Monday, October 25, 2021

Clijsters set to make a comeback at Indian Wells; Raducanu top attraction

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Indian Wells, Oct 5 (IANS) Three-time US Open champion and two-time winner at Indian Wells, Belgium’s former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters, will be making her first appearance at the BNP Paribas Open in a decade, and will meet Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic in the opening-round at Indian Wells.

According to the draw revealed on Tuesday (IST), Grand Slam champions Simona Halep and Emma Raducanu of Great Britain could face off in the third round.

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The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells returns to the WTA calendar after a two-and-a-half-year absence. The main draw sets up some fascinating early encounters for the season’s final WTA 1000 event.

Even though the 32 seeded players have opening-round byes, many intriguing first-round clashes will start off the event, including the return of Clijsters to Indian Wells. Clijsters is playing the event for the first time since 2011.

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Former world No.1 Clijsters, who received a wildcard into the main draw, will kick off her campaign against world No.53 Katerina Siniakova. The winner of that opener will face another former world No.1 and multiple major champion in the second round, No.10 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Clijsters, who won titles at Indian Wells in 2003 and 2005, still seeks her first tour-level win since her 2012 retirement season. She returned in 2020 and suffered close losses in her three matches last year, to Garbine Muguruza, Johanna Konta, and Ekaterina Alexandrova. In her season debut last week in Chicago, she fell in three sets to Hsieh Su-wei.

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Another Grand Slam champion contesting this week’s first round is 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who will meet Heather Watson. The winner of that match will play 19th-seeded Jessica Pegula (US) in the second round.

And 2017 US Open runner-up, Madison Keys (US) will be embroiled in a hard-hitting battle in the opening round, when she takes on six-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi of Estonia. The winner of that match will face another big hitter, No.9 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia.

Things will stay exciting once the second-round matches start taking place, where the 32 seeded players kick into action after their first-round byes.

A third-round matchup between two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep and reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu could take place, if they each win their second-round matches.

Former world No.1 Halep, seeded No.11, would first have to get past either Zhang Shuai or China or Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in the second round, while No.17 seed Raducanu would need to beat the winner of the match between Maria Camila Osorio Serrano of Colombia and Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.

Raducanu will be making her Indian Wells debut, as she returns to the tour for the first time since she stormed to her maiden Grand Slam title in New York. Ranked world No.150 at the time, Raducanu became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam singles title, and has since shot up to No.22 in the WTA rankings.

Another third-round clash between Grand Slam champions is a possibility, with Petra Kvitova of thr Czech Republic and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus seeded to meet if they win their second-round matches. No.7 seed Kvitova would first have to defeat either Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands or a qualifier, while 27th-seeded Azarenka will play the winner of the match between Magda Linette of Poland and Rebecca Peterson of Sweden.

World No.3 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic and world No.4 Iga Swiatek of Poland are the top two seeds for the event. Top-seeded Pliskova, who qualified for the year-ending Akron WTA Finals on Monday, will meet either Zheng Saisai or wildcard Caty McNally in the second round.

No.2 seed Swiatek, who is trying to claim her own spot at the Akron WTA Finals in Guadalajara, will have a second-round encounter with either Petra Martic or wildcard Katie Volynets.

–IANS

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