The temperatures on the tennis courts during the BNP Paribas Open promise to soar as high as the temperatures outside in the Californian desert. The regular – and continued – absence of Serena and Venus Williams notwithstanding, the WTA field at Indian Wells this year packs enough of a punch with several names being tipped as potential favourites in a tricky draw.
The 2014 WTA season till now, has seen quite a few mishmash of winners including the ‘premier’ comeback of Venus Williams at Dubai last month. The rankings have been well shuffled as well with only Serena Williams quite comfortable atop her perch and the rest of the playing order left asunder. At Indian Wells, this disparity promises to be shuffled yet again even as the draw ideally promises the following:
Australian Open champion Li Na is the top-seed for the event though the draw gods haven’t exactly bestowed any favours upon her. Her half is a literal mine-field dotted with names like Klara Zakopalova, seeded 28th, Sabine Lisicki, seeded 15th and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, seeded 21st, two of whom she could encounter in the initial three rounds (Lisicki is potentially expected to play Pavlyuchenkova in the second round). Her potential fourth round opponent could be either 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova, in a rematch of their Australian Open final, or eighth seed Petra Kvitova.
The second quarter of the top-half is an even bigger minefield with 11th seed Ana Ivanovic, 27th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, 4th seed Maria Sharapova, 5th seed Angelique Kerber and 16th seed Samantha Stosur all clubbed in together.
Aside from Dominika Cibulkova and Klara Zakopalova, every other seeded player in the top-half has been troubled with loss of form, including defending champion Maria Sharapova. Even Li Na wasn’t able to match up to her Australian Open performance at Qatar in February, losing in the third round there, though there hasn’t been much attention focused about her premature loss.
However considering that the BNP Paribas Open is one of the most elite calendar events, Li Na will once again be the centre of attraction and expected to go to the distance.
Possible Semi-finals: Top seed Li Na vs 4th seed Maria Sharapova
As the defending champion, the Russian will be expected to dig her heels into the event rather than meekly allow her opponents to upset her. However, while her determination is unquestionable, fitness issues will remain an important aspect to consider as far as Sharapova advancing further in the event is concerned.
Where the top half is more on-the-face with its trickiness, the second half is subtle though no less slippery. 3rd seed Victoria Azarenka’s top-quarter will see her battle it out against 29th seed Daniela Hantuchova in the second round and potentially face 19th seed Kirsten Flipkens or 13th seed Roberta Vinci in the third round. Her possible quarter-final opponent could either be 6th seed Simona Halep or 18th seed Eugenie Bouchard, who could in all possibility have a face-off against each other in the fourth round.
The second quarter of the second half will see second seed Agnieszka Radwanska take on 30th seed Elena Vesnina in the second round and could have a potential third round encounter against either 14th seed Carla Suarez Navarro or 22nd seed Alize Cornet. Her possible opponent in the quarter-final will be either seventh seed Jelena Jankovic or 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki, who could potentially take on each other in the fourth round.
Possible semifinal: 3rd seed Victoria Azarenka vs 2nd seed Agnieszka Radwanska
Ideally, this is the quarter-final match-up that is expected to materialise. However, Victoria Azarenka’s foot injury is an important factor that cannot be discounted especially since she was pictured with a bandage on her left foot, over a month ago. But whether or not the injury still persists, remains to be seen and ascertained.
Possible Final: Top seed Li Na vs 2nd seed Agnieszka RadwanskaPublished 06 Mar 2014, 19:37 IST