WTA Miami Open 2016: Main Draw Preview

The dust has barely settled from an eventful ten days in Indian Wells but just like London buses, the second Premier Mandatory tournament of the year is set to get underway in Miami. In case you missed it, you can read my final Match Points post from the BNP Paribas Open HERE.  Finals day at Indian Wells was overshadowed after some dreadful comments by the CEO, Raymond Moore. There’s been a lot of tennis drama these past few weeks and here’s hoping, attention can be solely on the tennis in Miami. It’s another loaded draw so without further ado, let’s take a look…

First Quarter


Top 8 seeds

Serena Williams (1)



Overview and recent form: This is the first year since 2012 that Serena heads into Miami without a title to her name. A loss to a sensational, Angelique Kerber in the Australian Open final snapped a 15-match winning streak for Serena in finals; a defeat to Victoria Azarenka in Sunday’s Indian Wells final was the first time since 2004 that she has lost back-to-back finals on tour.

While both stats are surprising, Serena’s performances prior to the finals were arguably of a much higher standard compared to how she was playing in 2015. Serena’s emotions may have played a part in her disappointing performance against Azarenka… at the end of the day, she’s still human! The panic button shouldn’t be pressed just yet with Miami one of Serena’s most successful tournaments on tour.

Draw Projections: Serena will open her title defence against either Christina McHale or Misaki Doi in the second round. The first seed she could meet is Daria Gavrilova in the third round. While the Aussie has been in disappointing form of late, she’s the type of player that could get under Serena’s skin.

Miami previous best performance: Champion in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2015

Miami 2015 performance & points: Champion (1000 ranking points to defend)

Petra Kvitova (8)


Overview and recent form: Kvitova won back-to-back matches for the first time this year in Indian Wells, securing a well-earnt quarter-final place with three consecutive three set victories. She was beaten by Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarters, 2-6 6-7(3) in an error-strewn performance. But still, the positives far outweighed the negatives, particularly as she was adding points to her rankings with every win having skipped the IW-Miami swing last year. The same is the case for Petra in Miami but she will fighting one of her biggest nemeses… humidity.

Draw Projections: Kvitova will play either Irina Falconi or a qualifier in the second round. The Czech player is seeded to meet Ekaterina Makarova in the third round.

Miami previous best performance: Quarter-finals in 2014

Miami 2015 performance & points: Did not play (0 ranking points to defend)

Other players of note


Elina Svitolina (12): Bumped up to a top 16 seed with her title in Kuala Lumpur finally taking account, Svitolina has a decent draw in Miami. The Ukrainian player will play Shuai Zhang or Sofya Zhuk in the second round with Wozniacki a potential third round opponent. She will need to play well but there’s a chance the eighth she is in, could open up.

Andrea Petkovic (21): Faced with a rough second round draw in Indian Wells, Petkovic was edged out by Barbora Strycova in three sets. It won’t get much easier in Miami where she will play a huge hitter in the second round; either Caroline Garcia or Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. The draw’s tough but Petkovic has generally been on an upward trend in 2016 and has performed well in Miami in the past, reaching two semi-finals in 2011 and 2015.

Caroline Wozniacki (23): The Dane will look to turn things around in Miami after a worrying run of form that has seen her lose her last five matches to players ranked outside of the world’s top 50. Three of those matches went the distance and in two of them, Wozniacki had commanding leads. There’s still a question mark (for me at least) whether her fitness is 100% with the bandage on the knee still present. Her confidence though has certainly taken a battering in recent weeks. Wozniacki opens against either Vania King or a qualifier.

First round match to watch


Shuai Zhang v Sofya Zhuk: Miami often gives wildcards to young, up-and-coming players and Zhuk, the Wimbledon juniors champion from 2015, will be playing the first WTA match of her career. I think it’s a great idea and Muguruza took advantage of it years back to reach the fourth round. Zhang was struggling this time last year but has turned her career around; the Chinese player won an ITF at the end of 2015 but it was a magical run through qualifying and to the quarter-finals at the Australian Open that has seen her soar up the rankings. Just last week, Zhang beat Caroline Wozniacki to reach the third round of Indian Wells.

Second Quarter


Top 8 seeds

Agnieszka Radwanska (3)


Overview and recent form: Radwanska has reached the semi-finals at her last seven tournaments and with that, deservedly matched her highest ever career ranking of number two in this week’s rankings. The Polish player saved a match point in her first match in Indian Wells against Dominika Cibulkova before reaching the semi-finals, producing an impressive display before succumbing to a 4-6 6-7(1) loss to Serena Williams. A previous champion back in 2012, there’s nothing to suggest that Radwanska can’t go on another deep run in Miami.

Draw Projections: In the second round, Radwanska will play either Galina Voskoboeva or Alizé Cornet. She is seeded to meet Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the third round.

Miami previous best performance: Champion in 2012

Miami 2015 performance & points: 4th round, lost to Carla Suárez Navarro (120 ranking points to defend)

Simona Halep (5)


Overview and recent form: Halep enjoyed her best week on tour in 2016, winning two matches in straight sets and giving a solid account of herself against Serena Williams in a 4-6 3-6 quarter-final loss. While there are still few data points for this year, Halep *seems* to be back on track and is finally over her various health complaints that affected her in Australia. Furthermore, a break from the tour and working with Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi in Las Vegas prior to Indian Wells, seem to have had a positive impact.

Draw Projections: Halep will face a tough second rounder against either Kateryna Bondarenko or Daria Kasatkina; the draw won’t get any easier from there with the likes of Sam Stosur and Sloane Stephens in her eighth of the draw.

Miami previous best performance: Semi-final in 2015

Miami 2015 performance & points: Semi-final, lost to Serena Williams (390 ranking points to defend)

Other players of note


Lucie Safarova (11): This will be Lucie’s third tournament of the year with two losses so far to Cagla Buyukakcay (6-7 5-7, Doha) and Yaroslava Shvedova (3-6 4-6, IW). Lucie plays Yanina Wickmayer or Karin Knapp in the second round. This is still a tough ask for Lucie, particularly at a tournament where she has never made it past the third round,  To be honest, I think it will be another tournament or two until we see Lucie coming back to form but here’s hoping…

Ana Ivanovic (16): As draw winners go, Ivanovic has a very favourable second round match against a Brazilian, either Teliana Pereira or Beatriz Haddad Maia; neither player has won a match on the WTA tour this year. After that, things ramp up with potentially Timea Bacsinszky in the third round. The pair last played in Beijing with the Swiss player prevailing in three sets.

Sloane Stephens (20): It was always going to be a tough second rounder for Stephens, playing Eugenie Bouchard in Indian Wells, but a 5-7 5-7 loss saw her, for the third time, back up a title with a defeat in the very next match. Stephens’s draw looks slightly more favourable in Miami although Heather Watson or Petra Cetkovska could cause some problems in the second round. Watson leads Stephens in their head-to-head, 4-2.

Alizé Cornet: Hip hip, hooray for Cornet who makes her first appearance since the Australian Open due to a back injury. Originally, she was stated as being out for “up to six months” but this shows not to read everything you read unless it comes from the player! Her first match back will be against another player on the comeback, but a much more significant one at that, Galina Voskoboeva.

First round matches to watch


Daria Kasatkina v Kateryna Bondarenko: There are many high quality first round matches between in-form players and none more so than this one; Kasatkina reached the quarter-finals of Indian Wells, while Bondarenko made the fourth round as a qualifier. I’d give a small edge to Kasatkina, but Bondarenko is a dangerous opponent.

Madison Brengle v Camila Giorgi: I may have laughed when I saw this match-up! I was surprised to find that the pair have actually played each other on four previous occasions with Giorgi winning their last encounter at Indian Wells in qualifying in 2014. As many matches involving Giorgi, it will depend on whether she can keep the ball in court. The conditions and slow court speed may favour Brengle although at the same time, it gives Giorgi time to set up.

Margarita Gasparyan v Annika Beck: Ranked side-by-side in the rankings at 40 and 41, this is one of the toughest first rounders. Both players come into this match off the back of rough losses in the desert; Beck was 6-4 5-2 up on Svitolina before seemingly collapsing, while Gasparyan had match points against Vinci and looked devastated at the end of her match. It will be intriguing to see how both react; Gasparyan’s consistency this year has been very impressive and she has won at least one match at every tournament she has played… she doesn’t seem far of from taking that next step.

Third Quarter


Top 8 seeds

Garbiñe Muguruza (4)


Overview and recent form: It was a case of one step forward and two steps back for Muguruza who suffered a straight sets, second round loss to Christina McHale in Indian Wells. It was a disappointing defeat, particularly the second set, where the Spaniard went down in a blaze of unforced errors without what appeared to be a great deal of fight. Prior to Indian Wells, Muguruza had looked in better form in Doha, producing two solid wins to reach the quarter-finals.

Draw Projections: Muguruza has drawn the short straw in Miami as she could play Dominika Cibulkova in the second round, arguably the most dangerous of all the unseeded players in the draw. If she gets through that one, the Indian Wells champion, Victoria Azarenka could loom later on in the fourth round where the pair are projected to meet for the third time in a draw this year. The draw gods want a Muguruza-Azarenka match but we have still yet to see one!

Miami previous best performance: 4th round in 2012 and 2013

Miami 2015 performance & points: 3rd round, lost to Sara Errani (65 ranking points to defend)

Carla Suárez Navarro (6)


Overview and recent form: Once again, Suárez Navarro will look to play her first match since winning her biggest title in Doha. The Spaniard was forced to pull out of Indian Wells with an ankle injury. It was a real shame because she was due to play Daria Kasatkina which would have been a fabulous prospect. Defending finals points in Miami and having not played for nearly a month, the Spaniard may be rusty to begin with.

Draw Projections: The Spaniard’s return to the tour will begin against CoCo Vandeweghe or a qualifier. Suárez Navarro had beaten Vandeweghe twice before at the US Open, but that would still be a testing first match. Monica Niculescu is the first seed she could meet in the third round.

Miami previous best performance: Finalist in 2015

Miami 2015 performance & points: Finalist, lost to Serena Williams (650 ranking points to defend)

Other players of note


Venus Williams (10): The 35-year-old has had a up-and-down year so far; she won an International title in Kaohsiung, but has failed to get out of the first round in her three other tournaments. Venus lost in her first match at Indian Wells since 2001 to Kurumi Nara, 4-6 3-6. She could play Johanna Konta in the third round who she fell to in the first round of the Australian Open.

Victoria Azarenka (13): Sitting pretty at 16-1 for the year, things are looking good for Azarenka right now. The Belarusian has won Brisbane and Indian Wells, producing her best tennis when it mattered in the final. The one loss came to Kerber, the eventual champion in Melbourne. Defending few points in Miami, there is a big opportunity to keep gaining. It will be interesting to see whether fatigue and/or injury will have an impact on her participation…

First round match to watch


Yulia Putintseva v Nicole Gibbs: This sounds FUN… both are playing well this year; Gibbs just reached the fourth round of Indian Wells and is at a career high of 74. Putintseva is only a few places off her best ranking but has been playing much more consistently since the Australian Open. Of all the first rounders, this is the one I am struggling most to pick out a winner.

Fourth Quarter


Top 8 seeds

Angelique Kerber (2)


Overview and recent form: Currently on a three match losing streak, Kerber will look to get her post-AO game back on track. While the end of her second round loss to Denisa Allertova went by worryingly fast, the German player didn’t play a bad match, producing more winners than unforced errors, and having multiple set points to push the match the distance. Kerber has been pictured practising with Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi in Las Vegas and in the past, this has normally worked wonders!

Draw Projections: Kerber will face either Barbora Strycova or Anna-Lena Friedsam in the second round… challenging either way. Other seeds in her eighth include Karolina Pliskova, Sara Errani and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Miami previous best performance: Quarter-finals in 2014

Miami 2015 performance & points: 3rd round, lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova (65 ranking points to defend)

Belinda Bencic (7)



Overview and recent form: Bencic went on an impressive run between Sydney and St. Petersburg, racking up 11 wins; since then, the year has gone a little quiet for the Swiss player, with just one win in her last three tournaments. Bencic couldn’t get her game going against Magdalena Rybarikova, going down in three sets to the funky game of the Slovak player. While Bencic has had a generally good year up till now, most of her wins have been toughed out and she’s yet to play her best tennis, often looking a little overwhelmed when faced against pace and/or variety coming from the other side of the net.

Draw Projections: Bencic’s draw on paper, at least through the first two rounds, looks decent. Her first match of the week will be against the talented, Paula Badosa Gibert, the 2015 French Open juniors champion, or a qualifier. She could meet Sabine Lisicki in the third round; the pair are split at 1-1 in their head-to-head.

Miami previous best performance: 4th round in 2015

Miami 2015 performance & points: 4th round, lost to Sloane Stephens (120 ranking points to defend)

Other players of note


Roberta Vinci (9): Up at a career high ranking of nine, Vinci is enjoying a wonderful start to the year. While she picked up an ankle injury in Indian Wells, forcing her to retire in the 4th round to Magdalena Rybarikova, the Italian player produced two wins over Margarita Gasparyan and Elina Svitolina; both were at opposite ends of the spectrum, saving match points against Gasparyan and outclassing Svitolina. Vinci reached the quarter-finals of Miami back in 2013 but is winless since then…

Karolina Pliskova (17): After two crushing first round losses, Pliskova responded with a superb tournament in Indian Wells, going all the way to the semi-finals. Pliskova’s victory over Daria Kasatkina in the fourth round was one of, if not the best individual performance of the tournament. Pliskova’s in a neat section of the draw and will open her tournament against Timea Babos or a qualifier.

Eugenie Bouchard: Down at world number 45, Bouchard is climbing the ladder again and doing pretty well. The Canadian player has already amassed 15 match wins in 2016. There have been some ups and downs but when you compare her performances to last year, it’s a huge improvement. Bouchard will open against Lucie Hradecka, followed by a potential second rounder against Vinci. There’s a possibility of a third round match between Bouchard and Laura Robson which would be epic on many levels.

First round match to watch


Barbora Strycova v Anna-Lena Friedsam: Both players have been in great form; Strycova reached the last 16 of the Australian Open and Indian Wells, and also a first Premier final in Dubai. Friedsam also reached the last 16 of the Australian Open, coming so close to upsetting Radwanska before her body let her down. Most recently, Friedsam reached the final of a loaded $125k event in San Antonio with wins over Ana Konjuh and Alison Riske. This will be a first career meeting between the pair…

Miami tweets and videos

Final thoughts

Top half was straightforward… I’m not concerned by Serena’s two losses and she’s at home in Miami. I think she will be eager to play, particularly after that final loss at Indian Wells and with her next tournament not stated until Madrid. Bottom half is doing my brain in… the final decision was between Cibulkova, Bencic and Pliskova as my bottom half finalist. While I think Azarenka would prevail over all these players at her best, she has been very cautious this year (and I think that’s good) so if she’s got any slight niggles, I don’t see her pushing it.

I’ve gone for Bencic because I think this surface will be decent for her (I said that for IW and was hopelessly wrong haha) and apart from potentially Vinci in the fourth round, I think she has a favourable draw. If Cibulkova wins her opener, she has a 50/50 match with Muguruza, Pliskova still scares me and Bencic feels the “safest” pick even though she hasn’t played well of late… but then again, we’ve seen so many examples of players struggling and then suddenly lighting up, Pliskova for example! I look forward to being wrong in a few days time 😛

Final Prediction: S.Williams d. Bencic

Who do you think will win Miami? Have your say in the tournament poll below and as always, comments are appreciated!


Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter (@Moo_Tennis) HERE and Facebook HERE.

Remember to get your picks in on the Tennis Draw Challenge game BEFORE TUESDAY 3pm UK time. Unfortunately we won’t know the qualifiers before the deadline! Full details HERE.

31 thoughts on “WTA Miami Open 2016: Main Draw Preview

  1. Thanks for your predictions, James (as always!). Only had time to have a short look at the draw and going with you as far as the upper half is concerned. Pretty sure that Serena will reach the final. For the bottom half I’ve litterally no idea at all!!!

    CSN has been injured, Garbi’s start to the new season wasn’t great, Bencic wasn’t great either in the last few matches and Angie’s still overwhelmed by winning the AO.
    Azarenka is looming but I’m not entirely sure whether she will be fully fit – don’t get me wrong (superb win for her btw) but I still don’t know for her winning back to back events again (as she did in 2012). Well, at least I think she is going deep in the draw.
    Bouchard is there, too. I think she will grab Belinda’s spot and I think she will win against Angie in the quarters. (I definitely think Angie will win matches again, so I’m really positive about this tournament. heart says she’s making semis but head just can’t get off Bouchard :P)


    Serena d. Halep
    Bouchard d. Azarenka

    Serena d. Bouchard.


      • That much earlier. Does that happen all the time!! That’s a bit strange. Isn’t it? When seeding takes place just a week before the tournament. Why that difference?


      • Yes! The cut-off is normally about six weeks before a tournament starts so players have to enter for which tournaments they want to play. For Miami, it’s everyone as it is a Mandatory event. It’s tough on some players but works in the favour of others too. Occasionally you will see a player in qualifying when their ranking was high enough to get in the main draw but they forgot to commit or made a late decision to enter and didn’t get a wildcard.


  2. Thanks ! Great read as usual on Mootennis ! I’m french so I hope Caroline Garcia will play a great tennis this week and tomorrow against Lucic.

    My thoughts would be something like :

    Serena d. Radwanska
    Bencic d. Azarenka

    Serena d. Bencic

    Have a good day 1 tomorrow!


    • Yeah fair point, I actually think Aga will be good to go. She had that tough match against Cibulkova, but other than that played straight setters in Indian Wells.


      • If Alize is fit it should be a great match between her and Aga in the second round (assuming Alize gets there). They usually have a lot of long rallies in their matches and this should be no exception. I assume Aga will prevail in the end though as she usually does.

        As for who’s going to win the tournament, it’s hard to think of anyone other than Serena; it’s her home tournament and she’s won it eight times already, including for the last three years. She usually wins handily too rather than by a small margin.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha from watching Miami for the past few years, I’ve always felt it was quite slow. Whether it’s defined as slow or medium, that wouldn’t have an influence on my predictions.


    • I’ve never read such rubbish in my life Frank, how can the Aus Open & US Open be faster than Wimbledon, its laughable mate? How I calculate court speed is take the 24 month mean tour service hold % and subtract that from the respective Tournaments 24 month mean service hold. Miami is a slow court. The Women hold serve 63.8% of the time but in Miami they hold serve 60.2% of the time therefore a slow court.


      • If you actually read the article, which is very informative, the author does state the many issues with trying to accurately assess court speed. I would still say that the general conditions are slow, purely from watching tennis in Miami over the past few years.


  3. Despite her two losses in the Australian Open and Indian Wells finals, Serena Williams has gotten so much better with her game, thanks to a win-loss record of 11-2! 🙂 I guess there’s a reason why she and Patrick Mouratoglou were made for each other in a player-coach team. They work so well together and she’s been taking much better care of her game, fitness, consistency, and schedule. Every year, Serena has proven to her fans and the tennis world elite how she’s improving more and more each day. In both finals, she was the only player to have not dropped a set in the tournament. She successfully came through both draws, going for a perfect 12 of 12 on sets won and coming through with flying colors to reach both finals without dropping a set. Serena’s more aware that she’s going to be creating history soon. So, I really like how she’s doing a much better job of managing her schedule. After the Australian Open was done, she had planned to play in BOTH Dubai AND Doha back-to-back. But after coming down with the flu, she made a very good decision to withdraw from BOTH tournaments in order to get healthy for Indian Wells and Miami. I think she realized all the slow starts she had to deal with last year in 2015 and she didn’t want to be on that path anymore, which actually makes sense considering all the come-from-behind wins she did in three sets at the time!

    After looking at the draw, I feel like Azarenka, Wozniacki, Halep, Kvitova and Kerber are going to have the toughest draws. Azarenka could possibly face Muguruza in the fourth round. Muguruza has already scored wins over Wozniacki, Halep, and Kerber. Also, Wozniacki could potentially have a third round match against Zhang Shuai, who had sent her packing her bags in the second round in Indian Wells and had also stunned Simona Halep in the opening round of this year’s Australian Open. Halep could potentially face Stosur in the third round and Stosur is a very skilled doubles player. Kvitova seems to have found her game again somewhat. But her serve and winners-unforced errors ratio have both just completely fallen apart, after her diagnosis with mononucleosis from last year. Her serve and winner-unforced error ratio statuses are basically similar to Sharapova’s: more double faults to aces, more errors than winners. She will have a very tough potential third round match against Makarova, as Makarova is an accomplished doubles player. Kerber also seems to be under pressure more than before, after winning this year’s Australian Open. I feel that she has gotten too overconfident with the belief that she can beat everyone and anyone. However, this is DEFINITELY NOT a good approach for Kerber to take. I have seen Azarenka taken this approach SO MANY TIMES in her rivalry against Serena and despite her most recent win over Serena in Indian Wells, I don’t think Azarenka will be able to do it again because this is the time when Serena really elevates her game and is able to put people under pressure, especially since Serena has always done great in Miami. I feel that Kerber has always had the tendency to look too much ahead towards the finish line in a match and that’s where she struggles and her game completely falls apart.

    If I could predict someone winning in Miami, I’m going for Serena to win it without dropping a set, or she’ll reach the final without dropping a set and win the title in three sets. She’s always felt so good playing in her hometown and outside of the Grand Slams, this is the tournament where she has done her best.


    • They were best friends as juniors but when Eugenie started to come up the ranks on the pro circuit she decided to follow in Sharappvas footsteps and announced she wanted no friends on the tour. Robson was quite hurt by it from what shes discussed.


  4. at this moment i am just happy for my favourite player Vika.As i said at the begining of the year i am pretty confident she is back in top 10 for good.As of Miami i will just enjoy the show no matter who will win.Hoping to see great tennis and i don‘t mind if Vika will win this too:)))


    • Ahh you must be chuffed, lestat! My top ten predictions from the start of the year were terrible… missing out Azarenka and Kerber was a big mistake on my part!


    • I do wonder if she is willing to play/defend the number of tournaments required to keep her there as she’s always been a top player regardless of her ranking position. But to be in the top 10, you need to play/defend tournies. I hope so.


  5. I’ve always maintained that Azarenka and Aga have seen their best days. Their games require so much from them physically and Vika especially has had an awful lot of injuries. Those never really do away and once you’ve done your ankles or wrists in once, they’ll always be a problem for you.
    Whether their years start catching up with them now or in a couple of months (the transition from hard to clay to grass is so tough on the joints) remains to be seen. I still dont see either being top dog in this game.


    • I don’t know about Vika who seems to be playing well at the moment, but I follow Aga on Twitter and she’s been dropping hints that she can see that the end of her career is in sight. In one of her tweets she mentioned that she’d been thinking of doing radio work after she retired from tennis, and asked her followers what we thought.

      She’s also said that she thinks she has about two years to accomplish the goals she wants to achieve in tennis, such as winning a slam. I think she’s well aware that younger players such as Belinda (who beat her in the final at Eastbourne last year) are coming up fast.


  6. I think Miami is one of the slowest of hard courts because of the humidity ..Indian Wells is a bit different because the ball flies through the air even though the court is slow .Makes the predictions fun…


  7. Whoever is voting for Halep absafreakinlutely needs go back and revise their analysis! Halep’s win-loss record is 6-6 and even though she’s an aggressive player, she’s not as strong as Serena. I saw the way Halep’s playing so far this year – she’s NOT going to be able to defend her semifinalist points from last year. She already lost in two of the three tournaments that she won last year. My guess is that Halep will be dropping out of the top 5 by the end of next week. Serena doesn’t even have to worry about facing Azarenka until the championship, which is why I picked Serena to reach the final without dropping a set and win in three sets. Or, Serena wins Miami without dropping a set.


    • Seeing as Serena is most comfortable here both with the humid climate and the speed of the court, I’m not looking beyond her. However, I dont think Victoria can repeat here. It could be a top 20 player making the final in her half. Nothing against Halep, but I’m not sensing anything like victory for her in Miami. I admire the faith of those up votes though. May be, she will surprise me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.