World No. 1 Serena Williams withdrew from Indian Wells late Tuesday afternoon, gifting Angelique Kerber a return to the No. 1 ranking on the WTA tour.
Wah wah…there goes the drama.
Other storylines to watch over the next two weeks include the emergence of last year’s US Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova, and returns from injury for Madison Keys (first appearance of the year after wrist surgery), Simona Halep (returning from knee injury), and Johanna Konta (foot injury).
The 32 seeds all receive opening-round byes, but a slew of tough match await straight-off in the second round.
The draw and seedings have yet to be reshuffled after Serena’s abrupt withdrawal.
Here’s a look at the four quarters of the draw:
Top 4 Seeds: (1) Serena Williams (WITHDREW), (7) Garbine Muguruza, (10) Elina Svitolina, (15) Timea Bacsinszky
Floaters: Monica Puig, Belinda Bencic, CiCi Bellis, Kirsten Flipkens, (32) Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
Notes: Tough starts for (18) Kiki Bertens vs. Bencic, and (7) Muguruza, who has had an injury-plagued year already, and could be a mental mess starting against the Bellis-Flipkens winner…Kind of a yawner quarter, especially now with Serena out. Look for (10) Svitolina to emerge into the semis if she can handle the pressure as the favorite.
Top 4 Seeds: (3) Karolina Pliskova, (8) Svetlana Kuznetsova, (11) Johanna Konta, (13) Carolina Wozniacki
Floaters: Camila Giorgi, (21) Caroline Garcia
Notes: (8) Kuznetsova, who lost 1st rd. last year, has a tough start against Giorgi…Draw could open up for (21) Garcia…(3) Pliskova 4th rd. vs. the backboard (13) Woz would be an interesting rematch from weeks ago…(3) Pliskova couldn’t ask for a better quarter, and will emerge into the semis after possibly facing an unlikely quarterfinal foe.
Top 4 Seeds: (4) Simona Halep, (5) Dominika Cibulkova, (9) Madison Keys, (16) Sam Stosur
Floaters: Naomi Osaka, Daria Kasatkina, Genie Bouchard, Alison Riske, Donna Vekic, (28) Kristina Mladenovic
Notes: This quarter is going to be a mess between some solid floating talent and top seeds Halep and Keys who are coming off injury, Cibulkova who is struggling, and Stosur who you never know what you’re going to get…Tough starts for (30) Shuai Zhnag vs. the riser Osaka, (9) Keys vs. Kasatkina, and (4) Halep vs. the Riske-Vekic winner (and winner of that looking at the hot-handed (28) Mladenovic 3rd rd.). Start flipping coins to see who ends up in the quarterfinals here, it’s anyone’s guess.
Top 4 Seeds: (2) Angie Kerber, (6) Aggie Radwanska, (12) Venus Williams, (14) Elena Vesnina
Floaters: Ekaterina Makarova, Lucie Safarova, Jelena Jankovic, Andrea Petkovic, (20) CoCo Vandeweghe, (31) Ana Konjuh
Notes: Again, the seeds leading the quarter — Kerber, Radwanska — have struggled to get their games out of the crapper in the start of 2017…Lots of intrigue: Could Kerber be in trouble in her opener against German countrywoman Petkovic who knows her game and mentality inside and out? How about an opener for Venus that’s all-former-No. 1s against Jankovic? And then a meeting against her fellow American Vandewehge? Other tough starts went to (6) Radwanska vs. the powerful Makarova, and (20) Vandeweghe vs. the Czech veteran Safarova…Kerber vs. either Venus, CoCo or Aggie in the quarters will be good TV.
Tournament wildcards were awarded to Americans Jennifer Brady, Danielle Collins, Irina Falconi, Kayla Day, Nicole Gibbs, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Taylor Townsend, and the Croat Donna Vekic. Withdrawing from the tournament were defending champ Victoria Azarenka who is tending to her new baby, Alize Cornet, Anna-Lena Friedsam, Karin Knapp, Petra Kvitova, Sloane Stephens and Serena Williams.
Now the tournament is without either of last year’s finalists as the younger Williams fell 6-4, 6-4 to Azarenka in the 2016 championship.
Former title winners in the field are Halep (2015), Wozniacki (2011), and Jankovic (2010).
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