2024 Indian Wells WTA preview

KNOWN as “The Fifth Slam”, Indian Wells is the most prestigious tennis tournament outside the four majors. Held in the Californian desert, it boasts massive fields of 96 men and 96 women battling it out from a shared prize pool of $9 million USD. Both singles draws were released today, and we take a look at what to expect in the ATP and WTA 1000 events. This preview will focus on the women’s.

>> 2024 Indian Wells ATP preview

Women’s Singles:

First Quarter

Projected Round of 32: (If all seeds win through)

[1] Iga Swiatek (POL) vs. [26] Linda Noskova (CZE)
[18] Madison Keys (USA) vs. [15] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS)
[10] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) vs. [17] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS)
[25] Donna Vekic (CRO) vs. [6] Ons Jabeur (TUN)

There is a fair bit of déjà vu about this quarter of the women’s singles draw, with top seed Swiatek to throwback to the Australian Open where she will prepare to face American Danielle Collins in the second round before a rematch with the player who beat her at Melbourne Park, Noskova.

Keys will only have to face a qualifier prior to the Round of 32, with Alexandrova facing the winner of Tamara Korpatsch or Yulia Putintseva. Expect the two seeds to make it through, but then have a tough encounter against Swiatek, or Noskova if she can cause another upset.

Ostapenko has a massive second round match against either Angelique Kerber or Petra Martic. Both players are not what they once were and Ostapenko should be far too good, but at their best it would be a ripping contest. Kudermetova only has Venus Williams – who received another wildcard – or a qualifier in her way to the third round.

Vekic could be in a bit of trouble if Grand Slam winner Caroline Wozniacki can recapture her best form, with the Dane receiving a wildcard into the event. Meanwhile it appears Jabeur has a chance to overcome the demons from the Australian Open, with a second round match against her conqueror from that tournament, Mirra Andreeva, on the cards.

Second Quarter

Projected Round of 32: (If all seeds win through)

[4] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) vs. [28] Anastasia Potapova (RUS)
[21] Anna Kalinskaya (RUS) vs. [13] Jasmine Paolini (ITA)
[12] Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) vs. [22] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
[31] Marta Kostyuk (UKR) vs. [7] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)

The second quarter has a clear favourite in Rybakina, but a number of dangerous players too. Even Rybakina is not safe with one of Paula Badosa or Ashlyn Krueger – both of whom have wildcards – set for the second round. Potapova faces one of Sara Sorribes Tormo or Marie Bouzkova and any one of those three could meet Rybakina in the third round.

Kalinskaya will likely face the unknown quantity of former top 30 player Magda Linette, while the in-form Paolini should advance without too many problems. Haddad Maia is another one with a soft draw to start, while Pavlyuchenkova has a potential danger game in the Round of 64 with McCartney Kessler, who is coming off a 10-game winning streak in main draw matches on the ITF circuit.

In the last quarter of the draw, Shuai Zhang and Daria Saville each play qualifiers, though both seeds should have the measure of any of them.

Third Quarter

Projected Round of 32: (If all seeds win through)

[8] Qinwen Zheng (CHN) vs. [27] Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
[19] Sorana Cirstea (ROU) vs. [11] Daria Kasatkina (RUS)
[14] Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) vs. [24] Elise Mertens (BEL)
[32] Anhelina Kalinina (UKR) vs. [3] Coco Gauff (USA)

This quarter is the Forest Gump quarter of the draw because fans truly will not know what they are going to get. On paper the quarter final should be Zheng up against Gauff, but Azarenka is more than capable. Both she and Zheng are on a crash course to meet in the third round which should e a beauty.

At the other end of this section it is is a similar story for Gauff who will not have an issue making the fourth round, copping the lowest ranked seed in Kalinina. Magdalena Frech and Lucia Bronzetti hail in this section with the winner to face the Ukrainian in what could potentially be an even match.

The middle two sections have some serious punch to them, with a lot of unknowns. Former US Open champions Sloane Stephens and Naomi Osaka both land here, with Cirstea and Samsonova the second round opponents for those players.

The dangerous Elina Avanesyan is also one to watch, and will likely face compatriot Kasatkina. If she can topple her like she did Maria Sakkari at the Australian Open, she could go all the way to the fourth round.

Fourth Quarter

Projected Round of 32: (If all seeds win through)

[5] Jessica Pegula (USA) vs. [29] Leylah Fernandez (CAN)
[20] Caroline Garcia (FRA) vs. [9] Maria Sakkari (GRE)
[16] Elina Svitolina (UKR) vs. [23] Emma Navarro (USA)
[30] Dayana Yastremska (UKR) vs. [2] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)

The firepower in this quarter of the draw is simply sublime. With the exception Navarro, the remaining players have either made Grand Slam finals or being ranked inside the Top 5, so there is a lot that could happen here. Even outside the seeded players, there are some pretty handy talents with only Fernandez, Svitolina and Sabalenka the two that one could confidently put straight through to the third round.

Even fifth seed Pegula has a potential blockbuster second round match against former world number one Karolina Pliskova which will give her an early test while Sakkari – who has been out of sorts this year – will have the dangerous free-wheeling Russian Diana Shnaider as a potential second round opponent. Shnaider does have Ana Bogdan up first too who is no slouch.

Navarro should advance, but serial retiree – pre or mid-match not career – Lesia Tsurenko is her likely second round opponent, and as a former Top 5 player, Tsurenko is capable of anything. Garcia meanwhile will likely match up against former Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin who is getting better and better, which will be an exciting second round match.

Perhaps the most intriguing could be Yastremska. The Ukrainian made it to the Australian Open final as a qualifier, drawing comparisons to Emma Raducanu who won the US Open in the same fashion. Now the British wildcard is one win away – and only against a qualifier – from facing Yastremska in a must-watch Round of 64 clash.

Predicted Quarter Finals:

[1] Iga Swiatek (POL) vs. [10] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)
[4] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) vs. [22] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
[6] Qinwen Zheng (CHN) vs. [3] Coco Gauff (USA)
[5] Jessica Pegula (USA) vs. [2] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)

Predicted Semi-Finals:

[10] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) vs. [4] Elena Rybakina (KAZ)
[3] Coco Gauff (USA) vs. [2] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)

Predicted Final:

[4] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) vs. [3] Coco Gauff (USA)

Winner: Coco Gauff (USA)

The women’s singles is always completely unpredictable, so no doubt there will likely be three or four unseeded players in there. Gauff being on home courts with enormous support will lift her the extra 10 per cent, and against hard-hitters, it will likely plant the seeds of doubt in the minds. She is capable, but what could be even more interesting is if Pegula makes it to the semi to face Gauff for a spot in the final. If Swiatek did not run into Ostapenko – her arch nemesis – then chances are the world number one would be there too.

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