World No 4 Iga Swiatek, seeded second at the BNP Paribas Open in India Wells, cruised into the 3rd round with a 6-1 6-3 win over Petra Martic, while former champion and 11th seed Simona Halep edged a tight first set against Marta Kostyuk before advancing 7-6(2) 6-1.
Always, when I come back here, I feel great. It's really nice to be healthy again and to compete at this level. Playing in October here, it's so special. I missed a lot playing tennis at this level this year because I've been injured and many months, I couldn't play matches. I came here a little more aggressive than normal and I'm trying to improve my game and myself. Simona Halep
The 20-year old Pole has won two titles this year and is hoping to make it three in the California desert.
“I’m pretty happy, first of all, that I still have energy and motivation because that’s my first [full] year on tour and I didn’t really know how I’m going to cope with playing tournaments the whole year without basically any break,” she said. “Because of the Olympics, we didn’t have any break.
“I just took four days off in the middle of the season, so hopefully it’s going to be enough for my motivation to last till the end of the season.”
Swiatek is 7th on the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals, and likely to make the season-ending event.
“But playing the WTA Finals, really, it’s something special,” Swiatek said. “You know, I never actually thought about that before because usually I was just focusing on playing good at Grand Slams.
“But right now, when we’re actually heading to the end of the Race, and we are getting closer to this tournament, I’m just getting excited.
“So on one side, I would really like to qualify, and it’s really exciting for me. But on the other side, I know that the most important thing is to just stay focused and keep doing the same thing I did during the whole season because sometimes when you just don’t think about what may come, it’s easier to play and work.
“Still, I know that even if this tournament is not going to go well, I still have some chances to get more points.
“I’m just really happy that I still have power. I don’t have any injury. Because it’s the end of the season, many players are coping with that.”
Swiatek needed just 71 minutes to march past Martic, denied a first-set bagel as the Croat saved 3 set points to get on the board, and winning 9 of the first 10 games against the World No 45 in their first-ever meeting.
From there, the second set proved more complex for the Polish No 1, when Martic broke her twice after falling behind 6-1, 3-0, and later denied her an opportunity to serve it out, but with a forehand winner Swiatek broke for the 6th time to move safely through to the third round.
Swiatek advances to a meeting with No 25 seed Veronika Kudermetova, who came through an all-Russian affair against Liudmila Samsonova, 6-2 6-3.
Meanwhile Halep kicked off her 10th appearance in the desert with a straight sets win over Kostyuk, in her first appearance since she announced a split with her longtime coach Darren Cahill late last month.
Down a break early in the first set at 3-1, Halep served to stay in the opener twice before cruising in the ensuing tiebreak.
After winning 6 of the first 7 points in the breaker, and 5 straight from 1-1, Halep wrapped up the first set in an hour, and then broke twice in the second to secure her win in 93 minutes.
“Always, when I come back here, I feel great,” she said afterwards. “It’s really nice to be healthy again and to compete at this level.
“Playing in October here, it’s so special.
“I missed a lot playing tennis at this level this year because I’ve been injured and many months, I couldn’t play matches.
“I came here a little more aggressive than normal and I’m trying to improve my game and myself.
“My attitude was not great, but I’m going to keep working and it’s just a pleasure to be back and to win a match at Indian Wells.”
Elsewhere, Elina Svitolina, an Indian Wells semi-finalist in 2019, got her campaign off to a solid start with a straight-set win over Tereza Martincova, the No 4 seed from Ukraine moving into the 3rd round with 6-2 7-5 win over the Czech on Friday.
In the first meeting between the pair, Svitolina needed just 68 minutes to defeat the World No 52, winning 80 percent of her first-service points and breaking serve 5 times during the match, although she was pushed very hard by the rising Czech in the second set.
A winning drop volley gave the Ukrainian a break in the opening game, and she swept to a 4-0 lead from there and while Martincova picked up her serve, she could not stop the first-set steamroll by Svitolina.
Things got trickier in the second when Svitolina went up a break at 2-1 and 4-3 but, each time, Martincova immediately broke back, helped by the Ukrainian’s double-fault count creeping higher, the No 4 seed used an exquisite cross-court pass to break again for 6-5, and she made no mistake serving out the match, wrapping it up with an ace.
Svitolina will now face No 32 seed Sorana Cirstea in the third round after the Romanian booked her spot with a 6-2 6-3 dismissal of Japan’s Misaki Doi.
No 9 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia was another second-round winner, as she swept past Madison Keys of the United States, 6-3 6-1.
Pavlyuchenkova is currently at her career-high ranking of World No 13 as she aims for one of the final spots at the Akron WTA Finals in Guadalajara for which the 2021 Roland Garros finalist is currently lying in 11th place on the leaderboard, and only the Top 8 players qualify.
The Russian blasted past Keys in just 58 minutes, and she never faced a break point in the match.
Another player looking for a spot at the WTA Finals, 14th-seeded Elise Mertens, was upset on Friday by lucky loser Jasmine Paolini of Italy, who shocked the Belgian, 3-6 6-4 6-4, in a gruelling 2 hours 49 minutes.
Mertens is 10th in the Porsche Race to the Finals, but Paolini has been rising this season and the World No 63 also won her first WTA singles title in Portoroz.
No 24 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia was another winner on Friday, as she blasted past Hsieh Su-wei of Chinese Taipei, 6-3 6-0 in exactly an hour.
In other 2nd round matches in the lower half of the draw played on Friday, American Shelby Rogers was a 6-2 6-2 winner over Kristina Kostyuk, a lucky loser from Slovakia, who replaced Belinda Bencic, the No 8 seed, after the Swiss withdrew because of a knee injury; Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu upset Jil Teichmann, the No 31 seed from Switzerland, 7-5 6-1; and Yulia Putintseva took out 13th-seeded Elena Rybakina, 6-2 7-6(5) in an all-Kazakh contest to play Ostapenko next.