Date/Time: Saturday 9th March 2019 (Kick-off 3:00 AM CET).
When these two top tennis players last met in the Final of the Indian Wells Premier Event in 2016 it was Victoria Azarenka who came out on top and took home one of the bigger titles of her career. Back then it looked like Azarenka would be able to go on and challenge Williams at the major events as she snapped a five match losing run against the American and Azarenka was going to enjoy her best year on the Tour on the hard courts.
In 2016 Azarenka finished up with a 22-1 record on the hard courts and she won the Indian Wells/Miami double which has proven to be incredibly difficult to do, but injuries prevented the Belarusian from taking to the courts later that year at the US Open.
That was the beginning of a two year difficult run for Azarenka who faced those injuries and then a custody battle over her son which meant she could not leave California to play in tournaments like she would have wanted. Her return to the Tour has proved to be a little difficult as Azarenka is playing well, but not reaching the heights of 2016 and you can see she is struggling with that after her defeat at the Australian Open.
Victoria Azarenka is a talented player, but it has been very hard to compete with the very best players on the Tour and there is no doubt that Serena Williams remains one of those. However over the last twelve months Williams has not really hit the same levels as she was doing a couple of years ago after her own return to the Tour and this is her first match back out since her surprise Quarter Final defeat to Karolina Pliskova at the Australian Open.
The defeat alone and the lay off from the Tour is not a concern because Serena is someone who can use her aura to intimidate opponents on her return. However that is not going to be the case here and there are one or two questions about her health having rolled an ankle in the third set of the defeat to Pliskova in January.
A break between the Australian Open and Indian Wells has been standard practice for Williams in recent years and I think she can produce a sold win in this primetime Second Round match. Despite not being as strong as a couple of years ago, Williams maintains a dominant serve and her return should put Azarenka's serve under severe examination and this has been a weapon that has struggled for the latter.
The second serve in particularly could be taken advantage of by the Williams return and I think that will be the key to her success in this one. I really hope Victoria Azarenka can rediscover her best, but she is still searching for that right now and Serena Williams can come through with a win and a cover.
Prediction: Serena Williams - 3.5 games