What is a Qualifier in Tennis – How it Works?

Fans of each tennis tournament expect to see their favorite players perform at one of their events. Ranking, prestige, and other factors allow certain players to automatically qualify for these tournaments.

Qualifier players, on the other hand, qualify for tournaments like the US Open, Australian Open, and Monte Carlo Tennis using different methods than ranking or prestige. The first round of some of these tournaments is often won by underdogs or local players.

So, how do tennis players qualify for tournaments? Has a qualifier player ever won a grand slam? In a tennis qualifier, how many sets are there? How can more players qualify for the tournament? Is there a prequalifying tournament?

Here’s everything you need to know about What is a qualifier in tennis?

What is a qualifier in tennis?

What is a Qualifier in Tennis

In tennis, a qualifier is a player who qualified through a pre-qualifying tournament rather than by virtue of their world ranking. Player seedings as well as qualification for official tournaments are determined by world rankings. 

Emma Raducanu competed in qualifying matches for the US Open main draw in New York in 2021. She booked her flights home after the US Open qualifying tournament because she wasn’t certain she would make it through the qualifying rounds.

Although the 18-year-old tennis star was winning matches, she never flew home.  With ten wins without dropping a set in New York – including three in qualifying – Raducanu is the only player in the world to accomplish this feat. 

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Where is Emma Raducanu ranked in the world today?

Emma Raducanu

Taking home the trophy at the US Open for the first time ever, Emma Raducanu made history. As the world watches Raducanu and her historic victory, you may wonder how her ranking has changed.

Her ranking was as high as number 10 in July 2022 but injuries and a poor run of performance has seen her ranking slip to 186 (Time of writing September 2023).  It has been a rollercoaster for Emma, having shot onto the scene and since been blighted by injury.  Can she make a comeback? time will tell. 

How Do Tennis Players Qualify for Tournaments?

What is a Qualifier in Tennis

Qualifying for a tournament can be done in three different ways. Tennis tournament eligibility can be determined in a variety of ways. See below for more information.


In tennis, qualification is based on rankings. In each grand slam tournament, the top 104 ATP players qualify automatically based on their ranking. Each grand slam tournament has 128 participants.

Rankings are determined by a player’s wins, tournament participation, and place at tournaments. Ranks are determined by the number of events a player participates in. A higher ranking and more points can be earned if they participate in high-level events and finish well.

Qualifying Matches

Qualifying matches are also a way for players to qualify for tournaments. If players make it through the qualifying rounds, there will be 16 spots available. 

The following 119 best-ranked players usually participate in these rounds a week before the main event. Players must win three consecutive matches to get to the main event, which is divided into three stages. A “lucky loser” is an exception, however. The following player would take their place if a player in the main event became ill, injured, or otherwise unable to play. In the qualifying round, the four highest-ranked players who lost are randomly selected as ‘lucky losers’.

Wild Cards

Last but not least, wild cards are the last chance for players to qualify for tournaments. It is up to the tournament committee to decide who receives a wild card from the final eight players.

These awards are often given to local players, fan favorites, or former ranked players, but the tournament organizers are solely responsible for making these decisions.

Wild card tournaments are sometimes organized as mini-tournaments to determine the winner. This purpose is served by three separate tournaments at the Australian Open, for example. Even though these players were wildcard selections, they would receive the same prize money and ranking points as those who had qualified on their own.

Qualifying in Grand Slam Tournaments in Tennis

To determine the participants in the Grand Slam tournaments, the ATP rankings are currently used. As well as seeding players in singles and doubles tournaments, they also determine the order of play.

Through their rankings, 104 players are selected. Players who are not qualified ranking players can enter grand slam tournaments by participating in the qualifying rounds. A qualifying tournament is offered one week before the main event in all four of the grand slams.

During the qualification rounds, 16 players are chosen to participate in the Grand Slams. 

For Grand Slam competitions, a total of eight wild card entries are selected through the Wild Card option.

Qualification Round

To qualify for prestigious tennis tournaments, professional players must win qualification matches. During qualifying, players played at least one match in a qualifying tournament and won, reserving their spot for the tournament.

Professional tennis players are eligible to qualify for four Grand Slam tournaments. Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open all take place in January, May, July, and September, respectively.

Has a Qualifier Ever Won a Grand Slam in Tennis?

A grand slam tournament event has only been won by one qualifier on the ATP or WTA tour during the Open Era. When she was eighteen, Emma Raducanu qualified for the US Open and won without losing a set.

The British player became the first in over 40 years to win a major tournament by qualifying for the main event. No qualifier had ever reached a Grand Slam final before her.

What Is a Pre-qualifying Tournament?

What is a Qualifier in Tennis

Players ranked 105th and higher are eligible for qualifying tournaments. Many of them will participate in the Grand Slam tournament. As a preparation for the final round, this pre-qualifying tournament will be held one week earlier.

After passing this qualifying tournament, players will be eligible to enter the main draw of the tournament. World-class professionals will showcase their incredible skills in this main draw. 

In order to win the final prize, they aim to determine which pros are the best at that time.

What Does “The World Ranking” Mean?

Based on players’ points in the previous 52 weeks, the world ranking is usually determined. There will be 18 points added to this system based on the results of the best participants. Points are also awarded based on how many rounds participants lose. 

If they want to earn more points, they need to participate in ATP, WTA, or ITF tournaments. 

The world ranking determines whether professional participants are allowed to participate in the main tournament. Participants are more likely to participate in the tournament if they have more points.

What is the number of sets in a tennis qualifier?

Tennis players typically play two sets out of three in qualification draw matches, apart from Wimbledon. Until the men reach the final round, they will play two out of three sets.

The final round will consist of three out of five sets. All qualifying matches for the women will be played in two out of three sets, with the exception of Wimbledon.

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How to Qualify for the Qualification Round Tournaments?

What is a Qualifier in Tennis

A player must be ranked between 105 and 232 under the ATP rankings to participating in the qualification round tournaments. For the grand slams, 16 players are selected from this round.

To gain entry to the main draw of the grand slam tournament, a player must win three matches during the qualification round. Once the qualification rounds are completed, the grand slam tournament begins. 

A starting field of 96 entrants is required for the women’s double qualifiers. It is not uncommon for lucky losers from the qualification round games to fill in the vacancies.

Are there any pre-qualifying tournaments?

Players can earn ranking points and prize money by competing in USTA pre-qualifying events. Also, in some pre-qualifying rounds, the winner receives a wildcard into the main draw, while the finalist receives a wildcard to participate in the qualifying round. Pre-qualification is also available for ITF events.

A player has the opportunity to work with both of these organizations, so participating in them can be a great investment in their career. You may also be eligible for a wild card if you win a USTA pre-qualifier.

How much do tennis qualifiers earn?

What is a Qualifier in Tennis

During a tournament, qualifiers will be paid for each round. A prize’s amount will usually determine how much money is awarded. As a tournament progresses, the winnings will increase, beginning with hundreds. 

Additionally, participants who lose in the first round will profit as well. There will, however, be a difference between it and the champion. Among the top-ranked participants, an appearance fee will be added to the money earned from the tournament.  

We have written a separate article on this and the challenges that players outside the world’s top 100 face when it comes to prize money and cost of staying on tour.  Pls read it here – How Much do Tennis Players Really Earn? | 2023 – Tennis Pursuits

What is the salary of a tennis ball boy?

Tennis ball boys, ball kids, or ball girls, are not usually paid for their work. It is not uncommon for ball boys to receive payment for their uniforms or for their participation in the match. There is only an hourly wage for ball boys at the U.S. Open.

They still do their work even though they don’t get paid. As a result, they are honored to serve their tennis idols during matches and see their idols in person.

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Who Is The Richest Tennis Player?

What is a Qualifier in Tennis
As of 2023 Ion Tiriac has a fortune of $1.7 billion, making him the richest tennis player in the world. He made his wealth post his tennis career though.  This is a great quiz question as most people will say Roger Federer! 
In addition, he was able to find a private business after retiring. His appearance on the Forbes Billionaire list in 2007 made him the first Romanian billionaire.

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How many tennis qualifiers are there for the U.S. Open?

What is a Qualifier in Tennis

Usually, 128 people from around the world participate. A total of 16 groups will be formed and they will fight against one another. Qualifying for the main tournament will be decided by the best participant in each group. 

There will also be a lucky loser chosen for the main draw in addition to these qualifiers.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, we have broken down what it takes to be a qualifier in tennis.  My one big takeaway is how hard it is for tennis players who have to qualify on a weekly basis.  Players must travel the world, at great expense, and try and qualify for these tournaments.  There is no guarantee they get through so most do not stretch themselves when it comes to expenses.

The dream for all qualifiers is to bypass qualification and go straight through to the main draws.  Easier said than done!

David Harris

David is the founder and chief writer at Tennis Pursuits. A tennis fanatic, David has extensive experience of the game and has reviewed 100s of products to date. He is passionate about helping others on their tennis journey.

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