by The Spin Team

For years I ignored the BNP Paribas Open (aka Indian Wells).  I ignored it because neither of my faves played this event.  This changed in 2015 when Serena Williams decided to return to Indian Wells.  While she eventually had to withdraw from the tournament due to injury, it was one of those moments that will be etched in the minds of fans for years to come. 

This year, Serena’s big sister, Venus has decided to return to the desert and in a piece in the Players Tribune  she has outlined her reasons for returning to an event that has not only held great memories for her and her family, but also experienced one of the worst moments in her career.  Like many of you, I can’t wait to see her name on the schedule of play as I am sure that she will receive a thunderous welcome along the same lines as greeted Serena’s return last year. 

It is normally the case that the month after the Australian Open is usually filled with ennui.  The lesser lights of both Tours usually take the opportunity to either make some money (Dubai/Doha) or earn some valuable ranking points (and possibly a title) (Acapulco/Monterey/Kuala Lumpur).   This year is no different. 

The top women have been either resting or in some cases took the money and ran (Dubai) or just failed to post at the starting block (Doha).  

Indian Wells is usually the start of the most gruelling part of the season.  Back to back Premier Mandatory events and then it is on to the clay for the lead up to the second Slam of the season, the French Open.  There are 5 players who are in need of a good result during this Indian Wells/Miami events.  They are: 

  • Simona Halep – She has a title in Indian Wells and a semifinalist result in Miami to defend. Her start has been difficult to comprehend. She hired Darren Cahill as her coach, decided to have nasal surgery, cancelled her nasal surgery to play Fed Cup and the Middle East swing. Her record is 3-5. A few of her losses are head scratchers. She lost to Shuai Zhang in Dubai and Elena Vesnina after leading by a set and double break, twice. 
  • Petra Kvitova – Coachless after splitting with longtime coach David Kotyza, Kvitova is currently at her inconsistent best, which usually means that she will probably walk away with either the Indian Wells or Miami title.  
  • Caroline Wozniacki – She is normally a slow starter but this year there is cause for concern. Her losses this year have been to Sloane Stephens, Yulia Putintseva, Dominika Cibulkova, Vesnina and Heather Watson. Her ranking is on the downside of 20.  Her last big tournament win was at Indian Wells in 2011.  
  • Timea Bacsinszky – Last season Bacsinszky came back from injury and announced herself as a serious contender by winning back to back titles in Mexico.  She made the semifinals of the French Open where she took a set off the eventual champion Serena Williams.  Since then Bacsinszky has all but faded from the consciousness of tennis fans.  After finishing near the Top 10, her ranking has plummeted to 21 as her record is 3-6. Last year, she won the Queen of Mexico crown winning Acapulco and Monterrey. She could not defend those titles as she is subject to the Roadmap by being at the top as Venus Williams took the veteran exception and Flavia Pennetta retired.
  • Sloane Stephens – I never thought I would ever type this but Sloane Stephens has more titles this year than many players in the top 10.  She has won two titles so far this year but both have been on the International along with her maiden title in 2015. Can she continue to produce success on the Premier level?  Sloane has not really performed well in the big events (first round at the Australian Open) but she is in her backyard now so it remains to be seen how she plays on a big stage. 

The draw for this year’s Indian Wells tournament can be found here.  There will be no WTA Draw Challenge for Indian Wells as noted by the WTA Insider.  We can only hope that the Draw Challenge will return during the clay season.  

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