Kim Clijsters Miami Open

Unexpected winners of the Miami Open

As one of tennis’s premier tournaments, the Miami Open has had few surprising or lower ranked winners since its formation in 1985.

Now an ATP Masters 1000 and WTA 1000 event, it has only been won by two unseeded singles players – one man and one woman. A further four unseeded players have reached the final.

Here, Tennishead looks at the two unseeded players to win the Miami Open:


Tim Mayotte

Tim Mayotte won the inaugural edition of the Miami Open – then known as the Lipton International Players Championships – in 1985. The American was ranked world No. 45 heading into the event in February – at which he was unseeded. There were sixteen seeded players, and 84 of the ATP’s top 100 featured.

The 24-year-old started his run by beating unseeded Nigerian Nduka Odizor 7-6, 4-6, 6-1 in the first round. Mayotte then defeated the unseeded Boris Becker – who would win his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon later that year – 6-2, 6-3 in the second round. In the third round, he saw off fellow unseeded American Martin Davis 6-4, 6-4. Mayotte then beat another unseeded compatriot – Greg Holmes – 6-3, 7-6 in the fourth round. Holmes had knocked out fifth seed Aaron Krickstein in his previous match.

From the quarter-finals onward, matches were best-of-five sets. The American met an unseeded fellow countryman for the third straight round in the last eight. He beat Mike Leach – conqueror of second seed Mats Wilander in the fourth round – 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. Mayotte then faced another unseeded opponent – Jan Gunnarsson of Sweden – in the semi-finals. Gunnarsson had seen off 12th seed Vitas Gerulaitis in the quarter-finals, but Mayotte won 7-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to reach the final.

The American remarkably met a seventh unseeded opponent in his seven matches – and fourth fellow American – in the final. His opponent Scott Davis had beaten 13th seed Stefan Edberg and 11th seed Tomas Smid in the previous two rounds. Mayotte recovered from the brink to defeat Davis 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. It was the 24-year-old’s first tour title – having previously lost in four finals. He would go on to claim another 11 singles trophies, and reach a career-high ranking of world No. 7.

Kim Clijsters

Four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters won the first of her two Miami Open titles in 2005. The then 21-year-old Belgian was unseeded at the tournament having missed most of the 2004 season, and the 2005 Australian Open, with a wrist injury. She did, though, win in Indian Wells in her previous event – moving her ranking up 95 places to world No. 38.

Clijsters did not drop a set en route to the title – starting her tournament with a dominant 6-0, 6-1 win over German qualifier Sandra Kloesel. The Belgian then beat 24th seed Amy Frazier 6-2, 6-3 in the second round, before dismantling 12th seed Nathalie Dechy 6-0, 6-2 in the third round.

The 21-year-old faced defending French Open champion and fifth seed Anastasia Myskina in the fourth round. She defeated the Russian 6-3, 6-4. Clijsters then met another Russian Elena Dementieva – who lost to Myskina in that 2004 Roland Garros final – in the quarter-finals. The world No. 38 won 6-2, 6-1 against the fourth seed.

The Belgian then took on world No. 2 and top seed Amelie Mauresmo in the semi-finals. Clijsters earned a stunning 6-1, 6-0 last four victory against the Frenchwoman. She faced second seed and 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova in the final. Clijsters beat the Russian 6-3, 7-5 in the championship match to become just the second woman after Steffi Graf to complete the ‘Sunshine Double’.