The 2021 BNP Paribas Open is in full swing, and Day 2 will see the first round wrapped up. Here are seven matches to circle on the schedule.
Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) vs. Viktorija Golubic (SUI)
This clash between two players who possess some of the best hands on tour is one to watch both for the aesthetics and their form. Vondrousova, runner-up at Roland Garros in 2019, has found a similar groove this summer. A silver medal run at the Tokyo Olympic Games has been followed by semifinal showings in her past two tournaments, in Luxembourg and Chicago. The Czech has won 15 of her past 20 matches, executing her trademark dropshot with confidence and panache.
Vondrousova, who was forced to pull out of Chicago at the weekend with a gastro-intestinal illness, will be returning to a tournament where she has enjoyed historic success. The 22-year-old defeated Johanna Konta and Aryna Sabalenka to make the last 16 on her 2018 debut and stunned Simona Halep the following year to go one round further.
At the age of 28, Golubic is having a career year. The Swiss ended 2020 ranked No.137, but has surged to consistent success this season with back-to-back finals in Lyon and Monterrey in March, the Saint-Malo WTA 125 title in May, a maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon in July and, as the result of all of this, a long-awaited Top 50 debut. Her one-handed backhand has been purring this season. In the first-time encounter, expect plenty of hot shots.
Katerina Siniakova (CZE) vs. [WC] Kim Clijsters (BEL)
Former World No.1 Clijsters has found her second comeback stymied repeatedly - first by the global pandemic that hit within weeks of her return in 2020 and then by injuries that meant she did not compete for 13 months between the 2020 US Open and Chicago last week. The 38-year-old Belgian, champion in Indian Wells in 2003 and 2005, has shown flashes of her ball-striking talent, but has so far compiled a 0-4 record.
Getting off the mark will be no easier in California. Clijsters has been drawn against the talented World No.53 Siniakova, a player who can run all day and conjure up all sorts of magic with her soft hands. The Czech has been soaring in doubles this year, winning both Roland Garros and the Tokyo Olympic Games alongside Barbora Krejcikova. And while she's still less consistent in singles, Siniakova still enjoys a reputation as an upset artist. Two Top 10 wins this season, over Serena Williams in Parma and Garbiñe Muguruza in Montréal, bear that out.
The winner will take on No.10 seed Angelique Kerber in the second round.
Amanda Anisimova (USA) vs. [WC] Katrina Scott (USA)
Thirteen months ago, Scott announced herself on the big stage. As a 16-year-old wildcard ranked No.637, she defeated Natalia Vikhlyantseva to reach the second round of the 2020 US Open, where she led Anisimova by a set before falling 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Scott has continued to climb steadily since. Now ranked No.439, this summer saw the teenager score her first two Top 100 wins, over Madison Brengle and Lauren Davis, in WTA 125 tournaments in Charleston and Concord.
Meanwhile, Anisimova will be seeking to use this rematch as a springboard for a much-needed statement run. The 20-year-old has enjoyed one of those in Indian Wells before - as a No.149-ranked wildcard on her 2018 debut, she posted her first Top 10 win over Petra Kvitova to reach the fourth round. A lean 2021 has seen her ranking fall to No.81, but there have been promising signs recently - in particular a classic late-night US Open clash with Karolina Pliskova, which Anisimova barely lost 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(7).
[Q] Liang En-Shuo (TPE) vs. Alison Riske (USA)
After ending a breakthrough 2019 at a career-high of World No.18, Riske ended up as one of the players who struggled most to regain momentum after the Covid-19 shutdown. The American compiled a meagre 5-15 record on resumption through to a first-round loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at this year's US Open.
With points from her 2019 Wuhan final run dropping off last month, Riske found her form just in time. Three weeks ago, her flat hitting clicked as she reached the Portoroz final, and then the second round in Ostrava. The 31-year-old will need to overcome a 1-6 record in Indian Wells main draws to progress, though.
Standing in her way will be the 2020 Australian Open girls' champion and former junior World No.1 Liang, 21, who defeated Wang Xinyu and Caroline Dolehide to qualify for her Indian Wells debut. The World No.224 from Chinese Taipei boasts a formidable weapon in her heavy forehand, and her results this year include qualifying for her first Grand Slam main draw at Roland Garros.
The winner will be rewarded with a big-stage second-round clash with defending champion and No.16 seed Bianca Andreescu.
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) vs. Ana Konjuh (CRO)
"I think we can stop calling it a comeback at this point," Konjuh said in Nur-Sultan last week. The Croat has now played a full 12 months since returning from a fourth elbow surgery, and her results speak for themselves. Konjuh, 23, has gone from unranked to World No.78 thanks to a 41-22 record this year, including a runner-up showing in Belgrade and a fourth-round run in Miami, where she knocked off Iga Swiatek and Madison Keys.
The big-hitting Konjuh faces an intriguing stylistic contrast against World No.85 Schmiedlova's smooth defence and sharp backhand angles. The Slovak has a 34-20 record in 2021, including a title run at the Belgrade WTA 125 event in July.
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) vs. Polona Hercog (SLO)
A clash between two talented players in need of a season turnaround. After sliding from a career high of World No.11 in August 2019 out of the Top 50 last year, Sevastova posted some promising results in the first half of 2021. The Latvian, renowned for her finesse, reached quarterfinals in Adelaide, Miami and Eastbourne. But her results have tailed off again, and she is currently on a six-match losing streak dating back to Wimbledon.
Former World No.35 Hercog has also struggled to find her best form this year. In 2019, the Slovenian returned to the Top 50 for the first time in seven years, but a 4-13 WTA main draw record in 2021 has seen her fall back to No.123 this week. A victory for either player could be an important turning point; Sevastova leads the head-to-head 3-1.
[WC] Elsa Jacquemot (FRA) vs. Dayana Yastremska (UKR)
Since returning to action in July, wins have been thin on the ground for Yastremska. The hard-hitting Ukrainian's record since then is just 4-8, and two of those wins came in her first tournament back, in Hamburg.
Nonetheless, there have been promising signs in defeat. Losses to Sloane Stephens in Montréal and Angelique Kerber at the US Open were high-quality, knife-edge three-setters that could have gone either way, and ultimately showcased Yastremska's ability to challenge the very best.
Yastremska will open against a promising 18-year-old wildcard. Jacquemot was the 2020 Roland Garros girls' champion, and reached her first ITF W25 final in Périgueux this June.
Click here for the full Day 2 Order of Play.