Miami WTA Draw Preview: Victoria Azarenka to face Cici Bellis in the first round
Fresh Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka will face eight-time Miami champion Serena Williams in a blockbuster first-round match on Wednesday at the Miami Open. The winner of this match will take on number 4 seed Elina Svitolina in the second round. The Miami Draw also features a first-round match between Vika Azarenka and Cici Bellis.
Serena Williams made her return to the WTA Tour in Indian Wells, where she lost to her sister Venus in the third round. She will face a very tough first round match against Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka, who reached the Australian Open fourth round and went on to beat Daria Kasatkina in the final in the Californian desert to claim the biggest title of her career. The winner of the Williams-Osaka will face Elina Svitolina, one of the 32 seeds with a bye in the opening round.
Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Elina Svitolina feature in the first section of the bottom half led by 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, who could face this year’s Doha and St. Petersburg champion Petra Kvitova in the fourth round.
Top seed Simona Halep and number 3 seed Garbine Muguruza could meet in a potential semifinal in the top-half of the draw, while number 2 seed and 2017 Miami finalist Caroline Wozniacki and Elina Svitolina are the top seeds in the bottom half.
Halep will make her Miami debut against either Veronica Cepede Royg or a qualifier. She could meet Karolina Pliskova in the quarter final.
Halep’s potential semifinal rival Muguruza will clash against either Wang Qiang or US 16-year-old US Open Junior champion Amanda Anismova, who made her breakthrough last week when she reached the fourth round in Indian Wells.
Three-time Miami champion Viktoria Azarenka will meet US teenager Cici Bellis in a re-match of last year’s Wimbledon first round in Halep’s quarter of the draw. Azarenka, who won the Miami title in 2009, 2011 and 2016, will play her second tournament since her come-back. The Belarussian player lost to Sloane Stephens in the second round in Indian Wells in her come-back tournament.
The winner of the match between Azarenka and Bellis will face 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys.
Wozniacki will face the winner of the first round match between either former US champion Samantha Stosur or reigning Olympic singles Monica Puig. The Danish star is on a collision course with Venus Williams for a potential quarter final match.
Defending champion Johanna Konta will take on the winner of the first round match between Kirsten Flipkens and Mihaela Buzarnescu.
US wildcard Bethanie Mattek Sands will make her come-back after being sidelined by a serious knee injury at Wimbledon last year. The winner of the match between Mattek Sands and Alizé Cornet will clash against number 20 seed Anastasja Sevastova in the second round.
Miami Open Daily Preview: Canadians Andreescu, Fernandez Face Top 10 Opposition
Second round ATP and WTA action takes place on Friday in Miami.
The WTA’s top two Canadian players will take part in two of the day’s best matchups. 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu takes on Maria Sakkari, while 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez plays Belinda Bencic.
Other action on Friday includes top names such as Carlos Alcaraz, Aryna Sabalenka, Casper Ruud, and Ons Jabeur.
Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Friday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.
Maria Sakkari (7) vs. Bianca Andreescu – 12:00pm on Stadium Court
Andreescu is 7-6 this season, and overcame fellow US Open champ Emma Raducanu in the first round. This is only her third appearance in Miami, but she is 9-2 at this event, and was the runner-up the last time she played here in 2021.
Sakkari is now 15-6 on the year, yet is just 7-5 in Miami. Four of those wins came during her semifinal run in 2021, when she lost to Andreescu in a dramatic three-setter.
That 2021 semifinal lasted nearly three hours, with Andreescu eventually prevailing in a third-set tiebreak well after midnight. Their only other meeting occurred later that year at the US Open, with Sakkari winning 6-3 in the third. In the rubber match on Friday, Maria has to be considered the favorite based on recent form, though it’s hard to ever count out Bianca, one of the sport’s most dogged competitors.
Leylah Fernandez vs. Belinda Bencic (9) – Fifth on Butch Buchholz Court
Fernandez is 8-6 in 2023, and on Wednesday earned her first-ever victory in Miami, over Lesia Tsurenko. Leylah has struggled to regain her form after suffering a serious foot injury in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros last June.
Bencic is a strong 15-4 to start the season, and has already collected two hard court titles (Adelaide, Abu Dhabi). While she’s just 8-6 lifetime in Miami, she did advance to the semifinals last year, losing to Naomi Osaka.
Leylah and Belinda have split four previous matches, two of which occurred during the Billie Jean King Cup, most recently last fall when Bencic won in straights. Just a few weeks earlier, Bencic also defeated Fernandez, this time 6-3 in the third in Guadalajara. This is another case where the Canadian should be considered the underdog, but a Canadian victory would not be shocking.
Other Notable Matches on Friday:
Andrey Rublev (6) vs. J.J. Wolf – Rublev is a modest 11-7 this year, and just 10-7 in Miami. Wolf is 9-6 this year, and reached the second week of a Major for the first time in Melbourne. Last summer in Washington, Andrey defeated J.J. in straight sets.
Varvara Gracheva (Q) vs. Ons Jabeur (4) – Jabeur is just 4-3 on the year, having undergone a minor surgery after the Australian Open. She’s is 1-0 against Gracheva, having defeated her in three sets last year in Madrid on clay.
Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Facundo Bagnis – Alcaraz is 14-1 since February, and needs to defend this title in order to retain the No.1 ranking. Bagnis’ win in the opening round was his first ATP-level main draw victory on a hard court since August. Last summer on clay in Umag, Alcaraz beat Bagnis 6-0, 6-4.
Caroline Garcia (5) vs. Sorana Cirstea – This is a rematch from just last week at Indian Wells, when Cirstea upset Garcia 7-5 in the third. Caroline claimed their other two previous meetings, though all three have now gone three sets.
Shelby Rogers vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Sabalenka is now 17-2 in 2023, but is only 4-4 lifetime in Miami. Rogers eliminated another Slam champ, Sloane Stephens, in the first round. Aryna is 3-0 against Shelby, which includes a straight-set victory at January’s Australian Open.
Casper Ruud (3) vs. Ilya Ivashka – Ruud is defending runner-up points from a year ago, but is only 4-5 this season. Ivashka arrived at Indian Wells on a nine-match losing streak, yet has now claimed three of his last four matches.
Friday’s full Order of Play is here.
Miami Open Daily Preview: Thursday’s Action Features Azarenka, Thiem, Rybakina
Women’s second round action begins on Thursday, including Major champions like Victoria Azarenka and Elena Rybakina, as well as American top seeds Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff.
The highest profile WTA match of the day sees Azarenka, a three-time Miami Open champion, face Italy’s Camila Giorgi, who is always a threat on a faster hard court. Meanwhile, men’s first round action concludes on Thursday, headlined by 2020 US Open champ Dominic Thiem facing Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego.
Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.
Lorenzo Sonego vs. Dominic Thiem (WC) – Not Before 7:00pm on Stadium Court
Dominic Thiem continues to struggle to regain his form after missing nearly a year of action due to a wrist injury. He showed some signs of his former self during the fall, reaching the semifinals of both Gijon and Antwerp. However, he is just 1-8 at all levels to start 2023, with his only win coming on clay in Buenos Aires over Alex Molcan. Thiem has lost two of his last three matches in a final-set tiebreak, including two weeks ago to Adrian Mannarino at Indian Wells, a tournament Dominic won four years ago.
Sonego was ranked as high as 21st in the world just 18 months ago, but is now 59th, and owns a 5-8 record in 2023. Yet it’s worth noting he’s also had some tough draws. Five of those eight losses have come against top 20 opposition.
These players have split two previous meetings., both on clay. In 2019 in Kitzbuhel, Thiem prevailed in straight sets. In 2021 in Rome, Sonego prevailed in an epic encounter on his home soil, claiming a third-set tiebreak after nearly three-and-a-half hours. While neither man arrives in Miami with much confidence, it’s hard to favor Dominic until he gets back to his winning ways.
Camila Giorgi vs. Victoria Azarenka (14) – Not Before 7:00pm on Grandstand Court
Azarenka’s three Miami titles came in 2009, 2011, and 2016, defeating Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Svetlana Kuznetsova in those finals. She is 38-10 lifetime in Miami, and 10-6 on the season, with half of those victories coming during her semifinal run at the Australian Open.
Giorgi is also 10-6 this year, with half of her wins coming during her title run last month at a hard court event in Merida. In the first round on Tuesday, she survived a dramatic affair against another of the WTA’s hardest hitters, defeating Kaiai Kanepi in a match that consisted of three tiebreak sets and lasted over three-and-a-half hours.
Giorgi leads their head-to-head 2-1. That includes a victory nine years ago on grass, as well as a win five years ago on a hard court, though Azarenka retired after only eight games in that match. Most recently, four years ago on a hard court in Toronto, Vika won in straight sets. On Thursday, I give Azarenka the edge in a city where she has enjoyed much success, especially considering Giorgi may be a bit physically depleted after her opening round.
Other Notable Matches on Thursday:
Jessica Pegula (3) vs. Katherine Sebov (Q) – Pegula is 15-5 in 2023, and lost a heartbreaker at Indian Wells to Petra Kvitova in an extended third-set tiebreak, during which both players held multiple match points. Sebov is a 24-year-old Canadian who has claimed two ITF-level hard court titles within the past few months.
Rebecca Marino vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Gauff is 14-4 this season, and is just 3-3 lifetime at her home state’s biggest event. Marino is a 32-year-old Canadian who has taken several extended breaks from competitive tennis, but won 49 matches at all levels last year. At the 2022 French Open, Coco defeated Rebecca 7-5, 6-0.
Elena Rybakina (10) vs. Anna Kalinskaya – Rybakina is now 16-4 on the year, coming off her Indian Wells title run last week, where she avenged her Australian Open final loss to Aryna Sabalenka. Kalinskaya is 6-4 in main draws this season, and while she’s never played Elena at tour level, she did defeat her four years ago in the final of an ITF-level event in Australia.
Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.
Bianca Andreescu battles past Emma Raducanu in Miami
The Canadian won her first-round match against a tough British opponent.
Bianca Andreescu is into the second round of the Miami Open after beating Emma Raducanu 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in two hours and 33 minutes on Stadium Court.
The Toronto native hit 33 winners and served seven aces in a match that went the distance. Andreescu saved 11 out of the 12 break points she faced and broke her rival three times en route to victory.
“You never know what you are going to expect and I wanted to come in today playing my best,” the former US Open champion said afterwards. ” With what I had I think I did that and Emma played amazing. She is an incredible player”.
Andreescu opened the match by breaking the London native in the first game and that break of serve was enough for her to serve out the first set quite comfortably.
The second set stayed on serve until 4-3 when Raducanu had multiple breakpoints and managed to break the Canadian on her seventh opportunity. She then served out the set to send the match into a deciding third set where the Toronto native bounced back and at 3-2 broke Raducanu once again to take the lead.
Andreescu broke serve once again while the Brit was serving to stay in the match to secure the win. After the match in her post-match on-court interview, she was asked what made her so dangerous today.
“I didn’t let my negative emotions get the best of me and I stayed positive,” she replied. “I was very energetic and I never gave up and that really key for me today”.
The Canadian will next face the number seven seed Maria Sakkari in the second round.
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