The seeds came out to play on Friday… and the majority didn’t last the day! Nine out of the 16 seeds lost their first match in Indian Wells. There doesn’t seem to be much of a transition at the moment between some of the lower seeds and unseeded players. You can look at it from two aspects and i’m more inclined to say it shows the depth on tour right now. Here’s my Set Points summary recapping day 3 at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open, using my eyes and the wonders of Twitter…
So where do we start? Let’s open with a positive. The hotly anticipated match of the day between Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova totally lived up to expectations. In fact, i’d rank it in my top five for the year… it was a superb contest. Radwanska came back from *2-5 down in the third set and saved a match point to defeat Cibulkova, 6-3 3-6 7-5 in a brutal battle that lasted two hours and 41 minutes. Radwanska came out with a heavily strapped thigh but settled in quickly, playing some wonderful tennis to go up a set. She had the perfect gameplan for Cibulkova, mixing it up with slices, fast-paced balls, slow-paced balls, and not allowing Cibulkova to get into any kind of rhythm.
The momentum swung in the second set when Cibulkova saved two break points at 1-2 before emphatically breaking to love. Radwanska wasn’t so proactive, simply reacting to Cibulkova’s crushing blows, many of which were dealt on Radwanska’s service games. Cibulkova showed plenty of grit and determination, and helped out with some uncharacteristic errors from Radwanska, won the second set, 6-3.
Despite being broken in the first game of the third set, Cibulkova was dominating the rallies and was confident to step in too. The Slovak player had a break point at 4-1* Adv-40 but missed a forehand into the net. It still looked like game, set, match as Radwanska’s serve came under threat again. Cibulkova though missed a forehand return on match point at 5-2 40-30*. Radwanska held and then broke to love with Cibulkova throwing in a very tame game trying to serve it out, finishing with a shaky double fault.
Radwanska recovered to 5-5 and hung on in a lengthy deuce game, eventually breaking with a stunning backhand return winner down-the-line. A challenge on match point helped Radwanska seal her 14th win of the year. Surprisingly, Radwanska finished the match with more winners, 32 to Cibulkova’s 30. It was tough on Cibulkova but she didn’t take her chances in the third set as Radwanska produced a really gutsy fightback. It will be interesting to see how she responds to this one physically in the next round…
And now to the seeds. Nine have gone already…
Kurumi Nara d. (10) Venus Williams, 6-4 6-3
Yaroslava Shvedova d. (11) Lucie Safarova, 6-3 6-4
Lesia Tsurenko d. (15) Sara Errani, 6-4 6-3
CoCo Vandeweghe d. (16) Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-4 6-3
Barbora Strycova d. (22) Andrea Petkovic, 5-7 6-4 7-5
Nicole Gibbs d. (23) Madison Keys, 6-3 6-3
Kateryna Bondarenko d. (24) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-2 6-7(1) 6-4
Yulia Putintseva d. (27) Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4 6-4
Johanna Larsson d. (29) Sabine Lisicki, 5-7 6-4 6-2
A few notes about the seeds… The highest seed to fall on day 3 was Venus Williams. Returning to the desert for the first time in 15 years, the scenes were reminiscent from last year as she received a deservedly rapturous applause. However, her return would not be a winning one as Kurumi Nara secured one of the biggest wins of her career.
It was great to see Venus smiling in her press conference. Her response to the news about Maria Sharapova failing a drugs test was perfect… we can debate all we want but there are many things that we don’t know about the situation. Sharapova did post a detailed response to recent criticisms on Facebook yesterday…
And congrats to Kurumi not only for the win but this quote too haha!
Nara plays Barbora Strycova in the third round who beat Petkovic in three tight sets. Strycova, who is enjoying a super year so far, had lost her last three matches against Petkovic and all in straight sets. Petkovic had a few words for the umpire, Kader Nouni during the match and destroyed her racquet at the end of her match. Still, she gave a classy handshake.
My feelings remain the same about Lucie Safarova; it’s going to be a tough road back, but she’s back on the court, fighting hard and improving with every match. It’s still just awesome to see her playing tennis again.
Vandeweghe played a superb match against Kuznetsova and her form since going winless down under has been very impressive. Kuznetsova doesn’t often give the warmest of handshakes but you could tell at the end of the match that she acknowledged the performance from Vandeweghe.
Mladenovic continues to labour this year. She was outsmarted by Putintseva who served out the match with surprisingly few problems.
The only seeded losses that really surprised me were Nara over Williams and Tsurenko over Errani. It’s unsettling at the moment but many of the results are not surprising with Strycova, Vandeweghe, Bondarenko, Putintseva and Gibbs all continuing to back up their decent form this year. One positive note (if you’re not liking all the upsets!) is that the four top ten players in action all survived. Serena Williams, Radwanska, Halep and Kvitova all won on Friday.
They didn’t have it easy though; as discussed, Radwanska saved a match point and Kvitova was two points from the defeat. The Czech player just about hung on for her third win of the year, beating Danka Kovinic, 6-3 4-6 7-6(5). It was a really entertaining match which was concluded with a tense third set tiebreak. Kovinic hasn’t had that big win and therefore, hasn’t attracted as much attention as some of the other up-and-comers on the tour. The 21-year-old though has a super game to watch; the first serve is bigger than you’d expect and there’s variety too which I always like.
Kvitova failed to serve out the match at *5-4 with Kovinic producing some inspired tennis, breaking back with a thumping crosscourt return winner. Kovinic will be kicking herself though as she had a 30-0* opening on Kvitova’s serve at 6-5, but netted a forehand in a promising position up the court. Kvitova had a few slices of lucks with fortuitous net cords in the third set and held her nerve (just) in the last two points having double faulted up 5-4 in the tiebreak.
Serena swept past Laura Siegemund, 6-2 6-1 and Simona Halep looked good with a first win on the WTA tour since Sydney, beating Vania King, 6-1 6-1. I had a good feeling about Simona for this week which is normally a bad thing because my judgement about her form is generally disastrous!
Wrapping up, here are some tweets I liked from day 3 at Indian Wells.
It’s been a rambling post… i’m sorry but hopefully it brought you up to speed if you missed out on some of the action! Indian Wells is a tough one with an eight hour time difference but it’s the weekend so i’m just about on top of things right now.
And finally, let’s end on a positive! Wondered what happened to Casey Dellacqua? Here’s a super Q&A on the WTA website catching up with Casey who was back in doubles action at Indian Wells yesterday after a lengthy lay-off. She teamed up with Sam Stosur, losing out to Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza, 3-6 5-7.