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WTA Miami Preview: Can new No. 2 Iga Swiatek complete a rare Sunshine Double?
Or will a fellow Top 10 contender, American hopeful or unseeded sleeper emerge victorious in South Florida?
Published Mar 22, 2022
TC DESK: Swiatek visits Steve and Chanda after clinching Indian Wells trophy
The Miami Open women’s field has roughly the same cast of characters as the one we just saw in Indian Wells. But it has a new lead actor in Iga Swiatek.
With the absence of world No. 1 and two-time defending Miami champion Ash Barty from the spring hard-court season, Swiatek, the new world No. 2, has stepped in as the new player to beat. How far can her current wave of good form take her? Is anyone else playing well enough to win a WTA Masters 1000 title? Here’s a look ahead the second round of the Sunshine Double.
Aryna Sabalenka has been a conspicuous non-presence so far in 2022. After reaching two Grand Slam semifinals and No. 2 in the rankings last year, she’s just 6-6 so far this season. Last week, seeded second in Indian Wells, she lost her opening match to 45th-ranked Jasmine Paolini. Sabalenka’s dry spells can last a while, but Miami’s hard courts should theoretically work well with her game; she lost to Barty in a good, three-set quarterfinal here last year. This time she’ll start against either Hailey Baptiste or Irina-Camelia Begu, and face a section that includes Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, Emma Raducanu, Elina Svitolina, Belinda Bencic, and Daria Kasatkina.
- Wild card to watch: Robin Montgomery. The U.S. Open girls’ champion, from Washington, D.C., will start against a qualifier.
- Potential third-round match to watch: Halep vs. Raducanu
There were a number of surprises last week in Indian Wells, but perhaps the biggest was Anett Kontaveit’s early loss to Marketa Vondrousova. It isn’t that Vondrousova can’t play; it’s just that Kontaveit has become an exceptionally reliable performer since last year’s US Open. The Estonian will try to get back on track in a section that has a few potential obstacles.
Naomi Osaka is here as an unseeded floater; she starts against Astra Sharma, and, if she wins that, will play Angelique Kerber. Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins is here; she’ll play the winner of Caroline Garcia and Anna Bondar. Ons Jabeur is here; despite cracking the Top 10 recently, the Tunisian has yet to reach a semifinal this season. Leylah Fernandez is here; the Canadian has shown signs of her US Open runner-up form over the past month. And Zheng Qinwen is also here; the Chinese teenager nearly knocked out Kerber in Indian Wells, and seems sure to be a name to remember going forward.
It has been little step by little step for Maria Sakkari. Last week she took another when she reached the Indian Wells final, but she was prevented from taking a bigger one by Swiatek in the final. Now the No. 4 seed will try to go one round better, but it likely won’t be easy, especially for someone who has played eight matches in singles and doubles over the last 10 days. Potentially in Sakkari’s path are Madison Keys, Elena Rybakina, Jessica Pegula, Victoria Azarenka, and the woman she beat in the semifinals this past weekend, Paula Badosa.
- Also here: 2018 champion Sloane Stephens, who is the last person other than Barty to win the title in Miami. She could face Pegula in the second round.
Only one woman in the last 10 years has completed the Sunshine Double; that was Victoria Azarenka in 2016. Can Swiatek match that difficult accomplishment? She’s the favorite to come out of her quarter. There are some quality players in this section, and some who have been in form: Garbiñe Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, Veronika Kudermetova, Coco Gauff, Amanda Anisimova, Clara Tauson. But right now, if Swiatek is on her game, she’s a cut above them.
- First-round match to watch: Anisimova vs. Shelby Rogers