By her astronomical standards, Serena Williams had a disappointing 2016- winning just the one Grand Slam and losing two other finals- and she has already begun to set the records straight in 2017. Serena reclaimed the Australian Open title- her record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title- and returned to number one in the world rankings in the process. One other trophy that got away in 2016 was the Miami Open, where the three-time defending champion succumbed to a fourth round loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova, as Victoria Azarenka went on to win in Key Biscayne.
Serena Williams is the undisputed queen of Miami, with eight titles at the major event to her name, and after her success at the Australian Open, she will surely go into the 2017 tournament as the favourite for the title. Apart from Serena, and sister, Venus, who has won the Miami title three times, the only other active singles' players to have won the Miami crown are Svetlana Kuznetsova (2006), and Agnieszka Radwanska (2012).
Australian Open runner-up, Venus will again like her chances in Miami, up until she faces Serena, that is, while top ten stars like Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza will also be sniffing around for a lull in the level of tournament favourite, Serena Williams;
The 2017 tournament may have come a bit too early for the reigning champion, Victoria Azarenka, who only just gave birth to her first child in December.
The WTA Miami Open presented by Itau (formerly the Sony Open) follows on from two weeks of competition in California, and boasts the participation of the world's best male and female tennis players in a combined Premier Mandatory and ATP Masters 1000 Series event.
Venus Williams. (Photo by: PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)
Tournament founder Butch Buchholz's ambition was for the Miami tennis tournament to become the first Grand Slam of the year. Christened "The Winter Wimbledon", its debut in February 1985 came at a time when the Australian Open was held at the end of the year. Martina Navratilova and Tim Mayotte were the first champions to be crowned, and each defeated a fellow American - Navratilova taking down fellow legend Chris Evert, and Mayotte defeating Scott Davis.
While the event has never reached major status, it has - for the duration of its life - been in a two-way fight with Indian Wells for the title of the 'Fifth Slam'. The tournament broke its all-time attendance record in 2012, with 326,131 fans turning out to watch the action. Last year, an impressive 300,952 total attendances were recorded- the seventh straight year that attendance would soar above 300,000. It has long been a favourite stopping point with the WTA elite - Serena Williams referring to it as her 'back yard' tournament, as she can stay at home while she competes.
Speaking of Serena, the world no. 1 rather owns the title deeds to this tournament. She returns in 2017 as the eight-time champion!
This puts her three wins ahead of Steffi Graf's five titles (1987-1988, 1994-1996) on the all-time tournaments wins list. In turn, the German leads Serena's older sister Venus by two titles, as the 7-time Grand Slam champion's three tournament victories are enough for joint-third, along with Victoria Azarenka.
Now housed at the Tennis Centre at Crandon Park, Miami is one of only two non-Slam events that runs over the course of two weeks. It showcases the best players in the world as part of the spring hard-court swing, ahead of the start of the European clay court season, which will ultimately lead up to the second Grand Slam of the year: Roland Garros.
The WTA Miami Open will take place between 20 March – 2 April 2017, and is available to live-stream online.