INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - World No.18 Wang Qiang headlines the second edition of the Oracle Challenger Series Indian Wells as the No.1 seed, and will open her campaign against a former Top 100 player in the form of either Natalia Vikhlyantseva or Road to Indian Wells leader Lauren Davis.
The Nanchang and Guangzhou champion received a wildcard into the WTA 125K event, and has a first-round bye, along with the rest of the tournament's 16 seeds. The No.2 seed is Shenzhen finalist Alison Riske, who could face former US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer in the second round and the in-form Jennifer Brady, fresh off a Dubai last-16 run, in the third round here.
Davis is currently in pole position on the Road to Indian Wells Leaderboard, comprised of points from the American WTA 125K events in Chicago, Houston, Newport Beach and Indian Wells; the top two American players after this week will receive wildcards into the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells next week.
Meanwhile, No.4 seed Kristina Mladenovic, who upset World No.1 Naomi Osaka in Dubai last week, has stumbled on some serious landmines. The Frenchwoman will face the winner of the most tantalizing first-round encounter in the draw - former World No.9 Timea Bacsinszky, soaring back up the rankings after recovering from hand surgery, against 14-year-old wildcard Cori Gauff. The American prodigy reached her first ITF World Tennis Tour final last week at the Surprise W25, defeating Ann Li and Olga Govortsova before falling to Sesil Karatantcheva, and her WTA 125K debut will pit the reigning Roland Garros junior champion against a two-time Roland Garros semifinalist.
Should Mladenovic make it past Bacsinszky or Gauff, her route gets no easier: No.16 seed Zhu Lin, fresh off cracking the Top 100 for the first time in Dubai, awaits in the third round. Following that, potential quarterfinal opponents include defending champion Sara Errani or ever-dangerous No.8 seed Kaia Kanepi, who are themselves projected to clash in the second round.
Another intriguing section of the draw is the second quarter, headed by No.3 seed Vera Lapko. Wildcard Catherine McNally, last year's Roland Garros junior runner-up (to Gauff), shocked the field at the strong Midland ITF W100 three weeks ago to lift her biggest trophy to date, scoring her first two Top 100 victories over Madison Brengle and Rebecca Peterson en route. The 17-year-old opens against 2015 Roland Garros junior champion Paula Badosa Gibert, with the winner then facing Lapko ahead of a potential quarterfinal against No.6 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo or No.11 seed Jessica Pegula. The latter, who has been runner-up in Québec City, the Newport Beach 125K and the Midland W100 since September, is currently in second place on the Road to Indian Wells Leaderboard.
Elsewhere, No.7 seed Luksika Kumkhum will bid to keep her 10-match winning streak at WTA 125K level going. The Thai No.1 ended 2018 by capturing titles in Mumbai and Taipei City, but will be tested in an opener against either Sorana Cirstea, fresh off the Budapest quarterfinals, or Kristie Ahn, who has reached the ITF W25 final down the road in Rancho Santa Fe this weekend. In the third round, either No.9 seed Kristyna Pliskova or 18-year-old Moscow River Cup champion Olga Danilovic could await, with Wang looming in the quarterfinals.
ORACLE CHALLENGER SERIES INDIAN WELLS 2019 DRAW
[1/WC] Qiang Wang (CHN) vs. bye
Lauren Davis (USA) vs. Natalia Vikhlyantseva (RUS)
Qualifier vs. Claire Liu (USA)
bye vs.  Mandy Minella (LUX)
 Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) vs. bye
Olga Danilovic (SRB) vs. Caroline Dolehide (USA)
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) vs. Kristie Ahn (USA)
bye vs.  Luksika Kumkhum (THA)
 Vera Lapko (BLR) vs. bye
[WC] Catherine McNally (USA) vs. Paula Badosa Gibert (ESP)
Fanny Stollar (HUN) vs. [WC] Jamie Loeb (USA)
bye vs.  Viktorija Golubic (SUI)
 Jessica Pegula (USA) vs. bye
Qualifier vs. Asia Muhammad (USA)
Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) vs. Varvara Lepchenko (USA)
bye vs.  Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP)
 Kaia Kanepi (EST) vs. bye
Allie Kiick (USA) vs. Sara Errani (ITA)
Heather Watson (GBR) vs. Xinyun Han (CHN)
bye vs.  Zarina Diyas (KAZ)
 Lin Zhu (CHN) vs. bye
Francesca Di Lorenzo (USA) vs. Nao Hibino (JPN)
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) vs. [WC] Cori Gauff (USA)
bye vs.  Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)
 Evgeniya Rodina (RUS) vs. bye
Nicole Gibbs (USA) vs. Priscilla Hon (AUS)
Sachia Vickery (USA) vs. Julia Glushko (ISR)
bye vs.  Taylor Townsend (USA)
 Madison Brengle (USA) vs. bye
[WC] Katie Volynets (USA) vs. Jennifer Brady (USA)
Fiona Ferro (FRA) vs. Yanina Wickmayer (BEL)
bye vs.  Alison Riske (USA)