The lower half of the singles draw will kick into action on Thursday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Chris Oddo takes a look at the compelling matchups right here at wtatennis.com.
A pair of 23-year-olds with tons of potential will look to kick their 2017 campaigns into high gear on Thursday when Eugenie Bouchard and Annika Beck meet for the third time. Bouchard started the year promisingly by reaching the semifinals at Sydney, but she has not won since falling in a tight three-setter in the third round of the Australian Open to CoCo Vandeweghe. Bouchard has been solid in all of her main draw appearances at Indian Wells, and owns a 6-3 record at this event. Is it time for some of the hard work that Bouchard has done under coach Thomas Hogstedt to pay off this week?
Meanwhile 2017 has been a struggle for Beck, whose ranking peaked at a career-high of 37 last July. She lost her first three matches of the season and only owns one Top 50 win. Beck has only been past the second round once at Indian Wells, and has lost three of her last four here.
Pick: Bouchard in two
Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko comes into the BNP Paribas Open riding high, having won her third career title last weekend in Acapulco, but she'll need to stay on guard on Thursday when she faces a tricky qualifier who is a former BNP Paribas Open quarterfinalist with 12 wins to her name. Peng Shuai was ranked well outside of the Top 700 when she visited Indian Wells last season, but this year she's back inside the Top 50 after a 2016 full of victories on the ITF and WTA circuit. Peng's story is characterized by determination and fortitude - she has battled through serious back issues to reemerge as a factor on tour. Tsurenko, who enters the main draw with an impressive 9-2 record on the season, is closing in on her peak ranking, just eight spots shy of the career-best No.33 ranking she achieved in 2015.
Pick: Tsurenko in three
Andrea Petkovic and Vania King will battle for the right to face Angelique Kerber in the second round, and while it is Petkovic that owns the decided edge in the pair's head-to-head, King is a Southern California native who will relish the chance to knock off a few big names on home soil. King hasn't had much traction thus far in 2017, but she does own eight career main draw wins at Indian Wells, including a Top 20 upset over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in 2012.
Working in King's favor is the fact that Petkovic, even when she has been playing her best tennis, has never been able to figure out the tricky desert conditions at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The German is 1-5 lifetime here, and has not won a main draw match since she defeated Lucie Safarova in 2011.
It's been a long time for Petko. Will she be able to find her form against the lesser-ranked King, or will King come through with another big win in the Golden State?
Pick: King in three
2010 champion and 2015 BNP Paribas Open runner-up Jelena Jankovic will bid for her 26th main draw win at Indian Wells when she takes on feisty Irina Falconi for the second time and first on a hardcourt.
Jankovic, who lost in the round of 16 last year to eventual semifinalist Agnieszka Radwanska, comes into Thursday's match on a four-match losing streak. But the Serb is back on her home soil. Falconi may play for the stars and stripes, but Jankovic now owns a home in San Diego and considers herself a California girl. Will a dose of the dreamy desert landscape do Jankovic good, or will it be Falconi who secures the upset and earns the right to face Venus Williams in the second round?
Pick: Jankovic in two
Around the Grounds:
American wildcard Taylor Townsend has won four of five first-round encounters at Indian Wells. She'll try to make it five of six on Thursday when she faces Polish qualifier Magda Linette (winner faces No.13-seeded Caroline Wozniacki).
Croatia's Ajla Tomljanovic will continue her comeback at Indian Wells with a first-round battle with Germany's Julia Goerges. After missing a full year due to a shoulder injury, Tomljanovic made her return at Acapulco last week, where she upset Eugenie Bouchard in her first match.
Russia's Ekaterina Makarova will battle Spanish qualifier Sara Sorribes Tormo for the right to face Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round. The former World No.8 has never been past the third round in nine previous BNP Paribas Open appearances.
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