The biggest tournament outside of the slams kicks off this week with Naomi Osaka looking to defend her Indian Wells title. She beat Daria Kasatkina in the final last year, setting the tone for a stunning 12 months that now sees her enter the event as a two time slam winner and a World No.1. She will hold on to that spot if she defends the title but an early exit could open her spot up to a whole host of players.
Full draw here: Indian Wells women’s 2019 Draw
Watch the WTA Indian Wells 2019 Live Stream Here.
Osaka will have a chance to avenge her Dubai loss to Kristina Mladenovic with the Frenchwoman a potential opponent in round two. It will be interesting to see how the Australian Open champion deals with her split from coach Sascha Bajin, after the success the pair had together. It’s fair to say though that Osaka thrives on these type of hard courts though and is rightfully up there as one of the favourites after the year she has had. It should be tough from the start with Danielle Collins looking to back up her Australian Open semi final with a good run in a home tournament. Meanwhile, Belinda Bencic and Caroline Wozniacki could provide a thriller in round three. Bencic could well be on her way back to the top 10 if her Dubai title is anything to go by. She beat four top 10 players en route to victory there including Petra Kvitova in the final. Wozniacki won the first match up 6-0 6-0 but Bencic is 4-2 since, including four straight in her breakout 2015.
Karolina Pliskova should fancy her chances of making the quarter finals with a draw that could be much worse. The Czech has a title this year at Brisbane but will be disappointed to have lost to Su Wei Hsieh in her last outing in Dubai. Pliskova could go number 1 with the title but it will be a tough ask. Donna Vekic and Anastasija Sevastova are the biggest threats to her making the last 8 where she will hope to face Naomi Osaka once more. The pair had a great encounter in Australia, where the current No.1 battled to victory in three sets. Pliskova already has a win over Vekic this year, winning against the Croatian in straight sets in Brisbane.
Petra Kvitova will have the opportunity to go No.1 once more but will most likely need to win the title to have much of a chance. She matched her career high of No. 2 after the Australian Open but could have finally hit the top spot had she beat Naomi Osaka in the final. Kvitova made it two finals losses in 2019 after Belinda Bencic got the better of her in Dubai. Nonetheless, the Czech appears to be far more consistent since her return from injury and is a legit contender for the final as long as the California conditions don’t get the better of her. A second round with Venus Williams looks more eyecatching on paper than it likely will be in reality while the winner of Madison Keys and Julia Gorges projected matchup seems the biggest early threat to Kvitova. Keys will always be a big threat on her day but consistency and fitness issues have hurt her in recent times.
Aryna Sabalenka will be hoping to prove herself as a legit top player with a deep run here. The Belarussian went into the Australian Open as one of the favourites only to exit early. Sabalenka was one of Belinda Bencic’s victims in Dubai, losing a third set tiebreak in a match she really should have won. Angelique Kerber should be the perfect player to nullify Sabalenka given her defensive skills but the German has had some sketchy results recently. Winning just two games against Danielle Collins at the Australian Open was a major shock while she will be disappointed to have lost from a set up against Su Wei Hsieh in Dubai.
The third quarter looks very strong with the notable trio of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza very close together. 10th seed Williams could play the duo back to back should both players make it that far. Azarenka and Serena have always had interesting matches although the head to head is much more lopsided than it feels, given some of their thrilling matches. Azarenka is still struggling to look much like the player that was No.1 for a long time but she will hope to be inspired at the event she is a two time champion at. Muguruza could play Serena for the sixth time in their careers but it will be the first time outside of a grand slam. The Spaniard’s wins, especially the 2016 French Open final, have led to her being seen as a real star in the game. She struggled to build on her success in 2018 and early 2019, falling from No.3 to No.20 in the space of 9 months. Kiki Bertens will be looking to pounce should any of the aforementioned three falter on their way to the fourth round.
Sloane Stephens is always a contender in her home country, with her two biggest titles coming in New York and Miami respectively. She lost in the third round to eventual finalist Daria Kasaktina last year but should expect to better that this time round. Stephens is projected to play Dominika Cibulkova (3-2 H2H) in round three while one of Elise Mertens and Qiang Wang seem likely for a spot in the quarter finals. Wang won both their matches a few years back while she split matches with Mertens late last year. Wildcard Amanda Anisimova is also one to look out for after her surprise run at the Australian Open earlier in the year.
Elina Svitolina is yet to break her slam duck but has been a consistent threat in bigger tournaments as well as picking up titles in Rome and Singapore. The Ukranian is currently No.6 in the world but should move into the top 5 again with a deep run. Her first seeded opponent could be Mihaela Buzarnescu, who is spiraling down despite being a top 30 seed. The Romanian finally ended an 11 match losing streak in Acapulco which dated back to a retirement loss to Svitolina in August last year. An all-Ukraine affair could be possible with Dayana Yastremska rising up the rankings these days while Ashleigh Barty will see this quarter as an opportunity to make a deep run. A 0-4 record against Svitolina will not fill her with confidence should they beat in round four.
Last year’s losing finalist Daria Kasatkina had a fairly solid 2018, maintaining her presence inside the top 20 easily all last year. There have been some downs though, including a three match losing streak to begin the 2019 season. A loss to Sofia Kenin early in Dubai will not fill her with confidence ahead of defending a sizable number of points. It could be a battle of the young guns in round three with Jelena Ostapenko a projected opponent but it will be Simona Halep who worries the Russian more. The Romanian, who is 3-1 against Kasatkina, fell from the No.1 spot last month but can take it back with a run to the final.
SF – Naomi Osaka def. Kvitova
SF – Serena Williams def. Elina Svitolina
F – Naomi Osaka def. Serena Williams