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WTA Draw Preview: Counting Down The Best First-Rounders
3 Min Read · March 6, 2023

The 2023 BNP Paribas Open draws are out– and the tournament feels like it’s finally arrived.

This year’s women’s singles event has an absolutely stacked player field and the luck of Monday afternoon’s draw ceremony yielded a fairly balanced bracket with a mix of styles and pedigrees scattered across all 96 lines.

Here’s our Top 5 first-rounders to look out for when main draw action gets underway on Wednesday in Indian Wells.

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The best of the first round.

Aliaksandra Sasnovich vs. Kaia Kanepi

It’s a duel between two of the game’s premier upset artists to kick off action in the women’s singles draw. Kaia Kanepi has made a name for herself as a “giant killer,” a player no one wants to see in the first round of any tournament – but especially the big ones. For her part, Belarus’ Aliaksandra Sasnovich has a knack for shock runs and loves the conditions here in Indian Wells, where she upset reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu & former World No. 1 Simona Halep back in 2021 en route to a fourth-round finish. 

At her best, the Estonian veteran is nearly unplayable, but if she leaves any openings for the smooth-hitting, well-humored Sasnovich, expect a tight contest.

Marketa Vondrousova vs. Rebecca Marino

Playing on a protected ranking at this year’s BNP Paribas Open, Czech lefty Marketa Vondrousova has had a tough time staying healthy after big results in her career. After runs to the French Open final (2019) and a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics (2021), injuries derailed her momentum. 

That said, the slow, gritty courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens have always been happy hunting for Vondrousova and her versatile game. Against big-serving Rebecca Marino, she’ll have her hands full on return as the Canadian will try to keep rallies as short as possible. 

Danka Kovinic vs. Emma Raducanu

How about a little revenge for British superstar Emma Raducanu? As the reigning US Open champion in 2022, she lost her second-round match to Danka Kovinic at the following Grand Slam in Melbourne in a tough three-setter. Kovinic has always played a steady game from the baseline and can troubles the world’s best if her serve is firing. 

With less pressure on her shoulders a year later, is Raducanu poised to pay Kovinic back?

Karolina Muchova vs. Yulia Putintseva

While you can expect some hard-hitting baseline play in Raducanu-Kovinic, Karolina Muchova vs. Yulie Putintseva is sure to offer the opposite experience. Both players posses crowdpleasing showmanship and love to use every inch of the court, never wary of improvisations at the net or perfectly placed dropshots from behind the baseline.

Sloane Stephens vs. Sofia Kenin

Grab your popcorn for this first-rounder between two American Grand Slam champions.

 Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion, hasn’t had an exceptional start to 2023 but always finds her form on North American soil. On the other hand, Sofia Kenin is finally finding her footing after injuries held her back following a stellar 2020 season that saw her win the Australian Open that January. The two have played each other just once before, playing a three-hour thriller at the National Bank Open in Toronto where Stephens emerged victorious.

See you in the third round? Maybe.

There are no guarantees in tennis results so it’s tough to look too far into the draw, but here’s a handful of third-round matchups that fans could look forward to as the tournament unfolds:

  • [1] Iga Swiatek vs. [32] Bianca Andreescu. 2022 champ vs. 2019 champ. Enough said.

  • [30] Leylah Fernandez vs. [5] Caroline Garcia. Not many take the ball as early as these two.

  • [25] Petra Martic vs. [8] Daria Kasatkina. Two players who know how to slice & dice.

  • [6] Coco Gauff vs. [31] Amanda Anisimova. America’s brightest young talents.

  • [10] Elena Rybakina vs. [21] Paula Badosa. Feel sorry for the ball.

  • [29] Donna Vekic vs. [2] Aryna Sabalenka. Feel sorry for the ball.

  • [15] Petra Kvitova vs. [24] Jelena Ostapenko. REALLY feel sorry for the ball.

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