WTA Indian Wells: Seeds progress to the third round; victors include Kuznetsova and Pliskova twins

WTA Indian Wells: Seeds progress to the third round; victors include Kuznetsova and Pliskova twins

Seeds were in action for the first time this fortnight as second round play started for the top half of the draw, with 14 of the 16 seeds in the top half progressing into the third round.

don-han
Don Han

The third day of action at the BNP Paribas Open marked the first appearances for the seeded players, with most of them winning their matches during the day. Some notable winners include Svetlana Kuznetsova, Karolina Pliskova, Dominika Cibulkova and Garbiñe Muguruza, all of whom were qualifiers for last year’s WTA Finals.

Kuznetsova suffers big scare

Svetlana Kuznetsova got past Johanna Larsson in straight sets, triumphing in 95 minutes after suffering a slight scare in the second set as she had to come from 2-4 down to win the set. After taking leads in the early stages of the first set and then having a 5-3 lead, Kuznetsova failed to close out the set as Larsson made a spirited fightback, extending the first set into a tiebreak to decide its winner with Kuznetsova looking inconsistent at times.

With the score being at 4-3 in Kuznetsova’s favor, the Swedish failed to deal with the pressure well as she lost three straight points to gift the first set to the Russian, letting her comeback efforts to go down in vain. The second set was much of a similar story as Kuznetsova went up an early break, but this time Larsson managed to level the scores immediately and won four straight games to take a 4-2 lead, looking to level the match. Nevertheless, it was the former grand slam champion who won four games in a row of her own to clinch the match in straight sets after an hour and 35 minutes of play.

Johanna Larsson hits a serve | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Johanna Larsson hits a serve | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Karolina Pliskova mounts incredible comeback

Monica Puig came into the match firing as she saved two game points to break serve in the opening game of the match against Karolina Pliskova, taking the early advantage. Her great start continued in the next game as she consolidated the break with a comfortable hold of service, affirming her lead on the scoreboard. The 2016 US Open finalist was surprisingly outhit by the Olympic gold medalist, who extended her lead to two service breaks as Pliskova’s serve was broken down once more. Nevertheless, the Czech got back one of the breaks immediately to give herself a lifeline in the set. Unfortunately, it proved to be just a consolation game in the set as Puig stormed to the victory of the first set in just 30 minutes, disallowing Pliskova to have a single service hold in the set.

The second set saw a much better performance from the top 10 player as she earned the early advantage and fending off a break point in the fourth game to hold onto her lead. Eventually, Pliskova sealed up the second set by a scoreline of 6-4 and leveled the match after an hour and 14 minutes of play. The momentum seemed to have shifted back to the Puerto Rican in the final set as Puig jumped out to a 3-0 lead out of nowhere and looked poised for the huge upset. It was from then on where Puig started to lose her focus and confidence as Pliskova stormed to a 5-3 lead by winning five consecutive games to place herself just one game away from victory. In the tenth game of the final set, Pliskova sealed the magnificent comeback by securing a hold to love and escape the upset.

Monica Puig lost a 3-0 lead in the final set today | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Monica Puig lost a 3-0 lead in the final set today | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Cibulkova moves past tough opponent

Four consecutive breaks of serve started the match as both Dominika Cibulkova and Jelena Ostapenko looked vulnerable on their serves, with none of them able to hold their serves in the early stages of the match. Both players were separated by only one game on the scoreboard throughout the first set, with Cibulkova making the crucial break of service in the final game of the set despite some tough resistance from the Latvian, who saved two set points before running out of steam to lose the first set 6-4 after 43 minutes.

The second set had a clear winner from the start as Ostapenko ran out to a double break lead in the opening stages of the set, and she eventually closed out the second set to level the match at one set all. Similar to the first set, the final set was filled with an abundance of service breaks as there was six consecutive service breaks started the final set with, before the world number five had the first service hold in the set, having to save two break points in the process. That sole service hold of the set proved to be crucial as Ostapenko failed to hold her serve in the whole final set, eventually allowing Cibulkova to clinch the match and prevent the upset from occurring.

Dominika Cibulkova narrowly escaped from a defeat today | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
Dominika Cibulkova narrowly escaped from a defeat today | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

Svitolina sneaks into the third round

Elina Svitolina suffered a huge scare against Wang Qiang, having to prevail in a final set tiebreak to triumph in three sets. A fast start to the match gave some form of hint that it would be a routine victory for the recent top 10 debutant, as the Ukrainian ran out to a 3-1 lead within a blink of an eye, fading off Wang’s four break points in the process. What happened next was certainly unexpected as the Chinese started to play her best tennis and stormed to win the next five games and closed out the first set 6-3.

Wang seemed to run out of steam in the second set as she soon fell behind 0-4 with a double break deficit, but once again made a spirited comeback to return on serve by breaking serve twice in a row. Nevertheless, this time it was not meant to be for the Chinese as Svitolina maintained her composure to close out the set 6-3 eventually to level the match at one set all. The final set saw the Ukranian take the lead on three different occasions, but failed to hold onto the lead for long as Wang broke back every single time, sending the match into a deciding set tiebreak eventually. Taking a formidable 4-1 lead in the tiebreak, Svitolina held onto her lead tightly as she closed out the match a few points later, taking the win after 2 hours and 41 minutes of play.  

Elina Svitolina narrowly escaped from an upset too | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
Elina Svitolina narrowly escaped from an upset too | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

Muguruza strolls to the third round

Garbiñe Muguruza had a fast start to the match as she came out firing, breaking serve twice in the opening stages of the match to open up a lead of four games, saving two break points in the process. Kirsten Flipkens managed to get onto the scoreboard with a comfortable hold of service and started to look more focused on the match as she became more solid in her service games. Nevertheless, Muguruza eventually sealed the first set 6-2 after 43 minutes of play.

The second set was a similar story to the first set as the Spaniard ran out to a 5-0 lead after she played some excellent tennis before Flipkens started to mount a comeback as she got two of the breaks back and lessened the deficit to just two games as Muguruza started to lose focus on the match. Despite so, the reigning Roland Garros champion clinched the victory in an hour and 32 minutes after she saved three game points to break serve once more.

Garbine Muguruza reaches out for a net shot | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Garbine Muguruza reaches out for a net shot | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Konta makes perfect return

After a long period of inactivity due to a foot injury, Johanna Konta finally returned in action with her first match back being against Heather Watson, her compatriot. Showing some signs of rustiness at the start, Konta fell behind by an early break as she suffered from a slow start. Nevertheless, the world number 11 eventually stormed back to win the first set 6-4 in 49 minutes, with her powerful groundstrokes helping her to take the lead.

The second set was much more straightforward as Konta jumped out to a 5-1 lead with the win looking to be in her hands already. Watson threatened to make a comeback, but Konta stopped the rout at three games as she served the match out at the second attempt, sealing a place in the third round.

Johanna Konta played a great match today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America
Johanna Konta played a great match today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America

Strycova comes through marathon

Having a poor head-to-head record against Sara Errani, Barbora Strycova had other ideas today as she prevailed in a marathon three-set match after fending off a comeback from the Italian. Strycova cruised in the opening set as Errani suffered from a slow start, breaking serve twice in the opening five games to go up a double break lead and opened up a 5-1 lead within a blink of an eye. From there, Errani played like she was going to mount a comeback as she got one of the breaks back to lessen the deficit and eventually got to just one game away from the Czech. Strycova did not waste her second opportunity in serving for the first set as she successfully held her serve to love, clinching the first set in 50 minutes.

Strycova went up an early break in the second set as she broke serve in the opening game of the set, leading by a set and a break. However, Errani made an immediate reply as she broke serve three times in a row, but was pegged back by the top 20 player twice in a row to make the score remain level. With the score at 4-4, Strycova earned a break point but failed to convert and allowed Errani to hold onto her serve narrowly, eventually extending the set into an 11th game with neither of the players able to find a breakthrough in their return games. In the last game of the set, Strycova failed to deal with the pressure well and gifted the break and the set to Errani, leveling the match at one-set-all after an hour and 53 minutes.

Barbora Strycova progresses to the third round | Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images AsiaPac
Barbora Strycova progresses to the third round | Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images AsiaPac

Losing her serve in the opening game of the final set, it was thought that the momentum shifted to the Czech as she took the early advantage once again. Nevertheless, Errani broke straight back to level the match and increase her chances of creating a huge upset on paper. Despite a tough resistance, Errani lost her service games twice in a row from 2-2 onwards, allowing Strycova to have a chance to serve out the match. Strycova did just so, serving out the match comfortably and sealing a spot in the third round.

Vinci overcomes tough challenge

Known for her slow starts to the match, Roberta Vinci was broken in the opening game of the match by Madison Brengle, allowing the home favorite to take the early advantage. Nevertheless, the Italian managed to break back immediately to prevent herself from falling behind further in the scoreboard. There was a third consecutive service break to start the match with as Vinci looked vulnerable on her serve, being broken once more to let Brengle regain the lead. 

Madison Brengle in action | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Madison Brengle in action | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Finally, there was a hold of service for both players with the 2015 US Open finalist needing to fend off triple break points in the process of holding her serve. This tight hold of service gave Vinci the momentum needed to break serve in the next game, converting on her fourth break point in the game to level the scores. After a couple exchange of breaks, the set was soon brought into a tiebreak to decide its winner. There, Brengle looked like she was heading for an upset as she jumped out to a 5-3 lead, being just two points away from winning the first set. Unexpectedly, Vinci rattled off four straight points to clinch the first set in exactly one hour. 

Unlike the first set, Vinci had the fast start to the second set as she broke serve to love in the opening game of the set, taking the early advantage. It turned out to be four consecutive breaks of serve to start the second set with as the scores remained level and inseparable after all the twists and turns. The next breakthrough happened in the seventh game as Vinci was the one who broke serve next, regaining the lead and earning the chance to serve out the match. With some solid serving, Vinci served out the match easily and triumphed in 110 minutes eventually.

Madison Brengle would rue her missed opportunity in the first set | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Madison Brengle would rue her missed opportunity in the first set | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Kasatkina stunned

33rd seed Daria Kasatkina was given a huge shock when she suffered a straight sets defeat at the hands of Kristyna Pliskova and was whitewashed in the first set having been given a bagel by the Czech. A poor start to the match saw Kasatkina being broken twice on her serve and soon found herself down 0-4 after just 10 minutes of play with Pliskova’s game looking very precise and consistent. Struggles to win points and shift her focus onto the match soon cost the Russian greatly, as 17 minutes of powerful tennis played by the Czech was enough to seal up the first set 6-0 in her favor, leaving Kasatkina shell-shocked.

A lengthy toilet break allowed Kasatkina to refresh her mind and reflect on the first set, and it proved to be effective as the Russian fended off two break points in the opening game of the second set to hold serve and win her first game of the match, getting onto the scoreboard the toughest way possible. In the following game, Kasatkina earned two break points to have the chance to take the lead and make a fightback but failed to convert both of them as Pliskova produced some powerful groundstrokes to eventually hold onto her nervy service game. This seemed to give a rise in Pliskova’s confidence as she broke serve immediately in the next game, taking a lead of a set and a break, looking to close out the match in straight sets. After both players failed to capitalize on their break point opportunities, Pliskova eventually closed out the match with a second break of the second set, sealing the comfortable upset in just 65 minutes.

Kristyna Pliskova was in great form | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America
Kristyna Pliskova was in great form | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America

Bacsinszky strolls past tricky opponent

The first set was very tight in terms of the scoreboard, with no player being able to make an obvious breakthrough in the match. Being the more proactive player, Timea Bacsinszky twice broke serve first but Monica Niculescu did not let the Swiss take the lead easily as she broke back every single time. Finally, Bacsinszky was able to consolidate the break with a crucial hold of service that earned her a 5-3 lead, placing herself just one game away from winning the first set. Saving a set point in the process, Niculescu extended the set into an 11th game as she broke back once more. However, the Swiss stepped up her game and successfully served out the first set 7-5 after 66 minutes of play.

The second set had a clear winner from the start as Bacsinszky jumped out to a double break lead within a blink of an eye before Niculescu got one of the breaks back to lessen the deficit. Bacsinszky soon regained the three-game lead in the closing stages of the match, and eventually triumphed in straight sets after an hour and 48 minutes.

Timea Bacsinszky progresses to the third round | Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images AsiaPac
Timea Bacsinszky progresses to the third round | Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images AsiaPac

Gavrilova fends off tough opponent

The first set saw Daria Gavrilova strolling comfortably to winning the first set as Yanina Wickmayer looked out of sorts and failed to play her best tennis. Just two service breaks going the Australian’s way sealed the first set for her as she saved two break points when serving for the set to successfully serve it out.

Gavrilova originally led by a set and a break, but Wickmayer had other ideas as she broke straight back to prevent herself from lagging behind on the scoreboard. From then, both players looked very solid on their serves and there were no more breakthroughs, thus the set proceeded into a tiebreak to decide its winner. The tiebreak was equally as tight as the set itself as not more than two points separated both players, but the Australian managed to win three straight points to claim the victory in 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Daria Gavrilova would be happy with her performance today | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Daria Gavrilova would be happy with her performance today | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Garcia storms to the victory

A sole break of serve in the opening set decided the proceedings as Caroline Garcia clinched the first set 6-3 with the crucial service break in the fourth game where Evgeniya Rodina’s serve crumbled momentarily, causing her to lose the first set. The second set was equally as straightforward as Rodina was broken early in the set once more, with Garcia taking the early advantage. The Frenchwoman then took her third service break of the day in the last game of the match as she broke serve to clinch the win in just 65 minutes of play.

Caroline Garcia in action | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Caroline Garcia in action | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Pavlyuchenkova eases past tough opponent

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova made the first breakthrough as Anett Kontaveit’s serve started to look vulnerable at times, but the Estonian managed to make an immediate reply and returned level despite the momentum being with Pavlyuchenkova. The Russian then had a second consecutive break of serve as she regained the lead having saved two game points, before managing to consolidate it with a comfortable service hold to affirm her lead on the scoreboard. With both players being very solid on their serves, there were no breaks of serve that followed in the first set as the top 20 player eventually closed out the first set by a scoreline of 6-4.

After falling behind an early deficit in the second set, Pavlyuchenkova fought back when she broke serve at the most crucial moment in the ninth game of the set, giving herself a chance to serve out the match. The Russian then successfully served out the match easily, sealing a spot in the third round.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova got past her opponent comfortably | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova got past her opponent comfortably | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Bertens strolls to victory over former top 10 player

Belinda Bencic looked poised for an upset on her birthday when she earned break point opportunity in the opening game of the match before Kiki Bertens maintained her composure to hold onto her service game, and the Swiss managed to follow it up with a service hold to love, looking very comfortable on the court. Despite so, her level and quality of play decreased drastically after that as she started to hand out free points because of unnecessary unforced errors, losing four straight games to find herself down 1-5 in the scoreboard all of a sudden. Bertens failed to serve out the match as Bencic got one of the breaks back, but it proved to be just a consolation game as the Swiss lost her serve in the next game, allowing Bertens to win the first set 6-2 after 36 minutes.

The second set seemed to be much tighter in the scoreboard as the first break of serve in the set only came in the fourth game, with the Swiss blinking first as she missed a game point opportunity to give Bertens the lead. Failing to go against Bertens’ explosive game, Bencic lost her serve once more in the last game of the match as the 2016 French Open semifinalist sealed the win in just 69 minutes.

Belinda Bencic would be very disappointed with her performance today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America
Belinda Bencic would be very disappointed with her performance today | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America

Day creates huge upset

Kayla Day, the American wildcard, managed to create a huge upset over the 32nd seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni as she managed to outhit the veteran in three sets, progressing to the third round in her debut here at the BNP Paribas Open. The first set was really close when it comes to the score as neither players were able to find a breakthrough in their return games, with Lucic-Baroni being solid on her serve and Day utilizing her lefty advantage well. Nevertheless, the first break of the match came in the fifth game, with Day making use of Lucic-Baroni’s unforced errors to break serve and take the lead. The American did not let the lead slip away so easily as she fended off two break points in the next game, and eventually sealing up the set 6-4 after 43 minutes.

The second set was even tighter, with no breaks of serve until the last game of the set where Day failed to deal with the pressure and got broken by Lucic-Baroni to lose the set and level the match at one set all. The first breakthrough in the final set came in the latter stages as the Croatian broke serve in the eighth game and earned the opportunity to serve out the match. However, Day started to play freely with nothing to lose, which proved effective as she rattled off four straight games to clinch the upset in 2 hours and 16 minutes, setting up a meeting with Garbiñe Muguruza in the third round.

This was Kayla Day's biggest victory of her young career | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
This was Kayla Day's biggest victory of her young career | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

Begu grinds out tough victory

A very tight start to the match saw Louisa Chirico hold serve after saving a break point in the process to hold onto her opening service game narrowly, with Irina-Camelia Begu having a positive start to the match. Begu then strolled to winning the first set as she rattled off six consecutive games to win the first set 6-1 in 48 minutes. The scoreline did not do justice to Chirico’s performance as every of the game in the first set, except one of them, went to deuce and had break points involved. Begu was the more reliant player at the most crucial moments, with Chirico failing to take her chances well.

The second set was much tighter in terms of the scoreboard, with the first break of the set coming only in the eighth game in Begu’s favor and giving her the chance to serve out the match. However, the Romanian missed three match point opportunities and allowed Chirico to break back and level the set all of a sudden despite looking down-and-out just moments before. Nevertheless, the American was still unable to go against the powerful game of Begu, falling in straight sets after an hour and 54 minutes of play.

Irina-Camelia Begu at the Australian Open | Photo: Jack Thomas/Getty Images AsiaPac
Irina-Camelia Begu at the Australian Open | Photo: Jack Thomas/Getty Images AsiaPac
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