Simona Halep and Vania King will be going head-to-head for the second time in their careers and for the first time in six years when they clash in round two of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday. Their only previous encounter came in qualifying at the 2010 Rogers Cup in Montreal, where King got the job done 7-6(5), 6-1.
Halep, of course, is a much different player now. The Romanian has peaked as high as No. 2 in the world and she is a former Grand Slam finalist (2014 French Open). Between 2014 and 2015, in addition to her runner-up performance at Roland Garros she also reached two major semifinals (2014 Wimbledon, 2015 U.S. Open) and two other quarterfinals (2014 and 2015 Australian Opens). Since her performance in New York last summer, however, Halep has struggled. The current world No. 5 failed to advance past the quarters at any of her last four tournaments in 2015 and did not emerge from round-robin play at the year-end championship. So far this season Halep is 3-5 with a first-round exit in Melbourne and a recent second-round defeat at the hands of Ana Ivanovic in Dubai.
King is struggling down at No. 202 in the world. The 27-year-old American is in decent form this season, though, and has now advanced out of the first round in all five of her tournaments (including now three at the main-tour level). She had no trouble seeing off compatriot Taylor Townsend 6-2, 6-3 in the Indian Wells first round. This is, however, a steep step up in competition for the underdog. She has not faced anyone ranked better than 44th in the world during this 2016 campaign. An appearance at the BNP Paribas Open should help Halep get back on track; she reached the semis of this event in 2014 and finished runner-up last year.
Prediction: Halep in straight sets