Reigning Miami Open champion Ashleigh Barty headlines the blockbuster matchup of the tournament against three-time champion Victoria Azarenka on Monday. From match point down 4-5 in the third set against Kristina Kucova, Barty got back on track in the third round with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-2 victory over Jelena Ostapenko.
Azarenka played her first match since withdrawing from the Qatar Total Open semifinals due to a back injury on Saturday, and stormed back from 1-4 in the first set against Angelique Kerber. The Belarusian won 12 of the last 15 games to improve her record to 9-1 over her fellow former world No. 1.
It appears both Azarenka and Barty are heating up at the right time, and according to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Aussie is listed as a slight -165 favorite. But really, this match couldn’t be more of a toss-up.
The conditions in Miami are heavy. The court is slow and high-bouncing, which makes for plenty of extended rallies. We know Barty will knife her slice backhand, which may sit up and give Azarenka time to wind up and destroy the tennis ball.
Barty’s heavy kick-serve and forehand are well suited to these conditions, and while Azarenka has won Miami three times, she’s never done it at the new Hard Rock Stadium.
Look for Azarenka to be the aggressor, but she’ll need to finish points at net. Knowing Barty prefers slicing her backhand, a few points like this will go a long way.
But if Barty plays her best, her movement and variety will certainly trouble Azarenka. Shots like this are demoralizing for opponents.
In the end, you’re guess is as good as mine. From a betting perspective, the value lies with Azarenka at +135, but look for Barty to find another gear and outclass the Belarusian with her unequaled variety and skill.
The Pick: Ashleigh Barty