Indian Wells Daily Preview: US Open Finalists Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez Return to Action - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Daily Preview: US Open Finalists Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez Return to Action

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Emma Raducanu speaking to the press earlier this week (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

One month after their shocking runs to the championship match of the US Open, teenagers Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez will play their first singles matches since that thrilling fortnight.  Emma will headline the night session on Stadium 1 alongside fellow Brit Andy Murray, who reached the final here in 2009.  Yet this remains one of two Masters 1000 events he has never won. 

 

This will be a unique fall version of the BNP Paribas Open, being staged for the first time since March of 2019.  In the absence of “The Big Three,” as well as the men’s defending champion Dominic Thiem, we are guaranteed to crown a new men’s singles champion.  Defending women’s champion Bianca Andreescu is in the draw, but she is a mere 5-8 since Roland Garros.  And with no Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, or Ash Barty in Indian Wells, will the women’s draw have startling results as it did in New York?

The WTA singles draw will be one day ahead of the ATP throughout the fortnight.  The women’s second round begins on Friday, with seeded players (who receive a first round bye) playing their opening matches.  The men’s seeds will start to play on Saturday.

Indian Wells also provides some of the best doubles draws of the season, as the two-week schedule, as well as the best-of-three format, encourage many top singles players to enter.  Fridays sees three of the ATP’s top 15 players all in one first round doubles contest.

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

Emma Raducanu (17) vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich – Not Before 6:00pm on Stadium 1

Raducanu’s US Open triumph is still hard to comprehend.  Ranked 150th in the world, she came through qualifying to win 10 consecutive matches without dropping a set.  A month after that life-changing event, having returned back home to Great Britain and realizing her newfound international stardom, how will she respond in her return to the court?  That’s difficult to predict, but this should be a rather comfortable opponent for Emma.  While Sasnovich was a top 30 player in 2018, she’s now ranked 100th in the world.  And she does not possess the groundstrokes, confidence, or poise of Raducanu.  The 18-year-old is a favorite to continue her winning ways.

Leylah Fernandez (23) vs. Alize Cornet – Not Before 8:00pm on Stadium 2

Leylah’s run in New York was much more complicated than Emma’s, and perhaps even more impressive despite its bitter ending.  The Canadian claimed four consecutive three-setters, with three victories over top five opposition, and the other over three-time Major champion Angelique Kerber.  However, Cornet could prove to be a bit too much for Fernandez is she suffers a letdown in form.  Alize has accumulated 3 considerable upset ssince June, twice defeating Bianca Andreescu, while also beating Garbine Muguruza.  The French veteran also reached a final two months ago in Chicago.  She’s made a career out of upsetting top players, and would love to take out the US Open finalist.  Most crucially, the crowd on Friday evening at Stadium 2 will likely be not as full or as raucous as the audiences Leylah fed off of in New York.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Iga Swiatek (2) vs. Petra Martic – Swiatek has become one of the WTA’s most consistent performers, as she’s the only player to reach the second week of all four Majors this season.  Martic arrived in the desert having lost five of her last six matches.

Rohan Bopanna and Denis Shapovalov vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz – Shapovalov and Bopanna have now teamed together for years, while Felix and Hubi won last November’s Paris Masters as a team.

Simona Halep (11) vs. Marta Kostyuk – Halep won this event back in 2015.  Kostyuk is a 19-year-old from Ukraine who reached the fourth round of this year’s French Open.

Belinda Bencic (8) vs. Shelby Rogers – Bencic had to retire just last week in Chicago due to a knee injury.  Rogers upset Barty in New York, and then upset Andreescu in Chicago.

Adrian Mannarino vs. Andy Murray (WC) – Since his untimely injury while ahead of Roger Federer at Wimbledon, Mannarino has only won one match.  Murray has been playing a lot of tennis: this is his seventh event in the last two months, though he’s only gone 6-6.

Jessica Pegula (19) vs. Sloane Stephens – This will be the first meeting between these two Americans.  Stephens required nearly three hours to overcome Heather Watson on Wednesday.

Friday’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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