It has been an encouraging and slightly uncharacteristically fine start for Daniela Hantuchova as she attempts to defend her Indian Wells crown.
On Sunday she sailed into the fourth round with a comprehensive display against the tricky Zheng Jie of China 6-4, 6-2 in the evenings’ women’s night match on centre court, a happy hunting ground for the two time winner who proudly called the blue and green main arena surface ‘my court’ after her third round triumph.
The win comes after an equally dominant victory over American Angela Haynes in the second round. It was a match which once again saw some formidable and consistent Hantuchova serving and a significant lack of unforced errors.
Such wins are admittedly expected of the number 5 seed and number 8 in the world but this is a player who despite such a fine return to form, is undeniably a question mark with every match.
More than any other player in the current top ten, Hantuchova is the most unpredictable in terms of match to match form. At the best of times consistency has let her down and more often than not, the pressure of being expected to win a match has resulted in her downfall.
All this remains true even now, but here in Indian Wells there is also the added fact that the Slovak has endured a three week absence from the tour with a virus – her longest period away for many years.
Sterner tests lie immediately ahead.
The impressive Sania Mirza is up next in the fourth round and the ever present cipher of Maria Sharapova – surely one of Hantuchova’s least preferred opponents with a horrid 1-6 head to head record – continues to be a likely quarter final match-up.
Image courtesy of Getty, from the Official Pacific Life Open website.