Four former top-five ranked players along with rising American stars highlight the list of players granted wildcards into next week’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA. David Nalbandian, Tommy Robredo, Jakes Blake and Kimiko Date-Krumm have all at one point in their careers been ranked inside the top 5 in the world rankings. Up and coming Americans Tim Smyczek, Steve Johnson, Madison Keys, Maria Sanchez, Melanie Oudin and Taylor Townsend will all have their chance to take down some of the world’s best as well with guaranteed admittance into the main draw. Rounding out the wildcards on the women’s side are Shahar Peer, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Kristina Mladenovic.
“This year’s main draw wildcards span from seasoned veterans, to rising American and international stars to those returning from injury,” said tournament direction Steve Simon in a recent press release. “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.”
Some notables among the players awarded wildcards into the qualifying draw are former top-ten player Andrea Petkovic, UCLA standout Dennis Novikov and up and coming Americans Christian Harrison, Jack Sock, Rhyne Williams and Grace Min.
Players begin battling in the qualifying draw Monday, March 4 for a berth in the main draw that begins on Thursday the 7th. The BNP Paribas Open is the largest ATP World Tour and WTA combined two-week event in the world, offering more than $12 million in prize money.
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Also known as The T-Dubbys.
Without further ado:
Most Valuable Player (MVP)
– Roger Federer. Surpassed Sampras’ all time Grand Slam record and won that elusive French Open title. With his win at Roland Garros this year, he is, and it hurts me to type this, the greatest player of all time.
– Andre Agassi. Got the whole nation to talk about tennis. Hey, like they say, any publicity is good publicity. With his book, Open, he single-handedly placed tennis at the front of sporting news. Until some guy named Tiger ran into a fire hydrant.
– Rafael Nadal. Came out of the gates of 2009 hot! Won the Australian Open in an epic match against Federer. Won again at the “5th Slam”, BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Then, his knees decided enough was enough. Ended the year strong on his favorite surface, clay, helping Spain win the Davis Cup.
– Serena Williams. Say what you will about her and her attitude, but she dominated 2009. Including her doubles record, Serena won 5 Grand Slams this year. 5! Plus, she put foot faulting on the map! Don’t tell me you weren’t constantly calling foot faults on your friends when you went out and played.
Winner: Roger Federer
Surprise Player of the Year (SPY)
– Melanie Oudin. At the 2009 US Open, what did Elena Dementieva (4), Maria Sharapova (29), and Nadia Petrova (13) all have in common? They all lost to the 17-year-old American. This might’ve been the first time you heard of her, but earlier, she upset Sybille Bammer (29) and Jelena Jankovic (6) at Wimbledon. USA! USA! USA!
– Kim Clijsters. If I could borrow a line from Johnny Mac, “You cannot be serious!” How does one take two years off from tennis to have a baby, then, come back and in only her 3rd tournament, win the US Open?! She beat Venus Williams before beating Serena in the now, infamous Footgate incident.
– Juan Martin Del Potro. As a major underdog, beat world #2 Rafael Nadal in the semis then beat defending champion Roger Federer in the finals at the US Open. He was down 2 sets and a break too. ‘Nuff said.
Winner: Juan Martin Del Potro
Best Supporting Player in a Loss (BSPL)
– Fernando Verdasco @ Australian Open vs. Rafael Nadal. This was the longest match in Australian Open history. Unbelievable points, ridiculously long exchanges, a heavyweight slugfest, but in the end, Nadal was the victor. And it only took him 5 hours and 14 minutes. I wonder if he went for a run afterward to get some real exercise. Yes people, that was sarcasm.
– Andy Roddick @ Wimbledon vs. Roger Federer. I’m not saying this was better than last year’s final, but this was one hell of an encore. Facing the pressure to hold or lose in the 5th set, Roddick held serve 11 times before getting broken for the match.
Winner: Andy Roddick
Nominees: I’ll let the videos do the talking
– Clijsters vs. Wozniacki. US Open Finals.
– Federer vs. Djokovic. US Open Semi-Finals.
– Nadal vs. Verdasco. Australian Open Semi-Finals.
– Nadal vs. Federer. Australian Open Finals.
– Monfils vs. Ferrero. Rogers Cup.
Winner: Nadal vs. Federer. Australian Open Finals
– Soderling over Nadal @ The French Open. The King of Clay was going for his 5th straight French Open title. Just weeks before, he won two other clay tournaments. 32 straight matches won at Roland Garros. He never even lost a match in his career at Roland Garros. Ok, you get the picture. All that came to in end in the 4th round when Soderling beat him in 4 sets.
– Del Potro over Federer @ The US Open. Rafa was only going for 5 straight titles at Roland Garros. Federer was going for 6 in a row. Down 2 sets and a break, Del Potro rallied all the way back with his 100+ MPH forehands and handed Federer his first loss since 2003. Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!
Winner: Soderling over Nadal
– Serena Williams. Come on! I had to give her a shout out. Pun intended.
Winner: Serena Williams
That’s it. 2009 is in the books. Do you have any nominees for these categories? Did I miss any obvious ones? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Here’s to a great 2010 season,