The Ladies Like California

Indian Wells Masters 2010
By Hiland Doolittle, March 4th, 2010
Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

They may call it the tennis tournament in the desert, but Indian Wells is a special event featuring the biggest galleries outside of the four major tournaments. With $4.5 million in prize money and loads of live television coverage, players can gain prestige, riches and exposure at the 2010 BNP Paribas Open from March 10th – 21st. What more could an aspiring tour player want?

The outdoor hard courts provide plenty of fast-paced action. More than 330,000 fans are expected to turn out to watch many of the tour’s biggest names and hottest players.

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Justine Henin was granted a wild card berth this time around. Since returning to the tour earlier this season, the 27-year old Belgian reached the finals in Brisbane and the finals at Melbourne. Along the way, she knocked off much higher seeds and younger players, including Elena Dementieva and hard-hitting 20-year old country-mate Yanina Wickmayer.

The seven-time Grand Slam Champion gets little respect. It’s mystifying really. Henin won the Indian Wells event in 2004 and holds 41 WTA singles titles. Unseeded? Not again. Justine’s placement in the Australian Open in a quarterfinal bracket with Svetlana Kuznetsova, Kim Clijsters, Wickmayer and Ana Petrova unbalanced the entire draw.

Other wild card passes were issued to American youngsters Christina McHale, Alexa Glatch and popular Bethanie Mattek-Sands. As a 17-year old, McHale gained the second round of the US. Open last year. Glatch has five ITF titles and Mattek-Sands holds seven tour doubles titles.

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The tournament’s betting favorite will be another Belgian and 2009 U.S Open Champion, Kim Clijsters. Clijsters holds 36 tour titles and has won in the desert in 2003 and 2005. Kim has something to prove after her collapse against Petrova in Melbourne. She won at Brisbane, defeating unseeded Henin in the finals.

Last year’s champion, Vera Zvonareva will be defending both her 2009 singles and doubles championships. She will be joined by other former winners Serb Ana Ivanovic (2008), Russian Maria Sharapova (2006) and Daniela Hantuchova (2002 and 2007). Former World Number 1’s, Ivanovic and Sharapova, have fallen upon hard times of late and suffered surprising losses in early 2010. Ivanovic is unable to improve a weak, inconsistent serve. Sharapova has not come back to form after shoulder injuries. The two tour poster girls need some wins.

Last year’s Champion Vera Zvonareva will be back to defend both her singles and doubles titles, where she combined with powerful Victoria Azarenka. After reaching eight finals in 2008, Vera had a relatively quiet 2009 and is waiting to emerge from the shadows in 2010.

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The impressive Azarenka, just 20 years old, is on the cusp of a major breakthrough. She battled eventual champion Serena to the end at Melbourne and may have let an upset slide away. Azarenka is one big win away from becoming a dominating tour player. Despite a few high profile losses, Victoria will not be deterred.


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