Sloane Stephens has had a difficult start to the season which has once again proven why the American will always play her best tennis at the bigger tournaments. Despite winning back-to-back matches at Merida and Austin there have been some ugly results including a 6-0 6-0 defeat to Camila Giorgi. However Stephens is always known for stepping up her game on the big occasions and the former US Open champion will hope that’s the case in Indian Wells as she looks for momentum heading into the clay court season.
A tricky opening round test is set for Stephens though in the form of former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin. The American has had her injury problems but showed signs of returning to her former self at the start of the season. The big problem for Kenin has been consistency and the 24 year-old will hope that improves as she looks to climb back into the world’s top 100 by the end of the year.
Nobody knows what to expect in this match because both players are so inconsistent in their performances at the moment. Kenin will look to be aggressive from the baseline while Stephens will look to use her athleticism and strong defensive shots to counter-attack. It will be an interesting contest with both players needing a win here but the slower conditions in California favour Stephens and she should edge into the next round.
Prediction: Stephens in three sets.
Dominic Thiem [WC] v Adrian Mannarino H2H & Match Fundamentals
Dominic Thiem’s comeback from wrist injury hasn’t exactly gone according to plan with the Austrian only winning three sets this season and recording one victory. Thiem had a promising end to last season but now it seems the former US Open champion is struggling reignite his old form. However Thiem will believe that a return to the scene of one of his first big hard court titles in Indian Wells will give him the confidence boost needed to elevate his game.
It won’t be an easy first round encounter though as Thiem takes on Adrian Mannarino as the Frenchman has had a consistent start to the season. Mannarino’s mix of power and slice makes him an awkward opponent to face and the 34 year-old has already tested the likes of Alex De Minaur and Taylor Fritz this season. Now Mannarino looks to beat a former Grand Slam champion as he looks for a deep run in California.
In terms of quality, Mannarino is heavy favourite to win this match but Thiem will love the conditions in California more than the Frenchman. The slower conditions mixed with the high bounce suits Thiem’s style more than Mannarino’s so don’t be surprised if the Austrian can spring a surprise here.
Prediction: Mannarino in three sets.
Yulia Putintseva v Karolina Muchova H2H & Match Fundamentals
Yulia Putintseva has had a poor start to the season but the feisty Kazakh has always had the belief and mentality to match the quality of any player on the tour. Now Putintseva will look to cause a deep run in California as she looks to gain momentum heading into the clay court swing and re-establish herself as a player who can be seeded at Grand Slams and the big events.
Next for Putintseva is Karolina Muchova who is looking to continue her bid for consistency after her progress has been hindered by injuries. The Czech Republican has already withdrawn or retired twice this year but has also produced some impressive victories including one over Belinda Bencic in Dubai. Now Muchova will look to gain some consistency in physical fitness and form as she looks to continue her rise up the rankings.
This match will be a battle between defensive grit and slice and variety with Muchova looking to change the tempo of the rallies constantly. Meanwhile Putintseva will look to counter-attack from the baseline and step into the court on the shorter balls. This should be an interesting clash of styles and a match that Muchova should win given current form.
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