It’s youth vs experience in both of our Indian Wells semifinal match-ups as World No.1 Simona Halep takes on Naomi Osaka, and Venus Williams meets Daria Kasatkina for spots in the final of the Premier Mandatory event. Read on for the two match previews…
Indian Wells Semifinals
1.  Simona Halep (No.1) vs Naomi Osaka (No.44)
As Simona said it in her own words in her press conference, ‘refuse to lose’ has been Halep’s motto for this tournament so far. Halep has not played her best tennis this tournament but has fought her way out of trouble more often than not. It is worth noting that Halep has not met a seeded player enroute to this stage yet, as she claimed wins over Kristyna Pliskova, Caroline Dolehide, Wang Qiang and Petra Martic. Her newfound mental toughness has shone through in this event as she recovered from heavy deficits in both her matches against Dolehide and Martic, especially against the latter where she was down 1-3 in the third set.
Osaka has been showcasing consistency(!) throughout the year; the Japanese player has played five tournaments in 2018 and has won back-to-back matches in four of those events. The best tournament of her year has had to be Indian Wells this week though. Osaka beat the likes of Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, breakthrough star Sachia Vickery, Maria Sakkari and World No.5 Karolina Pliskova to reach the biggest semifinal of her career. Her ability to hit through the slowest courts like in Indian Wells has helped her to even overpower players like Pliskova.
Thoughts: Halep leads the head to head 3-0, though Osaka has caused Halep problems in this match-up before. Going by form Osaka would win this, but the slow conditions here suit Halep to a tee. Halep has always played well against big-hitters; her defensive abilities to bring back one extra ball always forces players to make more errors. Experience also is in favour of Halep as this match is Osaka’s biggest semifinal of her career. This could be a long match if Osaka is able to shorten rallies and overpower Halep in return games, but I would expect the World No.1’s consistency to outlast her in the end.
Final Prediction: Simona Halep d. Naomi Osaka in three sets
2.  Venus Williams (No.8) vs  Daria Kasatkina (No.20)
Wiliams has not dropped a set enroute to the semifinals here but that does not mean she has showcased her best tennis yet so far. Other than victories over Sorana Cirstea and sister Serena, Venus has largely been benefiting from unforced errors from her opponents, against Anastasija Sevastova and Carla Suarez Navarro. Stat: Venus is into her first Indian Wells semifinal since… 2001!
Kasatkina continues her breakthrough year with a stunning run in Indian Wells, having beaten three seeded players in Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki and a 6-0 6-2 win over Angelique Kerber. Kasatkina has not dropped a set so far having outplayed so many of her opponents this week, but she’ll be playing the first big-hitter of her tournament in Venus. Playing against big-hitters have been a tough nut for Kasatkina to crack, but with the conditions suiting her game so much, will she score another upset?
Thoughts: The last meeting between these two was in Wimbledon where Venus won a 7-5 4-6 10-8 epic in Wimbledon. If Venus needed such a tough time on her most favoured surface and Kasatkina’s least favoured surface, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kasatkina will be able to get the win this time. Venus will be playing back-to-back matches once again, and Kasatkina’s loopy forehands and drop shots could really cause a lot of trouble for her. Though experience is in favour of Venus, Kasatkina is full of confidence right now and if she keeps the nerves in check and play her best tennis, anything is possible. I’m going for the in-form Russian in straight sets.
Final Prediction: Daria Kasatkina d. Venus Williams 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!