In 2016, Svetlana Kuznetsova’s campaign got off to a near-perfect start as she captured the title in Sydney, Australia. However, the Russian was unable to build upon that run as she failed to win two matches in a row over her next four tournaments.
Hitting the second leg of the “Sunshine Double” in Miami, the 2006 champion finally broke that pattern by eliminating Carina Witthoft and Caroline Garcia after receiving a first-round bye.
Her next opponent, though, was of quite a different caliber.
For Serena Williams, the Miami Open center court might as well have been in her backyard. Since her first triumph there in 2002, the American had won the title seven more times—more than any other man or woman. In fact, Williams was aiming for her fourth title in a row, having won from 2013 to 2015.
Williams and Kuznetsova were both familiar with each other’s games, having faced each other 10 times in the past. Their most recent match came in Miami the year prior, with Williams taking that fourth-round encounter in straight sets.
Though they had some close battles, it had been several years since Kuznetsova was able to defeat her more accomplished opponent. Williams entered this match, though, with final-round losses in her only tournaments of the year at the Australian Open and Indian Wells, results that a veteran such as Kuznetsova could capitalize on.