My feature match for the fourth day of action at the Miami Open is the match between surging recent BNP Paribas Open finalist Daria Kasatkina and the young rising American star Sofia Kenin, which is taking place in the third match on Court 8. Not surprisingly, the oddsmakers have Kasatkina as the heavy favourite to progress through this round.
Daria Kasatkina has been playing some of the best tennis of her career recently and that does show in her stellar run of recent results. Her start to the year was nowhere near as successful as she should have hoped as she took a first-round loss at her final preparation event, which was the Sydney International, to Barbora Strycova and then she went out in the second round of the Australian Open itself in an upset against Magda Linette. She clearly put that out of her mind for the next event, the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, as she had a great run to the semifinals which included a win over then world-number-one Caroline Wozniacki before falling to Kristina Mladenovic. Her Middle Eastern swing started on a sour note as she retired in the middle of her first round at the Qatar Total Open with Catherine Bellis due to a neck injury. She thankfully recovered quickly as the next week at the Dubai Tennis Championships she had one of the best runs of her career by making the final with wins over Johanna Konta and Garbine Muguruza, in both of which she saved match points, before falling to Elina Svitolina. She carried that momentum right into Indian Wells as she had another career-best run by making the final of the Premier Mandatory event with wins over Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki before going down at the hands of Naomi Osaka. It has been an average start to the year for Sofia Kenin as I think a lot of people had higher expectations after seeing how she ended last year. She started with a quarterfinal appearance at the ASB Classic, where she lost to Caroline Wozniacki, and then she got a rough draw at the Australian Open which resulted in a first-round loss to Julia Goerges. She played a couple of ITF and WTA 125k events from there, two of which were the Midland ITF where she fell to Jamie Loeb in the second round and the Indian Wells 125k where she to Yanina Wickmayer in the second round. She started her sunshine double at the BNP Paribas Open and she came through qualifying there before falling to Shuai Zhang in the second round. So far at the Miami Open, she has come through two rounds of qualifying before getting a 6-4, 6-4 first round win over Stefanie Voegele. You have to give the undeniable edge to Kasatkina as her results have been better than almost every woman on tour recently.
Not surprisingly at the young age of twenty, Daria Kasatkina has only played the Miami Open twice before in her career and both times she has fallen at the second round. The first time came in 2016 when she was unseeded and fell to Simona Halep but the second time was last year when she was the seed but failed to deliver and went down to Shelby Rogers after a bagel third set. Sofia Kenin has been making her debut at the event this year so she is yet to lose a match on these courts. It is hard due to the prevalent lack of data but I have to tip Kasatkina with the edge in this category just because she has more experience with these courts in a competitive environment.
Head to Head Record
Sofia Kenin and Daria Kasatkina have never faced each other before in an official WTA main draw match.
I think this is going to be a tough match for Daria Kasatkina because it is her first match since such a big run and she has not had much time to train here on the courts, which is especially detrimental against an opponent who has already won several matches on the courts. For Sofia Kenin, she just needs to play her tennis and go for the big shots while not being afraid to mix in some variety as Kasatkina is going to miss very little defensively. I think it will be a break-heavy first set because both will be nervous and they already have attackable serves so we could see a lot of breaks on the way to a tiebreaker, which I would see Kasatkina winning 7-0 due to experience. I do think that Kasatkina will struggle with some of her mental woes and she won’t start the second set very well which will lead her to let it go and focusing and preparing for the decider. I do think we will get that third set after a 6-0 second set goes the way of Kenin but after that, I see the American maybe going up a break but as soon as there is a sign of nerves, Kasatkina will pounce to break back and go on to take the 7-6(7-0), 0-6, 6-5 win.