Kerber had a sensational start to the year, becoming the first German Grand Slam champion since Steffi Graf. After losing to Victoria Azarenka in the Brisbane final, the 28-year-old avenged that defeat in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, going on to defeat the world number one Serena Williams in the final. Since then, Kerber has struggled to handle the increased pressure and expectation that comes with major titles, flopping in opening round losses at Doha and Indian Wells.
Despite ending the losing streak convincingly in the second round here, beating Barbora Strycova 6-1, 6-1, the world number three was fortunate to advance past Kiki Bertens when the Dutchwoman retired whilst trailing 6-1, 2-6, 0-3 due to a stomach illness.
Babos has played relatively consistently at the beginning of this year, reaching the semifinals in Shenzhen and the quarterfinals at St. Petersburg. The Hungarian has also collected good wins against Sara Errani and Karolina Pliskova, getting the better of the latter in the third round here 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (0).
A winner of eight titles, Kerber has never excelled on the humid courts in Miami. Last year, the Australian Open champion lost in the third round to Svetlana Kuznetsova, at best reaching the quarterfinals in 2014, losing to Serena Williams.
Thus far in her career, Babos has experienced more success in doubles than singles, winning 10 titles with various partners. In singles, the 22-year-old has won one singles title at Monterrey in 2012 and has a career high of number 44; a position she seems set to overtake, given her current ranking of 49. Before this event, Babos had never won a main draw match in Miami and has never beaten a top 10 player.
Kerber dominates the head-to-head 3-0, crushing Babos in their latest encounter at last year's French Open 6-0, 6-1 in the first round. In their only previous hard court meeting, the German recovered to win 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in Cincinnati 2012.
Though she hasn't been able to maintain her recent top two standard, Kerber prides herself on being tough to beat. Using her left handed forehand to conjure up the most unlikely winners, the second seed is excellent when forced to turn defence into attack and has to be considered one of the best movers on tour. However, though improved, her serve remains a weakness, as does her at times petulant nature.
Possessing a serve that frequently exceeds 115 miles per hour, Babos looks to control the points and due to her success in doubles, doesn't mind advancing to the net. As with many other big hitters, the Hungarian has to be mindful of her unforced error count when playing someone with such impressive defence.
Given that the match will be played at night, where the conditions are cooler and the ball bounces slower, Kerber will be tough to beat. However, it's no secret that the Australian Open champion has been lacking in confidence lately, something that certainly can't be said of her opponent.
Prediction: Timea Babos in three sets