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Indian Wells Turns into Upset City for Top WTA Players

Posted on March 16, 2010 by JA Allen
Maria Sharapova loses to Zheng Jie of China at Indian Wells tournament.

Maria Sharapova loses to Zheng Jie of China at Indian Wells tournament.

Justine Henin goes down to defeat in straight sets in her second round match! Top-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova loses her opening salvo!  Feisty Chinese player Jie Zheng clobbers favored Maria Sharapova!

Kim Clijsters is sent packing by Alisa Kleybanova in a 3rd round thriller!  Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez ousts the No. 3 seed Victoria Azarenka!

It is like watching the air burst from a balloon, allowing the deflating latex to spiral around the room once in a final spurt of glory before coming to land limp and lifeless on the turf.

So go the WTA’s top seeds as well as those “come-back” players expected to win at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

To set the proper mood for this much-anticipated Masters Series event, top-ranked Serena and Venus Williams boycotted the tournament for the ninth consecutive year. Dinara Safina pulled out early with a persistent back injury.  That propelled world No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova into the top spot as the No. 1 seed as action got underway.

Svetlana Kuznetsova’s Quarter

After earning a first round bye, Kuznetsova met Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round –– a match Kuznetsova lost 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.  The Russian was unable to fight back against the Spaniard, even after winning the second set in compelling fashion.

Kuznetsova lacked match fitness in facing Navarro who seemed much sharper and moved much better.  Kuznetsova could not find the mental edge she needed as the No. 1 seed in this major tournament.

Kim Clijsters loses to Alisa Kleybanova of Russia at BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

Kim Clijsters loses to Alisa Kleybanova of Russia at BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

That should have opened things up for Kim Clijsters in the upper half of the Kuznetsova quarter as the Belgian faced Russian Kleybanova in the third round. It was the Russian who edged Clijsters, however, at the finish line 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 to advance.  Now Navarro faces Kleybanova for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Sitting in the bottom half of this quarter is Jelena Jankovic who hung on to defeat Sara Errani of Italy; and now must get through Shahar Pe’er to make it to the quarterfinal match-up.  Pe’er has been playing fine tennis of late.

This quarter is wide open!

Victoria Azarenka’s Quarter

Seeded No. 3 overall, Azarenka had a real shot at going deep, perhaps even winning at Indian Wells. But like so many seeds before her, Azarenka lost early to Martinez Sanchez during a third round encounter.

Lurking in the wings, however, is another youngster, German Yanina Wickmayer, seeded No. 13 at Indian Wells.  Wickmayer has shot up in the rankings since the U.S. Open and is another youngster on the rise.

3rd seed Victoria Azarenka disappointed in defeat by Maria Jose Marinez Sanchez of Spain.

3rd seed Victoria Azarenka disappointed in defeat by Maria Jose Marinez Sanchez of Spain.

In the bottom half  of Azarenka’s quarter is the defending champion from 2009, Vera Zvonareva.  The anticipated match from a year ago between Ana Ivanovic and Zvonareva will not happen because the floundering Serb Ivanovic was dismissed during her first match against Latvian Anastasia Sevastova.

Expect Zvonareva to take out Samantha Stosur and make it through to meet Wickmayer in the quarterfinal match.

Elena Dementieva’s Quarter

Justin Henin, the favorite of many to win this tournament was sent packing in her second round match against Gisela Dulko. This was a huge surprise and let down for those assembled to watch the Belgian climb back up the rankings.  But Dulko had Henin’s number during the match and gave nothing away to the Belgian who struggled to find her game on the night.

Subsequently, Dulko fell to Agnieszka Radwanska, seeded No. 5.  Radwanska is another newcomer to watch carefully.  Radwanska will meet Marion Bartoli in the fourth round.

But the player who was especially pleased to see Henin dismissed is Russian Elena Dementieva who was dismissed prematurely from the Australian Open by Henin.

Seeded No. 4 here, expect Dementievia to meet Radwanska in the quarterfinal match.

Caroline Wozniacki’s Quarter

The big disappointment for Maria Sharapova’s fans in this quarter was Jie Zheng’s dismissal of the Russian beauty in round 3.  It happened in large measure because Sharapova’s errant serve caused innumerable double faults and unforced errors.

Will second seed Caroline Wozniacki hang on to win at Indian Wells?

Will second seed Caroline Wozniacki hang on to win at Indian Wells?

The Russian continues to struggle with her wayward game since returning to the tour after shoulder surgery.   Zheng will next face wild-card entry Alica Molik of Australia in the 4th round while Caroline Wozniacki will face veteran Nadia Petrova.

The Russian Petrova should prove to be Wozniacki’s biggest stumbling block in her quarter. Ultimately, expect Wozniacki to win that match and continue to the quarterfinal match.

The question remains will the No. 2 seed hold on to play another day?

The results?

As the tour heads to the next Masters event in Miami where Azarenka won her first big tournament last year, you have to wonder who will come out of Indian Wells with the advantage and the big ranking points.

Will the wily veteran and favorite Elena Dementieva finally get a win here after making it to the semifinals in 2000 and 2005 and the finals in 2006 when she lost to Maria Sharapova?

Or will the No. 2 seed, Caroline Wozniacki, who made it to the quarterfinals in 2009, losing to eventual champion Zvonareva, finally take this tournament title as her own?

Perhaps someone else will take the trophy including the defending champion Zvonareva?  Maybe it will mark a significant comeback for former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic.

The only thing we know for certain is that seeds have been dropping like dead weights and there is no one who seems to be destined to win.  Stay tuned…


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