Friday, October 8, 2021 - Petra Kvitova and Arantxa Rus play in Round 2 in Stadium 4 on day 5 of the 2021 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, CA. (Kathryn Riley/BNP Paribas Open)
If you know, you know.
This match should absolutely be on everyone’s radar on the middle Sunday of the BNP Paribas Open. Both players are known for their volcanic temperaments on court, showing every emotion in the book from the highest of jubilant highs after a screaming down-the-line winner to the lowest of levels of disgust at a forehands that might barely miss the lines.
Beyond the histrionics, however, they’re both exceptional tennis players. Yulia Putinsteva has an all-court approach with varying changes in pace and spin laced throughout, while Jelena Ostapenko might possibly hit the biggest ball in tennis – off both wings.
Expect lots of return winners off weaker service deliveries in this match, a few tossed racquets here and there and, yes, there will definitely be some mind-boggling rallies.
It might be the rivalry that never truly was, but we’re glad these two two-time Grand Slam champions will be treating fans at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden to some of the best that women’s tennis has to offer.
Both Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka broke through around the same time. In 2011, these players mastered the power-baseline tennis ushered in by their predecessors, taking the ball unimaginably early to blast their way to Wimbledon (Kvitova), Australian Open and US Open (Azarenka) titles across two seasons.
Exactly 10 years ago, they capped off the WTA season with one of the matches of the year at the WTA Finals in Istanbul, but, due to various dips in form and injury layoffs, couldn’t seem to meet in a draw for years after that, playing just twice since 2011. The friendly Czech has the lead in their head-to-head at 5 wins to 3 for the fiery Belarusian, but with both having up-and-down campaigns this year, it feels like today’s Stadium 2 clash is a blank slate.
Knocking off three Top 5 players in four matches (with a former World No. 1 sandwiched in between), Leylah Fernandez became one of the darlings of the US Open last September when she reached the finals as a diminutive but fearless teenager. A first Grand Slam final at just 19 years of age marked the arrival of a new star in women’s tennis and she, alongside her 18-year-old conqueror in the final Emma Raducanu, became household names overnight.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova couldn’t have had a more different career story if you scripted it yourself.
A precocious junior champion who broke records with her multiple Grand Slam titles (you rarely see a junior player, eager to transition to the pros, win more than one these days), Pavlyuchenkova has been a perennial Top 30-20 player but who ostensibly has never delivered on her promise as a dominant junior. Before 2021, her best results at a major event were a handful of quarter-final finish, but this season she finally made a breakthrough at age 29, reaching the Roland Garros final before falling to Barbora Krejcikova in three sets.
It’s the tale of two careers, and in their primetime Stadium 1 match on Sunday in the Palm Desert, there will be plenty to play for. Pavlyuchenkova is looking to reach the Top 10 for the first time in her 12-year career, needing to make the most of her hard-hitting baseline game to out perform a handful of players results-wise this week in order to clinch the milestone. On the other hand, Fernandez, with her lefty craftsmanship and unassailable desire to win (and put on a show while doing so), will be looking to consolidate her momentum from the US Open and confirm herself as a contender for every event she plays at.
And may the best player win.