WASHINGTON, March 16, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
This year’s BNP Paribas Open, in the scenic California palm desert resort town of Indian Wells, will be remembered for the youth movement it sprouted.
While 16-year-old American Amanda Anisimova grabbed plenty of headlines after her breakout win over World No. 9 Petra Kvitova last Sunday, a couple of 20-year-old upstarts – Naomi Osaka and Daria Kasatkina – have reached the women’s semifinals with a string of impressive performances. Add to it, 21-year-old Borna Coric reached his first Masters 1000 semifinal with a gut-check, comeback win over World No. 9 Kevin Anderson, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3), on Thursday afternoon.
Added to the amazing week being enjoyed by the trio of Osaka, Kasatkina and Coric at Indian Wells, tennis elders Roger Federer, 36, and Venus Williams, 37, keep defying Father Time to the amazement of everyone. Both Federer and Williams have maintained their respective levels of excellence by reaching the semifinals. Federer, who is the defending BNP Paribas Open champion, is now 16-0 this year following his solid performance in his 7-5, 6-1 quarterfinal win against Hyeon Chung on Thursday night. By reaching the semifinals, he will maintain his World No. 1 ranking when the ATP Tour heads across the country for the Miami Open next week.
A closer look at how youth is being served
• The 44th-ranked Osaka has come into her own at Indian Wells with a trio of straight-set victories over Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska and World No. 5 Karolina Pliskova. She has raised the level of her game with each win – and, round by round, her interviews keep getting more insightful.
“I’m really trying to soak it up and trying to be happy. … Everyone playing in the tournament would love to be in the semis,” Osaka said during her press conference after beating Pliskova in the quarterfinals on Wednesday night. Her next match, which is her first WTA Premier Mandatory semifinal, comes against World No. 1 and top seed Simona Halep on Friday evening. Win or lose, I’m sure Osaka will have some memorable post-match insights to share.
• After her dominating 6-0, 6-2 quarterfinal win over former No. 1 Angelique Kerber on Thursday afternoon, in which she hit 21 winners, the 19th-ranked Kasatkina (pronounced Kah-SAHT-kin-uh) has reached her third semifinal in her last four tournaments – and her first WTA Premier Mandatory semifinal. She was asked by the WTA Insider what her thoughts were on who she might play. “Oh, tough to say. I don’t have any expectation from this match,” said Kasatkina. “The only thing is that I wan to play at 7:00 p.m. … I just want to be on the central court, prime time. Yeah.”
Asked if she didn’t think her game was better during the day, Kasatkina replied, “Maybe, yes, but in the evening something special is coming from here, from the heart.”
Katsatkina got her wish when Friday’s order of play was released last night. She and Williams will be the first match of the night session at 7 p.m. local time (GMT -7 hours). Kasatkina has one career singles title (2017 Charleston) while Williams is the owner of 49 career singles titles. To her credit, Kasatkina has wins over all of the reigning Grand Slam winners – Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Ostapenko, Garbiñe Muzuruga and Sloane Stephens – since last September. In fact, two of those have come in the past week at the BNP Paribas Open – against Stephens and Wozniacki – and she has three consecutive top 15 victories.
“She does have power, as anyone who has watched her rip a topspin forehand can attest,” wrote Christopher Clarey, tennis columnist for The New York Times, in a feature he penned about the Russian star earlier this week. “But she also has a wide array of solutions and strokes, including wicked drop shots, and a gift for rhythm shifts that border on the musical.”
After Williams beat Carla Suárez Navarro in straight sets to set up her semifinal meeting against Katsakina, she was asked during her on-court interview to describe her next opponent. “She’s very talented and I know I will have to bring my best,” said Williams, who has not dropped during the tournament.
• Finally, there’s the 49th-ranked Coric, who earlier in the tournament scored a nice 6-1, 6-3 win over No. 13 seed Roberto Bautista Agut. By beating Anderson, whose record in Masters 1000 quarterfinals fell to 0-8 lifetime, Coric became the first Croat to reach the semifinals at Indian Wells since Ivan Ljubicic won the title in 2010. Also, he’s the first unseeded male to reach the quarterfinals since Juan Martin del Potro in 2011.
Coric explained during his media interview after beating Anderson that he “just needed one or two good points (on his serve) and that’s what happened. And I served better.” The Croatian said he’s been much more calm on court in the last few months. “I’m trying to be somewhere in between all the time.”
About the author
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.