Agnieszka Radwanska and Jelena Jankovic will meet for the ninth time on the WTA tour with a place in the quarter-finals of the 2016 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells up for grabs.
Radwanska survived a huge scare in the second round, coming back from *2-5 down in the third set and saving a match point to defeat Dominika Cibulkova, 6-3 3-6 7-5. It was a brutal match, lasting two hours and 41 minutes. There have been concerns about Radwanska’s ability to back up gruelling wins like this but she passed the challenge on Sunday with flying colours. Radwanska eased into the fourth round with a 6-2 6-1 victory over Monica Niculescu; in truth, the match was much closer than the scoreline suggested.
Radwanska wasn’t great in the first set but neither was Niculescu! While Radwanska’s stats were clean, nine winners to just three unforced errors, she won only five out of 19 points at the net. Niculescu committed too many unforced errors and was wasteful, failing to take advantage of four break points in the sixth game. Radwanska dropped just one more game after that, producing a wonderful second set performance. The world number three staked her claim (once again!) for shot of the month with two individual hotshots (see below). The first one also featured a great pick-up beforehand which was tough in itself.
Jelena Jankovic is into the last 16 of Indian Wells for the third consecutive year. JJ has dropped just five (!) games through her first two matches against Carina Witthoeft (6-1 6-3) and CoCo Vandeweghe (6-1 6-0). The nature of the win over the American player was surprising. Vandeweghe had played an excellent match to defeat Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round but was unable to replicate that performance, committing 32 unforced errors against Jankovic in just 56 minutes of play.
Head-to-head record: Radwanska leads Jankovic, 6-2 in their head-to-head. Jankovic snapped a five match losing streak in Rome in 2014 on her favourite surface and Radwanska’s least favourite. Radwanska prevailed in their most recent match in the last 16 at Wimbledon, 7-5 6-4, in what was a magnificent match that ranked in my top 20 of 2015. The pair have played in Indian Wells once before with Radwanska edging a quarter-final clash in 2014, 6-4 in the third set.
Interesting Stat: While Jankovic is a former champion of Indian Wells in 2010, Radwanska has been equally impressive at this tournament racking up 26 main draw wins since 2007, one more than the Serb.
Final thoughts: Radwanska will be the favourite to come through this match but Jankovic certainly has a lot going for her. The key for JJ will be to produce a consistently high level; a few years ago when she was world number one this wouldn’t have been an issue, but as she’s looked to be more aggressive, it’s rare for the Serb to string her best level together across two or three sets. Furthermore, she’s become more fragile mentally and is prone to lapses in concentration. Radwanska has her leg heavily taped this week and will still be potentially vulnerable after that lengthy second round match. However, Jankovic will have to produce something special to out-perform Radwanska who has been playing positive and consistent tennis for many months…
Prediction: Radwanska d. Jankovic in 3 sets