Date/Time: Friday 8th March 2019 (Kick-off 11:00 PM CET).
Tiredness may have been a factor in Simona Halep's relatively early defeat in Dubai in her last tournament, but the Romanian continues to be a player that is there or thereabouts on any surface the Tour moves onto.
She now makes her bow at the Indian Wells Premier Event on Friday in the Second Round as a former winner of the tournament and someone who tends to enjoy the conditions a little more than in Miami. That has seen her stronger results in March tend to come in this event and Simona Halep should be someone who enjoys the match up with Barbora Strycova in this Second Round encounter.
That is no disrespect to Strycova, but the Czech player is somewhat short of the results that took her to a career best World Ranking in January 2017. Barbora Strycova has won a match here to get into the Second Round and the familiarity with the Indian Wells conditions could give her a chance for the upset, but her previous matches with Halep have quickly gotten away from her as her game is very similar, but not as consistent as the one the former World Number 1 can bring to the court.
It has been a difficult twelve months on the Tour for Strycova when it comes to hard court tennis and she is just 2-10 in matches against top 50 Ranked opponents in that time. She has found it difficult to protect the serve and she is not returning well enough against those opponents to challenge them and it is not a big surprise she has taken some one-sided defeats in that time.
Now Strycova has to face an opponent like Halep who has an underrated serve and one that can be very effective at players outside of the elite on the WTA Tour. The first serve in particular can set Halep up for success in those matches and her return is one that should be able to hurt Strycova throughout this match especially when Halep gets to see the second serve.
They have not played each since 2017, but that was at a time when Strycova would have been playing with a lot more confidence. However it is Halep who has dominated their last four matches and three of those have come on the hard courts. In those matches the Strycova second serve has been attacked relentlessly and she has not been able to get enough joy from the return of serve and I would not be surprised if this Second Round match goes in a similar direction on Friday.
Prediction: Simona Halep - 5.5 games