The women’s singles draw is heating up this weekend, with several enticing matchups on the Saturday ticket. Here are three marquee matchups that we’ll surely be keeping our eyes on… and recommend you do as well.
These two rising talents have never met before at the WTA level, but it’s not hard to imagine Leylah Fernandez and Amanda Anisimova squaring off more than a few times over the next decade.
Fernandez, ranked 21, and Anisimova, ranked 43, are part of the WTA’s generation next, and each has made significant impact on the sports’ biggest stages already. Fernandez famously reached the final at the US Open last year after reeling off four consecutive dramatic wins in New York City. It was a coming out party for the talented southpaw, who is a former junior No.1 with designs on the WTA’s top-10. Just last week the 21st-ranked Canadian won her second career title at Monterrey, saving five championship points to defeat Colombia’s Camila Osorio in the final.
Anisimova is another highly touted prospect with designs on tennis’ biggest trophies. The 2017 US Open Girls’ Singles champion and a former junior No.2, Anisimova made a smooth transition to the pro game by reaching the semifinals at Roland-Garros in 2019 as a 17-year-old, where she became the first WTA player born in the 2000s to reach the last four at a major. Anisimova climbed as high as 21 in the world in October of that same year. She enters this year’s draw in sizzling form, having reeled off a title in Melbourne and won 10 of her first 12 matches of the season.
Don’t be fooled by the number next to 2018 champion Naomi Osaka’s name this week in the California desert. Though she is just 24 years of age, the current World No.78 has already done most of what there is to do in the sport. She’s now a four-time Grand Slam champion and has held the WTA’s No.1 ranking for 25 weeks.
When she takes on 21st-seeded Veronika Kudermetova in second-round action on Saturday at Indian Wells, Osaka will be comfortable with her ranking.
“Ever since I won here last time I was always trying to be in the top-10, top-5, No.1,” Osaka told reporters on Thursday after edging Sloane Stephens in a battle of former Grand Slam champions on Stadium 1. “There was like a goal, but I never really took a step or a break after that to just sort of want to be a better player or a better person or stuff like that. But I also think [that right now] the other players are more worried about my ranking than I am, if that makes sense, because I am comfortable with whoever I play.”
A dazzling start ✨@naomiosaka grabs her first career win over Sloane Stephens, fighting past the American 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in Round 1 #IndianWells pic.twitter.com/mY1pRBrOQS
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 11, 2022
Osaka enters Saturday’s contest with a 6-1 record on the season, and she held a pair of match points in her only defeat, which came in the third round at the Australian Open to Anisimova.
Could 2022 mark the beginning of a surge up the rankings for the Japanese star, just as it was in 2018? She’ll have to get past the tricky Kudermetova to make it happen. The talented 24-year-old has really come of age on the WTA Tour in the last 52 weeks. She won her maiden title at Charleston last spring and already this season she has reached finals at Melbourne and Dubai, and claimed her career-high ranking of 24.
For the uninitiated, a quick fly-by at a Paula Badosa practice session is all it takes to get a feeling for the sheer physicality that the Spaniard possesses. Badosa doesn’t get cheated very often from the baseline and she can wear opponents down with her heavy topspin drives and unrelenting attack.
It was that no-holds-barred brand of tennis that took Badosa to the title less than five months ago in tennis paradise, and it will be that same style of tennis that will give her a good shot at mounting the first successful women’s singles title defense at Indian Wells since the great Martina Navratilova in 1991.
Badosa, who topped Victoria Azarenka in an epic title match last year to claim her biggest title, looks primed for a run at the title once again. Lindsay Davenport, two-time BNP Paribas Open champion and former world No.1, believes bigger things are coming for her.
“That was truly one of the most remarkable matches I’ve ever been a part of calling,” the Tennis Channel analyst said of Badosa’s title-clinching win last year. “That final last year with Azarenka. The quality of those two ladies showed through all three sets, through the tiebreak in the third. It was remarkable.
“I believe she’s going to win a major. I love her game. I love her work ethic. I also love her behavior on court. She’s a fighter out there.”
Martincova, who topped Heather Watson, 6-2, 6-1 in the first round on Thursday, comes in ranked 42 with a 5-5 record in 2022. She has yet to face Badosa.