Miami Sunday: Kerber, Halep Seeking Round of 16 Spots

World No.1 Angelique Kerber will lead a quartet of Top 10 players into action on Sunday in Miami. Chris Oddo preview the must-see matchups at WTATennis.com. 

Sunday
Third round
[1] Angelique Kerber (GER #1) vs. Shelby Rogers (USA #61)
Key Stat: Rogers defeated Simona Halep in her only match against a Top 10 player this season (2-4 lifetime).

Simona_Halep_-_Miami_Open_2_1200x800

The life of a World No.1 is always fraught with peril, and Angelique Kerber has learned this the hard way since climbing to the top of the WTA’s rankings. The German has gone 14-7 while playing as the World No.1, and that record is a tribute to her mental toughness because everybody is now gunning for Kerber to get that big win on their resumé.

It will be no different on Sunday when an American that knows a thing or two about upsets will attempt to spoil Kerber’s weekend in Miami. Shelby Rogers will bid for her tenth—and biggest—win of the season against Kerber, and as a player that has scored wins over Karolina Pliskova, Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep and Daria Kasatkina in the last year, she’s certainly capable of giving Kerber a run for her money.

Kerber was satisfied with her win over China’s Duan Ying-Ying on Friday. She faced a lot of power from the rising Chinese, and it could be just the test she needed to prepare for the hard-hitting Rogers. “I was trying to move well and go for it,” she said on Friday after defeating Duan in blustery conditions. “It was not easy with all the wind and everything, but I’m through and into the next round and that’s what matters to me.”

Pick: Kerber in three

[3] Simona Halep (ROU #3) vs. [Q] Anett Kontaveit (EST #112)

Key Stat: Halep reached the semifinals in Miami in 2015.

Simona Halep battled through a patchy, tense affair with Japan’s Naomi Osaka on Friday, coming through in three sets to book her spot in the Miami Open’s round of 32 for the fifth time. On Sunday the Romanian will bid to win back-to-back matches for the first time in 2017 when she squares of with Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit for the first time. Kontaveit has been in very solid form of late.

If you count her ITF title in January and recent qualifying matches she has won 14 of her last 16. On Friday she knocked off Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova in three sets to reach the third round in Miami for the first time.

But Kontaveit is relatively inexperienced in matches this big. She has played just two matches against the Top 10, losing them both, and owns just 22 career tour-level wins. Halep, who is recently recovered from five weeks off due to a knee injury, is simply happy to be in good health and playing at a tournament she loves.

“Yesterday was the first day after two months that I was on the treadmill, so I’m really happy,” the 25-year-old told press during All-Access Hour earlier this week. “I can train hard; I already played two hours today with no pain. I’m happy about that and I’m much better than last week.”

Pick: Halep in two

[7] Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS #7) vs. [Q] Taylor Townsend (USA #111)

Key Stat: Kuznetsova is only 11-5 against players outside of the Top 100 since the beginning of 2015, but has won six in a row.

A runner-up here last year, and one of the more inspiring stories on tour over the last 52 weeks, Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova is hoping to make some more noise at one of her most successful events. The 2006 champion will bid for her 34th career Miami Open win when she faces American qualifier Taylor Townsend.

Townsend only had one tour-level win on the season prior to this week but she has doubled that number in two rounds in Miami. On Friday she knocked off No.25-seeded Roberta Vinci for her biggest win rankings-wise since the 2014 French Open.

Can Townsend produce another magic trick against an in-form veteran that has won three times more tour-level matches in the last 52 weeks than Townsend has won in her whole career? Or will it be Kuznetsova who surges into the round of 16 with another convincing win?

Pick: Kuznetsova in two

[11] Venus Williams (USA #12) vs. Patricia Maria Tig (ROU #95)

Key Stat: Williams won the title at Miami in 2001, and is making her 14th appearance this year.

A tried and true veteran will square off with a green up-and-comer on Sunday when 2001 Miami Open champion and five-time semifinalist Venus Williams meets 22-year-old Romanian Patricia Maria Tig. It could be a trickier matchup than it looks to be on paper, because

Tig has proven to be very solid against tough competition in her young career. The Romanian notched her biggest lifetime win on Friday, taking out No.22-seeded Kristina Mladenovic, to up her record against Top-25 competition to 3-2.

But Williams knows a thing or two about weathering the best efforts of young upstarts. The 36-year-old has been handing out free lessons in fortitude and competitive moxie for years on tour and she’ll bid to school the young Tig on Sunday to reach the round of 16 at Miami for the 12th time.

Pick: Williams in three

Around the Grounds:

No.9-seeded Madison Keys was brutally efficient in her second-round win over Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic. The American will bid for another big win against Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena. No.14-seeded Samantha Stosur will square off with China’s Peng Shuai for the second time this season. Peng snapped a five-match losing streak to Stosur by defeating her in Tapei in January. No.10-seeded Johanna Konta is slated to face Madison Keys in a to-die-for round of 16 matchup. But to get there the British No.1 will have to defeat France’s Pauline Parmentier. They’ll meet for the first time at tour-level on Sunday (Konta holds the 2-1 edge in ITF meetings).

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