The quarter-final line-up has been set at Indian Wells for the stars of the WTA, with Serena Williams marching through into the last eight.
Serena to meet defending champ Halep
Serena Williams booked her spot in the last-eight after another comprehensive victory, this time against the Ukraine's Katerina Bondarenko. The world no.1 didn't need to get out of first gear, breezing through another match once again in straight sets. Only a first set tie breaker against Yulia Putintseva in the last round has seen anyway get anywhere near close to taking a set over the 21 time Grand Slam champion, as Serena has seemingly put the disappointment of her Australian Open final defeat to Angelique Kerber well and truly behind her.
Defending champion Simona Halep will take on Williams in the last-eight tomorrow after the Romanian's fourth round opponent, Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic, was forced to retire due to an upper respiratory illness. Halep had taken the first set 6-3 and then won the opening game of the second, before Strycova called it a day. Halep now has the world no.1 to encounter, who she was scheduled to meet in the semi-finals of this tournament a year ago, only for her to receive a walkover to the final (in which she won).
"P3tra" strikes again
Petra Kvitova has become synonymous in recent years for making things rather difficult for herself during matches and in the process, getting the nickname "P3tra", as quite a few go the full distance. That has most certainly been the case in Indian Wells, but the two-time Wimbledon champion has managed to make her way through to the quarter-finals. The Czech needed three sets in her opening two rounds and did so again, as she came from a set down to eventually overcome home qualifier Nicole Gibbs to book her spot in the last-eight.
Awaiting the eighth seed will be Aga Radwanska, who eased past last year's runner-up Jelena Jankovic to record her 16th victory of the year, the most on the WTA tour in 2016. The third seed from Poland, finalist in the Californian desert two years ago, will be making her sixth appearance in the quarter-finals of this tournament and she heads into her 10th meeting with Kvitova full of confidence. The pair will clash for the first time since the final of the WTA finals in Singapore at the end of last year, a match the Pole won to claim the biggest title of her career.
Konta's run comes to an end
Johanna Konta is out of the tournament after a tight three set defeat to Karolína Pliskova, who has reached the quarter-finals on the West Coast for the first time in her career. 18th seed Pliskova, who thumped Ana Ivanovic to get to this stage for the second consecutive year, prevailed against Konta, seeded seven places lower, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3. Despite the disappointment of this defeat, the consolation for Konta is that she will move up the WTA rankings once again on Monday, to a career high 23, meaning cracking the top-20 isn't so far away.
Next up for the Czech will be Daria Kasatkina, whose rise continues with every match. The 18-year old Russian will be making her first WTA mandatory quarter-final appearance after overcoming Switzerland's 12th seed Timea Bacsinszky. With a scoreline of 6-4, 6-2 to boot, it just goes to show how talented this young Russian is, and provides a feel good factor story, emerging from the dark shadows, of what has been a difficult week or so for the sport in her homeland. That feel good factor will only continue if Kasatkina can next defeat Pliskova.
Azarenka to face Rybarikova
Former world no.1 Victoria Azarenka always knew that she was going to face quite a battle against 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur, and that was exactly what she got during this fourth round encounter. However, the Belarussian did prevail in three sets against the pitbull like Aussie, and will now make her fifth appearance in the last-eight in Indian Wells. The two-time Australian Open winner, seeded 13th here, will undoubtedly now be the favourite to reach Saturday's final as she chases her second title in the Californian desert (and if she does so, she will return to the world's top-10).
She is the highest ranked player of the four remaining in the bottom-half of the draw after ninth seed Roberta Vinci was forced to retire during her clash with Magdalena Rybarikova, down a set and a break, due to an ankle injury. Rybarikova however won't care, making it back-to-back top-10 wins, with this victory (of sorts) against Vinci backing up her success against Belinda Bencic. Yet for the Slovak's dream run to continue, she will have to be at her very best to have any chance against Azarenka.
Indian Wells Round 4 Results:
Serena Williams (1) bt Katerina Bondarenko 6-2, 6-2
Simona Halep (5) bt Barbora Strycova 6-3, 1-0r
Aga Radwanska (3) bt Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-3
Petra Kvitova (8) bt Nicole Gibbs 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Magdalena Rybarikova bt Roberta Vinci (9) 6-2, 2-0r
Victoria Azarenka (13) bt Sam Stosur (26) 6-1, 4-6, 6-1
Daria Kasatkina bt Timea Bacsinszky (12) 6-4, 6-2
Karolína Pliskova (18) bt Johanna Konta (25) 7-6, 3-6, 6-3
The top-half quarter-finals take place tomorrow, with the bottom-half quarter-finals taking place on Thursday:
Serena Williams (1) - Simona Halep (5)
Aga Radwanska (3) - Petra Kvitova (8)
Magdalena Rybarikova - Victoria Azarenka (13)
Daria Kasatkina - Karolína Pliskova (18)