Yanina Wickmayer Advances to the Semis at the BNP Paribas Open

On the Baseline Tennis News
March 17, 2011

Indian Wells, CA —The second match of the women’s quarterfinals took place last night under the lights of the BNP Paribas Open, in a not-so-packed Stadium 2.

It was Shahar Peer vs. Yanina Wickmayer.

The small crowd was a bit disappointing, but then I realized it was likely a case of unfortunate timing. When you have back-to-back matches featuring Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on Stadium 1 on the same night, it’s tough to compete for fans (or seat warmers, depending on your view).

This particular quarterfinal between Peer and Wickmayer was an intriguing match up: No top-10 star power. No predictable winner. And, their head-to-head match ups were tied at 2-2. Peer had an outfit to match the purple court, and seemed ready to do battle, while Wickmayer was ready for the chance to avenge her third round loss to Peer in Dubai.

I walked into the stadium when the first set was underway, and tied at 2-2. I knew both Peer and Wickmayer wanted this win badly. Some of the fans in the stands showed their support by displaying two large flags – one Israeli and one Belgian, which were held up on opposite sides of the court. Given the small crowd, these flags were hard to miss.

Despite the close start in the first set, Wickmayer managed to pull ahead to 5-2. Peer held her serve, giving some level of hope that the first set wasn’t a wash. Peer, who made it to the quarterfinals at Indian Wells in 2007, kept slapping her left leg, as if her leg wasn’t listening, or wasn’t interested in cooperating. In all honesty, she might have done better with a head-stand. Wickmayer took the first set 6-3 in convincing fashion.

There was an energy to Wickmayer’s game, which put her in a dominant position in this match. Maybe it was her “Wooo-meee” grunts during EVERY point. Maybe it was her footwork, or those forehand down the line shots. One fan in the stands seemed to think Wickmayer was drinking the right kind of coffee. (Wickmayer weighed in on this theory later).

At the end of the first set, Peer sought the advice of her coach. Whatever he said to her offered enough motivation for Peer to get back out onto the court 20 seconds before the umpire called “Time”.
Peer was down 0-2 in the second set, and let out a yell that could be heard in the next stadium. Frustration had set in. She called her coach onto the court at 0-3. Something clicked (albeit temporarily). Peer won the next game. Wickmayer fought back and broke Peer to take a 4-1 lead. Wickmayer was serving for the match at 5-2 in the second set, but Peer broke her at a crucial juncture, bringing it to 5-3. She saved a match point when she was down 3-5, but Wickmayer broke back to win the set and the match 6-3, 6-3.

All-in-all, it was a good run for Shahar Peer, who, at No. 12, is as close to the top 10 as she’s ever been.

When I spoke with Wickmayer after the match, she insisted “I didn’t have a coffee today! Maybe the right kind of sports drink,” she said with a laugh. “I woke up this morning and felt really good. Had a good practice this morning. I was really fit and felt my strokes were really good and powerful.”

Wickmayer reflected on her quarterfinal win against Peer, comparing it to her loss in Dubai. “I was a completely different player today. I really played a lot more aggressive today. Shahar is a tough opponent to play. In Dubai, she was just a better player…playing more aggressive. Today I came up and really put pressure on her.”

Wickmayer made it to the fourth round at Indian Wells last year, and this year is set to play Marion Bartoli in the semifinals.

“I played her two or three times and lost every single time,” said Wickmayer. “So I’m going to try to change it. She’s a tough opponent. She hits the ball very strong…very hard. She’s a big fighter, so it’s going to be another tough one for me.”

Wickmayer, currently ranked at No. 25, is set to re-enter the top-20 after her quarterfinal win.

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