For all of the upsets and surprises at the 2014 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, at the end of the day the top 2 seeds, Li Na and Agnieszka Radwanska, are still in the draw and heading to the semifinals. They will be joined by Simona Halep and Flavia Pennetta. Halep is one of the fastest rising players on tour the past year and a half. She will continue to rise when the new rankings come out Monday. Not only will she reach a career best #5 in the world, she will also be the highest ranking Romanian woman ever in the WTA. When her game is on, she’s my favorite shot maker to watch on tour at the moment. Her ball striking and angles remind me of Kim Clijsters. She was definitely on her game in the quarters, sweeping away an overmatched Casey Dellacqua, 6-2 6-2. The bad news for Halep is that waiting for her in the semifinals is Agnieszka Radwanska. Aga has the variety of shot to be a problem for anybody. Win or lose, there are almost always 4 or 5 shots in a Radwanska match that bring the oohs and ahhs out of the crowd. So far, the best match of the tournament on the women’s side that I’ve seen (via tennistv.com–highly recommended site, costly but worth it if you’re a tennis fanatic) is her quarterfinal against Jelena Jankovic. It was high level play from start to finish, with virtuoso shot making from Aga vs brilliant ball striking from Jeca. In the end, Aga edged Jeca, 7-5 2-6 6-4. Until the end, it was anybody’s contest. In some ways, I expect the same contrast in styles from Aga vs Simona. Can Radwanska once again use her guile and craft to thwart power and precision?
In a rematch of the 2014 Australian Open final a few months ago, Dominika Cibulkova upped her play and pushed top seed Li Na to three sets. In the end it would not be enough as Li Na still emerged triumphant, 6-3 4-6 6-3. Domi had her chances, up a break early in the final set. Li Na managed to break back and from 3-all closed out the last trio of games to beat Cibulkova for the 6th time in 6 tries. The Chinese superstar has been living dangerously this tournament. It’s not unusual for a big hitter to have a lot of unforced errors. When you go for more, you inevitably will miss more. But 59 errors is a lot. Will her next opponent, Flavia Pennetta, be able to make her pay for sloppy play? Well, maybe. However, my guess is that Flavia is just happy to squeak by Sloane Stephens in a match that by its conclusion looked like it was being played in a hurricane, as the wind was blowing the ball around in mid-flight. Both Sloane and Flavia were leaning, stretching and constantly on the balls of their feet as it became increasingly difficult to tell where the ball would land. After squandering a chance to close out the match serving at 5-4 in the second set, Pennetta came back in the third to successfully finish Stephens, but not without huge swings of momentum. At times, it looked like Flavia might be on the verge of giving up. She persevered to finally win, 6-4 5-7 6-4.
ALL PICS CLICK TO ENLARGE
1 LI NA (won 6-3 4-6 6-3 vs 12 Dominika Cibulkova)
2 AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA (won 7-5 2-6 6-4 vs 7 Jelena Jankovic)
6 SIMONA HALEP (won 6-2 6-2 vs Casey Dellacqua)
20 FLAVIA PENNETTA (won 6-4 5-7 6-4 vs 17 Sloane Stephens)