My photographer Jimmie48 is already in Indian Wells and now I’m glad to tell you that this year Karen Helf is also reporting for Women’s Tennis Blog. She’ll get there on Friday, but she’s starting her coverage with a quick preview of the draw.
The top four seeds headline each quarter. In the top half, we have world No.1 Simona Halep and No.3 Garbine Muguruza. Leading the bottom half are No.4 Elina Svitolina and No.2 Caroline Wozniacki. So if the seeds hold, Simona will play Caroline in the final, easy, right? Not so fast.
THE TOP HALF
Joining Simona is French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko. Yes, Jelena defeated Simona in the Paris final. The 2017 BNP Paribas Open finalist and tour veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova could meet Simona in the quarterfinals, but so could the 11th seed Johanna Konta. Dominika Cibulkova has the potential to be a tough third-round match for Simona as well. Other players who can shake up this quarter are Kiki Mladenovic, Barbora Strycova and the returning Swiss contingent Belinda Bencic and Timea Bacsinszky. I would love to see the potential fourth-round match-up between Konta and Halep. We will have to wait and see.
Also in the top of the draw is Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza. This is an unusual quarter with a lot of depth. Here you find wildcard Genie Bouchard, unseeded Maria Sharapova, recent rankings climber and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Aga the wizard, strong contenders Coco Vandeweghe and Ashleigh Barty, and powerful Naomi Osaka, who is now working with Serena’s former hitting partner Sascha Bajin. This draw holds a tough first-round match between Naomi Osaka and Maria Sharapova. Lastly, WTA service leader and 5th seed Karolina Pliskova can challenge anyone in this quarter. Strictly by the numbers, Garbine would play Karolina to advance.
THE BOTTOM HALF
Elina Svitolina has already captured two 2018 titles and she shows no sign of slowing down. However, Svitolina’s quarter might also be nicknamed “the Williams Quarter”. Venus, the 8th seed, has the potential to meet unseeded sister Serena in the third round. This quarter contains a number of women who are playing solid tennis, thus far Kiki Bertens, Julia Goerges, Anastasija Sevastova, to name a few. US Open finalist Madison Keys could meet Elina in the fourth round. If the seeds hold, Elina could play Venus for a spot in the semifinal, but then remember GMOAT Serena is there too.
Leading the final quarter is Australian Open champion and very recent No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. This quarter is tricky. We have wildcard and returning mom, Victoria Azarenka, defending champion Elena Vesnina, 6th seed and versatile Caroline Garcia, US Open champion Sloane Stephens and 10th seed and former No.1 Angelique Kerber. Add to the mix a pack of young motivated players who have started to make a statement, Cici Bellis, Daria Kasatkina and wildcard Kayla Day and upsets can happen. Last March, Kayla pushed Garbine Muguruza to three sets in the second round at Indian Wells. An interesting first-round match is Victoria Azarenka versus Heather Watson. Who will make it out of the bottom half, Caroline, Elena, Venus, a new mom back in form? Too many possible equations here.
If the seeds hold, we will see either Caroline or Elina advance to the final from the bottom half. Perhaps we should follow the advice of Caroline and not look ahead. This draw has great potential. Kerber may face Vesnina in the third round, while Caroline could battle Sloane to advance.
My best advice is to watch it all unfold. Day sessions begin at 11 AM.