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I have noticed that occasionally some players enter tournament via wild card, despite the fact that they have sufficient ranking for direct entry into tournament, sometimes even to be seeded. To list a few examples:

Why do players with high ranking actually need wild card? Is it only in cases of late entry?

  • You pretty much answered your own question - Yes, it is because tournaments generally have to assemble the list of players participating in their tournament weeks in advance, and sometimes players (like those you mentioned) decide to enter themselves after the player entry lists have been formed, but before qualifying has been played and before all wildcards have been awarded. – jamauss Apr 9 '17 at 22:39
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In the case of challenger tournaments, this might be related to the restrictions for players with Top 50 ranking, see here: Do high ranked players need wild card to play a Challenger tournament?

Otherwise it is most likely related to late entries, as confirmed also by jamauss' comment.

Here is the relevant rule from 2017 ATP Rulebook (Internet Archive):

7.03 Entry Deadlines

...

5) Late Entries. Any player who submits an entry after the deadline may only be accepted into the singles main draw as a wild card, qualifier, or as a special exempt (if eligible).

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