Welcome to Road to Rogers Cup, the regular roundup of all the action on the WTA Tour ahead of the 2019 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank at Aviva Centre from August 3 to 11.
Today, we’re previewing the Indian Wells Masters as the WTA’s top stars prepare to turn out in force at the first Premier Mandatory tournament of the season. But first, let’s look back at what’s been happening in the world of women’s tennis recently.
Belinda Bencic upset Petra Kvitova to claim the Dubai Championships singles crown. The 2015 Rogers Cup champion beat Kvitova 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 in the final to seal a fourth consecutive win over a player ranked in the world’s Top 10 at the tournament. Intriguingly, every player Bencic defeated at Rogers Cup in 2015 was a previous Grand Slam finalist and/or World No. 1. It seems she has a knack for winning things the hard way!
Top seed Simona Halep was shocked by Belgium’s Elise Mertens in the final of the Qatar Open last month. Halep, who will enter the 2019 Rogers Cup as defending champion, was unable to capitalize on her first set win, falling to a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 defeat. The 27-year-old, who claimed her first Grand Slam title at Roland-Garros in 2018, will look to go one further at the BNP Paribas Open, where she was the champion four years ago.
Heading into this year’s tournament, reigning women’s singles champion and current World No. 1 Naomi Osaka will be determined to defend her BNP Paribas Open crown. Osaka’s victory at the 2018 Indian Wells Masters saw her make it past the third round of a Premier Mandatory event for the first time. The 21-year-old has won the last two Grand Slams available to her, claiming the US Open title in September followed by the Australian Open crown in January, ensuring she started the season with plenty of momentum. However, Osaka recently made a coaching change and was beaten in the second round of the Dubai Championships by Kristina Mladenovic, meaning her preparation has been far from ideal.
Meanwhile, three-time Rogers Cup champion Serena Williams enters the 2019 Indian Wells Masters fresh from making her return to the Top 10 of the WTA rankings since taking a break from the game to have a baby. Williams will head to the BNP Paribas Open hoping to go one better than her 2016 showing, when she lost the final to Victoria Azarenka. Instead, Williams will be intent on replicating her success from 1999, when she overcame Steffi Graf 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, and 2001, when she beat Kim Clijsters 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to take home the trophy.
Last year’s runner-up Daria Kasatkina will be determined to put a difficult start to the 2019 season behind her. Having lost in the first round of the Brisbane International, Sydney International and Australian Open, Kasatkina has dropped out of the world’s Top 10. She has also parted ways with coach Philippe Dehaes. The 21-year-old will therefore be keen to kick-start her season with a positive showing at Indian Wells. Will she turn her fortunes around or crack under the pressure?
It has been a strong start to the season for Canada’s women’s players – none more so than Bianca Andreescu. The 18-year-old began the year by reaching her first WTA Tour final at the ASB Classic in Auckland and followed that up with the biggest title of her career so far at the Oracle Challenger Series event in Newport Beach, California. Having also played a crucial role in Canada’s 4-0 win over the Netherlands in Fed Cup action, the youngster will be hoping to make a splash at Indian Wells. With the most wins on the WTA Tour with 21, Andreescu’s fantastic form has earned her a main draw wild card at the tournament.
Montreal-native Genie Bouchard is also in fine fettle heading to the tournament. The 25-year-old claimed a first doubles title of her career at the ASB Classic, having reached the quarter-finals of the singles event, before sweeping aside Peng Shuai at the Australian Open to set up an encounter with Serena Williams, which she lost 6-2, 6-2. Last year at Indian Wells, the Canadian fell to Sachia Vickery in the first round, meaning she has every incentive to improve on that showing this season.
If current form is anything to go by, it could prove to be a tournament to remember for both Andreescu and Bouchard. Fingers crossed, ladies!
(Feature Image: BNP Paribas Open)