The top half of the women’s draw looks really inviting with a number of marquee match-ups for Monday. In the other matches, Alisa Kleybanova has a great chance to make the fourth round. Her victory over Garbine Muguruza really went under the radar. The match between Ekaterina Makarova and Dominika Cibulkova should also be very interesting. This is the first time in seven attempts that Makarova has got past the second round of Indian Wells. She broke that duck in a match of epic proportions, taking 3 hours and 11 minutes to beat Monica Niculescu, 5-7 7-6(3) 6-3.
1. Ana Ivanovic v Sloane Stephens (WTA IW, R3)
After a woeful Doha-Dubai double, Sloane Stephens produced her most positive performance of 2014 so far with a 6-4 6-0 victory over Ajla Tomljanovic. It is refreshing to be able to write something nice about Sloane after her poor attitude in the Middle East where she lost straight setters to Petra Cetkovska and Lucie Safarova Tomljanovic is a tricky opponent, but Sloane played a clean match and demonstrated her easy power off the ground as she dished out a second set bagel. Stephens now gets a shot at Ana Ivanovic in the third round. Ivanovic came through an absolute thriller against Elina Svitolina, 4-6 7-5 7-6(1). The quality was sensationally awful in the third set, but it was the most entertaining match I have watched at this tournament so far. Ivanovic was making tons of errors in the third set, but on three occasions, came from a break down in the decider. Wins like these are very encouraging for Ivanovic, who has always struggled to hold her nerve in the edgy moments.
The draw has opened up in the bottom section of the second quarter and the winner of this match will fancy their chances of making the quarters. Ivanovic has won both their previous matches on American soil at the US Open. A committed performance from Sloane will give her a real shot in this one. Ultimately, I was impressed with Ivanovic’s mentality in pulling through against Svitolina and she is my pick in what should be a very competitive match.
Prediction: Ivanovic d. Stephens in 3 sets
2. Maria Sharapova v Camilla Giorgi (WTA IW, R3)
Camilla Giorgi has attracted quite a following amongst the die-hard tennis fans. Giorgi, or GOATmila as she is often coined, has picked up some big results in her career, most notably taking out Caroline Wozniacki at last year’s US Open. Her brand of attacking tennis coupled with a solid nerve should provide an interesting spectacle on Monday as she goes up against Maria Sharapova. Giorgi has defeated Andrea Petkovic and the number 25 seed, Sorana Cirstea in Indian Wells, which are both accomplished wins. Sharapova took to the court on Saturday for the first time since losing in the Paris semi-finals to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. She was impressive in beating Julia Goerges, 6-1 6-4. Sharapova and Giorgi have never met before on the WTA tour. I am expecting a decent match and Giorgi to give Sharapova a significant test.
Prediction: Sharapova d. Giorgi in 2 very tight sets
3. Svetlana Kuznetsova v Petra Kvitova (WTA IW, R3)
Two of the WTA’s most unpredictable players, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Petra Kvitova, both came through strangely uneventful second round matches to set up a third round tie in Indian Wells. Kuznetsova hadn’t played since pulling out of the Pattaya City main draw with an injury, but had no problems in dismissing Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, 6-3 6-3. Birthday girl Kvitova, who looked delightfully uncomfortable as the Stadium 3 crowd sang happy birthday to her after the win, defeated Coco Vandeweghe, 6-1 6-3. Kvitova and Kuznetsova last met in Tokyo at the back end of 2013. The first set of that match was high quality before Kvitova took hold of the reins and powered to a straight sets win, 6-4 6-1. With Kvitova, you never quite know what you’re going to get; on this occasion, I think she’ll come through in straight sets.
Highlights from Kvitova v Vandeweghe (Via hawaiiantennisvidz)
Prediction: Kvitova d. Kuznetsova in 2 tight sets
4. Flavia Pennetta v Sam Stosur (WTA IW, R3)
The list of engaging third round matches from the top half of the women’s draw is endless. Flavia Pennetta is enjoying somewhat of a revival on tour after her career was threatened by a worrying wrist injury in 2012. She reached her first ever Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open last year and backed that up well in Australia with another appearance in a Grand Slam quarter-final. She overcame a game effort from Taylor Townsend, 6-3 6-7(4) 6-3. I really like Townsend’s capabilities at the net and she should be a great player in the future. In a match that received very little attention, Stosur defeated Francesca Schiavone handily, 6-2 6-3. Pennetta has never lost to Stosur in four matches and lost just one set. She also defeated Stosur at the Hopman Cup at the start of the year, 6-4 6-4. History would suggest Pennetta is the heavy favourite to make the last 16.
Prediction: Pennetta d. Stosur in 2 sets
WTA Indian Wells 3rd Round Predictions
Li Na d. Karolina Pliskova in 2 tight sets
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Aleksandra Wozniak in 2 tight sets
Dominika Cibulkova d. Ekaterina Makarova in 3 sets
Alisa Kleybanova d. Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor in 2 sets