Simona Halep vs Naomi Osaka WTA Indian Wells tennis preview, predictions and tips: Can Halep preserve unbeaten record against Osaka in semi-finals?

Andrew Hendrie in WTA 16 Mar 2018
  • Simona Halep vs Naomi Osaka is live from Indian Wells around 8.30pm local time on Friday (3.30am GMT, Saturday)
  • Halep has won all three of their previous encounters
  • Watch and bet on tennis live from Indian Wells at Unibet > live streaming > tennis
Simona Halep (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

World No. 1 Simona Halep looks to return to the BNP Paribas Open final on Friday when she takes on unseeded powerhouse Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals in Indian Wells.

Watch and bet on Halep vs Osaka live from Indian Wells at Unibet > live streaming > tennis. Their semi-final clash begins around 8.30pm local time on Friday (3.30am GMT, Saturday).

Simona Halep targets her fourth straight win over Naomi Osaka (and second in 2018) when the pair square off for a spot in the 2018 BNP Paribas Open final on Friday. Halep has been phenomenal to start the season and has already won 18 matches as she tries to make it back into the Indian Wells final - the scene of the biggest title of her career to date back in 2015. Osaka meanwhile is through to her first Premier Mandatory semi-final after a dream week in which she’s knocked off a two former World No. 1s and a former World No. 2. It promises to be an electrifying contest as Halep and Osaka take to court around 8.30pm local time on Friday (3.30am GMT, Saturday).

Halep has experienced a mixed bag of matches so far during her Indian Wells campaign, playing two gruelling three-set encounters in tricky conditions, while she’s also claimed a pair of relatively routine straight sets victories. It highlights the Romanian’s new-found belief in the fact that she’s been able to find the solutions in all four match-ups, starting with a 6-4 6-4 win over Kristyna Pliskova (recovering from an early break in the first set) and following that up with a very hard-fought 1-6 7-6(3) 6-2 triumph over powerful rising star Caroline Dolehide. The 19-year-old American wildcard was on the brink of victory against the World No. 1, with her booming kick serve and ferocious groundstrokes really troubling Halep, but the top seed dug deep, scraped through a second set tiebreak and ultimately broke the spirit of the youngster as she raced through the decider.

The 26-year-old fought through a tough first set with Qiang Wang before easing through the second for a 7-5 6-1 win, but she was again forced to three sets in the quarter-finals against the resurgent Petra Martic, with the windy conditions really affecting her play as she began to spray countless errors in the second set. Martic took advantage to snatch a tiebreak and extend the match into a third, where she went up a break and threatened to run away with the match. However Halep once again refused to bow down and reeled off the final five games of the match to come away with a 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 victory.

"[The wind was] a bit too much," Halep said afterwards. "Everything I had today frustration way, it was because of the wind."

Playing the best sustained tennis of her career at the moment, Halep is now 18-1 to start the season. After a tough finish to 2017 results-wise, including losing to Maria Sharapova in the first round of the U.S. Open, falling in the first round of Wuhan and crashing out in the round robin stage of the WTA Finals Singapore (although she did pick up the No. 1 ranking by making the final of Beijing), Halep has been outstanding in 2018, starting the year by winning her 16th WTA title in Shenzhen and backing that up by advancing to her first Australian Open final, where her only loss of 2018 came at the hands of Caroline Wozniacki. Halep was able to regain the No. 1 ranking by virtue of reaching the Doha semi-finals, but couldn’t go further in the Qatari capital as she was struck down by a foot injury.


Halep however is back at full strength in the desert, where she’s looking to add a second BNP Paribas Open crown to the title she won back in 2015 when she defeated Daria Gavrilova, Varvara Lepchenko, Karolina Pliskova, Carla Suarez Navarro and Jelena Jankovic (she also received a walkover from Serena Williams in the semi-finals). Halep is two wins away from reigning supreme once more - but can she stop the dream run of her rising Japanese rival?

Naomi Osaka (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Naomi Osaka, one of the most explosive ball-strikers on tour, has enjoyed a breakout tournament at Indian Wells, scoring some massive victories in a series of eye-catching displays. Osaka’s campaign started with a convincing straight sets dispatch of five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova and just as impressively, she backed performance up against a completely different kind of player in the following round, taking out former World No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska easily, 6-3 6-2. Osaka then ended the run of qualifier Sachia Vickery 6-3 6-3 in the third round before dropping her only set of the tournament so far in a 6-1 5-7 6-1 triumph over Maria Sakkari, bouncing back strongly from the disappointment of failing to close out the match in the second.

Confident and playing the best tennis of her young career, Osaka registered her first top 10 win of the season in the quarter-finals against fifth seed and former World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova, completely overpowering her more experienced Czech rival as she came away with a dominant 6-2 6-3 victory. Osaka’s thunderous groundstrokes were once again on song, but it was her serve that really impressed on the night, with the 20-year-old winning a whopping 92 per cent of points behind her first delivery.

The win continued Osaka’s bright start to 2018, with the Japanese star improving to 13-4 for the season. Osaka lost in the opening round of Hobart before three solid tournaments at the Australian Open, Doha and Dubai, claiming some notable victories over Elena Vesnina and Ash Barty to make the R16 of a Grand Slam for the first time in Melbourne before going down to eventual runner-up Halep, while she also qualified for Doha and beat Katerina Siniakova before falling to Anastasija Sevastova in the second round. Osaka then moved on to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where she again scored a pair of eye-catching wins against Kristina Mladenovic and Anett Kontaveit, but defending champion Elina Svitolina proved too big of an obstacle, losing 6-2 6-4 to the Ukrainian.

After finishing last season at No. 68 in the world with just two quarter-finals to her name, Osaka has already made it further than she did at any tournament last season - at a Premier Mandatory no less - while she’s projected to rise to at least No. 31, a career-high ranking, regardless of her result against Halep in the semi-finals.

If this match was played on a faster surface, I’d be very tempted to back Osaka. She has the talent and power to hit through Halep’s defences - she’s taken a set in two of their three matches despite losing all three - but these slow Indian Wells courts play right into the hands of a primarily defensive player like Halep. I think Osaka will redline and take a set, but over the course of the match, expect Halep to fight and run down more balls and frustrate her younger and more inexperienced opponent into error. I’m backing the World No. 1 to prevail in three sets.



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Simona Halep vs Naomi Osaka WTA Indian Wells tennis preview, predictions and tips: Can Halep preserve unbeaten record against Osaka in semi-finals?

World No. 1 Simona Halep looks to return to the BNP Paribas Open final on Friday when she takes on unseeded powerhouse Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals in Indian Wells.

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