Miami SF: (2) Angelique Kerber vs (13) Victoria Azarenka
A blockbuster semi-final encounter at the Miami Open on Thursday night sees the two best players of the 2016 season collide when Angelique Kerber comes up against Victoria Azarenka. Kerber and Azarenka will number 1 and number 2 in the race to Singapore standings on Monday, confirming that these two have been the best players in the first couple of months of the year.
This will be the third meeting between Kerber and Azarenka in 2016. The Belarussian extended her head-to-head advantage over the German to 6-0 when she thumped Kerber 6-3 6-1 in the final of the Brisbane International in January. Kerber avenged that loss in stunning fashion, claiming a long-awaited first win over the Belarussian with a 6-3 7-5 quarter-final win on route to her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne.
Angelique Kerber understandably struggled in her first couple of events after her success at the Australian Open, arriving in Miami with a 1-3 record win/loss record since her triumph in Melbourne. Things have looked better for Kerber in Miami as she has advanced to the semi-final stage of the event for the first time in her career. Kerber started the week with an emphatic win over Barbora Strycova before fighting hard for three set wins over Kiki Bertens and Timea Babos. Angie’s ticket to the semi-final was confirmed on Wednesday evening when the German recorded a comfortable 6-3 6-2 win over an erratic Madison Keys. Kerber will now get a chance to prove that her win over Azarenka in Melbourne was no fluke.
Victoria Azarenka has amassed an incredible 20-1 win/loss record in 2016. The Belarussian’s only loss of the season was her quarter-final defeat to Kerber at the Australian Open. Azarenka is on an 11 match winning streak as she looks to claim the Indian Wells/Miami double. As a result of her great start to the year, Azarenka will move back into the top 5 in the rankings on Monday. Azarenka has advanced to the semi-final stage in Miami without dropping a set, claiming straight set wins over Monica Puig, Magda Linette, Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta. The Belarussian has been close to her fierce best over the last couple of weeks and will enter her semi-final clash with Kerber desperate to avenge her defeat to the German at the Australian Open.
This promises to be a really close encounter, the majority of the 7 previous meetings between the pair have been just that despite Azarenka holding a dominant 6-1 head-to-head record over the German. Kerber’s win over Azarenka was extremely important and will give her a new sense of belief whenever she steps onto the court against the Belarussian. There really is very little to separate these two, both are heading into this clash full of confidence and with a point to prove.
I’m going to side with Kerber in this clash. This is Kerber’s first ‘big’ match since her Australian Open triumph and is a good opportunity for her to regain the stunning form that she her claim her first Grand Slam title.