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Kerber, Pliskova Battle For Miami Open Crown: WTA Insider Analyzes The Draw

WTA Insider David Kane | The second leg of the Sunshine Swing is about to get underway; can new No.1 Angelique Kerber kickstart her season in Miami? Check out the draw here.

Published March 20, 2017 12:15

Kerber, Pliskova Battle For Miami Open Crown: WTA Insider Analyzes The Draw
Miami Open

MIAMI, FL, USA - The second Premier Mandatory event of the season is set to kick off at the Miami Open. Qualifying starts on Monday and main draw matches will begin in earnest on Tuesday.

The draw was conducted on Sunday at the Miami Beach Lacoste store; reigning BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global champion Dominika Cibulkova and American Christina McHale were both on hand to help assist placing the seeds. Here's what you need to know:

Top 8 seeds: Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, Dominika Cibulkova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Garbiñe Muguruza, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Madison Keys.
Top half: Kerber, Halep, Kuznetsova, Keys.
Bottom half: Pliskova, Cibulkova, Radwanska, Muguruza
Projected quarterfinals: Kerber vs. Kuznetsova, Halep vs. Keys, Muguruza vs. Cibulkova, Radwanska vs. Pliskova.
Last year's final: Victoria Azarenka d. Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3, 6-2.

Angelique Kerber plays her first tournament since reclaiming the No.1 ranking; nemesis Kasatkina looms.

Kerber was set to chase 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, who wrested the top spot from the German after winning her record-breaking Australian Open title, at the BNP Paribas Open before the American withdrew from both Indian Wells and Miami due to a left knee injury. As the de facto No.1 in the California desert, she was on fire against countrywoman Andrea Petkovic, and struggled to defeat Pauline Parmentier before running into an in-form Elena Vesnina, who went on to win the title.

Hoping to rebound in Miami, Kerber will have to hit the ground running should she face her projected third round opponent, No.31 seed Daria Kasatkina. The young Russian has beaten Kerber in both of their 2017 meetings, including a three-set tussle at the Qatar Total Open. Should she make it out of that section, she's almost gauranteed a tough quarterfinal opponent as she could face one of No.11 seed Venus Williams, No.22 seed Kristina Mladenovic, or Indian Wells runner-up and No.7 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Time for Keys to shine in Miami?

The second quarter is anchored by a pair of players coming back from injury. No.3 seed Simona Halep had a solid start in the California desert before getting outplayed eventual semifinalist Mladenovic in straight sets. She could face further French resistence in the fourth round against No.21 seed Caroline Garcia.

No.8 Madison Keys has played just three matches in 2017, but answered many questions about her form in her relatively brief Indian Wells return. Crushing Japanese teenager Naomi Osaka, the American acquitted herself well against former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, and could be primed to blow through her section, provided she makes it past No.10 seed Johanna Konta.

Vesnina shoots for Sunshine Double in tough third quarter.

Elena Vesnina surprised the world when she stormed to her biggest career title at the BNP Paribas Open; should she replicate the form that helped her beat Kerber, Williams, Mladenovic, and Kuznetsova in succession, the Russian will absolutely be one to watch in Crandon Park.

Her projected fourth round opponent is Cibulkova, the highest seed in the quarter. The Slovak showed signs of promise in Indian Wells, pulling out a pair of tight three-setters that appeared to give her the kind of big-match confidence she took through her stellar 2016 season.

Muguruza to hit the (Danish) wall?

The third big name to watch is No.6 seed Garbiñe Muguruza, who comes to Miami after a narrow loss to Karolina Pliskova last week. The Spaniard snapped Elina Svitolina's 15-match winning streak en route to the quarterfinals, and will likely face more surging opposition in the fourth round in the form of No.12 seed Caroline Wozniacki.

Muguruza leads their head-to-head 3-1, but the pair haven't played since 2015, when the former No.2 stunned the Dane on the way to her first Grand Slam final. Wozniacki picked up from where she left off at the end of 2016, reaching back-to-back finals in Doha and Dubai, and lost a close three-setter to Mladenovic in Indian Wells.

Still, the former No.1 will need to watch out for Olympic champion Monica Puig or rising American star Lauren Davis, two of the most dangerous floaters in the draw; both are in her section.

Aussie Open rematches abound in Quarter No.4.

Before Svitolina got on a roll and won two straight titles in Chinese Taipei and Dubai, she took a tough three-set loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the Australian Open. The Ukrainian will have a shot at avenging that defeat in Miami, as the No.9 seed is slated to face the No.17 seed in the third round.

Pavlyuchenkova has since backed up her run to the quarterfinals in Melbourne, reaching the last eight in Indian Wells with a win over Cibulkova along the way.

Speaking of big wins Down Under, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni's fairytale fortnight started in the second round when she slid past Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round. Radwanska is projected to face the Croat once again provided she gets past a qualifier or Wang Qiang, who's had a stealthy rise up the rankings in 2017 after reaching the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Pliskova vs. Ostapenko, Part II.

We didn't get to see how Karolina Pliskova would fare against young hotshot Jelena Ostapenko in Indian Wells after the draw was reshuffled. The Latvian went on to push Dominika Cibulkova to three sets while Pliskova edged past Monica Puig after moving into the top half of the draw.

The pair played a dramatic match in Melbourne, and the stage seems set for it to happen again should Ostapenko make it past her qualifier in the first round.

From there, things ease up for Pliskova, who is projected to play some of the first quarter's struggling prospects in No.27 seed Yulia Putintseva and either No.15 seed Barbora Strycova or No.18 seed CoCo Vandeweghe, all three have lacked that extra spark since earning impressive results to start the season.

Next Gen names to watch.

The Miami Open draw boasts a diverse set of main draw and qualifying wildcards, including Kuala Lumpur champion Ashleigh Barty and St. Petersburg semifinalist Natalia Vikhlyantseva. Another wildcard to watch out for is 15-year-old American Amanda Anisimova. A junior standout, Anisimova reached the final of last year's French Open and nearly qualified for the senior-level main draw at the US Open.

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of colleague and countrywoman Kayla Day, Anisimova opens against a qualifier with a possible upset opportunity against No.25 seed Roberta Vinci.

Notable first round matches:

Julia Goerges vs. Alison Riske
Mandy Minella vs. Kristyna Pliskova
Eugenie Bouchard vs. Ashleigh Barty
Christina McHale vs. Annika Beck
Belinda Bencic vs. Sara Errani
CiCi Bellis vs. Ajla Tomljanovic
Yanina Wickmayer vs. Lucie Safarova
Jelena Jankovic vs. Yaroslava Shvedova
Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. Katerina Siniakova

Notable second round matches:

Angelique Kerber vs. Laura Siegemund
Shelby Rogers vs. Daria Kasatkina
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Kristyna Pliskova
Caroline Garcia vs. Peng Shuai
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Wang Qiang
Barbora Strycova vs. Monica Niculescu
Andrea Petkovic vs. CoCo Vandeweghe
Jelena Ostapenko vs. Karolina Pliskova

Hear more from the Insider team as they preview the draw in the latest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast:

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