Indian Wells SF #1 (1) Serena Williams vs (3) Simona Halep
Serena Williams and Simona Halep will renew hostilities on Friday at the BNP Paribas Open in a blockbuster semifinal matchup between the two top players so far in season 2015. This will be Serena Williams’ biggest test in her much anticipated return to the Californian desert, the world number 1 will need to significantly raise her level if she is to stop the rampaging Romanian.
Serena Williams became the first American to reach the semi-finals in Indian Wells since Lindsay Davenport all the way in 2005 with a hard fought 7-5 6-3 victory over Timea Bacsinszky. Serena was wayward early in the match but eventually cracked her opponent late in each set, her firepower too much for a crafty Bacsinszky to handle, ending Timea’s 15 match winning streak. Serena has admittedly not been at her best this week, however she has done just enough to get herself over the line, as she often does.
Serena has been slow out of the blocks in all four of her matches this week, a re-emerging theme throughout almost all of her matches this year. Serena cannot afford a similar slow start on friday when she comes up against an already confident Simona Halep. Serena knows better than anyone what Simona is capable of, the American was crushed by Simona in Singapore late last year. Serena says she has been looking forward to this matchup ever since this the draw came out and will undoubtedly step up her intensity in preparation for a high quality battle.
Given the recent tragic circumstances in Simona Halep's private life, the Romanian has fought courageously hard this week to reach the semifinal stage at the BNP Paribas Open for the second year in a row. Simona has gradually improved this week and looks ready to give the world number 1 a run for her money on Friday evening.
Simona Haled laboured through her first up victory over Daria Gavrilova before producing much improved performances to record victories over Varvara Lepchenko and Karolina Pliskova. The Romanian advanced to the semifinals courtesy of a 5-7 6-1 6-1 victory over Carla Suarez Navarro.
Simona made an uncharacteristically poor start in her quarterfinal victory, hitting a whopping 26 unforced errors in the first. However the Romanian found her range in the second set, substantially cutting down her errors and forcing her opponent to make a lot more mistakes with some stunning movement on the baseline. Simona will enter her semifinal matchup with Serena Williams with absolutely nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.
Serena Williams has a 4-1 head to head record over Simona Halep. The two traded victories at last years WTA Finals in Singapore, Simona famously thumped Serena 6-0 6-2 at the round robin stage, handing the world number 1 her worst loss since she was just 16 years of age. Serena avenged that loss with a comprehensive 6-3 6-0 victory in the final as she claimed her fifth Season Ending Championship.
I’m going to side with Simona Halep on this occasion. Given Serena has been far from her best so far in the Californian desert, there is real reason to believe that Simona Halep was a real chance to cause another upset victory over the world number 1.
Serena hasn’t served well at all this week, the American’s serve has been consistently broken as she has failed to win as many free points as she usually would. Given Simona Halep is one of, if not the best returner in the game, Serena will need to serve much better on Friday.
The conditions in California suit the Romanian and will give her an extra edge in this matchup. Simona is playing with so much confidence at the moment, she will not be daunted by the occasion and will be very confident coming into this match given her stunning victory over the world number 1 in Singapore late last year. It won’t be easy, but I think Simona will get the job done.
Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Serena Williams in 3 sets