Monday, 18 March 2013

WTA Miami: Preview and Predictions

It is an exceptionally quick turnover between Indian Wells and Miami with the womens draw kicking off tomorrow... TOMORROW! Here is my rather slapdash preview for Miami where the top 32 seeds all have byes into the second round.

FIRST QUARTER - S.Williams (1) v L.Na (5)
Li Na
Serena Williams is back in business this week for the first time since losing to Victoria Azarenka in the Doha final.  Her draw looks neat early on with Johanna Larsson or Flavia Pennetta up first and then the first projected seed is Yanina Wickmayer.  Out-of-form, Lucie Safarova and Dominika Cibulkova are the other two seeds within this section.  Safarova is in a right old rut at the minute and she will struggle to get past Romina Oprandi in round two.  I have much more hope for Cibulkova who takes on Kristina Mladenovic or the returning-from-injury, Aleksandra Wozniak in the second round.

Miami's draw is much more appealing than Indian Wells mainly because of the return of Serena and Li Na, who headline the top quarter.  Li will play her first tournament since hurting her ankle in that crazy Australian Open final.  Her first match will be against Kiki Bertens or Anna Tatishvili.  The Indian Wells runner-up, Caroline Wozniacki, is lurking in the 4th round and although Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova could be a threat in round three, the likelihood of the Russian making it through her first match is pretty slim.  I do not think Li will be on top of her game this week having been on the sidelines for two months and I fancy the Dane to squeak past Li into to the quarter-finals. 

1st Round Predictions - Pennetta to beat Larsson in 3 sets, Morita to beat Watson in 2 tight sets, Oprandi to beat Rus in 2 sets, Mladenovic to beat Wozniak in 2 tight sets and Erakovic to beat Begu in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - S.Williams v Wozniacki

SECOND QUARTER - A.Radwanska (4) v P.Kvitova (7)
Marion Bartoli
Agnieszka Radwanska was well below her best in the desert falling in the 4th round to Maria KirilenkoShe has drawn a very difficult draw in Miami.  The first major test is likely to arrive in round three up against Mona Barthel.  I am a big fan of the German, but I do not know if she will have the consistency to get past the Pole and particularly, on the slow hard courts of Miami.  The other third rounder in this section could be an all-American affair between Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens.  Sloane is on a barren run of form with three losses in her last four matches since that stunning start in Australia.  Venus struggled in Brazil a few weeks ago and made the semi-finals in a lightweight draw.  Despite the tough draw and pressure of being the defending champion, I think Aga could actually get through her section.

Petra Kvitova had a successful week in Indian Wells reaching her first quarter-final in the desert, but it was a disappointing end as she blew a big lead over Maria Kirilenko to lose in three sets.  Miami will be even tougher for Petra with the added humidity.  Her first match will be against Sofia Arvidsson or Peng Shuai and her first potential seed is Kirsten Flipkens.  I am predicting a good tournament for Marion Bartoli, who will face the winner of Bojana Jovanovski and Andrea Petkovic, which is one of the highlights of the first round.  Bartoli is then due to meet Julia Goerges (in round three) and Kvitova (in round four).  A 4th rounder against Kvitova would be great after their last match at the US Open where Bartoli went on a complete tear after being breadsticked in the opening set to win, 1-6 6-2 6-0.  However I like Flipken's chances of a big upset win over Kvitova in the third round.

1st Round Predictions - Tsurenko to beat Hsieh in 2 sets, Petkovic to beat Jovanovski in 3 sets and Peng to beat Arvidsson in 2 tight sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - A.Radwanska v Bartoli

THIRD QUARTER - S.Errani (8) v M.Sharapova (3)
Sara Errani
Sara Errani has been on a terrific run of form since Melbourne and made the quarter-finals in Indian Wells; once again its a tough draw for her in Miami, but she always proves me wrong when I have her bombing out early.  Her first match will be against the winner of an interesting match-up between Daniela Hantuchova and Tsvetana PironkovaErrani's first seed is projected to be Tamira Paszek, but that's highly unlikely given her shocking start to 2013.  It could be another grass court queen, Sabine Lisicki, who returns this week after missing Indian Wells with a viral illness, that takes Paszek's place in the drawSvetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic will be the biggest threats in the other side to this section, but both will not have it easy.  Kuznetsova could meet fellow Russian, Ekaterina Makarova in the second round, meanwhile Ivanovic will be looking for revenge over Urszula Radwanska if they meet in the second round following a three set loss in Tokyo last year.

Maria Sharapova cruised to the Indian Wells title last week and is very likely to amble through to the semi-finals here with another very favourable draw.  Elena Vesnina could await in the third round and then a semi-final desert rematch with Maria Kirilenko is possible in the round of 16.  Kirilenko may have to get past Klara Zakopalova in the third round, but that should be achievable based on her current form.

1st Round Predictions - Hantuchova to beat Pironkova in 3 sets, Lisicki to beat Halep in 3 sets and U.Radwanska to beat Beck in 2 tight sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - Errani v Sharapova

FOURTH QUARTER - A.Kerber (6) v V.Azarenka (2)
Angelique Kerber
It was a welcome return to form for Angelique Kerber last week, who rather surprisingly defended her points in Indian Wells with a solid run to the semi-finals.  Her draw in Miami looks reasonable; she will play a qualifier or Francesca Schiavone in the second round.  A juicy third rounder could be on the cards between Jelena Jankovic and Nadia Petrova with the winner looking to meet Kerber in the 4th round.  Jankovic was edged out by Svetlana Kuznetsova in a tough second rounder in the desert, but she has a very winnable first match in Miami.  Petrova had a solid Indian Wells and I think she will go one step further this week and make the quarter-finals.

Much speculation surrounds Victoria Azarenka's participation this week following the withdrawal from her quarter-final in Indian Wells against Caroline Wozniacki.  She has been struggling with an ankle injury, but over a week will have elapsed since that moment and when she is meant to play her first match on Friday.  Assuming she takes to the court, a string of hot prospects lie in her path; Madison Keys could await in the second round and then Laura Robson in the third round.  The Brit has been on a horrid run of form, but she takes on Camila Giorgi in the first round, who has not won a match this year and been struggling with injury.  Roberta Vinci and Carla Suarez Navarro are also in this section with the Spaniard my tip to make the 4th round.

1st Round Predictions - Zheng to beat Shvedova in 3 sets, Niculescu to beat Hampton in 3 sets and Robson to beat Giorgi in 2 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - Petrova v Azarenka

Final Prediction - S.Williams d. Sharapova
Consistency was the name of the game in Indian Wells where Agnieszka Radwanska was the only top eight seed not to make the quarter-finals and I think the top four will all make it to the Miami semi-finals.  Azarenka is 50/50 so I have to favour Sharapova if they meet in the semi-finals and then I think Serena will sweep up in the final.  The second quarter offers the best chance of an upset with Barthel, Stephens and Venus all lurking, but I will stick by Radwanska to make it into the semi-finals.

You can view my full predictions for Miami HERE

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