In a battle of the funky forehands, the number 15 seed, Timea Bacsinszky will take on Monica Niculescu in the second round of Indian Wells on Friday.
Niculescu recovered from a sluggish start to defeat a tiring, Sorana Cirstea in the first round, 4-6 6-3 6-1. Cirstea was rewarded for her positivity in the first set as she looked to come forward and be aggressive off the return. Cirstea kept up with the gameplan in the second set but her success rate at the net dropped like a stone as Niculescu tidied up her game in a big way, dropping just five points behind her serve in the second set.
Cirstea persisted in coming forward in the third set but became increasingly erratic and impatient, missing almost every shot up at the net as she failed to make a dent on an increasingly solid Niculescu. The 29-year-old won 14 of the last 16 points to book her place in the second round.
Indian Wells will be just Bacsinszky’s third tournament of the year – her second was in Doha where she was forced to pull out with a left thigh injury after losing the first set to Yulia Putintseva. For the second straight year, Bacsinszky was injured during the first few weeks of the year but salvaged the first month, reaching the third round of the Australian Open and just coming up short against Daria Gavrilova in a gutsy display. There’s still very few data points for Bacsinszky in 2017 – a duo of wins in Fed Cup action over Kristina Mladenovic and Alizé Cornet was very impressive.
Head-to-head record: Niculescu had been Bacsinszky’s nemesis on tour having won four of their five encounters prior to 2015. Since Bacsinszky has rocketed up the rankings, she has found a way back in their last two matches, both in three setters at Wimbledon in 2015 (1-6 7-5 6-2) and 2016 (4-6 6-2 6-1). I still remember the deafening roar from Timea when she won that match in 2015!
Interesting stat(s): Niculescu’s win over Cirstea in the first round of Indian Wells snapped a four match losing streak on tour, stretching back to her loss in the final of Hobart. For Bacsinszky, she will be seeking to reach the last 16 of Indian Wells for the third successive year.
Final thoughts: This has been a tricky, tricky match-up for Bacsinszky in the past as she has become entangled in Niculescu’s web of trickery. Their last two matches saw Bacsinszky grit her way from a set down to win. There will be no surprises for Bacsinszky – she will know exactly what to expect against Niculescu and that a solid gameplan is needed to counteract the lack of pace coming from Niculescu’s side. After not playing for quite a few weeks, Bacsinszky will need to be on the ball – in my opinion, the results from their last two match-ups, as well as the conditions in Indian Wells, should give her the edge and I think she’ll find a way through, likely in three drawn-out sets.