Chris Evert and Brad Gilbert picked their Miami frontrunners, with Caroline Wozniacki and Kristina Mladenovic tipped to continue their hot streak into South Florida.
Stephanie Livaudais
March 13, 2017

MIAMI, FL, USA - With main draw play already underway and the seeds kicking things off in the second round, the experts have made their predictions for who'd take home the Miami Open title.

Former World No.1 Chris Evert and Brad Gilbert, a former player and currently a coach and analyst, sat down with ESPN for a conference call ahead of the Miami Open and made their picks for the year's second Premier Mandatory event.

Here's who they've got poised to make a big run under the Florida sun:

Caroline Wozniacki: The No.12 seeded Wozniacki, who reached the semifinals here in 2012, may just be one of the hottest players of the season. Though she's yet to win a title this year, her recent results suggest it may not be too far off.

The Dane opened the season with back-to-back quarterfinals at Auckland and Sydney, then later reached back-to-back finals in Doha and Dubai. She backed up by a run to Indian Wells quarterfinals, and Evert named her among the favorites to lift the Miami Open title.

"I'm looking at Wozniacki and Mladenovic? and they've looked so good," Evert said. "I mean, they've looked pretty relaxed, and they're playing some aggressive, consistent tennis. They started out the year well with good results, so I think that confidence is building with both these players."

Kristina Mladenovic

Kristina Mladenovic: Evert also tipped Mladenovic to do well in South Florida, following a rich vein of form that has seen her claim her first WTA title at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, where she defeated Venus Williams and Roberta Vinci on her way to the Premier-level crown. She's backed it up with a final appearance in Acapulco, as well as a semifinal run at Indian Wells - where she knocked out Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki before falling to eventual champion Elena Vesnina.

Evert said, "I think probably Wozniacki and Mladenovic, if I'm going to predict this tournament, I'm curious to see how well they do because they are on form [in Indian Wells]."

Madison Keys: The No.8 seed has played just three matches in 2017, but Evert has also picked her for a strong showing at Miami.

After coming back from a layoff following wrist surgery that forced her away from the tour, Keys reached the round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open, posting a win over Naomi Osaka and contending well in her loss to Wozniacki.

"I think there were definite signs, especially in the match against Naomi Osaka that she played pretty flawless tennis, and against Caroline Wozniacki, I think you saw the rustiness a little bit more," Evert said.

"But right now, it's just great to see her back being healthy after a wrist operation. I still think she's definitely going to win a Grand Slam, whether it's this year or next year. I think it's in the cards for her, and we all know the potential is there. But it's really up to her, when the time is right for her.

Gilbert added, "I think the talent is there. I think her big thing is - for the next 12 to 18 months - just to be healthy. I think once she can get that worked out - I think that she's incredibly under-ranked because with her talent level, she should be top five."

Garbiñe Muguruza

Garbiñe Muguruza: Much ink has been spilled over the Spaniard's up and down 2016 season, during which she won maiden Grand Slam at the French Open but was unable to back it up with consistent results.

But Muguruza seems to have hit the reset button during the off season: she showed off her world beating game in a strong Australian swing - reaching the semifinals at the Brisbane International and quarterfinals at the Australian Open - and is coming off a career-best performance at Indian Wells, where she reached the quarterfinals.

"Muguruza is getting stronger and stronger," Evert said. "She really looked shaky against Kayla Day, who had a fantastic Indian Wells, the 17 year old - that was really the first match, big match I've seen her play, and I was very impressed with her power and her game. But Muguruza is looking better and better."

Dark Horses Poised To Shake Things Up: In addition, Evert and Gilbert pointed to the depth of the tour, which has seen unlikely names take home big titles and spring upsets.

Gilbert said, "With Serena not being here and Kerber not playing at what the level she played at last year, one word jumps out: Opportunity."

"There's opportunity for every player. All of a sudden every player thinks, you know what, I can make a deep run. What we've seen a lot is players have one good week and not, so there doesn't have to be a consistency, so that leads to opportunity."

- Photos courtesy of Getty Images