The first batch of seeds come out to play on Friday with the start of the second round with matches from the top half of the draw. The likes of Simona Halep, Garbiñe Muguruza, Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova, Jelena Ostapenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova are all in action. Read on for a sweeping preview of my favourite matches of the day.
Match of the day – Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Naomi Osaka
There isn’t a stand-out match drawing me in like day 1 but once again i’ve gone for Naomi Osaka. The Japanese player will follow up her first round win over Maria Sharapova against another high profile WTA name in Agnieszka Radwanska. The number 31 seed has been marginally better in her start to 2018 but has still looked rather vulnerable and lacking power in her shots. The conditions are likely to suit Radwanska. I am feeling quite optimistic for Osaka right now in her start to the year and I like her chances at causing the “upset”. The pair will be playing each other for the first time.
Hipster match – Barbora Strycova vs. Petra Martic
This sounds like fun. Petra Martic has been mostly peaking for the big events and has reached the second week at three of her last four Slams. Martic made a good start to Indian Wells with a 6-3 6-1 win over Tatjana Maria on Wednesday. First up is the number 25 seed, Barbora Strycova. The Czech player has made a decent start to the year although somewhat curtailed in the Middle East where she suffered from food poisoning.
The pair haven’t played in almost seven years with their last clash back in 2011 so the head-to-head record is pretty much null and void. Strycova is the safe pick with her encouraging consistency this year. I’d tag this as a mild upset alert because Martic is legit these days. I’ll go for Strycova in three sets.
Jelena Ostapenko has appeared in all my “upset alert” picks this year as she struggles for form in 2018. The number 6 seed will open against Belinda Bencic in a first career match-up. Bencic will likely be boosted after saving a match point to beat Timea Babos in a wildly entertaining desert opener. BB for the win.
I’d give the nod to Kaia Kanepi over the number 17 seed, CoCo Vandeweghe. Kanepi still seems to be sporting streams of strapping, yet her level has been sky high. Vandweghe herself has been suffering with a virus for much of the year and is yet to win a WTA main draw match in 2018.
Finally, my out there pick for the day would be the 16-year-old, Amanda Anisimova to take out the number 23 seed, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Anisimova was hugely impressive in her 6-2 6-2 win over Pauline Parmentier and will be well adjusted to the conditions having played the $125k Oracle Challenger event at Indian Wells last week. Pavlyuchenkova, who has been dealt a series of tough draws this year, has won just one of six WTA main draw matches in 2018.
The number 5 seed, Karolina Pliskova will play Irina-Camelia Begu at Indian Wells for the second straight year. Pliskova needed two tight sets to get the win in 2017, prevailing 6-4 7-6(2) in the third round. I’d fancy Pliskova to score another straight sets win.
The number 14 seed, Kristina Mladenovic will be seeking to snap a 0-4 head-to-head record against Sam Stosur when the pair meet in the second round of Indian Wells. The pair haven’t played for nearly three years. Mladenovic has been inconsistent in recent weeks but generally looks back on track after snapping the long losing streak. I’ll go for Mlads.
On the comeback…
The number 19 seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova will play her first match since Beijing following surgery on her wrist. Kuznetsova has been dealt a difficult draw up against Aryna Sabalenka. The Belarusian is not the type of player you want to play after a long break! Common sense suggests Sabalenka should prevail with superior match fitness, but conditions are perfect for Kuznetsova’s game. I’ll go for Sabalenka in three. Finally, Petra Kvitova will make her first appearance at Indian Wells in two years when she puts her 13-match winning streak on the line against Yulia Putintseva. Go Petra!