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Indian Wells Day 3 order of play: Kerber faces Zheng Qinwen; Swiatek, Raducanu in action

Former finalist Angelique Kerber seeks her first win of 2022 against rising teenager Zheng Qinwen as second-round action begins at the BNP Paribas Open, while Iga Swiatek seeks to extend her winning streak.

The second round of the BNP Paribas Open gets under way on Day 3, with seeds including Angelique Kerber, Iga Swiatek, Simona Halep and Emma Raducanu all getting their campaigns under way. Here are six matches to circle on the schedule.

Zheng Qinwen (CHN) vs. [15] Angelique Kerber (GER)

An established champion taking on a hungry rising star is a classic dynamic. Former World No.1 and 2019 finalist Kerber has all the experience on her side, but 19-year-old Zheng has self-belief in spades.

Zheng’s rise from outside the Top 600 in August 2020 to her current career high of No.74 has been meteoric, and if she still lacks a signature win over a big name, that’s because she hasn’t had many shots at them yet. The Chinese teenager played her first Top 20 opponents in Australia in January, Simona Halep and Maria Sakkari, and despite losing to both came away feeling as though she’d been in control.

“They won by my mistakes because I gave them a lot of easy mistakes,” she said last month. “What they taught me is that you can beat an opponent just by consistency.”

Zheng was impressive in swatting aside 2009 champion Vera Zvonareva in the first round, and for all Kerber’s historic skill at blunting power players’ weapons, the German could be vulnerable. She is yet to win a match in 2022 after her Australian swing was disrupted by a positive Covid-19 test.

Head-to-head: 0-0.

Alison Riske (USA) vs. [8] Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP)

After an imperious performance to win the WTA Finals Guadalajara last November, Muguruza seemed poised to consolidate her position in the Top 3, and even make a run at returning to World No.1. That hasn’t happened yet. Instead, the Spaniard comes into Indian Wells with just a 5-4 record this season, including second-round losses at the Australian Open to Alizé Cornet and in Dubai to Veronika Kudermetova.

Riske makes for a particularly tricky opponent. Though their head-to-head is level at two wins apiece, Riske has taken the last two – a 6-1, 6-2 rout at Tokyo 2018 and a 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 upset at the 2019 US Open. The American was also in superb form in dismissing compatriot Caty McNally 6-0, 6-3 in the first round.

Historic head-to-heads have proven that, even several years on, they can still be Muguruza’s undoing in 2022: Cornet and Daria Kasatkina, who defeated her in Sydney, are both opponents she had previously struggled against. Riske could repeat this pattern.

Head-to-head: 2-2, with Muguruza winning the first two (Birmingham 2017 and Monterrey 2018) and Riske the next two (Tokyo 2018 and the US Open 2019).

Danka Kovinic (MNE) vs. [7] Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

Two-time Indian Wells semifinalist Pliskova will play her first match since the WTA Finals Guadalajara last November against Kovinic. The Czech former World No.1 sustained a hand injury during off-season training, and as a result, missed the first two months of this season.

Pliskova has little history of returning from layoffs; her seven-year tenure in the Top 20 has otherwise been free of major injuries, and her absence from the Australian Open ended her streak of contesting 35 consecutive Grand Slam main draws. Kovinic has shown some good form in 2022, reaching the third round of the Australian Open and posting a quality win over Jil Teichmann in the first round. The Montenegrin will be targeting her third career Top 10 win.

Head-to-head: 0-0.

[3] Iga Swiatek (POL) vs. Anhelina Kalinina (UKR)

Ever the quick learner, there’s a sense Swiatek has taken another step in 2022. The Pole owns a 14-3 record so far this season, including her first hard-court Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open and her biggest hard-court title to date in Doha.

The 20-year-old arrives in Indian Wells at a career high of World No.4 and on a five-match winning streak, which she will seek to extend against No.50-ranked Kalinina. The Ukrainian cracked the Top 100 last summer after a hot streak on clay that culminated in her first WTA final in Budapest. She has yet to replicate that away from the terre battue, though playing tough three-setters against Sloane Stephens at the 2018 US Open and Jessica Pegula at this year’s Australian Open indicate that her heavy-hitting game can still be effective on hard courts.

Head-to-head: 0-0.

[11] Emma Raducanu (GBR) vs. Caroline Garcia (FRA)

Ever since Raducanu’s shock US Open victory, assessing the Briton’s level has been complicated due to the lack of any meaningful data set. The 19-year-old has still played only 10 tour-level main draws and has yet to play a Top 10 opponent.

That hasn’t changed much in 2022. Raducanu was hindered by Covid-19 in the off-season, blisters at the Australian Open and a hip injury that forced her to retire against Daria Saville in Guadalajara two weeks ago. But she will have her work cut out against a resurgent Garcia.

The former World No.4 backed up an upset of Simona Halep in Doha with a run to her hometown semifinals in Lyon last week and showed fortitude in edging past Dayana Yastremska 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-5 in the first round.

Head-to-head: 0-0.

[24] Simona Halep (ROU) vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova

On the comeback trail from an injury-struck 2021, Halep has reset well in 2022 so far. The Romanian enters Indian Wells with an 11-3 record, including a 23rd career title at Melbourne Summer Set 1 and a new coach by her side in Morgan Bourbon.

The 2015 champion faces a historically tough matchup off the bat in Alexandrova. Of their three hard-court meetings, Alexandrova has won twice and led by a set and a break in the third. But she is also some way off the form that took her to a career high of No.25 in February of 2020. Alexandrova has yet to win consecutive matches this year and needed a third-set tiebreak to squeak by 18-year-old wildcard Elvina Kalieva 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(7) in the first round.

Head-to-head: 2-2. Alexandrova leads 2-1 on hard courts, but Halep won their most recent encounter Stuttgart last year.

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