Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Indian Wells day 1: Russians on comeback trails

Schedule of play:

Match focus:

Vera Zvonareva vs. Peng Shuai

Former Indian Wells champion Vera Zvonareva hopes to kickstart her comeback at her place of triumph 3 years ago. Judging by her matches this year, I do think that Vera still has a lot of work to do to get back on top. Her weight has ballooned a bit, and her movement is compromised. Against a match fit Peng Shuai, it is just not good enough. It's tough to expect results straightaway without putting the necessary hard work. I hope Vera doesn't get disheartened and continue her efforts, because I do think she has one last run in her. Sadly, it's not now.

Pick: Peng Shuai in 2 sets

Nadia Petrova vs. Silvia Soler-Espinosa

Nadia Petrova did not have a career threatening injury, but she took time off to mourn for the loss of her mother. Nadia's comeback would be less difficult considering she doesn't have injuries to worry about. Another point I like about Nadia's attitude is that she did not ask for wildcards, but instead played qualifying in her first few events. This builds confidence and give a good gauge on where her level is. Against clay courter Silvia, Petrova has the advantage. The Russian needs to serve well and be aggressive, not drawn into long rallies which favours the Spaniard. This is a winnable match for Nadia and she knows it.

Pick: Petrova in 2 sets

Yvonne Meusburger vs. Iveta Melzer

Last of the comeback players, Iveta Melzer meets the vastly improved Yvonne Meusburger. 2 years ago, I would have given Iveta the edge easily. However, I'm not so certain now. Yvonne has improved leaps and bounds since then, and Iveta is still fresh on her comeback. It will be expecting too much from her to defeat a steady top 50 player. I would suggest Iveta to start with lower expectations and play from qualifying to gain confidence. Jumping right into the main draw is too much too soon.

Pick: Meusburger in 2 sets

Madison Keys vs. Tsvetana Pironkova

Big things are expected of Madison Keys, but she falters every time. Against Pironkova, it will be a good chance to show that her mental game has improved. Pironkova is the type of player that Keys doesn't like. A fast player who mixes things up with her slice, Madison will need to be patient and wait for the right moment to attack. If the American passes the tricky Bulgarian test, it will be a testament to her improved game. If not, maybe Keys just doesn't have what it takes to be a top player.

Pick: Keys in 3 sets

Belinda Bencic vs. Heather Watson

Belinda Bencic is the one to watch as she gave Li Na a scare in their match in Melbourne. A youngster who's more crafty than powerful, she has the tendency to get blown away by more powerful opponents. She doesn't have to worry about that against Watson, as the Brit doesn't have the ball bashing game. Watson is recovering from a virus, and is slowly making her way back into the top 100. However, Bencic isn't one to be ignored as she is also rapidly rising up the rankings. A close contest is expected from these 2 and I believe the younger and more fearless player will prevail.

Pick: Bencic in 3 sets

Sure win bets: Lauren Davis, Petra Cetkovska, Yanina Wickmayer
Upset alerts: Shahar Peer, Bojana Jovanovski, Chanelle Scheepers


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