World No. 1 Ash Barty will make her first appearance outside of the Australia in over a year when she returns this week at the Miami Masters to defend her 2019 crown she won over Karolina Pliskova.
The 24-year-old Barty is party of a very strong field which features 15 of the Top 16 players, missing only Serena Williams who withdrew over the weekend.
The Top 4 seeds including Naomi Osaka, 2-time semifinalist Simona Halep and Sofia Kenin are all making their first tournament appearance since Australia.
Elina Svitolina, 2019 finalist Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka, Bianca Andreescu, Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens round out the Top 10 seeds.
Former champions Victoria Azarenka, Johanna Konta, Sloane Stephens, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Venus Williams also return.
Here’s a look at the four quarters of the draw:
Seeds: (1) Barty, (7) Sabalenka, (11) Bencic, (14) Azarenka
Barty won’t be the only former champion in her section with Azarenka and 40-year-old Venus lurking, plus former Slam winners Angelique Kerber and Jelena Ostapenko who made the 2018 final… After a qualifier, Barty could face Ostapenko or Riske in the third round, Azarenka or Kerber in the fourth followed by either Sabalenka or Bencic in the quarters… Azarenka, who has twice won this title, made the final of the last event in the U.S. in New York… Three-time winner Venus, who hasn’t played since Australia, could face Bencic in her second match…. Bencic has lost her last four matches in Miami, but with a good draw maybe this could be a breakthrough?… Sabalenka had a hot start to 2021 but has since cooled.
Seeds: (3) Halep, (5) Svitolina, (9) Kvitova, (15) Swiatek
Kuznetsova is the only former champion in this quarter, however all eyes will be on another Halep-Swiatek showdown, but things could happen to foil that fourth rounder… Halep, who might not be among the very top favorites to win, could face Coco Gauff in the third ahead of Swiatek… Gauff, who just turned 17, opens against either Sevastova or a qualifier… Kvitova is arguably the favorite in the section after her good run in the desert. The Czech is projected to face the former champion Konta in the third, the slumping Svitolina in the fourth and then Halep/Swiatek/Gauff… Gauff and Madison Keys both have deep roots near Miami but with just 750 fans maximum per session, their may not be much of a home edge.
Seeds: (4) Kenin, (8) Andreescu, (12) Muguruza, (13) Brady
Garbine Muguruza is perhaps the hottest player of 2021 having just won her biggest title in recent years in Dubai and she has more wins (18) on the season than anyone. The Spaniard, who’s never made the Miami quarters, will be favored to do just that based on form and draw… Muguruza will be slated to face Petra Martic in the third, Andreescu in the fourth then potentially Australian Open finalist Jennifer Brady in the quarters… Former champion Stephens could face Amanda Anismova in the second… Brady and Kenin are favored to meet in the fourth, however Kenin has been far from top form this year. She underwent surgery after Melbourne.
Seeds: (2) Osaka, (6) Pliskova, (10) Bertens, (16) Mertens
Tournament favorite and Australian Open champion Osaka will be the woman to beat in the last quarter… Osaka’s true opposition could come from teen Anastasia Potapova in the second round and then Jessica Pegula in the quarters… The pesky Pegula figures to be the favorite against the fading Pliskova in the third round… Osaka’s seeds included Yulia Putintseva, who has given the former No. 1 trouble, and Elise Mertens… Osaka has won her last 21 matches!
Women’s main draw matches in Miami start on Tuesday with seeds on court starting Thursday.
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