Sloane Stephens looks to move one step further to defending her Miami Open title on Sunday evening, facing the tricky German Tatjana Maria for a spot in round four. The scene for the title hunt for Stephens is different though, with the move from Key Biscayne to the Hard Rock Stadium this year.
Watch the Stephens vs Maria Live Stream Here.
While Maria has the game style that can frustrate inexperienced or inconsistent players, there remains a ceiling to that unconventional style. She won her first WTA Tour title last year to push her back into the top 60, a spot she has remained in and about for much of the last year. She beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and Camila Giorgi to get to this stage with both wins coming fairly comfortably in straight sets.
Sloane will be desperate to kick-start her 2019, following a disappointing year so far. With losses to the likes of Yulia Putintseva, Beatriz Haddad Maia and most recently Stefanie Voegele, she is definitely not living up to the top 5 ranking she entered the year with. The Voegele loss has to be the worst of the three, winning just three games against the qualifier at Indian Wells. She had no issues with Ons Jabeur in her first match here, beating the Tunisian 6-2 6-3. “It’s tough when somebody doesn’t give you a lot of rhythm. She can hit some great shots. You have to be ready for that and accept that during the match because that’s just what she does.” she said. “It was tough, but happy to be through.”
Beating Jabeur in such fashion should bode well for her match with Maria, whose game has similarities. “She slices a lot, has a lot of variety. It’s kind of two similar players back-to-back. I’ll just look to do the same thing. She does give you a little bit more rhythm, though. She hits a nice ball.” she said on her opponent. Sloane needed just over an hour to win their first meeting last year in Cincinnati 6-3 6-2.
Prediction – Sloane Stephens in three sets