The players from any nation where a Grand Slam or Masters 1000/Premier event takes place are lucky; between the trove of wild cards and qualifying slots (a total of 17 places in the men’s draw at Indian Wells this year, and 20 in the womens’), the opportunities are abundant.
Eight of those 17 spots in the ATP draw went to men from the USA — five by way of wild cards. And five of the 20 places in the WTA draw went to American women, four by way of wild cards.
Of course, players who qualify get more props than those who are in with wild cards, the latter often being veteran dead-enders or wide-eyed kids who are shoved out there by their national federations like some sort of lab experiment. Why not roll the die? You never know when someone will pop out of nowhere to set your event ablaze, the way Melanie Oudin did at the U.S. Open in 2009.
The USA had 15 men in the ATP qualifying event, including such familiar names as Robert Kendrick, Jesse Witten, Robby Ginepri, Alex Kuznetsov and Wayne Odesnik. Only three of them made the cut: No. 11 seed Kuznetsov, the veteran Ginepri, and the surprise in the trio, Daniel Kosakowski. So let’s take a look at the American wild cards and qualifiers who played their first round matches yesterday. They were those only in the top half of the draw — the bottom half starts today.
Ginepri, the 31-year old whose game has faded in and out throughout his career like a radio signal during a long care ride, found himself in a tough jam. He made it through qualis, but ended up paired in the first round with Paul-Henri Mathieu. Mathieu been ranked as high as No. 12, and he has four main tour titles to his credit — one more than Ginepri. The French veteran is still on the radar at 32 (suddenly, not such an advanced age in the ATP) and living on the cusp of direct entry. He handled Ginepri with ease, 6-2, 6-3.
Kuznetsov’s fate perfectly illustrated the problem with having so many fellow countrymen vying for a place in the sun in the homeland. He drew one of the most dangerous floaters in the tournament, No. 57 Sam Querrey — an experienced, explosive guy who could use a few good wins. He got one over Kuznetsov yesterday, 6-3, 6-3.
Wild card Ryan Harrison justified the gift with a straight sets win over Andrey Golubev, while Rhyne Williams — another U.S. wild card, fell to French veteran Jeremy Chardy.