Mastering the Art of Being Swell in Indian Wells
It's time to head for the desert. Great backdrops are NOT optional.
A year ago, as everyone convened in Indian Wells, we were talking about suspensions and meldonium at the start of the fortnight, then sexist comments made by the tournament director at the conclusion. There will surely be SOMETHING unforeseen injected into the discussion over the next two weeks, but as the first event in the bi-coastal North American hard court swing that consumes the March calendar blasts the season into the springtime portion of the schedule, we've actually got GOOD things to toss around.
From the returns of Serena Williams and Madison Keys, to the attempts by the likes of Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svito-
(Wait, what? Oh, for crap's sake.)
Of course, with Serena "defending" finalist points from a year ago, this means...
Serena's withdrawal means Angelique Kerber will reclaim the #1 ranking after Indian Wells.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 7, 2017
Serena didn't play a match in this stint at #1.
Like I said, there's always something.
Now, where was I?
From the returns of Simona Halep and Madison Keys, to the attempts by the likes of Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina to maintain their post-Melbourne glow. From Venus Williams' follow-up to her throwback performance Down Under, to (now) former (but soon to be again) #1 Angelique Kerber's efforts to get her season on the straight and narrow, Indian Wells is rife with juicy storylines to ponder and watch play out.
By the time we're finished, hopefully, not too many bodies will be strewn acorss the various courts, outlined in tennis balls, waiting for a proper investigation into the crime(s) that resulted in such carnage.
But it seems par for the course that there will be at least a few.
...1-6/6-3/7-6(5). Ozaki trailed 5-1 in the 3rd, then strung together five straight games to serve for the match at 6-5. Naturally, she was broken. But she won the deciding breaker. Her "reward?" Countrywoman Naomi Osaka in the 1st Round.
2. Q1 - Sachia Vickery def. Elise Mertens
...6-2/2-6/7-6(4). The last time these two met, Week 2 in Hobart, Vickery "won" the battle to retire from their match in the opening games, meaning the Bannerette was able to head to Melbourne for AO qualifying, while the Belgian had to stick around for the rest of the tournament. Vickey didn't make it to the MD in Melbourne, but Mertens -- "forced" to play on and skip the AO -- went on to win her maiden tour singles title. Here, in a plotline reversal, both WANTED TO WIN, but both nearly lost. Mertens battled back from 5-2 down in the 3rd to force a deciding TB, only to lose it. Vickery lost her next match.
3. Q2 - Jacqueline Cako def. Natalia Viklyantseva
...4-6/6-4/6-4. The Russian has had a difficult time following up her surprise run in Saint Petersburg. Here, she led 6-4/3-2, up a break, only to fall to the wild card Bannerette.
4. Q2 - Magda Linette def. Nao Hibino
...6-1/7-6(9). Kudos to both for scurrying from their runs in Malaysia to make it on time for I.W. qualifying. These two met in the Kuala Lumpur semifinal this weekend, with Hibino getting the win. The Pole flipped the script this time.
5. Q2 - Francesca Schiavone def. Elitsa Kostova
...1-6/6-0/6-0. Almost a "classic" scoreline, but proof that the soon-to-depart Italian won't be going away without winning a few more fights.
6. Q1 - Varvara Lepchenko def. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova
...6-1/6-3. Oh, Schmiedy.
7. Q1 - Mona Barthel def. Maria Sanchez 6-2/7-5
Q1 - Anette Kontaveit def. Claire Liu 6-2/6-1
...on Sunday, Sanchez defeated Liu in the final of the pre-qualifying Challenge tournament to earn a WC berth into the Q-rounds. As it turned out, Liu got a WC into qualifying, anyway. Neither won a match. Meanwhile, Barthel and Kontaveit both won a second match to reach the MD.
**INDIAN WELLS FINALS**
1989 Manuela Maleeva/BUL d. Jenny Byrne/AUS
1990 Martina Navratilova/USA d. Helena Sukova/TCH
1991 Martina Navratilova/USA d. Monica Seles/YUG
1992 Monica Seles/YUG d. Conchita Martinez/ESP
1993 Mary Joe Fernandez/USA d. Amanda Coetzer/RSA
1994 Steffi Graf/GER d. Amanda Coetzer/RSA
1995 Mary Joe Fernandez/USA d. Natasha Zvereva/BLR
1996 Steffi Graf/GER d. Conchita Martinez/ESP
1997 Lindsay Davenport/USA d. Irina Spirlea/ROU
1998 Martina Hingis/SUI d. Lindsay Davenport/USA
1999 Serena Williams/USA d. Steffi Graf/GER
2000 Lindsay Davenport/USA d. Martina Hingis/SUI
2001 Serena Williams/USA d. Kim Clijsters/BEL
2002 Daniela Hantuchova/SVK d. Martina Hingis/SUI
2003 Kim Clijsters/BEL d. Lindsay Davenport/USA
2004 Justine Henin/BEL d. Lindsay Davenport/USA
2005 Kim Clijsters/BEL d. Lindsay Davenport/USA
2006 Maria Sharapova/RUS d. Elena Dementieva/RUS
2007 Daniela Hantuchova/SVK d. Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
2008 Ana Ivanovic/SRB d. Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
2009 Vera Zvonareva/RUS d. Ana Ivanovic/SRB
2010 Jelena Jankovic/SRB d. Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
2011 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN d. Marion Bartoli/ITA
2012 Victoria Azarenka/BLR d. Maria Sharapova/RUS
2013 Maria Sharapova/RUS d. Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
2014 Flavia Pennetta/ITA d. Aga Radwanska/POL
2015 Simona Halep/ROU d. Jelena Jankovic/SRB
2016 Victoria Azarenka/BLR d. Serena Williams/USA
1989 Hana Mandlikova & Pam Shriver
1990 Jana Novotna & Helena Sukova
1991 FINAL RAINED OUT
1992 Claudia Kohde-Kilsch & Stephanie Rehe
1993 Rennae Stubbs & Helena Sukova
1994 Lindsay Davenport & Lisa Raymond
1995 Lindsay Davenport & Lisa Raymond
1996 Chanda Rubin & Brenda Schultz-McCarthy
1999 Marthina Hingis & Anna Kournikova
2000 Lindsay Davenport & Corina Morariu
2001 Nicole Arendt & Ai Sugiyama
2002 Lisa Raymond & Rennae Stubbs
2003 Lindsay Davenport & Lisa Raymond
2004 Virginia Ruano Pascual & Paola Suarez
2005 Virginia Ruano Pascual & Paola Suarez
2006 Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur
2007 Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur
2008 Dinara Safina & Elena Vesnina
2009 Victoria Azarenka & Vera Zvonareva
2010 Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik
2011 Sania Mirza & Elena Vesnina
2012 Liezel Huber & Lisa Raymond
2013 Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina
2014 Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai
2015 Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza
2016 Bethanie Mattek-Sands & CoCo Vandeweghe
**MOST INDIAN WELLS FINALS**
6...Lindsay Davenport (2-4)
3...Kim Clijsters (2-1)
3...Steffi Graf (2-1)
3...Maria Sharapova (2-1) *
3...Serena Williams (2-1) *
3...Martina Hingis (1-2) *
3...Caroline Wozniacki (1-2) *
2...Martina Navratilova (2-0)
2...Victoria Azarenka (2-0) *
2...Mary Joe Fernandez (2-0)
2...Daniela Hantuchova (2-0) *
2...Ana Ivanovic (1-1)
2...Jelena Jankovic (1-1) *
2...Monica Seles (1-1)
2...Amanda Coetzer (0-2)
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova (0-2) *
2...Conchita Martinez (0-2)
* - active
**CURRENT TOP 10 WEEK STREAKS**
[to March 13]
257 - Serena Williams
163 - Simona Halep
88 - Garbine Muguruza
77 - Aga Radwanska
66 - Angelique Kerber
33 - Svetlana Kuznetsova
33 - Madison Keys
27 - Karolina Pliskova
24 - Dominika Cibulkova
3 - Elina Svitolina
**CURRENT TOP 20 WEEK STREAKS**
[to March 13]
473 - Aga Radwanska
319 - Petra Kvitova
286 - Serena Williams
264 - Angelique Kerber
164 - Simona Halep
109 - Karolina Pliskova
91 - Garbine Muguruza
76 - Venus Williams
62 - Victoria Azarenka
55 - Svetlana Kuznetsova
52 - Timea Bacsinszky
44 - Madison Keys
41 - Johanna Konta
38 - Dominika Cibulkova
30 - Elena Vesnina
29 - Elina Svitolina
22 - Caroline Wozniacki
19 - Barbora Strycova
4 - Samantha Stosur
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA USA (Premier Mandatory/hard outdoor)
16 Final: Azarenka d. S.Williams
16 Doubles Final: Mattek-Sands/Vandeweghe d. Goerges/Ka.Pliskova
17 Top Seeds: #3 Ka.Pliskova/#2 Kerber
=ROUND OF 16=
#3 Ka.Pliskova d. Bencic
#10 Svitolina d. #32 Lucic-Baroni
#5 Cibulkova d. #17 Strycova
#11 Konta d. #8 Kuznetsova
#13 Wozniacki d. Osaka
#28 Mladenovic d. Davis
#12 V.Williams d. #6 A.Radwanska
#2 Kerber d. #14 Vesnina
...Pliskova didn't exactly inherit an easy draw in Serena's spot in the top half of the draw. She'll likely face Puig first, then Begu and (if Belinda can right herself and get TWO tour-level MD wins, which would be her first in '17) the winner of a possible all-Swiss 3rd Rounder between Bencic and Bacinszky. She has to do it sometime, right? Meanwhile, was Muguruza (with the likes of Bellis/Flipkens and Lucic in her early-round path) and her "tennis ball body outline" an omen for what is about to happen to her in the desert? One thing that results from Serena moving out of the draw is that we might get an early-season "reckoning" match between Pliskova and Svitolina.
Keys sits atop the bottom half of the draw, where Pliskova had originally been positioned. But she hasn't played yet in '17, so one wonders if her consistency will arrive on time (of course, in a possible 3rd Rounder vs. Osaka, both players might be fighting that particular demon in what could be a headlining match). Wozniacki will be put to the test in this section vs. power players galore, but may be able to feed them enough shots to win the match-day war of attrition. '15 champ Halep will have to be on her game quickly to survive, with Riske, and Mladenovic/Bouchard in her path in the early rounds. Some other possible match-ups in the bottom half: Radwanska/Konjuh (again), Venus/CoCo (again) and Kerber/Petkovic.
#3 Ka.Pliskova d. #10 Svitolina
#11 Konta d. #5 Cibulkova
#13 Wozniacki d. #28 Mladenovic
#2 Kerber d. #12 V.Williams
...Svitolina is 0-5 vs. Pliskova, including a straight sets loss to the Czech in Week 1 in Brisbane. Of course, this match would provide the Ukrainian a chance for another "first" in her career. When healthy, Konta has often been lethal on hard courts over the past year. Will Kerber's serve, a nagging liability all season, hold up long enough for her to get this far?
#3 Ka.Pliskova d. #11 Konta
#13 Wozniacki d. #2 Kerber
...U.S. hard courts is where Pliskova truly began to take flight last summer. Her return will be a test of how she plays with good memories on her mind AND expectations on her shoulders. The Dane reached the I.W. final three out of four years from 2010-13, winning in 2011.
#3 Ka.Pliskova d. #13 Wozniacki
...a great U.S. hard court companion piece to her Cincinnati crown from last year, a run here could signal that Pliskova is just about ready for something bigger.
#1 Mattek-Sands/Safarova d. #4 Mirza/Strycova
Hradecka/Siniakova d. #2 Makarova/Vesnina
...while Vika Azarenka was busy winning the "Sunshine Double" with I.W. and Miami singles titles last year, Mattek-Sands pulled off the same feat in doubles. She took this title with CoCo Vandeweghe, then Miami with regular partner Safarova.
#1 Mattek-Sands/Safarova d. Hradecka/Siniakova
...it's only right that Lucie gets a chance to experience the thrill this year, right?
Here are ATP Backspin's Galileo West's picks:
Pliskova  d.  Bacsinszky
Svitolina  d.  Muguruza
Pavlyuchenkova  d.  Kasatkina
Kuznetsova  d.  Konta
...Pliskova is the biggest seed in the top half with Serena’s shock withdrawal. Muguruza just has question marks all over her right now. Svitolina right now is playing like one of the top five players in the world, don’t forget. Kuznetsova is usually ripe for the upset, but there’s nobody in her section that can do that. After eight years of never getting past round three, surely this is her year.
Wozniacki  d.  Keys
Halep  d.  Stosur
V. Williams  d.  Radwanska
Kerber  d.  Vesnina
...Normally I’d take Keys, but Woz is in form, and Keys is returning. Stosur can play on these courts and there’s nobody threatening around her. Halep should bounce back soon. Radwanska has been nowhere this season, while Williams is on top form. Kerber has no pressure, which has to help.
Pliskova  d.  Svitolina
Kuznetsova  d.  Pavlyuchenkova
Wozniacki  d.  Halep
Kerber  d.  Williams
...Without Serena, there are three big seeds in the top half. Kuznetsova directly benefits from that, as does Pliskova. This isn’t one of those crazy pick-Sveta-at-all-costs things [like usual]. Look at the draw. Pliskova leads Svitolina 5-0 in the head-to-head. At this point you have to trust the Woz a shade more than you do Halep. Kerber has started to find a bit of form recently and she has made two semi-finals here before.
Pliskova  d.  Kuznetsova
Kerber  d.  Wozniacki
...Pliskova is too good right now. The draw looks set-up for her and she will take advantage. She will be world number one before next year’s out. This is part of her push to that ranking. Who remembers this?
Yes, that was the moment this BACKSPINNER lost all respect for the Woz. Unable to win normally, and outclassed by the German ,she resorted to the highest low tactic of them all. Hardly fitting for a former world number one. I cannot bring myself to pick the Dane. I just can’t.
Pliskova  d.  Kerber
...Pliskova wins this one surprisingly comfortably. She begins to make serious ground on the top two.