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Miami Open 2021: Women's singles draw analysis, preview & prediction

Naomi Osaka is the second seed at Miami.
Naomi Osaka is the second seed at Miami.
ANALYST
Modified 22 Mar 2021
Feature

This week the WTA tour heads to the state of Florida in the USA, where the Miami Open will start from Tuesday. With a packed and star-studded field, the WTA 1000 event is sure to attract many eyeballs even though home favorite and eight-time champion Serena Williams recently announced her withdrawal.

The defending champion from 2019, Ashleigh Barty, leads the field as the top seed. Four-time Slam champion Naomi Osaka is the second seed, and headlines the bottom half of the draw.

Serena Williams is the only top 10 player missing in the draw, highlighting the strength of the field. Simona Halep, Victoria Azarenka, Bianca Andreescu, Sofia Kenin, Elina Svitolina, Garbine Muguruza, Aryna Sabalenka and Jennifer Brady are some of the other big names in the mix.

There are 32 seeds in this tournament, all of whom have received an opening-round bye. So without further ado, let us look at the women's singles draw of the Miami Open, beginning with the top half:

1st quarter: Ashleigh Barty, Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka vie for supremacy

Ashleigh Barty is the top seed
Ashleigh Barty is the top seed

Seeded players: [1] Ashleigh Barty, [7] Aryna Sabalenka, Belinda Bencic, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber, Alison Riske, Marketa Vondrousova, Veronika Kudermetova

Expected quarterfinal: Ashleigh Barty vs Aryna Sabalenka

Dark horse: Victoria Azarenka

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With all the 16 seeded players in this half of the draw receiving an opening-round bye, there aren't many high-profile first-round fixtures.

Top seed and World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty has been drawn to face a qualifier in the second round. The first seeded player in Barty's path could be Alison Riske, in the third round.

Riske begins her campaign in the second round against one of Jelena Ostapenko or Xiyu Wang.

14th seed and two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, who suffered a back injury at the Qatar Open, returns to action in Miami. The Belarusian is drawn to face one of Christina McHale or Laura Siegemund in the second round.

Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka

A mouthwatering clash with Angelique Kerber could be on the cards for Azarenka. But the German first has to negotiate the challenge of Nao Hibino or a qualifier in her second-round match.

If the results pan out according to the seedings, then Victoria Azarenka and Ashleigh Barty could go head-to-head against each other in the fourth round.

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Three-time champion Venus Williams opens her Miami Open campaign against Zarina Diyas. Should Williams come out of that unscathed, a second-round clash with Belinda Bencic awaits.

Bencic, who had a disappointing run at both Qatar and Dubai, will likely lock horns with Marketa Vondrousova in the third round - assuming she wins her match against Williams / Diyas.

This section of the top half also has Kristina Mladenovic, Aryna Sabalenka, Veronika Kudermetova and Marta Kostyuk in the mix.

After a bright start to the year, higlighted by a title run in Abu Dhabi, Aryna Sabalenka has suffered a dip in form. She has failed to go past the quarterfinals at any of her last four events.

Sabalenka could face Marta Kostyuk in the second round, a matchup that is likely to produce a lot of fireworks. If Sabalenka negotiates her initial matches, she could well hit top gear soon and make a serious run for the title.

Quarterfinal prediction: Ashleigh Barty vs Aryna Sabalenka

2nd quarter: Simona Halep leads the way, with Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova for company

Simona Halep
Simona Halep

Seeded players: [3] Simona Halep, [5] Elina Svitolina, [9] Petra Kvitova, Iga Swiatek, Johanna Konta, Coco Gauff, Madison Keys and Ekaterina Alexandrova.

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Expected quarterfinal: Simona Halep vs Elina Svitolina

Dark horse: Iga Swiatek

Simona Halep, the third seed, is one of the favorites for the title and also the player to beat in this quarter. The Romanian has been drawn to face one of Carlina Garcia or a qualifier in the second round.

Halep has a potentially tricky third-round fixture against Coco Gauff. But Gauff will first have to deal with the threat of Anastasija Sevastova or a qualifier in the second round.

As per the draw, the seeded player whom Iga Swiatek is likely to face in the third round is Madison Keys. But Swiatek may be in for a tough second-round clash if she meets the in-form Barbora Krejcikova - who plays Anna Blinkova in the first round.

Swiatek and Halep could cross swords if they come through their first couple of matches, as they are drawn to face each other in the Round of 16.

Iga Swiatek
Iga Swiatek

Meanwhile, ninth seed Petra Kvitova also has a potentially tricky second-round match, as she has been drawn to face one of Alize Cornet or Svetlana Kuznetsova.

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Kvitova, the recently crowned Qatar Open champion, was forced to pull out midway through her Dubai Open campaign due to a recurrent injury. But the two-time Slam champion now looks fit and ready to mount a challenge for the Miami Open title.

2017 champion Johanna Konta is the likely seeded opponent for Kvitova in the third round.

The second quarter has the name of fifth seed Elina Svitolina at the bottom. She will cross swords with one of Madison Brengle or Shelby Rogers in the second round, the latter of whom could be a tricky opponent for the Ukrainian.

Quarterfinal prediction: Simona Halep vs Petra Kvitova

3rd quarter: The in-form Garbine Muguruza and the rejuvenated Jennifer Brady look to steal a march over Sofia Kenin

Garbine Muguruza with her Dubai Open title
Garbine Muguruza with her Dubai Open title

Seeded players: [4] Sofia Kenin, [8] Bianca Andreescu, Garbine Muguruza, Jennifer Brady, Petra Martic, Amanda Anisimova, Elena Rybakina, Ons Jabeur

Expected quarterfinal: Sofia Kenin vs Bianca Andreescu

Dark horse: Jennifer Brady

Analysis: The first quarter of the bottom half sees 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu back in action at a big American event.

Andreescu began her year on a disappointing note, with an early exit at the Australian Open. But she did make it to the semifinals at the Phillip Island Trophy, regaining some semblance of form in the process.

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Andreescu has been drawn to face a qualifier or Yaroslava Shvedova in the second round. If she navigates that challenge, the Canadian could meet 2018 champion Sloane Stephens or 2019 Roland Garros semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

As per the seedings, the expected Round of 16 clash in this section will be between Garbine Muguruza and Bianca Andreescu. But unlike Andreescu, Muguruza has been in imperious form of late; the Spaniard finished as the champion in Dubai and the runner-up in Qatar.

Muguruza will open her campaign against one of Rebecca Peterson or Xinyu Wang. The seeded player drawn to face Muguruza in the third round is Petra Martic, who has managed to get past the second round only once in five attempts this year.

The other Round of 16 fixture in this quarter is expected to be between compatriots Jennifer Brady and Sofia Kenin. Brady has proven herself to be a big-league player and, despite facing an early defeat in Doha, seems primed to make another deep run at a big event.

Jennifer Brady
Jennifer Brady
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Brady will cross swords against one of Bernarda Pera or Sara Sorribes Tormo first up, both of whom are tricky customers. Elena Rybakina is the seeded player drawn to face Brady in the third round.

For Sofia Kenin, 2021 has been a poor year so far, with four defeats already and no semifinal appearances. Kenin has lost three of her last four matches on tour, and is drawn to face one of Shuai Zhang or Andrea Petkovic in the second round.

In the third round, one of Ons Jabeur, Paula Badosa or Jil Teichmann could lie in wait for the American.

Quarterfinal prediction: Garbine Muguruza vs Jennifer Brady

4th quarter: Naomi Osaka returns

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka

Seeded players: [2] Naomi Osaka, [6] Karolina Pliskova, [10] Kiki Bertens, Elise Mertens, Jessica Pegula, Maria Sakkari, Anett Kontaveit, Yulia Putintseva

Expected quarterfinal: Naomi Osaka vs Karolina Pliskova

Dark horse: Jessica Pegula

There is little doubt that Naomi Osaka is the player to beat - not only in this quarter or half, but in the entire tournament. Osaka comes into this event having gone unbeaten in her last 21 matches, dating back to last year's Western & Southern Open.

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The last time the Japanese lost a match was all the way back in January 2020, when Coco Gauff ousted her in the third round of the Australian Open.

Osaka has been drawn to face one of Anastasia Potapova or Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round at Miami. The first seeded player that Osaka could face is Yulia Putintseva in the third round.

Elise Mertens is a potential fourth round opponent for Osaka. Mertens is in excellent form herself, having won the Gippsland Trophy in February, after which she made the semis in Dubai.

The Belgian will meet one of Kristyna Pliskova or Katie Boulter in the second round. A potential third-round clash against Anett Kontaveit awaits Mertens after that.

Kiki Bertens opens her Miami Open campaign against a qualifier or Camila Giorgi, but a tricky third-round encounter against Maria Sakkari looms large for the Dutchwoman. Sakkari has struggled since reaching the semis in Abu Dhabi, losing half of her last eight matches, and will be keen to turn things around in Miami.

Karolina Pliskova and Jessica Pegula are the remaining seeded players in this section of the draw, and are likely third-round opponents for each other.

Jessica Pegula
Jessica Pegula
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As per the seedings, Kiki Bertens taking on Karolina Plisokova is the expected Round of 16 matchup in the second quarter of the bottom half. But given Jessica Pegula's recent results, which include two thumping wins over Pliskova herself (6-3, 6-1 in Qatar and 6-0, 6-2 in Dubai), it is likely that the American will get the better of the Czech once again and go deep into the event.

Quarterfinal prediction: Jessica Pegula vs Naomi Osaka

Semifinal predictions

Ashleigh Barty vs Petra Kvitova

Naomi Osaka vs Garbine Muguruza

Predicted final

Petra Kvitova vs Naomi Osaka

Predicted champion

Naomi Osaka

Published 22 Mar 2021, 18:38 IST
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