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WTA Indian Wells 2019- Five major story lines to follow

Leye Aduloju in WTA Tour 3 Mar 2019
  • WTA Indian Wells Open is live from Indian Wells from 7-17 March
  • Five major story lines to follow ahead of the first Premier Mandatory tournament of the season
Serena Williams. ( (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

From Serena Williams seeking her first title as a mother to Naomi Osaka attempting a rare Indian Wells title defence, we look through the five major story lines to keep a close eye on during the Indian Wells fortnight.

Serena Williams still seeking her first title as a mom

A year after making her comeback from maternity leave at Indian Wells, can Serena Williams win her first title as a mom in California? She has had a couple of near misses over the last 12 months, reaching the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open, but hasn’t quite been able to get over the line.

The 37-year-old American is playing her first tournament since her dramatic quarter final exit at the Australian Open, when she surrendered a 5-1 final set lead against Karolina Pliskova.  Williams is one of two women in the draw to have won the Indian wells title two times, the other being fellow mom, Victoria Azarenka. Hence, both Serena and Azarenka aren't just seeking their first singles titles in motherhood (Azarenka won doubled in Acapulco last week), they are also bidding to become the first women to win the Indian wells title on three occasions!

World No. 1, Naomi Osaka attempts rare Indian Wells title defence

Japanese sensation, Naomi Osaka will attempt to defend a tour-level title for the first time in her career at Indian Wells, where she is also seeking to become the first woman to retain the Indian Wells crown since Martina Navratilova claimed back-to-back titles in 1990 and 1991. 12 months ago, Osaka was still regarded as a prodigious talent with huge potentials, but she has shot up to the top of the sport in double quick time, surging to the Indian Wells title last season, and subsequently winning the US Open and then the 2019 Australian Open to complete an amazing journey to No. 1 in the world. Now that she is the hunted, and no longer the hunter, how will the 21-year-old get along? This will also be her first tournament with her new coach, Jermaine Jenkins following her split with Sascha Bajin. Osaka has played only one match since the Australian Open, losing to Kristina Mladenovic in Dubai- can she get back on track in California?

Battle for No. 1

With 1000 points to defend, Osaka’s No. 1 ranking will come some under some duress in the next fortnight, as she looks to hold off a chasing park that includes Simona Halep, Sloane Stephens, Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova, all of whom can dislodge the Japanese star from her coveted position. Halep of course, has been No. 1 before, a ranking she held for a cumulative 64 weeks, but Kvitova and Stephens are looking to claim top spot for the first time in their careers.

Halep, Wozniacki, Svitolina, Kerber, Stephens still seeking their first title of 2019!

Who would have thought that heading into the third month of the year, WTA superstars, Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina, Angelique Kerber, and Sloane Stephens will have zero titles between them? 

Halep hasn’t won a title since Montreal in August, although she did miss the latter part of last season due to a back injury, and started a week later this year because of the same problem. She has improved in recent weeks, reaching the final in Doha and the quarter finals in Dubai, losing to Elise Mertens and Belinda Bencic respectively. Kerber has looked good in the opening rounds of virtually all the tournaments she has played, but through a combination of some surprisingly below par performances and inspired opposition, she has been unable to go all the way, with her solitary semi-final in four tournaments coming in Doha. 

WTA Finals champion, Svitolina has been good, with her one really bad result being an opening round exit in Brisbane (lost to Aliaksandra Sasnovich), where she was defending champion. Her other losses have been against Osaka in the quarter finals of the Australian Open, Halep in the Doha semis, and Bencic, in the Dubai semis.

Caroline Wozniacki, 3-2 for the season, and out of the top ten, and Sloane Stephens, 5-4 for the year, have not got going at all. 

Will anyone of Halep, Kerber, Svitolina, Wozniacki or Stephens open her 2019 title account at Indian wells?

Can Belinda Bencic build on Dubai success?

Belinda Bencic roared back into the big time with a stunning victory at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, battling past top-ten stars, Aryna Sabalenka, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova in a truly outstanding week to claim her first WTA title since August 2015. The former top-ten player is now back into the top 25 after slipping down the rankings, at a point, outside the top 300, due to a series of injury lay-off. The 21-year-old was back to her brilliant best in Dubai- can she now build on that with another fine fortnight at Indian Wells?

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

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WTA Indian Wells 2019- Five major story lines to follow

As we build up to the first Premier Mandatory tournament of the season, we look through the five major story lines to follow during the Indian Wells fortnight

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