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10 Things: Miami

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Every week brings you 10 Things To Know about the week – who is playing, where and much more. This week the Road To Singapore heads to the Miami Open in Miami, Florida…

1) Serena Williams aims for a ninth Miami Open title.
Despite narrowly losing the BNP Paribas Open final to rival Victoria Azarenka, Williams still heads to one of her favorite tournaments as the top seed and in search of a historic ninth victory in Miami. The American will play one of Misaki Doi or Christina McHale in her opening round match, with No.31 seed Daria Gavrilova, No.15 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, No.8 seed Petra Kvitova, and No.3 seed Angieszka Radwanska her projected opponents en route to the final.

2) Victoria Azarenka two weeks away from a rare Sunshine Double.
Former No.1 Victoria Azarenka clinched her return to the Top 10 by beating Williams in straight sets on Sunday and is eligible for the elusive Indian Wells-Miami double for the first time in her career. Her career breakthrough came in Miami back in 2009, when she defeated Williams in the final. All four of her career victories over the 21-time Grand Slam champion have come in finals, and being in the opposite half of the draw, can’t play Williams before that stage.

3) Angelique Kerber on course for a post-Aussie rebound?
Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber is the No.2 seed in Miami despite dropping to No.3 in the WTA rankings following Radwanska’s run to the semifinals in Miami. The German hasn’t won a WTA match since Melbourne, where she defeated both Azarenka and Williams en route to the title. Kerber will pen against either Anna-Lena Friedsam – who reached the final of the inaugrual WTA 125K Series tournament in San Antonio – or Barbora Strycova, who is in the midst of a career-best season, but was forced out of Indian Wells due to an upper respiratory illness.

4) Redemption for Radwanska or Halep?
Agnieszka Radwanska played one of her most competitive matches against Serena Williams in the semifinals of Indian Wells, but still fell in straight sets. The Pole is slated for another semifinal rematch with the American in Miami, but may first have to surpass No.5 seed Simona Halep, who played her best tennis since last summer before she, too, bowed out to the World No.1 in the quarters. Halep has a potential second round against rising Russian Daria Kasatkina, who also reached the quarterfinals in her California desert debut.

5) Full circle for Spain?
Garbiñe Muguruza first captured international attention in Miami, reaching the fourth round as a wildcard back in 2012. Carla Suárez Navarro went even farther in 2015, reaching the final before falling to Williams. As Muguruza’s shown steady improvement, Suárez Navarro had been one of the most consistent forces of the 2016 season, but a right ankle injury took her out of Indian Wells before her opening match. She will open against a qualifier or Indian Wells doubles champion CoCo Vandeweghe, while Muguruza will play either Dominika Cibulkova or Johanna Larsson – with Azarenka, still seeded No.12, looming in the fourth round.

6) Venus Williams and Johanna Konta on-course for a rematch.
Venus Williams’ return to Indian Wells ended earlier than expected with a second round loss to Kurumi Nara, but has the chance to go deeper in Miami; as the No.10 seed, she is set to play the winner of a pair of qualifiers. Seeded in her section is No.24 Johanna Konta, who will become the highest ranked Brit since 1987 (Jo Durie). Her year began with a big win over Venus in Australia, taking her all the way to a maiden Grand Slam semifinal. The elder Williams sister has vastly improved since then with an efficient title run in Taiwan; what can be expected of a potential rematch?

7) More momentum for Karolina Pliskova?
The right-handed half of the Pliskova twins struggled through the Middle East swing, citing a sudden on-set of exhaustion following the Australian Summer. Pliskova returned to her training base in Monaco for a brief rest and looked refreshed en route to the semifinals in Indian Wells, where she narrowly lost to eventual champion Azarenka in three sets. She could face Kerber by the fourth round, but not before a projected third round encounter with No.14 seed and Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner Sara Errani.

8) Youth is served.
The WTA’s veterans largely held court in Indian Wells, but might we see a reversal in Miami? No.12 seed Elina Svitolina is projected to face former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, seeded No.23 and coming off a heartbreaking loss to Zhang Shuai in the Calirfornia desert. No.20 seed Sloane Stephens could play wildcard Heather Watson in the second round, with No.11 seed Lucie Safarova still looking to find her form following multiple bouts with illness and injury. Then there is No.7 seed Belinda Bencic, who admitted to feeling uncomfortable on the Indian Wells courts and might prefer the change of pace offered in Miami – though No.9 seed Roberta Vinci looms in the fourth round.

9) Santina in the Sunshine.
Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza saw their 41-match winning streak end at the Qatar Total Open, and a second early loss at Indian Wells leaves them reeling heading into Miami, which they won last year to capture the Sunshine Double. The Co-No.1s will be top seeds in the doubles draw, but will undoubtedly face a further embolded field, one that has only gotten stronger with the Olympics only a few months away.

10) Find out where you can watch live action this week.

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Insider Debates: Who Will Win In IW

Insider Debates: Who Will Win In IW

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

David Kane, Point: Serena Williams’ 2015 return to the BNP Paribas Open was left incomplete when a knee injury forced her withdrawal from the semifinals of a tournament she hadn’t played in 14 years. But there were no such interruptions in her march towards a record-breaking third Indian Wells title on Friday as she battled past an inspired soon-to-be World No.2 Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4, 7-6(1).

“Definitely didn’t think I would be in another final here ever,” she told press after the match. “Then last year was just really, really bad luck. I felt devastated that I wasn’t in the final or at least even able to play.

“After the last final I had here, I never pictured myself being back. So it’s an interesting feeling.”

It will most definitely be an interesting feeling for Serena as the final – her first at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden since 2001 – gets underway against former No.1 Victoria Azarenka. The two faced off three times in 2015, with all three going the distance, and Azarenka holding triple match point in their meeting at the Mutua Madrid Open. Though the Belarusian has only won three of their 20 matches, all three victories have come in finals – most recently in 2013 at the Western & Southern Open. 

Serena Williams

“Obviously me and Vika have had some incredible finals. We really get along great.”

Their off-court dynamic may contribute to some of the most entertaining matches over the last few years, but even at Azarenka’s best, Williams finds a way over the finish line. 

“I think everyone is a rival, especially against me. They come out with a game I have never seen before. But it’s made me better.”

Take out their three 2015 epics and Azarenka’s 2015 season would truly be one to forget; the two-time Australian Open champion reached just one WTA final in Doha and failed to progress past the quarterfinals in any of the major tournaments – though it must be said that she played Serena in the third round of the French Open and in the last eight at Wimbledon. Her start to this season has been far more promising, but a stunning loss to eventual Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber was an undeniable clunker that may have exposed a tentativeness that has halted her progress as much any injury over the last two years.

The most memorable of Serena’s matches with Azarenka – certainly the last three – can be drawn down the middle: Azarenka begins with a fearlessness that appears to unsettle an American in the midst of a slow start. That is often enough to take her up a set and perhaps even a break in the second, but at crunch time, Serena’s superior mental strength shines through. It may not be a Grand Slam final, but for Serena, it may be something more.

Serena Williams

“Hopefully it will be very different than last final,” she said with a smile. “But my goal is just to be out there, and I think it’s kind of cool that I can really close the door by being in the final again.

“So I think it’s something that really kind of came full circle.”

Courtney Nguyen, Counterpoint: How is it that a player with a 3-17 record against Serena Williams and who has not tallied a win in nearly three years, is considered the World No.1’s most potent rival? Because no one gets as consistently close as Azarenka. Asked what it is she does against Serena that no other player can, Azarenka kept it simple.

“I see a lot of them losing before they step on the court,” Azarenka said. “I’m not afraid of anybody. I want to have those challenges. Some people maybe want to avoid that and I live for those moments.”

Even in a sub-par 2015 season, Azarenka put herself in a winning position three times against Serena, holding match points in Madrid, leading by a set and 4-2 at the French Open, and another set at Wimbledon. She lost all three matches. Her last win over the No.1 came in the 2013 finals of Cincinnati, where Azarenka won 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(6).

Victoria Azarenka

“I had a lot of opportunities,” Azarenka said, recalling their three meetings last year. “I think Wimbledon was one of those matches where in the third set she really outplayed me and she was just on every ball, everything was going her way. But I did have opportunities. I won the first set, I had a few close games.

“For me to know there’s always a chance it’s always a good thing but I know I have to go a step more to be the winner in those.”

This is a different Azarenka in 2016, a Vika who is far closer to her 2012 level than her injury-prone 2014. Like Serena, she has lost just one match all season (15-1). Unlike Serena, she has a title under her belt after starting her season with her first title since 2013 at the Brisbane International. But Sunday’s final – which marks the ninth time these two have met in a final – is the biggest final Azarenka has contested since Cincinnati in 2013. A win would make her the first player to beat Serena four times in a final.

Victoria Azarenka

“There’s not going to be too many surprises but definitely need to step it up,” Azarenka said. “It’s going to be exciting for me because we haven’t played since Wimbledon. I feel like I’m in a little bit different position right now. For me it’s just really exciting to play the best player in the world right now. This is what I worked really hard for.”

If Azarenka wins the title she will vault back into the Top 10 for the first time since August 2014, moving to No.8 with a win. Azarenka will need to step up her game in all facets on Sunday. Despite her wins in the desert, her serve has been a liability at times. She has improved the speed and placement, but her accuracy has been fleeting. She’s hit 17 double-faults in her last two matches, seven of which came in her 6-0, 6-0 rout of Magdalena Rybarikova.

Listen to more thoughts from Kane and Nguyen on the BNP Paribas Open final and the nature of rivalries in the latest WTA Insider Podcast:

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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Doi Claims Inaugural San Antonio Title

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

SAN ANTONIO, TX, USA – The No.6 seed Misaki Doi claimed the second WTA-level title of her career with a win over Anna-Lena Friedsam, 6-4, 6-2 in the final of the inaugural San Antonio Open.

“I’m so happy to win the first San Antonio Open,” Doi said after the final. “Today it was very very difficult conditions – it was so windy. But I’m so happy.”

The swirling wind gave both players plenty of trouble throughout the match, and neither was able to play herself into a rhythm. Despite the tough conditions, Doi found her footing first and grabbed the first break at 4-3 before going on to take the first set.

Doi and Friedsam traded holds in the second set, but the No.6 seed had the momentum at her back and she reeled off four straight games to go up 5-1. The lead would prove to be too much for Friedsam to overcome, and Doi captured the win in one hour and 14 minutes.

“I think I just tried to focus on every ball,” Doi said of overcoming the high winds. “Since the conditions were so tough, I just focus on one point, one point, one point.”

The 125K Series title at San Antonio is one more step on the 24-year-old’s steady upward trajectory. In the last six months, Doi has reached two finals – at the 125K Series event in Taipei and at this year’s Taiwan Open – and won two titles – at Luxembourg, where she battled past Top 25 players Andrea Petkovic and Jelena Jankovic en route to her first WTA title, and now San Antonio.

With the win, Doi will enter the Top 50 rankings for the first time in her career next week.

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Insider Podcast: Desert Rivalries

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA – What makes a rivalry? Is it a close head-to-head record? Is it compelling matches? Is it facing off time after time with big titles on the line? Or can it be as simple as star power vs. star power?

WTA Insider Senior Writer Courtney Nguyen and WTA Web Editor David Kane preview the BNP Paribas Open final in Indian Wells, which will see Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka renew their rivalry for the 21st time. Can we call Vika a proper rival when she’s only won three of their matches? Courtney and David debate.

Kane: “I think the word rivalry is a loaded term because I think over the years – dating back to the days of Chris Evert and Martina Navritilova – we’ve see the definition of a rivalry take shape in the minds of tennis fans. I think what constitutes a rivalry is this idea of two players, ideally of the same generation but not necessarily, who have contrasting styles, who are high profile, who are top ranked and have won many major titles, who meet consistently in the latter rounds of tournaments but also major tournaments, and are players who are contesting for major titles. That gives a rivalry the gravitas because it’s not just two players competing for dominance over each other but it’s also two players competing for dominance on the biggest stages. So when you think of a rivalry you have to tick off as many of those boxes as possible. In some ways Serena and Azarenka do.”

Nguyen: “There is much to be said when you look at the matches, the scorelines, the situations Vika has been able to put herself in – winning positions – against Serena time and time again, that she is the closest of the rest of the field in terms of being someone who can consistently challenge Serena in big matches.”

Kane: “I think the tension could be from the outside, from everybody saying, ‘This is your biggest rival.’ I think that could get in Serena’s head a little bit. If everyone is coming to you saying, ‘This is your big rival,’ it does create a different dynamic for Serena because it’s the only player anyone really feels that way about coming into a match.”

Nguyen: “I absolutely agree with [Azarenka] when she says the big difference between her and the rest of the field is that she has no fear. She is full of belief, which is great. But I think that desire to win, she’s a hyper-competitive person, that can be her kryptonite in tight moments. When she feels it slipping away, when Serena has one of those [comeback] moments, Vika is so familiar with them because it’s happened to her so many times that she can feel it slipping away. You can sense moments of panic and stress because she wants it so badly.”

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or any podcast app of your choice. Reviews are always helpful so if you like what you’re hearing leave us a review. You can also get new episode alerts by following us on Twitter @WTA_Insider and we will, of course, post the podcast on the WTA website at

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Mattek-Sands & Vandweghe Win In Debut

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA – Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe couldn’t have asked for a more perfect WTA debut to their newly-minted doubles partnership – the Americans rallied back from a set down to defeat Julia Goerges and Karolina Pliskova and claim the doubles title at the BNP Paribas Open.

Watch highlights, interviews and more video from Indian Wells right here on!

“It’s pretty special for me. It’s my first doubles title, and to win it on home soil with an American is very special,” Vandeweghe said during the trophy ceremony. The title vaults the native Californian to No.25 in doubles, while Mattek-Sands will return to her career high ranking of No.3.

Both teams in the final were unseeded, the first time since 2009 that two unseeded teams faced off for the BNP Paribas Open doubles trophy.

Doubles debutantes Mattek-Sands and Vandeweghe, who are bidding for an Olympic spot later in the year, were up against another relatively new team in Goerges-Pliskova. Though the 2016 BNP Paribas Open marks their fourth outing as a team, the Czech-German partnership has been quite successful. They’ve always reached at least the quarterfinal stage in all the events they’ve played together.

Goerges and Pliskova drew first blood against the Americans, breaking Vandeweghe’s serve to start the match. The big-hitting Vandeweghe’s serves can rarely be called vulnerable – in fact she’s known for having one of the strongest serves on tour – but Goerges’ backhands were deadly, beating her for pace and breaking her twice in the first set.

With Goerges serving for the set at 5-3, the German thought she’d hit an ace to take the set. But after a half-hearted challenge from the Americans revealed it was out, a Mattek-Sand’s swing volley wove up the middle of Goerges-Pliskova and gave them the game. With the momentum behind the Americans, Vandeweghe was able to hold serve for the first time to keep them in the set, but Pliskova’s powerful groundstrokes erased any ideas of a comeback and the Czech-German duo took the first set.

With the Indian Wells crowd firmly cheering for the locals, the Americans kept toe-to-toe with their opponents throughout the next set and keep the pressure on. Eventually it was Goerges and Pliskova who blinked first, a Pliskova forehand sailing long bringing up 2 set points for the Americans and a double fault from Goerges giving them the second set.

Mattek-Sands and Vandeweghe grabbed an early mini-break in the final tiebreak, and though Pliskova and Goerges through everything they had at the Americans but they didn’t give up their lead. When it came time for her to serve for the match, Vandeweghe’s serve didn’t falter and a punishing smash from Mattek-Sands sealed the victory and the pair’s first doubles title.

Afterwards, the Americans gave a lot of credit to the crowd for keeping them in the match.

“All week long we’ve had great fan support, which is so cool,” Mattek-Sands said afterwards. “As two Americans together, the support was awesome.

“It’s always special coming back here to Indian Wells, it’s kind of like our home tournament. We’ll be back next year for sure.”

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