Serena picks up game at perfect time
It was the Serena show once again in Miami. Make that seven titles and counting. We know she's trending high, but how do her rivals stack up?
Serena Williams: The WTA's No. 1 player was bounced early from the Australian Open by Ana Ivanovic, but when you put her in a final against a formidable player, she's money. Serena has won 20 of her past 22 finals. She fell into a 5-2 hole against Li Na in Miami -- and won 11 of the last 12 games. That's what she does. No one else is even close.
Li Na: How good is Serena? Li was actually happy with her effort in Miami. She's still the only major winner of 2014, and at 21-3, she's off to her best start. But, like everyone else on the circuit, she can't consistently find a way to beat Serena in a big spot.
Agnieszka Radwanska: The world No. 3 did not weather the conditions or the resolve of Dominika Cibulkova in their Miami quarterfinal match. She had three match points in the second set and couldn't convert, losing a tiebreaker and the third set with a whimper.
Maria Sharapova: This is a glass-half-full, glass-half-empty proposition. Against anyone else in the world, Sharapova is still a formidable opponent. Against Serena Williams, she has now lost 15 consecutive matches. Sure, that's a rough bottom line, but how many players could have bounced out to 4-2 and 2-0 leads against Williams? We'll call this one a push and see if, going forward, this gives No. 7 Sharapova some momentum.
Dominika Cibulkova: There is a tendency to dwell on the ending, the unfortunate patch when Cibulkova blew a 3-1 third-set lead in the semifinals against Li Na -- contriving to lose five straight games. But looking at the big picture, these are good times for Cibulkova. She's playing great and has entered the top 10 for the first time in her career.
Caroline Wozniacki: Rory McIlroy was in the house, but it wasn't enough to lift Caro past hard-hitting Li Na in the quarterfinals here. Her No. 1 days seem long gone, but we knew that. At No. 18 in the world, Wozniacki, a terrific counter-puncher, is probably where she belongs.
Ana Ivanovic: The WTA's No. 13 had a nice Australian Open, reaching the quarterfinals before losing to rising Canadian Eugenie Bouchard. But since then she's 5-4 and her exit at Miami was horrific; Petra Kvitova dropped the first set of their fourth-round match 6-3, then put together a double-bagel brunch.
Sloane Stephens: Crashed out in Miami, losing 6-1, 6-0 to Caroline Wozniacki. Worse, her flat-line demeanor suggested she didn't care. Yes, she just turned 21 but the No. 16-ranked Stephens needs to pull it together.