Date/Time: Friday 8th March 2019 (Kick-off 11:00 PM CET).
One of the most improved players on the Tour over the last couple of years is Ashleigh Barty who has gone from strength to strength having returned to tennis following some time spent playing professional cricket.
The Australian is a very talented player and while she is still searching to breakthrough against the elite on the WTA Tour, Barty's consistent performances have taken her into her career best World Number 12 Ranking.
After taking some time out from the Tour, Barty returns in Indian Wells and will be looking to be a Seeded player that avoids the pitfalls which come with a first competitive match against someone who has been playing a lot in recent weeks. Tatjana Maria is in her fourth tournament since playing at the Australian Open compared with Barty who has had two Fed Cup matches between the first Grand Slam of the season and early March.
The German player has to be respected as she is willing to battle on the court, but Maria has struggled when she has been asked to compete with some of the better players on the Tour. Over the last twelve months Maria is 2-9 when facing top 50 Ranked opponents on the hard courts and that number drops to 0-4 when you narrow it down to top 20 Ranked opponents.
Tatjana Maria's service numbers and return numbers take a severe dent in those matches and now she faces someone like Barty who has improved her Ranking by making sure she wins the matches she should be. In the same timespan I measured for Maria, Barty has gone 23-2 on the hard courts when facing a player that is not Ranked inside the top 20 and her numbers reach some very strong levels in those matches to underline her dominance.
I will have to point out one of those losses for Barty came here in Indian Wells twelve months ago against Maria Sakkari and the lay off is a slight concern for me. However in the most part Barty has dominated those opponents and won matches very comfortably and Maria's struggles against the better players on this surface suggests we will see more of the same on Friday.
This is a big number, but Barty has shown she is more than capable of covering it and I expect her to earn the breaks of serve to do that.
Prediction: Ashleigh Barty - 5.5 games