WTA Tennis Indian Wells • BNP Paribas Open Draw Preview for 10sBalls

Written by: on 8th March 2018
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WTA Qatar Ladies Open tennis tournament
WTA Tennis Indian Wells • BNP Paribas Open Draw Preview for 10sBalls

epa06533423 Simona Halep of Romania reacts during her quarter finals match against Catherine Bellis of US at the WTA Qatar Ladies Open tennis tournament at the International Khalifa Tennis Complex in Doha, Qatar, 16 February 2018. EPA-EFE/NOUSHAD THEKKAYIL  |

By Thomas Cluck

As one of the biggest tournaments in the world and the unofficial “Fifth Slam,” the BNP Paribas Open draw is stacked with talent and intrigue as always but this year it gets going truly from the first ball. With arguably the three best known players on the WTA of the last five years Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Victoria Azarenka all unseeded, the draw ceremony held much anticipation and it sure did deliver.

Returning to the tour for the first time since giving birth to her first child in September, Serena Williams was handed a favorable draw through the first two rounds, something that can’t be said for Sharapova and Azarenka. The Russian was handed possibly the toughest draw of anyone in the tournament, and it cost her as she fell at the first hurdle to dangerous Naomi Osaka of Japan. Meanwhile, another new mother, Azarenka, has a difficult opening few rounds as well in store for her.

First quarter

The top quarter of a loaded BNP Paribas Open draw is led by world number one and 2015 Indian Wells champion Simona Halep along with a struggling Jelena Ostapenko, the reigning French Open winner. Halep was dealt a very comfortable draw in her quarter, beginning her tournament against Kristyna Pliskova. The Romanian could then face 20th seed Dominika Cibulkova in the third round and possibly Australian Open semifinalist Elise Mertens or Kristina Mladenovic in the round of 16.

Sixth-seed Ostapenko, off to a rough start in 2018, has a difficult opener against former top 10 player Belinda Bencic, who saved a match point to edge past Timea Babos, with Johanna Konta and Svetlana Kuznetsova, who’s playing her first event of the season here, possible round of 16 opponents for the Latvian and also potential quarterfinal opponents for Halep. Given the struggles in form of many in Halep’s section of the draw, it’s tough to bet against the world number one to reach the semifinals and if she’s healthy after a foot injury forced her out of Doha, she should make the last four with ease.

Semifinalist: Halep

Second quarter

Possibly the most loaded section of the Indian Wells draw, the second quarter features third seed Garbine Muguruza, seventh seed Karolina Pliskova, and a red-hot Petra Kvitova. As if that wasn’t enough, two-time champion Maria Sharapova and wildcard Eugenie Bouchard were also drawn into this section, making for some blockbuster early-round matchups. For Muguruza, the reigning Wimbledon champion will open against American Sachia Vickery after she easily dispatched wildcard Bouchard in the first round. If Muguruza can make it through her first match she could face Naomi Osaka, who powered past a rusty Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4 to book a second round date with Agnieszka Radwanska. Whoever makes the round of 16 out of that section American Coco Vandeweghe or crafty Aussie Ashleigh Barty to reach the last eight.

Arguably the hottest player on tour at the moment, Petra Kvitova, currently on a 13-match winning streak after titles in St. Petersburg and Doha, begins her desert campaign against feisty Yulia Putintseva ahead of a possible third round against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Possibly awaiting Kvitova in an all-Czech fourth rounder could be seventh-seed Karolina Pliskova, who could see Zhang Shuai in the third round before facing Kvitova, for a spot in the quarterfinals. Despite the red-hot form of the two-time Wimbledon champion, Kvitova has struggled in the desert conditions in the past and with Pliskova looking to regain her serving dominance, Indian Wells should be a good place for the top-ranked Czech to get back on track and book a last four spot.

Semifinalist: Pliskova

Third quarter

The third quarter of the BNP Paribas Open draw may rival the second in starpower as both Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, plus Elina Svitolina and Madison Keys fall into this section. For new mother Serena, the 23-time major champion begins her Indian Wells campaign against Kazakh Zarina Diyas before Kiki Bertens in the second round. The two Williams’ are on a collision course for a blockbuster third round matchup but for Venus to get there, she would have to advance past either Monica Niculescu or another Romanian Sorana Cirstea in her first match. Either Williams sister could also have to move past powerful German Julia Goerges to reach the quarterfinals.

The highest seed in this section, fourth seed Elina Svitolina, begins against either Veronica Cepede-Royg or Mona Barthel and then potentially Carla Suarez Navarro before a potential matchup with Madison Keys to book a spot in the quarterfinal. With Svitolina in strong form off of a successful title defence in Dubai, the Ukrainian will be hard to defeat but with both Williams sisters present in this section and looking for a statement tournament here, one should reach the semifinals and we’ll say it will be older sister Venus.

Semifinalist: Venus Williams

Fourth quarter

The bottom quarter of the draw is full of some of the best counter punchers on tour, with newly crowned Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, two-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber, and reigning US Open champ Sloane Stephens all present in this section. Add to that two-time champion Victoria Azarenka and this quarter is nearly just as stacked as the previous two. For Wozniacki, the former world number one begins her campaign for a second title in the California desert against either qualifier Lara Arruabarrena or recent champion in Acapulco Lesia Tsurenko. The Dane, a winner in Indian Wells back in 2010, could then face big-hitting Anett Kontaveit of Estonia before possibly Sloane Stephens or Daria Kasatkina for a spot in the fourth round. However, for Stephens to get there she could need to navigate past Victoria Azarenka, who begins her tournament against Britain’s Heather Watson before possibly facing Stephens for a spot in the round of 16.

Also in this quarter is seventh-seed Caroline Garcia and tenth-seed Angelique Kerber, with both beginning against either Jennifer Brady or Mihaela Buzarnescu and Ekaterina Makarova or Kirsten Flipkens, respectively. In the third round, the German could go up against defending champion Elena Vesnina, who begins her title defence against possibly California native Cici Bellis. With Kerber off to a strong start in 2018 and Wozniacki incredibly consistent through the first two months of the season including her maiden major crown, this quarter will likely come down to these two counter punchers and with the Dane’s better success in the desert compared to Kerber, expect Wozniacki to reach her fourth semifinal of 2017 here in Indian Wells.

Semifinalist: Wozniacki

Predictions:

Semifinals: Halep def. Pliskova, Williams def. Wozniacki

Final: Halep def. Williams

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