Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Old guard" vs. new in Indian Wells

Though it feels a bit strange to categorize Ana Ivanovic as a "past champion," that's what she is. Ivanovic won the French Open in 2008, and since then, has undergone a series of coaching changes, physio changes, confidence dips, injuries, and what has appeared from the outside to be general chaos. But here she is in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open, and one can't help but ask: Has Ivanovic found her way back?

The Serbian player, known for her crack forehand, holds eleven singles titles. When she's in form, she's aggressive and hard to beat. If she stays healthy and her confidence continues to increase, we could see her make yet another climb up the rankings.

Ivanovic's "old guard" opponent in the semifinals will be Maria Sharapova, who has struggled against all kinds of odds to return to the top of the game, and is currently ranked number 2 in the world. Watching them compete for a spot in the final will feel kind of like old times. Sharapova has a 3-2 record against Ivanovic, but they haven't played each other for four years.

In the other semifinal, it's "new guard" all the way, with world number 1 and Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka competing against Angelique Kerber. Azarenka is the favorite to win, of course, but suddenly, Kerber doesn't look like a stranger at the business end of a tournament. Often, when a player comes out of "nowhere" to reach a major quarterfinal or semifinal, it makes for a nice moment, but then the player goes back to her usual spot in the scheme of things. But not Kerber. Kerber's U.S. Open run was more of an announcement than a novelty, and she provides more evidence that the German contingent is serious about shaking up the status quo.

Can Azarenka win Indian Wells and Miami? Stay tuned.

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