INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Plenty of young American talent will be on display as the first round wraps up for those in the top half of the draw at the BNP Paribas Open.
Thursday, First Round
[WC] Madison Keys (USA #77) vs. Melanie Oudin (USA #85)
Head-to-head: Oudin leads 1-0
While she has shown potential for greatness from the get-go - like when she became the seventh-youngest player to win a WTA main draw match in 2009 at Ponte Vedra Beach - 2013 has truly been a breakout season for big-serving Madison Keys.
Keys secured her first two Top 50 wins en route to her first WTA quarterfinal in Sydney. She then notched another Top 50 win en route to her best showing at a Grand Slam - a third round appearance at the Australian Open, after which she cracked the Top 100. And despite having turned 18 last month, she is still the second-youngest player in the Top 100.
Keys' first round opponent in Indian Wells knows a thing or two about being a precocious teenage star. As a 17-year-old in 2009, Melanie Oudin upset Russian stars Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova during a stunning run to the US Open quarterfinals. While she hasn't equaled that level of success since, she did capture her first WTA title at Birmingham last year. She also added two ITF Women's Circuit titles to her haul, including one where she beat Keys in the semifinals.
Lucie Hradecka (CZE #57) vs. [WC] Taylor Townsend (USA #471)
Head-to-head: first meeting
While more known for her doubles prowess, Lucie Hradecka become a force to be reckoned with in singles in 2011, reaching the final of Barcelona and the semifinals of Memphis en route to cracking the Top 50. She had another runner-up showing in 2012, the fifth of her career, at Québec City and recorded two Top 10 wins en route to the semifinals of Madrid. She also finished the year inside the Top 50 for the first time.
Making her WTA main draw debut is the youngest player in the field, 16-year-old Taylor Townsend. She has a sparkling junior résumé, highlighted by winning both the girls' singles and doubles titles at the 2012 Australian Open, becoming first American to sweep both events at a junior Grand Slam since Lindsay Davenport in 1992. Later in the season, she won the junior doubles at Wimbledon and the US Open and finished 2012 as year-end ITF junior No.1.
Hradecka's clash with Townsend will be an interesting match-up of aesthetics, as Hradecka plays two-handed off both sides and Townsend is left-handed.
Jamie Hampton (USA #64) vs. [WC] Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA #132)
Head-to-head: Hampton leads 1-0
Jamie Hampton has established herself as yet another American force in 2013. She has won at least two matches at each of her three WTA events, falling to the eventual champion each time. In one of those cases, she reached her first WTA semifinal at Auckland, and in another she reached her first Grand Slam third round at the Australian Open. Last year in Indian Wells, she upset former champion Jelena Jankovic en route to the fourth round.
Former Top 30 player Bethanie Mattek-Sands has battled hip, back and foot injuries recently, seeing her ranking fall as low as No.243 last July. But the Mattek-Sands of old was back last week in Kuala Lumpur, making her first WTA final since January 2011 in Hobart. In the process, she knocked off defending champion Hsieh Su-Wei and another Top 30 player, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, so should have newfound confidence coming into Indian Wells.