While the top players won’t begin play until the weekend, the PNB Paribas Open is well under way down at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, with qualifying matches taking place and players hitting the practice courts in the Southern California sun. Today the main draw was made and we now know who Ana will and could play. You can view the full draw here.
All 32 seeded players receive a 1st round bye, so Ana will begin her Indian Wells campaign in the 2nd round against either French Open conqueror Johanna Larsson or a qualifier. While Ana did lose to Larsson at Roland Garros last May, the Swede has struggled mightly lately, only scoring two wins in 2012 thus far. So it is no guarantee that a rematch will even take place, as Ana could very likely face a qualifier who we don’t yet know of. Who ever that opponent may be, whether Larsson or a qualifier, you have to really like Ana’s chances of advancing. She’ll be heavily favored no matter who she plays in the 2nd round.
The 3rd round could see a rematch with Shuai Peng, who Ana defeated last year in Carlsbad during the quarterfinals. While Peng had a very solid 2011, this season has been a different story. She has only won consecutive matches once, and that was last week in Kuala Lumpur, where she had to go 3 sets to defeat both Yvonne Meusburger and Krystina Pliskova. If Ana and Shuai Peng were to meet, you have to give the edge to Ana based on current form and the fact that Ana defeated Peng last summer. Other possible match ups are Ksenia Pervak (who Ana defeated in the 1st round of last years US Open) or another qualifier.
Now we come to the 4th round where we could potentially see another Ivanovic/Wozniacki match up as we did in Dubai. Many Ana fans initial reaction when seeing Wozniacki in Ana’s draw was that of disappointment. But it shouldn’t be. Ana was going to draw one of the top 4 seeds in the 4th round either way given where she was seeded, and between Viktoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova, Wozniacki is without question the most beatable of the four at the moment. In fact, Ana probably should had beaten Wozniacki in Dubai if she hadn’t committed 51 unforced errors and struggled as badly as she did with her serve, hitting 10 double faults. If Ana can step it up and improve her game, I actually think she has a legit shot of winning this match. It really was the best draw she could have received. Wozniacki still has to get past Ekaterina Makarova or Monica Niculescu first, to even get to the 4th round. No easy task. Expect the unexpected.
If Ana is able to duplicate her success from last year and again reach the quarterfinals, it could be a case of deja vu, as Marion Bartoli could stand once again, in Ana’s way. If not Bartoli, then either Francesca Schiavone, Kaia Kanepi or Lucie Safarova could be possible challengers. Sharapova, Stosur, Lisicki and Kirilenlo may await in the semifinals, while the rest of the big names are in the other half of the draw and can’t face Ana until the finals.
You really couldn’t have asked for a better draw, if you ask me. Ana has two pretty winnable matches to start in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, and a out of form Wozniacki potentially in the 4th round. So reaching the quarterfinals again and defending those 250 ranking points is very doable. Ask most Ana fans, and I think a vast majority would say that is the goal next week in the dessert. Indian Wells has been a great place for Ana as she has had some of her best results here. She even expressed how much she loves Indian Wells on her facebook page today, stating “I’m a little bit jealous of the people who live here! It often brings the best out of me on the court, and I’m hoping for another strong performance this year.” We concur Ana. We concur. Now lets make this stay in the dessert, a long and happy one.
FYI, Ana’s first match will either be Friday or Saturday. We’ll learn in a few days.