The Pick IW Haddad Maia Kenin R1

On Wednesday, world No. 61 Beatriz Haddad Maia faces world No. 130 Sofia Kenin in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. Wait—No. 130, for a recent Grand Slam champion? Yes, and Kenin is by far the bigger name in this match-up.

But while many fans will insist this is still Kenin’s match to lose, let's not rush to judgment.

Kenin comes into this tournament on a five-match losing streak, winning just one set in that desultory stretch. (That set came against world No. 64 Ann Li, a player Kenin really should beat on hard courts.) The American is now just 2-5 in the 2022 season, while Haddad Maia is 8-5. The Brazilian is also fresh off of a run to the semifinals in Monterrey, where she lost to Leylah Fernandez.

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Haddad Maia also happened to win the only meeting between these two at the WTA level, 6-3, 6-4, back in 2017 in Mallorca. Of course, that was before Kenin ultimately broke out and became the player she is today, but there’s something to be said about having the mental edge over the player on the other side of the court. Haddad Maia will believe she can win this match because she has done it before, and that’s on top of knowing that her opponent is lacking in confidence.

From baseline rallies to her serve, Kenin has been racking up errors this year, and an in-form Haddad Maia will apply further pressure on the American to be consistent. Kenin needs some free points and easy service games to get through this opponent, but she’s not likely to get many.

Haddad Maia needs to make sure she plays a level-headed match—the crowd should be firmly behind Kenin—which could be enough to see her advance to the second round. The 25-year-old has the talent to eventually crack the Top 25, and she has a good opportunity to make a statement here. While she can occasionally put up high numbers of double faults and unforced errors herself, she’s a smart enough player to know that her job in this match is to make her opponent be the one to miss.

The Pick: Haddad Maia to Win (-140)