Quarterfinals set at the BNP Paribas Open

Our Karen Helf continued her BNP Paribas Open coverage by attending most fourth-round matches on Tuesday and a number of press conferences. We’re lucky to have Karen’s detailed report about the formation of the Indian Wells quarterfinals. Enjoy!

Simona Halep [1] d. Wang Qiang 7-5 6-1

Former BNP Paribas Open champion and world No.1 Simona Halep opened the day session on Stadium 1 against a familiar face. While they had no head-to-head history, the Romanian had practiced with opponent Qiang Wang of China and noted that in press:

I think she got the set in practice (smiling). So I knew it’s going to be a tough one. I was ready.

The first set was a thriller. Both players delivered strong service games, playing nearly identical points to 2-2. Halep struck first, breaking to go up 3-2, but the lead was short-lived. A test of will yielded four service breaks to 4-4. Halep locked in Wang’s final service game, taking the first point with her signature power return and had the break four points later. With her back against the wall, Wang scrambled, running down everything and forcing the longest game yet. Halep defended well and held after 14 points to take the set.

In press, the top-seeded Halep acknowledged that the on-court coaching she received during the first set was really important:

He (Darren) just told me what I have to do. I knew that I had to change something, but I didn’t realize what exactly. So it was a good chat. I did exactly what he said after that.

Perhaps deflated by the close loss of the first set, Wang began to unravel. Halep was more aggressive, immediately breaking Wang in four straight points. The second serve was key for Halep in this set. She found success, both in attacking her opponent and in winning her own second serve points at 100%.

In the quarterfinal, Halep takes on Petra Martic of Croatia. The two have not met since the 2015 hardcourt event in Guangzhou, China.

Petra Martic d. Marketa Vondrousova 6-3 7-6(4)

Making a quiet run into the quarterfinals, besides Vondrousova, Martic has taken out Belina Bencic, Barbora Strycova and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Venus Williams [8] d. Anastasija Sevastova [21] 7-6(6) 6-4

This match contained long rallies and powerful returns. Williams and Sevastova forced each other to take risks and go for more. Sevastova started strong, immediately breaking Williams, but double-faults crept into her service game, giving Williams an opening that she seized to 1-1. Williams gave back the break and moment later Sevastova held to 3-1. The crowd stepped in, supporting Williams, and her determination was evident. The American would later take three consecutive service games, establishing her first lead in the match with a love hold to 5-4. This battle was far from over. Both were going for more on serves and making key placements to move their opponent out of position. The next three games were 10, 12 and 12 points each, bringing the crowd to their feet at 6-6.

Williams took the early lead in the breaker, but Sevastova would catch up. At 3-3, the crowd began to chant “Let’s go Venus”. She produced a stellar winner at net to 4-4. Both fought to the end, but Williams was a little more on point, taking the breaker 8-6.

The second set was of a similar quality and again Sevastova took the early lead 3-1. Williams stated on the court: “It was a tough match to figure out.” But that she did. Williams would tie to 4-4 and then put her foot on the gas, vocalizing her efforts with intensity. Driven by determination, she closed 6-4.

After the match, Williams commented:

It was honestly a very good match. Well-competed on both sides. I mean, there were some points where she just played and it was too good. And I thought I was in control of the point and winning the point, and she turned it around. It’s just real talent.

Next up for Venus is another WTA veteran, Carla Suarez Navarro, who ended the amazing run of American wildcard Danielle Collins.

Carla Suarez Navarro [27] d. Danielle Collins 6-2 6-4

Suarez Navarro has also flown under the radar this year. As the Spaniard closed the match on Stadium 3, she let out a fierce battle cry, showing how much the win meant. The 27th seed advances with her best career result at the BNP Paribas Open.

Karolina Pliskova [5] d. Amanda Anisimova 6-1 7-6(2)

Pliskova faced two opponents on Tuesday, 16-year-old Anisimova and the Stadium 2 crowd. The two-time BNP Paribas Open semifinalist successfully tapped her experience and her serve. With 76 aces year to date, Pliskova was on target with her average first serve at 61%, 111 MPH deliveries and winning 69% of those points. As the score reflects, the first set was all Pliskova.

Seemingly unshaken, Anisimova opened the second set with a solid hold. The American then pushed Pliskova to a 14-point service game containing two double-faults, and a timely challenge to go up ad-point, but Pliskova held 1-1. As Anisimova raised her tennis IQ, the two went toe-to-toe, holding serve and creating successive breaks to 3-3. Neither player was able to make headway on the other’s service game. With a tiebreak in the cards, a hopeful crowd urged Anisimova on and she held a short lead up 2-1. Pliskova relied on her weapons and they came through, as the Czech took the next five points and the match.

The fifth seed had this to say about her opponent:

Oh, she played well. Maybe a little bit nervous first set, or I was playing a little bit faster, so she didn’t have the time to play her game… obviously she’s 16, so she’s not scared. You can see she’s hitting the ball without, I think, thinking. But everybody is playing like this when they are 16. I think this will change a little bit in the future, but for sure the game is good and not really any weakness. The serve is okay. I think everything pretty solid.

Pliskova also shared her mindset when it comes to playing the younger generation.

I’m not scared of those young girls, because I know my game. I know I can be solid. So there is nothing what can surprise me. I was ready. I didn’t want to, you know, think that it’s gonna be easy because she’s 16. She had that confidence after those matches what she was playing here. She was playing the tournament here, and she won juniors, whatever. So I know how this feels. I have been in that situation before. So I was ready for this game.

Pliskova faces another young player next, Naomi Osaka.

Naomi Osaka d. Maria Sakkari 6-1 7-5 6-1

Osaka took the smaller stage today, but brought her big stage performance. The Japanese had this to say concerning her dip in performance between the second and third set:

Well, I just kind of think the match was sort of on me. I think that I kind of only lost the second set because I lost focus, and I also started making a lot of unforced errors. So in the third set I just tried to really focus and not give her any points when I shouldn’t.

In the quarterfinals, Osaka takes on another strong opponent, Karolina Pliskova. The 20-year-old has successfully handled Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Sachia Vickery.

Daria Kasatkina [20] d. Caroline Wozniacki [2] 6-4 7-5

By defeating Wozniacki, Kasatkina has beaten all of the current Grand Slam champions.

This was very much a tactical match and Kasatkina described it this way:

Yeah. Yeah, because me and Caroline, we are playing kind of tactic tennis. So, yeah, from the side — actually, from my side it was like a chess game, because we’ve got a bit time during the game, during the ball was flying, so you can, like, in one second to think where to put the ball, how to put the ball.

Wozniacki commented on the loss:

You know, it is what it is. She outsmarted me today, which is fair enough.

In press, Kasatkina learned the win would make her the top ranked Russian next week. She responded:

So I have higher goals. And I think this is just next step, which I achieved, and I will have to move forward and don’t put a lot of attention to it.

Her next opponent Angelique Kerber may take notice.

Angelique Kerber [10] d. Caroline Garcia [7] 6-1 6-1

Kerber and Garcia closed the night session. The German literally ran down this match in just over an hour. She dominated serve, return and break point stats. For a spot in the final four, Kerber takes on Daria Kasatkina.

With the WTA final eight we have a diverse mix of playing style, experience and achievements. Stay tuned.

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