Indian Wells: Women’s Singles Preview & Draw Analysis

Paula Badosa in action at the WTA Ostrava Open.
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The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California has been reinstated in its usual spot on the calendar. And the WTA stars will vie to win one of the prestigious tournaments on tour outside the four Grand Slams. Last year, Spain’s Paula Badosa stunned the tennis world by winning the biggest title of her career at the Indian Wells tennis garden. Badosa will return to defend her crown as the tournament’s fifth seed. She will be joined by Aryna Sabalenka who will lead the 96-player field in the absences of Ashleigh Barty and Barbora Krejcikova.

The Australian World No. 1 made her withdrawal from the North American hard-court swing public, citing the need to rest up and recover fully following her Australian Open triumph. Krejcikova, meanwhile, has pulled out on short notice due to recurring pain in her arm. She was the tournament’s top seed this fortnight and had an opportunity to pull closer to the No.1 ranking.

On that note let us take a look at the Indian Wells women’s singles draw in detail.

Indian Wells: Women’s Singles Preview and Draw Analysis

Top half, first quarter: Pliskova leads the top quarter and marks her official return of 2022

Karolina Pliskova is the highest-seeded player in this section following Barbora Krejcikova’s withdrawal. The Czech will start her 2022 campaign in Indian Wells after recovering from a hand injury she picked up in practice just before the Australian Open. She will play one of Jil Teichmann or Danka Kovinic in the second round. Should she emerge unscathed, the No. 28 seed Ludmilla Samsonova might be her third-round opponent.

Krejcikova’s withdrawal means that Alize Cornet will take up her spot in the top line of the draw. The wily Frenchwoman reached this year’s Australian Open quarterfinals but has not been at the races in recent weeks. Cornet has one win in four matches coming to the desert and could easily fall to Rebecca Peterson in the second round.

Elsewhere, a rejuvenated Simona Halep is another player to keep an eye on in this section. The Romanian ended her 12-month title drought at the Melbourne warm-up tournament in January and is seeded at No. 24. Halep could face American teenage sensation Coco Gauff in the third round – in a rematch of their 2019 Wimbledon showdown which effectively ended Gauff’s meteoric run at SW19 at the time.

The projected quarterfinal is Halep-Pliskova, but do not be surprised if things turn out differently. The likes of Emma Raducanu, a red-hot Dayana Yastremska, and power-hitting Ekaterina Alexandrova are loaded in this section.
Quarterfinal prediction: (7)Pliskova vs (24)Halep

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Top half, second quarter: Doha champion Swiatek aims for another WTA 1000 sweep

Iga Swiatek is the WTA’s pacesetter at this early stage of the season. She has compiled a solid 14-3 record for the year so far, having advanced to the semifinals or better in three of her four tournaments in 2022.

Swiatek won the last staging of a WTA 1000 tournament in Doha and is one of the favorites to walk away from the California desert with the trophy next weekend. The Pole has a bye in the opening round and will play one of Clara Burel or Anhelina Kalinina in her opening match.

The third seed has a projected third-round meeting against fast-rising Dane Clara Tauson. So she will need to be up to speed before then to avoid an upset. Should Swiatek survive that test, it is hard to imagine a scenario where she doesn’t make the last eight.

Swiatek’s projected quarterfinal opponent is Garbine Muguruza. But the Spaniard is unlikely to get out from a minefield that includes Australian Open semifinalist Madison Keys (likely to be her third-round opponent, Belinda Bencic and Elina Svitolina).
Quarterfinal prediction: (3)Swiatek vs (25)Keys

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Bottom half, first quarter: Badosa faces stiff competition to retain her crown

At this time last year, Paula Badosa was ranked #69 in the world and had yet to win a WTA title. She has since garnished her trophy cabinet with three titles including her biggest triumph on these shores last October.

Badosa has a bye in the first round and is projected to cruise into the fourth round if the seeds hold up. Her first major test will likely come in the form of Jelena Ostapenko, Amanda Anisimova, or Leylah Fernandez.

The little consolation for Badosa is that Anisimova and Fernadez might locks horns in the second round and she could avoid them altogether. And with Ostapenko potentially playing a crowd favorite in Shelby Rogers in the second round too, Badosa might sneak into the last eight without going under the microscope of the dangerous trio.

There is a marquee first-round match that pits two Grand Slam champions. Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens will face Naomi Osaka – a four-time Major winner.

Stephens returned to the winner’s circle in Guadalajara at the end of February. She won her first WTA title since 2018 and will be in a buoyant mood ahead of her 11th visit to Indian Wells. Osaka, meanwhile, has plenty of fond memories to draw upon from time spent on these parts. She won the 2018 title and possesses an 11-2 record in main draw matches at the tournament.

But despite both Stephens and Osaka’s hardcourt pedigrees, it is hard to look past Anett Kontaveit in this quarter. The Estonian has been destroying every ball in her sight for the past six months. Kontaveit has a seemingly favorable draw to make the fourth round and might have enough firepower to douse the challenger of either Osaka or Stephens.
Quarterfinal prediction: (5)Badosa vs (4)Kontaveit

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Bottom half, second quarter: will Sabalenka find her magic?

This has been a subpar start to the year for Aryna Sabalenka. The number two seed could meet her Dubai conqueror Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals. But both players have struggled for fitness and consistency in 2022.

Sabalenka’s serving woes shouldn’t be a major concern early doors. The Belarusian should be expected to dodge a stray of upsets, until at least the fourth round.

Kvitova comes to Indian Wells with a documented wrist problem that forced her to retire from her second-round match in Doha. Maria Sakkari is looming large in Kvitova’s corner. The Czech might struggle to hit through the agile Greek if they meet in the third round.

Last year’s finalist Victoria Azarenka will open up against one of Magda Linette or Andrea Petkovic in the second round. Then the level of competition will go up a notch. 17th seed Elena Rybakina is likely to be Azarenka’s third-round opponent.
Quarterfinal prediction: (6)Sakkari vs (17)Rybakina

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