After two and half years, the BNP Paribas Open is back. This prestigious WTA tournament has a new spot on the 2021 tennis calendar. It will also be the last event of the WTA 1000 series to take place this season. Some of the biggest WTA stars–including World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalneka, and Naomi Osaka–will be missing the showpiece event. But there will be no shortage of star power, as new US Open champion Emma Raducanu is poised to make her much-anticipated return to action. On that note, here is how we expect the draw to unfold in the next two weeks.
Indian Wells: Women’s Preview and Draw Analysis
Main draw @BNPPARIBASOPEN, where Karolina Pliskova, Iga Swiatek, Barbora Krejcikova, and Elina Svitolina are the top seeds.
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) October 5, 2021
Top half, first quarter: Pliskova lands in a tough section featuring defending champion Andreescu
Karolina Pliskova was instilled as the top seed this fortnight. That was as a result of Barty’s withdrawal due to a change of schedule, and Sabalenka’s absence for testing positive for COVID-19.
Pliskova has an impressive record in the desert despite failing to win the title in her decade-long career. She has not lost a match before the Round of 16 since 2015 whilst also making back-to-back semifinals in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
However, the new World No. 3 has a battle on her hands to make another deep run at the Indian Wells tennis garden. She has a bye in the opening round and will open up against the winner between Saisai Zheng and Caty McNally. Her projected third-round opponent could be Argentina’s No. 1 Nadia Podoroska.
Assuming Pliskova will stave off those challenges, there is a potential fourth-rounder against possibly the defending champion Bianca Andreescu. In completed matches, Andreescu has a 1-0 lead in the series, winning the pair’s meeting in Toronto in 2019.
But the Canadian World No. 21 could have her hands full against Ostrava champion Anett Kontaveit – her projected third-round opponent. The Estonian is in top form, but there is a huge fitness concern after withdrawing from last week’s tournament in Chicago due to a thigh injury. Maybe this could be the tournament that sparks Andreescu into life.
Moving on, 12th seed Ons Jabeur could throw a spanner in the works in this section. Granted the Tunisian might feel a little fatigued after her long week in Chicago (losing the final to Garbine Muguruza), she might have enough gas in the tank for now.
Jabeur has a bye in the first round and will play one of Sevastova or Polona Hercog in the second. But the prospect of potentially facing Danielle Collins thereafter might not sit well with Tunisia’s dropshot machine.
Other names to watch out for in this section include Maria Sakkari (celebrating her Top 10 debut), Marketa Vondrousova, and Sara Sorribes Tormo. Sakkari and Vondrousova could actually play each other as early as the second round.
Quarterfinal prediction: Andreescu (16) vs Collins (22)
Top half, second quarter: Chicago champion Muguruza leads the charge
Garbine Muguruza is fresh from a title win in Chicago. The Spanish baseliner is now eyeing a second WTA 1000 title after her Dubai triumph earlier this season. But Muguruza could run into another meeting against her US Open conqueror, Barbora Krejcikova, in the quarterfinals.
Muguruza will certainly look to serve up some old-fashioned revenge but has a tough path to reach the last eight. She will likely open up against Ajla Tomljanovic and then possibly Tamara Zidansek. The likes of Angelique Kerber and 2018 finalist Daria Kasatkina could be the speedbumps she will encounter.
Krejcikova, for her part, has a slew of big-hitters. Montreal champion Camila Giorgi, Paula Badosa, and Coco Gauff are all lurking in her section of the draw–all of whom have the firepower to author an upset.
Quarterfinal prediction: Krejcikova (3) vs Muguruza (5)
Bottom half, third quarter: All eyes will be on US Open champion Emma Raducanu
Emma Raducanu is set to play in her first tournament since winning the 2021 US Open in the most staggering fashion. The British No. 1 will be keen to check off more milestones before the end of the season. She has a realistic chance of qualifying for the WTA finals in Guadalajara. And dare I say it, another title success this fortnight completely changes the landscape of the WTA Race.
Raducanu is a wild card entrant, but she wouldn’t have needed one anyway. She will begin her Indian Wells campaign against one of Maria Camila Osorio Serrano or Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Then there will be a potential third-rounder against Simona Halep – a player she idolized while growing up.
Halep and Raducanu are without coaches. The Romanian parted ways with Darren Cahill after six years together, while Raducanu split with Andrew Richardson after a short tenure in New York.
There could be a veteran’s third-round clash in this section. Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka are on collision course. The head-to-head between them is 5-3 in Kvitova’s favor but tied 2-2 on hard courts. Should the seedings hold up, the winner of Kvitova-Azarenka will face one of Halep or Raducanu.
Moving on, there will be plenty of American interest here with Jessica Pegula, Sloane Stephens, Ann Li, and Ashlyn Krueger all slotted in this quarter. It is pertinent to note, Krueger is the youngest player in the women’s singles draw. The 17-year-old Texas native won the US Open junior doubles title alongside compatriot Robin Montgomery but faces a tough first-round match against the tattooed Czech Tereza Martincova. The winner will face fourth seed Elina Svitolina.
Quarterfinal prediction: Raducanu (17) vs Svitolina (4)
Bottom half, fourth quarter: Swiatek looks to lock in her place at the WTA Finals
Iga Swiatek, the #2 seed, will need to be at her best this week. The Pole is yet to secure her place at the season-ending WTA championships. As many as six players are breathing down her neck in the WTA Race. She has a bye in the first round and could face Petra Martic in her Indian Wells bout.
Swiatek could then play Veronika Kudermetova in the third round. However, the Russian might need to douse the challenge of Ludmilla Samsonova before that.
Swiatek’s projected quarterfinal opponent could be Switzerland’s finest, Belinda Bencic. Bencic has made five straight quarterfinals at WTA tournaments after capturing the Olympics gold medal in Tokyo.
Quarterfinal prediction: Swiatek (2) vs Bencic (8)
Main Photo from Getty.