The seeds came out to play on day 3 of main draw action at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Seven of the 16 seeds lost on Friday. I don’t think it’s a huge surprise with this tournament because having a bye in the first round is hardly a benefit with the unseeded players, so many quality players, being able to adjust to the unique conditions quicker. Read on for five stories including thoughts on the late night blockbuster between Serena and Vika.
Vondrousova ousts last year’s finalist
The first match up on Stadium 6 featured two players who had banner tournaments in the desert last year and therefore, were defending a chunky amount of ranking points. Last year’s Indian Wells finalist, Daria Kasatkina went up against Marketa Vondrousova, who reached the last 16. It was the Czech player, Vondrousova, who prevailed for a 6-2 6-1 victory in a result that will see Kasatkina fall out of the world’s top 20.
The match was closer than the scoreline suggested with Vondrousova winning the majority of key points and rolling through the final games of both sets. Kasatkina showed some positive intent early on but always looked vulnerable on serve, throwing in a couple of wayward double faults. Kasatkina barely made an impact on Vondrousova’s service games, mustering just the one break point in the 70 minute contest.
Vondrousova played a very consistent match and won the battle of variety, producing an array of devilish drop shot winners. I really do enjoy watching Vondrousova hittt the ball and if she can stay healthy, there’s no doubt that she is a solid top 30 player, perhaps top 20 and beyond. I’m a tad worried for Kasatkina who is currently coachless after splitting with Phillippe Dehaes. I think it will take a while for Dasha to build her confidence again after a rough start to 2019. A lot of the fragility seems to come from the serve, which has looked very laboured so far this year.
Konta thrashes Hsieh
The upsets kept on coming on Friday as Johanna Konta produced an emphatic display to oust Hsieh Su-Wei, 6-0 6-2. It was another clutch display from Konta who saved all 12 break points that she faced. The Brit has now saved 22 of 23 break points faced in Indian Wells! It’s great to see Jo secure back-to-back wins and playing so aggressively and with confidence in what she’s doing. Next up is Kiki Bertens in R3 which will be one of the stand-out matches on Sunday.
The most anticipated match of the day between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka lived up to expectation and then some. It was a match that was so befitting to happen on International Women’s Day. The pair were throwing the kitchen sink at each other but deep rooted was the respect and admiration that they hold for each other. Both racquet clapped shots from each other (love to see this!) and their embrace at the end of the match was so genuine.
The quality and intensity of this match was sensational. Even thought it was decided in straight sets, there wasn’t much to separate the pair with 12 of the 21 games going to deuce. Both returned extremely well in the first set, especially Azarenka, who made the brighter start. Williams’s footwork was a touch off. Hardly surprising with this being her first match since the Australian Open. Williams had a huge hold at 3-3, broke with the momentum on her side, got a little casual serving for the set at *5-3, but then showed nerves of steel to escape a titanic game at 5-5. Serena saved four break points as she managed to land first serves when it really mattered. Serena played a tremendous return game to break for the first set. A 73 minute opening set thriller!
The quality from the first set carried over into the second set. Increasingly dominant behind the first serve and finding the big serve in the crux moments, Serena served out the win, 7-5 6-3 in two hours and seven minutes. It was so wonderful to see Azarenka play at a consistently high level and I only hope she can continue to build on this performance. From where she was mentally in Melbourne, she seems to have taken a huge step forward. Playing regularly will only help to build momentum and here’s hoping she can get a bit of luck with the draws. It wasn’t a surprise to see Serena bring her A-game because of the respect she has for Azarenka’s game. The American will have stay on it with Garbiñe Muguruza up next in the third round.
Even though it was a straight setter, this was one of the best matches of 2019. Even more so when you factor in the tricky wind conditions and that this tournament rarely seems to produce high-quality tennis because of the slow court and bizarre conditions. A treat to wake up to on this Saturday morning!
Definitely recommend watching this one back on catch-up if you’ve got the time. WTA highlights linked below…
Adore this shot of Garbiñe Muguruza and Carla Suárez Navarro who won their first round doubles match on Thursday.