2015 Indian Wells champion, Simona Halep, just got back on tour after being away for more than five weeks due to an injury she sustained earlier this season. She had been having pain in her knee since the WTA Finals, however, after normal training in the off-season, everything seemed to be just fine. But that was until her first official match against Jelena Jankovic in early January. The Romanian managed to win that match, losing eventually the next round to Katerina Siniakova. Then, she fell first round at Australian Open to Shelby Rogers and came back to play St. Petersburg. At the Russian tournament, she won the first round against Ana Konjuh but had to pull out immediately afterward when the pain came back. In that moment, Halep decided a longer break is needed. So she skipped Fed Cup, Doha, and Dubai. After not playing for more than a month, Halep will be meeting the in-form French, Kristina Mladenovic.
Mladenovic started her year losing the first round in Hobart and Australian Open but went on to win her very first WTA title in St. Petersburg where she beat Australian Open semifinalist, Venus Willims, Roberta Vinci, hometown Natalie Vikhlyantseva and Yulia Putintseva. But her magnificent run didn’t stop there. She went on to reach the final at the Mexican Open, where she lost to Lesia Tsurenko.
How they got here
Simona Halep won only her third match of the year against Donna Vekic 6-4, 6-1. What it was a slow start in the firsts set, the Romanian relaxed in the second set to be able to fully control the match. She was more nervous in the first set as she was trying to get in the right state of mind and also adapt her game to the conditions and make the right shots selection. The good news is that she seemed perfectly fine from the physical point of view. Seemed to play pain-free, and at this moment that is what’s most important for the Romanian.
As for the French, the situation was inverse. She won the first set against Annika Beck in a straightforward manner, 6-0, then on the second set she had to put more effort to close out the match at 7-5.
The two players have met three times until now and Mladenovic leads the h2h 2-1. The French won their first meeting back in 2014 on a hard court in Paris 7-6(1), 6-4. Their next meeting was on the grass of Birminghton where the French came back from a set down and won an extremely disputed third set tiebreak 2-6, 6-0, 7-6(4). But the Romanian got her revenge at Cincinnati in 2015 when she won 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.
Regarding the question who gets the win, it will all depend on Simona’s health and physical condition. They have previously had tough battles against each other and at this point, the French is considered to be the favorite. It is unknown whether Halep can keep up a high level of tennis for more than a two hours match. Her match against Vekic gave no specific indication of whether she can truly perform at a high level. Mladenovic will be looking forward of taking advantage of that and most of all it will be crucial not to give the Romanian the chance to enter the match.
The winner of this match will play either Julia Goerges or Lauren Davis.
Prediction: Mladenovic in straight sets