Indian Wells, California

March 8 - 21, 2021

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3 mouthwatering WTA first-time first-round clashes for the hardcore tennis fan

by Jeff Donaldson

Six players, three first-time matchups, one comprehensive preview.

Timea Babos vs. Yulia Putintseva

Sometimes you just have to fight fire with fire. If you know anything about Babos and Putintseva, you’ll know that they both wear their passion on their sleeves – so much so that it can even burn a hole in their shirts.

Yet although their on-court personas might be the same (expect a few vigorous point celebrations), their approaches to winning points couldn’t be more different. Putintseva’s serve is light as a feather, but so is her movement around the court. She’ll be investing every ounce of energy into dogged defense and leaping into heavy moonball forehands. Babos, ranked No. 4 in doubles currently but just outside the Top 100 in singles, is a prototypical power player armed with a thunderbolt of a serve and a rock solid backhand wing. These two weapons have seen her reach a career-high singles ranking of No. 25 back in 2016 in addition to three WTA singles titles.

The Venn diagram of this match sees these two competitors both overlap and contrast in all the right places, the ingredient for a perfect WTA match-up.

Thursday, March 9, 2018 – Yulia Putintseva plays Petra Kvitova in the 2nd Round of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 2 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Matthew Thomas/BNP Paribas Open)

Amanda Anisimova vs. Aleksandra Krunic

All eyes will be on American wild card Anisimova who at just 17 years old is the youngest player in the WTA Top 100 courtesy of a run to her first final in Hiroshima last year as well as an impressive fourth-round appearance at the Australian Open in January this year. Anisimova possesses a Hingis-like ability to redirect the ball off both wings, coupled with the flat, precise power typical of most of the top players in the women’s game.

Krunic, for her part, is certainly not lacking in talent either. The 5’4” Serbian has a well-rounded game and hundreds of ways to win points, but has, to her own admission, struggled to put all the pieces together and unlock the full potential of her game. The winner of one tour-level title (last year on the grass courts of s’Hertogenbosch), Krunic will use all her variety and nimble movement to throw off her gifted yet inexperienced American opponent, who is defending fourth-round points from a breakthrough BNP Paribas Open last year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 -Amanda Anisimova plays Karolina Pliskova in the 4th Round of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 2 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)

Daria Gavrilova vs. Dayana Yastremska

It’s been a season to forget for one, and one to remember for another.

Daria Gavrilova touches down on the Indian Wells Tennis Garden hard courts having not won a match in six attempts this season. Yastremska, on the other hand, has been on a tear since winning her maiden WTA title at the Hong Kong Open last October. She claimed her second at the Thailand Open last month, facilitating a skyrocket up the rankings to her current spot at world No. 37.

Like Babos and Putinsteva, both players are fierce competitors who aren’t shy when it comes to letting the crowd (and their coaches) know how they feel. At her best, Gavrilova’s never-say-die attitude has made her a contributor to several marquee matches over the years, while Yastremska, just 18-years-old, has shown that her own fearlessness can translate into winners from anywhere on the court.

Monday, March 12, 2018 – Daria Gavrilova plays Caroline Garcia in the 3rd Round of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 2 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)
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