Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki begins her quest for a second Indian Wells crown against Chinese wildcard Zhang Shuai on Saturday at the BNP Paribas Open. Wozniacki received a bye into the second round, while Zhang was gifted a retirement by Frenchwomen Pauline Parmentier after a first set tie break win by the Chinese. Wozniacki and Zhang have met once before in the second round of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, where the Dane came out on top 6-2, 6-3.
Wozniacki's Dismal Start To 2016
The former world number one has suffered a disappointing start to 2016, registering only seven wins to five losses. The Dane began her year in Auckland, making the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Sloane Stephens, whom Wozniacki had never lost to before, in the last four. At the first major of the year in Melbourne, Wozniacki suffered a shock first round loss to Kazakh Yulia Putintseva in three sets. The two-time US Open finalist then fell in her opening match in St. Petersburg to Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets. At the Qatar Total Open in Doha, Wozniacki made the round of sixteen before coming up short against Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina. Most recently, the Dane fell in the quarterfinals of the Abierto Monterrey Afirme to eventual champion Heather Watson.
Zhang's Dream Start To 2016
The Chinese began her year in Shenzhen falling in the second round to eventual champion Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets. At the Australian Open, with Zhang winless in fifteen career grand slam matches, the Chinese qualifier stunned second seed Simona Halep 6-4, 6-3 to record her first ever Grand Slam win. Zhang kept up her fairy tale run, edging out fifteenth seed Madison Keys in three, tight sets, before coming up short against Brit Johanna Konta in straight sets. The world number 69 won the ITF $25K in Rancho Santa Fe a few weeks ago, defeating American Vania King in the final.
Previous Indian Wells Results
Wozniacki first played in Indian Wells in 2007, falling in the second round to seven-time Grand Slam champion Martina Hingis. The next year the Dane made the round of sixteen, falling to second seed and two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets. In 2009, the former world number one made the quarterfinals, falling to fourth seed Vera Zvonareva in straight sets. In 2010, the two-time US Open finalist reached the final in the California desert, coming up short against Jelena Jankovic in straight sets. The next year Wozniacki went one better, capturing the title with a gutsy, three set win over Marion Bartoli in the decider. In 2012, the Dane suffered a fourth round loss to former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic in straight sets. Wozniacki reached her third final in the California desert the following year, losing to Maria Sharapova in straight sets in the title match. In 2014, the Dane lost to the player she fell to in the 2010 final, Jelena Jankovic, falling in straight sets to the Serb. Last year, Wozniacki suffered a third round defeat to Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic.
Zhang first played in the Californian desert in 2011, falling in the second round to Aravane Rezai. In 2012, the Chinese lost in the first round to Simona Halep. Last year, Zhang again fell in the opening round, this time to Frenchwomen Kristina Mladenovic.
Wozniacki and Zhang have met once before in Cincinnati in 2014, which resulted in a straight sets win for the Dane. Zhang's aggresive baseline game will match up well with the counter punching of Wozniacki, with the two time US Open finalist's achilles heel coming against the big hitters of the tour. Nonetheless, Zhang can be extremely streaky, and expect Wozniacki's wall like defense to get her through. Though both players have changed much in the past eighteen months, the former world number one's experience should see her through to the third round. That being said, Zhang could give the world number twenty five a run for her money, but expect Wozniacki to win in two, tight sets.
Prediction: Wozniacki in straight sets