Neither 5th seed and defending BNP Paribas Open champion Simona Halep or 30th seed Ekaterina Makarova have had good starts to 2016, so both will be seeing this a big opportunity, especially since the loss of Venus Williams in their section. This match is scheduled to be the final match on Stadium 1, and the winner will face qualifier Kurumi Nara or Barbora Strycova in the fourth round.
So Far In Indian Wells
As both Makarova and Halep are seeded, both received a bye in the first round; as they both received this, this will clearly not be an advantage for either player.
Halep was the most comfortable of the two in the second round. The Romanian played her best match of the year, by far, as she stormed past Vania King 6-1, 6-1 with ease. The 5th seed has struggled this year, but it seems that a training block with Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf before the tournament could well have helped her.
It was a little more tricky for Makarova but she also made it through safely. The Russian had arguably a more difficult second round opponent, Lucie Hradecka, and beat the Czech star 6-4, 6-4. The 30th seed seems to be picking up more confidence after an injury layoff at the end of last season and will be feeling fairly confident coming into this.
For Halep, serving could be key. The Romanian hasn't been serving particularly well this season, but served well in her second round match and is generally a very good server when she is near her best; Makarova is a good returner, so serving could be crucial for Halep's chances. The 5th seed should als try to dictate as many points as possible with her strong backhand and forehand and will certainly be looking to move well as the Russian is capable of changing her shot section effectively.
Makarova will also be looking to serve well; this area of her game has often let her down against big opponents. The Russian is, however, more powerful than Halep and should look to dictate play and finish points off as quickly as possible. However movement is not a massively strong area for Makarova, so she should try and make sure that Halep cannot move her around court, and will need to defend well against Halep's strong attacking game.
The two have played each other three times, all on hard court, withe the Romanian leading the head to head 2-1. Their last meeting, in Dubai in 2015, was by the closest with Halep edging Makarova 6-3, 1-6, 7-5, and the crowd in Indian Wells will be hoping for an equally close match.
There is a lot of stake here so this should be a highly competitive match and, whilst neither of the two have played that well so far this year, Halep was extremely comfortable in her first round and should be able to edge this one.
Prediction: Simona Halep in three sets