Day 1 from the 2019 BNP Paribas Open is in the books with half of the first round matches completed. While looking forward to the two weeks ahead, i’m not a fan of the slow, gritty courts at Indian Wells. I am actually more excited about Miami this year with the venue change. It’s also much better for watching from the UK with the time difference! Read on for five stories in Wednesday’s Set Points post including draw picks at the end of the post.
The first main draw winner of the 2019 BNP Paribas Open was…
Zhang Shuai! The Chinese player produced a very tidy display to defeat a mostly error-strewn, Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-2 6-4. I was looking forward to seeing Kuzmova play after she enjoyed a breakthrough tournament at the WTA level in Dubai last month where she picked up her first top ten 10 win en route to the quarter-finals. However, this was not her day and she was surprisingly ineffective on serve, winning only half of the points behind her first serve.
Zhang was the cleaner striker of the pair, stepping inside the court to dictate and moving the ball around effectively to get Kuzmova out wide and in uncomfortable positions. Zhang advances to a second round match against Jelena Ostapenko. Definitely a mild upset alert there based on Zhang’s impressive first round display and Ostapenko’s shaky start to 2019.
Clutch Konta into R2
Johanna Konta saved ten of 11 break points to beat Pauline Parmentier in straight sets, 6-2 6-3. Konta saved many of those break points in her last two service games. I feel that Konta seems more sure of herself so far this year and is trying to be more aggressive. Despite some promising form, Konta has only managed to win back-to-back matches once on the WTA tour so far this year. I felt like this was an issue last year where she was often unable to momentum into a deep run at the tournament.
Next up for Konta is Hsieh Su-Wei in the second round. I wonder whether these are the conditions for Hsieh to thrive? Still a tough match for Konta who has been bamboozled by Hsieh’s funkiness before. I’d actually go for the upset and side with Konta on this occasion.
Anisimova eases past Krunic
Amanda Anisimova produced a fine display to see off Aleksandra Krunic in straight sets, 6-0 6-4. Anisimova was devastatingly good through the first set and a bit. The 17-year-old American was absolutely pounding Krunic’s return. She was taking the ball so early and her timing was just impeccable. Everything is just so fluid and natural with AA.
Krunic took a few more risks on the second serve in the second set and managed to get a foothold in the match. Anisimova had a little wobble when she thought she had gone up 6-0 4-1, only for a Hawkeye overrule to keep the game going. Krunic became much more competitive as Anisimova began to hit more and more errors. However, Anisimova managed to reset, stay ahead on serve and win the match in straights.
Every time I watch Anisimova play she continues to impress me. Since i’ve started following WTA, she’s the most sold i’ve ever been on an up-and-coming talent. Next up is Elise Mertens in the second round which should be a fascinating clash. It will be a challenging match for Anisimova who will need to be on her game mentally because Mertens is a superb competitor.
While I was sleeping…
Bianca Andreescu and Sofia Kenin both came from a set down to book their places in the second round. I watched the end of the first set between Andreescu and Irina-Camelia Begu as Andreescu rallied from 1-5 down before eventually losing the set on the tiebreak. I wasn’t surprised to see the result this morning with Andreescu prevailing, 6-7(3) 6-3 6-3. I was impressed with Andreescu’s point construction and fighting spirit on court. Kenin overturned a recent loss to Wang Yafan in the final of Acapulco in what sounded like a rather wild opener, 1-6 7-5 6-4.
Daria Gavrilova snapped a seven match losing streak to win her first singles match of 2019, beating Dayana Yastremska, 6-2 5-7 6-2. Really happy for Dasha who celebrated her birthday a few days ago.
Victoria Azarenka defeated Vera Lapko, 6-2 6-3 and will now play Serena Williams in the second round. It will be the first time that the pair have played each other since the 2016 Indian Wells final and they both became mothers.
Indian Wells Draw Challenge
My draw picks for the last 16 are as follows:
Osaka-Bencic, Sevastova-Pliskova, Sakkari-Keys, Tsurenko-Suárez Navarro, Bertens-S.Williams, Anisimova-Stephens, Svitolina-Barty and Kuzmova-Halep
Kuzmova is already out 😬. The unusual conditions in Indian Wells often produce surprises along the way so I am prepared to see some madness prevail. I ended up with a Svitolina-Pliskova final 🤔🤔🤔.