WTA Indian Wells Tennis Picks, Predictions: 2 Qualifiers to Thrive on Thursday (March 10)
Jam Media/Getty. Pictured: Daria Saville serves at the Zapopan Open.
It was a fascinating first day of the main draw in Indian Wells. There were plenty of tight matches and tight finishes, so we’ll be hoping for a follow-up to Wednesday’s action.
Thursday projects to have even more scintillating matches on tap and I’ve found value in two of them.
Here are two plays to think about from the Californian desert.
Match times are subject to change. Read here for advice on watching tennis matches.
Katie Boulter (-102) vs Jasmine Paolini (-118)
3:30 p.m. ET
Katie Boulter has played terrific tennis recently. The Brit has won 10 of her last 11 matches, including a title at the ITF $60k event in Grenoble, qualifying and making the round of 16 in Lyon, and now qualifying for Indian Wells.
Boulter beat Xinyu Wang from a set down in the opening qualifying round, then took down Sara Errani in straight sets to qualify for the tournament. In the win over Errani, Boulter won 69% of her first-serve points and 55% of her return points. She broke Errani’s serve six times in nine service games.
Boulter is confident right now and playing with such conviction from the baseline. She’s hitting with controlled aggression and she’s doing a great job of pressuring her opponents during baseline exchanges.
Jasmine Paolini made the quarterfinals of Lyon last week, but fell in the final eight to Dayana Yastremska in straight sets.
Paolini’s second serve was a weakness in that match, only winning 35% of her second-serve points and getting broken five times. However, she held all three opponents in Lyon to under 65% of their first serves won and under 55% of their second serves won.
Paolini’s baseline game can be tough to break down. She’s a clean ball striker and is very solid from the baseline when she’s playing well. The Italian also returns serve well and doesn’t give away many free points on return. The problem for Paolini is that she doesn’t have much power on her groundstrokes and when her game isn’t totally clicking, she doesn’t have big groundstrokes to bail her out.
Boulter’s controlled aggression has been impressive and she has proven over the past few weeks that she can hang in there with a player like Paolini from the baseline, then find the opening to blast a winner. Boulter is also more used to the conditions than Paolini, having qualified for the tournament.
When looking at Elo ratings, it is important to note that Boulter has the slightly higher overall and hard-court Elo ratings in comparison to Paolini.
While this match might be close, expect Boulter to prevail.
Pick: Boulter ML (-110 via FanDuel)
Daria Saville (-102) vs Shuai Zhang (-118)
3:30 p.m. ET
Daria Saville did well to qualify for Indian Wells. In the final qualifying round, she beat Magdalena Frech 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.
It was a solid performance for the Australian, winning 54% of her return points and breaking Frech’s serve eight times. In all, Saville generated 16 break points over the course of the match.
The win over Frech was a nice follow-up after Saville’s straight sets victory over Kamilla Rakhimova to open the qualifying tournament. The slow courts in Indian Wells amplifies Saville’s high-level defensive and counterpunching skills. She certainly seems to be enjoying the conditions this week.
Shuai Zhang played incredible tennis to win Lyon in her last event. Zhang beat Yastremska in the final 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to take the title. She had to come back from not only a set down, but twice from a break down in the third set.
Zhang was very aggressive on Yastremska’s second-serve, holding her to 34% second-serve points won. She was able to control her groundstrokes better than Yastremska, having better consistent depth.
Overall, the fast, indoor hard conditions suited Zhang’s game perfectly. Zhang has a fairly big serve and loves to play first-strike tennis. The courts in Lyon suited this style of play, rewarding Zhang for being aggressive and trying to take the initiative in rallies.
On the other hand, the courts in Indian Wells reward patience and rally tolerance more. They’re much better suited to Saville’s more-defensive style of play because shots do not accelerate through the court very much, allowing Saville, with her incredible foot speed, to track down opponents’ groundstrokes.
Saville, having played in qualifying, is also used to the conditions in Indian Wells. On the other hand, Zhang is going to play her first match of the tournament in completely different conditions than Lyon after traveling the very-long distance from Lyon to Indian Wells.
In this spot, I like Saville.
Pick: Saville ML (-102 via FanDuel)