The 2014 BNP Paribas Open (also known as the 2014 Indian Wells Masters) is perhaps the biggest tournament outside the Grand Slams for both the men and the women. The outdoor hard-court tournament begins this week and should feature almost all of the top players in the world (with the Williams sisters the noticeable absentees due to their continued boycott of the event since 2001).
PREVIEW: Serena Williams’ absence (she actually considered entering the draw before ultimately deciding against it) means that the women’s draw will not feature its top player. Other than that the tournament will be filled with several big names (Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Li Na) and upstarts looking to carry on some early-season momentum (Dominika Cibulkova). Here is our breakdown of what should be a wide open tournament sans-Serena.
QUARTER #1: Li Na, the Australian Open champion and top seed here at Indian Wells, has struggled since her success Down Under (a similar story when she won her first Slam at the French Open in 2011). Her draw should give her an opportunity to get over her Aussie Open hangover. Sure, there are some dangerous names in her section but none too worrisome. No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova is surely capable, but is way too inconsistent to be trusted. Sabine Lisicki would be factor – if this tournament were on grass. That leaves us with No. 12 seed and Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova, who is fresh off a tournament win in Mexico. The diminutive Slovakian should be one of the top dark horses at Indian Wells. Unfortunately, Li Na’s game and confidence should be back by then.
Quarterfinals: Li Na vs Dominika Cibulkova
Winner: Li Na
QUARTER #2: What should we make of Maria Sharapova’s chances at Indian Wells? The 2013 champion has missed significant time since the US Open due to injuries and did not look sharp at the Australian Open. But she has done well here historically and she would get to the quarterfinals relatively easily given her draw. The other side of this quarter is more interesting with Angelique Kerber, Ana Ivanovic and Sloane Stephens all lurking. Of the three I like Ivanovic, who’s been playing the best tennis this year.
Quarterfinals: Maria Sharapova vs Ana Ivanovic
Winner: Maria Sharapova
QUARTER #3: Like Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka (who loves playing on hard courts) is another player who usually does well in the California desert. However she is coming off a foot injury. But again like Sharapova, she’s been given a cakewalk to the quarterfinals. The other top side in this quarter, No. 6 Simona Halep, is also coming off an injury (Achilles) so she has questions coming in. This draw could be a great opportunity for young Canadian (and Aussie Open semifinalist) Eugenie Bouchard.
Quarterfinals: Victoria Azarenka vs Eugenie Bouchard
Winner: Victoria Azarenka
QUARTER #4: If you’re Agnieszka Radwanska, you’re loving this draw. It’s no stretch to declare this section of the draw as the easiest of the four. The top names in her half here should not trouble her at all. If there is one player capable of knocking off Aga, it’s the seventh seed Jelena Jankovic who’s been playing her best tennis since she was ranked number one in the world. If these two were to meet in the quarterfinals (as expected) I like the Serb’s chances.
Quarterfinals: Agnieszka Radwanska vs Jelena Jankovic
Winner: Jelena Jankovic
SEMIFINAL #1: While Sharapova has historically been the better player here, her layoff has to be some concern. Since returning from her injury at the start of the year she has struggled in tight matches or the ones versus the top players. I just don’t think that Maria’s game is quite where it needs to be to take out someone like Li Na.
Winner: Li Na
SEMIFINAL #2: Another break for Azarenka. Radwanska’s all-around court game would present a tougher match up for the 2012 champion. Vika’s game is steady enough to go long rallies with Jankovic and strong enough to overpower her.
Winner: Victoria Azarenka
FINAL: If Azarenka is fully recovered from her foot injury (and by getting this far we assume that it will be) then she should be favored in this one. She is the better player on hard-courts and has a better resume here at Indian Wells. Li Na’s game can go wild at times and I look for the steadier Azarenka to hold strong in a three-set affair.
Champion: Victoria Azarenka
Who will win the women's singles title at the 2014 BNP Paribas Open?
- Li Na (33%, 3 Votes)
- Victoria Azarenka (22%, 2 Votes)
- Someone else (22%, 2 Votes)
- Maria Sharapova (11%, 1 Votes)
- Agnieszka Radwanska (11%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 9