Indian Wells Preview and Prediction: Comebacks are king in WTA draw
RealSport preview the WTA Indian Wells tournament, where a number of top names are making their returns to the game after lengthy absences.
One of the most coveted WTA crowns is due to be contested over the next week and a half at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in the Californian desert. Larry Ellison, the American tech billionaire, has worked hard to create a top tier tennis event and, alongside recently installed tournament director Tommy Haas, he looks to have succeeded. Almost all of the top names in the women’s game have made the trip and an excellent week of tennis looks to be in store. But who will walk away triumphant?
The draw is led by top seeded Simona Halep. The Romanian has had a promising start to the year, although she has suffered setbacks. Halep played some fine tennis en route to the Australian Open final, only to be denied her first Major by Caroline Wozniacki in a thrilling final. She also lost her #1 ranking to the Dane in that match, but reclaimed it following Wozniacki’s loss in the Qatar Open semifinals. She would no doubt love to put the seal on her return to the top of the rankings with a title, and on the slow hard courts of Indian Wells she has a good chance to do that.
The second seed is reigning Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki. The world #2 has surely put many of her demons to bed by winning her first Major title, and has been in excellent form so far this season. She has a record of 15 wins against just 3 defeats and also has a good record at Indian Wells to draw on. She won the title in California in 2011 and has made two other finals, in 2010 and 2013. Last year, she was downed in the quarterfinals by Mladenovic but must be confident of improving on that.
Muguruza is seeded third in Indian Wells. The Wimbledon champion crashed out early in Melbourne, losing in the second round to Hsieh Su-wei. But her form picked up in Qatar where she made the final, losing in three sets to Kvitova. She then made the semis in Dubai and will surely feel her best form isn’t far away. Seeded fifth is Karolina Pliskova whose form has slumped since a strong start Down Under. She will be looking to get back on track in Indian Wells.
French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is the sixth seed. Since her stunning victory in Paris she has generally performed consistently but has arguably not made the step up to become a contender. But she has the power to trouble anyone on her day. Rounding out the top eight seeds are Caroline Garcia and Venus Williams. The pair have vastly different levels of experience, but both could conceivably put together a challenge for the title in California.
Outside the top eight seeds are a number of big names. Serena Williams, unquestionably one of the greatest of all time, is unseeded after being absent from the Tour due to her pregnancy. But whilst she lacks match sharpness, she has been a dominant force on Tour for almost her entire career and can’t be discounted. Also returning after a period of maternity leave is Victoria Azarenka. The two-time Australian Open champion has endured a difficult time lately off-court due to a custody battle, but her return to the tennis world is a welcome one.
First round matches to watch
Surely the most eagerly anticipated first round match sees Serena Williams face off against Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas. Normally, one would expect a routine victory for the 23-time Major champion against Diyas, who has reached as high as 31st in the world and has won one WTA title. But with the state of Serena Williams game unclear, interest is understandably high in her first competitive match since the 2017 Australian Open final.
The match between former Slam semifinalists Ekaterina Makarova and Kirsten Flipkens also looks entertaining on paper. Makarova, once the world’s eighth best player in singles is also a three time Slam champion in doubles. Flipkens has also enjoyed some success in doubles, making the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. Both are naturally aggressive players and control of the forecourt is likely to be crucial in deciding this match.
The presence of Serena Williams in the draw makes this a hard tournament to call. But talented as the American is, its hard to see winning such a prestigious event in her first tournament in over year. But Caroline Wozniacki should have a good chance to pick up her second Indian Wells title. The slow court conditions suit her and she has been in excellent form for most of this year, despite losing the #1 ranking to Halep. Expect it to be another great week for the Dane.
Who do you think will lift the title in Indian Wells? Let us know in the comments below!