All-Williams Indian Wells clash coming up, Wozniacki & Vesnina advance

Rain-affected Saturday’s second-round action at the BNP Paribas Open was victorious for defending champion Elena Vesnina, as well as for Grand Slam champions Caroline Wozniacki and the Williams sisters, who are set to meet in the third round. Karen Helf, our reporter from Indian Wells, is giving us a wrap-up of the day and a preview of notable matches coming up on Sunday.

Venus Williams [8] d. Sorana Cirstea 6-3 6-4

Eight years had passed since their only meeting where Williams prevailed as she would today in Stadium 1. The American started and finished strong. To open, the Grand Slam champion took the first break and advanced to 3-1. She never looked back and in thirty-three minutes owned the first set, 6-3.

In the second, Cirstea immediately applied pressure and broke Williams in a 12-point game. The Romanian world No.35 improved both her return and service games, forcing her opponent to another 14-point service game. This time Williams held and regrouped, closing out her remaining service games in under 6 points. In press, Venus appeared distracted, perhaps knowing Serena was battling a first-set tiebreak.

Serena Williams d. Kiki Bertens [29] 7-6(5) 7-5

Serena’s match was a thriller. Bertens grabbed an early lead, going up 2-1, and you could hear the crowd gasp. However, Williams would break back to 3-3. With the American on serve at 5-4, the crowd stepped up their game. In familiar fashion, the new mom on tour broke Bertens to 5-5 and continued to press, winning the close tiebreak.

In the second, set both players showed great determination. This time Williams captured the first break. Bertens would not yield. She broke Williams to level the set at 5-5. The crowd support and Serena’s belief would prove too good today. The 36-year-old would break again, going up 6-5 and earning opportunity to serve out the match. Despite two double-faults, the 23-time Grand Slam champion held and progressed into the third round. By her own admission, Serena is not in top form, but her ability to find a way to win speaks for itself.

During press, Serena spoke about being kinder to herself in handling mistakes:

Olympia has tons of footage of me not being kind to myself. So I’m like, okay, I need to not be so negative, even though it’s hard. Yeah, I have come so far. There was moments literally when I’m in the hospital bed and I just think about that. And I go, Serena, you’re doing good, you’re doing good no matter what. So I think that’s helping me out, too.

The win means that an all-Williams match-up is coming up and here’s what Serena had to say about facing her sister so early into the tournament:

I think it’s a huge difference to play her in the semifinals or even the quarterfinals or a final as opposed to the third round. You know, we can always stay in the tournament longer if, you know, the both of us are in the tournament. And having to play each other in the third round, one of us is going to be one. So it’s definitely a lot easier to play later on.

Caroline Wozniacki [2] d. [Q] Lara Arruabarrena 6-4 6-1

Wozniacki impressed in her first meeting with the Spanish qualifier. As Garbine Muguruza will attest after her early loss to Sachia Vickery, first-time underdog opponents are dangerous. Muguruza stated, “I just think that when players with not a lot of experience play against top players, they are very motivated. They kind of elevate always their game…She (Vickery) was getting a little bit more excited, and the key points went her way, and she was getting more into the match and, at the end, she had a lot more confidence.”

Although the 25-year-old Arruabarrena moves well and produces powerful groundstrokes, Wozniacki was never really in trouble. After the first set, the Spaniard appeared to feel the toll of the long points and the Dane quickly captured successive breaks to go up 4-0. Arruabarrena fought hard to avoid the bagel and held to 5-1, but Wozniacki closed with ease, 6-1.

Elena Vesnina [24] d. Cici Bellis 2-6 6-1 6-1

In their first pairing, Bellis came out punching against the defending BNP Paribas Open champion. The young American dominated the first set with help from a few ill-timed Vesnina double-faults. The Russian needed the wake-up call. By raising the level of both her service and return games, Vesnina took the second set 6-2 and would repeat the feat in the third.

A fun fact: With the win today, Vesnina holds on to the possibility of earning the 1-million dollar bonus for winning both the singles and doubles title.

Ekaterina Makarova vs. Angelique Kerber [10] – To be continued

Kerber and Makarova took Stadium 2 before a solid crowd. Makarova took the first set 6-3 and then the rain came. Their match will resume on Stadium 2 Sunday, following Sloane Stephens versus Victoria Azarenka.

Sloane Stephens [13] vs. [WC] Victoria Azarenka – Rescheduled

Sloane and Victoria never took the court due to a very atypical evening rainstorm. Sunday they will play on Stadium 2, not before 12:30 PM.

Sunday No Man’s Land Preview

All of the following matches are first-time pairings.

Sachia Vickery vs Naomi Osaka

This match has the makings of a blockbuster. Two young players are having the tournament of their lives. Vickery is running the draw the hard way. She won her place in the main draw through qualifying. Both players have stood the test of the big stage against tough opponents. Crowd support for their breakout performances has been equally strong. Tomorrow, Vickery may have the edge as the home crowd favorite, but may need that lift given the miles of grinding she has already done.

Simona Halep [1] vs. Caroline Dolehide

Halep is meeting Dolehide for the first time. Without question, expectations are a win for the No.1, but expectations can also be a spoiler. Dolehide has shown an unyielding determination in her victories over Shelby Rogers and Dominika Cibulkova and we should expect nothing less in her upcoming match, as she has everything to gain and no reason not to go for her shots. If she can maintain her level, Dolehide can produce grinding play to challenge Halep. There is always danger in the unknown opponent that decides to leave it all on the court.

Petra Kvitova [9] vs. Amanda Anisimova

Kvitova has produced very solid tennis in the lead up to Indian Wells. Given the spotlight on Serena and Victoria, capable Petra is flying under the radar. However, Anisimova is another foreign territory with the dynamics similar to Halep vs. Dolehide. The 16-year old is the reigning Junior US Open champion and runner-up at the 2016 Junior French Open. Nothing here is a sure thing.

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