WTA Tour: Miami Open Preview

Tennis player stands with racquet in hand

Our tennis writer previews the WTA Miami Open set to get underway on 20 March at Crandon Park.

One almost couldn’t have anticipated a more dramatic draw this week, with eight-time champion and queen of tennis Serena Williams drawn to take on newly crowned Indian Wells Champion Naomi Osaka in the first round. New tournament director James Blake has called for a review on the seeding process as a result of this draw. 

In any event, Serena’s defeat to Venus at Indian Wells was far from the most shocking result in an event that has made this tournament even harder to predict. Simona Halep’s blowout against Osaka in the semi-final was rather alarming, as was Osaka’s demolition of Karolina Pliskova. Kasatkina’s victory over Kerber also springs to mind. All in all, Indian Wells has done very little in illuminating anything this week. Defending champion Johanna Konta has no form to speak of while Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from this week’s event.

WTA Tour: Miami Open | 20 March - 2 April | Crandon Park, Key Biscayne, Miami

Past Winners
2017: Johanna Konta
2016: Victoria Azarenka
2015: Serena Williams 
2014: Serena Williams 
2013: Serena Williams 

First Quarter- Projected Quarterfinalists- Simona Halep (1), Karolina Pliskova (5)
Simona Halep managed to hang onto her Number One ranking last week, but the Romanian will feel somewhat chastised in the wake of that defeat to Osaka. She has an extremely amenable draw here, with Madison Keys her likely Fourth Round opponent. While Karolina Plisikova has enjoyed a fairly mean time of time- her defeat to Osaka was rather humbling- I think that this could be a good event for her to bounce back. Her half of the quarter has bang out of form Julia Goerges, while veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova perhaps represent the most plausible threat to her. So I could very much see a Halep, Pliskova quarter, with the Czech getting my vote to progress this week. The constant pressure of maintaining that Number One spot must take a toll on Halep, especially in the wake of that semi-final defeat to Osaka. 

Likely to Progress: Karolina Pliskova 

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Second Quarter- Projected Quarterfinalists- Garbine Muguruza (3), Caroline Garcia (7)
This event will suit Garbine Muguruza far more than Indian Wells. The slower courts will suit her court craft, so I expect her- like Pliskova- to make a significant improvement this week. Her half of the quarter also looks extremely favourable, with Strycova her likely Third Round opponent. Sloane Stephens is seeded to meet her in the Fourth Round, and we all know how mercurial the US Open champion is. I hold out little hope for Garcia to make a concerted drive this week, while Kerber may still be feeling the sting of an utter thrashing dished out by Kasatkina in Indian Wells. 

Likely to Progress: Garbine Muguruza

Third Quarter- Projected Quarterfinalists- Jelena Ostapenko (6), Elina Svitolina (4)
And we arrive at the draw that has everyone talking. Serena is near the bottom half of the draw, and should she overcome Osaka she will face fourth seed Elina Svitolina in the Second Round. So it clearly isn’t going to be plain sailing for the new mother, though it probably gets easier after the Second Round, with Mlandenovic her likely Fourth Round opponent. The top half of this quarter makes for fascinating reading, with Jelena Ostapenko’s sixth seeding unlikely to yield much of a result. The two names that jump out at me are Kasatkina and Kvitova. I think that it is likely that we see Kastakina continue the good form that she has shown for some weeks now. Tell you what though, I just have a sneaking feeling that eight-time champion Serena Williams is going to do something special this week, despite the gruelling draw. 

Likely to Progress: Serena Williams

Fourth Quarter- Projected Quarterfinalists- Venus Williams (8), Caroline Wozniacki (2)
Venus Williams was rather unfortunate in losing that absolutely epic semi-final against Daria Kasatkina in Indian Wells. She will have gained confidence from the fact that she also managed to beat her sister for the first time in ages. She has an intriguing draw, with potential Third Round and Fourth Round matches against Kiki Bertens and Elise Mertens respectively. I say Elise Mertens because I don’t think defending champion Johanna Konta has much chance this week. The bottom half of the draw sees Caroline Wozniacki still struggling to emulate that maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne. I don’t necessarily see that changing this week after a physically gruelling period for the Dane. For me the one to watch in this quarter is Coco Vandewegh. She has had injury and form issues this year but has a penchant for delivering on the big occasion. I really think she has a chance of getting thorough this section. Venus and Wozniacki have played a lot of tennis of late. 

Likely to Progress: Coco Vandewegh 

Selected First Round Matches

Michaela Buzarnescu 9/20 | Kristen Flipkens 16/10
Flipkens is a dangerous player and can easily go toe to toe with the solid Buzarnescu. Buzarnescu has had some decent results of late, which has led to a slightly over-deflated price. 

Aliaksandra Sasnovic 9/20 | Kristyna Pliskova 16/10
Much like the aforementioned tie, here we see two very evenly players separated by arbitrary recent performances. Plisikova looks a good bet at 16/10. 

Serena Williams 1/1 | Namoi Osaka 15/20
How often do you see a player capitulate after their first major breakthrough? And it’s Serena Williams that Osaka is playing after all. I think that Serena will win this one. 

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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