IW Saturday: All-Chinese Affair
Published March 08, 2014 12:11
Saturday, Second Round
 Li Na (CHN #2) vs. Zheng Jie (CHN #58)
Head-to-head: Zheng leads 4-2
Li Na may have the Grand Slam titles and Chinese No.1 ranking, but head-to-head bragging rights back home belong to Zheng Jie. Surprisingly, Li has won just two of the pair's six WTA matches to date, and, although these have come in their most recent encounters, she will be desperate to reduce her arrears further.
Since her Australian Open triumph in January, Li has been on court just twice, one of which was a cagey second round loss to Petra Cetkovska in Doha. Zheng, though, has been out of action completely since Melbourne, and was pushed to nearly three hours in her first round win over Paula Ormaechea.
 Sloane Stephens (USA #18) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic (CRO #68)
Head-to-head: Stephens leads 2-0
At the Australian Open, Sloane Stephens looked on the verge of a shock second round defeat to her fellow Chris Evert Academy graduate Ajla Tomljanovic, before pulling one of her famed third set escapology acts. Tomljanovic has not had to wait long for her shot at revenge, and may have caught the American, who is on a three-match losing streak, at just the right time.
Like Stephens, Tomljanovic was tipped for stardom from an early age, but, after being sidetracked by glandular fever, is currently playing catch-up. Last year saw the Croatian jump 400-odd places up the rankings and while she is yet to make much of an impression against the game's elite her big game ensures she is a live underdog against a struggling Stephens.
 Flavia Pennetta (ITA #21) vs. [WC] Taylor Townsend (USA #337)
Head-to-head: first meeting
Flavia Pennetta has built up plenty of momentum over the past six months and will be quietly confident of adding to it in Indian Wells. Although the Italian has only once been beyond the third round in her 11 previous visits, the slow conditions in the desert suit her game and her next opponent is the gifted yet green Taylor Townsend.
With just a handful of WTA appearances to her name, Townsend is very much at the opposite end of the experience scale. What she lacks in this department, though, she more than makes up for in ability - something Pennetta's compatriot Karin Knapp, who was brushed aside in the opening round, will testify to.
Around the grounds...
Maria Sharapova follows Li and Zheng on Stadium 1 as she kicks off her title defense against Julia Goerges. Also looking to book a place in the last 32 are Samantha Stosur, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic and Angelique Kerber.