Indian Wells QF #1: (1) Serena Williams vs (5) Simona Halep
Simona Halep will face the biggest hurdle in her title defense at the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday night where she will take on Serena Williams at the quarter-final stage of the event. Simona and Serena have established a competitive rivalry in recent years. Simona famously destroyed Serena at the group stage of the WTA Finals in 2015 but Serena has won all three of the encounters between the pair since that match, none of those victories were easy. Another competitive match is to be expected here in this important quarter-final encounter.
Serena Williams has cruised through to the quarter-final stage at the BNP Paribas Open. Serena has recorded straight set victories over Laura Siegemund, Yulia Putintseva and Kateryna Bondarenko. Serena showed moments of vulnerability in her two most recent matches but was always far too strong when it mattered most. The world number 1 seems extremely motivated to claim her first Indian Wells title since 2001, in order to do that Serena will look to take her game to another level when she faces by far her biggest test of the tournament thus far when she takes on the defending Champion on Wednesday evening.
Simona Halep has seen a welcome reversal of form in the Californian desert. Halep’s form in the first couple of months of the season was very poor and her ability to come close to defending her Indian Wells title looked doubtful. However, Simona has advanced to the quarter-final stage with ease, recording straight set victories over Vania King, Ekaterina Makarova and Barbora Strycova. Halep’s level has generally looked quite good, especially in her 6-2 6-4 victory over Ekaterina Makarova. We will see exactly where Simona’s level is at on Wednesday evening when she comes up against a determined Serena Williams.
Serena Williams holds a dominant 6-1 head-to-head record over Simona Halep, nevertheless the Romanian has been one of Serena’s biggest threats in recent times. Simona thumped Serena 6-0 6-2 at the group stage of the WTA Finals in 2015, ever since that match Serena will be extra determined when she steps onto a court against the Romanian and has won the 3 most recent matches between the pair. Serena defeated Simona 6-3 7-5 in a competitive Cincinnati final last year in what was their most recent clash.
I suspect a fired up Serena Williams will make a statement in this match. This is Serena’s first big match since her shock loss in the final of the Australian Open and she will be keen to reassert her dominance and test her game against one of her greatest challengers. Simona has shown that she has the game to frustrate Serena, especially on a slower surface such as the one at Indian Wells. However, Simona is somewhat reliant on Serena having an off day and Serena has also shown that she has the ability to dominate Simona when she executes her game, I think Serena will win this relatively comfortably.