SONY ERICSSON OPEN
Serena In Brutal Quarter; Azarenka Aims To Remain Undefeated
by Matt Fitzgerald|
Defending Sony Ericsson Open champion Victoria Azarenka will bring her perfect 23-0 season record to Miami as the top women’s singles seed, while five-time titlist Serena Williams is among the contenders in Caroline Wozniacki’s quarter of the draw.
The 22-year-old Azarenka won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, and has collected four trophies en route to becoming World No. 1 in 2012. She defeated Maria Sharapova in last year’s final to win her second crown at Crandon Park, and will open her title defense against Michaella Krajicek or a qualifier to be determined.
No. 27 seed Lucie Safarova is the first seeded player Azarenka could meet. Also featured in Azarenka’s quarter are 16th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova and 18th seed Angelique Kerber, both potential fourth-round opponents.
Kerber burst onto the scene at last year’s US Open, reaching the semi-finals, and has quickly moved into the Top 15. Entering Miami, Kerber has advanced to the semi-finals at seven of her past 12 events, highlighted by lifting her first WTA trophy at the Paris Indoors in February. The German, who took part in the draw ceremony for the first time Monday, spoke about her rise up the rankings.
“I have a lot of confidence right now,” Kerber told SonyEricssonOpen.org. “I’ve played very good this year. But it’s another tournament now, and a tough one, so I will go out and try to play my best. I hope to do well here.”
Ranked a career-high No. 14, Kerber fell to Azarenka in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. She isn’t looking ahead to the potential rematch, stating, “I think it doesn’t matter who you play. They’re all good players. You need to play well from the first round. I need to show my best tennis in order to win matches.”
Marion Bartoli, the seventh seed, and 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, the 11th seed, round out the highest seeds in Azarenka’s section. Wild card Alisa Klebaynova returns to action for the first time since July, following successful treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In the same half of the draw as Azarenka is third seed Petra Kvitova. The 2011 Wimbledon titlist is looking to win her first title since topping Azarenka to win the WTA Championships in Istanbul. She could meet wild card and three-time champion Venus Williams in a popcorn second-round clash, should Williams win her season debut against 41-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm.
Looking to play spoiler in Kvitova’s quarter are fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, ninth seed Vera Zvonareva, No. 15 seed Ana Ivanovic and No. 20 seed Daniela Hantuchova.
Fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki is the highest seed in the third quarter of the draw that is by far the most stacked among the four sections. Wozniacki is looking to regroup after being usurped by Azarenka atop the WTA rankings. She’ll have her work cut out for her, as 14th-seed Julia Georges, who has knocked off Wozniacki in three straight meetings, and two-time former champion Kim Clijsters, unseeded after a return from an ankle injury, are both possible fourth-round foes.
Should Wozniacki get through to the quarter-finals, she’ll likely face reigning US Open titlist Sam Stosur, the sixth seed, or Serena Williams, the 10th seed. Williams is playing her first event since falling in the round of 16 at the Australian Open, and is seeking her first title in Miami in four years, when she triumphed for a record-tying fifth time (Steffi Graf).
The bottom quarter of the draw is headlined by second seed Maria Sharapova. The Russian is coming off of her second runner-up showing to Azarenka this season at Indian Wells, having also lost to the Belarusian in the Melbourne final. Last year’s French Open winner Li Na is the highest seed in Sharapova’s section at No. 8, and is joined by 12th seed Sabine Lisicki, 13th seed Jelena Jankovic, 17th seed Peng Shuai and 2006 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded 25th respectively.
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