Indian Wells R3: (1) Serena Williams vs Yulia Putintseva
Serena Williams made a very strong start to her 2016 BNP Paribas Open campaign on Friday evening with a crushing straight set win. Serena looks to be the clear favourite to the win title in the Californian desert as a number of her greatest threats have already stumbled. The world number 1 will face an interesting test on Sunday when she comes up against the demonstrative Yulia Putintseva in the third round. This promises to be an entertaining battle, Putintseva loves the big stage and will enjoy the opportunity to play the world number 1, however Serena is likely to power through this match.
Serena Williams made an emotional return to Indian Wells 12 months ago but this time around the world number 1 is all business. Serena isn’t just here to participate she is here to win. Serena thumped Laura Siegemund 6-2 6-1 in a powerful first-up performance on Friday night. The American is aiming to win her first title at the event since that infamous 2001 title. Indeed, this is one of very few tournaments outside of the Grand Slams and Olympics that Serena has real reason to be motivated to win the title. Serena will want to change the way she remembers Indian Wells, winning the title in 2016 would be a nice way to override some of the haunted memories from the past.
Yulia Putintseva continues to impress in season 2016, making the best start to a season in her young career. The Kazak is finally living up to her potential and finally playing at a consistent level. Putintseva cruised through her first round at the BNP Paribas Open with a 6-0 6-1 win over a rusty Peng Shuai before recording a hard-fought 6-4 6-4 win over Kristina Mladenovic. This is the first time Putintseva has reached the third round of a premier mandatory event and will enter this match with with the greatest player of all time having absolutely nothing to lose.
The only previous meeting between the pair took place on the clay in Madrid back in 2013, Serena prevailed 7-6 6-1. Yulia had her moments in that match, the Kazakh was extremely competitive throughout the first set but fell away in the second. It will be interesting to see just how well Yulia can compete with Serena on this occasion.
This is usually the type of match-up that Serena dominates in, the American is far more powerful than Putintseva and will punish Yulia’s relatively weak serve. Serena looked to be on a mission in her opening round match and should again emerge through this match relatively untroubled. Yulia has amazing defensive skills but doesn’t really have the weapons to hurt Serena consistently. Serena will be attacking for the majority of this match and spells dangers for her opponent.