Serena leads it 11-2. She has won their last nine matches dating back to the 2004 WTA Championships and has taken the last 12 sets from the Russian. Their last two matches were at the 2012 WTA Championships (a 6-4, 6-3 victory for Ms. Williams) and the 2013 Doha semis (a 6-3, 6-2 win for Serena). Those matches were competitive during Sharapova service games, but not as much during Serena
Miami has had no discernable theme whatsoever other than that once again too many players are aching or hurt post the Aussie hard courts swing; the February Euro indoor/Middle East outdoor, Latin American clay or US indoor/outdoor outswing; and of course Indian Wells.
Miami will officially close the first quarter of the season, which is perhaps the physically most difficult portion of the year as player must roar out of the gates within two weeks and then head into Melbourne, and must conclude with two back-to-back Masters Series at Indian Wells in Miami.
The only other quarter that touches the first one in regards to physical effort is the third one, which begins on grass and ends at the US Open and also includes two Masters Series (Canada and Cincy).
The second quarter is a big test for clay courters because it ends at Roland Garros and contains two Masters Series (Rome and Madrid) and a mini Masters Series (Monte Carlo) but the surface remains the same and with grass it is the easiest one on the body.
The fall swing is less mentally taxing because it doesn’t not contain a Slam and is less physically taxing because most of the top players pick and choose where they are playing more carefully.
Indian Wells finalists Rafael Nadal (skipped Miami to rest his knee), Juan Martin Del Potro (his left wrist aches and he was upset by Tobias Kamke) and Caroline Wozniacki (took a troubling 6-2 6-4 loss to the rising Spaniard Garbine Muguruza) are all out of Miami.
The resilient Maria Sharapova, who won Indian Wells, was still around as as she overcame Elena Vesnina in two very tough sets, but Angie Kerber, who reached the semis at IW, apparently is still having back trouble and was smoked by Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-0. Thne Maria Kirilenko, who played so well in reaching the IW semis, went down to Klara Zakopalova 6-2 7-6(4). Petra Kvitova, who looked great in Dubai and sort of OK in the California desert, melted once again in the heat and lost to the surging Kirsten Flipkens 6-0 4-6 6-1.
Having to win physical matches in the heat also ended up affecting the little but lethal Lauren Davis, who wore down her friend Madison Keys in a marathon and then lost to Alize Cornet in three, leaving the United States with only two out of its strong phalanx of female players left: Sloane Stephens, who advanced when Venus Williams withdrew with a back injury, and Serena Williams who punched past Ayumi Morita. Serena will face the hard hitting but up- and-down Dominika Cibulkova, while Stephens, who has not been playing well since the Aussie Open, will face a stern test in the form of Agnieszka Radwanska, who overcame Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6(5) 2-6 6-3. The Pole and defending champ hasn’t been playing great either, so this is good chance for Stephens to get back on track if she plays with enough patience and savvy, sort of like Maria Kirilenko did in besting Radwanska at Indian Wells.
Aussie Open finalist Li Na has returned and is certainly a big threat on outdoor hard courts. She downed Varvara Lepchenko 6-2 6-4 and will face the 19-year-old Muguruza, who is tall and hits a pretty big ball. Flipkens will play another talented teen, Croat Ajla Tomljanovic who upended Andrea Petkovic 0-6 6-4 7-6(1). It is not going to be easy for Petko to climb back to the top 20. With each passing comeback, on court life gets little tougher.
The ATP has three blockbusters ahead with Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov reliving their final in Brisbane, which was won by the Scott. Murray smoked an ill Bernard Tomic, who must now go ply his trade on clay, which will be a huge test of his so-called improved fitness. Dimitrov has played a bit better since February but he is still missing a marquee win. The 21 year old has a lot of weapons, but his point-to-point consistency is not one of them. His girlfriend, Maria Sharapova, might be able to help with that.
John Isner picked up a big mental win in besting Ivan Dodig in a third set breaker and now would take an even bigger step if he could overcome a more talented Croat, Marin Cilic. So much of that outcome of that match will be determined by the return of serve, which Cilic is a little better at. But playing at home in the southern heat, which Isner likes, should give the American the advantage.
Sam Querrey and Milos Raonic will also face off and both guys would love to grab a win here as they are in a fairly open quarter where the winner would likely play Tomas Berdych, a very good player who is better than both of them at this point, but not a guy whom they have no chance of beating. Querrey won his last meeting against Raonic at Wimbledon. Service bombs away.
Belgian David Goffin appears to be getting out of the mental funk that he fell into after choking a Davis Cup match to Victor Troicki. The highflying Goffin upended Philip Kohlschreiber 7-6(5) 4-6 6-2?and now will have to try and grind one out against Nicolas Almagro under the intense Miami sunshine. Good luck with that.
Pavlyuchenkova,, right, could use some of Lucie Safarova’s consistency
After she fell early at Indian Wells, Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova stayed around for the rest of the tournament and was seen practicing daily. Despite her commitment to improving, she still fell in the first round of Miami to Garbine Muguruza Blanco 4-6 6-2 6-2. Sometimes, hard work does not pay off, not if a player isn
FROM THE BNP PARIBAS OPEN AT INDIAN WELLS – It wasn’t supposed to be this way for Rafael Nadal, but was it. Seven months of hell with his knee, rehabbing daily, unsure how it would respond, losing his rhythm, his timing, and his confidence.
He came back in Vina Del Mar at the start of February and looked at best mediocre. In the final there, Horacio Zeballos scalded him in the third set and he looked slow. But no matter, he trudged onto to Sao Paolo where on a super quick indoor court he throttled David Nalbandian in the final. He felt better, but his knee was still sore. He took a week off and then headed to Acapulco, where his movement began to improve a great deal, he gleefully slid around and he bullied compatriots Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer to win the title
But when he arrived in the California desert, he had his doubts. During his first few days at Indian Wells he spent a fair amount of time criticizing the ATP
Sharapova leads it 4-2, winning their last two matches, which included a very tight 6-4 in the third set victory in the semis of 2012 Miami, and a 7-5, 7-3 win at 2011 Rome. But Wozniacki has handed the Los Angelino by way of Russia two important and somewhat devastating defeats: her super steady and cagey 6-3, 6-4 victory over Sharapova in the fourth round of the 2010 US Open; and a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of a wild Maria in the 2011 Indian Wells semis.
Just like in 2012, Sharapova has been consistent to open the year, but she has not been spectacular in big matches. She ran through her first five matches at the Aussie Open without even breaking a sweat and then Li Na bullied her in the semis. She did the same in Doha, and then ran into her nemesis, Serena Williams, who pasted her in the semis.
After seven months off the tour, Nadal is 16-1 during his comeback
FROM THE BNP PARIBAS OPEN AT INDIAN WELLS – Rafael Nadal said he had doubts about his ability to play on hard courts when he arrived at Indian Wells. He has said all fortnight long that he has been surprised by his success. But no one outside of his camp else really is, because he
FROM THE BNP PARIBAS OPEN AT INDIAN WELLS – Caroline Wozniacki had not reached a WTA Premier Mandatory final in two years. She had received a gift in the quarterfinals when No. 2 Victoria Azarenka pulled out with a right foot injury, but she had to confront her friend Angelique Kerber in the semis, whom had beaten her three times last year.
The Saturday night match started horrible for the former No. 1, as Kerber came right at her and she couldn