WTA Indian Wells draw analysis: Elena Rybakina prepares title defense

Who will make the quarterfinals at Indian Wells?

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Defending champion Elena Rybakina enters the 2024 BNP Paribas Open in good form, having won two titles this year as well as reaching the final in Doha.

However, with 1,650 points to defend across Indian Wells and Miami, Rybakina will need to maintain her form to prevent from sliding in the rankings.

A two-week event, the BNP Paribas Open fields a draw of 96 players, with all seeded players receiving a bye into the second round. This article will analyze each quarter of the women's draw and will give predictions as to who will progress into the quarterfinals.

Predicting who will reach the quarterfinals at Indian Wells

First Quarter: Iga Swiatek drawn into group of big hitters

World number one Iga Swiatek has been handed a difficult draw in her quest for a second Indian Wells crown. Swiatek could open against Danielle Collins, who pushed Swiatek to three sets at this year's Australian Open. Waiting in the third round could be Linda Noskova, who defeated Swiatek in the third round of the Australian Open, San Diego Open champion Katie Boulter, or the mercurial Camila Giorgi.

Should Swiatek maneuver this tricky section, it likely will remain a tough draw. Swiatek could face Jelena Ostapenko in the quarterfinals, a player she has never beaten in four attempts. Ostapenko's section includes an ailing Ons Jabeur and a trio of former world number ones and major champions: Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, and Angelique Kerber. Venus Williams will open her 2024 season against a qualifier.

Predicted quarterfinalists: Iga Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko

Second Quarter: Elena Rybakina in a tricky section

Elena Rybakina will open her title defense against either Paula Badosa or Ashlyn Krueger, neither of whom should challenge her. After unexpectedly meeting in the finals of Dubai, Jasmine Paolini and Anna Kalinskaya could have a rematch in the third round of Indian Wells. It will be interesting to see how each will respond in their first tournament since their best-ever result.

The second half of Rybakina's section is anchored by Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova. Vondrousova has struggled with injuries and form this season and could face a red-hot Marta Kostyuk in the third round. Former top-ten player Beatriz Haddad Maia and former French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also appear in this section.

Predicted quarterfinalists: Elena Rybakina, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Third Quarter: Coco Gauff aiming to find form

Third-seeded Coco Gauff's year has stalled after a run to the Australian Open semifinals. Gauff has been handed an easier draw than most other top players, Her first projected seeded opponent is Anhelina Kalinina, who has a losing record on the year. Gauff could potentially play Naomi Osaka in the fourth round. Osaka's play and confidence have increased with each week.

On the other side of this quarter, Australian Open finalist Zheng Qinwen was dealt arguably the toughest draw of any of the top 8 seeds. Zheng's section includes a number of highly accomplished hard-court players Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Sorana Cirstea, and Daria Kasatkina. Zheng will need to replicate her form from Australia if she is to escape this section.

Predicted quarterfinalists: Victoria Azarenka, Naomi Osaka

Fourth Quarter: Aryna Sabalenka looks to resume dominance

Since winning her second Australian Open title, Aryna Sabalenka has only played one match. Sabalenka could face Emma Raducanu or Dayana Yastremska in the third round, with a possible fourth-round matchup against Elina Svitolina. Expect Sabalenka to resume her world-beating form and come through this section unscathed.

Jessica Pegula and Maria Sakkari have interestingly found themselves in the same section of the draw. Sakkari has recently picked up Jessica Pegula's former coach David Witt, and Pegula has also hired a new coaching team. Both will hope the changes help them turn around a lackluster start to the season. Former major champion Sofia Kenin and a resurgent Karolina Pliskova also loom in this section.

Predicted quarterfinalists: Karolina Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka

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