WTA Miami 2015: Preview and Predictions

Indian Wells down, Miami up next.  There is barely any time to let the dust settle and reflect on Indian Wells with the WTA main draw to begin on Tuesday.  The quick turnaround does frustrate me, particularly with the main draw beginning before qualifying has finished.  Indian Wells was a decent tournament this year with some some good matches and a crazy final, which saw Simona Halep beat Jelena Jankovic to win her first Premier Mandatory title.  The draw for Miami is more attention grabbing than the one for Indian Wells with some very interesting potential match-ups.  Let’s take a sweeping look at the draw…

Maria Sharapova

As ever, Serena Williams is the number one seed in Miami.  After withdrawing from the semi-finals of Indian Wells against Simona Halep due to a knee injury, her participation remains with a question mark.  There were reports on Twitter (@crosscourt1) that Serena had a cortisone injection to help her be ready for Miami.  Her draw is remarkably similar to the one that she was dealt in Indian Wells… in fact it is almost identical! She could play Monica Niculescu in a repeat second round match.  That would be a London buses match-up as the pair had never played before last week.  The three seeds in Serena’s eighth of the draw are also the same; Zarina Diyas would be a potential third round opponent, followed by Svetlana Kuznetsova or Angelique Kerber in the fourth round.

Serena finds herself in the same quarter as Ana Ivanovic.  The Serb suffered a second consecutive loss to Caroline Garcia in Indian Wells.  Thankfully for Ana, Caroline is nowhere to be seen in this quarter! Ivanovic’s section features seeds, Garbine Muguruza, Sara Errani and Sabine Lisicki.  I’m waiting for another big tournament from Garbine and this is certainly a workable draw for the Spaniard having drawn a duffer in IW where she played Karolina Pliskova in the third round.  Lisicki comes in with an injection of confidence after reaching the semi-finals of Indian Wells.  She could be in line for a big hitting, helmets-at-the-ready second rounder against Julia Goerges.

Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard head up the second quarter, which has plenty of talking points.  One of the big storylines for any WTA draw right now is where Victoria Azarenka lands.  In this case, Vika has landed in Halep’s eighth and could play the Indian Wells finalist, Jelena Jankovic in the second round.  Flavia Pennetta, who reached the quarter-finals in Indian Wells, is also in this section.  I was convinced that Halep would pull out of this tournament due to injury, but Courtney Nguyen tweeted that Halep intends to play.  In her first match, she will play Nicole Vaidisova or a qualifier.  In Bouchard’s eighth, there is the potential for a second round match between Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.  The pair have never met before so it would be a landmark match if it comes to fruition.  Sloane would have to overcome Yanina Wickmayer in the first round, which is no way a given.  Lucie Safarova is also in this section and will play Yaroslava Shvedova or Johanna Larsson in the second round.  Shvedova beat Safarova in an extra-time finish in Melbourne earlier this year.  If Lucie wins her first two matches, I like her chances in the draw past round three.

Agnieszka Radwanska is the highest seed in the third quarter and will be looking to reboot her year after another disappointing loss in Indian Wells.  Her draw features the likes of Carla Suarez Navarro, Alize Cornet and Irina-Camelia Begu in her eighth.  Suarez Navarro has been in great form this year although she did struggle with a foot injury in her quarter-final against Halep last week.  Cornet is 6-6 for this year and hasn’t got going yet.  Wozniacki’s section looks more challenging on paper; her eighth features Venus Williams, Sam Stosur and Varvara Lepchenko.  Venus and Sam are seeded to meet in the third round with the winner likely to play Caro if the draw goes to seeding.  Wozniacki suffered a third round loss to Belinda Bencic in Indian Wells and has made a solid, yet unspectacular start to the year. Wozniacki won a title in Kuala Lumpur, but has come up short in the marquee matches she has played in 2015.

Maria Sharapova bookends the draw in a reasonably strong section of the draw.  Sharapova will play Daria Gavrilova or a qualifier in the second round.  Gavrilova has been steadily rising up the rankings this year and is now deservedly in the world’s top 100.  Last week, she took a set off Simona Halep in their second round match.  Sharapova’s first projected seed is Caroline Garcia, who she was set to play in the semi-finals of Acapulco before being forced to withdraw with a stomach virus.  Garcia has enjoyed two wins over Ana Ivanovic this year and first announced herself when she came close to upsetting Sharapova at Roland Garros in 2011.  Karolina Pliskova is also lurking in this section of the draw.  If seedings hold up, Sharapova and Pliskova will play each other for the first ever time in the last 16.  Ekaterina Makarova is the other top eight seed in this quarter.  After a loss to Timea Bacsinszky where she let slip a double break third set lead with an avalanche of errors, i’m not confident about Makarova’s chances.  The likes of Andrea Petkovic, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Elina Svitolina are all in this section and capable of reaching the quarter-finals.

QF Predictions: S.Williams v Muguruza, Safarova v Azarenka, Radwanska v V.Williams and Petkovic v Sharapova

SF Predictions: S.Williams v Azarenka, V.Williams v Sharapova

Final Prediction: S.Williams d. Sharapova

It all comes down to Serena again… I remember a few occasions where she has come in with injury doubts and ended up winning titles like this.  I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt but if she does pull out, i’d go for Sharapova over Azarenka in the final.  Comments always appreciated but PLEASE be respectable to others  😉

Photo in this post by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

50 thoughts on “WTA Miami 2015: Preview and Predictions

  1. I’m salivating over a Pliskova vs Sharapova match. I’d take Karolina’s chances at besting Maria unless the latter can get her first serve into gear and cut down on the double faults.

    I’m shocked Halep is playing. Especially since Muguruza looks good to upset her.

    But I’m going with Serena for the win until I see anything to confirm she isn’t able. Miami is her best tournament. She’s only ever ONCE in fourteen attempts failed to reach the quarter finals (she reached round 4). She’s been in nine finals here and won seven of those to take the title.

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    • Pliskova v Sharapova would be fascinating, but that’s still a long way off right now! I’m equally surprised that Halep is intending to play. My thoughts exactly about Serena.

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    • Don’t be shocked that Simona intends to play. In her post IW final presser she said that she just has some foot blisters and had muscle problems in the final. She didn’t say the muscle problems were an injury, so I think she was implying it was just cramp (maybe she forgot the word in English, LOL).

      I’ve voted for Serena to win it all. However, I’m already salivating over the prospect of Simona vs Vika in R4 if both are healthy.

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      • It isn’t injury that surprises me. Last year every time she had a successful tournament she pulled out of the next one lined up. And she’s done that twice this year so far.
        You’d think her priority would be preparing for the clay season.

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  2. Normally I’d place my bids on Halep to go to QF at least, but considering her course in IW, I don’t expect her to push too hard in Miami. Add to that the fact that she got probably the toughest quarter (at least on paper) and I’m almost certain we’re going to see a Serena – Azarenka semifinal with Muguruza being the potential change of plan.

    Normally I wouldn’t place faith in Bouchard getting to the QF, but this time she got a decent draw and she only has to fight her own inconsistency until – probably – meeting Safarova. I don’t see Vinci being able to pull the upset and Bencic is still in a growth phase, with her own inconsistencies.

    Third quarter is kind of up for grabs. I’m looking forward with hope to Irina Begu’s course as she seemed to have a good start of the year and did a good climbing in the ranks, but she’s set to meet Radwanska in R3 and that’s not going to be an easy match.

    Fourth quarter seems manageable for Masha but things can happen. IW showed just how many surprises can happen and how seeds fell like leaves in autumn. Really looking forward to a Pliskova – Masha showdown here.

    Although not getting my hopes up, I’m looking forward to the Serena – Niculescu rematch, Begu’s course and hopefully, more nice surprises from Bencic.

    As for the final, Serena has a strong second half of the tournament and she did look convincing in IW. Considering her injury too, I believe that if we’re set for a final with Masha, the Russian will take it this time. What better way to “get revenge” for Melbourne than on your opponent’s “home court”? Will be a nice tournament this one, and almost surely filled with surprises and upsets. Really hard to predict it considering how the year started.

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    • I think Sharapova would need to be really on to win this tournament. It’s pretty easy to rack up errors and double faults on this surface. She has a really tough draw, too. Gavrilova, Garcia, Pliskova, Makarova/Petkovic, Williams/Radwanska and then whoever makes the final…

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      • I would not yet bet on Gavrilova, Garcia & Petkovic to upset Sharapova. They might be good tests for her, but not really upset material for Masha. Radwanska has yet to show some consistency and without consistency it’s really tough to upset Sharapova. Same goes for Makarova. So that leaves 2 possibilities. Either Pliskova making an amazing run and confirming her rising star status, or Venus putting all her experience and the nice start of the year to work to take Masha out. Let’s keep in mind we’re still talking about Sharapova and the tons of experience she has will help her case in this quarter.

        My statement of her beating Serena in the final though is based only on Serena’s doubtful form lately and the chance that Masha can pull a tournament in 100% mode.

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      • I agree with most of your points, Alex. Tough draw for Sharapova, but I don’t see anyone actually causing an upset. It could work in her favour as she would have to play well to reach the quarters and therefore, will be dialed in at the end.

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      • They don’t need to beat her, enough testing matches and she’ll crumble. Garcia could potentially knock her out though. This surface is ideal for her and last year she was the only player to come close to beating Serena.

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      • I see Sharapova going down screaming just like she sounds on the court.. She is certainly one of the loudest ever..When there are two screamers out there at same time it is epic hilarouis….

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  3. I am surprised that Serena won’t meet Sloane Stephens in the 4th round. I explain it to myself that she has played good that match in IW and could possibly upset Serena. Not like Kerber/Kusnetsova that are both downstream. All in all like hand-picked the same but one should accept that it would really be a shame to see Serena out of tournament in early stages. 🙂
    The Halep’s quarter is on the other hand a Premier Five event on it’s own, like hand-picked also. This time the “gods of tennis” 🙂 made it almost impossible for her to cruise through that quarter.
    Half of James’s picks for the QF’s are talented but very not resilient players that won’t make it so far: Muguruza, Safarova, Azarenka, Radwanska, Petkovic. Although Muguruza/Azarenka have some chances.

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  4. Hoping Aga can finally have a good tournament, she really needs it. And waiting for Azarenka to win one of these tournaments again eventually. It has to happen some time or another, but possibly not here.

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  5. Toe or foot blisters and muscle cramps are very common to all tennis players. It would be a shame if Halep pull out from Miami Open because of her toe blisters or muscle cramps. As for Halep, there are a few big hitters in the draw can beat her hand down based on their past records. I really hope she can play to beat all these girls proving she is the best instead of pulling out because she fears for potential defeat. To be honest, it may be a test for Halep in the 2nd round if Vaidisova can really play to her peak. Going forward, I hope she is not using MTO to disrupt her opponent momentum after she loses her first set like she did in IW.

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    • I forgot to mention that Kerber/Kusnetsova were in Serena’s quarter at IW too. So only poor Sloane would be punished for taking a set from Williams. And consequently moved to Halep’s guarter.
      So Serena gets miraculously the same quarter that she managed to cruise through in IW minus Sloane. Poor escape goat Zarina… 🙂
      The same “miracle” gets for Halep a guarter that noone really can predict who’s going to prevail. But it’s almost impossible for Halep after such a long tournament in IW to get to the semis.
      Well done WTA and Tracy Austin. You made everything you could so Serena won’t miss again in Miami.
      I just hope Muguruza would ruin their “miraculous” draw.
      And after the Lance Armstrong scandal I don’t believe in honesty in sports. It’s just business as usual…

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      • In the end it shouldn’t really matter. Sure, it does look a bit shady, but hardcore champs should be able to prevail even in hellish draws. I don’t believe Halep will pull hard for this tournament though anyway. I seriously expected her to take the Federer way and pull out to train for the clay season, just like him. But apparently she’s looking forward to add some free points to the stats as she has no points to defend from Miami 2014.

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      • Typo: I threw in Tracy Austin by mistake, in a rush, apologies. But statistically the chances for that first eighth to almost repeat itself are 0,0.

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    • NoLuke LuSer, it seems you don’t have a very high opinion of Halep. She’s not a shirker. If she withdraws from a tournament it’s genuinely through illness or injury. Same goes for her MTOs (pretty rare that she takes one actually) – she’s not a faker. She had blisters during Indian Wells and clearly wanted to patch them up better.

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  6. It’s incredible! How it is posible to not pick Halep for the winner???!!! You should write for your readers happynes not for your believes, and we want you to pick Halep for the winner…and not only for Miami but for every tournament you are making predictions. We don’t care what players you pick for semis or quarters but definetly you must always put Halep as the winner

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  7. well, 1. serena vs garbine, 2. vika vs keys, 3. csn vs caro and 4. makarova vs sharapova. for sure i am messing it up…
    and as a personal thought: I started reading James’s blog 2 years ago and I found out a guy passionate about w. tennis, with his own beliefs, but who is pleased to share them with his readers. many times I had different predictions, a lot of times he was wrong or subjectively, but in the end he’s achieving his purpose, to share his thoughts with other tennis fans and to have reasonable debates between the contributors.
    as much as reading his posts i like to learn about Andrew’s or Murpy’s thoughts which are always apposite.
    Since a lot of Simona’s fans (myself being one of them as well) found out about this blog lately, not only that James’s traffic started to increase :), but I can see comments here began to be two-sided: on the one hand those who have nothing else to say than “Go Halep” and on the other hand the “bothered” guys, whose judgements are roughly in the same manner.
    Just a kind request, stop converting this blog in a Simona fans vs Simona haters battlefield, for the sake of James’s virtual space.

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    • Well, if it continues I think James needs to think about doing some moderation because comments about Halep faking injuries to withdraw from tournaments or to take fake MTOs to disrupt her opponents’ momentum are simply not acceptable frankly. I think the people making those sorts of comments are the people we should be taking issue with, rather than genuine tennis fans who want to discuss tennis (and yes, support their fave whether it’s Halep or not.)

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      • I have started moderating comments in the last week, but it’s a tough one on where to draw the line. I think most of the Simona fans have been very pleasant and respectful, but unfortunately there have been a few people who want to get stuck in and cause some trouble. It’s best to probably ignore those comments!

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    • You have right, the trend looks like you’ve described. But some reactions cannot be tamed easily.
      Come on, look at the draw in Miami objectively. Almost all dangerous and in form players are in 2nd quarter:
      Halep, Giorgi, Jankovic, Azarenka, Penetta, Safarova, Stephens, Keys, Bencic , Bouchard. Not to mention the likes of Pironkova, Dellacqua, Wickmayer, Vinci. Noone can really expect to dominate here, it will be a matter of luck, a random victor…
      Like I said that’s a Premier event on it’s own.
      What gets Serena? Identical eighth like in IW, minus Sloane that became a threat to the “queen” too. What are the chances of something like this to happen randomly? None…
      I mean one should react to such things and protest. That smells like draw fixing big time…

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    • I hadn’t noticed that I disagree with James a lot! Haha 🙂 We actually support the same players mostly, I’m just a tad more cynical than James is.
      I agree with you on everything else though. I think ALL of the players have their weaknesses. I don’t like being branded a Halep hater for pointing out some of hers when it’s relevant to the prediction of a match or tournament. I’d never say anything nasty or vindictive about her because she’s a standup sportswoman with a warm personality.

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      • @Andrew: As a Halep fan, I can’t say you’re a Halep hater, but definitely you’re just as biased against her as some of us, her fans, are when it comes to her. But you do have some good points, except when it comes to Simona versus Serena. There you negatively biased on Simona, but obviously positive about Serena. But that’s OK, we’re all allowed to play favorites, we’re fans in the end, it’s only normal. Unlike some comments like that of “Watcher”. There’s a difference in preaching “hate” and not being keen on some player.

        Just wish that people would vote in the poll not according to their “wishes”, but based on logic. As a fan of Halep, there’s no way I can vote her to win this tournament, not after Indian Wells, not when she’s also playing doubles, not also when she has the most hellish quarter. Yet, she’s still leading the poll. I pray that I goes her way, but realistically speaking, logic dictates that her chances are minimal this time.

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  8. I take it that I’m the one that got “stuck in ” and should be disregarded. It’s OK with me, but I think one should not always see the world with absolute positivity cuz’ it’s just not like that. Lot of things just get arranged at higher levels that we somehow find out later with surprise or not at all.
    So the cards are nicely dealt to a classic final Williams – Sharapova (she has no real oposition also), cuz’ there will not be many of those left. And that will fill the cash machines of the “highs”, no doubt about it.
    And Serena will be once again “crowned as queen” of her ‘hood. Hip-hip-hurray because booing is not politically correct, therefore forbidden.
    This time I’m really done, I have nothing more on WTA Miami. 🙂

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  9. Simona will win Miami ,Serena upset by Monica,by the end of the year Serene will go retire from bussines,and Simona No 1,what about that ? If you ask me I will explain!

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    • Serena isn’t retiring. She just had an interview where she said she never wants to stop and she still has unfinished business. And an injured Serena can still win titles.

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      • @Andrew:
        You say that an injured Serena can still win titles. Excepting the case she should overcome Halep on the way. Than she remains only injured…
        She is at her sunset as an athlete. And it seems to be ending ugly, like with Pete Sampras.
        Draw fixing, MC’s that are begging the crowds not to boo and so on. That cannot continue much longer.
        She has no chance to topple the 22 GS of Steffi Graf, I hardly believe she can get another one. And with that eventually achieved it would be over.
        She cannot compare herself with Steffi on moral standards, no way.
        Too many shadows about her career are standing in the way.
        I said that I’m done but some fanaticism should be adressed. 🙂

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      • Typo: sundown instead of sunset. I’m not a natively English speaker and that came first to my mind.
        Under the huge influence of the positivity that one should abide. 🙂

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  10. Andrew, we’re not kids anymore. It goes about a last buck by both Serena and Venus.
    And by Venus is even more obvious, her breath is heavy between points, I get the feeling of jumping to help in offering a chair or a glass of water. She still gets some results but it’s not enjoyable to watch anymore.
    It gives me the same amount of fun like visiting a retirement facility for senior citizens.
    By Serena is pretty much the same. All those financially interested are making all kinds of arrangements to nourish the illusion that she’s still the queen of tennis. There are not enough Niculescu’s and Diyas’s to put in front of her everytime she should win. She might even get a couple of high profile wins here and there but not after balanced match-ups every round like it should be.
    And to praise such a degraded situation I find it indecent. Coming from anyone…

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    • Shall we compare Serena’s head 2 head versus top 10 players to Halep and Sharapova for 2014? Halep had eight wins, Sharapova had ten wins and Williams had twelve top ten wins including both Sharapova and Halep. 😉

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      • Andrew, you know stats are not always as relevant as they seem to be. It really depends a lot on the draws a player gets that year. If we look at Indian Wells this year for example, when all seeds fell like leaves in the starting rounds and as a top seed you don’t get to meet top 10 players along your way cause they couldn’t hold their own… still, it’s 8 for Halep, 10 for Sharapova, 12 for Williams. I guess it’s a good representation of the year-end rankings. 🙂

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      • Are you saying that the WTA fix draws for Serena too then?

        Williams appears to get an easy route to a title because she’s so much better than any opponent she comes up against and her h2h records back this up. But a player that Serena would find easy could potentially be challenging for Simona (Sharapova, Makarova, Suarez Navarro being prime examples).
        I’d argue that Halep had easier draws in all three of the tournaments she’s won this year than Serena had in Melbourne.

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      • Andrew, I won’t go as far as saying “draws are fixed”. There’s no real evidence of that and I don’t like to point fingers without proof. But, as you said:

        “I’d argue that Halep had easier draws in all three of the tournaments she’s won this year than Serena had in Melbourne.”

        This right here is exactly what I was talking about. It’s all about the draw you get. We were not counting titles, but top 10 wins. So if Serena, last year got more tough-draws than Simona it’s only natural that she got more shots at taking home more top 10 wins. That’s all I’m saying. 😉

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  11. For me the real surprise is that Simona is playing also doubles! I think it’s a smart decision,she ca practice some shots in real competition, and a confirmation that she will play relaxed at Miami.Also looking forward to see a SF between Serena&Simona and hope that it will happen. On bottom half my 2 cents are on Pliskova.

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    • Most surely, Simona is trying to get some competition-level “at the net” training, seeing how this aspect of her game was easily exploited by Jelena in the Indian Wells final. She’s definitely going to take this tournament slow, more like a practice, that’s more than obvious.

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      • Hi Alex,
        I agree. Still anything can happen especially if she continues in “play till you die” mode ☺

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  12. @Adrian:
    Only now you got to the point and you did it by yourself.
    Grand Slams fall under the regulations of International Tennis Federation and not WTA. My take is that ITF is more conservative and performance oriented vs WTA that is newer and lot more bussiness oriented.
    In WTA is all about sponsors, contracts and cash.
    Therefore I’m not challenging the draws made by the ITF in GS.
    I will cite a bit from another inspirational review found on the internet:
    “Serena’s Quarter:…The opening set of matches shouldn’t be a problem for the defending champion. Her route to the quarter finals looks AWFULLY SIMILAR to the one she was projected to face in Indian Wells, and she pulled through that one without much trouble.”
    “Halep’s Quarter:… If the Italian (Giorgi) hits her peak form, she could very well blast Halep off the court, but the chances are Halep squeezes through to the last 16. Who she will face there is a BIGGER MYSTERY THAN BIGFOOT. Jelena Jankovic, Flavia Pennetta, and Victoria Azarenka will battle it out for a round four meeting with Simona Halep, all with a very good chance of making it to the final 16.”
    So it’s not just me observing that Serena got an identical eighth. It’s Niall Clark fro Tennis Atlantic too.
    James has that noticed also in his Intro…
    So thumb up ITF, thumb down WTA.
    Of course I have no hard evidence, otherwise I would be suing in order to become rich and famous. 🙂

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