Fixture: (14) Victoria Azarenka vs (1) Ashleigh Barty
Date: 29 March 2021
Tournament: Miami Open 2021
Round: Fourth Round (Round of 16)
Venue: Miami, Florida
Category: WTA 1000
Surface: Outdoor hardcourt
Prize money: $3,340,000
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Europsort
Victoria Azarenka vs Ashleigh Barty preview
Victoria Azarenka has been in solid form ever since her incredible run in the United States last year. Having won the title at the Western & Southern Open and reached the final at the US Open, the Belarusian ended her year by finishing as the runner-up in Ostrava.
This year too, barring a shock first-round defeat at the hands of Jessica Pegula at the Australian Open, Azarenka has been in good nick. The 31-year-old reached the semifinals in Doha, but was forced to withdraw due to a back injury.
A well-rested Azarenka is now back in Miami to chase her fourth title at the tournament. Following a walkover and a routine straight-sets win over Angelique Kerber, she comes into the fourth round brimming with confidence.
Ashleigh Barty, meanwhile, finds herself at the top of the world rankings due to her superlative form in 2019. After a year away from the tour, the Aussie returned to competition in Melbourne, where she won the Yarra Valley Classic before bowing out in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
Following a disappointing first-round defeat in Adelaide, the 24-year-old withdrew from Dubai due to a leg injury. Her return to the tour in Miami was suspect, as she pulled out a nervy 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 win over Kristina Kucova in her opening match.
But Barty would have grown in confidence after dispatching Jelena Ostapenko in just over an hour to set up the fourth-round match against Azarenka.
Victoria Azarenka vs Ashleigh Barty head-to-head
The fourth-round clash in Miami is the third professional encounter between Victoria Azarenka and Ashleigh Barty, and their head-to-head currently stands at 1-1.
While Azarenka defeated Barty in their first meeting at Tokyo in 2018, the Aussie picked up a straight-sets win at the 2019 Fed Cup.
Victoria Azarenka vs Ashleigh Barty prediction
On paper, Ashleigh Barty is the firm favorite for this encounter, being the World No. 1 and having won their previous match on the tour. However, Victoria Azarenka is undoubtedly in better form than her opponent right now.
The Belarusian's back issues seem to be over, and she is once again starting to look like a big threat on the hardcourts of Miami with her aggressive and consistent groundstrokes.
Barty has a solid game herself, and she also looks to mix things up with slices and net approaches. The Aussie will aim to use variations in pace and spin to break the rhythm of Azarenka from the baseline.
Both players come into the match after a string of injury problems. Barty's gritty performance in the second round combined with her efficient display in the third reminded everyone why she is such a formidable opponent. However, Azarenka's superior form and match sharpness over the past few months, particularly on hardcourts, may give her the edge.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to win in three sets.