Olympic hardware abounds in this matchup of 12th seed Venus Williams and 14th seed Elena Vesnina. Williams, who pocketed four gold medals from 2000 to 2012 between singles and doubles, is zoning at the age of 36, while Vesnina, 30, who took the gold in doubles (with Ekaterina Makarova) in Rio, is playing some of the best tennis of her career. The Russian holds a slight 3-2 edge in career head-to-heads against Williams, including a 6-0, 6-7(7), 6-2 win in Miami last year.
What’s most impressive about the American Williams’ run in Indian Wells this year is her ability to tough out three-set battles after dropping the opener, which she pulled off against longtime foe Jelena Jankovic of Serbia (1-6, 7-6(5), 6-1) and China’s Shuai Peng (3-6, 6-1, 6-3). “I know I'm getting closer,” said Williams. “There are eight people left. One of us will win. So the odds are getting better. I have to focus. It's not there yet. It's just getting closer. Your mouth starts to water, but it doesn't mean you'll get fed.”
PABLO vs. PABLO
Pablo Cuevas is riding a seven-match win streak that includes the Sao Paulo title. Seamlessly transitioning from clay to hard courts, the 31-year-old Uruguayan finds himself in his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarterfinal of his career. His Elite Eight opponent will be Pablo Carreno Busta, against whom he owns a 3-1 head-to-head advantage, including a win over the Spaniard en route to the title in Brazil last week. The 25-year-old Carreno Busta has risen to a career-high No. 23. Clay-courters, both players are sure looking at home on the California cement.
Former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and rising Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic kick things off with their quarterfinal clash on Stadium 1. The Dane Wozniacki has long been known as one of the sports ultimate retrievers; a veritable backboard. But she’s looked more offensive-minded this week in Indian Wells, crushing her groundstrokes with authority. “I think the fact I can mix the game up and the pace and do different things on the court, I think that's helped me on many games and many matches. I definitely think that's a big advantage I have. And the fact that I have great wheels and I can run a lot of balls down,” said Wozniacki.
She’s never lost to Mladenovic in three career meetings, the most recent coming last year in the Hong Kong final. The titlist here in 2011 (def. Marin Bartoli), Wozniacki has yet to drop a set and sits third overall (30) for most match wins in Indian Wells tournament history behind only Lindsay Davenport (47) and Maria Sharapova (38).
IS STAN STILL THE MAN?
He squeaked past lucky loser Yoshihito Nishioka in the Round of 16 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) and has yet to truly find his form this year in Indian Wells, but No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka — a Wimbledon title away from a career Grand Slam — is without a doubt the most dangerous presence remaining in the top half of the BNP Paribas Open draw.
On Thursday, the Swiss will go toe to toe with No. 8 seed Dominic Thiem. He’s 2-1 lifetime against the Austrian, who’s into his first BNP Paribas Open quarterfinal. As Belgian David Goffin recently observed, Thiem “can play all types of shots from the baseline, very deep, high. Behind the baseline he's a big hitter. He serves really well and has one of the best second serves on the tour. He uses this a lot. And he's got good legwork, as well.” This should be a good one.
WE’RE NO. 1
All that stands between the top-seeded duo of Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova and the 2017 BNP Paribas Open final is the No. 6-seeded tandem of Martina Hingis/Yung-Jan Chan. Both Mattek-Sands and Hingis have emerged victorious here before: the American in 2016 (with Coco Vandeweghe) and the Swiss in 2015 (with Sania Mirza) and 1999 (with Anna Kournikova).