You better beat Hradecka
Of the sixteen seeds that made their debut yesterday, only three failed to win their matches – the irrelevant Tsevtana Pironkova, who will disappear after Wimbledon, the skilled but inconstant Petra Kvitova (who lost to her fellow countrywoman Zahlavova Strycova) and Jarka Groth, who smartly tanked her match vs. Sara Errani in order to avoid a Kim Clijsters match up in the next round (ehe).
But today is time for the other sixteen seeds – the one placed on the upper half of the draw – to make their debut.
Playing the third on Stadium 1 today, top-seed Caroline Wozniacki will start his campaign, looking for the maintenance of her world no.1 ranking and a 14th WTA title. Playing the local WC Sloane Stephens, Caro will try to avoid a second opener loss (Sydney, to Cibulkova, after a bye) this year. Already fell early and already played an American in 2011: Vania King in the second round of the Australian Open, and she passed the test without any trouble, as she only dropped one game; In fact, Caro is currently on a three win streak vs. Americans (two over King, and one over Chelsea Gullickson), since retiring in the semifinals of the Masters (v. Serena) back in 2009; Stephens, currently ranked outside the top-180, is the lowest ranked player Wozniacki plays since the non-ranked Gullickson at the US Open; facing players outside top-100, last time Caro lost was at Luxembourg 2009, when retired (still counts as a loss since she didn’t handed the local a walkover) trailing 5/7, 0/5, vs. Anne Kremer – then ranked 864 in the world.
Sloane Stephens stat: Won only her 1st main draw match (the other win accounts for qualy at the AO) this year, and the first tour-level win since Bastad (d. Brianti); will play a top-10 player for the first time in her short career – however, played two top-15s before, Zvonareva (#14 at Indian Wells-10) and Pennetta (#12 at Bastad-10), and lost both in straights.
Second highest seed to play today, Samantha Stosur, who arrived at Indian Wells enjoying her new career high ranking of no.4, will take on a qualifier in her first match, trying to win an opener for the 5th straight time (since lost in the first round of Beijing to Sevastova) – last time she lost the first match out of a bye was in Tokyo, one week before Beijing, when fell to Julia Goerges. A semifinalist last year (l. to Jankovic), Stosur will play a Spaniard for the first time since Madrid, when defeated MJMS in the 2nd round; currently ranked no.88 in the world, Laura Pous-Tio could be the first player outside the top-80 to defeat Stosur since she lost to Ekaterina Makarova (100) in the semifinals of Eastbourne.
Laura Pous-Tio stat: Stosur is the highest ranked player she will play this year – the previous best was #38 Sevastova, last week in Monterrey; also the first Australian since Sophie Ferguson, at an ITF event back in June, and the first top-5 in over a year – back in Acapulco 2010, she lost in the quarterfinals against a 5th ranked Venus Williams.
A sensation in the Land Down Under, where had her best start of year, with a title in Sydney and, in Melbourne, became the first Asian player to ever reach a Major final, Li Na is yet to win a match after upsetting Caro in the semifinals of the Australian Open – is 0-3 ever since, losing the final, and her openers at Dubai and Doha. The world no.7, whose two last openers dropped were after a Bye, will play a countrywoman for the first time since 2009, when faced Peng herself – and won in two sets to reach the 2nd round; Li will also try her first win in Indian Wells since 2009, when defeated Mauresmo in the 3rd round – last year, lost to Elena Baltacha in the 2nd round, after having a 1st round bye.
Shuai Peng stat: Is 2-2 plays vs. top-10 in 2011 – after recording wins over Schiavone and Jankovic, and has climbed 36 positions since the start of the year – from 72 to a current 36. Would it be an upset?
2008 semifinalist, Victoria Azarenka opens her campaign vs. Ekaterina Makarova on the Stadium 3. Vika will be playing a Russian for the 2nd time this year – and for the second time in her opener, and for the second time Ekaterina Makarova, only this time in the second round, not in the first, like it was in Sydney. The five-time WTA champion dropped her last opener, to Daniela Hantuchova, at Doha. However, after a Bye, Azarenka has won her last two openers, in Moscow and Dubai this year, after losing to Timea Bacsinszky in the second round of Beijing (also her last loss vs. a top-40 outsider; Makarova currently no.41); Curiously enough, her loss vs. Makarova in the finals at Eastbourne was her last vs. a Russian not called Vera Zvonareva (0-2 vs. Vera, 4-0 vs. other Russians ever since).
Ekaterina Makarova stat: Has lost to two top-10s this year, both in Australian: Vika at Sydney and Kim at the Open; Lost her last 4 matches vs. top-10 – since her upset over Samantha Stosur in the SFs at Eastbourne, en route to the title; won her maiden WTA-level title over the same Azarenka will play today.
Relegated to the 2nd match on the Court 4, Agnieszka Radwanska will play Iveta Benesova as soon as her sister and Klara Zakopalova finish their matches; the world no.10, just like Azarenka, comes from a 1st round loss – to Lucie Safarova at Doha. Benesova, who had a good run at the Australian Open, will be the second Czech she will play this year, for the second consecutive opener. The last time Aggie lost to a player ranked outside the top-40, at her last even of ’10 – fell to no.58 Kerber. Radwanska has won her last 14 openers after a bye, since losing to Michelle Larcher de Brito in Key Biscayne, back in 2008.
Iveta Benesova stat: 1st round win was her first after four losses, and the first since the Australian Open; lost the only match vs. top-10 she played (to Zvonareva, AO); Lost her last 15 matches vs. top-10 – since a win over Mary Pierce in the Australian Open-06; plays a Pole for the first time since 2009, when defeated Urszula Radwanska in the first round.
#11 Svetlana Kuznetsova has also lost her last opener, to Shahar Peer at Doha, will play vs. Christina McHale her first match vs. an American since defeating Vandeweghe at the San Diego quarters; last opener lost after a Bye was at Indian Wells 2010, to Suarez Navarro, and the last time she lost to a players ranked outside the top-100 was to a non-ranked Kim Clijsters, at Cincy-09; McHale: Kuznetsova is the highest ranked woman she will play since lost to Clijsters at Cincinnati last year, who was ranked no.7
#13 Flavia Pennetta has won all four ’11 openers, after losing the last two she played in ’10 (Moscow and Beijing); Flavia has already lost one match vs. a top-70 outsider this year: to no.77 Jovanovski, Sydney QFs (Baltacha currently no.74); will play a Brit for the first time since Keothavong at Roland Garros (1st round); she easily won, 2 and 2. Baltacha is 1-1 vs. Italians this year, after losing to Vinci and defeating Alberta Brianti; Pennetta the second top-15 she plays this year – lost to no.13 Henin at the Australian Open; a win today would be her biggest since upsetting no.8 Schiavone at Istanbul in July.
#27 Alexandra Dulgheru (what? I always include my favorites here) goes for her 2nd win in 2011 vs. Lucie Hradecka – she has won only one opener this year, vs. Baltacha in Dubai, only to loss in the next round (a disaster); This match vs. Hradecka will be her 2nd straight debut vs. a Czech player – after losing to Zakopalova in Doha. Lucie Hradecka, on the other hand, will try vs. Dulgheru her biggest win since… well, in a long time – went back as far as ’07 and the best I could find was 36 something. If you don’t win this, Alexandra…