A day after the draw that put Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the same bottom quarter of the draw at the BNP Paribas Open, players were still marveling at the resulting concentration of talent and the potential for finals-quality matches in the first few rounds. Those three have won 44 Grand Slam singles titles —18 for Federer, 14 for Nadal, and 12 for Djokovic.
"Amazing draw, really. I've never seen anything like that, probably. It would be one of the toughest sections of a draw of all time, I would have thought," world No. 1 Andy Murray, who is in the top half of that draw, said Wednesday during a news conference. "It would be interesting to see ones that were comparable in terms of the amount of Grand Slams you have in that section but also in terms of the up-and-coming players. … It's exciting for tennis fans for sure. There will be some great matches early on in the tournament, hopefully."
No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka seemed happy to be in the top half of the draw. "For sure the last quarter is packed," he said. "It's quite crazy to see all those big names in the same quarter."
But Murray cautioned that things don't always go according to form. "Maybe there will be some upsets and some of the matchups that everyone wants to see, maybe you don't get to see," he said. "But obviously a section that you'd want to be avoiding if you can."
Maria Sharapova's suspension for testing positive early last year for the banned drug meldonium will end on April 24 and she has already gotten wild-card entries into events in Stuttgart, Germany, Rome, and Madrid. Angelique Kerber of Germany, ranked No. 2 in the world and soon to be No. 1 again, isn't sure Sharapova deserves that wild card.
"It's a little bit strange for the other players that somebody can just walk on site on Wednesday and play Wednesday. It's a little bit weird," Kerber said. "I don't know yet who will get wild cards as well but for me it's a little bit weird because it's a German tournament and we have so many good German players and a few of us will need the wild cards to get to the main draw as well."
Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sharapova's Russian compatriot, had a more favorable view. "I think it's great for the tennis that she's coming back and I believe she's looking forward to it," Kuznetsova said.
Said Murray: "The tournaments are well within their rights to give a wild card. There's no rule that says they can't. They're going to do what they think is best for their event. But should you get a wild card into every event when you come back? I'm not sure about that. That's something that maybe should be looked at."
In noteworthy first-round women's matches Wednesday, Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium defeated 17-year-old CiCi Bellis of the U.S., 4-6, 6-1, 6-4; Heather Watson of Britain defeated former Stanford standout Nicole Gibbs of Santa Monica, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, and Rio Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig of Puerto Rico defeated Danielle Collins of the U.S., 6-0, 6-2..
Thursday's featured matches
Bjorn Fratangelo (U.S.) vs. Bernard Tomic, Stadium 2, 11 a.m.
Jelena Jankovic (Serbia) vs. Irina Falconi (U.S.) Stadium 1, not before 1 p.m.
Annika Beck (Germany) vs. Eugenie Bouchard (Canada), Stadium 1, not before 7 p.m.
Vania King (U.S.) vs. Andrea Petkovic (Germany) Stadium 2, third match.
Jennifer Brady (U.S.) vs. Shelby Rogers (U.S.), Stadium 4, second match.