For full draw, please click here: WTA Indian Wells Draw
Often dubbed the “fifth Slam”, the BNP Paribas Open is one of the highlights of the first quarter of the tennis season. The mixed event, played over ten days, features the best players in the world competing for one of the tour’s most prestigious hard court titles. With $5 million and 1000 ranking points on the table, high stakes tennis is guaranteed. Serena Williams and Li Na are the only top ten players missing from the 96-player draw.
The woman with the most points to defend is Victoria Azarenka. The top seed dominated the field in 2012, thrashing Maria Sharapova in the final to win her fourth tournament in a row. Azarenka will open her campaign this year against either Daniela Hantuchova or a qualifier, and is seeded to meet Kirsten Flipkens in the third round. Given that Azarenka hasn’t suffered a shock loss since 2011, none of those opponents should trouble her for too long. In the fourth round, however, things get more interesting, as a potential rematch of her controversial Australian Open semi-final with Sloane Stephens awaits. That encounter would definitely attract a lot of attention, but whether or not it will happen depends mostly on Stephens. Can the young American, who has won only one match since Melbourne, come through a section that features fellow up-and-comer Jamie Hampton and a resurgent Bethanie Mattek-Sands?
Caroline Wozniacki, the champion in Indian Wells two years ago, is the eighth seed at this year’s event, and needs a good result to build on her recent encouraging form. Like all seeds she receives a bye into the second round, where she is likely to take on Alize Cornet of France. In the third round, the Dane could run into the powerful Elena Vesnina, who she has beaten five times in six meetings. Negotiating a path to the last eight will be much tougher, however. Standing in Wozniacki’s way are two players who have caused her problems recently: Nadia Petrova, who thumped her in Sofia at the end of last year, and Julia Goerges, who has won their last three meetings. Another potential fourth round opponent worth mentioning is Britain’s Laura Robson. Finally free of the chest infection that has bothered her for months, the Londoner has a chance to boost her ranking with a solid run in Indian Wells, but she will have to get past Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson in the first round.
Predicted quarter-final: Azarenka v Wozniacki
The second highest seed in the top half of the draw is Angelique Kerber, who has dropped off the WTA radar somewhat. After a career-best season last year, the German has struggled to put together wins in 2013, and might still be suffering the after-effects of an ankle injury. That means that Heather Watson, the British number one, has an excellent opportunity to make the third round, assuming she can get past Irina-Camelia Begu in her opening match. This section of the draw is filled with solid but unspectacular players whose results tend to be inconsistent. Yanina Wickmayer, Ekaterina Makarova and Lucie Safarova are each capable of making the quarter-finals, but it would be a surprise if any of them went further.
Elsewhere, there will be a new chapter in the curious tale of Sam Stosur’s career. The Aussie, a world-beater at the 2011 US Open, hasn’t posted a major result since then, but has performed well enough here and there to maintain a top ten ranking. Having won only one match down under, her form improved somewhat in the Middle East, and she reached the quarter-finals in both Doha and Dubai. Stosur won’t have the backing of the home crowd in her opening match – she will face either Melanie Oudin or the hotly tipped Madison Keys – and could face a tricky third round opponent in Shuai Peng, the kind of consistent baseliner that can derail Stosur on a bad day. Assuming the seventh seed can get through that contest, she will probably face either Ana Ivanovic or Mona Barthel. Ivanovic, although still short of the form that led her to the top of the rankings a few years ago, usually beats lower-ranked players these days, while Barthel, whose results dipped towards the end of 2012, re-entered the conversation in emphatic fashion with victory at the Paris Indoors last month.
Predicted quarter-final: Safarova v Barthel
In the bottom half of the draw, last year’ semi-finalist Agnieszka Radwanska is seeded third, and has a relatively easy path to the quarter-finals. Although she could run into Anabel Medina Garrigues or Sorana Cristea in the third round, followed by Maria Kirilenko in the last 16, none of these women is consistent enough to trouble the ultra-steady Pole on hard courts.
The other big name in this quarter is Petra Kvitova. Had the draw been made a month ago, few would have picked the Czech to get through the first couple of rounds, so poor was her form at the beginning of the year. But in her last two tournaments, Kvitova has turned things around: she pushed Serena Williams to a 7-5 third set in Doha, and dropped only one set on her way to the title in Dubai. With a new fitness regime, and new-found confidence, the former Wimbledon champion looks to be regaining her best form. Although nothing can ever be taken for granted with Kvitova, her powerful, lefty game should be too much for the likes of Olga Govortsova and Yaroslava Shvedova in the opening rounds, setting up a potential last 16 clash with 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova. Cibulkova walloped Kvitova 6-1, 6-1 in Sydney two months ago, but the Slovakian has not performed well since then, and Kvitova will fancy her chances this time around. A last eight meeting with Radwanska would be a rematch of the quarter-final in Dubai, which the world number seven won handily.
Predicted quarter-final: Kvitova v Radwanska
Maria Sharapova, the second seed, hasn’t won a tournament since Roland Garros last year, and will be keen to see her name engraved on the trophy in Indian Wells. She will face an Italian in her first match, either former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone or Flavia Panetta, who is returning to the tour after a long injury layoff. Neither woman is in a position to challenge a fit and motivated Sharapova, and the Russian is also unlikely to be troubled by Carla Suarez Navarro, her projected opponent in the third round. In fact, barring a bad day against 14th seed Roberta Vinci, Sharapova looks to be a lock for the quarter-finals, where she will face one of several talented and tricky players.
Sara Errani, the sixth seed, has been playing a lot of tennis lately: she reached the final in Dubai and then defended her title in Acapulco last week. If she is not too fatigued, she has a good chance to live up to her seeding, but a third round clash with the powerful Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova could be one to watch. Also in this section of the draw are Jelena Jankovic, a former world number one; Svetlana Kuznetsova, a double Grand Slam champion; and Marion Bartoli, a former Wimbledon finalist. Each woman is as capable of making a deep run at the tournament as they are of falling at the first hurdle, but Kuznetsova has shown promise in 2013, reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. If she can find some of her best form in Indian Wells, she could overpower Errani and set up an intriguing last eight encounter with Sharapova.
Predicted quarter-final: Sharapova v Kuznetsova
Although Serena Williams’ absence robs the BNP Paribas Open of some star power – as well as the prospect of another chapter in her burgeoning rivalry with Victoria Azarenka – the tournament is still set to be one of the most competitive of the year. Azarenka hasn’t lost a match in 2013, and hasn’t fallen to anyone other than Serena or Sharapova since last year’s French Open. Many fans will be watching Petra Kvitova closely. The Czech is hailed by some as second only to Serena in terms of talent and raw power, and a strong result in Indian Wells could see the aforementioned “Big Three” become a “Big Four”.
Predicted semi-finals: Azarenka def. Barthel; Sharapova def. Kvitova
Champion: Victoria Azarenka