There will be an all top 10 blockbuster clash in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open as the world number three Karolina Pliskova will fight for a place in the final, but having to get past the resurgent world number eight Svetlana Kuznetsova first.
Pliskova in 2017
The excellent run in 2017 continues for Karolina Pliskova as she will be in yet another semifinal appearance. Her previous runs this year include reaching the final at the Brisbane International where she outclassed Alize Cornet, with her second title of the season coming at the Qatar Total Open, a Premier 5 event. Disappointing results at the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships and the Australian Open saw her fall to Kristina Mladenovic, another semifinalist here in Indian Wells, and the resurgent Mirjana Lucic-Baroni respectively.
Kuznetsova in 2017
For Kuznetsova, it was a totally opposite story as her results were nothing more than disappointing. Earning her only quarterfinal before this tournament at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, the Russian failed to reach most’s expectations as she lost to players who are ranked below her for all of her tournaments except her loss at the Brisbane International to Garbine Muguruza. Her failure to defend her title at the Sydney International had already caused her to dip in the rankings and barely remain in the top 10, but this week will definitely have renewed her confidence.
Pliskova in Indian Wells
Pliskova’s run here in Indian Wells can only be described by one word: Fortunate. Her run to the semifinals might not even have happened had Monica Puig taken advantage of a formidable 3-0 lead in the final set of their second round encounter, Irina-Camelia Begu capitalizing on her set points in the second set of their third round match, Timea Bacsinszky not suffering from a left wrist injury in the fourth round, and Garbine Muguruza not wasting leads in both of the sets just days ago.
However, despite not playing at her best level, Pliskova displayed her fighting spirit and determination as she allowed herself to get through all these tough moments in her matches and to progress to her second consecutive semifinal here in California. Nevertheless, it was generally a positive tournament for the Czech as she managed to hold her nerves at the most clutch moment, improving her mentality as compared to the past few years. If Pliskova were to clinch the title at the end of this week, the Czech will have a chance to rise to the world number one spot if she secures a “Sunshine Double” (winning both the BNP Paribas Open and the Miami Open), kicking Angelique Kerber off the leaderboard.
Kuznetsova in Indian Wells
Whereas, Kuznetsova’s run to the semifinals can be described as straightforward. It has truly been an impressive performance produced by the Russian in this tournament as she strolled to the semifinals only losing one set in the process against Roberta Vinci in their third round thriller. Defeating Johanna Larsson in the second round, Kuznetsova followed it up with a three-set victory over fellow veteran Roberta Vinci as she recovered from a mid-match wobble to triumph eventually.
Then, Kuznetsova progressed to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2008 by outclassing Caroline Garcia in every aspect to be victorious in straight sets and then securing an excellent win over compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarterfinals just a few days ago. This run will push Kuznetsova up to the top 10 in the Road to Singapore leaderboard (provided that she finishes one round further than compatriot Elena Vesnina), giving her a boost to her lackluster season.
Head to Head
Pliskova and Kuznetsova have only met twice in their careers, with both of them being on hard courts. The Czech won their first meeting at the Cincinnati Masters, defeating the Russian in three sets in her path to the title and a successful US Hard Court Series. Nevertheless, Kuznetsova took revenge in her excellent run at the WTA Finals, taking the match after coming from *6-5 *30-0 to do so.
Karolina Pliskova’s serve will definitely be the major factor in this match as it can definitely help her to win her service games, or it can also become a burden when she fails to send a majority of those first serves in. Without those smart and powerful serves, Pliskova can rely on her powerful groundstrokes to help her close points out early and dictate play, making Kuznetsova run around the court constantly and cause her to run out of stamina as soon as possible. Nevertheless, Kuznetsova proved that age was just a number when she led the tour in the most numbers of three set matches being won last year.
Kuznetsova’s main job is to extend the rallies as long as possible, and try to engage in as many baseline rallies as possible so she will be able to keep the hard-hitting Czech in play. Also, the Russian will have to make sure that her groundstrokes are solid enough so that she can lessen her unforced error count, increasing her chances of winning the match.
The courts will favor Kuznetsova and with Pliskova being not in her best form, the Russian will look to create a mini upset here to secure a place in the final for the first time since 2008.
Prediction:  Svetlana Kuznetsova d.  Karolina Pliskova in three sets