2016 WTA Miami Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
It’s the second of the back to back Premier events in America as the WTA tour hits Florida for the Miami Open.
Serena Williams holds the record with eight Miami titles to her name. Victoria Azarenka, Kim Clijsters, five-time champ Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis, Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario, Monica Seles and Venus Williams also have multiple Miami Open titles.
Tier: Premier Mandatory
Location: Miami, USA
Prize money: $6,134,605
Date: March 22- April 03
Top Eight Seeds (ranking)
- Serena Williams (1)
- Angelique Kerber (2)
- Agnieszka Radwanksa (3)
- Garbine Muguruza (4)
- Simona Halep (5)
- Carla Suarez Navarro (6)
- Belinda Bencic (8)
- Petra Kvitova (9)
The big absentee is Maria Sharapova who recently was caught taking a banned substance.
First round matches to watch
Laura Robson vs Kirsten Flipkens
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Robson’s comeback after years of injury problems is still on going. The Brit received a wildcard into Miami where she will play tricky Belgian Flipkens in the opening round.
They have only met once before at the Australian Open in 2014 where Robson’s injury problems started. The Brit lost 6-3, 6-0 that day in Melbourne and will be hoping to avoid similar embarrassment this week.
The match-up is interesting because it will be an indicator of Robson’s level post injury. It is unlikely the Brit wins this match but still one to watch.
Margarita Gasparyan vs Annika Beck
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Talented young Russian, Gasparyan, will pit her tennis skills against Beck in an interesting first round contest.
Gasparyan is quickly rising up the ranks with her powerful game and signature one handed backhand. The Russian is one player to keep an eye on over the course of the season, but Beck provides a consistent challenge from the baseline.
It is a match where Gasparyan can show her talent, but it is also a match where she could easily falter.
The world number one was thwarted at the final hurdle by Victoria Azarenka in Indian Wells but moves on to a tournament which suits her more. The eight time winner is a huge favourite despite failing to capture a title in 2016 thus far. Williams will likely face compatriot Christina McHale in her opening match. Daria Gavrilova will give a feisty challenge in round three, but Williams should have no problem disposing of the Aussie and the winner of Andrea Petkovic vs Svetlana Kuznetsova in round four. Petkovic could have a tough match against Caroline Garcia or Mirjana Lucic-Baroni but the former has been struggling with injury issues. Kuznetsova may meet Carina Witthoeft in the second round
Kvitova has not had the best start to 2016 and will be looking to find a bit of form in Miami. The Czech has a big game but the slow courts here might negate some of that power. The eighth seed could have problems with fellow leftie Ekaterina Makarova in round three if the Russian is in good form. We should get an indicator in the second round where she meets Alexandra Dulgheru or Lesia Tsurenko. The fourth round will likely be against Elina Svitolina or Caroline Wozniacki, who both provide a more consistent test than Makarova, though not as dangerous. Svitolina’s biggest test before Wozniacki is against Shuai Zhang, while Wozniacki will probably face Vania King.
Radwanska might be the title favourite behind Serena, so she was certainly disappointed to be drawn in the same half as the world number one. The Pole is projected to play the struggling Anna Schmiedlova in the third round but that could easily be Madison Brengle or Camila Giorgi. Former world number one Ana Ivanovic has landed in this quarter as the 16th seed and could have a intriguing match in round three against Timea Bacsinszky. The Swiss herself though has a difficult second round against rising Gasparyan.
Halep is another player who has struggled to hit top form in 2016, and will be looking to use this tournament as a season launching pad. Daria Kasatkina, who played well in Indian Wells, is a possible round two opponent for the former world number two. Sam Stosur is possible for round three which is always a tough match despite the Aussie being past her best. Stosur herself could be bumped out easily by Julia Goerges in the second round. Lucie Safarova, who is only playing her second match since coming back from injury, is a potential fourth round opponent for Halep. But the Czech could be rusty and could struggle to get past Sloane Stephens. British interest will be in Heather Watson, a wildcard in the tournament. She meets Petra Cetkovska in the first round and potentially Stephens in round two.
Speaking of struggling, Muguruza is in the middle of a slump after a breakthrough 2015. The Spaniard has been unable to find her game and her attitude has been somewhat negative. Dominika Cibulkova could be a difficult round two draw, and if she gets through that it’s possibly Kristina Mladenovic in round three- a tough one for the 2015 Wimbledon runner up. Victoria Azarenka will be the favourite to make it out of this section after claiming the Indian Wells title last week. The Belarusian could face Jelena Jankovic in round three. Azarenka may face Monica Puig in round two, while Jankovic could meet Bethanie Mattek Sands.
Carla Suarez Navarro has a fairly tough draw to the quarter finals. The Spaniard could face Coco Vandeweghe in round two, then a tough potential third round match against the unorthodox Monica Niculescu. Joanna Konta will spark British interest as the 24th seed, and could meet Venus Williams for an Australian Open rematch in the third round. Venus will play a qualifier in the second round whilst Konta will face Denisa Allertova or Danka Kovinic.
Kerber has suffered a post-Grand Slam winning hangover since the Australian Open and will be looking to rediscover that form in Miami. The German could have a tough round two with Barbora Strycova, provided the Czech has recovered from injury. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the projected seed in round three. Karolina Pliskova and Sara Errani will look to take advantage of any mishaps from the second seed and their round three could provide a nice stylistic contrast. Errani faces talented Japanese youngster Naomi Osaka in the second round, so could be a potential upset there.
Belinda Bencic has been dealt with a difficult draw of her own. The Swiss star has a fairly easy round two, but then could face the the enigmatic Sabine Lisicki in round three. Roberta Vinci or Madison Keys in round four is not a good draw for Bencic either. Vinci could meet Eugenie Bouchard in the second round while Keys meets the winner of Robson vs Flipkens.
Serena def. Wozniacki
Radwanska def. Halep
Azarenka def. Suarez Navarro
Pliskova def. Vinci
Serena def. Radwanska
Azarenka def. Pliskova
Serena def. Azarenka
It is hard to see where either Azarenka or Serena lose before the final. This time however, Serena will come out on top in one of her best tournaments.
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