Indian Wells | Dart advances alongside Kanepi and Riske in the desert

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Action got under way at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Wednesday, despite the absence of the World No 1 and 2, Ash Barty and Barbora Krejcikova, in the main draw for the WTA 1000 tournament dubbed the 5th Grand Slam that starts the Sunshine Swing in the United States.

I’m definitely pleased with the way I fought today and I stayed very positive every game. Having match points in the second set was really tough, but she played really well. Dayana is an amazing fighter and every time she’s behind, she’s playing her best tennis. Caroline Garcia

Barty, who became the first Australian woman to win the Australian Open in 44 years, says that she has not recovered sufficiently to compete at this level and is missing the three other biggest tournaments held between the US and French Opens – the WTA Championships, Indian Wells and Miami.

Krejcikova, the reigning French Open champion, withdrew on the eve of the event because of an injured elbow.

For various reasons, many tournaments held during the pandemic have had diminished draws, and the trend continues as also missing from Indian Wells are both Serena and Venus Williams, Danielle Collins and Bianca Andreescu.

Nevertheless, Day 1 in the desert saw British No 3 Harriet Dart safely into the 2nd round after her opponent Ana Konjuh retired injured.

The 25-year-old, who came through qualifying at the California event, was leading 6-1, 3-1 when the Croatian pulled out, and Dart will now take on Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, the 12th seed, on Friday.

Fellow British qualifiers Heather Watson and Katie Boulter both play on Thursday.


Kaia Kanepi eased past Robin Montgomery in her first match since her Australian Open quarter-final run

© Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Alison Riske and Kaia Kanepi were among the most notable unseeded names to advance in 128 player draw, with the American breezing past compatriot Caty McNally, a qualifier, 6-0 6-3, and the Estonian sweeping past 17-year-old Robin Montgomery, also from the US, 6-3 6-3.

Riske, a 31-year tour veteran, who held off McNally on 7 of 8 break attempts while converting 5 of her 10 chances, began the match by pocketing 7 straight games and never looked back.

She moves on to play 8th-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza from Spain in round two.

Kanepi had little difficulty with Montgomery, who struggled with her serve throughout the match, winning just 18 service points in total and relying on her return game to keep afloat.

Appearing for the first time since reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, Kanepi was playing against the reigning US Open girls’ singles and doubles champion, who was competing in just her 3rd WTA main-draw match.

“I expected a tough match because I knew she’s serving and hitting hard, and I had to be ready for that,” Kanepi said. “I think, overall, the game was quite good for a first-round match, except the second serve, sometimes.”

Nearly 20 years older and ranked some 300 places above the American at 63 in the world, Kanepi took a quick 4-1 lead in the first set before Montgomery mounted a fight-back but, after holding her serve, the 36-year Estonian broke the teenager’s serve to snag the first set.

The second was quicker, despite Kanepi coughing up 3 double-faults at 3-1 and being broken, but it was just a blimp as she broke Montgomery again in the next game, and then raced through her own service and, eventually, the match after an hour and 10 minutes.

Kanepi, who committed 9 double-faults to Montgomery’s 8, while she won 75 percent of break points to her opponent’s 38 percent, faces Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic from Switzerland, ranked 25, in the world, in round two.


Dayana Yastremska lost her opener to Caroline Garcia at Indian Wells on Wednesday

© Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Ukrainian wild-card Dayana Yastremska suffered a first-round exit at the hands of Carolina Garcia, who will meet Emma Raducanu, the 11th-seeded Briton, on Friday.

The Frenchwoman came from a break down in the final set to beat Yastemska in one of the highlight matches of Day 1, which saw her missing a pair of match points in the second set, before she rallied from a break down in the decider to take the 6-4 6-7(8) 7-5 win in 2 hours 27 minutes.

It was her first win in 3 matches over Yastremska, and both performed well last week on the indoor hard courts of Lyon in France, with the Ukrainian reaching the final, and Garcia falling in the semi-finals.

The Frenchwoman, however, adjusted better to the cool, outdoor conditions in the California desert, early on, and led 6-4, 3-1 with a point for 4-1.

After going 0-for-5 on break points in the opener, Yastremska pulled level at 3-3 with a break from 40-0 down, and later saved 2 break points at 5-5.

She forced a decider after denying Garcia chances to win earlier at 6-5 and 7-6 in the breaker, but then lost a 4-2 lead, squandering 2 points for 5-3, and ended in defeat.

“I’m definitely pleased with the way I fought today and I stayed very positive every game,” Garcia said later. “Having match points in the second set was really tough, but she played really well.

“Dayana is an amazing fighter and every time she’s behind, she’s playing her best tennis.”

Yastremska is donating all prize money she wins to Ukraine relief efforts, having fled the country by boat after Russia invaded her homeland.

Garcia’s win was one of 5 matches to go the full distance on Wednesday, and the second of two to push past 5-5 in the decider.

In the day session, Ekaterina Alexandrova survived a stern challenge from 18-year-old American wild-card Elvina Kalieva, who served for the match before Alexandrova rallied for a 4-6 6-2 7-6(7) victory.

Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic overcame American Hailey Baptiste, 6-2 2-6 6-2, in her opener, while Katie Volynets, also from the US, rallied for a 4-6 6-4 6-1 win over Arantxa Rus from the Netherlands, her first on tour in just over two years.


Ajla Tomjanovic needed 3 sets to get past wild-card Hailey Baptiste on Day 1 at Indian Wells

© Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia defeated 2020 Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin, 6-3 7-5, who was a finalist at the French Open two years ago but unable to capitalise on her success, with her ranking dropping to 130 this year.

Last October, left-handed Haddad Maia upset top seed and former World No 1 Karolina Pliskova here, and has now notched a win against a Grand Slam champion in her latest trip to Palm Springs.

“It’s always nice to be here,” Haddad Maia said after the match. “First round is always a tough match.

“Sofia is a great player and a Grand Slam champion. I didn’t play my best tennis but I tried to compete every single point.

“I wasn’t too aggressive but … I wasn’t 100% feeling well, but I was trying my best so I was happy with the win.”

Haddad Maia came from 2-0 down in the second set to secure her win and advance to a second round encounter with No 29 seed Clara Tauson of Denmark.

The set lasted more than an hour on its own, and after the Brazilian failed to convert a match point in the 10th game, Haddad Maia made no mistake in the 12th.

After reaching the quarter-finals in Adelaide to start the season, Kenin has now lost 6 straight matches.

Elsewhere, 19-year old Zheng Qinwen of China brushed past neutral player Vera Zvonareva, 6-3 6-2, while Croatia’s Petra Martic was a 7-5 6-3 winner over Anna Bondar from Hungary.

Wild-carded American Claire Liu also advanced to a 2nd-round meeting with compatriot and No 16 seed Coco Gauff after her 7-6(2) 6-4 win over Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova, while Ann Li, also from the USA, triumphed over fellow countrywoman Madison Brengle, 1-6 7-6(5) 6-0, in another a thriller, saving 2 match points on serve in the 12th game of the second set.

There was another retirement on Wednesday, with France’s Harmony Tan throwing in the towel to Ann Kalinskaya with the score standing at 6-2, 1-0 against her.

Kalinskaya had ‘No war’ written on her shoes.


Ana Kalinskaya’s shoes sent a ‘No War’ message


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