epa03239647 Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the USA returns to Sabine Lisicki of Germany during their first round match for the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 28 May 2012. EPA/CHRISTOPHE KARABA |
Former top-five players David Nalbandian, Tommy Robredo, James Blake and Kimiko Date-Krumm; Americans Tim Smyczek, Steve Johnson, Madison Keys, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Maria Sanchez, Melanie Oudin and Taylor Townsend; and Shahar Peer and Kristina Mladenovic were granted wildcards into the main draws of the BNP Paribas Open, to be held March 4 – 17 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, it was announced by Steve Simon, tournament director.
In addition to Blake, seven other Americans have been granted wildcards into the main draws including two-time NCAA Champion from USC Steve Johnson, who reached the third round of the 2012 US Open; Milwaukee native Tim Smyczek, who is at a career-high ranking just outside the top 100 and pushed World No. 4 David Ferrer to four sets at the 2013 Australian Open; 19-year-old breakout star Madison Keys, who has already defeated five top-50 players in 2013 and cracked the top 80 earlier this month; WTA veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who won the 2012 Australian Open Mixed Doubles title; another USC standout – Maria Sanchez, who is at a career-high ranking after jumping 560 ranking places in 2012 – more than any other player in the WTA; Georgia native Melanie Oudin captured her first WTA title last year in Birmingham (UK); and 17-year-old Taylor Townsend, who turned professional in 2012 after reaching the top of the junior rankings earlier that year.
“This year’s main draw wildcards span from seasoned veterans, to rising American and international stars to those returning from injury,” said Simon. “Awarding wildcards to players like David Nalbandian, James Blake, Madison Keys and Taylor Townsend add to the allure of early-round matches for fans and provide the potential for these deserving athletes to break through and make a move up their respective Tour’s rankings.
Qualifying wildcards were given to Americans Christian Harrison, Jack Sock, Rhyne Williams, Dennis Novikov, Grace Min, Jessica Pegula and Irina Falconi, German Andrea Petkovic and Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic.
It has been a rough week for Americans in Basel, Valencia, and in Singapore. Steve Johnson lost his Swiss Indoors Basel opener to Milos Raonic 7-6(4), 6-4. John Isner and Stefan Kozlov, the only two USA representatives in the Valencia singles draw, lost in the first round. Even Serena Williams suffered a shocking 6-0, 6-2 defeat to Simona Halep at the women's year-end championship.
We wondered, after this was over, if Serena was having trouble with her knee. But she said otherwise, simply attributing the result to playing poorly. In term of scoreline, one of the poorest results of her career. And it means that, yes, the #1 ranking is still in play, although Maria Sharapova will have to step things up.