Serena Williams and Carla Suárez Navarro will square off for the Miami Open title on Saturday, and contributor Ravi Ubha gives us his predictions for the final...
WTA Staff

The most successful player in the history of the Miami Open, or its precursors, it's little surprise that Serena Williams landed in the final. But how many would have predicted Carla Suárez Navarro would be her opponent - even if the Spaniard is having a fantastic season?

Does Suárez Navarro have a chance?

(1) Serena Williams (USA #1) vs (12) Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP #12)

Like Flavia Pennetta and Sara Errani before her, Carla Suárez Navarro has evolved from being a clay court specialist. While she grew up on dirt and likely still holds special affection for it, the diminutive 26-year-old is becoming a significant threat on hardcourts.

Her win over Maria Sharapova at the Rogers Cup last year perhaps foreshadowed what was to come this year.

Playing exclusively on hardcourts to start 2015, her victims have included Karolina Pliskova, Ekaterina Makarova, Sabine Lisicki, Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Venus Williams and Andrea Petkovic.

The victory this week over Williams, arguably, was the one that impressed the most. Here she was, facing the overwhelming crowd favorite in Miami and down a set (and a bageled one at that).

Yet in another example this season of Suárez Navarro's comfortableness on hardcourts, battling qualities and increased belief, she found a way to turn it around - admittedly aided by some unforced errors from the three-time Miami Open champ. As Suárez Navarro tweeted Thursday following her semifinal win, she takes it 'step by step, point by point.'

Serena Williams, meanwhile, entered Miami under a cloud of uncertainty, having pulled out of her semifinal in Indian Wells against Simona Halep due to a knee injury.

She remained in the Miami draw, however, and the knee was put to the test in her opener (another opener) against Monica Niculescu, Halep's fellow Romanian who often makes opponents cover every inch of the court.

As it turned out, Serena Williams comfortably progressed.

Her first real struggle came in the quarterfinals against Lisicki, the rejuvenated German.

Serena Williams' serve and baseline power often lead the way when discussing her strengths, but late in the first set as much of her game failed to co-operate, the 19-time Grand Slam champion played some outstanding defense.

Her back against the wall and down a set point, she uncorked a stunning forehand winner.

Serena Williams won that first set, which proved to be the turning point.

Thereafter, a match-up with Halep this time materialized, and in the battle of the two winning streaks, it was the American who emerged triumphant. Thankfully for the neutral, it was a classic, unlike when the pair met twice at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global in October.

The wins over Lisicki and Halep are bound to give Serena Williams a further jolt of momentum. After all, Halep crushed Serena Williams in the group stage in Singapore and Lisicki sent her packing from Wimbledon in 2013.

She adores competing in virtually her hometown tournament, has a day off to recover - more mentally than physically - from her exertions versus Halep and owns a 4-0 record against Suárez Navarro.

In those four encounters, Suárez Navarro hasn't come close to taking a set. There have been four bagels, and one double bagel, at the 2013 US Open.

A shred of comfort for Suárez Navarro? Their last meeting, in Madrid in 2014, was the closest at 6-2, 6-3.

Despite the aforementioned success on hardcourts, confronting Williams, and in Miami, is a different proposition.

To have any chance, Suárez Navarro must hit her spots on serve and hope her groundstrokes - so good at opening up the court - are working. A good volleyer, finishing points at the net when Serena Williams is in trouble on the baseline, could be a useful tactic.

At the same time, though, Serena Williams probably needs to have an off-day.

And she hasn't had many of those in Miami.

Prediction: Williams in two.