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Defending champion Badosa in brutal section of Indian Wells draw

Paula Badosa won’t have an easy path through the draw if she wants to go all the way in Indian Wells, as she did last fall. Badosa’s section also includes Naomi Osaka and Anett Kontaveit.

Paola Badosa, Indian Wells 2021 Paula Badosa by © AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill / SIPA

Indian Wells 2022 | Draw | Schedule

The women’s BNP Paribas Open draw ceremony was held on Monday afternoon, and there is no doubt that the big story is the third section of the bracket.

That 24-woman group by itself would make up an extremely competitive WTA 500 tournament. As part of this 100-point event, whoever advances out of it will simply earn a semifinal spot in Indian Wells.

This particular section is home to Paula Badosa, Anett Kontaveit, Jelena Ostapenko, Jessica Pegula, Leylah Fernandez, Veronika Kudermetova, Marketa Vondrousova, Naomi Osaka, Sloane Stephens, Amanda Anisimova, and Shelby Rogers.

Either Osaka or Stephens – both of whom are Grand Slam champions – won’t even make it out of the first round, as they will go head-to-head right away in the desert. The winner of that showdown will meet Kudermetova, who won the 2021 Charleston title and already has two runner-up efforts in 2022 (Melbourne and Dubai).

Another second-round contest could pit Fernandez against Anisimova. Fernandez was the 2021 US Open runner-up and she is coming off a triumph this past week in Monterrey; Anisimova is working her way back up the rankings thanks in part to a recent 250 title in Melbourne followed by a fourth-round performance at the Australian Open (beat Osaka, lost to eventual champion Ashleigh Barty).

Badosa, Kontaveit, and Ostapenko together

Badosa, Kontaveit, and Ostapenko are among the hottest players on the WTA Tour right now, and Badosa is the defending Indian Wells champion (outlasted Victoria Azarenka 7-6(5), 2-6, 7-6(2) in the 2021 final).

“Badosa likes these courts,” 18-time Grand Slam singles champion and current Tennis Channel analyst Martina Navratilova said in an interview with the WTA. “I think Badosa has a good shot to defend her title, and I think you have to look at the Americans. (Madison) Keys (and) Anisimova have an excellent shot. No pressure on them – everything would be a bonus – and as big hitters the court will suit them. The crowd should be helpful, as well.”

Elsewhere in the bottom half of this year’s draw, Azarenka is joined in the fourth and final section by No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, No. 6 Maria Sakkari, and No. 27 Petra Kvitova. Sakkari and Kvitova are on a collision course for the third round.

Victoria Azarenka, huitième de finale, Indian Wells 2021

With world No. 1 Barty sidelined, second-ranked Barbora Krejcikova is the No. 1 seed. The 26-year-old Czech is joined in a top quarter of the bracket by Karolina Pliskova, who is playing for the first time in 2022 after recovering from a hand injury. In fact, since the 2021 Indian Wells event was postponed from March until October last year as a result of Covid-19 concerns, Pliskova has played only one tournament — the WTA Finals — in between two Indian Wells appearances.

Iga Swiatek and Garbine Muguruza are the other two top eight seeds in the draw’s top half. Swiatek was a semi-finalist at the recent Australian Open, while Muguruza triumphed at the WTA Finals last fall. Muguruza versus Keys is a potential third-round matchup in the desert. Another intriguing showdown that could happen in the third round is Ukrainian veteran Elina Svitolina versus Tokyo Olympics singles gold medalist Belinda Bencic.

Women’s main-draw action begins on Wednesday. The men’s draw ceremony will take place on Tuesday before that tournament starts on Tuesday.

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