Indian Wells Women’s Draw Talking Points: Swiatek Eyes Historic Defence As Jabeur Returns After Surgery - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Women’s Draw Talking Points: Swiatek Eyes Historic Defence As Jabeur Returns After Surgery

Who will be taking home the women’s title this year?

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Image via Australian Open twitter

Women’s tennis does tend to be known for its unpredictability but will this be the case at Indian Wells?

Two months into the season and there has already been a string of fascinating stories ranging from Aryna Sabalenka winning her first Grand Slam title to Iga Swiatek storming to the Doha title by dropping five games in three matches played. 

So what should tennis fans expect in Indian Wells? Here are five topics you should keep a close eye on. 

1) Swiatek eyes title defence

In 2022 Iga Swiatek surged to the title by dropping only three sets in six matches played. Her triumph occurred in the middle of her 37-match winning streak. Since then, the Pole has added to her title tally by winning another seven tournaments, including the French Open for a second time and the US Open. 

This year has been another solid start to the season for Swiatek who has won nine out of 11 matches played in WTA events (excluding the United Cup). Her only defeats were to Elena Rybakina in the fourth round of the Australian Open and to Barbora Krejcikova in the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships. She won the Qatar Open last month. 

Should Swiatek prevail in Indian Wells once again she would become the first female player in over 30 years to successfully defend her title. The only person to have ever done so was Martina Navratilova who won the title in 1990 and 1991. 

2) The return of Ons Jabeur 

Ons Jabeur will be returning to action in the Californian desert but what form is she currently in?

The Tunisian hasn’t played since her second round exit at the Australian Open after opting to miss the Middle East swing of the Tour to have minor surgery. She is yet to publicly comment on the procedure and it is still unclear as to why she needed to have it. 

After suffering a second round exit in Indian Wells last year, Jabeur has a golden opportunity to pick up some ranking points as she bids to one day fulfil her dream of becoming world No.1. As it currently stands, she is ranked fourth in the world and is more than 500 points behind Jessica Pegula who is above her. 

Jabeur is in the second section of the draw and will open up her campaign against either Lauren Davis or Maryna Zanevska. She could then play Marie Bouzkova in the third round followed by former champion Victoria Azarenka. 

3) Pegula, Gauff carrying home hopes

Over the past two decades, there have been plenty of American players who have impressed on the WTA Tour. However, the last time a home player won Indian Wells was 22 years ago when Serena Williams claimed the 2001 title. 

World No.3 Pegula is the highest-ranked American in the draw and the last player from her country to win a WTA 1000 event which was the Guadalajara Open back in November. Remarkably it was 11 years ago when she made her main draw debut in Indian Wells after receiving a wild card into the qualifying draw where she won two matches. Since then, her best run at the tournament was to the quarter-finals in 2021. 

French Open finalist Coco Gauff will be making her third appearance in the draw after reaching the last 32 on her two previous attempts. Gauff has already won one title this year which was at the ASB Classic and was also runner-up to Swiatek in Dubai last month. 

There are two other American players seeded in the draw which are Madison Keys (19) and Amanda Anisimova (31). 

4) All eyes are on Sabalenka

This time last year Sabalenka was struggling with her problematic serve and was frustrated with a lack of consistency in her tennis. However, she has turned a new leaf this season. After working with her coach and a data analytics expert on her serve, the Belarusian is one of the most consistent players on the Tour after winning 13 out of her past 14 matches. The only player to beat her was Krejcikova in Dubai. 

The question is can she keep her run in fine form going? Sabalenka is yet to go beyond the fourth round of the tournament and lost her opening match to Jasmine Paolini last year. Although on the flip side, she could gain a hefty amount of points if she goes deep in the draw. 

In Sabalenka’s section, she will take on either Alize Cornet or Evgeniya Rodina in her opening match. Then it is possible that she could face last week’s Monterrey Open champion Donna Vekic followed by a rematch with Krejcikova. 

5) Caroline Garcia’s recent frustrations

The last time Caroline Garcia played a tournament in America she won the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals last November. Since then, the Frenchwoman has experienced a somewhat frustrating journey on the Tour. 

She has reached the quarter-final stage or better at four out of her past six tournaments, as well as reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open. Twice she has come close to claiming silverware. In Lyon, she was defeated in the final by Alicia Parks who many are tipping to be the next big thing in American tennis. More recently, in Monterrey, she narrowly missed out on the trophy after losing to Vekic in three sets. In the decider, Garcia had eight break point chances but didn’t convert any. 

“Terribly tired, physically and mentally, leaving to the airport in 6h but I can’t fall asleep, I am “afraid” to go to sleep. My mind is going crazy,” Garcia wrote on her Instagram story after losing to Vekic.
“Every time I switch off the lights and put my head on the pillow, I can rewatch my match – that serve catching the lines on break point or that easy forehand missed or that bad choice …Tennis can drive you crazy a little bit.” 

Historically Garcia has reached the fourth round in Indian Wells on three separate occasions. However, overall she has won only nine matches out of 17 played in the main draw of the tournament. 

Could this year be her year? 

The full women’s draw can be viewed HERE

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Emma Raducanu Confident Of Full Fitness Ahead Of Grass Swing

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has no regrets about her decision to skip the French Open and now believes she is in a ‘really fit place’ ahead of Wimbledon. 

The former US Open champion opted to end her clay season earlier than other players to focus on fitness and training with her coach. Raducanu stated earlier this year that her primary focus in 2024 is on her health after undergoing a series of wrist and ankle surgeries last year which sidelined her for months. 

Raducanu will return to action this week at the Nottingham Open, which is the event where she made her WTA main draw debut back in 2021. Despite her lack of match play in recent weeks, the Brit is feeling good and relishing her return to the grass.

“Body-wise, physical-wise, I feel really healthy,” she said on Monday.
“I’ve done amazing work with my trainer over the last few months, since surgery. I’m in a really fit place. I’m healthy and just looking forward to starting playing.”

Shedding more light on her health, Raducanu says she has full confidence in her wrists and believes they are in top condition. Making her feel more at ease when playing matches on the Tour. 

“I think my wrists are actually in a better position than they ever were. So there’s zero doubt or apprehension whether I’m hitting the ball or designing my schedule,” she explained.
“It’s more about being proactive and not wanting to put yourself in any unnecessary situations. I don’t need to rush and try to win the French Open, it wasn’t my goal this year.
“I had to prioritise where I wanted to target and it was just a good block for me to get some physical work done.”

Raducanu has played seven WTA events so far this season with her best run being to the quarter-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she was beaten by world No.1 Iga Swiatek. The 21-year-old is currently ranked 209th in the world. 

At the Nottingham Open, she will play her first match on Tuesday against Japanese qualifier Ena Shibahara. 

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Russian World No.78 Elina Avanesyan To Switch Nationalities

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A week after losing her fourth round match at the French Open, a government minister has confirmed that Elina Avanesyan is in the process of changing the nationality of who she plays for. 

The 21-year-old is switching her aligence from Russia to Armenia, according to Armenia’s deputy Minister of International Affairs and communication. Karen Giloyan has told the news agency Armenpress that Avanesyan will soon be representing his country. However, the tennis player has yet to comment on the matter.  Avanesyan was born in Russia but has Armenian parents.

“Elina Avanesyan will compete under the Armenian flag, but there is nothing official yet. We are waiting for her to get the citizenship of the Republic of Armenia so that everything will be official,” Giloyan told Armenpress.

Such a development would be a massive coup for the Armenian tennis federation which currently doesn’t have a player ranked inside the top 500 on either the men’s or women’s Tour. The country has a population of less than 3M. Perhaps their best-known player is Sargis Sargsian who reached the top 40 back in 2004. Others on the Tour also have Armenian heritage but don’t represent the country such as Karen Khachanov.  

Avanesyan is currently ranked 78th in the world, which is 18 places below her career high. This season, she has scored high-profile wins over Maria Sakkari at the Australian Open, Ons Jabeur in Charleston and Qinwen Zhang at the French Open. 

She has yet to play in the final of a WTA tournament.

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Iga Looks To Be In A league All to Herself At Paris

Iga Swiatek claimed her fourth Roland Garros title in Paris.

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(@Eurosport - Twitter)

Just call her Iga. No other identification is needed.

As the years go by, Iga’s notoriety is sure to grow.

She’s probably already earned a spot in tennis’ Hall of Fame.

Yes, Iga Swiatek is a name to remember. A hero in her native Poland, a superstar in the world of sports.

IGA WAS JUST TOO GOOD

Iga just added to her stardom Saturday with an impressive 6-2, 6-1 victory over little-known Italian Jasmine Paolini to win her third straight French Open title. This was Paolini’s chance to make a name for herself, but she didn’t have the game to make it happen.

Iga was just too good. She made it look too easy.

Paolini could hit some great ground strokes, but when she looked up a bigger shot was on its way back. Iga doesn’t look like a power hitter, but she is.

WINNING 10 CONSECUTIVE GAMES

The 23-year-old Polish Wonder finished the first set winning five straight games, then started the second set winning five more games in succession. The 28-year-old Paolini didn’t seem to have a clue on how to upend Swiatek.

It took just 78 minutes for Iga to win her fifth Grand Slam title.

She’s a lot like her French Open hero, Rafa Nadal.

She takes every match seriously.

SWIATEK OWNS THE RED CLAY

No wonder Iga owns a 35-2 record at Roland Garos. Or that she has won 21 straight matches. Or that she owns a 5-0 record in Grand Slam finals.

She only dominated opponents, except for Naomi Osaka in the second round. Swiatek escaped a match point in that one and didn’t look back.

Iga’s game should be just as superb on the green grass of upcoming Wimbledon.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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