10 Hot Young WTA Players Going into Miami Open
Jan 30, 2024
The Miami Open is just around the corner, and there’s probably no better tournament to analyze to prep for that than the Australian Open — due to the speed of the courts, the breadth of the field, and the stakes on the table. So, looking back at this spectacular Australian Open 2024, who is hot and who should be watched at the coming Miami Open.
Mirra Andreeva: I think it’s safe to say that she is the hottest young star on tour. Mirra Andreeva, at just 16 years of age, has been toppling some of the top veterans on tour. She didn’t give Ons Jabeur an opening in their match at the Australian Open, winning 6-0, 6-2. (Notably, one year ago, she was an Australian Open Juniors finalist.)
Qinwen Zheng: Naturally, we have to give Zheng a huge nod. At 21 years of age, she just made her first grand slam final, and few think it will be her last. She couldn’t get a set off of Sabalenka in the final, but who could? Zheng did as well as anyone, and if she had gotten a little luckier or done just a tad better, she had chances to break Sabalenka and it might have been quite a different match. In any case, Zheng showed tremendous talent serving, her movement is top tier, and she can blast a winner from either side. Plus, she’s so sweet and adorable! I think she’s quickly becoming one of the most like players on tour.
Coco Gauff: A native of the Atlantic Coast of Florida, Coco Gauff will be eager to win the WTA1000 tournament closest to her hometown. And she’ll be a favorite. After winning the US Open and pushing Sabalenka further than anyone else at the Australian Open in the semifinals, expectations are high for someone who will surely be one of the fan favorites — if not the fan favorite — in Miami. Being a top talent on tour for several years, it’s often easy to forget that Coco’s just 19 years old! She’s maturing rapidly, though, and will be a top pick to win the Miami Open.
Iga Swiatek: Let’s not forget the 22-year-old who’s already got four grand slam titles to her name. She also won this title in 2022, so she may be eager to regain it. Furthermore, despite being one of the favorites to win the Australian Open and looking very good there, she fell quite early in the tournament, in the 3rd round, to Linda Noskova. The perfectionist that she is, she will be looking for solutions and very hungry for redemption.
Above: Iga Swiatek. Photo: © On.
Linda Noskova: Naturally, one also has to mention the 19-year-old Czech here after that stunner of a win in Melbourne. She has the mentality to beat everyone and not be scared off by the opponent or the occasion. She can put pressure on you on both sides of the court and covers the court well. And she often just knows what it takes to win, adapting through a match as needed. “In August 2022, she became the youngest player ranked in the world's top 100 and in February 2023 the youngest in the top 50,” Wikipedia notes. (Andreeva is now the youngest, ranked a few spots ahead of Noskova at 47.) She is one to watch as she works her way toward the top 10.
Emma Navarro: This is one most people wouldn’t have on their list, but get ready, the 22-year-old from New York City is ready to make her mark. After a great but brief college career at the University of Virginia, in which Navarro won the national title in her freshman year (but left college after her sophomore year), the New Yorker has been working her way up the WTA rankings. She’s now up to 26 in the world, but still going under the radar much more so than she will be by the end of the year. At the Australian Open, Navarro lost in the third round to a ball-smashing Yastremska who was having the tournament of her life. A week before that, she won her first WTA title, beating Elise Mertens in the final.
Leylah Annie Fernandez: Another player likely to be a fan favorite in Miami, not far from where she lives a little up the coast in Boynton Beach, Fernandez is always fun to watch. She plays a high-risk, high-reward game and is one of the best counterpunchers on tour when she’s got her timing right. Her challenge is that her game is a little too high-risk when she’s not “on.” She takes the ball very early, stretches the court almost aiming for the lines, and can have a nasty lefty slider serve out wide into most players’ backhand. Her movement is some of the best on tour, too. Having famously made the finals of the US Open in 2021, she is nonetheless yet to win a WTA1000 or even a WTA500. However, in October, she won the Hong Kong Tennis Open and beat some great players on her way there: Victoria Azarenka, Mirra Andreeva, Linda Fruhvirtová, Anna Blinkova, and Kateřina Siniaková. Can she bring that form to Miami?
McCartney Kessler: Who? That’s right — Kessler is not a household name for pro tennis fans. But she was a top college tennis player at the University of Florida and she is now making her way up the WTA rankings. 24-year-old Kessler lost in the second round of the Australian Open to Linda Noskova in three sets, but recall it was Noskova who knocked out world #1 Iga Swiatek Down Under.
Elena Rybakina: Rybakina had a disappointing result in the Australian Open, especially after making the final there in 2023 and accounting for one half of one of the greatest women’s tennis matches I’ve ever seen. In fact, after steamrolling everyone in the Brisbane International to kick off the year (even beating Sabalenka 6-0, 6-3 in the final), going out in the second round of AO 2024 to childhood rival Blinkova is even more surprising. Though, Rybakina squeezed one tournament in between Brisbane and AO 2024, so we have to wonder if the 24-year-old was just a bit too worn out in Melbourne. Expect Rybakina to go deep in Miami. She will be a top pick to take home the title despite her AO results. Also: Rybakina was a finalist in Miami last year, so we know she can play well there.
Aryna Sabalenka: She may be the veteran of this top 10, but we have to squeeze the 25-year-old in here. She just won the Australian Open without dropping a set, and she’s hungry to regain the WTA #1 ranking. Probably the biggest hitter on tour and one of the best servers, she’ll enjoy the fast courts of Miami. Oh yeah, and she also calls Miami home now. Will anyone be able to stop the Sabalenka train at the Miami Open, or will she run away with another big title? Join us in March to see how things go.
Above: Aryna Sabalenka. Photo: Rob Keating via Wikipedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).
There are also three top veterans I will be watching closely at the Miami Open: Victoria Azarenka (who lives nearby in Boca Raton, Florida), Danielle Collins (a Florida native who will retire after this year despite being in phenomenal form), and Elina Svitolina (assuming her back injury at the Australian Open was a short-term thing rather than a long-term injury). However, at 34 years old, 30 years old, and 29 years old, respectively, I couldn’t highlight them in this article. Maybe I’ll write one more about the veterans to watch.
Zachary Shahan has been a tennis fan since his favorites in the 1990s, Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf, seemed to be setting records that would never be broken. In the past 7 years, as his daughters have developed into masterful little tennis players, he has embedded himself in the Florida tennis scene of Bradenton and Sarasota. With coaches who grew up with, played doubles with, and are still friends with Francis Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, Taylor Fritz, and Michael Mmoh, and sharing courts with various IMG students and college players, Zach is always digging for a little more intel on the current happenings as well as deep history of ATP and WTA pros. Zach also does some live match commentary for popular YouTube tennis channel Game to Love. Coco Gauff featured in header — Photo credit: Miami Open presented by Itaú.