The great matches just keep coming at the Premier Mandatory tournament in Indian Wells. After blockbuster matches featuring both the Williams sisters over the last two days of action, Serena faces another tough task in the form of two-time Grand Slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza. Who will come through? Read on for the match preview…
Indian Wells, Third Round
 Garbiñe Muguruza (No.20) vs  Serena Williams (No.10)
Garbine Muguruza’s rollercoaster 2018 has continued into 2019 as well as the Spaniard has struggled for wins over top players this season. Muguruza went 1-2 at the Hopman Cup, before scoring three good victories at the Australian Open over Zheng Saisai, Johanna Konta and Timea Bacsinszky, but was unable to keep up with a red-hot Karolina Pliskova in the fourth round. Similarly at the Premier 5 tournament in Dubai, Muguruza was alright against Dayana Yastremska and Saisai, but fell comprehensively to Elina Svitolina in the next round. Muguruza seems to have regressed from her aggressive game from her 2015 days and is definitely lacking a spark on court nowadays. Will she be able to regain that spark against Serena, whom she has always been able to bring her A-game against?
Indian Wells is just Serena’s second tournament of the season but it seems like she’s never been away since the Australian Open after a very good 7-5 6-3 victory over fellow mother Victoria Azarenka. It was such a high-intensity match and the quality was soaring high throughout, especially in the first set. Azarenka was on it from the first point and it was great to see her playing some good tennis after a tough January. While Azarenka was in the ascendancy in the beginning of the first set, Serena fought back in usual comeback style and hit some very good angled backhands to go up 5-3. A little wobble let Azarenka back in it, and the Belarusian had four break points to put herself in a position to serve the first set out, but in typical Serena fashion, she fired down some huge first serves to save them all and broke to win the first 7-5.
The quality remained in the second and there were many incredible points from both players. Ultimately, Azarenka’s lack of form shone through as she began to show some rust on serve, and fighting back the nerves, Serena sealed the victory in two hours and seven minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better straight-setter in my life as the amazing atmosphere in the almost-full stadium just made it ever better. A great match from two great players of this decade.
Head to head: Muguruza is one of those rare players who have recorded multiple wins against Serena though Williams leads the head to head, 3-2. Their last meeting was at the 2016 French Open where Muguruza won in a high-quality finale, 7-5 6-4. Interestingly, this match will be their first encounter at a WTA tour tournament.
Thoughts: Muguruza hasn’t been playing great in 2019 (exclude that great match against Konta at the AO) but she always manages to bring out a different level against the top players, so I’ll expect her to do the same here. In fact, I don’t think I’lll be surprised to see her pick up a set? She’ll need to play really aggressively though and she needs to come forward to the net much better than she has done all year. Even if she does all that, it still might not be enough. Serena hit those angled backhands so well against Vika and she should adopt that tactic in this one to break down Muguruza’s movement. I expect Serena’s great serving and champion mentality to secure herself a spot in the fourth round.
Final Prediction: Serena Williams d. Garbiñe Muguruza in three sets
Thanks for reading! Please check out my Indian Wells predictions here or at the top of the page!