Miami Draw Analysis: The Sunshine Swing heads to the Miami Open for the second Premier Mandatory tournament of the year, and the first week will not be short on drama. WTA Insider breaks down the draw.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen
March 19, 2018

The Sunshine Swing picks up sticks from Indian Wells, Califonia and heads to the east coast for the second Premier Mandatory event of the year at the Miami Open, which begins on Tuesday, March 20th.

The Miami draw is out and it's highlighted by a stunning first-round showdown between BNP Paribas Open champion Naomi Osaka and eight-time Miami champion Serena Williams, who is playing the second tournament of her comeback. Also on the comeback trail is former Doubles No.1 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who is back in the draw after suffering a terrible knee injury last summer.

Victory in Miami would see Osaka join an elite group of Stefanie Graf (twice), Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka who have completed the Sunshine Double.

To see the full draw, click here. 

Tournament snapshot:

Top eight seeds: No.1 Simona Halep, No.2 Caroline Wozniacki, No.3 Garbiñe Muguruza, No.4 Elina Svitolina, No.5 Karolina Pliskova, No.6 Jelena Ostapenko, No.7 Caroline Garcia, No.8 Venus Williams

Top half: Halep, Muguruza, Pliskova, Garcia
Bottom half: Wozniacki, Svitolina, Ostapenko, Venus

Potential quarterfinals: Halep vs. Pliskova, Muguruza vs. Garcia, Svitolina-Ostapenko, Wozniacki vs. Venus.

Last year's final: Johanna Konta d. Caroline Wozniacki, 6-4 6-3.

Naomi Osaka celebrates with coach Sascha Baijin after winning the BNP Paribas Open

Naomi Osaka's bad draw luck continues.

The newly-minuted BNP Paribas Open champion will have no time for a let-down in Miami, where she's been drawn to play Serena Williams in the first round, with the winner to play No.4 Elina Svitolina in the second round. This comes two weeks after she drew Maria Sharapova in the first round of Indian Wells and played Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round.

It will be the first career meeting between Osaka and her idol Serena. Adding further intrigue to the match-up is the fact that Serena's long-time hitting partner Sascha Baijin now coaches Osaka. It's a match that Osaka has been looking forward to for a long time. 

"There's basically three people I want to play: Venus, Maria, and Serena. I ticked two off, so now I'm just waiting to play Serena," Osaka said after beating Sharapova in Indian Wells. "I'm looking forward to that."

From Serena's perspective, this is a great opportunity to go up against two of the hottest players on tour at the moment. Her week in Indian Wells was a positive one, scoring straight-set wins over Zarina Diyas and Kiki Bertens before falling in straight sets to sister Venus. If she can get the better of Osaka in the first round, she'll get to go toe-to-toe with Svitolina, who won their last meeting at the 2016 Olympics. Svitolina is looking to bounce back after a surprising straight-set loss to Carla Suárez Navarro in California.

Johanna Konta searching for wins as title defense begins. 

The top-ranked Brit is looking to find some match-rhythm as she returns to the site of her biggest win. Konta is 6-5 and has failed to win back-to-back matches at four of her six tournaments so far. Now ranked No.14, Konta comes into Miami after taking an opening-round loss to the talented Czech teen Marketa Vondrousova in Indian Wells. 

Konta has been drawn into the bottom quarter anchored by No.2 Wozniacki and No.8 Venus, which means she could face a redux of last year's title run before she even gets out of the quarterfinals. She will open her tournament against either Mihaela Buzarnescu or Kirsten Flipkens, with Australian Open semifinalist Elise Mertens potentially waiting in the third round. Konta could then face Venus in the Round of 16, which was the semifinal last year, and Wozniacki in the quarterfinals in a rematch of last year's final. 

Daria Kasatkina defeated four Slam champions - Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, and Venus Williams in Indian Wells.

Daria Kasatkina's tough road continues in Miami.

Kasatkina is on the brink of making her Top 10 debut and she will assume the mantle of being the top-ranked Russian on Monday, rising to a career-high No.11. After an incredible fortnight that saw her defeat four consecutive Slam champions to make the Indian Wells final, Kasatkina could get a look at another one in the third round of Miami: Petra Kvitova.

Kasatkina could have to start her tournament against her good friend Belinda Bencic in the second round (Bencic plays a qualifier), and No.9 could be waiting for the Russian after that. Kasatkina has been drawn into the third quarter, which is anchored by Elina Svitolina and Jelena Ostapenko. She could face Ostapenko in the Round of 16.

Victoria Azarenka and CiCi Bellis clash in the first round.

After taking a second-round loss to Sloane Stephens at Indian Wells, Azarenka gave a brutally candid assessment of her form, saying she had a long way to go to get back to her dominant 2016 form. Getting some relatively easy match-ups early would certainly help her confidence, but the Miami draw had other ideas. 

The 2016 champion will open her tournament against No.44 CiCi Bellis, one of the best big-match players of the current teenage crop. The winner of that match will face 14th seed Madison Keys in the second round, with No.1 Halep looming in the Round of 16.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands during the first round at Wimbledon (Getty)
Bethanie Mattek-Sands is set to play her first match since Wimbledon.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands makes a welcome return.

The former Doubles No.1 returns to action this week after a horrendous knee injury sustained at Wimbledon left her sidelined. Taking a wildcard into the singles draw, she'll face Alizé Cornet in the first round. 

16-year-old Amanda Anisimova looks to continue her seed-slaying. 

Armed with a wildcard into Indian Wells, the young American knocked out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and ended Petra Kvitova's 14-match winning streak to make the Round of 16. The big-hitting teen is back at it in Miami after receiving a wildcard, and she could face No.3 Garbiñe Muguruza in the second round. That's one match to circle if Anisimova gets past Wang Qiang in the first round.

Notable First Round Matches: Alize Cornet vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, CiCi Bellis vs. Victoria Azarenka, Timea Bacsinszky vs. Ekaterina Makarova, Claire Liu vs. Whitney Osuigwe, Camila Giorgi vs. Donna Vekic, Aleksandra Krunic vs. Maria Sakkari, Monica Puig vs. Sam Stosur.