Two of the form women on the WTA tour go head-to-head as Carolina Wozniacki and Kristina Mladenovic battle for a semi-final spot at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
After struggling with form and injuries for the best part of last season, former world number one, Wozniacki came alive in the final quarter of the year, starting off with a strong run to the semi-finals of the US Open. She followed that up with titles in Tokyo and Hong Kong, returning to the top 20 at the end of the year, after dropping outside the top 70 just before the US Open.
Wozniacki is yet to add to her title count this year, but she has been a model of consistency, a quality that stood her out of the park in her world number one days. Wozniacki began her season with back-to-back quarter finals in Auckland and Sydney, losing matches that she could easily have won. She threw away a big lead against Julia Goerges in Auckland, while she came out on the wrong side of an epic three-setter against Barbora Strycova in Sydney. She was well-beaten in the third round of the Australian Open by the in-form Johanna Konta, when the British player could do no wrong. She however rebounded from that into a 13-2 run, reaching the final in her last two tournaments in Doha and Dubai. Her run in the Middle East was all the more remarkable given the insanely heavy schedule she had to come through. A rain hit Qatar Open meant she had to play her quarter-final and semi-final in a day, before returning the next day to take on Karolina Pliskova in the final.
With virtually no rest, Wozniacki hopped over to Dubai, where she would again reach the final, losing to Elina Svitolina. Wozniacki has been near flawless at Indian Wells, seeing off Magda Linette, Katerina Siniakova, and the returning Madison Keys without dropping a set. She has a very good record at the tournament, winning the title in 2011, and reaching the final in 2010 and 2013.
Will Wozniacki make it three WTA finals in a row this week? And will she finally go on to win her first title of the season?
There’s still some way to go, starting with an intriguing quarter final against Kristina Mladenovic. Currently occupying a career high ranking of 26, Mladenovic has compiled a quite impressive season, winning the title in St. Petersburg, and reaching the final in Acapulco. Mladenovic actually started the season slowly, suffering first round losses in Hobart and the Australian Open, but she burst into life with a dominant victory over Australian Open finalist, Venus Williams in St. Petersburg before going on to win her first career title in the Russian city.
Mladenovic would have expected to have done better than a Round of Sixteen loss to Qiang Wang in Dubai, but she did defeat two fellow WTA titlists, Katerina Siniakova and Karolina Pliskova in the opening two rounds of that tournament.
Like Wozniacki, Mladenovic is yet to drop a set at Indian Wells, coming through Annika Beck, Simona Halep and Lauren Davis in her opening three rounds.
Wozniacki holds a 3-0 lead over Mladenovic in the head-to-head. The first two matches were in 2014, with the Dane winning in Monterrey and Istanbul in straight sets. Their most recent reunion in the Hong Kong final in 2016 was far more competitive, with Mladenovic winning her first ever set from Wozniacki, but the Dane ran away with the final set to deny the Frenchwoman the title.
Mladenovic is obviously playing better these days, and she will take the match to Wozniacki, but the Dane enjoys people coming at her, and her superior consistency, and the extra offensive edge she has added to her game should be good enough to get her into another Indian Wells semi-final.