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WTA Indian Wells 2019 Draw Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Osaka and Kvitova headline top half; Serena, Halep on semi-final collision course in a jam-packed Indian Wells field

Leye Aduloju in WTA Tour 5 Mar 2019
  • Naomi Osaka has been handed a tough draw at Indian Wells as she may have to get past Caroline Wozniacki, Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova to reach the final
  • Serena Williams may have to take down quite a few Grand Slam champions, including Victoria Azarenka, Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens and Simona Halep to reach the final
Tough draw for Serena Williams. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Defending champion, Naomi Osaka and Czech left-hander, Petra Kvitova headline the top half of the Indian Wells draw, while Serena Williams and Simona Halep could be set for a semi-final clash at the BNP Paribas Open, live from Indian Wells from 7-17 March.

It’s an absolutely loaded field in California, with the world’s top 28 players all present at the first Premier Mandatory tournament of the season.

Who will come through a high-quality field to emerge as the last woman standing when the honours are handed out on finals day?

We preview the women’s draw

FIRST QUARTER

Projected Quarter Final: Naomi Osaka (1) vs Karolina Pliskova (5) [Head-to-head: 2-2]
Other key players: Caroline Wozniacki, Belinda Bencic, Anastasija Sevastova, Danielle Collins

Playing as the defending champion at a tour-level event for the first time in her career, World No. 1, Naomi Osaka has got a very difficult draw, as she may need to take out former world No. 1’s, Caroline Wozniacki and Karolina Pliskova just to get out of her quarter. The Japanese is bidding to become just the second woman to retain the Indian Wells title, after Martina Navratilova in 1991.

Naomi Osaka. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Osaka’s sensational rise really took off at Indian Wells last season, when she defeated Maria Sharapova, Pliskova and Halep en route her first career title, and she has gone on to win two majors since then- the US Open in 2018 and the Australian Open earlier this year- a result which vaulted her into the No. 1 position in the world. There has been a significant change in Osaka’s team since the Australian Open, as she split with former coach, Sascha Bajin and brought on Jermaine Jenkins. She also spent some time on the sidelines after Melbourne to deal with a back injury, and has only played one match since Australia, a straight-sets defeat to Kristina Mladenovic in Dubai. Interestingly, she could open against Mladenovic at Indian Wells, provided the Frenchwoman gets through Saisai Zheng in the first round. Osaka has a first round bye. Form wise, Osaka isn’t in the greatest space at the moment, as she has played just one match since the end of January- and lost that match too. This Indian Wells draw doesn’t really give her a chance to play her way into the tournament, which could leave her susceptible to an early exit.

It gets progressively more difficult for Osaka, as she could take on Australian Open semi-finalist, Danielle Collins in the third round, while Wozniacki or Dubai champion, Belinda Bencic will most likely be her fourth round opponent- if she gets that far. Given that Wozniacki has not played since the Australian Open, and is only 2-3 for the season, Bencic, who was sensational in Dubai, appears to be the better bet to reach the fourth round. 

Pliskova leads the other side of this quarter, and following a first round bye, she could open against the very tricky Tunisian, Ons Jabeur, while Donna Vekic, who has been in fine form this year, and the crafty Anastasija Sevastova represent the most formidable roadblocks in the third and fourth rounds respectively. Pliskova has made at least the Indian Wells quarter finals in each of the last three seasons, reaching the semis in 2016 and 2017.

Predicted Quarter Final: Belinda Bencic vs Karolina Pliskova
Semi-Finalist: Karolina Pliskova

SECOND QUARTER

Projected Quarter Final: Petra Kvitova (3) vs Angelique Kerber (8) [Head-to-head: Kvitova leads 7-6]
Other key players: Madison Keys, Aryna Sabalenka, Julia Goerges, Venus Williams

It’s another jam-packed Indian Wells quarter, with Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber leading the way, but there are absolutely no guarantees that either player will make it as far as the semi-finals. Kvitova, who has been in fine form this season, winning the Sydney title and reaching finals at the Australian Open and Dubai is immediately thrown into the deep end, as she potentially opens against seven-time Grand Slam champion, Venus Williams. Venus is only 4-2 for the year and has not played since a third round loss to Simona Halep at the Australian Open, but she still represents a difficult opening round examination for anyone, especially on American soil. The 38-year-old will have to get past Germany’s Andrea Petkovic to set up that blockbuster against Kvitova.

Petra Kvitova. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
If Kvitova survives, and I think she will, the powerful Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is a potential third round opponent, while she could face more heavy-hitting in the form of Madison Keys or Julia Goerges in the fourth round. Goerges may have to get through the ever-dangerous Kaia Kanepi in the second round. It’s a section of the draw dominated by big hitters, and Kvitova will enjoy that, as she targets her third Indian Wells quarter final. She has never been to the semis in California.

If the Kvitova does get to the quarter finals, she is projected to meet fellow left-hander and two-time semi-finalist, Angelique Kerber, who has got a reasonably kind draw up until the fourth round, where she could barge into Belarusian ninth seed, Aryna Sabalenka. Kerber has looked good in spells this season, but she has also suffered a couple of unexpected losses, most notably against Danielle Collins at the Australian Open. I expect the German to make the fourth round, but I’ll be leaning towards Shenzhen champion, Sabalenka should that Round of 16 match-up materializes.

Predicted Quarter Final: Petra Kvitova vs Aryna Sabalenka 
Semi-Finalist: Petra Kvitova


THIRD QUARTER

Projected Quarter Final: Sloane Stephens (4) vs Kiki Bertens (7) [Head-to-head: Stephens leads 2-0]
Other key players: Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Garbine Muguruza, Elise Mertens

Sloane Stephens and Kiki Bertens are on opposite ends of the third quarters, but in between them lie some heavyweight names, including the heaviest of them all, Serena Williams, who is bidding to become the first woman to win the Indian Wells title on three occasions. She is also seeking her first title in motherhood, 12 months after she made her return to the tour from maternity leave at the same venue. She has had a couple of close shaves, reaching the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open last year- can she finally get over the line in California?

It’s a very tough draw for the American, as she could take on multiple major champions and former No. 1’s in her opening two matches, with Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza lining her route to the fourth round. Azarenka and Muguruza haven’t been at their best lately, but given the rivalry; the pride and the inherent abilities of these Grand Slam champions, they could cause Williams serious problems, especially since she could have elements of rusts, having not played since her quarter final loss to Karolina Pliskova at the Australian Open. The flip side is that such high caliber opposition may mean Williams hits the ground running, which will prepare her better for the challenges ahead.

Serena Williams. ( (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Azarenka still has to get past compatriot, Vera Lapko to make that Serena clash happen, while Muguruza will have to take out Lauren Davis (tough!), or Anna Karolina Schmiedlova to earn a potential third round shot at Williams.

Whoever comes through the Serena-Azarenka-Muguruza triangle is projected to meet Kiki Bertens in the fourth round. Bertens opens against Petra Martic or Magda Linette, and could face Johanna Konta or Su-Wei Hsieh in the third round. 

Down at the other side of the third quarter is American No. 1, Sloane Stephens, who is still looking to really kick-start her season, and improve her ordinary record at Indian Wells, where she has made the quarter finals just once. Stephens is only 5-4 for the year, following early exits in Brisbane, Sydney and Acapulco. She should be too good for Sascha Vickery or a qualifier in the second round at Indian Wells, but trouble looms in the third round, where she could run into rising Canadian, Bianca Andreescu, or former top five player, Dominika Cibulkova. Should she survive, Doha champion, Elise Mertens is the most dangerous of her possible fourth round opponents.

Predicted Quarter Final: Serena Williams vs Elise Mertens
Semi-Finalist: Serena Williams 


FOURTH QUARTER

Projected Quarter Final: Simona Halep (2) vs Elina Svitolina (6)
Other key players: Ashleigh Barty, Daria Kasatkina, Caroline Garcia, Jelena Ostapenko

Given the difficulty of the field, 2015 champion, Simona Halep must be very pleased with this draw, as she seeks her first title since August. Halep, who missed the end of last season with a back injury has improved as the year has progressed, and was particularly good in the Middle Eastern swing, reaching the final in Doha and the quarter finals in Dubai.

The Romanian, who has got a chance to return to No. 1 by the end of the Indian Wells fortnight, has a bye into the second round, where she opens against either Barbora Strycova or a qualifier. The first seeded player on her path is Belarusian, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who is a very good player, but will go in as a firm underdog against Halep, should that match happen. Halep’s projected fourth-round foe is one of Jelena Ostapenko and last year’s finalist, Daria Kasatkina, both of whom have had forgettable starts to the season. Ostapenko is 2-6 for the season, while Kasatkina is 2-5 for the year. Except Ostapenko suddenly rediscovers her 2017 French Open form or Kasatkina finds last season Indian Wells magic, Halep should progress fairly comfortable, moving on to a projected quarter final meeting with Elina Svitolina.

Simona Halep. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Like Halep, Svitolina is yet to claim a title this season, but she has played well for most parts of the year, actually, making the quarter finals of the Australian Open, and consecutive semi-finals in Doha and Dubai. After a first round by, Svitolina, who has never gone beyond the fourth round at Indian Wells, has got an intriguing opener against Yafan Wang or Sofia Kenin. Wang vs Kenin is a rematch of last week’s Acapulco final, which Wang won in three tight sets to claim her first WTA title. It’s very tough to pick a winner there, but whoever comes through will definitely give Svitolina a very good match. Beyond that, Svitolina could face the swashbuckling Ukrainian, Dayana Yastremska in the third round, while Ashleigh Barty or Caroline Garcia could potentially show up in the fourth round.

It’s a deceptively tricky draw for Svitolina, as Wang and Kenin have been in fine form this season, so has Yastremska, who will again be fearless, like she has been since bursting onto the scene late last season. I’ll still go with Svitolina’s steadiness to come through a an underrated section of the draw, and set up a quarter final meeting with Halep.

Predicted Quarter Final: Simona Halep vs Elina Svitolina
Semi-Finalist: Simona Halep

Semi-Finals 
Karolina Pliskova vs Petra Kvitova
Serena Williams vs Simona Halep

Final
Petra Kvitova vs Simona Halep

Winner
Simona Halep

WTA Indian Wells is live from Indian Wells from 7-17 March.

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WTA Indian Wells 2019 Draw Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Osaka and Kvitova headline top half; Serena, Halep on semi-final collision course in a jam-packed Indian Wells field

Defending champion, Naomi Osaka will have to navigate a tough route if she is to retain her title, while two-time winner, Serena Williams has also got a difficult draw as she attempts to win her third Indian Wells title.

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