Victoria Azarenka successfully made her comeback to the WTA tour with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Heather Watson. She’ll have a tougher second round match against US Open champion Sloane Stephens; who will win that one? Also, a rematch is on the cards on Stadium 3 as Ekaterina Makarova and Angelique Kerber meet for the first time since their Cincinnati thriller few months back where Makarova needed eight match points to secure her victory. Read on for these two match previews…
1. Victoria Azarenka (No.204) vs  Sloane Stephens (No.13)
Azarenka made a perfect return to the tennis as she recorded her first win since Wimbledon last year, against Heather Watson with a 6-4 6-2 scoreline. Azarenka showed no signs of rust early on as she raced off to a 5-1 lead with some powerful and accurate groundstrokes. I have to admit that I accidentally fell asleep after this (😅😅) but Twitter was full of praise for Vika and from the highlights she definitely played well.
Stephens managed to end her eight-match losing streak at the Acapulco tournament where she reached the quarterfinals, where she lost to eventual finalist Stefanie Voegele. Stephens’ level has been nowhere near since winning the US Open but she fought well in her three matches in Acapulco, showing signs of coming back to form.
Thoughts: Stephens is clearly not at her best yet and Azarenka still needs more matches to get back into her top form, so this is definitely going to be a nervy affair under the lights in the night session. I think Stephens will be up for this match but in her first match here she’ll need time to get used to the conditions. Victoria’s competitive spirit and powerful play should be just enough for her to edge this one.
Final Prediction: Victoria Azarenka d. Sloane Stephens in three sets
2.  Angelique Kerber (No.10) vs Ekaterina Makarova (No.37)
Kerber recorded five wins during the Middle East swing as she lost to Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals in Doha, and to Elina Svitolina in the semifinals in Dubai. The conditions have strangely never suited Kerber’s game and she has always struggled in the California desert (see my main draw preview here), thus drawing Makarova is the second round is definitely going to be a tough one.
Makarova has endured very inconsistent seasons for the past three years and 2018 has been no different. She has recorded a mediocre 4-5 win-loss record, failing to record back-to-back wins in 2018 thus far. She is still a dangerous floater for top seeds with her aggressive gamestyle, and having beaten Kerber in their past two meetings, all Kerber fans will be well wary of her.
Thoughts: Their last match was an epic second round encounter in Cincinnati where Makarova fended off match point and cramping to secure the victory on her eighth match point. It was a crazy match and Kerber will definitely be desperate for revenge here. I think she will do so; the conditions here doesn’t suit any player but Kerber is the way more consistent one and should be able to force many errors of the Makarova racket.
Final Prediction: Angelique Kerber d. Ekaterina Makarova in two sets
Indian Wells predictions can be found at the top of the page or by clicking the link here! Thank you for reading!