Indian Wells Daily Preview: Defending Champion Bianca Andreescu Returns to the Desert - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Daily Preview: Defending Champion Bianca Andreescu Returns to the Desert

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Bianca Andreescu warming up last Sunday at Indian Wells (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

When this tournament was last staged in March of 2019, Bianca Andreescu made her breakthrough.  Ranked 60th in the world, she stormed through the draw, making this WTA 1000 event the first title of her career.  Six months later, she would become the US Open champion.  But after missing all of 2020 due to injuries and pandemic travel restrictions, it’s been a rough 2021 for the Canadian, who is only 7-8 since reaching the final of Miami this past March.  Can she rediscover the magic that catapulted her 2019 season in the same place she first created it?

 

Also on Saturday, newly-crowned US Open champion Daniil Medvedev will play his first tour matchup since leaving New York, against surging American Mackie McDonald.  And two other up-and-coming American men will collide in what could be an excellent encounter.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.

Sebastian Korda (32) vs. Frances Tiafoe – Second on Stadium 1

Their only previous meeting came at the 2018 version of the now-defunct New York Open on Long Island, when Tiafoe prevailed in three sets over Korda, who was then ranked 873rd in the world.  Three-and-a-half years later, Sebi is now ranked inside the top 40, and finds himself seeded at this event.  He is on pace to soon become the top-ranked American man, and he only turned 21-years-old this summer.  Korda reached the quarterfinals in Miami, won the title in Parma, and advanced to Manic Monday at The Championships.  However, he is only 3-4 on hard courts these last few months.  Tiafoe was been the better performer this summer, reaching the round of 16 in New York after a thrilling five-set upset of Andrey Rublev.  And at the prior Major, Frances upended Roland Garros finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas.  If this were a night match, I would decisively give Tiafoe the advantage, as he has pulled off some late night heroics in both Miami and New York this year.  With this match in the middle of the afternoon, I more tentatively lean his way based on both players’ form on summer hard courts.

Bianca Andreescu (16) vs. Alison Riske – Not Before 8:00pm on Stadium 1

It was less than two years ago when Riske reached a career-high ranking of No.18.  She is one of many players whose upward trajectory was disrupted by the pandemic.  Since the tour restart last summer, she’s only 11-17.  However, the 31-year-old American is coming off a run to the final last month in Portoroz, though it’s worth noting she did not defeat any top 50 players that week.  Riske herself is now ranked right outside the top 50.  Despite Andreescu’s aforementioned struggles, she hasn’t lost to a player ranked that low since Wimbledon, when Alize Cornet took her out in the opening round.  The deciding factor on this day may be whether Bianca feels relief or pressure returning to the courts where she first made a name for herself.  I’m counting on the former, and expect Andreescu to grit her way to victory even if her best tennis is still lacking.  North American hard courts remain her specialty.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Dan Evans (18) vs. Kei Nishikori – Nishikori leads their head-to-head 3-1, which most recently includes a five-set win at last fall’s French Open.

Karolina Pliskova (1) vs. Magdalena Frech (Q) – In the absence of Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka, Pliskova is the top seed, and will play her first match since losing to Maria Sakkari in the US Open quarterfinals.  Frech is a 23-year-old from Poland who won two ITF events this summer.

Coco Gauff (15) vs. Caroline Garcia – Gauff is 33-15 on the year, and currently sits 13th in the WTA Race rankings.  A strong run this fortnight could qualify her for the WTA Finals in Guadalajara next month.  Garica is only 25-24 this season, and arrived at Indian Wells on a three-match losing streak.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Mackenzie McDonald – Medvedev is 5-0 against McDonald, and 11-0 in sets.

Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Demi Schuurs (5) vs. Leylah Fernandez and Coco Gauff – The teenagers are teaming for the first time, while Melichar-Martinez and Schuurs are regular partners, and won Charleston earlier this year.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Indian Wells Daily Preview: Championship Sunday

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Paula Badosa earlier this week at Indian Wells (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Sunday’s men’s and women’s singles championship matches feature a two-time champion and three first-time finalists at this level.  Victoria Azarenka won this event in 2012 and 2016, two of 10 WTA 1000 titles to her credit.  Paula Badosa, Cam Norrie, and Nikolaz Basilashvili are all vying for the biggest title of their careers, during what has become their best seasons to date.

 

Paula Badosa (21) vs. Victoria Azarenka (27)  – 1:00pm on Stadium 1

For Azarenka, this result is a bit of a surprise, despite all she’s achieved in the sport.  Her record of 28-8 is more than solid, but she’s dealt with multiple injuries throughout 2021, forcing her to withdraw during five different events.  This is her first final since nearly a full year ago in Ostrava. 

For Badosa, this result has been expected for some time.  She’s been most impressive this season, accumulating 40 match wins, and a record of 10-3 against the top 20.  Paula herself will debut inside the top 20 on Monday, and would be just a few points shy of the top 10 with a win on Sunday.

Azarenka will attempt to win her first final since April of 2016.  While she was the champion of last year’s Western & Southern Open, she received a walkover in the championship match from Naomi Osaka.  Vika is 0-3 in her last three finals, all on hard courts.  This is only the second WTA final for Badosa, who claimed the title in Belgrade this past May on clay.  Based on the way the Spaniard has been clubbing her groundstrokes, and her comfort level on these slow-playing courts, I’m going with Badosa to win the second title of her young career.

Cameron Norrie (21) vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili (29)  – Not Before 4:00pm on Stadium 1

Norrie has been one of the most surprising and remarkable stories of 2021.  Prior to this season, he had never been ranked inside the top 40.  But like Badosa, he will debut in the top 20 on Monday, thanks to a record of 46-20 on the year. 

Basilashvili has made news for other reasons, as he was arrested last year on domestic abuse allegations from his former wife.  On the tennis court, he’s been quite streaky this season.  Between January and March, he went on a five-match losing streak before winning the title in Doha, which includes victories over Roger Federer and Roberto Bautista Agut.  He was also the champion in Munich, and came through qualifying to reach the semis in Halle.

Basilashvili’s last loss before his successful run in Doha was at the hands of Norrie, who prevailed 6-0, 6-3 in Rotterdam.  Cam has dominated his last two matches this week in similar fashion, defeating Diego Schwartzman and Grigor Dimitrov while dropping only eight games across four sets.  The Brit has now won his last six semifinals, but his record in finals in striking different.  He’s only 1-4 this year in championship matches, and lost to Casper Ruud two weeks in San Diego 6-0, 6-2.  Meanwhile, Nikoloz has taken his last five finals, dating back to July of 2018.  With the biggest title of their careers on the line, Basilashvili is the favorite to utilize his powerful groundstrokes to secure victory.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Indian Wells Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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Grigor Dimitrov after his quarterfinal win on Thursday (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Saturday’s men’s singles semifinals are quite surprising, featuring four players ranked outside the world’s top 25.  Cam Norrie and Grigor Dimitrov will square off in the first semi, in a rematch from earlier this season in Miami.  The second semifinal is also a rematch from March of this year, as Nikoloz Basilashvili and Taylor Fritz actually played in back-to-back weeks seven months ago, during the two weeks when this tournament normally takes place.

 

Also on Saturday, the men’s and women’s doubles championship matches will be contested.  The women’s final will start the day at 11:00am local time, while the men’s final will close out play after the singles semifinals are completed.

Cameron Norrie (21) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (23)  – Not Before 1:30pm on Stadium 1

What a breakout season this has become for Cam Norrie.  The Brit is now 45-20 this year, and has been victorious in his last five semifinals.  Since his run to the final of San Diego two weeks ago, Cam has defeated four top 20 players: Shapovalov, Rublev, Bautista Agut, and Schwartzman.  Dimitrov also gained crucial momentum in San Diego, advancing to the semis and narrowly going down in defeat to eventual champion Casper Ruud.  Prior to that, 2021 had been a poor season for Grigor, as he was only 15-14.  Dimitrov’s last two wins this week were his most impressive in a long time.  He first came back from a set and two breaks down against top-seeded Medvedev, then survived a third-set tiebreak against Hubert Hurkacz.  When Norrie and Dimitrov met at the Miami Masters event in March, Cam prevailed 7-5, 7-5.  In the last round, Norrie simply walloped Diego Schwartzman 6-0, 6-2.  Based on his current level of play, I like Cam to win his sixth straight semifinal.

Nikoloz Basilashvili (29) vs. Taylor Fritz (31) – Third on Stadium 1

What a comeback Fritz staged on Friday.  Down 5-2 in the third and two match points against a red-hot Sascha Zverev, he fought back to eventually prevail in a tiebreak for what was the best and most exciting win of his career.  Taylor has now taken out three consecutive top 15 players: Zverev, Sinner, and Berrettini.  Basilashvili had compiled an up-and-down year, but when he’s on, he’s been tough to defeat.  He’s already claimed two titles this year, in Doha and Munich.  It was in Doha where Basilashvili overcame Fritz in the semifinals.  A week later, Fritz avenged that loss in Dubai, in a match decided by a third-set tiebreak.  Their only other meeting occurred four years ago in Chengdu, when Taylor won as a qualifier ranked 94th in the world.  Coming off the emotional high of his huge, thrilling victory on Friday, I expect it will be difficult for the American to recover and be at his best on Saturday.  That leaves Nikoloz with an enormous opportunity to reach the biggest final of his career, and he possesses strong groundstrokes which enable him to dictate the outcome.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Su-Wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens (2) vs. Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Rybakina – Hsieh and Mertens are looking for their second title as a team, after prevailing at Wimbledon in July.  Kudermetova and Rybakina just began teaming in August, when they reached the semifinals in Canada.

John Peers and Filip Polasek (7) vs. Aslan Karatsev and Andrey Rublev – Peers and Polasek were finalists two weeks ago in San Diego.  The Russians have won their last eight matches as a team, dating back to their title run in Qatar this past March.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Daniil Medvedev Withdraws From Moscow

Daniil Medvedev has withdrawn from Moscow as he looks to recover for the last two tournaments of the season.

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Daniil Medvedev (@BNPPARIBASOPEN - Twitter)

US Open champion Daniil Medvedev has withdrawn from his home tournament in Moscow as he looks to get fully fit for the rest of the season.

 

The world number two suffered a disappointing exit in the fourth round of Indian Wells when he lost to Grigor Dimitrov from a set and 4-1 up.

After that disappointment Medvedev has decided to take some time off and therefore withdraw from the Kremlin Cup next week in Moscow.

Citing not being at 100% the Russian will now look to be fit for the rest of the season which ends at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, “Hello everyone! I am really sad to announce that this year I won’t be participating in Kremlin cup,” Medvedev announced on his social media platforms.

“It’s always special to have a chance to play in front of Russian fans. I signed in to give myself best chances to play, but with calendar this year being extremely tough I felt that my body is not ready 100% anymore.

“This decision was very tough for me but it has to be done in order to be able to finish 2021 season strong! Thank you and see all soon!”

Medvedev will next play the last Masters 1000 event in Paris-Bercy before finishing his season in Turin as he looks to finish his historic season with a flourish.

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