This post previews two fourth round matches to feature on Monday’s schedule at the Miami Open including Mirjana Lucic-Baroni up against Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and Dominika Cibulkova taking on Lucie Safarova. All eight fourth round matches will be played in Miami on Monday and last year it produced one of the most exciting days of WTA tennis throughout the entire 2016 season. Let’s take a look at these two matches…
1. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni v Bethanie Mattek-Sands (WTA Miami, R4)
In an unexpected fourth round match between two veterans on tour, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Bethanie Mattek-Sands are rolling back the years with both producing exceptional displays on Saturday. Lucic-Baroni dropped just three games in a 65-minute rout of Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-0 6-3. Lucic-Baroni’s ball seemed to be magnetically attracted to the lines in the first set in one of the most impressive sets of tennis i’ve seen in a very long time. The second set was a much tighter affair but Lucic-Baroni remained lethal on return, breaking Radwanska in all seven of her service games.
Mattek-Sands needed three sets to get past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, doing so in style, winning 12 of the last 15 games to post a 4-6 6-0 6-3 victory. It was a masterclass of volleying from Mattek-Sands, who also went toe-to-toe with Pavlyuchenkova from the baseline. The American was consistent and rushed Pavlyuchenkova into awkward decisions. Mattek-Sands served out the match at the second time of asking, capitalising on some missed opportunities from her Russian opponent.
Head-to-head record: Would you believe that Lucic-Baroni and Mattek-Sands have never played each other before on the WTA tour!
Interesting stat(s): Lucic-Baroni’s win over Radwanska, a third top ten win in 2017, means that she is into the last 16 of Miami for the first time in her career, bettering her third round showing from 1999. For Mattek-Sands, she is also into the last 16 of Miami for the first time in her career. The American has won three WTA main draw matches in a row for the first time since Beijing 2015.
Final thoughts: I’m impressed that both players have managed to produce some of their best aggressive tennis on these slow and heavy courts of Miami. In my opinion, a streaky and big-hitting three setter is likely on the cards with this match-up. I’m interested to see how the serve and volley game of BMS matches up against MLB. It will be a much more challenging time on return for MLB compared to her third rounder, but i’d have a little more confidence in her edging this match based on season form with this singles run from BMS coming completely out of the blue.
2. Dominika Cibulkova vs Lucie Safarova (WTA Miami, R4)
For the eighth time on tour, Dominika Cibulkova and Lucie Safarova will face each other in Miami on Monday. Safarova is yet to drop a set this week in Miami; in fact, she’s dropped just eight games in her last two wins over Daria Gavrilova (6-2 6-2) and Ajla Tomljanovic (6-1 6-3). Building confidence on the International circult, Safarova is finding some of her best form on the big stage again following a difficult 18 months.
Cibulkova has had a respectable year up till now but not quite matched the lofty heights of how she ended 2016 where she won the WTA Finals in Singapore. The Slovak player has also not dropped a set this week in Miami and looked in fine form against Kirsten Flipkens, despite having a nasty cough. Cibulkova dealt very well with Flipkens’s slice and produced an all-round dynamic display in a rain interrupted match, 6-2 6-3.
Head-to-head record: Cibulkova has won five of their seven previous encounters – their last match, a 4-6 6-1 7-5 victory for Cibulkova in Tokyo, was an underrated gem of a match that really could have gone either way.
Interesting stat: Safarova is up to 15 match wins for 2017, the same number that she managed throughout the entire 2016 season.
Final thoughts: Based on their last two matches which have both gone to 7-5 in the third set, we can expect another closely contested match. Safarova’s form and confidence are on the rise, while Cibulkova played a superb third round match against Flipkens. I think this one comes down to the wire again and i’d give Lucie a good shot at least to reach the quarters.