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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Venus Williams ready to carry over desert form

Legendary sisters deserving of respect in Crandon Park finale

Venus Williams looked in fine touch on the way to the Indian Wells semi-finals
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Starts 2pm Tuesday | BT Sport 1 from 4pm

An Indian Wells final between 125-1 Naomi Osaka and 80-1 Daria Kasatkina would have surprised many punters and bookmakers alike but we could see a semblance of normality restored in the Miami Open, which is hosted for the last time this year by Crandon Park.

All the top women are there, although Maria Sharapova, who is struggling to return to the top echelon after her drugs ban, is giving it a miss.

World number one Simona Halep, thrashed by BNP Paribas Open champion Osaka in the semi-finals in California, tries again and second seed Caroline Wozniacki, runner-up to Britain's Johanna Konta in Miami 12 months ago, will hope to go one better in Key Biscayne.

Wozniacki was imperious when landing her first Grand Slam title in the Australian Open, but the Dane's level may have dropped a tad since Melbourne in January.

Konta’s chances of a repeat do not look great. She has been struggling with her game and, after a first-round bye due to her seeding, faces some potentially tough outings against decent young players such as Mihaela Buzarnescu and Bernarda Pera.

With that in mind, it could pay to place some faith in Venus Williams, who shares the same eighth of the draw as Konta, backing up her run to the last four in Indian Wells and performing well again.

Venus showed her wellbeing at the Tennis Garden. After she and her sister Serena boycotted Indian Wells for years, the sisters have more reason than most for not giving their all in the desert.

But Venus's effort there suggests she is playing at or close to her best and she could be an even greater force in Florida.

The fourth quarter looks winnable and Elina Svitolina is no certainty to dominate section three so the chance is worth taking.

Serena offered no appeal at odds of around 16-1 in Indian Wells, but the long-time world number one could be much more of a danger in Miami.

She opens against Osaka and while the Japanese number one dropped only one set last week and pretty much thrashed allcomers, that's unlikely to happen with early tasks in store against Serena and Svitolina.

Kasatkina could need to find a way past Petra Kvitova and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko to have any chance of going one better than in California.

In the top half of the draw Garbine Muguruza went close to being a selection, but her proximity to exciting young Amanda Anisimova is a concern.

Carla Suarez Navarro, who made the last eight in the desert, could again go well but it's difficult to have confidence in Madison Keys, who shares the first quarter with Halep and Karolina Pliskova.

V Williams to win Miami Open
1pt each-way 28-1 Coral, Ladbrokes

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Venus's effort in Indian Wells suggests she is playing at or close to her best and she could be an even greater force in Florida
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