Saturday’s second-round action at the BNP Paribas Open was highlighted by Venus Williams’ upset of Petra Kvitova and Naomi Osaka’s sweet revenge against Kristina Mladenovic, who had recently kicked the world No.1 out of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Venus Williams d. Petra Kvitova 4-6 7-5 6-4
The blockbuster match of the day was another “Williams Feature”, as Venus Williams took center stage, wearing her EleVen Ikat Volley Dress and an arm sleeve, to face third seed Petra Kvitova. It was a quality match with many twists and turns. Both players spoke of not knowing at times what was coming off their racquets. For Kvitova, Williams as an early-round opponent had to be a nightmare.
The 38-year-old Williams loves pace and uses it well, while Kvitova deals it up all day long. Add to that mix a highly irregular service speed from Williams and there was trouble for Kvitova. The service stats looked unusual. Williams had zero aces, verses ten for Kvitova. Yet, using service speed variety seemed to make Kvitova question herself and have difficulty preparing for the return. Several of the Czech’s returns found the net in the second and third set. She also did not help herself with ten double faults, including one that set up a deuce leading to match point.
When asked about her serve today, with a MPH ranging from the upper 80s to the mid 100s, Williams simply answered: “That’s what I needed to do.” When asked if that was a planned tactic, she replied: “I never really talk about my tactics in here. I keep those to myself.”
The Indian Wells crowd was solidly behind Williams and the American thanked them for the home court support: “I can feel the collective signs and roar of the crowd.” The fans responded in kind with another roar.
Kvitova’s post-match presser was about the “F” word, frustration. It was clear she felt that she had let herself down: “It’s pretty tough. It’s a game which you are playing with yourself; not with the opponent at all. That’s what I lost today. I lost to myself.”
In the third round Williams will face American qualifier Christina McHale, who is probably viewing her upcoming encounter as both pressure or privilege.
Naomi Osaka d. Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 6-4
Facing a crafty opponent with singles and doubles skills, defending champion Naomi Osaka closed the evening session before a crowd that had nothing but love for her.
Osaka had lost to Mladenovic in Dubai in February, but clearly the loss did not linger. While Mladenovic produced some exciting moments coming to net, Osaka was never really in danger tonight. In press, the 21-year-old spoke about learning from the Dubai loss, staying positive and that tonight she focused on going for high-percentage shots. The Japanese also acknowledged her opponent as one of the best players at net that she has ever played.
An interesting note, the world No.1 shared that she has gotten used to the media, but added: “The media was the biggest thing that was my problem. No offense guys. I’m sorry (smiling).”
With the first hurdle of her BNP Paribas Open title defense out of the way, Osaka seems relaxed, focused and ready. Her third-round opponent will be confident and aggressive UVA graduate, Danielle Collins, who also won in straight sets on Saturday.
What about the rest of the draw?
Much has happened since Wednesday’s main-draw kick-off, so at end of play Saturday, we have a very mixed bag of results. Where are the Top 20 seeds? We have lost six players from this group, most significantly Sloane Stephens and Petra Kvitova. We also have a group that might be called the “Lucky 7” — the qualifiers and wildcards that are still going strong. This seems to be a larger than normal group of the unexpected. While some luck may be involved, they also make their own by playing aggressive tennis and stepping on the court with belief despite the odds.
One player that fell out of this pack Friday evening deserves a mention. American Sofia Kenin played a gripping three-set grinder on Stadium 2 against powerhouse Elina Svitolina. The match went two hours and 21 minutes, with neither player showing signs of a drop in level. Kenin won the first set, lost a tight breaker in the second, giving her experienced opponent an opening. Svitolina stepped up her aggression and closed 6-4, but she spoke of the difficulty of the match in her on-court interview. It was a a battle to the end.
Looking for your favorite player? Perhaps discover someone new? Here is a summary.
Seeded & still in play
No.1 Naomi Osaka (JPN)
No.2 Simona Halep (ROU)
No.5 Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
No.6 Elina Svitolina (UKR)
No.7 Kiki Bertens (NLD)
No.8 Angelique Kerber (GER)
No.9 Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)
No.10 Serena Williams (USA)
No.11 Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)
No.12 Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
No.15 Julia Goerges (GER)
No.16 Elise Mertens (BEL)
No.18 Qiang Wang (CHN)
No. 20 Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
Seeded players out of the tournament
No.3 Petra Kvitova (CZE)
No.4 Sloane Stephens (USA), straight-set loss to Swiss Stefanie Voegele
No.13 Caroline Wozniacki (DNK)
No.14 Daria Kasatkina (RUS), 2018 Indian Wells finalist, straight-sets loss to Czech Marketa Vondrousova
No.17 Madison Keys (USA)
No.19 Caroline Garcia (FRA)
[WC] Jennifer Brady (USA), three-set victory over Caroline Garcia
[WC] Bianca Andreescu (CAN), took out Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets
[Q] Christina McHale (USA), having a banner run thus far, into the round of 32
[Q] Stefanie Voegele (SUI), straight-set win over US Open champion Sloane Stephens, on my list to watch live next!
[Q] Katerina Kozlova (UKR)
[Q] Ysaline Bonaventure (BEL)
[Q] Natalia Vikhlyantseva (RUS)
Sunday is daylight savings, so clocks move ahead. You’ll want to be on time to catch Simona Halep open the day on Stadium 1.