necessary to refer to the original sources to gather this data. Wild cards have done better than qualifiers, with one wild card Grand Slam winner compared to no qualifier winners. The one wild card champion and two wild card semi finalists were all veteran former Grand Slam finalists. Players that were ranked high enough to enter the draw automatically but entered courtesy of a wild card after the deadline are not listed.
MEN'S SINGLES OPEN ERA WILD CARD WINNERS AT GRAND SLAMS (1)
Goran Ivanisevic 2001 Wimbledon
MEN'S SINGLES OPEN ERA WILD CARD SEMI FINALISTS AT GRAND SLAMS (2)
Jimmy Connors 1991 U. S.
Henri Leconte 1992 French
MEN'S SINGLES OPEN ERA QUALIFIER SEMI FINALISTS AT GRAND SLAMS (4)
John McEnroe 1977 Wimbledon
Bob Giltinan 1977 Australian (Dec.)
Filip Dewulf 1997 French
Vladimir Voltchkov 2000 Wimbledon INDEX PAGE