1. Sabine Lisicki v Flavia Pennetta (Indian Wells, QF)
Coming into Indian Wells, there was a great deal of scepticism surrounding both Sabine Lisicki and Flavia Pennetta. Few predicted Sabine to live up to her seeding and almost no-one was thinking Pennetta had a hope in hell of defending her Indian Wells title… however, both have impressed this week and will meet in an unexpected quarter-final match in the desert. Lisicki endured a miserable first two months of 2015, winning just one of seven matches. She also hadn’t won a three set match since September last year. The German player has been derailed by injuries in her career, both minor and major, but there didn’t seem to be any reasoning behind her slump in form this year other than lacking in confidence. In her first match of the tournament, she survived a nervy affair against Roberta Vinci in the second round. Lisicki served for the match in the second set, but eventually won it in three. Since that win, a crucial one it seems for Sabine’s confidence, she has produced straight set wins against Sara Errani (6-4 6-2) and Caroline Garcia (6-4 6-4).
Sabine was in tears at the end of the match and that doesn’t come as a surprise! She’s always been one to show her emotions on court. It has certainly come as a surprise to see Lisicki performing well this week because she had never won a main draw match at Indian Wells in her six previous ventures to the desert. Pennetta started to turn her season around in the Middle East having also gone winless down under. She reached the quarter-finals of Dubai and now, the quarter-finals of Indian Wells, saving her bacon with what was expected to be a heavy rankings fall. Pennetta beat Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, coming from a set down to win, 3-6 6-3 6-2. Rather curiously, Pennetta now leads the head-to-head against Sharapova 3-2 and all five of their matches have gone the distance. In another baffling stat, Lisicki and Pennetta have never played each other before on the WTA tour. Lisicki’s got the shots to win it in two, but also the patience to lose it in two. Pennetta is the steadier of the two and the player i’d have more confidence in prevailing.
Prediction: Pennetta d. Lisicki in 3 sets
2. Jelena Jankovic v Lesia Tsurenko (Indian Wells, QF)
If the first quarter-final from the bottom half was surprising, this one takes the absolute biscuit. No-one has ever doubted Jelena Jankovic‘s ability, but her form coming into this tournament had not indicated she was set for another deep run in the desert. JJ had won just two matches on the WTA tour in 2015 and hadn’t secured back-to-back wins since last year’s US Open. She has been pushed to three sets in all of her matches this week, but remains in the hunt for another Indian Wells title. Jankovic has beaten Lauren Davis (6-7 6-0 6-4), Madison Keys (5-7 6-4 6-3) and Belinda Bencic (6-3 3-6 6-3). The match against Bencic sounded like a fun one and i’m really pleased to see Bencic playing better. It was also good to see a nice exchange at the net… Belinda is one of the best for sportsmanship after a loss.
Lesia Tsurenko‘s run to the quarter-final has been even more surprising considering the players she has taken out along the way. Like Jankovic, she has also won her last three matches in three sets; wins over Andrea Petkovic (6-3 4-6 6-4), Alize Cornet (7-5 1-6 6-2) and Eugenie Bouchard (6-7 7-5 6-4) have seen Tsurenko enjoy a career best tournament. Although it has come as a shock to see Tsurenko perform so well at such a high calibre tournament, her results prior to this tournament have indicated she was playing better this year. She came through three rounds of qualifying to take her place in the main draws of both Brisbane and Sydney, and she picked up main draw wins in Monterrey and Acapulco. All of her losses this year have been against respectable players. Like the first match-up, Jankovic and Tsurenko have never met before on the WTA tour. Tsurenko isn’t to be underestimated although I did read she had an injury. I’d take JJ, but am slightly wary that based on how this week has gone, Tsurenko will probably go on and win the whole caboodle…
Prediction: Jankovic d. Tsurenko in 2 sets