In 1998, the future of women's tennis was on full display in Miami.
Throughout the history of the women’s game, teenagers have often announced themselves in grand fashion. The year 1997 might have been an anomaly, though, as three teens simultaneously shook up the game: Martina Hingis won three of the four Grand Slams, Anna Kournikova made the semifinals of Wimbledon as a 15-year-old and Venus Williams reached the final of the US Open.
Hingis had firmly established herself as the world’s top player, while Williams and Kournikova would try to prove they belonged in the mix as well. Williams captured her first title in the early stages of the year, but Kournikova struggled out of the gate.
By the time the Lipton Championships (now known as the Miami Open) rolled around, things were clicking into place for both of them. Williams, just 17 years old, steadily progressed through the tournament, but made her biggest statement in the semifinals when she defeated Hingis for the first time.
On the other side of the draw, 16-year-old Kournikova’s run to the title match might have been more impressive: The No. 23 seed beat four Top-10 players in a row, including world No. 2 Lindsay Davenport in the quarterfinals, to reach the first championship match of her career.
If there was any concern as to whether Kournikova would be nervous playing in her first singles final, she quickly dispelled that notion. With winners erupting off her racquet, Kournikova took the first set 6-2. In the early stages of the second set, it was again Kournikova who struck first as she broke Williams’ serve in the third game.
For the first time in the match, though, it was Williams’ turn to make a statement as she immediately broke back. They remained on serve until 4-5, when Kournikova gave Williams the second set.
In the third set, a momentum shift fully presented itself: Williams gained confidence, while Kournikova broke down. The young American raced to a 5-0 lead, and a couple of games later, completed the come-from-behind win by taking the third 6-1 to capture her second career singles title, and first premier-level crown.
After winning the title, Williams made her debut among the ranking elite, landing at No. 10 in the standings.
Before Williams’ title, the last American woman to win Miami tournament was Chris Evert, who defeated Steffi Graf in the 1986 final.
In less than a year's time, Kournikova notched seven career wins over members of the Top 10, with four of them coming at the 1998 Lipton Championships.