Indian Wells R3: (1) Serena Williams vs (28) Zarina Diyas
Serena Williams’ Indian Wells comeback continues on Sunday afternoon when she will come up against Kazakh, Zarina Diyas in the third round. Serena made history on Friday night by returning to the Californian desert for the first time in 14 years. The world number 1 made an understandably nervy start to her campaign and will want a much stronger performance against Zarina on Monday.
Serena was welcomed back to Stadium 1 with a standing ovation from the near capacity crowd, a historic moment in the history of the WTA. Serena was far from her best but managed to overcome Monica Niculescu 7-5 7-5. Serena made a slow start and struggled to find any rhythm in her first match in over a month and her first career meeting with the most unorthodox player on tour.
Serena’s footwork was pretty poor throughout the match, her decision making was also questionable. Despite just hitting 1 winner (a slice forehand) Niculescu served for the first set at 5-4 and was extremely close to closing it out. However Serena did what she had to do, raising her level when it really mattered to ensure she closed out the match in straight sets.
Zarina Diyas also overcame a slow start to advance to the third round at the BNP Paribas Open. Diyas found herself down a double break in the opening set but regrouped to defeat Donna Vekic 6-3 6-3. Diyas is a solid youngster who continues to rise up the rankings, however she hasn’t fared well against the worlds very best.
Zarina has really struggled against top 10 opponents, suffering straight set losses to Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber and Ekaterina Makarova in the past 12 months. The next step for Zarina will be to start competing better with these high quality opponents, otherwise her ranking will plateau.
This will be the first career meeting between Serena and Zarina. Serena will need to raise her level after a very unconvincing performance on Saturday night. Zarina Diyas is hungry for a big scalp and is the type of player that will make an opponent pay if they are off their game.
However this match will all be about Serena. The world number 1 should be less nervous coming into this match and should play much better tennis. A comprehensive straight set victory is likely.
Prediction: Serena Williams to defeat Zarina Diyas in 2 sets