Monday, March 19, 2012

Will the streak go on?

World number 1 Victoria Azarenka has now won 23 straight matches in 2012, and this week, she'll be going for an Indian Wells/Miami back-to-back super-victory. Azarenka is the defending champion in Miami, and the way she's wearing her world number 1 confidence, an opportunity to defend a big title is probably a factor that's in her favor.

Petra Kvitova and Serena Williams will be there, too, though--right now--neither of them seems as threatening as she was in the recent past. Also, in Kvitova's case, the expected humid weather in south Florida does not bode well for her asthmatic condition. A return to form in Europe seems more likely for the world number 3, which means that Petra fans must continue to exercise patience, however weary we may be of waiting for the Czech star's resurgence.

Li Na and Sam Stosur run hot and cold, but it would be unwise to discount either of them. If her hip heals, Ana Ivanovic could be a factor, but that injury looked pretty painful when Ivanovic retired in Indian Wells.

Azarenka should have a pretty easy time of it in the early rounds of the Sony Ericsson Open. She has a bye in the first round, and she'll get either Michaella Krajicek or a qualifier in the second. She could run into Angelique Kerber again in the first 16, but if fatigue caused Kerber to deflate in the Indian Wells semifinals, one wonders how tired she'll be in Miami. A more in-form Kerber, however, would be motivated to take her best shot at the world number 1. Dominika Cibulkova, not a stranger to upsets, is lurking in that group, too, but so far, she hasn't had a good season.

Victoria Azarenka has embraced her superior 2012 run with an enthusiasm that has provided a real spark to the tour. She was "so close" for so long, but now that she's broken through, her attitude is the fuel that has powered her past her peers. All other things being more or less equal, confidence is the factor that makes a top player a champion, and Azarenka has a wealth of it.

The season is young, but Azarenka looks like she can hold onto the number 1 spot for a while. From a ranking point standpoint, she's far ahead. Her best competitors await her, however, in Miami and in Europe. For fans, the action can only get more exciting.

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