2016 @BNPParisbasOpen Women’s Preview
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
We hit the US for the first of the back to back hardcourt Premier events in Indian Wells and Miami.
Indian Wells debuted as a men’s event in 1976 before staging a women’s tournament a week prior in 1989. Then in 1996 it evolved into a joint event and has earned it’s status as one of the biggest events outside the four grand slams.
Former champions include Lindsay Davenport, Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis, Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles, and more recently Victoria Azarenka, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki. Simona Halep was victorious last year.
BNP Paribas Open
Tier: Premier Mandatory
Location: Indian Wells, USA
Prize money: $6,134,605
Date: March 09- March 20
Top eight seeds (ranking)
- Serena Williams (1)
- Angelique Kerber (2)
- Agnieszka Radwanksa (3)
- Garbine Muguruza (4)
- Simona Halep (5)
- Carla Suarez Navarro (6)
- Belinda Bencic (8)
- Petra Kvitova (9)
The big absentee is Maria Sharapova who recently was caught taking a banned substance.
First round matches to watch
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni vs Monica Puig
This match should be a good clash as it pits the power player vs the count puncher and experience vs youth.
Lucic burst on to the scene in the late 90’s and was regarded as a bright prospect capable of winning Grand Slam titles, but the Croatian decided to take time off and has only made a comeback in recent years. Puig had looked promising herself but has stalled since last year and has struggled to gain form since.
Puig owns the win in their only head to head meeting which came on the clay of Strasbourg. On a hard court it could prove to be much tighter however, and it will be interesting to see which style prevails.
Caroline Garcia vs Christina McHale
One of the American hopefuls will meet one of the most talented underachievers on the tour in what could end up being a seesaw match.
Their previous three meetings have all been fairly tight with McHale getting the better of two of them. Garcia has been in the better form overall but suffered from back problems last week in Monterrey so will he be fit enough to win here?
Winner faces Muguruza in round two, so there is plenty of interest for this one.
Julia Goerges vs Camila Giorgi
This match will be fun for completely different reasons. Both hit hard, but they are also massively inconsistent. Expect some big winners and some horrific errors in a match that really will just come down to who has the better day.
Giorgi has won both their meetings in straight sets but the Italian is very much a Jekyll and Hyde player and could easily lose this one as the favourite.
For the second straight year, Serena Williams is back in Indian Wells and with all the past behind her she can set her sights on winning her first title of the season. The world number one has not played since the Australian Open so might be rusty when she faces Irina Begu or a qualifier. The other seed in the section is the talented Kristina Mladenovic who is certainly capable of catching Serena off guard. The fourth round opponent will likely be Sara Errani who has been in good form on the hardcourts recently. The Italian has the inconsistent Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her section and some dangerous unseeded players is Lesia Tsurenko and Alison Van Uytvanck.
The defending champion, Simona Halep, has had the misfortune of being placed in the same quarter as the world number one. The Romanian will begin her defence in round one against Vania King or a qualifier. Ekaterina Makarova could be a tricky round three opponent as lefties always provide a different look. Venus Williams will make her return to Indian Wells for the first time in over a decade as the tenth seed. Providing the former world number one can get through her section which includes Barbora Strycova and Andrea Petkovic, it will be a blockbuster round four against Halep and then a potential quarter final against her sister.
For the Pole this could be a big opportunity to claim another big title. The third seed might have a tough task in Dominika Cibulkova in her opening match however- the Slovenian is capable of catching fire. The ever tricky Monica Niculescu is the projected third round opponent but she could have her hands full with the in form Heather Watson who is fresh off winning the Monterrey title. Svetlana Kuznetsova is the 16th seed and another player who can catch fire out of nowhere. The Russian has the big serving Coco Vandeweghe in round two potentially. Jelena Jankovic is projected for round three.
Petra Kvitova has not enjoyed the best of starts to the season and on these slow courts could be an upset scalp in the early rounds if not playing well. But her draw is quite kind with the ever unpredictable Sabine Lisicki being the biggest hurdle in round three- providing she gets there of course. Madison Keys could be the biggest beneficiary of a fairly open section as Lucie Safarova is rusty having only just returned from injury. Yaroslava Shvedova could potentially upset the Czech in round two as well.
Muguruza’s season has just not gotten going thus far with the Spaniard struggling to handle the extra pressure and the niggling injuries. Caroline Garcia, if healthy, or Christina McHale may fancy their chances at grabbing a big name win if her form has not improved. Sam Stosur is projected for round three and offers something different with the amount of spin she can put on the ball. Perhaps the favourite to make it out of the section is Victoria Azarenka who is looking like returning to form this year. It could be a good battle of the former world number one’s in round three and if Muguruza can make it through, this section has plenty of enticing matches to look out for.
Belinda Bencic is one of the rising stars of the WTA and certainly a dark horse for the title this week, but the Swiss has a tough draw ahead of her. Daria Gavrilova, another rising youngster, is scheduled for round three. Roberta Vinci is the projected round four and that is never an easy task, but she also has some dangerous players to contend with. Margarita Gasparyan in round two could be an interesting one handed backhand contest. Elina Svitolina, fresh off a title win, is another player to look out for and her good form could provide problems.
The Australian Open champion’s hangover could be over as she attempts to claim yet another big title in Indian Wells. The German could meet the improved Joanna Konta in round three which is a testing match for the second seed. Ana Ivanovic is projected for round four but she has a powerful task of toppling Karolina Pliskova in round three, though the Czech has started the season in poor form. Goerges or Giorgi could also easily take out Ivanovic.
One player who is enjoying a good season is Carla Suarez Navarro who recently won the Doha title a few weeks a go. The Spaniard is another player who could go deep here, and her draw is quite kind. Anna Schmiedlova in round three is against a player who has struggled to get going in 2016. It is probable that her biggest test might come in the form of Sloane Stephens who potentially meets Eugenie Bouchard in round two then Timea Bacsinszky in round three.
Serena def. Halep
Radwanska def. Keys
Azarenka def. Bencic
Kerber def. Suarez Navarro
Serena def. Radwanska
Azarenka def. Kerber
Serena def. Azarenka