The seeds in the bottom half of the women’s draw open their Miami campaigns on Friday… hallelujah for the Easter Bank Holiday Weekend so no work and more time to watch tennis! :-D. This post covers tricky openers for the highest seeds in the bottom half including Angelique Kerber v Barbora Strycova and Garbiñe Muguruza v Dominika Cibulkova.
1. Angelique Kerber v Barbora Strycova (Miami, R2)
Angelique Kerber will be seeking to snap a three match losing streak and win her first match since the start of February when she plays Barbora Strycova on Friday in the second round the Miami Open.
Since winning her first Major, Kerber has endured a barren run of form that has seen her lose straight setters to Belinda Bencic (6-7 3-6, Fed Cup action), Saisai Zheng (5-7 1-6, Doha) and Denisa Allertova (5-7 5-7, Indian Wells). Kerber didn’t play a bad match against Allertova, but did labour towards the end, admitting in press that she was feeling a leg injury. It was always going to be a big change for Kerber, to adjust to her new position on the tour as a Slam champion, and perhaps it’s time that she needs. Since Indian Wells, pictures emerged of Kerber practising with Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf which has always worked favourably in the past.
Strycova has been on a sparkling run of form this year, extending back to the Australian Open; the Czech player reached the second week in Melbourne, only the second time in her career that she had achieved this feat at a Slam. She also demonstrated that this wasn’t a one-off with a final showing in Dubai (wins over Julia Goerges, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Garcia) and a fourth round appearance at Indian Wells (wins over Andrea Petkovic and Kurumi Nara). Strycova flew through her opener in Miami, defeating Anna-Lena Friedsam, 6-2 6-0 in just 57 minutes.
Head-to-head record: Kerber has never dropped a set to Strycova in three previous matches with wins in Krakow (6-0 6-1, 2008), Bastad (7-5 6-4, 2009) and Wuhan (6-1 6-1, 2014).
Interesting stat: Kerber is defending just 75 points through Indian Wells and Miami… a good result at this tournament will help to take the pressure of having to defend two Premier titles next month in Charleston and Stuttgart. For Strycova, I noticed in recent draws that her name reverted back to Zahlavova Strycova… however, it’s back to just Strycova in the Miami drawsheet! Anyone know what is going on here?
Final thoughts: While the head-to-head is overwhelmingly in the favour of Kerber, their recent form would suggest that this could be a very interesting match. I’ve always thought that Kerber excels more on faster surfaces and perhaps, the same could be applied to Strycova too. Kerber is one of the best at picking her spots so Strycova will have to be on it if she adopts an aggressive gameplan coming forward. Tentatively, i’d go with Kerber to get back to winning ways but Strycova is proving herself to be one of the most dangerous players that seeds want to avoid in draws…
2. Garbiñe Muguruza v Dominika Cibulkova (Miami, R2)
The women’s match of the day on Friday will undoubtedly be the second rounder between the number four seed, Garbiñe Muguruza and Dominika Cibulkova.
For the third consecutive time, Dominika Cibulkova was forced to rally from a set down against Johanna Larsson, winning her first round match in Miami, 4-6 6-1 6-2. Cibulkova had began in great form, going up 3-0 and dictating with the forehand. However, things went downhill rather rapidly as Larsson scrapped her way back into contention. Serving at *4-5, Cibulkova made some noteworthy errors including a backhand swing volley into the net. While Cibulkova was dominating the majority of rallies, her rising unforced errors count and Larsson’s tenacity on defence saw the Swede win the opener again, 6-4.
Cibulkova came fighting back in the second set to win it, 6-1, playing a little more patiently and constructing the points better. The final set was pretty much decided on two long deuce games; Cibulkova saved three break points down *1-2 and another four break points up *3-2. Larsson had her opportunities but Cibulkova showed her resilience in the third set, battling through a minor scare.
Muguruza arrives in Miami after a disappointing second round loss to Christina McHale. The Spaniard has a 6-5 W-L record for the year and has taken some time to get going after a foot injury forced her out of her first match of the year down under in Brisbane. Muguruza did play a pair of decent matches in Doha, but she was unable to build on this at Indian Wells. She has had a couple of on-court ‘moments’ this year with her coach, Sam Sumyk, but everything seems to be fine and dandy based on her last post on Instagram…
Head-to-head record: Muguruza leads Cibulkova in the head-to-head, 2-0 with victories in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (6-4 6-4, 2013) and Stanford (6-2 4-6 6-2, 2014).
Interesting stat: Cibulkova has reached at least the fourth round in Miami in her last three appearances at this tournament.
Final thoughts: Once again, this is a very intriguing match. To start with, a lot will come down to Muguruza’s mental application as Cibulkova will breeze through this if Muguruza produces a similar type of performance to the one in Indian Wells two weeks ago. Cibulkova is tons better than her current ranking of 54 although she has shown some vulnerability this year with a couple of wobbly displays. She did well to turn it around against Larsson in the first round but there are areas in her game that Muguruza can exploit. I am swaying a little from my original optimism for Cibulkova. I don’t think it will be a pretty match but intriguing nonetheless… going for Cibulkova to prevail in a lopsided three setter.