After an exciting one and a half weeks of tennis in the California Desert, the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells has delivered on exciting matches and shocking upsets and after all that drama, a very surprising final will take place on finals day. Angelique Kerber will take on Bianca Andreescu with the winner taking home 1000 points and a first Premier Mandatory crown of their careers. Between the experienced and the young, who will go away with the prestigious title? Read on for the preview…
Indian Wells, Final
[WC] Bianca Andreescu (No.60) vs  Angelique Kerber (No.8)
Bianca Andreescu’s rise up the rankings has been simply stunning and she showed off how she has been able to achieve so much in a crazy semifinal against Elina Svitolina. Andreescu seemed unsettled early on, offering a plethora of unforced errors with Svitolina successfully taking the ball early on many occasions. 0-3 down and a fired-up Andreescu came back with vengeance, completely breaking down Svitolina’s serve and moving her from side to side, securing seven games on the bounce. It’s obviously impossible to maintain such a high level over a long period of time and Andreescu started to make some wrong decisions and errors began to creep in her game. Set 2, Svitolina.
Into a third and it was such a physical battle between the very aggressive Andreescu and the very passive Svitolina. During the on-court coaching sessions, Svitolina’s coach, Andrew Bettles talked about how it was important for Svitolina to play aggressively and take the line shots earlier than Andreescu did, but this never happened as the Ukrainian was perched miles behind the baseline for majority of the exchanges. Andreescu’s physical struggles continued to hound her though and after failing to capitalise on a 3-1 lead, it seemed like Svitolina’s grittiness would come through. It was not to be as Andreescu continued firing up herself and taking advantage of Svitolina’s short serves and groundstrokes. Andreescu saved three break points at 4-3 and had match point at 5-3 on Svitolina’s serve, but a long backhand meant that Andreescu had to serve it out for the victory. A tense and mammoth game was to ensue as the Canadian continued to save break point after break point, and Svitolina continued to save match point after match point. Arguably the most impressive point of the match was when Andreescu hit back-to-back forehand drop shots which saved break point No.3 and set up match point No.4 for herself, which she finally converted. Such great thinking from this 18-year-old because Svitolina was so far behind the baseline, and the way she cooly plopped it over the other side of the net, just wow.
Angelique Kerber played one of her best matches of the season to dismantle the in-form Belinda Bencic 6-4 6-2. It didn’t look like this was the case early on as Bencic pounced on the Kerber serve, breaking twice to jump out to a 4-2 lead. It seemed like mental fatigue finally set into Bencic’s mind as Kerber began to take control of rallies from the baseline, surprising Bencic with her forehands down the line. Bencic’s wasn’t counter-punching as well as she did over the last few weeks and her shots were mostly in Kerber’s striking zone. The Swiss player opted for the drop shot too many times and Kerber usually managed to track them down. Kerber stuck to her aggressive game plan, redirecting Bencic’s pace and hit 22 winners to 16 unforced errors for a rather comfortable victory.
Kerber didn’t play well during the Doha-Dubai double and the tricky conditions in Indian Wells have never seemed to favour the German, but the three-time Grand Slam champion has battled and fought hard to reach her first Premier Mandatory final of her career. Can she go one round further and claim her first Premier Mandatory title ever?
Head to head: Not surprisingly, this will be the first meeting between Kerber and Andreescu.
Thoughts: Kerber has been taken to three sets this fortnight against Natalia Vikhlyantseva and Aryna Sabalenka, both players who can really outhit Kerber from the baseline. Andreescu falls into this category as well but what sets apart the Canadian is her tactical awareness and her huge range of weapons. Andreescu seemed to struggle physically in the semis so she will really have to keep points short against Kerber, try to keep her moving with the angles, slices and drop shots, and not allow Kerber to take control of the match. Similarly, Kerber will need to step out of her shell and try to move Andreescu from side to side and break down her movement. Kerber hasn’t been serving great this fortnight either and a low first serve percentage will definitely give Andreescu more looks to attack, so that’s also a key factor to who wins the match.
Other than physical issues, Andreescu will definitely have to fight off the nerves in the biggest match her career. Kerber always manages to bring a high level to her finals (see: all her Slam finals) and I think her experience and strong physicality will secure the veteran the title.
Final Prediction: Angelique Kerber d. Bianca Andreescu in two tight sets
Thanks for reading! Please check out my Indian Wells predictions here or at the top of the page!