The second of the back-to-back Premier Mandatory events begins today, with the first round of the Sony Open beginning in Miami on Tuesday, writes Sean Calvert...
There are 12 main draw matches on the card for today, as qualifying also continues in this joint ATP/WTA event.
The women play for a first prize of $787,000 and 1000 ranking points at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, where their Laykold outdoor hard courts are usually quite slow and clay courters can have their day here, with rally winning shots tough to come by.
Play begins at around 16.00 UK time on Tuesday and we can expect a few winning favourites if last year’s seven successful underdogs from 32 matches is any guide.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands 1.85, Elina Svitolina 1.90 – starts at 16.05 GMT
The layers can’t quite make up their minds on this clash and I’m quite surprised to see the American as slight favourite here.
This looks a good match-up for the 19-year-old Ukrainian, who will need to be outhit by Mattek-Sands and I’m not sure that Bethanie has the consistency to do that on a regular basis.
BMS loves to utilise an attacking game and it’s rarely been effective in the slow conditions of Crandon Park, where she has a 2-5 record in main draw matches.
This will be Svitolina’s first match in the main draw here in Miami and her first match against today’s opponent, but the American has lost six of her last eight matches on tour, while Elina should have been celebrating a win over Ana Ivanovic last week at Indian Wells.
Svitolina choked a couple of times serving for the match against Ivanovic, but confidence won’t be a problem today and she looks decent value against an out of form opponent with a poor record at this tournament.
Monica Puig 2.20, Magdalena Rybarikova 1.63 - starts at 18.35 GMT
This could be a good time to take a chance on Puig, who will come back to form at some stage soon and it could well be here in conditions she’s very familiar with.
The Puerto Rican prospect has rather dropped off the radar of late after suffering a right wrist injury, but she has spent a lot of time this year training in Florida and she looked like a return to form was imminent in a defeat to Svitolina at Indian Wells last week.
Puig was predictably rusty in that match, having not played competitively for seven weeks before that match, but she looked good in spells there and her familiarity with conditions here will certainly help today.
Rybarikova is tough to predict, as she can test the best, as she showed against Na Li in Doha, but heavy defeats to Monica Niculescu, Ajla Tomljanovic and Kurumi Nara highlight her inconsistency.
The tall Slovak hasn’t won two matches in a row all season and she was beaten in straight sets by Puig in their only career meeting, so I wouldn’t be too quick to side with her at 1.63 in this one.
It’s a bit of a risky play, but there’s enough for me here to chance Puig at a tempting 2.20.
Elsewhere, I’m also tempted with Silvia Soler-Espinosa at 2.35 against Chanelle Scheepers in conditions that the Spaniard will enjoy and I’d be with Galina Voskoboeva at 2.25 against Tsvetana Pironkova, who has a really poor record here, if it weren’t for illness concerns about the Kazakh.
Back Svitolina to beat Mattek-Sands at 1.90
Back Puig to beat Rybarikova at 2.20