The Indian Wells-Miami double is officially over for the women as Serena Williams won her seventh Miami title with a 7-5 6-1 victory over Li Na. Many of the top WTA players are back in action next week in Charleston and Monterrey. The women endured a rough deal in Miami with many matches not covered by television. Ben Rothenberg wrote an excellent piece on the matter, which you can find HERE. The coverage from WTA Miami in 2014 was actually an improvement on 2013, but it was upstaged by the stellar streaming the fortnight before in Indian Wells. Anyway, here are a few thoughts on the womens final and some headlines from the tournament that may have gone unnoticed.
WTA Final: Williams d. Li, 7-5 6-1
Miami has marked the return of Serena Williams to top form as she produced a tremendous comeback to defeat Li Na in the Miami final. This was a high quality final that was engaging throughout the entire 1 hour and 59 minutes. I am learning fast that the big matches I have few expectations for turn out to be pretty good. Li started really strong and raced into a 5-2 double break lead in the first set. Serena was sloppy, but her champion instincts came bubbling to the surface as she twice denied Li in closing out the set. This was mainly all about Serena as opposed to Li getting tight. Serena produced a sensational backhand winner at set point down, the only one that Li mustered, which was clutch play.
The first set deserved a tiebreak, but after an incredibly long game at 5-6 with Li serving, she eventually succumbed to the rising level and intensity of the world number one. The second set scoreline is a little bit misleading because Li didn’t play a bad set at all. Despite losing some big leads, which could have caused a complete mental meltdown, she never went away from this match. In the end, Serena produced some quite magnificent tennis as she cut out her errors and powered her way to the title, overcoming some stubborn late resistance from Li.
Pome is sticking about: Dominika Cibulkova has been the real surprise of 2014 so far as she continued her sensational start to the year with a run to the Miami semi-finals, reeling off big wins over Venus Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska. Cibulkova has compiled together a 20-6 W-L record on the tour in 2014, which has included 4 top 10 wins and a title in Acapulco. It is also worth noting that she hasn’t technically lost to anyone outside of the top ten (she was forced to retire from her match in Doha with Alisa Kleybanova through illness). Her aggression and intensity have really shone through this year and it’s hard to say exactly what has changed from last year. Good for you, Domi.
Steady Sharapova: Although Sharapova will fall to number 9 in the world rankings, this was a good week for the Russian player. She had to dig deep to secure wins over Lucie Safarova (R3) and Kirsten Flipkens (R4) before showing a stark improvement in defeating Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals. She stated that she needed matches and that’s what she got in Miami. Sharapova is still defending many points going into the clay court season, but the signs are more promising that she is slowing coming back to some better form.
One to watch, Elina Svitolina: The likes of Madison Keys, Eugenie Bouchard, Laura Robson and Monica Puig have all garnered much attention as the “ones to watch” on the WTA tour. However a name that has slipped through the net is Elina Svitolina. She defeated Bouchard in the second round of Miami and reached the 4th round where she nicked a set off Agnieszka Radwanska. She won her first WTA title in Baku last year and will now become the highest ranked teenager, topping Keys. It’s safe to say that she has benefitted from staying in the shadows, but with strong results like in Miami, she will soon start to attract more attention. I’m still on the fence with Svitolina although there is no doubt she will crack the top 30 this year. Here’s a getting-to-know article about Svitolina which was posted on the WTA website.
What’s happened to Muguruza?: Garbine Muguruza started the season in tremendous form, reaching the quarter-finals of Auckland, winning Hobart as a qualifier and then making the last 16 in Australia with victories over Kaia Kanepi and Caroline Wozniacki. Since then, things have gone a little pear-shaped. It looked like she was destined to win her second WTA title in Florianopolis when she raced into a 6-4 5-2 lead against Klara Zakopalova, the same player she had thrashed in the Hobart final; however she ended up losing 13 straight games. She lost both her opening round matches in Indian Wells (to Alisa Kleybanova, 6-3 6-2) and Miami (to Ajla Tomljanovic, 3-6 7-6(6) 6-1)). The loss to Tomljanovic was particularly concerning because she was unable to convert on a big lead in the second set and then seemingly collapsed in the decider. Muguruza seems to have lost her nerve in closing out matches and it will be important for her to build up her confidence again. It does show how quickly things can change when you go from the hunter to the hunted. Muguruza will be action again in Monterrey next week.
Best Matches of the Tournament:
1. Cibulkova d. Radwanska, 3-6 7-6(5) 6-3 (QF)
Cibulkova saved three match points in this incredibly entertaining quarter-final match. There weren’t a great deal of holds, but that really shouldn’t be used as a measure for a high quality match. Cibulkova showed so much fight in this match, meanwhile Radwanska was her usual bag of tricks.
Video via Sports4U
2. Sharapova d. Safarova, 6-4 6-7(7) 6-2 (R3)
Maria Sharapova was pushed all the way by Lucie Safarova and needed nine match points to get over the finishing line in this marathon match. I wrote a piece earlier in the week about Safarova and her coach, Rob Steckley’s rather brilliant coaching session at the end of the second set, which you can read HERE.
Video via TheMsharapova2
3. Cibulkova d. V.Williams, 6-1 5-7 6-3 (R4)
Another great match and another one that I am gutted I missed. Twitter was a-blaze with praise for this match supporting both players, but particularly Venus’s spirit at forcing a third set.
Video via hawaiiantennisvidz