Thursday’s action in Miami sees the rest of the tournament’s top seeds take to the court for their first matches in Florida. The women’s side of the tournament, unlike the men’s, features most of the top players on the tour. As such, it should be a mouth-watering week or so in Miami. With plenty of must watch tennis over the coming days, we take a look at who should advance to the next round in our WTA Miami Open Day 4 predictions.
We also have predictions for the other 12 matches of the day, between three separate articles. One features Ajla Tomljanovic vs Naomi Osaka, the second highlights Sloane Stephens vs Amanda Anisimova, and the third features Bianca Andreescu vs Tereza Martincova.
WTA Miami Open Day 4 Predictions
Elise Mertens vs Katie Boulter
Head-to-head: First meeting
It’s been a long time since we talked about Katie Boulter in the second round of a big tournament. The Brit has finished the year ranked outside the top 300 in the women’s game for two consecutive years. She currently sits at #319, a long way off her career best of #82 achieved in 2018. However, she played well in her first round match against Kristýna Pliskova, coming from a set down to take the match. Unfortunately for the Brit, she now faces one of the best players on the WTA Tour this year in a bid to progress to the third round.
Elise Mertens has lost just two matches in 2021. She won the Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne to kick off her year. Mertens then followed that up with a fourth round appearance in the Australian Open and a run to the semifinals in Dubai. The Belgian may well be ranked inside the top #10 were it not for the protected ranking system still in place on both tours. Mertens’ game suits the fast courts of Miami, with the extra zip lending her shots speed she sometimes lacks when she isn’t aggressive. Given her form coming into the match it’s hard to pick against her in this one, so I’m not going to. It’s nice to see Boulter picking up wins in big tournaments again, but she don’t count on her picking up another in this one.
Prediction: Mertens in 2
Sorana Cirstea vs Anett Kontaveit
Head-to-head: Cirstea 0 – 3 Kontaveit
Both of these players are big strikers of the ball who can be wildly erratic at times. Kontaveit has the more polished game overall, but the Estonian can play some shockingly bad tennis at times. Those spells of inconsistency are the only real reason she hasn’t pushed on to become a dominant force on in the women’s game. Kontaveit can beat anyone and everyone on her day. Her power off both wings is truly impressive and she has a strong serve too. Given her flat, aggressive ball striking game, she should do well in Miami if she can keep the errors down.
Similarly, Cirstea has power in bunches, particularly off her backhand wing. Her down-the-line backhand is a sight to behold when she is finding the mark. However, her serve is far more attackable than Kontaveit’s, and she struggles to generate power consistently and accurately. Kontaveit has also beaten the Romanian in straight sets twice in the last 12 months. Given that, I think the Estonian should move on comfortably here.
Prediction: Kontaveit in 2
Jennifer Brady vs Sara Sorribes Tormo
Head-to-head: Brady 1 – 1 Sorribes Tormo
If we’re honest, Sorribes Tormo should not be in this tournament anymore. The Spaniard benefited from a complete meltdown by Bernarda Pera in her first round match. The American led 5-1 in the final set and had two match points but still managed to lose the match 7-5. Ordinarily a marathon match like that wouldn’t be a problem early in a tournament, but Sorribes Tormo has played a lot of tennis in the last three weeks. She lifted her first WTA title in Guadalajara before making a semifinal run in Monterrey last week. That gives an undeniable advantage to an opponent who by contrast has played little tennis in the last month or so.
Brady’s only match since making the Australian Open final in February is a first round loss to Kontaveit in Doha. Therefore, it’s hard to know what kind of form the American is in other than her results in recent months. If we are to use those as a barometer, the American is probably the most in form player on the women’s tour not named Naomi Osaka. Brady made the semifinals of the US Open last year three weeks after lifting her first WTA title in Lexington. She has never looked more comfortable with her game, and will be looking to make another deep run in her home country after some well earned rest.
Brady has a huge serve and forehand that will suit these fast courts down to the ground. Sorribes Tormo is a great defender who could give Brady trouble by making her play extra balls. However, I don’t think the Spaniard will have the legs to do that consistently over three sets. This could be close, but Brady should advance.
Prediction: Brady in 3
Karolina Pliskova vs Saisai Zheng
Head-to-head: Pliskova 2 – 0 Zheng
It’s hard to know what to make of Pliskova at the moment. The former world #1 is undoubtedly a top talent in the women’s game. However, her movement continues to be an issue. Jessica Pegula has made her look quite ordinary twice this year already simply by playing smart tennis and moving Pliskova around the court. If the Czech gets enough balls in her hitting zone and serves well she is hard to stop. On occasions where that isn’t the case, she offers little else by way of variety. Unfortunately, her first match in Miami is against a player who excels at mixing things up and playing smart tennis.
Saisai Zheng pulled out all the tricks in a great win against Fiona Ferro to advance to the second round. The Chinese player has one of the biggest bag of tricks in the women’s game and isn’t afraid to use it. Drop shots, moon balls, slices and more are all par for the course whenever Zheng takes to the court. A big ball striker with enough patience can usually figure her out and hit her off the court. However, most big ball strikers on the tour are far better movers than Pliskova. A player of Pliskova’s quality will surely make a deep run in a tournament at some point this year. That being said, I don’t think it will be this one. She has been too average this year for me to back her against a tricky opponent in Zheng. Pick Zheng for an upset in this one.
Prediction: Zheng in 3
Main Photo from Getty.