Women's Singles Final Preview
by Sandra Harwitt|
Which one of our finalists – Maria Sharapova or Victoria Azarenka – do you think is a former Sony Ericsson Open champion?
If you picked former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova you would be wrong. If you picked Victoria Azarenka you did your homework because the Belarusian was the 2009 champion.
It would not be surprising that fans might think Sharapova already owns a Miami trophy, but the best she’s done here was back-to-back runner-up showings in 2005-‘06, losing to Clijsters and Kuznetsova, respectively. Sharapova is trying to not equal Jennifer Capriati’s record of losing her first three Miami finals, which took place between 2001-‘03.
If Sharapova can haul in the hardware this year, she’ll become only the second Russian woman to rule over Miami – Svetlana Kuznetsova captured the title in 2006.
But for the American-based Russian just playing here is a big deal. Sharapova hasn’t visited this tournament with racket in hand since 2007. She spent a very long time struggling with a shoulder injury, eventually have surgery. The comeback has had its highs and lows, but this could be the biggest bang she’s had if the title comes her way.
Regardless of whether Sharapova reigns supreme over Miami, she will come out of the Sony Ericsson Open with a couple of big achievements. She will return to the Top 10 – projected to be No. 9 win or lose -- for the first time since the 2009 Australian Open. She also scored her first Top 5 win in more than three years when she upset No. 5 Samantha Stosur in the fourth round – her last Top 5 victory was against the now retired and then No. 1 ranked Justine Henin at the 2008 Australian Open. Since the loss to Henin she fell to six Top 5 players before beating Stosur.
Sharapova’s mixed things up this year starting with a new coaching relationship with former player Thomas Hogstedt of Sweden. Hogstedt’s very optimistic that Sharapova is ready to step up and win a fourth Grand Slam title, estimating she’ll be in 100% fighting form by Wimbledon time.
But before she should be thinking about winning a major, she’s got unfinished business with Azarenka in Miami.
Azarenka certainly made headlines here when she upset Serena Williams in the final two years ago. Only four players have defeated Serena Williams in Miami – the injured-and-out-of-action Williams won this trophy five times. Azarenka reached the fourth round here last season, and her three other appearances at Crandon Park ended in the third round.
There’s no denying that Azarenka’s resume isn’t quite Sharapova’s. Azarenka’s won five tournament titles, while Sharapova’s won 22 titles, a number that includes one each of a Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open title. And there’s no Grand Slam trophy in Azarenka’s home yet – her best results were three quarterfinal finishes at the 2009 French Open, 2009 Wimbledon, and 2010 Australian Open.
Sharapova is definitely fighting her way to match victories this tournament, which is a definite sign she’s in a good place with her game. Azarenka might have previous experience winning the Sony Ericsson Open title, but that won’t be her ticket to a second career trophy in Miami. Sharapova struts to victory in Saturday’s final.
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