Our contributor Karen Helf is starting her reports from the Indian Wells desert this Friday, but before talking about the day’s upsets of Garbine Muguruza, Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova, she’ll first quickly sum up the tournament’s early days.
Comebacks, Upsets and Fan Support
At the BNP Paribas Open, forty-eight WTA singles matches are in the books. Let us take a moment to catch up.
We began with a draw comprised of nine current and former number one players, twelve Grand Slam champions and two Career Slam achievers, Serena and Maria. Of that group, the following women remain; Simona Halep, Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova, Jelena Ostapenko, Karolina Pliskova, Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Elena Svitolina and Sloane Stephens. In other words, huge depth remains.
First and Second-Round Highlights
Welcome Back Serena & Vika
Returning moms Serena and Victoria owned the Thursday night session. Serena shook off some rust and found her pace. Once she did, there was no looking back. Serena took the win in straight sets over Zarina Diyas, 7-5 6-3. To her credit, Diyas stood the test of the occasion. Serena’s next opponent is Kiki Bertens. In her words, Serena is on her journey and happy to be back.
Victoria came out of the gates with strong form against Heather Watson. It seemed as though the match would be quick work. However, nerves were a struggle. Heather fought her way back into the first set. The match contained some very long service games. Azarenka found her zen and closed both sets, 6-4 6-2. Victoria’s next opponent will be US Open champion, Sloane Stephens.
Vickery d.  Muguruza 2-6 7-5 6-1
March 9th is a Friday night that the aggressive American qualifier Sachia Vickery will not forget. Vickery produced a huge upset in her first meeting against Garbine and captured her first Top 10 victory. Considering the first set, the match seemed to be on Garbine’s racquet. In fact, Muguruza spoke of feeling that she had that match under control. Despite the 6-2 score, long rallies early on showed Vickery might dig in and that she did. The crowd exploded as she captured the second set. From that point on, the crowd did not waiver.
Vickery spoke of her intention to go down fighting. The crowd support was immense lifting her as she produced line winners that seemed impossible and she ran down everything. Garbine went toe-to-toe with baseline battles but Vickery seemed to have a bit more magic on her racquet. Beaming in press, Sachia restated that she still could not believe it. Ironically, her own belief and the belief of the crowd seemed to fuel the victory. Vickery will need to hold on to her belief as her next opponent is none other than Naomi Osaka.
Vickery also sent Genie Bouchard packing for Miami in the first round, 6-3 6-4.
Osaka d.  Radwanska 6-3 6-2
Naomi Osaka took on a very different player in Agnieszka Radwanska. She made relatively quick work despite the tremendous ball placement ability of Radwanska. In about 90 minutes Osaka closed the match. Naomi’s serve was on winning 83% of her first serve points and saving 67% of break points faced. She maintained her aggressive style of play and attacked Radwanska’s second serve.
In her first round match, a very a focused Naomi Osaka took out former Indian Wells champion Maria Sharapova in straight sets, 6-4 6-4 despite a healthy challenge from Maria in both sets.
Dolehide d.  Cibulkova 5-7 6-3 6-4
In her second-round match, American Caroline Dolehide showed her might coming out on top in 2 hrs and 20 minutes. Dominika brought her signature power punch game. Dolehide went toe-to-toe and was undeterred after dropping the first set. Dolehide produced a strong service game and spirited defense of break points. The court-5 crowd was clearly on Caroline’s team today.
Wildcard Dolehide began her main draw quest with an upset of fellow American Shelby Rogers. This battle went just over 2.5 hrs. Next up for Dolehide is No.1 Simona Halep.
Other strong starts by the new generation include Cici Bellis, Jelena Ostapenko and 16-year-old Amanda Anisimova.
Saturday holds some key match-ups:
Katerina Siniakova vs. Daria Kasatkina 
Elina Vesnina vs. Cici Bellis [Vesnina is the defending champion.]
Ekaterina Makarova vs. Angelique Kerber
Lara Arruabarrena vs. Caroline Wozniacki 
Sloane Stephens vs. Victoria Azarenka
Serena Williams vs. Kiki Bertens
Venus Williams  vs. Sorana Cirstea
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