Black, Huber Look to Rebound in Miami
Published March 25, 2009 12:00
MIAMI, FL, USA - The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's more fancied combinations will look to restore order to the doubles universe in south Florida this fortnight, after an Indian Wells event riddled by upsets.
Cara Black and Liezel Huber, runners-up at the Sony Ericsson Open last year to Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama - and to Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur in 2007 - are back as the undisputed top seeds and no doubt hoping it's a case of third time lucky. After a slow start to the year in Australia, the co-world No.1s finally found customary form in February, winning back-to-back titles at the Paris [Indoors] and Dubai. Although that momentum turned to dust in the Californian desert, where they lost early to Monica Niculescu and Alisa Kleybanova, the experienced Zimbabwean-American duo surely knows what it takes to bounce back.
Spanish duo Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual, Miami's No.2 seeds, are yet to reach a final in 2009, and won't much like the prospect of facing Niculescu and Kleybanova in the first round in Florida. Should the reigning French Open champions survive that test, they could face in-form Gisela Dulko and Shahar Peer, the runners-up to Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva at Indian Wells. That section of the draw also harbors eighth-seeded Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta, both of whom have been to doubles finals this year.
Paris [Indoors] runners-up Kveta Peschke and Raymond are seeded third, while the Australian pairing of Stosur and Rennae Stubbs are seeded fourth. Between them these four players own an impressive haul of titles - in fact, Raymond and Stubbs took the Miami title together in 2002, while Raymond and Stosur triumphed in 2006 as well as 2007 - but so far in 2009 the cabinet is bare on both sides. Stosur and Stubbs face an especially dangerous opening round encounter with China's Yan Zi and Zheng Jie, the 2006 Australian Open and Wimbledon champions.
Sugiyama and Daniela Hantuchova, who re-formed so effectively to reach the final of the Australian Open in January (only to be defeated by the Williams sisters) are the No.5 seeds in Miami. Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives and María José Martínez Sánchez, who won back-to-back titles at Bogotá and Acapulco last month, will look to translate their success to a bigger stage as the No.6 seeds.
With considerable doubles success to speak of with other partners, Chan Yung-Jan and Francesca Schiavone make an intriguing combination in the No.7 slot. They could play Ukraine's Bondarenko sisters, Alona and Kateryna, in the second round; last year's Australian Open champions are unseeded here this year but at recent tournaments have shown flashes of the form that carried them to new heights in 2008.
Nathalie Dechy and Mara Santangelo are unseeded as well, but the French-Italian duo has triumphed at Auckland and Monterrey already this season, and as former Grand Slam doubles winners might be due another breakthrough. Indeed, they could cause trouble in Hantuchova and Sugiyama's section of the draw - but first they'll have to get past Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Patty Schnyder.
Another fan-friendly first round match-up pitches the wildcard team of Svetlana Kuznetsova (who won the Miami doubles in 2005 with Alicia Molik) and Amélie Mauresmo against Caroline Wozniacki and Sorana Cirstea.