It’s the first Premier Mandatory tournament of the year, and the draw is extremely packed with huge second and third round potential matches. I will break down the draw in this preview, and predict who will be the queen of Indian Wells in 2017.
*Note: This preview was done before Serena Williams withdrew. Updated version is out.*
Correct predictions are in green while wrong predictions are in red
First quarter: Headlined by (3) Karolina Pliskova
With Serena Williams’s withdrawal, Karolina Pliskova is propelled to the first name of the draw. The Top 32 seeds get a first round-bye, before a potential clash with Olympic champ Monica Puig looms. After that, there doesn’t seems like there’s anyone who could disturb her. Seeds Irina-Camelia Begu and Kiki Bertens are both struggling, however Timea Bacsinszky, may prove to be a challenge. Maybe even Belinda Bencic, who has dropped out of the top 100, stands a chance to progress to play Pliskova.
Fourth Round: Pliskova, Bencic
Second quarter: Headlined by (10) Elina Svitolina and (7) Garbiñe Muguruza
The hottest player out on the tour, Elina Svitolina, looms as a potential quarterfinal opponent for Pliskova. However, the Ukrainian will first have to defeat some decent opponents before reaching that stage. She will play either fellow countrywoman Bondarenko or Chinese player Wang who is coming off quarterfinal appearances at Dubai and Kuala Lumpur. Don’t think Daria Gavrilova can interrupt her winning streak, unless injuries that forced her out of the Kuala Lumpur tourney re-occurs.
This quarter is actually reigned by Garbiñe Muguruza, but all the talk is on Svitolina since she is on fire. Before she is able to progress out of this quarter, she has to face dangerous names such as Bellis and Flipkens in the second round, and Australian Open semi finalist Lucic-Baroni in the third. I feel that Muguruza will be able to make it to the fourth round, but will run out of steam when she faces Svitolina.
Fourth Round: Svitolina, Muguruza
Dominika Cibulkova headlines the third quarter, the most stacked draw of the top half. Jelena Ostapenko is a potential second round opponent for the Slovakian, while third round opponents for her could be Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina (who promoted to the No.33 seed) or Kristyna Pliskova. As for Strycova, she starts against Sara Errani or a qualifier, while Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova threatens in the third round.
Fourth Round: Cibulkova, Pavlyuchenkova
Fourth quarter: Headlined by (8) Svetlana Kuznetsova and (11) Johanna Konta
This quarter is an opening for an unseeded player to make their way into the quarterfinals, but I think Johanna Konta should be able to avoid the upset and glide her way through the draw. She could face fellow Brit Heather Watson in the second round, and inconsistent Caroline Garcia in the third. (Konta leads HTH with Garcia, 2-1, with the Frenchwoman’s win being a retirement) At the bottom of the quarter, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Roberta Vinci could face off in the third round, and I’m giving the slight edge to Vinci. I think that the Italian’s slices will disturb Kuznetsova’s play and the Russian hasn’t been in good form in 2017 so far.
Fourth Round: Konta, Vinci
Fifth quarter: Headlined by (9) Madison Keys
Madison Keys is back! After skipping the Aussie and Middle East swings with injuries, she returns to hometown in need of some matches. She didn’t have the draw she needed, but after the draw switch, she now plays a qualifier/LL in the second round. Looming in the third round is Zhang Shuai or Naomi Osaka. The latter pushed Keys to three at last year’s US Open. Caroline Wozniacki is replaced by Cibulkova here, who will face Taylor Townsend or a qualifier. She should have no problems against a just recovered Carla Suarez Navarro or Katerina Siniakova.
Fourth Round: Keys, Wozniacki
Sixth quarter: Headlined by (4) Simona Halep
Simona Halep is enduring a tough start to 2017, just like last year. She lost in the second round of Shenzhen, first round of Australian Open, and withdrew from St.Petersburg, Doha & Dubai. Fortunately the 2015 champion is back fit and hopefully she is able to finish the Sunshine Double swing healthy. Her biggest opponent comes in the form of St.Petersburg champ Kristina Mladenovic in the third round. The Frenchwoman is always ready for upsets, and I think Halep might be too rusty to beat an in-form player like her.
Right above Mladenovic is an open quarter, with any of the 8 names able to make it far. I’m giving the nod to Lauren Davis, she’s having a fantastic 2017, winning the tournament in Auckland and making the quarterfinals in Dubai. Notable name: Ajla Tomljanovic, who stunned Eugenie Bouchard in her first tournament since 2015. She plays against Julia Goerges.
Fourth Round: Davis, Mladenovic
Seventh quarter: Headlined by (6) Agnieszka Radwanska and (12) Venus Williams
This quarter is such a tough draw, and unfortunately it’s Aga Radwanska who headlines this section. She’s struggling, and she could face foe Ekaterina Makarova in her opener. Third round potential opponent? Ana Konjuh, who beat her in last year’s US Open. (In the fourth round, obviously. She always seems to lose in 4R in NYC) A repeat of the Australian Open semifinals could occur here, as Coco Vandweghe and Venus Williams reign the bottom of this section. Vandweghe was very erratic in her lost to Alison Riske in Dubai, and Lucie Safarova should likely get the better of her in the second round. For Venus, she should be able to get past these opponents. Even if Radwanska makes it to the fourth round, she should have likely ran out of steam.
Fourth Round: Radwanska, V.Williams
Eight quarter: Headlined by (2) Angelique Kerber
*Note: Barbora Strycova in Line 20 was replaced by Timea Babos.*
The player in this quarter that I’m focusing on is the name at the bottom, Angelique Kerber. She struggled in Australia and Doha, but showed signs of life with a semifinal run in Dubai. We will see if the Angelique Kerber we know of in 2016 is back in Indian Wells, as she has to get off to a quick start, potentially having friend Andrea Petkovic in her opening round. Then a match with St.Petersburg finalist Yulia Putintseva looms. Notable: Vesnina vs Brady could occur again in 2R, where the latter overcame Vesnina in the Australian Open to make the fourth round. However, I’m giving the heads up to Vesnina. She should face Kerber in the fourth round.
Fourth Round: Vesnina, Kerber
Semi-Finalists: Pliskova, Cibulkova, Wozniacki, V.Williams
Finalists: Pliskova, Wozniacki
I’m done! Hoped you enjoyed it and look out for my next preview 🙂