Three-time Miami Open champion Victoria Azarenka will once again try to get her season going. She plays Caroline Garcia in the second round of one her favourite tournaments, still seeking to make the top 40 for the first time. She is at a current ranking of 46, the highest since her return from giving birth.
Garcia was inside the top 5 in September but has fallen outside the top 20 just six months later. A disappointing 2019 includes four first round losses and three losses to American Jennifer Brady in her last three tournaments. With plenty of clay points to defend in the next few months, a strong run here is of the utmost importance.
Azarenka saw off Dominika Cibulkova in three sets to advance to the second round. The pair have had a fascinating rivalry in the past, including two thrillers at this tournament in 2011 and 2012. “She’s a very dangerous opponent, because no matter how many, she comes off confident or not confident against top players, she’s always bringing a little bit of a next level and good game. She’s a big fighter. So I knew it’s not going to be easy, for sure.” she said of Cibulkova.
“She’s a very talented player. She has a lot of skills, has a lot of speed on the ball. She has kind of a fast arm with her forehand. A lot of power and spin. She can serve really well. She’s a dangerous player, definitely.” Azarenka said on her opponent. Their first meeting last year resulted in a straight sets win for Garcia on the hard courts of Cincinnati.
Even with the Belarussian low on matches, she did make the semi finals of this tournament last year. She has never really shown that level in the 12 months since but if there is to be anywhere that finally sparks the former No.1 into life, it has to be here.
Prediction – Victoria Azarenka in three sets