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Predictions For BNP Paribas First Round

Predictions For BNP Paribas First Round
Photo: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
By Eli Scandalis

The draw has been released for the 2017 BNP Paribas Open, and an exciting two weeks in Indian Wells, California, is about to get underway with women's matches beginning on Wednesday. The withdrawal of Serena Williams on Tuesday afternoon was shocking to many, but her absence leaves the door open for someone in the women's bracket to take advantage. Let's take a look at some of the matchups of former collegiate players competing in the desert.

Nicole Gibbs (Stanford) vs. Heather Watson
A Stanford Cardinal alum, Nicole Gibbs drew Heather Watson in the first round, an athletic player from Great Britain. These two possess very similar game styles, using their speed and movement around the court to stay in rallies until the opportune ball comes to attack. They share a 1-1 head-to-head record, with their most recent meeting ending in a three-set victory by Watson at the 2016 French Open. Losing in the first round of her last two tournaments, Gibbs might not be in good enough form to take down the tough Brit. Gibbs is likely to face more pressure coming into this match, as she has points to defend after reaching the round of 16 in Indian Wells last year. I predict Watson will be a little bit sharper and will move on in three sets. 

Result: Nicole Gibbs lost in 3 sets, 6-4, 2-6, 2-6. Our prediction was correct. 

Irina Falconi (Georgia Tech) vs. Jelena Jankovic
Irina Falconi will face 2008 US Open finalist Jelena Jankovic. Usually, seeing a former No. 1 and Grand Slam finalist isn't what you would hope for in a first round match. Since turning pro in 2000, Jankovic has had an incredibly long and successful career, with 15 WTA titles on her record. However, after being on tour for over 17 years, Jankovic's career is winding down, as her ranking as fallen in each of the past three years, now sitting at No. 51. The other good news for Falconi is Jankovic is regarded as a counter-puncher. Falconi shouldn't feel much pressure from Jankovic and should be able to be comfortable and execute her game style. Even though Jankovic won't be pressing the action, the experience she's gained from being at the top of the game for so long will will help her get through this in two closely contested sets.

Result: Lost 2-6, 6-3, 3-6 - match went 3 sets instead of predicted 2. 

Jennifer Brady (UCLA) vs. Shelby Rogers
The matchup of Jennifer Brady and Shelby Rogers is one of the more intriguing of these first-round matches. Shelby Rogers turned professional in 2009 and until recently had difficulty breaking into the top 100. The younger Brady, meanwhile, has enjoyed a much more successful start to her career. The two play very similar styles of attacking tennis, making use of their forehands and serves to take control of points. The two played each other twice last year, with Brady coming away as the victor each time. While those matches were played on clay rather than hardcourt, they still may hold a mental impact coming into this meeting. If either player can come out firing and get her opponent on her heels, she will have the advantage. I expect an entertaining battle with three tight sets that could go either way. If Brady can pull off the victory, she'll see the 14th-seeded Elena Vesnina, who she took out in the third round of the Australian Open this past January.

Result: Lost 4-6, 6-7 - 2 close sets instead of predicted 3. 

Danielle Collins (University of Virginia) vs. Monica Puig
Danielle Collins fell victim to a very tough draw. She has the possibility of facing US Open finalist and third-seeded Karolina Pliskova in the second round, but Collins will have to get through Monica Puig first. Puig has been well within the top 100 the past four years, but her breakthrough came last summer, as she won the first gold medal by a Puerto Rican athlete at the Olympics. Puig has a strong baseline game that she uses to dictate points and also moves well around the court. Collins has a lot of firepower behind her serve and forehand that she can use to get out to a quick lead but at the professional level has not shown the consistency to keep it going for a full match. The first set has the possibility of being close, but Puig shouldn't have a problem closing this out in straight sets.

Result: Danielle Collins lost 0-6, 2-6. Our prediction was correct.

Former Collegiate Men At BNP Paribas Open
Former Collegiate Women At BNP Paribas Open
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