Tuesday, 6 March 2012

WTA Indian Wells Preview and Predictions

Let's get straight down to business and have a look at the women's draw for Indian Wells... note that all 32 seeds have a BYE in round one.

QUARTER 1 - Victoria Azarenka (1) v Agnieszka Radwanska (5)
Victoria Azarenka has a challenging draw to contend with if she is to maintain her unbeaten start to 2012; however she has already shown throughout 2012 that she has the capabilities to beat everyone in her path.  Her first match at Indian Wells could be against Mona Barthel who she has already played and beaten twice this year.  In the quarter-finals, Azarenka is projected to meet Agnieszka Radwanska who she has already won three matches against this year!  In fact, they are the only matches that Radwanska has lost all season.  Svetlana Kuznetsova and Julia Goerges are both in the top section of the draw along with Azarenka.  Goerges displayed some promising form in Dubai reaching the final two weeks ago and has a favourable draw in Indian Wells.

Radwanska will meet the winner of Sorana Cirstea and Iveta Benesova in the second round.  Both Cirstea and Benesova have shown some good form in 2012 so it will be a tough early test for Radwanska, but one I would expect her to prevail.  Radwanska may have to get past Jelena Jankovic again in the 4th round, who she defeated in a three set semi-final in Dubai.  The other two seeds in this section are Yanina Wickmayer and Flavia Pennetta but I don't see either having much opportunities for advancing past the 4th round.

QF Prediction - I think that the majority of this quarter will go with seeding so no surprises that i'm going for Victoria Azarenka against Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarter-finals.

Dark Horse - I have a soft spot for Carla Suarez Navarro's exciting game and I fancy her to beat Flavia Pennetta in the second round.

1st round matches to watch out for - The two matches that caught my eye were at the bottom of this section; I have already mentioned Sorana Cirstea against Iveta Benesova, but I also like the look of the match between Tsvetana Pironkova and Carla Suarez Navarro who both have exciting variety to their games.

QUARTER 2 - Petra Kvitova (3) v Li Na (8)
Petra Kvitova and Li Na have both played little tennis since the Australian Open due to injury and are defending few points from Indian Wells last year so it is a great opportunity to gain ranking points.  Kvitova will play either Barbara Zahlavova Strycova or Ayumi Morita in the second round.  Kvitova in fact lost to Zahlavova Strycova at Indian Wells last year; however she is a much more consistent player compared to a year ago and although she has never performed well in the US, I think she will at least get through a few rounds.  

I think Kvitova will fall in the 4th round where the Paris champion, Angelique Kerber looms in the draw.  There are a number of good players in this section such as Christina McHale, Sara Errani and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who all have the potential to do well; however I think it will be Kerber who will shine through.  Pavlyuchenkova, who has had a terrible start to this year seems to have been training hard in the last week with Steffi Graf as part of an Adidas project so I hope she can win at least a round!

Li Na will play Galina Voskoboeva or Marina Erakovic in the second round before a potential all-Chinese clash with Zheng Jie in the third round.  Another interesting match that could await in the third round is between the number 9 seed, Vera Zvonareva and number 19 seed, Daniela Hantuchova.  Zvonareva has been dropping ranking points fast this year, meanwhile Hantuchova appears to be moving in the opposite direction pulling together some impressive results.  I fancy Hantuchova to have another great run at Indian Wells (she has won it on two previous occasions) and she for sure, has the beating of both Zvonareva and Li if she is on song.

QF Prediction - The second section is packed with talented players and I don't think either Kvitova or Li will reach this stage... instead i'm predicting Angelique Kerber and Daniela Hantuchova to face off in the quarter-finals.

Dark Horse - Daniela Hantuchova and Angelique Kerber are my dark horses, but I would also look at Zheng Jie having a shot at beating Li Na if she can get past round one... after a great start in Australia, Zheng's form has dipped with first round losses in her last three tournaments so she will need a big effort to reverse that trend!

First round matches to watch out for - The first round match between Vania King and Sara Errani should be interesting; King has had a few weeks off with injury, but has been steadily improving throughout the last year or two.  Errani is having an excellent 2012 so far having reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open and winning last week's tournament in Acapulco... the winner will fancy their chances against an out-of-form Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
QUARTER 3 - Marion Bartoli (7) v Caroline Wozniacki (4)
There is always one quarter that looks to be wide open and without doubt, it is this one! This is a crucial tournament for Wozniacki who is defending the title and could easily move out of the world's top five with a poor performance.  Thankfully for her, the draw has been relatively kind to her.  Ekaterina Makarova or Bethanie Mattek-Sands will be her first opponent in the second round before potentially, Monica Niculescu in the third round.  Ana Ivanovic and Peng Shuai are set to meet in the third round in this section for a chance to play Wozniacki.  Ivanovic has managed to consistently beat lower ranker opponents, but has yet to show up in the matches against tougher opposition.  She could get another opportunity at changing that if she and Wozniacki were to meet in the 4th round...  

Bartoli has played a lot of tennis in the last couple of weeks but being knocked out early in Dubai, should mean she is fresh for Indian Wells where she reached the final last year.  Her first projected seed is Kaia Kanepi in the third round and then Francesca Schiavone in the 4th round.  Schiavone, who lost her first round matches in Dubai and Doha, will play a qualifier or Shahar Peer in the second round.  Surprisingly, Peer has a 4-1 head-to-head record over the Italian including a win last year in Indian Wells.  Lucie Safarova is also in this section and is projected to meet the winner of Schiavone and Peer in the third round.

QF Prediction - I think Marion Bartoli and Caroline Wozniacki will both make the quarter-finals and set up a rematch of last year's final.

Dark Horses - Lucie Safarova has a great chance of reaching at least the 4th round with her draw.  Peng Shuai looks vulnerable in 2012, which could spring a chance for Ksenia Pervak to make a name for herself.

First round matches to watch out for - There are a number of qualifiers in this section so there are not many confirmed first round matches yet! Ekaterina Makarova against Bethanie Mattek Sands has three sets written all over it...

QUARTER 4 - Sam Stosur (6) v Maria Sharapova (2)
Maria Sharapova has a pretty straightforward draw so I would expect her to go far this week.  She will play the winner of Gisela Dulko and Jelena Dokic in the second round.  The penultimate section is one of the weakest sections of the draw with the two seeds being the out-of-form, Dominika Cibulkova and crafty Italian, Roberta Vinci.

The top half of this quarter looks much more exciting on paper and I have no idea why, but I think Sam Stosur will fall relatively early in Indian Wells.  She has some tricky opponents to get past in her draw starting with a second round match against Irina Falconi or Alexandra Dulgheru.  In the third and fourth rounds, she is projected to meet Nadia Petrova and Sabine Lisicki; because of this strength of this section, I fancy some upsets.  Petra Martic, who impressed in reaching the final of Kuala Lumpur should have the beating of a woefully out-of-form Petrova.  Sabine Lisicki, who is defending no points from Indian Wells last year could face an intriguing third round match against Maria Kirilenko...

QF Prediction - I'm not seeing any potential upsets along the way for Maria Sharapova so I think she will make the quarters without too many problems.  The other name is a really difficult one, but i'm going to go for a surprise and say, Maria Kirilenko.

Dark Horses - Maria Kirilenko is my dark horse in this section.  She has a difficult, but achievable draw with Sabine Lisicki and Sam Stosur her first two projected seeds.  She has a 2-0 head-to-head record over Lisicki and won her last two matches against Stosur in Beijing and Tokyo last year.  She has to get past her first match though ;-) I would also look out for Petra Martic and Simona Halep to upset seeded opponents and make the third round.

FINAL PREDICTIONS - Victoria Azarenka d. Maria Sharapova
I'm not being original this week because I have gone for a final clash between the top two players in the world.  Azarenka has a tough draw, but she has shown this year that she has the beating of everyone on the WTA tour and she will be well rested after skipping Dubai.  Sharapova has a favourable draw and barring an upset in the early rounds, I am confident she will make the final.  Indian Wells should be a very exciting week although the tournament in Miami could be even better with Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams and Alisa Kleybanova all set to return!

I am currently in the process of doing my full predictions so I will add them here and put a link at the top of the page too.  I will wait for all the qualifiers to be officially added to the draw.

Unfortunately I am a bit short on time at the moment now that I am working so i'm not sure if I will have time to write an ATP preview :-( I hope to watch some tennis soon although the WTA coverage does not start on Eurosport until Sunday... anyway, I will keep you posted on how the draw unfolds!

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