By Ros Satar, in Indian Wells
- Caroline Wozniacki  v Kristina Mladenovic 
- Venus Williams  v Elena Vesnina 
- Stan Wawrinka  v Dominic Thiem 
INDIAN WELLS, USA – It is all about the BNP Paribas Open quarter-finals as the last of the women’s semi-final spots are determined, and the men begin their quarter-finals.
Caroline Wozniacki  v Kristina Mladenovic  – H2H: Wozniacki leads 3-0
Wozniacki’s start is most definitely on the rise this part of the season, After a couple of quarter-finals in the warm-up events before the Australian Open, she could perhaps have hoped for a better run in Melbourne but was knocked out of the Australian Open by Britain’s Johanna Konta.
Since then though she has made back to back finals in Doha and Dubai and will be looking to extend her head to head over the Frenchwoman.
That is not to say that Mladenovic has not had some impressive results as well this year. She won the title in St Petersburg, and made the Acapulco final, and she has not dropped a set here, so is it her time to make Wozniacki meet her match?
Mladenovic can give top players a hard time (and sometimes fails to bring that consistency to the table against the lower ranked players, and she can clobber a first serve and groundies quite effectively, but she might be a little more vulnerable on her second serve.
One element where she will struggle is if Wozniacki gets into her groove and gets her moving around the court, especially in the midday heat. Wozniacki’s ability to switch from defence to attacking play and her court coverage makes her the favourite to advance.
Prediction: Wozniacki in three sets.
Venus Williams  v Elena Vesnina  – H2H: Vesnina leads 3-2
It feels like it ought to be another fairy-tale run to a final for Venus Williams, and heaven knows her path has not been an easy one. She looked as though she was labouring, with thigh and elbow taped up and had to come back from a set down against the tenacious Jelena Jankovic, and again Peng Shuai.
Vesnina was languishing just inside the Top 100 a year ago, and has embarked upon a rise back up into the world Top 20, indeed hitting a career high in February this year. The Russian has been in very good form this week too, outplaying Angelique Kerber by quite some margin for her best ever run here in the Californian desert.
This could be closer than a lot would think. Both are very solid from the baseline, and both have good feel at the net, although we would have to give the edge to Vesnina perhaps on movement judging by the taping on Williams’ high.
That being said, as her match wore on with Jankovic, the American was moving better and eating up the yards, so Vesnina will have to rely on her placement.
The home crowds will be willing Williams over the line and if she is going to do it, she will need to perhaps put herself and them through the ringer over three sets.
Prediction: Williams in three sets.
Stan Wawrinka  v Dominic Thiem  – Wawrinka leads 2-1
While the achievements of the Pablos’ Squared (Pablo Carreno Busta v Pablo Cuevas) have been equally impressive in a decimated top half of the draw, all eyes should be on whether Stan Wawrinka has anything left in the tank to get past Dominic Thiem, who has been quietly making is way through the draw.
Wawrinka was handed a stern test by Lucky Loser Yoshihito Nishioka on Wednesday. The fluid and fearless style of tennis displayed by the Japanese player seemed to further stifle Wawrinka who really looked inhibited in his service action.
Worse still for the Swiss, his usual takeback and explosive backhand seemed to lack bite until right at the very end of the match, and if there is some kind of physical issue, then we can expect Thiem to take full advantage.
The Austrian effectively neutralised Gael Monfils in short order. The Frenchman had been serving well and progressing through the draw with some confidence himself, but seemed lost at sea.
Perhaps the pressure of a 400th Tour-level win was taking his toll and with the prospect of a chance to reach a first ATP World Tour Masters semi-final. Wawrinka knows just how dangerous Thiem can be. As a young qualifier, Thiem delivered a shock win over the Swiss after his opening Slam win in Australia.
Since then Wawrinka has prevailed in two more Masters (Rome and paris) but their matches have been pretty close two-setters. There were warning signs on Wednesday night for Wawrinka. His fighting spirit combined with Nishioka finally running himself ragged saw him come through and keep the top half of the draw alive, but Thiem looks a lot fresher and we could see another top seed exit.
Prediction: Thiem in three sets.
Play begins on Stadium 1 at 11am (6pm BST)
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