The 2012 Australian Open qualifying draw has been released and as is usually the case with Grand Slam qualifiers, there are some up-and-coming players in the draw along with some former stars.
The top seed in the men's draw is Go Soeda of Japan, the 99th-ranked player in the world, who enjoyed some recent success in making the semifinals of ATP Chennai (lost to Tipsarevic). Soeda's Grand Slam appearances are few for a man his age (27); however, as the top seed in the qualies, he'll be hoping to enter the main event in Melbourne Park.
Robbie Ginepri is one player in the qualifying draw that a lot of tennis fans will recognize. Formerly a Top-15 player, Ginepri is on the comeback trail as he is only ranked 315th on tour at the moment. His Grand Slam chart includes a semifinal appearance back at the 2005 US Open with his best result in Melbourne, a fourth round appearance in 2004.
Another familiar name to tennis fans in the qualifying tournament is Igor Andreev. A veteran of eight Australian Opens, Andreev has been a part of every main draw in Melbourne Park since the 2004 tournament. Currently ranked just 114th, he'll need to win three matches if the Russian is to keep his streak of appearances active.
Rainier Schuettler has seen bigger matches in Melbourne than the first-round qualifying match that he's looking at against Chris Guccione. Schuettler, the 35-year-old German, was Andre Agassi's victim in the championship match of the 2003 final. Now ranked 131st in the world, Schuettler is dying a slow death on tour and is at risk of missing the main draw in Melbourne Park for the first time since 1998.
Another former main draw finalist in the qualifying draw is 34-year-old Arnaud Clement. A veteran of 54 Grand Slam main draws, Clement's best slam result came at Melbourne Park back in 2001 where he was a victim of Andre Agassi's as well.
What is the furthest a qualifier will make it in the main draw this season?
Javier Marti is one of the younger players to keep an eye on in the qualifiers. Marti, who turns 20 on Jan. 11, has been making grounds on tour over the last year. A clay courter as opposed to a hard courter, Marti made the main draw of the 2011 French Open. However, he has yet to debut in the main draw at Melbourne Park and his abilities on the cement are not clear.
Another promising young player in the draw is Vasek Pospisil of Canada. Pospisil is currently ranked just 121st in the world and he has never made a main draw in Melbourne Park. However, he did make the main draw of the 2010 US Open where he managed to win his first-round match and perhaps that experience will help the 21-year-old qualify in Australia.
The qualifying tournament features 128 players grouped into sixteen sections, each with eight players. The tournament will play down to sixteen qualifiers who will then enter the main draw at Melbourne Park.
While qualifiers are typically first or second-round casualties in the main draw, tennis fans will remember that Milos Raonic of Canada made the fourth round of the 2011 Australian Open after barging his way through the qualifying tournament's three hurdles.