WTA: Indian Wells Women's Tournament Preview

Lauren LynchCorrespondent IIMarch 9, 2011

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Everybody who’s anybody will be on hand for the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, where the women’s main draw kicks off on Thursday, and action follows for 10 glorious days, leading up to the final on Sunday, March 20 at 11 a.m. 
Of the top 32 players in the world, only two aren’t part of the field – injured American sisters Venus and Serena Williams. 

Of course, it wouldn’t really matter if either sister was healthy, since both have boycotted the event ever since the 2001 semifinal between the two when Venus backed out at the last minute with a knee injury, raising eyebrows, and sister Serena was booed in the final against Kim Clijsters.

Jelena Jankovic won the event a year ago, scoring a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Caroline Wozniacki, this year’s top seed. The rest of 2010 was a disappointment for Jankovic, but she seems to have regained that winning form so far in 2011, rising from eighth back to sixth in the rankings and posting an 11-5 record so far this season. 

Woznaicki stands at the top of the top left bracket and should breeze to at least the third round, where she might bump into 2010 surprise quarterfinalist Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who could use a pick-me-up after starting the year just 4-4. 

Eight-seeded Victoria Azarenka is at the bottom of Wozniacki's bracket, she fell to Martinez Sanchez in the third round a year ago. If she hopes to make it through to the quarterfinals, she'll need to go through the likes of Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Kirilenko, both Wozniacki victims a year ago.

Across the way in the top right bracket, No. 4 Samantha Stosur heads up one end of the pool, with Li Na at the other. Stosur was a semifinalist here a year ago, falling to Jankovic. The Aussie is a sluggish 6-6 to start the season, making it to the quarterfinals just once in her first four tournaments.

Lurking for a possible third-round matchup is 26th-seeded Daniela Hantuchova, the 2002 champion. Hantuchova has been strong of late, with her win at Pattaya City and a quarterfinal appearance at Doha that included an upset of Azarenka in the first round. 

Former champion Maria Sharapova, the 2006 champion and a 2008 semifinalist, is also in Stosur's half of this bracket. 

Na was a second-round casualty here a year ago at the hands of Britain's Elena Baltacha, and is on a three-match losing streak since reaching the final of the Australian Open, two of those first-round defeats. 

Her half of the bracket is littered with interesting names, including last year's No. 1 seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova, who has slipped to the No. 11 seed. Last year's other surprise quarterfinalist, unseeded Zie Jheng, could see Kuznetsova in the third round. 

The bottom left bracket is the home of third-seeded Vera Zvonareva and fifth-seeded Francesca Schiavone. Schiavone could move up to fourth with a strong effort, after falling in the third round to Aravane Rezai last year, while Zvonareva, who won here in 2009, could narrow the gap on the top two with a deep run after falling to Stosur in the fourth round in 2010.

Zvonareva's first challenge will probably come from Dominika Cibulkova in the third round. The Slovak has been one of the tour's busiest players so far in 2011, already 9-7 with two quarterfinal appearances. 

Schiavone will likely see either Shahar Peer or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the fourth round. Pavlyuchenkova is fresh off a win over Jankovic for the title at Monterrey and is a sizzling 13-4 on the year. Peer, ranked 12th in the world, fell to Jankovic in the fourth round last year.

This portion of the bracket is also home to the two highest-ranked American women—No. 43 Bethanie Mattek-Sands and No. 84 Melanie Oudin.

Mattek-Sands was a second-round upset victim a year ago, while Oudin fell in the first round.

The bottom right bracket is filled with stars and hot commodities—the aforementioned Jankovic on one side and the winner of the last two Grand Slams, Kim Clijsters, on the other.

Clijsters hasn't played since losing the final at Paris to Petra Kvitova on Feb. 13. The 2003 and 2005 winner is ranked No. 2 in the world, and her loss in the third round a year ago means she has the opportunity to make another major move towards No. 1 in the fortnight ahead.

Jankovic seems to have regained her old form, despite losing the final at Monterrey. She's won 11 of her last 14 matches. American phenom Coco Vandeweghe could be her second-round opponent.

Kvitova, who turned all of 21 on Tuesday, lost in the first round at Dubai after defeating Clijsters in Paris. She fell in the second round here a year ago, but is a threat to make waves here. She could see Jankovic in the fourth round, assuming she can get by Kimiko Date-Krumm or Ana Ivanovic, another former finalist. 

Clijsters' route looks a bit easier, except for a third-round matchup with Jarmila Groth, 15-6 so far in 2011 and into the Top 30, with a semifinals run at Kuala Lumpur last week and a title at Hobart under her belt. 

Visit TennisNow.com every morning starting Thursday for a preview of the matches of the day, and come back during the day and night for constant Indian Wells updates, live scores, results, stories, features, blogs and analysis.

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