Wednesday at the BNP Paribas Open was the WTA main-draw kick-off, while there was additional intrigue in the media room with an All-Access Hour that featured several top names including Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova and Kiki Bertens.
WTA All-Access Highlights
Kvitova is candidly funny. Her presser spanned conversations about the support of Monica Seles and making the right choice to play tennis instead of volleyball. In general, the Czech is feeling good and has no regrets about her career decisions.
The world No.3 appears at ease and content with her game. Serious discussions do not seem to weigh on her for long and the smile quickly returns. This temperament is an asset on and off the court. In her second-round match, Petra will take on the winner of Thursday’s encounter between Venus Williams and Andrea Petkovic. Neither one an easy first opponent in the desert.
As cheerful Bertens spoke with us, she mentioned that this year the courts seem slow and that in Doha she was a bit sick. Not to worry, the illness does not linger now. The Dutchwoman is handling tour ups and downs and knows that every week in tennis is an opportunity. It is easier to let go of a loss and look to the future.
The 27-year-old spoke of her Dutch culture, specifically the relaxed nature of her community and love of the people. She admits that doing new things tends to scare her and that big stages were at first a challenge. She jokingly recalled 30-minute match losses on big stages like the US Open.
The simple pleasures of reading books, making puzzles and doing yoga help Bertens to relax. She credits her family for keeping her grounded, as she is treated the same no matter how many trophies she has. At home, her life is more than just tennis.
Bertens’ first match in Indian Wells will be against Magda Linette of Poland. The two have met once before, on clay, and Bertens came out on top.
Pliskova is refreshingly direct and on point. The Czech arrived early to the desert this year and has had time to overcome jet lag and adjust to the conditions. Just like Bertens, Pliskova commented that the courts are slower this year. Perhaps the unusual desert rain has soaked in.
The fifth-ranked Pliskova has already put in a solid practice against world No.2 Simona Halep on Stadium 1 (a loss, but still well played). Discussing her co-coaching team with Rennae Stubbs and Conchita Martinez, Pliskova stated that it is working well and that she has no gender preference when it comes to coaches. The only thing that matters is a good connection.
Referring to the early successes of young American Amanda Anisimova, Pliskova pointed out that the first year on tour is likely the easiest. At that time you are a surprise to your opponents and there are no expectations.
Pliskova revealed she struggles with handling the expectations she places on herself, more than the external ones. When facing opponents, she like to evaluate serve statistics and placement in particular.
Karolina’s first obstacle at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open will be either Japan’s Misaki Doi [Q] or Ons Jabeur of Tunisia.
Azarenka sets up Williams blockbuster
Victoria Azarenka d. Vera Lapko 6-2 6-3
Azarenka closed the night session on Stadium 1 before a sparse crowd. The Belarusian admitted that she had a slow start, but was able to regroup and dictate. That shift made all the difference.
Azarenka won 10 games in a row and had chances on serve to close out the second set 6-2, but her compatriot was still fighting. Clearly unhappy with that outcome, moments later Azarenka pressed Lapko hard, breaking for the match 6-3.
Azarenka’s prize is a second round match-up against her greatest rival Serena Williams. This encounter is one not to miss!
Main-draw play resumes on Thursday at 11 a.m. and nine show courts remain in play. I repeat, wear comfortable shoes.