Serena Williams poised to make history at Sony Open on Key Biscayne

Over 300,000 expected to attend the Sony Open this year

Erick Johnson | 3/20/2014, 9 a.m.

Top-seeded, defending champion Serena Williams begins her quest Thursday for a record seven Sony Ericcson Open titles, which would make her the most successful player, man or woman, in the tournament's history. Williams will be shooting for a second straight Sony Open crown. So far, Serena is tied with tennis legend Andre Agassi with six titles.


Serena Williams

The tournament begins March 20th at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne. The tournament will feature both men and women draws of 200 professional tennis players. The women’s final will be Saturday, March, 29th and the men’s, Sunday March, 30th.

Last year, Serena became the first top-seeded woman to win here since 2004 after she rallied from a set down and a 4-1 deficit in the second to power past Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round. She mustered another comeback against Maria Sharapova in the final for title number six at the Sony Open. Serena has an impressive 61-7 career mark at the Sony Open.

The men’s and women’s draw was drawn Sunday. Serena, the world’s number one player, drew a potential match up with the 2010 French Open champion in her first match on Thursday and a possible third round tilt with rising French star Caroline Garcia. A rematch with last year's finalist Sharapova looms in the semifinals.

Her sister Venus, coming off an impressive win over Alize Cornet in Dubai, jumped to 15 in the World Tennis Association rankings and has the potential to add to her three Sony Open Titles. The 33-year-old didn’t drop a set while defeating five top ranked players on her way to the Dubai Championship title.

But Venus has a tougher draw as she faces a possible showdown with sixth seed Simona Halep in the third round. If she wins, she would face Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round before meeting Agnieszka Radwanksa in the quarterfinals.

The prize money for the women’s champion at this year’s Sony Open is $787,000. Serena is one of the most successful female players in tennis history, with career earnings totaling $54,634,898. She has won 17 grand slam titles on all courts, including five Wimbledon crowns. Venus has earned 29,496,841 in her career and has six grand slam titles including five at Wimbledon.

Another Black player to watch is 18th ranked Sloane Stephens, an aggressive American baseliner, who, at the age of 19, Stephens upset Serena Williams in the 2013 Australian Open quarterfinals to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal where she fell to then world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. Stephens’ performance vaulted her into the Top 20 for the first time. Five months later she advanced to the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time, losing to eventual-champion Marion Bartoli.

Perhaps the most exciting entry this year is 18 year-old Victoria Duval, a rising Haitian-American tennis player, who won her first-ever match before reaching the second round. Duval, whose ranked 139th, was a special guest at the women’s drawing event on Sunday. She drew a wild card entry, and must play a qualifier. If she wins her first-round match, she would face Sam Stosur, whom she beat for her biggest career win in the 2013 U.S. Open.

“Last year was incredible,” she said after winning her first-ever match and reaching the second round in 2013. “The crowd really helped me get here. And yeah, I’m going to have a lot of family down here, so I’m really excited. My dad came (from Haiti) so that’s exciting.”

On the men’s side, other Black players to watch include 10th ranked Wilfried Tsonga, 24th ranked Gael Monfils, and 81st ranked Donald Young, and rising Chicago native Evan King.

Other players in the tournament include #1 ranked Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Qualifying play began on Monday.