Shining Bright: Belinda Bencic
Recently-turned 18-year-old Belinca Bencic went into Indian Wells with a 2-4 record to her name, but after a trip to the round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open, which included her first career Top 5 victory over Caroline Wozniacki, Bencic is striding confidently into Miami looking to make another deep run.
It was natural for Bencic, who broke out in a big way last September when she became the youngest player to reach the US Open quarterfinals in 17 years, to suffer a bit of a letdown. But the rising Swiss remains relaxed and says that she's feeling no pressure to perform. "I don't have any pressure," she told reporters after her straight set takedown of Wozniacki at Indian Wells. "I mean, I'm just playing."
Bencic, who is coached by Melanie Molitor, the mother of Martina Hingis, says that Molitor doesn't pressure her for results, either. "She expects me to give my all every match, but she doesn't like set me under pressure," Bencic said.
The World No.34 will make her first Miami Open appearance this week, and despite her lack of experience at the Premier Mandatory level, she believes that a deep run could be in the cards. "Yeah, everybody is close," she said about the current state of parity on tour. "Everybody could have a deep run or a great series of matches."
Making Noise: Karolina Pliskova
Sit down to watch Karolina Pliskova play in person and it doesn't take long to get an appreciation for her raw, unadulterated power. The terms "easy power" and "pop" get worn out in tennis circles, but when it comes to the hard-serving World No.14, they are most certainly apt. In 27 matches this season, the Czech leads the tour with 183 aces, and is fourth behind only Lucie Safarova, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams in percentage of service games won.
More important, Pliskova is proving that she knows how to turn that power into victories. She's 20-7 on the season, and she's fourth in the Road To Singapore standings after a round of 16 performance at Indian Wells last week. If she hadn't run into a buzzsaw known as Simona Halep, there's no telling how far the 22-year-old might have gone in the desert.
Elina Svitolina: The feisty 20-year-old has been a very consistent performer in 2015. Svitolina, who plays a fiery, physical brand of tennis, has yet to lose to anybody ranked below her this season. In fact, all but two of her losses have been to players ranked inside the Top 10, and the other two have come at the hands of No.11 Lucie Safarova and former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka. Once the draw gods start being a little kinder to her, expect Svitolina to make a big push in the direction of the Top 15.
Fresh Face In Miami: 15-year-old CiCi Bellis has already made the most of her Miami Open wildcard. She defeated wildcard Indy De Vroome to set up a second round clash with fellow WTA Rising Star Zarina Diyas. Last year, Bellis and Diyas met to much fanfare in the second round of the US Open, with Diyas gaining the 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 victory.
Bellis, fresh off an ITF Circuit title in Rancho Santa Fe last month, is up to No.211 in the world.
Quote Of The Week: "Difference was that I won a game." - Belinda Bencic, when asked what was the difference between her 6-0, 6-0 loss to Caroline Wozniacki last year and her upset of the Dane at Indian Wells this year.
Tweet Of The Week: Potential round of 16 opponents Ivanovic and Muguruza share a bit of fun during a busy practice day in Miami.