Venus Williams (USA) vs. Sorana Cirstea (ROU)
Venus has had great success in Miami throughout her career, winning the title three times and reaching the semis three other times. With sister Serena out due to an injury, Venus is left to carry the torch for the Williams’. I definitely feel she is one of the favorites to win the tournament along with Jelena Jankovic who is coming off of a title at Indian Wells.
Cirstea picked up a win over Michelle Larcher de Brito in the opening round, beating the up-and-coming Portuguese woman 7-5, 7-6(9). This was her first career victory at Miami, and she is definitely a young woman on the rise.
This is the first career meeting between Cirstea and Venus. Cirstea is extremely consistent from both the forehand and backhand side and really can pound the ball. She moves well and is comfortable at the net. There is plenty of pressure on Venus to make a deep run and vie for the title and it will be interesting to see how she handles that throughout the tournament. Venus is one of the few players on the tour that can cover every single inch of the tennis court. She has one of, if not, the biggest serves and she will not let Cirstea off the hook at any point. The balls are bouncing high down in Miami and I feel Venus will move forward, take some balls out of the air and put them away whenever possible. Cirstea has enough firepower to make this interesting, but in the end I see Venus advancing.
Nick’s Pick – V. Williams in 2 sets
Sabine Lisicki (GER) vs. Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ)
Lisicki, an IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy student, comes into the tournament ranked #26 in the world. She received a bye in the opening round and is coming off an injury that forced her to retire in her second round match at Indian Wells. She had a nice run to the fourth round of Miami back in 2008, where she beat 5th seeded Anna Chakvetadze before losing to Elena Dementieva.
Shvedova beat Ajla Tomljanovic in three tough sets in the opening round and has a knack for winning tight matches. Last year she qualified for Miami and then went on to beat a then 12th-seeded Ana Ivanovic before falling to Tathiana Garbin in the third round. She also took down Jelena Jankovic at last year’s US Open in the second round, winning 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-6(6). So watch out for her!
This is the first career meeting between Shvedova and Lisicki. This match is really going to depend on the health of Lisicki. If she is feeling better than she did at Indian Wells she can do some damage. If she is still reeling than Shvedova will have the advantage. Lisicki loves to pound the ball from both sides and she has a big-time serve when it’s on. Shvedova is consistent from both sides, moves well and can also play offensively. I like Lisicki to move on, but if she is hurting this match could go to Shvedova.
Nick’s Pick – Lisicki in 3 sets
Justine Henin (BEL) vs. Elena Dementieva (RUS)
Henin knocked off American Jill Craybas in the opening round to set up this clash with Dementieva. She is still looking for her first title in Miami and I certainly wouldn’t doubt her chances. She did reach the finals back in 2007, where she lost to Serena Williams in three sets.
Dementieva has played well in Miami throughout her career, yet she has never won the title. Like Henin, she also has been to the finals once where she lost to Serena Williams. Last year she advanced to the fourth round before falling to Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets. I am sure she is looking forward to the challenge of taking on Henin!
Henin is 10-2 against Dementieva and bear her in the second round of the Australian Open earlier this year. Henin has obviously dominated Dementieva throughout their careers and will have the mental edge over her opponent. Dementieva has the groundstrokes to keep Henin pinned back behind the baseline, but her serve doesn’t allow her to control points and that is what really gives Henin the edge. With Henin’s determination, movement and versatility I give her the edge in a hard-fought match.
Nick’s Pick – Henin in 3 sets
Melanie Oudin (USA) vs. Vera Zvonareva (RUS)
This is the first career meeting between Zvonareva and Oudin and it’s going to be an exciting match because many American fans haven’t had a chance to see Oudin since her run at last year’s US Open. She is a crowd favorite and that will definitely help her. Oudin really has to play well to beat Zvonareva because of how consistent the Russian is. Zvonareva will take the ball early, hovering right over the baseline and will force Oudin to do some things she doesn’t want to. Oudin will need to change the pace, play with more versatility, and take some more chances throughout this match. With the balls bouncing higher that will give her a little more help, but I just feel the Russian has too much for her.
Nick’s Pick – Zvonareva in 3 sets