Monday’s Set Points, WTA Indian Wells Day 6: Mladenovic & Peng cause upsets, Kerber survives

Set PointsIn another scorching day in the desert, Angelique Kerber battled her way into the last 16, fending off a fierce charge from Pauline Parmentier to win, 7-5 3-6 7-5 in two hours and 35 minutes of gruelling tennis. Hats off to Parmentier who played a great match. Her inside-out forehand was at times, stunning, and despite missing a set point in the first set, thoroughy deserved to win the second set. The Frenchwoman was rewarded for her positive play to go up 4-1 in the third set. She even had a point for 5-2 and was a tad unlucky to lose that game…

It was a battling display from Kerber – she levelled up at 4-4, held with scoreboard pressure at *4-5, got the break at 5-5 on her 5th break point, and then sealed the win on her third match point despite some serving yips. Kerber’s forehand down-the-line remains a potent weapon, but for much of the match she was very reactive and playing way behind the baseline; an indication that the confidence isn’t quite there yet. A win is a win and she has another chance to keep improving.

Kerber will play Elena Vesnina next who has reached the fourth round of Indian Wells for the first time in her career. The number 14 seed needed the doctor on court at the start of the third set but kept fighting, eventually defeating Timea Babos, 6-4 1-6 6-4.

There’s no skirting round around it, this was a dreadful match! There was little rhythm from either player in the decider with a consistent stream of errors from both sides. Sometimes it just happens and the conditions were challenging. The most entertaining moment was when Vesnina reacted to Babos’s constant screaming after winning points with a scream of own… feisty!

The final game was fun with a sudden burst in intensity from both players when Babos was down match point. Babos saved three match points and even had a game point to make it 5-5; however, she just couldn’t keep the ball in play for long enough and Vesnina got the win. Kudos to Vesnina who is putting together another top-notch year.

While Kerber and Vesnina laboured through their matches, Lauren Davis flew through her third rounder, beating an erratic, Julia Goerges, 6-1 6-4. Davis has won 37 of her last 48 matches (!) since Wimbledon last year and seems to be enjoying her tennis these days. She had an amusing changeover chat with her coach after winning the first set.

The number 28 seed, Kristina Mladenovic knocked out the number four seed, Simona Halep, 6-3 6-3. This was a tough one for Simona who is still coming back to full fitness with the knee injury. It was clear from one of the changeovers with Darren Cahill that it’s still an issue as he remarked that the number one priority was getting through the match without pain. Add to that, Halep also received the sad news that her Grandfather had passed away in the week.

I actually thought Halep played a decent match and it was closer than the scoreline suggested – the issue was her conversion of break points with three out of 22, an indicator of her lack of matches this year. Mladenovic was dynamic for the most part with a few baffling moments. Under what seemed like little pressure, Mladenovic played a shocker of a service game trying to serve out the match with five (?) double faults. Halep broke but Mladenovic had already done the hard work with the double break cushion and produced another excellent return game to win.

I stayed up for the first set of Venus Williams v Lucie Safarova which was the highest quality set I watched all night although there wasn’t much competition! Venus won, 6-4 6-2, playing a vastly improved match compared to her second rounder against Jelena Jankovic, and coming up with some bullet strokes. Lucie could have done more on return in the first set. I’ve found from my own experiences of playing tennis that I prefer a faster serve and a slower one can be just as difficult to deal with as you have to generate your own pace.

For Lucie (and Beth!) fans, here’s a fun feature where they were interviewed by some kids.

While I was asleep…

The qualifier, Peng Shuai continued her stunning start to the year, knocking out the number six seed, Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4 6-4.

Caroline Wozniacki has dropped just seven games through two matches – she beat Katerina Siniakova handily, 6-3 6-1.

And in the late night match, Madison Keys comfortably saw off Naomi Osaka, 6-1 6-4. I thought that would be much closer but it sounds like Madison delivered and Naomi sadly just had an off day. I’m excited by this start from Madison!

Too busy at work to conjure up any previews for Tuesday which is a shame… i’m longing for Eastbourne and Wimbledon when i’ll be able to focus fully on the tennis. A few quick thoughts on the R4 matches from the top half.

Karolina Pliskova v Timea Bacsinszky – Bacsinszky has two wins over Pliskova but the Czech player won their most recent match on hard courts in straight sets last year. I’m impressed that Timea has reached the last 16 again at Indian Wells and while battling superbly in the third round to save match points against Kiki Bertens, I still think she needs more matches this year before hitting top form. This will be a good test for her but i’d expect Pliskova to prevail.

Garbiñe Muguruza v Elina Svitolina – Now this one is interesting! Svitolina is riding a huge wave of confidence and she’s won her last two matches against Muguruza. I thought the Spaniard did extremely well to escape from the match against Kayla Day. This is a tough one for Muguruza – being aggressive will be key but Svitolina loves a target at the net so she’ll need to be precise. She doesn’t always look convinced in the tactic. Leaning towards match win #16…

Dominika Cibulkova v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Rather quietly, Pavs is putting together a decent year – this is her first appearance in the last 16 of IW since her first outing at this tournament in 2009. Cibulkova’s win over Kristyna Pliskova was, in my opinion, her best win of 2017 so far – she was on the brink of defeat but managed to rescue the situation with a comeback win that had vibes from 2016. She went after her shots down match point, showing a belief in her game that has been missing in 2017. Cibulkova’s won her last three matches against Pavs and she’s convinced me by her recent performance.

Svetlana Kuznetsova v Caroline Garcia – These last three matches are all so difficult to call and for me, highlights the depth on the WTA tour right now. Their last match on hard court went to a third set tiebreak with Kuznetsova squeaking out a win. Both have the ability to go off on a merry wander but i’d have more faith in Kuznetsova. There are some encouraging signs from Garcia, particularly how she closed out the win over Konta, but she still makes me nervous!

 

And finally, Sloane Stephens 😂😂😂

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15 thoughts on “Monday’s Set Points, WTA Indian Wells Day 6: Mladenovic & Peng cause upsets, Kerber survives

  1. I’m going Pliskova and Muguruza 2 sets, Cibulkova and Kuznetsova in 3.
    If Svitolina can take Muguruza to 3 sets, then I think she’ll grind out a win. I do think Garcia has more than a chance against Sveta, because I think this court is particularly well suited to her serve and she has that little bit extra time to line up her groundstrokes.

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  2. Radwanska’s performances have been very poor this year. She is just hitting the ball these days and just returning them, before most of her shots used to have meaning and you could see what she was doing to puzzle her opponents and the opponents used to look like they had no idea what was going on. Now she seems very passive in her shots, it’s very sad to watch what has become of her. This year there has been no intelligence or smartness in her game that used to be her bread and butter, and I do feel she is struggling with this new racket. The angles that Peng hits are incredible, she hits very flat and very sharp angles.
    On a brighter note a lot of young girls and old ones (Venus, Peng) are playing very well. Venus played an incredible match against Lucie, I dont think Lucie played poorly, Venus was on fire and I do think she was totally feeding on Lucie’s pace to redirect the ball.
    All of today’s matches are very interesting, I do believe Muguruza has in her to win more grand slams, I believe the same for Pliskova that she can win her first this or next year, Pliskova is losing some of the oomph in her shots but she is getting smarter and smarter on the court and in time I think she will be able to be both smart and hit hard at the same time (may be like Muguruza in FO final last year)..
    I am excited for Bacsinzky and Pliskova match as Bacsinzky can get very awkward and times, however, I do think that now Pliskova is mature enough to know how to deal with awkward players.

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    • Agreed with almost everything.

      Peng hits quite a lot like Li Na used to do. Unfortunately every time she has a great spell she seems to suffer with injury. That US Open match was the most painful moment I’ve witnessed in tennis!

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      • Oh that match at the US was horrendous! She’s a real fighter though and I think she’s playing as well as she was when top 20 in 2011, if not better. I feel like her groundstrokes are much more aggressive now.

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      • I saw a bit of that match (Peng vs Radwanska) and I thought of Li Na too, and not just because she’s Chinese; her shots have the same solidity about them.

        The alarm bells should be ringing for Aga right now, she seems to be way off her usual standard at the moment and for no obvious reason. I don’t think it’s just her racket that’s responsible as she played some great shots against Christina McHale in Sydney using the Srixon, and top players aren’t usually casual about changing their racket or taking the time to get used to it.

        On a happier note, great match between Domi Cibulkova and Kris Pliskova yesterday; both played very high quality tennis and I think it deserves to be a contender for James’s top 20 matches of the year. Domi’s in with a real chance of the no.4 spot soon if she keeps this up.

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      • I think Cibulkova is garanteed to go top four next week. She isn’t faring quite as well in the Road to Singapore, but she isn’t doing badly and she’s a great clay court player.

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    • Radwanska isn’t all there. I’m hoping it is more of a mental issue than a physical one. Not worried just yet. Peng is certainly playing with a ‘sense of urgency’, the injury layoff must have done her some good in both mind and body. She is improving in her doubles too, was going to be a stiff challenge for Aga either way, so kudos. Speaking of injury comebacks, I’m happy when Keys is happy. She does look rested and focused. She kept the pressure on Osaka. Fingers crossed she goes far here. Osaka just needs a great run at one of these tournaments to pull her out of her shell.

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      • Muguruza has become someone difficult betting on winning matches, I guess. I think she’ll win this one though. And I still think she could win a Slam this year.

        It’s great that we have a few players consistently putting up strong results. Kuznetsova hasn’t started as strong as last year, but it feels like she’s making QFs at almost every event lately! And of course Svitolina and Pliskova are rocking it this year.

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  3. Aga needs to work on her fitness or she will not be in the top 10. All those girls on tour are fit and have muscle mass. Kerber is not bringing in the crowds as a number 1 player. Barely anybody buying tickets to watch her. The WTA needs a star other than Serena to draw a big crowd. Venus is the only female player had large crowds at her games.

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    • Agreed. I saw a recent photo of Aga exercising in a gym (of all places) and I was shocked at how thin she is now, almost like one of these size 0 models that I keep seeing articles in the press complaining about (and with good reason IMO, but that’s by the by). If she’s doing it deliberately I think it’s very misguided; she badly needs more power in her shots and particularly her serves if she’s to remain competitive in the top 10, and to have more stamina in order to recover quickly from tough matches.

      Maybe her association with Tom Wiktorowski has run its course now and she needs to work with someone else.

      Garbine’s playing well; if she gets past Karolina I think she could go all the way here and win it (and it’s time she won another tourny now).

      Good win by Elena (Vesnina) yesterday; although it sounds like Angie was very subpar in that match (which I didn’t see). Elena’s game’s come together really well in the last year (when she’s not playing Serena at Wimbledon anyway) and with a good run here she’ll consolidate her position in the top 20, which is what she deserves.

      I didn’t see Pavs play Sveta, but I’ll bet there was a nice hug at the net after the match; there usually is when they play each other!

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