Sharapova's confidence high after Indian Wells title
Besides some damp weather, Maria Sharapova had little to complain about after arriving in Florida for the Miami Masters with the weekend Indian Wells title in her pocket.
The Russian, seeded third in the field, was full of fresh confidence after lifting her second trophy at the California desert event and first of the season.
The four-time Miami finalist, who lost title bids at the last two editions, believes Florida holds a special place in her tennis life.
"Miami is the place where I first stepped off the plane as a child," said Sharapova, now based in Los Angeles. "I feel on good form. With the two events so close together (Indian Wells and Miami) there is always an adjustment from the desert to the humidity here.
"But it's something we're used to," she said on a grey day in South Florida punctuated by passing showers.
Sharapova did not drop a set in her Indian Wells title run, where she beat Caroline Wozniacki in the final. The world No 2 behind Serena Williams said that she improved as play went on in the desert.
"I raised my level throughout, right up until the end."
Sharapova was the queen of a media day presentation staged at a resort hotel on the island of Key Biscayne where the event is played.
Florida-based Williams didn't bother to show up at the event, which featured rivals Petra Kvitova, defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska and the question mark of the week, Victoria Azarenka.
Despite reports that she had already quit the tournament due to an ankle injury which she has been carrying for a month or more, the Belarus player has not officially withdrawn. However, she sounded less than optimistic about her chances of actually playing later in the week.
"Well, I'm here," she said. "That's at least something."
The double Australian Open champion has been hampered in her last two tournaments, withdrawing before the start in Dubai last month - along with Williams - and then quitting before her Indian Wells quarterfinal last week against Wozniacki. She also quit in the first week of the year in Brisbane, saying she was the victim of a pedicure gone wrong.
Azarenka says she has no idea if she can play in Miami: "I'm staying optimistic, I think it's improving day by day." She said she would know more at the end of the week.
Qualifying rounds and women's first round play began under cloudy skies as rain held off. All 32 seeds on both the men's and women's side of the event received byes into the second round.