Tennis Channel starts its coverage of the BNP Paribas Open a day earlier than usual this year, featuring the start of women’s third-round action and some of the men’s second-round matches. We look at some of the more intriguing encounters scheduled for Friday.
Andujar vs. Johnson: A member of UCLA’s formidable tennis team, Johnson took Almagro to five sets at the Australian Open despite the vast gulf in their rankings. With a San Jose quarterfinal appearance to bolster his momentum, he will hope to rely on a strong home crowd to defeat a less imposing Spaniard in a feat similar to Taylor Townsend’s upset of Hradecka on this court.
Kirilenko vs. McHale: Last year, the New Jersey resident recorded one of the most stunning upsets in the women’s draw in three sets over Kvitova. A different sort of challenge awaits in the much steadier, much less powerful Kirilenko, and McHale only recently ended a long losing streak that extended since her bout with mono several months ago. Expect plenty of long rallies and tightly contested service games in a match of few free points.
Schiavone vs. Sharapova: Only three times has the Italian veteran met the career silver Slam woman, but she won a set on two of those occasions and hovered on the brink of victory in their most recent meting at Tokyo 2009. Sharapova went on to win the title after surviving that opening-round brush with danger, so she will hope for déjà vu this fortnight. Well past her prime, Schiavone should entertain the crowd with her flamboyant one-handed backhand and flashes of all-court artistry without disrupting the Russian’s rhythm for long.
Sanchez vs. Radwanska: Like the previous match, this encounter offers greater entertainment from the journey than the destination. The centerpiece of the USC women’s tennis team, Maria Sanchez rewarded organizers for issuing her a main-draw wildcard with a victory over Olga Puchkova, a finalist in Brazil last week. Radwanska has not looked her crispest over the last few tournaments after starting the year with consecutive titles, but she usually feasts on such inexperienced opponents. All the same, the experience of plying her trade in one of the sport’s largest stadiums should help Sanchez take the next step forward while giving many Americans their first look at a fresh local talent.
Sock vs. Karlovic: The Nebraskan’s breakthrough came in Memphis last month, where he stunned the Milos Raonic in a nail-biting affair. His huge serves and forehands, combined with his uneven returning, suggest that tiebreaks will loom against the tallest man in the ATP. Toppled by an unheralded American in Tim Smyczek at the Australian Open, Karlovic has not won more than one match at any of his seven tournaments this year, and the slow courts should frustrate his net-rushing style.
Jankovic vs. Kuznetsova: The 2010 Indian Wells champion confronts the 2007-08 Indian Wells finalist in a battle that should showcase the athleticisim of these veterans. While Jankovic recently gained a spurt of momentum by winning her first title in three years at Bogota, Kuznetsova has surged back into relevance after many had given up on her for good. A quarterfinalist at the Australian Open, she demolished a decent first-round opponent in Andrea Hlavackova and has shown much more consistency than the Serb this year.
Burdette vs. Paszek: Joining her fellow Pac-12 alums from Southern California is the star of the Stanford women’s tennis team who has captured NCAA singles and doubles titles. Not offered a wildcard to the main draw, Burdette did not flinch in manevering through two qualifying matches and the first round of the main draw. The grass specialist Paszek does not pose too intimidating a test on a slow hard court, while she has lost eight of her last nine matches overall.
Tursunov vs. Petzschner: Left for dead long ago by most commentators, the Russian qualified for Marseille and reached the semifinals in that strong draw last month, then justified his Dubai wildcard with a quarterfinal result, and finally advanced through qualifying here. He has won two of his three previous meetings with Petzschner, who shares his affinity for short points as well as his struggles with patience and focus. Since the German also advanced through qualifying, both men will have grown familiar with the conditions, and both should embrace the opportunity of playing a fellow journeyman.