Friday, March 8, 2019 - Serena Williams plays Victoria Azarenka in the 2nd round of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)
“I’m ready,” said Serena Williams only moments after her straight-sets dispatch of longtime rival Victoria Azarenka in Friday night’s rematch of the 2016 BNP Paribas Open final.
Williams hadn’t played a match since crashing out in the quarters of the Australian Open, where she squandered a 5-1 third-set lead against Czech Karolina Pliskova. Outside of some struggles from the service stripe, she had just played perhaps her best match of the year, hitting through the court and looking mid-season Serena. The 23-time major titlist was already looking forward to her third-round opponent: Garbine Muguruza.
These are the kind of matchups that the 10th-ranked Williams lives for. Grand Slam champ vs. Grand Slam champ. It will be their first encounter outside of the majors. Their last two came in finals, Williams prevailing at Wimbledon in 2015, 6-4, 6-4; Muguruza at Roland Garros in 2016, 7-5, 6-4. Williams owns a narrow 3-2 advantage in head-to-heads.
Muguruza, ranked No. 20, is off to a slow start in 2019, her best result a quarterfinal finish in Thailand. A 6-1, 6-3 second-round winner over Lauren Davis, the Venezuelan-born Spaniard is looking to find some consistency in the desert, but knows she’ll have her hands full against Serena.
“She and I are players who like dictating the game. We like dominating the game,” noted Muguruza prior to their last meeting.
They’ll both look to establish that dominance early on Sunday in Stadium 1, where Williams first triumphed as a 17-year-old in 1999. Muguruza’s best Indian Wells showing came in 2017, when she reached the quarterfinals.