chris: how the women will fare in the desert

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The women’s draw for the BNP Paribas Open came out today, and TSF bracketologist Chris takes a look at who’s going to end up the last women standing.

The WTA has had 8 different winners at this event over the past 10 years; 7 of those are in action here. All are in the top 32 and will get a bye into the second round.

Caroline Wozniacki: There’s been a lot of debate recently about Caro’s slamless #1 ranking. She went 31-5 on North American soil last year and has finalist points to defend here. She’s drawn to play Pennetta in R16, which’ll be the toughest test — along with questions about the legitimacy of her top ranking — on her way to the semis. Final.

Kim Clijsters: If we did our calculations properly, Kim needs to best Caroline by just one round to reclaim the top ranking. But her track record, both overall — 16-2 on the year and 27-3 since (and including) the 2010 US Open — and at Indian Wells — twice a champ (pre-retirement, in ’03 and ’05) — might not be enough to buoy her through the toughest draw of the top 4 women’s seeds: Groth in R32, Petkovic or Bartoli in R16, Kvitova, Jankovic or Ivanovic in QFs. SF

Vera Zvonareva Vera’s won her before (in 2009, the title that catapulted her in the rankings and helped her gain control of her emotions) and lost to a formidable Stosur in R16 last year. Of the top 4, she has the easiest route; the only woman in the way is Schiavone in the QFs. Win.

Sam Stosur: We’re still waiting for Sam to bounce back from that loss to Schiavone at the French. The Aussie’s 6-6 on the year and 10-11 since the US Open. Those SF points from last year are going to be hard to defend; we don’t expect her to make it past the QFs with this draw: Hantuchova in R32, Sharapova or Rezai in R16, Li, Kuznetsova or Petrova in QFs. QF

Francesca Schiavone: It took seeing Schiavone in person at Indian Wells last year (she lost that match to Rezai) for us to appreciate her athleticism. She’s never made it past R16 here (a three-set loss in ’08 to eventual champ Ivanovic) but we’re giving her a little bump past that. QF

Jelena Jankovic: The San Diegan (soon!) and defending champ has a dismal IW record (six first- or second-round losses in nine appearances) yet plays well on the California hard courts. That being said, she’s only 7-4 this year and finished last year 5-11 after Wimbledon. Needless to say, this is the biggest slump she’s been in for quite a while. Despite semi loses to eventual champs Wozniacki (Dubai) and Zvonareva (Doha), I thought she was in good form. R16

Li Na: She started 2011 with a title win in Sydney and an appearance in the AO finals. However, Li’s lost in the first round of her two tournaments since. We’re hoping this is just a period of adjusting to being on everyone’s radar (Ed: even our non-fan parents are talking about her!). While she made the IW semis in 2007 (loss to eventual champ Hantuchova), Li probably needs one more post-AO tournament to get her back into form. She’ll be back by Miami. R16

Victoria Azarenka: Vika’s been many a journalist’s pick for slam contention for quite a while now, but we don’t agree. She needs to work on her mental state and physical fitness to match her potential. R16

Agnieszka Radwanska: We’re putting her in the same lot as Azarenka (though we prefer her game over Vika’s). Aga’s a defending semifinalist and reached the QFs in ’08 and ’09. QF

Shahar Peer: A middling year thus far with an 8-5 record, but Shahar’s hovering near her career-best ranking so she must be doing something right. QFs here in ’07 (loss to Hantuchova) and R16 in the past two years. R16

Svetlana Kuznetsova: Sveta’s had a better 2011 compared to how she did in 2010 this time last year. She played well as she handed Henin the Belgian’s final career loss in Melbourne, and there was no reason why she should’ve lost that epic match against Schiavone. (Sveta got her revenge by taking out the Italian on the way to the Dubai final.) All that being said, after reaching the Indian Wells finals in 2007 and 2008 she lost her first match here in the last two years. What should we expect in 2011? We’re thinking that seeing the ups and downs of her countrywomen — Safina’s ranking slide (but now a doubles specialist!), Vera’s potential ascent to #1 (something Sveta’s yet to do despite having two majors), Dementieva’s tearful retirement, and Sharapova’s continued commitment to the game despite injury — will give her a little something more to fight for. She’s only 25 (seriously?!) and can still get 5-7 years of play, so she should decide whether to push back to the top or be content in top 30 purgatory. Lucky for us, she seems to be on the Masha/Bepa train instead of Elena/Safina. SF

Petra Kvitova: All’s good with the Czech, who’s 16-2 record for 2011 matches that of Clijsters (whom she defeated in the Paris final). Her only losses are in the QFs in Melbourne (Zvonareva) and a two tiebreaks in Dubai to Morita. Kvitova’s third trip to IW will have her in the same seciton of the draw as Jankovic and Ivanovic. We have her going out to Clijsters in the quarters. QF

Ana Ivanovic: Nowhere to go but up for the Serbian, who followed a title and a finals appearance (in ’08 and ’09) with a first round exit in 2010. Ivanovic got her act together and went 21-6 to finish the year, picking up titles in Linz and Bali. Unfortunately, she’s sputtered in 2011 so far. Can the desert winds bring back some of her mojo?

Daniela Hantuchova: The two-time IW winner (’02 and ’07) has done alright so far, taking the title in Pattaya City with a win over Zvonareva then lost to her in 3 tight sets in the Doha quarters. We’re expecting her to take out Stosur on her way to the quarters. QF

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Jarmila Groth, Gisela Dulko, Greta Arn: All these ladies have won titles this year. Pavs and Groth are seeded but will run into Peer and Clijsters in the second rounds. We think Dulko’ll go the deepest into the draw. Vania King shouldn’t pose too much trouble in 1R and Kanepi (R64) and Wickmayer (R32) are always liable to be upset.

R16
1 Woniacki d 13 Pennetta
9 Radwanska d 8 Azarenka
26 Hanutchova d 16 Sharapova
11 Kuznetsova d 7 Li
5 Schiavone d 10 Peer
3 Zvonareva d Dulko
12 Kvitova d 6 Jankovic
2 Clijsters d 15 Bartoli

QFs
Wozniacki d Radwanska
Kuznetsova d Hantuchova
Zvonareva d Schiavone
Clijsters d Kvitova

SFs
Wozniacki d Kuznetsova
Zvonareva d Clijsters

Finals
Zvonareva d Wozniacki

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