It’s always fascinating to see what emerges from the Sunshine Swing. Strong assertions of dominance? Resurging champions?  Intriguing trends?  Subtle occurrences worthy of more attention? Those are just a few of the questions.  Now that Indian Wells and Miami are over, here are a few answers.

No. 1 and No. 2 hardly rule

Life at the top of the WTA is a bit strange these days.  When Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka win tournaments, they each look incredibly dominant.  Swift and powerful, these two don’t merely beat their opponents.  They smother them.  Sabalenka swept through the Australian Open without the loss of a set.  Ditto for Swiatek at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

But then come defeats. During the Sunshine swing, Sabalenka twice lost earlier than expected; first versus ascending Emma Navarro in Indian Wells, then to Anhelina Kalinina in Miami (granted, the latter took place very soon after personal tragedy). In Miami, Swiatek was beaten in the fourth round by Ekaterina Alexandrova, a defeat that showed once again how an inspired power player can overwhelm Swiatek.

“You know that I'm an over-thinker,” said Swiatek during Miami.  “Usually the best tactic for me is to let it go.”

Swiatek failed at completing the Sunshine Double for a second time after losing to Ekaterina Alexandrova in Miami.

Swiatek failed at completing the Sunshine Double for a second time after losing to Ekaterina Alexandrova in Miami.


Sabalenka and Swiatek have both been quite productive on clay. Sabalenka has won Madrid twice. Swiatek has earned three titles at Roland Garros. Still, as clay court season begins, it’s hardly clear that these two future Hall of Famers stand head and shoulders above their peers.  For anyone in the Top 100, opportunities abound.

Naomi Osaka is gaining traction

The great results aren’t there yet, but over the course of playing six matches at Indian Wells and Miami, Naomi Osaka showed off many of the skills that took her to four Grand Slam singles titles: powerful groundstrokes, strong serving, and, most of all, increasingly improved focus and self-belief.

“I guess when you're aware that you have already achieved something,” Osaka said during Miami, “you have this inner confidence in yourself.”

It will be intriguing to see how Osaka progresses through the spring clay and early summer grass seasons.  That said, the thinking here is that Osaka is on a methodical course to reach peak form by late August.


Slight shifts alter the pressure

It’s amazing how a change can alter a player’s perspective and attitude towards managing the demands and pressures of professional tennis. Maria Sakkari got a new coach, David Witt, and reached the final in the desert and the quarterfinals in Miami. Danielle Collins announced that this will be her last year and has now won the biggest title of her career.

“I think as you get older, you mellow out a little bit more,” Collins said during Miami. “You're not so hyper-focused and you—I don't know. You just, I guess, take interest in, like, other things too.”

Osaka, Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina are all enjoying balancing parenthood with tennis.

“I feel like I'm accepting a little bit better, not failing,” Azarenka said. “It's not easy, because I want to win all the time in everything I do. I have a little boy who is mirroring me, so I can understand how intense that can be.”

Might other players ponder their own new ways to alter how they view their life as pros?

Azarenka, who'll turn 35 this year, pushed Rybakina to the limit in the Miami semifinals.

Azarenka, who'll turn 35 this year, pushed Rybakina to the limit in the Miami semifinals.


Stay tuned to doubles

Though not the main act, women’s pro doubles these days has become a highly entertaining and educational way to take in an incredible range of skills. At the top of the list is Hsieh Su-wei, who this year has won the Australian Open and Indian Wells titles alongside Elise Mertens. Hsieh is a one-person art museum–expressive and creative. I had the chance to watch her practice during Indian Wells and saw a dazzling spectrum of smiles, speeds, and spins.

Then there’s veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who at the age of 39 continues to show off the eclectic array of creativity and intensity that’s helped her win nine Grand Slam doubles titles. It was inspiring to see Mattek-Sands collaborate with Sofia Kenin to win Miami. The duo they beat, Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe, play a smart brand of classic attacking doubles and have rapidly emerged as a fun duo to watch. Last year, in only their fourth tournament together, they won the US Open.

Also in the mix are such greats as versatile lefty Taylor Townsend and the team of Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff.