Thu. May 23rd, 2019

BNP Paribas Open Semifinals: Svitolina, Kerber up for a ​fiery challenge against young Foes

This year’s 2019 BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden proved why it has been almost annually hailed as one of the best tournaments in both the men and women’s tour as the heat of the Californian desert cooled down some of the brightest players that were expected to win the first WTA Premier Mandatory event of the season.

World number one and defending champion Naomi Osaka was dethroned in the fourth round while two-time winner Serena Williams retired due to a viral illness as WTA’s top guns Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, and Karolina Pliskova also went packing for a shorter stint at the tennis paradise.

Now, after eight days of consecutive shocking events at Indian Wells, the final four cast for the women’s singles semifinals are now all set to book a chance to be crowned as the first title-holder in this year’s opening tournament of the Sunshine Double.

Before the action begins today, here is a quick preview on how things should look forward in each of the two semifinals action at the women’s side:

[8] Angelique Kerber vs. [23] Belinda Bencic

Almost five years since they first met in a tennis court, surely, a lot of things have already happened. But, on Friday, Angelique Kerber and Belinda Bencic will engage yet again in another potential heavy-hitting battle as they are set to commence the first semifinals matchup in the women’s singles.

Since engaging in a stunning drama at Flushing Meadows in 2014, Kerber and Bencic face for the seventh time in their career as the latter enters the match with a 4-2 career head-to-head advantage.

In all sorts of way, Bencic has undoubtedly proven to be a worthy opponent for the German Kerber, and their match in this year’s Indian Wells could very well be an additional proof to that already existing fact.

Riding high on a 12-match win streak since winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last month, her first biggest title since Toronto in 2015, the 22-year-old Swiss is making her return to the tour louder than ever as she is arguably currently having the best form in the women’s tour as of this moment, especially after piling up confidence-booster wins against Osaka and Pliskova earlier this week.

Bencic’s road to reclaiming her spot at the field of the worlds best is just two steps away as the former world number seven’s run to the semis paved the way for her to return inside the Top 20 after enduring several wrist and foot injuries over the last two years.

Yet, the resurgence of the Swiss prodigy could only be successful should she managed to get past Kerber, who is also currently playing in her own world.

Kerber, Germany’s former world number one, barely escaped the ever-powerful Aryna Sabalenka earlier in the tournament but immediately gathered herself back to its usual deadly form after pocketing a tremendous win against the ageless Venus Williams from Thursday’s quarterfinal.

The three-time Grand Slam winner, whose 2016 Wimbledon title came from defeating Bencic along the way, is aiming for a return trip of her own as her victory means taking her ranking back to the Top 5.

“I think it will be completely different match tomorrow. “I mean, Bencic is playing really flat and she’s going for it. She has a lot of confidence, especially from the last weeks. It will be not an easy match. It will be a battle,” said Kerber in preparation for her match against the 23rd rank prodigy.

[6] Elina Svitolina vs. [WC] Bianca Andreescu

While the other semi-final boasts a long history that dates back to as far as 2014, sixth seed Elina Svitolina and Canadian wildcard Bianca Andreescu’s meeting for the last final spot at the desert will be the first in their careers ever.

Ukraine’s Svitolina, no doubt, spent the longest hours on court after only having just a single match that did not went to a third and deciding set, with all of her wins coming from formidable opponents which included Sofia Kenin, Daria Gavrilova, Australian number one Ash Barty, and Indian Wells surprise star Marketa Vondorouza.

The 13-time WTA titlist will be welcomed in a battle of all ages as she is set to face 18-year-old rising star Andreescu’s flawless tennis which mostly relies on aggressive groundstrokes and strategic volleys by approaching the net.

Andreescu, who entered the main draw as a wild card participant, weathered three seeded players en route to her first Premier Mandatory semifinals appearance, including a dominant 6-0, 6-1 thrashing on former world number one Garbine Muguruza.

Currently ranked as number 60 around the world, Andreescu has been consistently playing under the radar as she slowly continues to ascend since the start of the season when she began her 2019 campaign by winning seven straight matches before succumbing to the final in Auckland before eventually winning a Challenger title at the Oracle Challenger Series in Newport Beach and a run to the semifinals at the Mexican Open.

PREDICTIONS: With the championship pedigree that both Kerber and Svitolina possess, it is really hard to pick against the two Top 10 players. But the way the WTA has been open this tournament, Bencic and Andreescu’s road to replicating what Osaka did last year, hoisting a first-ever Premier Mandatory trophy, is not impossible.

VERDICT: Bencic holds off Kerber in two sets; Andreescu survives Svitolina in three.

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