Indian Wells draw: Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens set for tasty battle of former US Open champions

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Naomi Osaka arrives on court

The BNP Paribas Open has dished out a spicy draw with Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens due to meet in the first round while Leylah Fernandez and Amanda Anisimova could meet in the second round and Emma Raducanu and Dayana Yastremska also possibly meeting at the same stage.

Former US Open champions Osaka and Stephens’ clash is the pick of the first-round encounters with both players unseeded for the WTA 1000 event.

2018 Indian Wells champion Osaka, who has not played on the WTA Tour since her early exit from the Australian Open, initially received a wildcard entry into the tournament, but was later bumped up after Camila Giorgi withdrew.

Stephens, meanwhile, suffered a first-round defeat at Melbourne Park, but returned to form at Guadalajara a fortnight ago as she won the Abierto Zapopan to claim her first title since 2018.

The winner of that clash will face Veronica Kudermetova in the second round while fourth seed Anett Kontaveit is likely to be a fourth-round opponent while the projected quarter-finalist is tricky to predict.

Section 5 is packed with stars as fifth seed Paula Badosa, 10th seed Jelena Ostapenko and 18th seed Fernandez all feature.

Fernandez could face Anisimova, who beat Osaka in the third round of the Australian Open, in the second round. The American will first need to get past her compatriot Emma Navarro in the first round.

It doesn’t get easier after that as a third-round clash against Ostapenko, who won the Dubai Tennis Championships and reached the quarter-final in Qatar, could await. The Latvian faces either Shelby Rogers or Nuria Parrizas Diaz in the second round.

Second seed Aryna Sabalenka leads the draw in the bottom half and the world No 3 faces Jasmine Paolini or a qualifier in her first round while Victoria Azarenka could be a fourth-round rival.

In the top half, world No 2 Barbora Krejcikova is the headline act and the French Open champion faces either Rebecca Peterson or a qualifier in her first match while 16th seed Coco Gauff or former world No 1 Simona Halep could be a fourth-round opponent.

Reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu will meet either Yastremska, who finished runner-up at the Lyon Open, or Caroline Garcia in the second round while her projected fourth-round rival is former world No 1 Karolina Pliskova with the winner likely to face Krejcikova in the quarter-final.

Section 3 is headlined by Iga Swiatek and the third seed is projected to meet three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber in the fourth round with either eighth seed Garbine Muguruza or 12th seed Elina Svitolina a likely quarter-final opponent.

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