World No.1 Ashleigh Barty returns to the Miami Open to defend her 2019 title, while Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka and Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships champion Garbine Muguruza head to the Sunshine State as the two hottest players on tour.   

WTA Insider breaks down the anticipated storylines over the next fortnight in Miami.

1. The Miami Open returns as the second WTA 1000 of the season.

Having been canceled last year due to the global pandemic, the Miami Open returns to the calendar to once again serve as a bookend to the hardcourt season. With the postponement of the BNP Paribas Open, Miami will be the second WTA 1000 event of the season.

The Miami champion will take home $300,110 and 1,000 ranking points.

2. The Miami Open is a two-week event

Main-draw play begins on Tuesday. The singles final will be played on Saturday, April 3rd. The doubles final will be played on Sunday, April 4th. 

3. 19 of the Top 20 are playing

As usual, Miami features an incredibly strong draw, even after eight-time champion Serena Williams withdrew after undergoing oral surgery. In fact, 19 of the Top 20 are in action in Miami. This will be the first time since the Australian Open that all of the major champions of the last two seasons - Naomi Osaka, Iga Swiatek, Sofia Kenin, Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep, and Bianca Andreescu - are in a draw together.

Wildcards: Anna Kalinskaya, Wang Xinyu, Wang Xiyu, Storm Sanders, Katrina Scott, Ana Konjuh, Robin Montgomery, Mayar Sherif. 

For a full draw breakdown, click here

Champion's Reel: How Ashleigh Barty won Miami 2019

4. Ashleigh Barty returns to defend her title and kick off a long road trip

Barty's rapid rise to World No.1 began in Miami in 2019, where she defeated Karolina Pliskova in the final to win what was, at the time, the biggest title of her career. A few months later, Barty would win Roland Garros, rise to No.1 a week later after winning The Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, and cap off her incredible season by winning the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen and finish the year atop the rankings.

After a solid start to the season in Australia, where she won the Yarra Valley Classic and made the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, Barty is back in action. She'll open against a qualifier and could face US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka in the Round of 16. No.7 Aryna Sabalenka or 11th seed Belinda Bencic could be waiting in the quarterfinals, while Halep, Swiatek, Petra Kvitova, and Elina Svitolina could be waiting in the semifinals.

5. All eyes on Muguruza and Osaka

Garbiñe Muguruza has won more matches than anyone on tour (18-4), is the only player to make three finals in 2021, leads the tour in Top 10 wins, and is coming off her biggest title in nearly four years after winning Dubai. Miami is the site of her career breakthrough a decade ago, when as a 17-year-old wildcard ranked outside the Top 200, she made her WTA debut and scored her a Top 10 win over Vera Zvonareva and defeated Flavia Pennetta to make the Round of 16 in 2012. But the Spaniard has yet to make it past the Round of 16 in eight tries.

After playing tournament after tournament this season against tough draws - she ranks second on tour in average rank of opponent - Muguruza should have some rounds to get acclimated in Miami. With an opening bye, she will face either Rebecca Peterson or Chinese wildcard Wang Xinyu. The first seeded player she could face is 20th seed Petra Martic in the third round. 

In what would be a highly-anticipated showdown, Muguruza could face Andreescu in the Round of 16 for a spot in her first Miami quarterfinal, where she could face Jennifer Brady or Sofia Kenin, with Osaka potentially looming as a semifinal opponent. Given that Muguruza was the only player to take a set off Osaka at the Australian Open and had two match points on the eventual champion, that is a semifinal showdown worth clearing your calendar for. 

6. Notable first-round matches

The Top 32 seeds have byes into the second round, which will get underway on Thursday. 

Here are the most notable first-round matches to watch on Tuesday and Wednesday:

Anastasia Potapova vs. Ajla Tomljanovic (winner will play No.2 Naomi Osaka)
Zarina Diyas vs. Venus Williams (winner will play 11th seed Belinda Bencic)
Kristina Mladenovic vs. Danielle Collins (winner will play 32nd seed Veronika Kudermetova)
Alizé Cornet vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (winner will play 9th seed Petra Kvitova)
Andrea Petkovic vs. Zhang Shuai (winner will play No.4 Sofia Kenin)
Nadia Podoroska vs. Mayar Sherif (winner will play 30th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova)

7. Weekend Warriors

Pending the first two rounds, the Miami draw will start to heat up during the third round, which will be played over the upcoming weekend, highlighted by the potential match-up between Simona Halep and Coco Gauff. 

Halep won their only prior meeting, a 6-3, 6-3 win in the Round of 16 at 2019 Wimbledon, but Gauff has found good form over the last month. After struggling to tally back-to-back wins since Lexington last summer, Gauff comes into Miami off two big results. She made her first WTA 500 semifinal at the Adelaide International and her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. In contrast, Halep will be playing her first tournament since the Australian Open. 

In another potential showdown, Naomi Osaka could face 26th seed Yulia Putintseva, who owns a 3-1 record against the four-time major champion. 

Potential third-round match-ups:

[2] Naomi Osaka vs. [26] Yulia Putintseva
[3] Simona Halep vs. [31] Coco Gauff
[4] Sofia Kenin vs. [27] Ons Jabeur
[6] Karolina Pliskova vs. [29] Jessica Pegula
[8] Bianca Andreescu vs. [28] Amanda Anisimova (or Sloane Stephens)
[13] Jennifer Brady vs. [21] Elena Rybakina
[14] Victoria Azarenka vs. [24] Angelique Kerber
[15] Iga Swiatek vs. [18] Madison Keys
[16] Elise Mertens vs. [22] Anett Kontaveit

8. Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka reunite to defend their doubles crown

The doubles draw has yet to be released, but Australian Open champions Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka have reunited to defend their 2019 Miami crown. Mertens/Sabalenka are the top seeds in Miami, with Krejickova/Siniakova, Melichar/Schuurs, and Aoyama/Shibahara rounding out the Top Four teams.

Barty will be also head to the doubles courts in Miami, pairing with Jennifer Brady for the second time this season. Barty is not the only Slam champion in the doubles draw this week. Iga Swiatek will be pairing with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jelena Ostapenko will team up again with Lyudmyla Kichenok.