Just as on the men’s, competition in the women’s game is wide open. This was highlighted in dramatic style last Sunday at Indian Wells when 18-year-old Bianca Andreescu stunned the field to win her first Tour event. In so doing, the Canadian became the 13th different WTA tournament winner in the 13th tournament event of 2019.
Attention now turns to the Miami Open which gets underway today. Will we see yet another shock result? Or a 14th different winner of the season? One thing’s for certain, Andreescu will not be flying under the radar this time round. She’s been drawn in the same quarter as seeds including Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Garbine Muguruza and Caroline Wozniacki, all of whom will be eager to take the spring out of her step.
Osaka’s form so far in 2019 has been strong, winning 11 of her 14 matches to date and while she exited Indian Wells in disappointing fashion, the Japanese is well set to bounce back in Miami and add to her Australian Open title. While Muguruza and Wozniacki perhaps do not pose the same threat that they have done in the past, Kerber will be well fancied to build on her improving recent form. The German was runner-up to Andreescu at Indian Wells and if the three-time major winner is paired up with Osaka in the last eight, that will be one to watch.
The 13 different WTA Tour winners in 2019 ahead of Miami Open
Sofia Kenin (first career WTA title)
Alison Van Uytvanck
Wang Yafan (first career WTA title)
Bianca Andreescu (first career WTA title)
In the second quarter of the Miami Open, Czech Petra Kvitova and Belgian Kiki Bertens look like the pick of the bunch. Kvitova currently leads the way in the Race to Singapore and though she lost to Venus Williams at Indian Wells, she is in excellent form so far this year, winning the Sydney International as well as making the semi-finals in Dubai and of course the Australian Open final.
Bertens, meanwhile, likes the hard courts and won impressively on the surface in St Petersburg in January. The Belgian will face Kvitova in the quarter-finals if all goes to form and the winner of that clash will be confident of going all the way. Madison Keys, playing at her home event, will likely be the biggest other competitor in this part of the draw, but she was out of sorts in her third-round loss at Indian Wells and has yet to find anything like her best form in this calendar year.
Elsewhere, question marks also remain over the form of defending champion Sloane Stephens, who has endured a difficult start to 2019 and was dumped out of last week’s California event in the first round. Stephens was superb in winning in Miami in 2018 but with Karolina Pliskova and Belinda Bencic both playing solid tennis at present and both in Stephens’ section of the draw, the American may well find this event a struggle as well.
Bencic lifted her first trophy of the season in Dubai last month and has won six of her last seven matches against top-10 opponents, including victories over Osaka, Kerber and Kvitova. At 25/1 in the outright winner market, the Swiss world number 20 represents great value in this event and has every chance of becoming the first repeat winner of the year.
One woman who is yet to taste success in 2019 is Serena Williams. The 23-time Grand Slam winner was struck down by illness during Indian Wells and whilst she’s won the Miami Open an unprecedented eight times, a potential quarter-final clash with Simona Halep could end the American’s run as she bids to return to form and health.
Halep herself cannot be discounted but like Williams, she has yet to win a tournament this year. Runner-up at the Qatar Open in February, she has managed only one quarter-final finish since then and looks a little too short in the betting to be a recommended bet in Miami.
Predicting winners on the WTA is as difficult as it has ever been at the moment and a case can be made for over half the field at Miami this week. With three first time tour winners already in 2019, another long-shot winner could well emerge from the pack. But we’re going with two women who have already got their hands on silverware this year.
Naomi Osaka may not have quite reached the heights she achieved in Melbourne at the opening Grand Slam of the season but she comes into this one second only to Serena Williams in the betting. If her aggressive baseline game and powerful serve are on point, she’ll take some beating and at 15/2, can still return a good profit for punters.
For those looking for a longer odds selection, our tip is Belinda Bencic. The number one ranked Swiss player won her second WTA singles title at the Dubai Championships, beating four top ten opponents in succession. She began the 2019 season by winning the Hopman Cup with Roger Federer for a second consecutive time and after making the semi-finals of last week’s Indian Wells event, she will come into this tournament with plenty of confidence.