Indian Wells: Serena Williams drawn with Halep. Sharapova with Ivanovic
TENNIS INDIAN WELLS – The Main Draw Ceremony for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the first WTA Premier Mandatory Tournament of the Year, took place on Monday. The tournament in the Californian desert will feature 18 of the best 20 players in the WTA Ranking. The only top-20 players who will not feature in the 96-strong draw are Venus Williams and Petra Kvitova. Venus’s younger sister Serena will make her her much-awaited return to Indian Wells after 14 years of absence. The star-studded field features Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki and rising stars like Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza who made a major impact this year. The possible quarter finals could be Williams-Makarova, Halep-Radwanska, Bouchard- Wozniacki and Ivanovic-Sharapova. Diego Sampaolo
Serena Williams, who recently won her 19th Grand Slam title last January at the Australian Open, has accepted a wild card and will make her comeback to the Indian Wells after a 13 year-old boycott. She won this tournament in 1999 and 2001. Serena had vowed not to return to Indian Wells after being booed in 2001. She had to play the semifinal against Venus who withdrew from the tournament due to a knee injury. Serena was booed while she was playing the final against Kim Clijsters. Serena’s father said that he heard racial slurs in the crowd.
Serena will make her debut against the winner of the match between Monica Niculescu and Aleksandra Krunic before facing a possible third round match against Zarina Diyas and a Round-of 16 match against Svetlana Kuznetsova or Angelique Kerber or Sloane Stephens. Serena lost 4 of her 18 matches against these three players. On hard-court Serena was beaten by Kuznetsova in Cincinnati in 2012 and by Stephens at the 2013 Australian Open. However, their form has been shaky in the recent months. Kerber has won just two matches since the Australian Open and Stephens won just two matches in the whole season.
Serena could face a very tough match in the quarter finals against Ekaterina Makarova, who reached two consecutive Grand Slam semifinals at the US Open and the Australian Open. Makarova beat the US legend in Melbourne in 2012 but lost their last two head-to-head matches. Before the possible clash against Serena, Makarova could face a second round match against her doubles partner Elena Vesnina and a third-round clash against Swiss Timea Bacsinszky, who won two consecutive titles on Mexican soil in Acapulco and Monterrey beating Caroline Garcia after two hard-fought battles and has moved up to World Number 26, and a fourth-round against Lucie Safarova, who won her most prestigious tournament in Doha.
Serena is projected to meet Simona Halep in the semifinal and Maria Sharapova in the final (in a possible re-match of this year’s Australian Open final).
In the second quarter last year’s Indian Wells semifinalist Simona Halep could meet Agnieszka Radwanska in a possible quarter final that could be a re-match of last year’s semifinal won by the Polish player. Radwanska, who lost last year’s final in Indian Wells against Flavia Pennetta, could face Mirjana Lucic Baroni in the second round and Camila Giorgi in the third round. The Italian, who will open against the winner of the match between Julia Georges and Heather Watson, won her only head-to-head match against Radwanska in Beijing 2012. Radwanska has had a win-loss record of 2-4 in her six matches since the Australian Open.
Halep, who was forced to withdraw from Doha because of a rib injury, could face a very tough Round of 16 match against the winner of the third-round match between Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova, two of the most interesting rising stars of the circuit who could square off against in the third round. Pliskova reached two WTA Premier finals in Sydney and Dubai. Pliskova won her last head-to-head match against Muguruza in the Dubai semifinal. Another interesting match in this section of the draw could be played between Carla Suarez Navarro (finalist in Antwerp) and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova
The most prominent name in the third quarter of the draw is Number 4 seed and 2011 Indian Wells winner Caroline Wozniacki who will face Kaia Kanepi in the second round and Swiss rising star Belinda Bencic. Wozniacki, who won the Kuala Lumpur title last week, could face 2010 Indian Wells champion and last year’s quarter finalist Jelena Jankovic. Wozniacki could meet this year’s Australian Open semifinalist Madison Keys in the Round of 16 and Eugenie Bouchard in the quarter finals.
Keys will take on Daniela Hantuchova in the second round.
Bouchard, finalist at Wimbledon and twice semifinalist at the Australian Open and the Roland Garros in 2014, lost her only match since the Australian Open against Mona Barthel in Antwerp. The most interesting match in this section of the draw could be played between Alizé Cornet and Andrea Petkovic who could meet in the third round.
The fourth quarter of the draw features Maria Sharapova (twice winner at Indian Wells in 2006 and 2013) who could take on Karin Knapp. Sharapova, who finished runner-up at the Australian Open and boasts a 15-1 record in 2015, won their previous two head-to-head matches but won a hard-fought third set with 10-8 after saving three match points at the 2014 Australian Open. Sharapova could face a blockbuster third round against 2012 Indian Wells champion Viktoria Azarenka who recently reached the final in Doha after being sidelined for most of 2014 because of an injury. Vika leads 7-6 but she is 6-1 in their previous hard-court matches but Masha won their last clash on this surface at the 2012 WTA Finals.
In the Round of 16 Masha could meet Indian Wells defending champion Flavia Pennetta who will have to overcome the winner of the match between Madison Brengle and Sasai Zheng in the second round and either Bethanie Mattek Sands or Tiffany Townsend. Pennetta recently reached the quarter finals at Dubai on hard-court. Pennetta and Sharapova tied 2-2 in their four previous four matches but the Italian player won their two previous matches in Los Angeles and New York.
Sharapova may renew her rivalry against Ana Ivanovic in a blockbuster quarter final match. The two glamorous stars played some of the best matches of 2014 in Stuttgart, Rome and Cincinnati. The Serbian player could renew her battle against this year’s Acapulco and Monterrey Caroline Garcia in the second round in a re-match of last week’s Monterrey semifinal won by the French player before possibly meeting Sara Errani (semifinalist in Monterrey last week) in the Round of 16. Errani could face two potential all-Italian matches against Francesca Schiavone in the second round and Roberta Vinci in the third round.
Roland Garros Daily Preview: Teen Sensations Meet in the Third Round
Third round singles action concludes on Saturday in Paris.
In what could be the first of many battles between two of tennis’ most promising young stars, 19-year-old Coco Gauff will face 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva. And the top two American men, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, take on considerable opposition in Francisco Cerundolo and Sascha Zverev, respectively.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Saturday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Mirra Andreeva (Q) vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Second on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
Gauff is 21-8 on the year despite changes to her coaching team and some continued issues with the mechanics of her game, primarily her forehand and serve. She was the runner-up here a year ago, losing 6-1, 6-3 in the final to Iga Swiatek. Coco dropped the first set in her opener, but has easily secured her four sets played since.
Andreeva is ranked 143rd in the world, but she started the year 312th. She is an excellent 22-2 at all levels, including qualifying. Mirra has taken all 10 sets she’s played since the beginning of qualifying last week. The tennis world first took notice of her earlier this clay court season in Madrid, when she upset Leylah Fernandez, Beatriz Haddad Maia, and Magda Linette to reach the fourth round.
On Saturday, I would not be shocked to witness Andreeva upset Gauff. Coco has not been playing her best tennis of late, going just 3-3 on clay ahead of this fortnight. And she has the pressure of defending finalist points on her young shoulders. But Gauff has a big game, and certainly has a huge edge in experience, both of which should be enough to propel her to victory.
Francisco Cerundolo (23) vs. Taylor Fritz (9) – Third on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
It will be quite interesting to see and hear how the French crowd treats Fritz on Saturday after provoking, trolling, and shushing the audience on Thursday evening. Taylor may live to regret that decision, as the French tennis fans have long memories, and love to involve themselves in matches. Fritz is now a strong 31-11 this season, and looking to advance to the second week of this tournament for the first time.
Cerundolo is 22-14 this year, and 15-9 on clay. All three of his career ATP finals have come on this surface, including just last week in Lyon.
So what will prevail on Saturday: Taylor’s serving prowess, or Francisco’s formidable forehand? In another first career meeting on the day, I give the American the slight edge. While the crowd will be against him, he is much more experienced at this stage of a Major. Prior to this year, Cerundolo was 0-4 in the main draw at Slams.
Bianca Andreescu vs. Lesia Tsurenko – Third on Court Simonne-Mathieu
Andreescu’s victory over Victoria Azarenka in the first round was quite a surprise. Bianca was just 9-9 on the year, and 0-2 on clay, a surface where she only owns 14 career victories. She has unfortunately suffered setback after setback since her amazing 2019 season, yet continues to try to fight her way back to the top of the sport.
Tsurenko, a Ukrainian, has been open regarding how hard it has been to play on tour for the last year-and-a-half. She even withdrew from Indian Wells in March, after having a panic attack which she blamed on unsettling comments from WTA CEO Steve Simon regarding Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. But Lesia is now a superb 27-8 this season at all levels, and eliminated 2021 champion Barbora Krejcikova in the first round.
Their only prior encounter occurred earlier this year on a hard court in Hua Hin, when Tsurenko was leading 7-5, 4-0 in the semifinals before Andreescu retired from the match. And on Saturday, I lean towards Lesia to prevail again based on both players’ form this season.
Sascha Zverev (22) vs. Frances Tiafoe (12) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier
Tiafoe is 23-8 in 2023, and while clay is not his strongest surface, he did win a 250-level title at the start of the clay season in Houston. Frances was just 1-7 lifetime at Roland Garros before this week, at the only Major where he’s yet to reach the second week.
Of course it was at this event a year ago when Zverev suffered that gruesome, upsetting ankle injury in the semifinals against Rafael Nadal, ending his 2022 season. He is yet to rediscover his top form this year, with a modest record of 18-14. But Sascha did claim his first two matches this week in straight sets.
Zverev has dominated their history, with a 6-1 edge. However, they haven’t played in over 18 months, and Tiafoe and Zverev are both different players than they were in 2021. Yet on this surface, Sascha should be favored to advance after an extended battle on Saturday night.
Other Notable Matches on Saturday:
Elena Rybakina (4) vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo – It’s hard to find two more polar opposite styles: the power of Rybakina, and the grinding defense of Sorribes Tormo. Neither player has dropped a set to this stage, and Sara took their only previous meeting, two years ago on a hard court in Miami.
Zhizhen Zhang vs. Casper Ruud (4) – Ruud has not repeated his great success from 2022 during 2023, with an 18-11 record to date. Zhizhen made his big breakthrough earlier this year in Madrid, where he won three consecutive third-set tiebreaks over Denis Shapovalov, Cam Norrie, and Taylor Fritz. He is the first Chinese man to win a match at the French Open in 86 years, as he and Wu Yibing continue to break new ground for Chinese tennis.
Ekaterina Alexandrova (23) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia (14) – This is the farthest Haddad Maia has ever advanced at a Major. This is Alexandrova’s sixth time in the third round of a Slam, but she’s yet to go farther. They’ve played twice before in qualifying for events in 2017, with Beatriz winning both matches.
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Xinyu Wang – Swiatek won her first two matches by the same score: 6-4, 6-0. And Iga is 4-0 in the third round of Roland Garros. Xinyu is also yet to lose a set, in her best performance at a Major to date.
Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.
Grand Slam Glory Is The Main Goal For America’s Coco Gauff
Coco Gauff has big aspirations and she isn’t afraid to speak openly about them.
Following her second round win over Julia Grabher at the French Open on Thursday, the 19-year-old played down the fixation on her current ranking which is No.6 in the world. Gauff admits that her position is something that doesn’t concern her in the sport unless she is sitting at the top of the world rankings.
“I’m not a ranking person at all. The goal is No.1, and I think that’s when I would care about the ranking,” she stated in her press conference.
“Anything in between two and 10, I mean, I’m going to be honest, it’s not that important to me.”
Gauff first broke into the world’s top 10 in September 2022 and has remained there ever since. At the time she was the youngest top 10 debutant on the WTA Tour since Nicole Vaidisova in 2006. She has been ranked as high as No.4 in the world.
“When I made the top 10, it was a cool accomplishment, but for me it was never about staying there. I only want to go upwards,” she said. “The biggest goal is to win Grand Slams, and I think the ranking will come with Grand Slams.”
It was 12 months ago at Roland Garros where Gauff achieved her best performance at a major by reaching the final before losing in straight sets to Iga Swiatek. The tournament is her best Grand Slam in terms of match wins (13) and is the only one where she has reached the quarter-finals or better on multiple occasions. Gauff also won the French Open girls’ title back in 2018 at the age of just 14.
Five years on from the junior triumph, she has become a regular fixture on the Tour. So much so, that there is already another generation of players on the rise. One of those includes Russia’s Mirra Andreeva who says her ultimate goal in tennis is to break Novak Djokovic’s all-time Grand Slam title record which currently stands at 22. Andreeva, who is only the seventh player under the age of 17 to reach the third round of Roland Garros since 1993, will be Gauff’s next opponent.
“I think she knows the game well, and she’s proved her position to be here and proved in her results in the past, so I don’t think the age thing matters,” Gauff commented on her next opponent.
“I’ve never thought about my age, to be honest. This will be my third time playing someone younger than me.
“Honestly, the first two times I didn’t even think about it because when you step on the court, you just see your opponent, and you don’t really think about the personal side of things. You just see forehand, backhand, serve, and all the same.”
Gauff will play Andreeva on Saturday.
Roland Garros Daily Preview: Alcaraz, Djokovic Face Seeded Opposition on Friday
Third round singles action commences on Friday in Paris.
In the top half of the ATP singles draw, which plays on Friday, 11 of 16 seeds have advanced to the third round, making for some blockbuster encounters. But in the bottom half of the WTA singles draw, which also plays on Friday, only six of 16 seeds remain after two rounds, leaving plenty of room for new names to break through to the second week of this Major.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Friday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (29) – Court Philippe-Chatrier
Djokovic is now 22-4 on the year, despite his vaccination status and an elbow injury forcing him to miss multiple events. And despite whatever this thing is taped to his chest. Novak hasn’t dropped a set through two rounds, and hasn’t failed to advance beyond the third round of this tournament since 2009, when he lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets.
Davidovich Fokina is 19-13 in 2023, and was a quarterfinalist here two years ago. The 23-year-old is a flashy, emotional, and inconsistent player. But he’s capable of defeating top players, as he did Djokovic last year in Monte Carlo.
Djokovic claimed their other two meetings easily in straight sets, back in 2021. And on Friday, the 22-time Major champion is a considerable favorite to prevail again, especially in the best-of-five format.
Lorenzo Musetti (17) vs. Cameron Norrie (14) – Third in Court Simonne-Mathieu
Like Alejandro, Lorenzo is a flashy, uber-talented young player. But his results are also up-and-down, with a record of 15-12 this season. The 21-year-old advanced to the round of 16 in Paris two years ago, when he was up two sets against Djokovic before succumbing and retiring two games from defeat.
Norrie is the opposite: a consistent, less glitzy performer. The British No.1 is 29-10 on the season, and has been one of the ATP’s winningest players the last two seasons. However, he is 0-2 in the third round of this event, losing to Rafael Nadal and Karen Khachanov the last two years.
Their only prior matchup took place earlier this clay court season in Barcelona, with Musetti coming from a set down to win 6-1 in the third. But this is another case where the best-of-five format favors the higher seed and more fit player in Norrie, while the slight upset by the Italian and his formidable backhand would not be shocking.
Diego Schwartzman vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Last on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
Tsitsipas is 27-8 this season, yet is 0-5 in his last five tournament finals, dating back nearly a year. That includes a straight-set loss to Djokovic in the championship match of January’s Australian Open.
Schwartzman has seriously struggled this year, with a record of 5-16 at all levels coming into this fortnight, arriving in Paris on a five-match losing streak. However, he has advanced to the fourth round or better at this tournament in four of the last five years, and remains a considerable threat on this surface.
Stefanos leads their head-to-head 4-2 overall, and 2-0 on clay. And based on recent form, the Greek is a significant favorite on Friday.
Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Denis Shapovalov (26) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier
Alcaraz is 32-3 in 2023, and 22-2 on clay. He’s accumulated four titles, three of which came on this surface. Carlitos was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, losing in four sets to Sascha Zverev.
It’s been a really rough season for Shapovalov. The Canadian was 7-9 on the year coming into the French Open, and 1-2 on clay. And this easily remains his worst Major, with a lifetime record of 4-4, and this third round appearance being his best result to date.
In their first career meeting, the 20-year-old Spaniard is a strong favorite to prevail.
Other Notable Matches on Friday:
Elise Mertens (28) vs. Jessica Pegula (3) – Both players are yet to drop a set, though Pegula received a retirement from Camila Giorgi after one set on Wednesday. Mertens leads their head-to-head 2-0, with both matches taking place a few years ago on hard courts.
Karen Khachanov (11) vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis (WC) – Khachanov came back from two sets down in his opening round contest against Constant Lestienne of France, while Kokkinakis survived a grueling five-setter in the last round against Stan Wawrinka. When they played five years ago on clay in Monte Carlo, Karen prevailed in straight sets.
Kamilla Rakhimova vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Sabalenka is now 31-5 on the year, but is vying to reach the round of 16 in Paris for the first time. Rakhimova is a 21-year-old who has never advanced to the round of 16 at any Major. This is a first career meeting between two more players who have not dropped a set.
Lorenzo Sonego vs. Andrey Rublev (7) – Rublev has won consecutive four-setters to reach this stage. Sonego already took out another seed, Ben Shelton. These players have split two prior tour-level meetings, with Lorenzo claiming the one contested on clay.
Friday’s full Order of Play is here.
Roland Garros Daily Preview: Teen Sensations Meet in the Third Round
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