WTA Indian Wells: First round of qualifying matches concludes; gives great start to the tournament
Jacqueline Cako created a huge upset over the sixth seed today | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

WTA Indian Wells: First round of qualifying matches concludes; gives great start to the tournament

The first day of the BNP Paribas Open provided some thrilling action during the qualifying stages for the WTA side of the tournament, with some upsets being produced.

don-han
Don Han

The first unofficial day at the BNP Paribas Open started with a bang after the first round of qualifying for the women’s singles were played and completed. Some notable names in action were Peng Shuai, the world number 49 who returned to the top 50 after several good runs but narrowly missed the cut-off for the main draw just a few weeks ago. Also, former champion Daniela Hantuchova received a wildcard into the qualifying rounds but failed to capture a win.

The draw was made on the same day, with many blockbuster matches coming our way | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
The draw was made on the same day, with many blockbuster matches coming our way | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

Peng clinches an easy win

Starting off with the top seed in qualifying, Peng Shuai managed to get past Alison Van Uytvanck in the first round as she outclassed her younger opponent in straight sets. The first set saw the Chinese get off to a great start, with points for a double break lead. She eventually closed out the set 6-2, looking to close out the match in comfortable fashion.

With the Belgian stepping up her game and hitting more precise shots, she had multiple opportunities to take the lead in the second set. However, she missed a total of four break points and allowed Peng to occasionally return level on the scoreboard, eventually extending the set into a tiebreak. Running out to a 4-0 lead, Peng never looked back from then on as she closed out the match in straight sets after just 1 hour and 42 minutes, setting up a meeting with Jamie Loeb, who battled past Marina Erakovic in three sets.

Alison Van Uytvanck failed to take her chances in the second set | Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images AsiaPac
Alison Van Uytvanck failed to take her chances in the second set | Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images AsiaPac

Loeb creates an upset

After going down an early break, Loeb rebounded the best way possible as she earned two service breaks on her own to eventually clinch the first set 6-4, putting herself one set away from an upset. Going up by a set and a break thrice in the second set, Loeb found it difficult to hold onto her service game as she was immediately pegged back by Erakovic every single time. With the set proceeding into a tiebreak, it was equally as close as the set itself as the score was unable to show a clear victor between them.

Earning two match points, the American failed to convert both of them and eventually gave the set to Erakovic, leveling the match at one set all. A marathon game won by Loeb, who saved one break point, in the opening game of the final set, boosted her confidence and gave her the momentum needed to clinch the service break in the next game. Loeb eventually extended her lead to an overwhelming five games, securing yet another break to be just a game away from victory. After a consolation service hold for Erakovic, Loeb powered her way to victory as she fended off two break points to successfully serve out the match, setting up a meeting with Peng Shuai.

Witthoeft crashes out

There was a major upset as Sesil Karatantcheva managed to outhit second seed Carina Witthoeft in straight sets, triumphing after just 1 hour and 23 minutes. After what seemed like a perfect start for Witthoeft as she jumped out to a 3-1 lead within a blink of an eye, she lost her way from there after losing three games in a row, eventually causing her to lose the first set 4-6 as Karatantcheva played her best tennis to outclass the German.

Losing her serve in the opening game of the second set, Witthoeft was unable to find a way back into the match as that break of serve proved to be crucial, allowing Karatantcheva to close out the match in straight sets. The Bulgarian would next face 19th seed Anett Kontaveit in the final round of qualifying after the Estonian outclassed American wildcard Claire Liu in straight sets, breaking serve six times in the process.

Carina Witthoeft had a night to forget | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Carina Witthoeft had a night to forget | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Mertens fails to keep up her good form

Arguably, the most exciting match of the first round of qualifying was between Sachia Vickery and Elise Mertens, who had to battle it out in three tough sets which were eventually decided by a final set tiebreak. After two lopsided sets, the final set alone took 70 minutes to complete, with Vickery getting the last laugh after their controversial match-up in Hobart, where the Belgian eventually won the title but missed the Australian Open qualifying rounds.

Coming from 2-5 down in the final set and earning break points at 5-5 proved to be in vain as all the effort was wasted after Vickery ran out to a 6-1 lead in the tiebreak within a blink of an eye, and managed to maintain her composure and close it out 7-4, taking the victory after 2 hours and 13 minutes.

Sachia Vickery in action | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Sachia Vickery in action | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Maria comes through against Dolehide

Vickery would next face Tatjana Maria, who suffered a huge scare against American wildcard Caroline Dolehide but managed to prevail in three tough sets after losing the first. Unknown to the tennis world, Dolehide troubled Maria with some precise shots which earned her the first set. Nevertheless, the German used her years of experience to close out the match, in the end, progressing to the final rounds of qualifying.

Duan on the receiving end of huge upset

The spot for the fourth qualifier was highly-contested as there were two minor upsets that occurred. After taking the first set in a tiebreak, and leading by a set and a break twice in the second set, Duan Yingying lost her way against Elitsa Kostova as the Chinese started to misfire her shots, making more unforced errors than ever. Duan was unable to gain back her momentum, which caused her to eventually gift the match away in three sets.

Kostova would now face veteran Francesca Schiavone for a spot in the main draw after the Italian defeated Kateryna Kozlova in the first round. Kozlova seemed to be heading towards a routine victory when she won the first set 6-3 in comfortable fashion, with everything going right for her. Nevertheless, Schiavone stepped up her game and became the proactive one, outhitting the Ukrainian and successfully bounced back to close out the match in three sets.

Francesca Schiavone played a great match overall | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Francesca Schiavone played a great match overall | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Notable Matches

Some other notable matches are such as Mandy Minella’s triumph over Daniela Hantuchova in straight sets, Jacqueline Cako’s major upset over the sixth-seeded Natalia Vikhlyantseva in three sets, Varvara Lepchenko’s comfortable win over former top 30 player Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and Malaysian Open finalist Nao Hibino’s triumph over Ana Bogdan in three tough sets.

Minella overcomes tough test

The match between Minella and Hantuchova was expected to be a close affair, but it did not live up to its expectations and Hantuchova was constantly missing shots that allowed Minella to take the advantage and clinch the win in straight sets. After a spirited and encouraging performance from the Slovakian at the Mexican Open last week, her fans would definitely be disappointed with her performance today.

Vikhlyantseva misses her chances

Leading by a set and a break, coupled with break point opportunities at 4-4 in the final set, Vikhlyantseva wasted some golden opportunities to close out the match as she allowed Cako to peg back and steal the win eventually. As the Russian already suffered disappointing losses in the qualifying rounds of both Dubai and here in Indian Wells, her confidence would definitely take a hit.

Natalia Vikhlyantseva had a poor day at the office today | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Natalia Vikhlyantseva had a poor day at the office today | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Schmiedlova's poor form continues

Schmiedlova failed to take her chances well against Lepchenko in their match, missing a total of five break points in the whole match. The Slovakian experienced a dramatic dip in form in 2016 having dropped outside of the top 200 in the rankings from the top 30 and was unable to challenge the players with her mentality being attacked with every loss. This loss would definitely be derailing her morale once again, whereas Lepchenko would take the confidence achieved from this match to help her to get a place in the main draw.

Hibino continues good run

Rushing from Malaysia to California after losing the Malaysian Open final against Ashleigh Barty (who opted not to play the qualifying rounds here due to insufficient travel time), Nao Hibino managed to pull off a tough victory as she defeated Ana Bogdan in three tough sets, having to come from behind to triumph. The first set was filled with an abundance of service breaks, with a total of seven of them just in one set. Bogdan earned the crucial service holds and clinched the first set 6-4, but Hibino made the best reply possible as she strolled to the second set victory in just 38 minutes.

Nao Hibino in action at the 2017 Malaysian Open, where she lost in the final | Photo: Stanley Chou/Getty Images AsiaPac
Nao Hibino in action at the 2017 Malaysian Open, where she lost in the final | Photo: Stanley Chou/Getty Images AsiaPac

The final set originally saw Bogdan take a huge 5-3 lead, placing herself in an advantageous position to close out the match. However, Hibino made a fightback which extended the set into a tiebreak to decide its winner. Having taken the first point of the tiebreak, what happened next was certainly unexpected as the Japanese rattled off seven straight points to earn the victory.

Full Results:

[1] Peng Shuai 6-2, 7-6 Alison Van Uytvanck

Jamie Loeb 6-4, 6-7, 6-1 Marina Erakovic [20]

[2] Carina Witthoeft 4-6, 3-6 Sesil Karatantcheva

[WC] Claire Liu 2-6, 1-6 Anett Kontaveit [19]

[3] Elise Mertens 2-6, 6-2, 6-7 Sachia Vickery

[WC] Caroline Dolehide 6-3, 4-6, 2-6 Tatjana Maria [16]

[4] Duan Yingying 7-6, 3-6, 3-6 Elitsa Kostova

Francesca Schiavone 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 Kateryna Kozlova [23]

[5] Mandy Minella 6-2, 6-4 Daniela Hantuchova [WC]

Tereza Martincova 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 Naomi Broady [17]

Naomi Broady in action during her qualifying match today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America
Naomi Broady in action during her qualifying match today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America

[6] Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-4, 4-6, 4-6 Jacqueline Cako [WC]

Grace Min 7-5, 4-6, 1-6 Sara Sorribes Tormo [15]

[7] Evgeniya Rodina 7-6, 6-3 Francoise Abanda

[WC] Maria Sanchez 2-6, 5-7 Mona Barthel [13]

[8] Maria Sakkari 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 Jana Fett [PR]

Viktoriya Tomova 2-6, 2-6 Mariana Duque-Marino [21]

[9] Risa Ozaki 6-4, 6-4 Veronica Cepede Royg

Samantha Crawford 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 Aliaksandra Sasnovich [22]

[10] Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 6-3 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova [WC]

Tereza Martincova in action today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America
Tereza Martincova in action today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America

Lucie Hradecka 6-2, 6-7, 6-2 Rebecca Sramkova [24]

[11] Magda Linette 7-5, 6-0 Sofia Kenin

Ana Bogdan 6-4, 2-6, 6-7 Nao Hibino [18]

[12] Julia Boserup 7-6, 6-4 Asia Muhammad

Shuko Aoyama 0-6, 2-6 Patricia Maria Tig [14]

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