The Friday night session at Indian Wells will be headed by a blockbuster match up between two former No.1’s in Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams. Both players are two time champions at the event although Serena has not won the title since her return from a long boycott of the tournament. The head to head is quite lopsided despite the pair often having close matches, with Serena currently leading 17-4. However, the last meeting between the two was at the final of this tournament where Azarenka won in straight sets.
Check out the: Serena vs Azarenka H2H stats here.
Serena’s schedule is reduced as ever with this tournament being the first she has played since her disappointing loss to Karolina Pliskova at the Australian Open. It’s a loss she will hope to bounce back from in some style, especially given the nature of the defeat and the huge lead she held in that match. Indian Wells was just the second tournament the American won in her career, picking up a huge win over Steffi Graf in March 1999.
Azarenka does still not look like the superstar she once was, taking surprise losses on a fairly regular occasion still. There was no repeat of her losses to Laura Siegemund or Sofia Kenin in her opener here, cruising past Vera Lapko in fairly routine fashion after a slow start. She beat her fellow countrywoman 6-2 6-3 to move on. “At the beginning she played well, she started aggressive serving well, and I was a little too much on the back foot.” she said. “Once I started to play aggressive and dictate, that’s what I think turned it around.”
All four wins for Azarenka came on hard courts, much like the style of that at Indian Wells. It should give her the best opportunity of victory but it may be that she needs to rely on a down performance from her opponent on this occasion. “She’s the toughest opponent out there, it’s no secret to anybody,” Azarenka added. “I always feel very inspired and motivated because of her – she pushes the limits and she pushes me to improve.”
“I don’t think there’s going to be any difference from any other match,” she added. “Of course, Serena is one of the players who doesn’t play that much but is still capable of producing good tennis. “For me it’s important to just focus on myself and not really on the person who’s on the other side.”
Prediction – Serena Williams in three sets