A Day Of Upsets At Windy BNP Paribas Open

Beatriz Haddad Maia (photo: WTA video)

INDIAN WELLS/WASHINGTON, October 12, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The windy conditions at the BNP Paribas Open in the southern California palm desert were gusty and at times relentless on Monday. Imagine combining tennis with wrestling, as one British commentator wrote on Twitter, and you get the picture. It wasn’t a pretty one, but it made for some interesting upsets. That was before rain showers suspended play altogether for nearly two hours shortly after the night session commenced. But, oh, those upsets!

Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia, who was inserted into the main draw as a lucky loser for injured No. 29 seed Nadia Podoroska and promptly leap frogged to the second round, took full advantage of the windy conditions – not to mention her second chance of playing at Indian Wells. She broke top seed and World No. 3 Karolina Pliskova‘s serve eight times to garner a surprising 6-3, 7-5 win over the Czech star in two hours and four minutes. Haddad Maia hit 19 winners to 18 unforced errors and took advantage of Pliskova’s 12 double faults and 42 unforced errors. She outpointed her opponent 87-75. Arguably, it was the best win of the 115th-ranked Haddad Maia’s career and her second Top Five win overall. It’s also the first time she’s advanced this far in a WTA 1000 event.

Haddad Maia, 25, will return to the Top 100 next week for the first time since being suspended by the ITF in early 2020 for a failed drug test that took place in July 2019. The Brazilian was ranked outside the Top 1000 when she came back 14 months ago. Now, she’s 90-20 in all competitions since her comeback, which includes nine ITF titles, five of them won in Portugal.

”I think I’m very happy now, a lot of shock. I’m very happy with my job today,” Haddad Maia said during an on-court interview. “It was a very tough day because it was very windy. For sure, it was not our best level of tennis. So, it was a very emotional and mental game. I’m happy to get this one and to be stronger every point. I pushed myself.” 

Haddad Maia’s good fortune advanced her to Tuesday’s round of 16, where she will face No. 18 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. On Monday afternoon, Kontaveit won for the 15th time in her last 16 outings with a 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over 2019 defending champion and 16th seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada, who lost at Indian Wells for the first time in nine matches going back to her 2019 title run. It was the 20th-ranked Kontaveit’s second win over Andreescu this year following an earlier triumph on grass at Eastbourne, and she improved her career head-to-head against the Canadian to 3-0.

Kontaveit, who finished with three aces and hit 23 winners, won the last five games of the third-round match on Stadium 2. She broke Andreescu’s serve five times and outpointed her 79-65. The 21st-ranked Andreescu was hampered by five double faults and 34 unforced errors.

“It was extremely close throughout the match and I was just trying to stay tough,” Kontaveit said after her victory. “I was ready for a tough match. She’s such a good player, such a great competitor. So, I knew it wasn’t going to be over until it was really over.”

Also, moving into the round of 16 was No. 12 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who beat No. 22 seed Danielle Collins of the United States, 6-1, 6-3, in an hour and 12 minutes for her WTA-leading 46th victory of the year. The World No. 14 handled the wind effectively and it made dealing with her variety of slice and drop shots all the more challenging. Collins was undone by 11 double faults – 10 of them in the opening set – and made 32 unforced errors. Jabeur broke the American’s serve five times and outpointed Collins 70-49.

“With the fatigue mentally and physically at the end of the season, I’m trying to really play my best tennis,” Jabeur said during press, quoted by the WTA website. “I never played this long. It’s a new experience for me. But I’m happy that it’s motivation for end of the year. I’m not very far. I honestly want to win as much as I can to qualify [for the WTA Finals].” 

Next, Jabeur will face 151st-ranked qualifier Anna Kalinskaya of Russia, who scored a nice upset victory over No. 46 Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3. After losing six straight games to close out the opening set, Kalinskaya turned things around and broke Golubic seven times in eight tries over the final two sets. It was the Russian’s fifth win at Indian Wells, including two in qualifying and three in the main draw.

Around the Indian Wells Tennis Garden

• Top seed Daniil Medvedev reached the fourth round with a 90-minute, late-night 6-2, 7-6 (1) win over No. 27 seed Filip Krajinovic of Serbia. It was Medvedev’s 18th win in his last 19 on the North American continent.

The World No. 2 from Russia won 70 percent (23 of 33) of first-serve points and hit 28 winners to just 16 unforced errors en route to recording his 50th match win of the season. Krajinovic finished with 15 winners and made 20 unforceHis opponent finished the 90-minute contest with 15 winners and 20 unforced errors.

“I feel like I’m trying to play a little bit less … just playing the biggest tournaments, or the ones that will get me back into shape so I’m really happy that I managed to get 50 [wins]. It means that I was doing pretty good in a lot of them,” Medvedev said, quoted by the ATP Tour website.

Meanwhile, after losing seven consecutive games earlier, No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina captured the last 10 games of his third-round match against No. 18 seed Dan Evans of Great Britain to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 in two hours and 53 minutes and reach the last 16 at Indian Wells for the first time. He will face recent San Diego Open champion Casper Ruud of Norway after the No. 6 seed garnered his seventh straight victory with a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 26 seed Lloyd Harris of South Africa.

Ruud extended his winning streak to nine matches after saving all eight break points he faced from Harris.

“It was a very tough match and I was fortunate to get through in the end,” Ruud said during an on-court interview. “There were only some points here and there that decided this match. I saved a lot of break points and in crucial points I stepped up my game.”

Meanwhile, No. 23 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria scored an upset of No. 16 seed Reilly Opelka of the United States, 6-3, 6-4, holding the big-serving American to just five aces while facing no break points on his own serve. It’s the first time in eight tries that Dimitrov has reached the fourth round at Indian Wells. Next, he will face No. 1 seed Medvedev.

Also, No. 19 Aslan Karatsev of Russia took out No. 9 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, 7-5, 6-2, taking advantage of 26 unforced errors by the Canadian, including 15 off his forehand.

“The first thing you want to try to do is keep focusing because the weather conditions were tough for both of us,” Karatsev said, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “The first set I tried to find my serve, especially on the second serve, it didn’t work. The main goal was to keep focused. … It was super windy today.”

Next, Karatsev will face No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who advanced over No. 49 Frances Tiafoe of the United States, 6-3, 6-2.

Other late-night winners: No 21 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain advanced with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 win over No. 15 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, in two hours and 44 minutes. Next, Norrie will face No. 60 Tommy Paul of the United States, who upset No. 4 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

• As the women’s third round wrapped up and the round of 16 lineup came into focus, 2019 runner up and this year’s No. 10 seed, Angelique Kerber of Germany, won four of the last five games to beat 2018 runner up and No. 20 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. It was Kerber’s fifth win over the Russian in nine career meetings as well as their fourth career three-set match. The win lifted Kerber into the fourth round at Indian Wells for the sixth time. She will face No. 47 Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, who upset No. 26 seed Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, 6-4, 6-3.

“It’s always tough to play against Daria,” Kerber said afterward during an on-court interview. “We’ve played so many matches in the past … today was a bit of a rollercoaster match for me. I played very well in the first set and she played well in the second. So, I was just trying to stay mentally strong and to play point by point.”

No. 21 seed Paula Badosa of Spain, in her Indian Wells debut, eliminated No. 15 seed Coco Gauff of the United States, 6-2, 6-2, in 55 minutes. She benefited from four breaks of the 17-year-old Gauff’s serve and outpointed her 54-30. The match was interrupted by the lengthy rain delay, but the end result gave Badosa her seventh career Top 20 victory – all of them this year.

Next, Badosa will face No. 3 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who beat No. 81 Amanda Anisimova of the United States, 6-2, 6-3.

“Barbora, we are very good friends,” Badosa said after her match, quoted by the WTA website. “We practice a lot. We played as well. She’s doing an amazing year. Insane. She’s a very talented player, so I know it’s going to be a very, very tough match.”

Monday’s BNP Paribas Open results

Tuesday’s BNP Paribas Open order of play

Sasnovich has been surprise of the women’s draw

Aliaksandra Sasnovich arrived at Indian Wells as the 100th-ranked player in the WTA. However, after watching her continue her streak of surprising victories – beginning with No. 71 Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, then continuing with US Open champion and No. 17 seed Emma Raducanu, and, finally, on Sunday with her 98-minute, 7-5, 6-4 ouster of 2015 Indian Wells champion and No. 11 seed Simona Halep – the 27-year-old native of Minsk, Belarus is playing much better than her ranking suggests.

The former World No. 30 Sasnovich has not dropped a set thanks to her aggressive play and her three wins represents her best winning streak on the WTA tour in two years. It’s the first time she’s won three straight since 2019.

“What a phenomenal performance by Sasnovich,” said Hall of Famer Lindsay Davenport on Tennis Channel, describing her win over Raducanu Friday night. “She was so composed, she didn’t try to overplay. She played a solid match and ended up with more winners than Raducanu. She did a much better job of competing. She didn’t let anything bother her.”

Meanwhile, Sasnovich’s victory over Halep Sunday evening coupled with two-time (2012, 2016) Indian Wells champion Victoria Azarenka‘s win over two-time Wimbledon champion and No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova means that the two Belarusian players will meet in Tuesday’s round of 16. Sasnovich’s fortune means delaying her return home.

The 32nd-ranked Azarenka, seeded 27th, represents the third straight Grand Slam champion opponent for Sasnovich. Surprisingly, they’ve never met before in a tour-level match. While Azarenka has won 21 career tour singles titles, Sasnovich is still looking to win her first, although she’s been to two finals – 2015 in Seoul, South Korea and 2018 in Brisbane, Australia.

“It’s interesting to play against the players who are the best in the world,” Sasnovich said during her post-match press after beating Raducanu. “I prefer to play on the big arena with a lot of crowds. It doesn’t matter they support me or my opponent. It doesn’t matter. I just love to feel this energy, I just love to be on court and just enjoy.”

Sasanovich added: “I saw a few matches of her when she played US Open and Wimbledon as well. She’s really a talented girl. She has a strong forehand, backhand. She tries to be always aggressive.

“It was a really good match for me. I play really well. I know [Emma] just won US Open. I lost there in the first round. So, a little bit different. But I tried to go on court, I tried to enjoy. I did everything right and I’m happy with the result, of course.”

During her on-court interview Friday after her big win against Raducanu, Sasnovich charmed the crowd and conveyed a sense of humor that’s masked by her serious demeanor when she’s on court. She beamed a big smile and admitting she loves eating a good piece of chocolate cake. What a nice reward for a job well done, she figures. Before she left Stadium 1 to return to the locker room, Sasnovich summed up her feelings in three short sentences totaling 11 words. It spoke volumes.

“I love tennis. I love to be here. That’s my life,” she said.

By the numbers

• At the start of play Monday, there were 27 men’s seeds into the third round at Indian Wells. This is the most since the tournament expanded to a 96-draw with 32 seeds back in 2004. The previous record since 2004 was 25 seeds reaching the third round in both 2008 and 2017.

• On this date in 2010, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark reached World No. 1 for the first time.

“Quotable …”

“So, I think I’m a big thinker. I will overthink even the smallest things, which sometimes works for me and other times it doesn’t. On top of that, I just want it so much a lot of the times. There’s, like, that little kid in me that all I wanted to ever do was play tennis and win.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to accept the losses and it’s hard ot accept that maybe where I thought I’d be, I didn’t hit those marks. It kind of builds in my mind that I kind of failed. Then I want it even more.

“I get into situations when it’s, like, really within my reach. It’s tennis, it happens, you don’t awake win. I sometimes make it bigger than it is.

“Now that I’m a little bit older and I’m making runs that I haven’t before, it also makes me appreciate it a lot more.”

– No. 47 Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, unseeded, who defeated No. 26 Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, 6-4, 6-3, in Monday’s third round.