This post covers two second round matches from Saturday’s slate of women’s matches at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells including Carla Suárez Navarro v Daria Kasatkina and Sloane Stephens v Eugenie Bouchard. For a full preview of the number two seed, Angelique Kerber’s first match of the week against Denisa Allertova, click HERE.
*Note Carla Suárez Navarro has pulled out with a right ankle injury and Kasatkina will now play Anna-Lena Friedsam in the second round.
1. Carla Suárez Navarro v Daria Kasatkina (IW, R2)
In her first match since winning the biggest title of her career, Carla Suárez Navarro faces a challenging opener in Indian Wells against one of the many talented 18-year-olds making waves on the WTA tour in 2016, Daria Kasatkina.
One of my favourite things about this tennis year so far has been getting to watch plenty of Daria Kasatkina. The young Russian announced herself at the end of 2015 with a third round showing at the US Open and a first Premier semi-final in Moscow. She’s continued to impress in 2016, beating Venus Williams in her first match of the year, reaching the third round of the Australian Open and making a second Premier semi-final in St. Petersburg.
Kasatkina was close to a second top ten win of the year in Doha where she missed three match points against Roberta Vinci – it was a match she should have won, but also a match that would have shown her where she can improve. In first round action, Kasatkina defeated the wildcard and two-time former champion, Daniela Hantuchova, 6-2 6-4. Kasatkina hit 21 winners to 17 unforced errors and is one of the few players to come away from a match in Indian Wells with more winners than errors!
At a career high number six, Carla Suárez Navarro is enjoying a superb start to the year. While she began in similarly impressive fashion in 2015, the Spaniard has been winning big at the tournaments that count. Suárez Navarro reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, her best result at a Major since the 2014 French Open, and also won her biggest title in Doha. It was a great result for the Spaniard who showed bucket loads of resilence in the final to recover from losing a 1-6 first set. It would have been easy for Suárez Navarro to wilt under the pressure of her 1-8 record in finals, but she kept it together and came back to win in three sets.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous match, Kasatkina thrashed a nervous, Suárez Navarro, 6-1 6-2 in Moscow last year. It’s worth noting that a win for Suárez Navarro would have put her within touching distance of a spot in the WTA Finals in Singapore but she struggled to cope with the pressure.
Interesting stat: Suárez Navarro has enjoyed some decent results at Indian Wells; she reached the quarter-finals in 2015 and the last 16 in 2010, beating the number one seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kasatkina, in her first full year on the tour, is playing here for the first time in her career.
Final thoughts: This will be a tricky match for Suárez Navarro who can often start slow in tournaments. It’s a similar situation to the Doha final against Jelena Ostapenko where she went into it having previously suffered a comprehensive loss in their last match. The circumstances will be different to the last time Suárez Navarro and Kasatkina played each other in Moscow with the Spaniard likely to feed on the confidence of winning Doha. However, Kasatkina remains a potent threat. Tough one, but i’m going for the upset…
2. Sloane Stephens v Eugenie Bouchard (IW, R2)
The super slate of second round matches just keep on coming with a match-up of the 22-year-olds between the number 21 seed, Sloane Stephens and world number 42, Eugenie Bouchard. One year ago, Stephens was ranked at 42 and Bouchard at number seven but things have flipped significantly since then…
Bouchard began her season of misery at Indian Wells last year where she suffered an, at-the-time, surprising loss to Lesia Tsurenko in three sets. It set off a chain of events that would see Bouchard finish the year outside of the world’s top 45. Bouchard is on the comeback in 2016; refreshed, rejuvenated and on a clean slate, Bouchard seems to be over the concussion she suffered from a fall in the locker room at the US Open that brought her 2015 season to a close.
Bouchard was the only player to reach back-to-back quarter-finals in the first two weeks of the year and while she was unlucky to draw Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round of the Australian Open, has had decent results since after reaching a 6th final in Kuala Lumpur. Bouchard’s tennis still hasn’t been that clean, but the big difference has been her fighting spirit and ability once again to tough out wins while not playing at her best. She opened her campaign at Indian Wells with a rocky three set win over Risa Ozaki, 2-6 6-4 6-2. It was another example of Bouchard scrapping her way through after a very shaky start.
Stephens has a wild start to the year… champion, first round defeat and champion! Stephens is the only player to win two titles this year, but these have been sandwiched by a surprising first round loss at the Australian Open to Qiang Wang. Focusing on the positives, Stephens played one of her most committed matches ever to win the title in Acapulco, beating Dominika Cibulkova in a barnstorming final, 6-4 4-6 7-6(5).
Head-to-head record: Stephens leads Bouchard in their head-to-head, 2-1. Their last two matches were during the Asian Swing in 2013 and both went the distance; Bouchard won in Tokyo, 5-7 7-6(7) 6-3 and Stephens won in Beijing, 6-1 1-6 6-4.
Interesting stat: Bouchard has already won 14 matches this year, which is more than she managed during her entire 2015 season! For Stephens, she has an impressive record in the desert and won three matches in both 2014 and 2015.
Final thoughts: Stephens and Bouchard are evenly matched heading into this one based on their head-to-head and recent form. Stephens hasn’t yet nailed the consistency between weeks; after winning her last two titles, Stephens suffered first round losses in her next tournaments. Bouchard will be dialed in and adjusted to the conditions having already played a match. The concern for Bouchard was the medical time-out she took during the Kuala Lumpur final but she seems to be good to go.
This is a tricky one to call and I really could see it going either way. I would fancy the winner of this match to go very deep into the second week. It depends whether Stephens suffers a slow start and if she has time to find her feet. I think i’m going for Sloane but as you can probably tell from my language, this isn’t a confident choice…