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WTA Miami Tennis Picks, Predictions: Azarenka to Be Given Stiff Test (March 25)

WTA Miami Tennis Picks, Predictions: Azarenka to Be Given Stiff Test (March 25) article feature image
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Icon Sportswire/Getty. Pictured: Victoria Azarenka hits a backhand at the Indian Wells tennis tournament.

  • The Miami Open continues on Friday.
  • David Gertler offers his top plays for the women's slate, including a rationale for Ekaterina Alexandrova against the spread.

It’s been an exciting start to the tournament in Miami and we have more matches to enjoy on Friday.

And while that’s certainly good news, the even better news is that I’ve spotted value on two of Friday’s matches.

Here are two betting picks to think about from the WTA Tour event in Miami.

Match times are subject to change. Read here for advice on watching tennis matches.

Clara Burel (+340) vs Petra Kvitova (-475)

2 p.m. ET

Clara Burel ended a four-match losing streak with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Magdalena Frech. It wasn’t easy for Burel, who had to stay focused and patient against the consistent Pole.

Burel won 71% of her first-serve points and held Frech to 50% of her service points won, including just 4-of-19 points on her second serve. Burel was very clutch, saving 13-of-16 break points on her serve.

She doesn’t have a standout shot, but she does have a high tennis IQ and hits with good controlled aggression. Burel won two ITF titles last season and her year-end ranking improved from world number 235 at the end of the 2020 season to world number 77 by the finish of the 2021 season.

While 2022 hasn’t been the best for Burel so far, she’s certainly a talented player and played a better match against Frech.

Another player who has struggled this season is Petra Kvitova. Kvitova beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich to start off her Indian Wells campaign, but played a very poor match to lose 3-6, 0-6 to Maria Sakkari in the next round.

Against Sakkari, the usually serve-dependent Czech won just 49% of her service points and was broken four times in seven service games. Kvitova also won just 1-of-25 points on Sakkari’s first serve.

While the slow surface in Indian Wells didn’t suit Kvitova’s game, the humid conditions in Miami will benefit her either. When Kvitova is playing well, she can take the racquet out of opponents’ hands with her serve and forehand. However, she’s only 6-7 this season and has struggled with her baseline game.

Kvitova is not a player that enjoys playing in the United States’ humidity. The US Open is the only Major where she’s never made the semifinals. In addition, she’s been very erratic from the baseline and is struggling to even get a high percentage of first serves in play. She has gone six matches in a row with a first-serve percentage under 65%.

While Burel has had a rough time transitioning to the WTA Tour full-time, if she can replicate her performance against Frech, staying solid from the baseline and taking advantage of her spots to ramp up the aggression, then she will be right there with Kvitova.

Pick: Burel +5.5 games (-129 via PointsBet)

Ekaterina Alexandrova (+240) vs  Victoria Azarenka (-325)

5 p.m. ET

Ekaterina Alexandrova played her best match of the season in the first round of Miami. Alexandrova beat Jasmine Paolini 6-1, 6-2 to advance to this showdown with Azarenka.

Alexandrova used her big serve to help win 74% of her service points, only getting broken once. The Russian was also very aggressive in her return games, winning 58% of return points and breaking in 6-of-8 return games.

Every aspect of Alexandrova’s game was working against Paolini. She was smashing big serves that hit her spots and her controlled aggression from the baseline constantly put Paolini in defensive areas of the court without overhitting. While Alexandrova had struggled with her consistency earlier this season, she played very well and seemed to enjoy the conditions.

In her last tournament, Victoria Azarenka beat Astra Sharma to kick off Indian Wells, but struggled mightily in a 3-6, 4-6 loss to Elena Rybakina. Against Rybakina, Azarenka started crying in the middle of the match, and it was clear that she was in a difficult place.

Against Rybakina, Azarenka only served 49% of her first serves into play and, when she was forced to hit second serves, she only won 40% of her second-serves. Rybakina, on the other hand, won 87% of her first serves, 65% of her second serves, and wasn’t broken all match.

Azarenka can dominate the baseline with her aggressive groundstrokes when she’s playing well, but she was erratic against Rybakina and tennis is a very mental sport, so if Azarenka is struggling in that department she could really struggle.

Alexandrova is on a different trajectory, however. She played with excellent controlled aggression against Paolini and dominated every facet of that match. She will come into this match with a high level of confidence, which is certainly not a trait that Azarenka showed on the court against Rybakina.

In this spot, Alexandrova’s game handicap is a good bet.

Pick:  Alexandrova +4.5 games (-118 via PointsBet)

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