Youth was served—and did some pretty good serving of its own—in Indian Wells last week. Can the WTA’s Top 10 establishment, which was decimated in the two-woman desert coup launched by Naomi Osaka and Daria Kasatkina, mount a counterattack in Miami? If so, it will start early: Osaka will begin her Key Biscayne campaign against eight-time champion Serena Williams. Here’s a look at how that battle of the ages, and the rest of the women’s draw, may play out.
WOMEN'S DRAW: Click here
The last time we saw Simona Halep, she was walking, head down, off the stadium court at Indian Wells after being handed a second-set bagel by Osaka. The world No. 1 came out flat and never roused herself; finding a balance between staying calm, but not too calm, remains a challenge for her. She’ll need to find that balance in this well-stocked quarter: Halep’s road could take her through Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round, Madison Keys or Anastasija Sevastova in the fourth, and Karolina Pliskova, Julia Goerges, or Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarters.
First-round match to watch: Victoria Azarenka vs. CiCi Bellis
Wild card to watch: Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Player of Interest: Madison Keys. Before last week, Osaka was a sort of Maddy II: They both trained in Florida, they hit big, and their games both went through wild ups and downs. But the 23-year-old Keys was always a step or two ahead in the developmental process. Now that Osaka has made her leap in Indian Wells, how will Keys, who lost early there, react?
CiCi Bellis is one of Tennis Channel's teens on the rise:
Garbiñe Muguruza’s game has been in flux so far this year. She lost early in Melbourne and Indian Wells, but had success in Dubai and Doha. She’s also had success in Miami in the past; this is where, in 2012, she made the round of 16 in her first WTA main draw. On paper, she looks set to go at least that far this year as well. The seeds near her are Barbora Strycova, Sloane Stephens, and Magdalena Rybarikova. On the other side of this quarter, the bold-faced names belong to Caroline Garcia, Angelique Kerber, Carla Suarez Navarro, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Wild card to watch: Amanda Anisimova. The 16-year-old American, who reached the round of 16 in Indian Wells, will start against Qiang Wang; if she wins that, she’ll face Muguruza.
Player of Interest: Kerber. The former No. 1 has reclaimed her game, re-cracked the Top 10, and threatened to go all the way at every event she has played in 2018. But since winning in Sydney in January, she has stalled somewhere along the way at each tournament. Her last loss, 6-0, 6-2 to Kasatkina in the Indian Wells quarters, was particularly perplexing. Can Kerber sustain her momentum without winning tournaments? We’ll find out more this week.
Elina Svitolina and Jelena Ostapenko are the top two seeds in this section, but the first match to watch is between two very familiar unseeded players: Osaka and Serena. The two have never faced each other, and ideally, they wouldn’t be facing each other in the first round—in a perfect world, as many have said, Serena would still have a protested ranking after having a baby. But this match will get the tournament off to a fast start, and it will give us a good idea of (a) where Serena is in her comeback, and (b) just how high Osaka is ready to climb in 2018. The winner will play Svitolina.
Potential third-round match to watch: Kasatkina vs. Petra Kvitova
Championship point from Osaka's victory over Kasatkina in Indian Wells:
Since winning her long-awaited first major at the Australian Open, Caroline Wozniacki has mostly reverted to form. She’s kept her schedule busy and her form steady, if unspectacular—she has lost twice to Kasatkina, and once to Kvitova, and hasn’t advanced past the semifinals. Wozniacki is certainly a threat to go farther in Miami; she beat Muguruza and Pliskova on her way to the final here last year. But her draw won’t make a return to the championship easy: Venus Williams, CoCo Vandeweghe, and the woman who beat Wozniacki in the 2017 final, Jo Konta, are in this section.
Player of Interest: Konta. Last year at this time, Konta was in the middle of an early-season surge that peaked with her title in Miami, the biggest of her career. She’ll return with a less-than-scintillating 6-6 record in 2018. Will Konta turn her game around at some point this year? Miami would seem to be the place to start.
Semifinalist: V. Williams
Semifinals: Halep d. Svitolina; V. Williams d. Kerber
Final: V. Williams d. Halep
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