A professional tennis tournament is played in a knock-out format. The players who compete in the event are placed in brackets. These brackets help the player to know who can be his or her potential opponents in the next rounds. Since the players in the brackets are drawn against each other, the playing field is referred as the draw.
There are two types of draws in professional tennis. One is called the qualifying draw whereas the other is called the main draw. Qualifying draws last for two or three rounds. The players who are not ranked high enough to make the main draw might have to first win the matches in qualifying draw to make it to the main draw. Players in the main draw are entered through following means:
- Seeds: These are the highest ranked players in the draw. Depending on the size of the draw, the number of seeds are determined accordingly. The seeds are placed such that they do not meet in the early rounds.
- Unseeded players: These are players who are not seeds, but ranked high enough to make the main draw.
- Qualifiers: These are players who won the final round of the qualifying draw of the event.
- Wild Card: These are players who gain a direct entry into the main draw as decided by the tournament organizers. The selection of a wild card can depend on the recent performance of a player, previous history of the player at that tournament or a previously high ranked player attempting a comeback after a long injury layoff.
- Lucky Losers: When a player withdraws from the main draw, a lucky loser replaces him or her. This player is the highest ranked player who lost in the final round of the qualifying draw.
- Special Exempt: These players get a special exempt into the main draw. They are the ones who reached the semifinals or better of a previous tournament and are scheduled to play the main draw at another event.
Players in the main draw stand a chance to earn more ranking points and subsequent prize money. Main draws thus represent the most competitive playing field in a given professional tournament.