I can tell you that Maria Sharapova doesn’t have a difficult draw in Indian Wells — because she’s not here! Boom!
What, too early for Maria jokes?
Hey, just because you got caught taking a drug that is really a performance-enhancing stimulant for the majority of your career doesn’t mean you’re guilty. That’s just using your cash and team of chemists to stay ahead of the curve, right? Just because the majority of Russian athletes take it, and Russian athletics totally skirts IOC drug rules, doesn’t mean anything. Just because it wasn’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Maria lives in the U.S. Those Russian athletes must all be taking pre-diabetes measures! Good for them, you gotta look out for your health.
But back to the task at hand, which is the women’s Indian Wells draw — not featuring Maria Sharapova, but with current No. 1 Serena Williams, five former No. 1s among the seeds, numerous Grand Slam champs besides Serena — you get it, the draw is loaded.
This tournament has long been the playground for players not named Williams to grab a major title due to the sisters’ boycott, but those days are over.
Main draw play gets underway Wednesday for the women. Let’s have a look:
BNP PARIBAS OPEN
Indian Wells, Calif., USA; Surface: hard
Seeds: Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska, Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep, Carla Suarez Navarro, Belinda Bencic, Petra Kvitova, Roberta Vinci, Venus Williams, Lucie Safarova, Timea Bacsinszky, Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic, Sara Errani, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens, Andrea Petkovic, Madison Keys, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Johanna Konta, Samantha Stosur, Kristina Mladenovic, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Sabine Lisicki, Ekaterina Makarova, Daria Gavrilova, Monica Niculescu
Floaters: Alison Riske, Lucie Hradecka, Heather Watson, CoCo Vandeweghe, Yanina Wickmayer, Genie Bouchard
All 32 seeds receive opening-round byes, but some juicy second round potential upsets loom with (30) Makarova vs. the Riske/Hradecka winner, (32) Niculescu vs. the hot-handed Watson, (16) Kuznetsova vs. Vandeweghe, (26) Stosur vs. Wickmayer who the Aussie lost to in their last meeting, and (21) Stephens vs. the surging Bouchard;
(1) Serena’s testing could start in the 4th round against the retrieving (15) Errani, then in the quarters against either (5) Halep or (10) Venus;
Wildcards were awarded to Americans Samantha Crawford, Lauren Davis, Jamie Loeb, Riske, Shelby Rogers, Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova, Brit Heather Watson and China’s Zhang Shuai;
Qualifying is still underway;
Withdrawing from the event were Sharapova (citing an arm injury — prior to knowing about the positive drug test?), Karin Knapp, Ajla Tomljanovic, Mona Barthel, Alize Cornet and Varvara Lepchenko;
No player has won more than two career titles at the ultra-competitive Indian Wells women’s event, and only Martina Navratilova has won back-to-back titles;
Venus Williams is returning to Indian Wells after a 15-year boycott; Serena ended her boycott last year;
Halep beat Jankovic in last year’s three-set final; Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza are the defending champs in doubles;
Former champs in the field are Halep (2015), Azarenka (2012), Wozniacki (2011), Jankovic (2010), Ivanovic (2008), Hantuchova (2007,’02), and Serena Williams (2001,’99).
DRAW BREAKDOWN BY QUARTER
(1) Serena should emerge into the semis, but look for a blockbuster quarterfinal meeting with either Halep or Venus.
(3) Radwanska and (8) Kvitova are the top seeds, but with their results this year, is that where you want to put your money? This quarter is loaded with young talent like Keys and Lisicki looking to pop out, and veterans like Jankovic and Kuznetsova. This quarter is a complete toss-up.
Another quarter pitting new wave (Muguruza, Bencic, Gavrilova, Svitolina) against old wave (Azarenka, Vinci, Wozniacki, Stosur). The resurgent Azarenka is the wild card here among the oldies. Third round could feature Muguruza vs. Stosur and Azarenka vs. Wozniacki. Don’t know if Muguruza has her head right yet, so a Bencic vs. Azarenka quarterfinal meeting could determine the semifinalist here.
(2) Kerber is the queen after the Aussie Open win, and she’s been given a queen-like draw in the bottom quarter. (6) Suarez Navarro is the next-highest seed, grouped with iffy seeded performers such as Stephens, Ivanovic and Bacsinszky. Kerber should be the only thing standing between Kerber and the semis here.
Serena, after withdrawing last year in the semis against Halep citing injury, and this year along with Venus’ comeback should be pumped for a title. I’ll go with Serena d. Kerber in the final for some Aussie Open revenge.
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