Serena Williams vs Simona Halep, Indian Wells SF Preview

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

Serena Williams vs Timea Bacsinszky, Indian Wells QF Preview

Indian Wells QF: (1) Serena Williams vs (27) Timea Bacsinszky

Two of the form players on the WTA Tour will go head to head on Wednesday night in the second quarterfinal at the BNP Paribas Open. Timea Bacsinszky is currently on a 15 match winning streak including titles in Monterrey and Acapulco whilst Serena Williams in on a 13 match winning streak, including titles in Singapore and Melbourne. This will be by far the biggest test Timea has faced all year, it will be interesting to see where she’s really at when she comes up against the all conquering world number 1.

Serena Williams has gradually improved this week in her much anticipated return to the Californian desert. After struggling throughout her 7-5 7-5 victory over Monica Niculescu, Serena totally outplayed Zarina Diyas in a 6-2 6-0 rout. Serena reached the quarter-finals with an extremely hard fought 6-7 6-2 6-2 victory over compatriot, Sloane Stephens.

Serena was frustrated by Sloane Stephens in the first set, the young American causing Serena to hit a large number of errors which ultimately cost the world number one the opening set. Serena was able to turn things around in the second set, better serving and point construction changing the course of the match. Serena ran away with the match in the deciding set, untroubled in her service games.

 

Timea Bacsinszky’s fairy tale winning run has continued in Indian Wells. Timea has come from a set down in all 3 of her matches this week, a determined fighting spirit that has regularly been on display throughout her matches in the last month. The Swiss number 1 has come from a set down in 5 of her last 8 matches.

Bacsinszky advanced to the quarterfinals with a 4-6 6-1 6-1 victory over Elina Svitolina. Timea was outplayed in the opening set as Elina dictated play from the baseline. The second set saw a massive momentum shift, Timea started serving better and put more pressure on her younger opponent. Svitolina was not up for the fight, her level dropped dramatically as Bacsinszky cruised to her 15th straight victory.

 

Serena Williams defeated Timea Bacsinszky 7-6 6-1 in their only previous meeting in Rome back in 2010. This will therefore be the first career meeting between the pair on a hard court.

Timea just keeps winning, however It’s highly likely her run will come to a crashing end on Wednesday night when she comes up against an opponent that is way out of her league. Serena does everything better than Timea, the world number 1 will dictate rallies and should dominate Timea from the baseline and will likely win this match pretty comfortably.

Prediction: Serena Williams to defeat Timea Bacsinszky in 2 sets

Maria Sharapova vs Flavia Pennetta, Indian Wells R4 Preview

Indian Wells R4: (2) Maria Sharapova vs (15) Flavia Pennetta

Flavia’s Pennetta’s title defense will come under threat on Tuesday afternoon when she comes up against second seed, Maria Sharapova at the BNP Paribas Open. Flavia has kicked of her title defense in style with two commanding victories but will face a much tougher test when she comes up against an in form Maria Sharapova.

After defeating Yanina Wickmayer in straight sets in the second round, Maria reached the fourth round with a commanding 6-4 6-3 victory over arch rival, Victoria Azarenka. The difference in the end was Maria’s ability to sustain a high intensity for the whole match, whilst Azarenka was not quite ready to compete at such a high level.

 

Sharapova’s serve was wayward in the opening set, hitting five double faults in one game to hand Azarenka the first break of the match. Sharapova rallied to win 3 straight games and claim an extremely hard fought opening set. Azarenka seemed to lose her concentration in the second set and Sharapova capitalised to take a 5-1 lead. The Russian had trouble closing out the match as Vika played some unbelievable tennis, but eventually Maria got the job done on her sixth match point.

Despite making a poor start to the season, Flavia Pennetta has looked very confident in her title defense at the BNP Paribas Open. Flavia kick-started her campaign with a comprehensive straight set victory over Madison Brengle before keeping her perfect record over Sam Stosur alive with a an impressive 6-4 6-2 victory.

 

The head to head record between Flavia and Maria is split at 2 wins apiece. Flavia Pennetta has won their two most recent encounters, however the two hasn’t played since 2011 so their head to head record is somewhat irrelevant. Flavia shocked Maria third round of the 2011 US Open with a 6-3 3-6 6-4 victory in their most recent meeting.

Sharapova has been in ominous form this year, it will take an almighty performance by the Italian to cause what would be a major upset despite the head to head record. I expect this to be a highly competitive match, Pennetta may even take a set off Maria but ultimately Maria should prevail.

Prediction: Maria Sharapova to defeat Flavia Pennetta in 3 sets

Elina Svitolina vs Timea Bacsinszky, Indian Wells R4 Preview

Indian Wells R4: (23) Elina Svitolina vs (27) Timea Bacsinszky

A rare opportunity to reach the quarter-finals of a premier mandatory event presents itself to Elina Svitolina and Timea Bacsinszky on Tuesday at the BNP Paribas Open. Both ladies produced upset victories in the third round to advance to the fourth round, leaving the draw upon for one these two competitors to make a rare deep run at a premier mandatory event.

Timea Bacsinszky stunning run has continued in the Californian desert, after winning back to back titles in Mexico, Timea has extended her winning streak to 14 matches. Timea reached the fourth round with a stunning 3-6 7-5 6-4 come from behind victory over Ekaterina Makarova.

Bacsinszky looked down and out several times during the match. Timea found herself down a double break in the final set but rallied to win 5 of the last 6 times in the match. The comeback was largely due to Makarova throwing the match away with a very high number of unforced errors rather than Bacsinszky playing incredible tennis.

 

After a hard fought come from behind victory over Alison Van Uytvanck in the second round, Elina Svitolina advanced to the fourth round courtesy of an impressive 7-6 7-5 victory over Lucie Safarova. Svitolina’s victory over the in from Czech was the biggest victory of the year for the Ukrainian and one of the best of her career thus far.

Svitolina played a very solid match, forcing Safarova to hit a high number of errors. Elina played well at the later end of each set, showing maturity beyond her years to comfortably close out the match against a quality opponent.

 

This will be the first career meeting between Elina and Timea. An interesting matchup between two solid baseline players. Both ladies pride themselves on giving very little away, a very physical match is to be expected.

Given the extraordinary amount of tennis Timea has played over the last month, Elina Svitolina has to be the favourite heading into this match. Six out of Timea’s last seven victories have gone the distance, including two tough three set victories this week.

There is no doubt that Svitolina will be up for this match, the Ukrainian will be ready to run every single ball down and will give Timea very little free points. I don’t think Timea has it in her to hit through Svitolina often enough to keep her winning streak going.

Prediction: Elina Svitolina to defeat Timea Bacsinszky in 2 sets

Simona Halep vs Karolina Pliskova, Indian Wells R4 Preview

Indian Wells R4: (3) Simona Halep vs (14) Karolina Pliksova

The pick of the fourth round matches at the 2015 BNP Paribas Open sees third seed Simona Halep take on the rapidly improving Karolina Pliskova. These two met just a couple of weeks ago in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final, Simona Halep triumphing in two tight sets. Karolina will look to avenge that loss on Tuesday in what promises to be a high quality encounter between two of the tours most in form players.

Simona Halep advanced to the fourth round courtesy of an extremely hard fought 6-1 3-6 6-1 victory over Varvara Lepchenko. The match was very physical, both ladies pushing eachother to their limits. Halep ultimately outlasted Lepchenko, raising her level at the business end of the match to book her place in round of 16 in the Californian Desert.

 

Simona took a medical timeout after the second set, her left ankle was examined and taped. The Romanian’s movement didn’t seem to be hindered in the final set as she hunted down every single ball, forcing Lepchenko to hit a high number of errors. Simona’s effort this week has been admirable given the tragic circumstances surrounding the passing of her cousin.

Karolina Pliskova produced her second straight victory over Garbine Muguruza to advance to the fourth round at the BNP Paribas Open. Much like their recent encounter in Dubai, it was Pliskova who made the most of her opportunities and played better under pressure.

Garbine was the better player for much of the opening set, easily holding serve and creating opportunities to break. However it was Pliskova who took her first break point opportunity in the eleventh game, before confidently serving out the opening set.

A wayward service from Garbine handed Pliskova the ascendancy early in the second set and Pliskova never looked back. The Czech confidently served out the match to love, continuing her incredible start to the season. Pliskova doesn’t seem to feel pressure, an invaluable trait so early in her career.

Simona Halep won the first and only meeting between the pair just a couple of weeks ago in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Championships. Simona twice failed to serve out the match in the second set but eventually prevailed 6-4 7-6 to claim her second title of the year.

It must be noted that Pliskova was certainly not at her best during the final and will be much fresher coming into this match. This match ultimately depends on how well Pliskova plays, I have no doubt that her best tennis will get the job done.

I think Karolina will have the edge against Halep on this occasion. Karolina didn’t serve particularly well in the Dubai final, a better serving performance this time around and she will be very difficult to defeat.

Prediction: Karolina Pliskova to defeat Simona Halep in 3 sets