After a climatic ending to the ATP and WTA action in Indian Wells, both tours head over to Key Biscayne for the Miami Open: the second of the two most prestigious WTA Premier and ATP Masters 1000 tournaments on the tennis circuit. With Naomi Osaka winning her maiden WTA title in the desert, and Juan Martin del Potro saving three championship points to beat world no. 1 Roger Federer, both tours are in an intriguing state heading into the next week-and-a-half.
As usual, the draws have thrown up some corkers in the early rounds. Make sure to subscribe to The Tennis Vlog on YouTube for preview and predictions videos throughout the event!
For now, here are your draw breakdowns.
THE MIAMI OPEN PRESENTED BY ITAU
WHERE – Miami, Fl.
LEVEL OF EVENT – Masters 1000
SURFACE – Outdoor hard
DEFENDING CHAMPION – Roger Federer
After failing to convert three championship points in the Indian Wells final, the pressure is suddenly on for Miami Open top seed Federer. It shows how quickly things can change in tennis. A few days ago, he was on a 17-match winning streak and had proven himself able to fight through matches where his best tennis is on a wander. Now, del Potro-s remarkably solid aggression has drilled some dents into his shining armour.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion was recently pondering whether he would play the clay-court season. Now, he seemingly needs to win the Miami Open in order to maintain his aura of invincibility.
The draw seems to have taken pity on the all-time great after his brutal defeat on Sunday. After a first round bye, Federer is guaranteed to open against a qualifier, with no. 31 seed Fernando Verdasco or Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren likely to await in round three. The defending champion would likely tread warily around the hot-and-cold Verdasco, although his dominant 6-0 record against the big-match player should provide some ease.
The gaps due to injury in the circuit are still evident as we look ahead to round four. Adrian Mannarino and his aesthetically-pleasing game and 16th seed Pablo Carreno Busta are the highest-ranked contenders to face him in the last 16.
While no. 6 seed Kevin Anderson is the highest-ranked player in the lower section of the quarter, 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych is the most high-profile. The 32-year-old could find himself in a sticky situation early on. After potentially opening against Yoshihito Nishioka, he could end up facing Australian Open semifinalist (and the highly-consistent, of late) Kyle Edmund or Delray Beach Open champion Frances Tiafoe – both of them rising young prospects. Should Berdych survive that, a fourth round meeting with US Open finalist Kevin Anderson is likely, but not guaranteed. No. 32 seed Karen Khachanov, his potential third round opponent, recently went all the way to the trophy at the Open 13 in France, and Anderson has never faced the 21-year-old before.
20-year-old Alexander Zverev is plunged into the deep end as he begins his quest for a third Masters 1000 trophy. The German will face the winner of the clash between fellow NextGen stars Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev – one of whom sits at a career-high ranking, with the other a serial giant-slayer.
Should he survive that encounter, the 4th seed is looking at a possible collision with gritty former world no. 3 David Ferrer or in-form Slovenian Aljaz Bedene. Still, the fourth round should throw up the most difficult encounter, with the insanely talented Nick Kyrgios – should he be fully recovered from a recent injury – on track to face him in Miami for the second straight year. The two youngsters already have a compelling rivalry, with the Aussie holding a 3-2 head-to-head advantage over the current world no. 5.
If Kyrgios is to make the last 16, he could well have to face no. 15 seed Fabio Fognini – the animated Italian who has been charging back up the rankings with a vengeance. Fognini could find himself in an intriguing clash with Spanish wild card Nicola Kuhn – aged 17 – in the second round.
Meanwhile, Jack Sock and Sam Querrey are projected for an all-American fourth round collision on the other side of the draw, but some of the most dangerous unseeded players in the draw lurk in their section. No. 8 seed Sock – who partnered John Isner to the men’s doubles title last week – opens against a qualifier, but no. 29 seed Borna Coric could well await in round three. The talented young baseliner – who had already beaten Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray shortly after he turned 18 – pushed Federer to the brink in the BNP Paribas Open semifinals.
No. 11 seed Querrey, meanwhile, is looking at a probable third round meeting with the hottest teen on tour in Denis Shapovalov, who saw the heights of a Masters 1000 semifinal last year. The 18-year-old opens against seasoned Serbian Viktor Troicki, with 24th seed Damir Dzhumur – who enjoyed a consistent run at the end of last season – awaiting the victor.
Juan Martin del Potro faces a fairly quick turnaround after his Indian Wells heroics, and should not face too much trouble in his Miami opener against either Yuichi Sugita or Robin Haase. Things look more dangerous in the third round, where former top five player and US Open finalist Kei Nishikori is on track to take him on. Question marks still surround the Japanese star, however, after he recently spent months away from tour due injury.
Still, a meeting with Novak Djokovic in the fourth round looks far more intimidating. The Serb is dealing with pain in his elbow on and off, and clearly struggling to time his comeback. Nevertheless, the four-time Indian Wells/Miami double champion holds a whopping 14-4 head-to-head advantage over del Potro, and would give the Argentinian something to think about if they were to collide. Before then, fiery Frenchman Benoit Paire – who takes on flailing Mischa Zverev in round two – is likely to be his first opponent.
The other half of the quarter is almost as loaded. Grigor Dimitrov, seeded 3rd, should not face too much difficulty until a third round meeting with experienced Jeremy Chardy, but the fourth round could toss one-handed-backhand wonder Richard Gasquet or Milos Raonic into his path. The latter enters the event off a semifinal run in Indian Wells, which punctuated a long period of injury and poor form for one of 2016’s brightest stars. Big-serving Jan-Lennard Struff and no. 13 seed Diego Schwartzman are among the contenders to halt the no. 20 seed from Canada.
Looking to recover from a third round loss to Philipp Kohlschreiber in Indian Wells, no. 2 seed Marin Cilic has been handed a tough start in Florida. Either doubles star Pierre-Hugues Herbert or in-form young American Taylor Fritz will be warmed up when they come to face him in round two, and the Croat will not have much time in which to find his range. Things only get more threatening, with NextGen star and 27th seed Andrey Rublev, big-hitting giant Ivo Karlovic and the unpredictable Vasek Pospisil the three men who could challenge Cilic in round three. No. 14 seed John Isner has a less colourful road to the fourth round in comparison, with fellow big servers Jiri Vesely and Gilles Muller able and ready to cause him some issues in rounds two and three.
Meanwhile, no. 7 seed David Goffin makes his return to tour after a freak accident in Rotterdam last month where he was struck in the eye by a tennis ball. The ATP Finals runner-up kicks off against the winner of America’s Ryan Harrison and Portugal’s Joao Sousa, with an interesting line-up of players bidding to tackle him in round three. Former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis can still bring the quality, while young American Jared Donaldson and ever-dangerous lefty Feliciano Lopez could easily take advantage if Goffin – should he progress – is not at ease.
Should Goffin make round four, no. 12 seed Roberto Bautisa Agut is his projected opponent, although no. 19 seed Hyeon Chung appears the more likely man to reach that round. The Next Gen Finals champion has enjoyed some great form of late, although should be especially cautious if Gilles Simon wins his opening match. After enduring an unsuccessful 2017 season, the former world no. 6 is on a slow ascent back up the rankings.
THE MIAMI OPEN PRESENTED BY ITAU
WHERE – Miami, Fl.
LEVEL OF EVENT – Premier Mandatory
SURFACE – Outdoor hard
WHO TO WATCH…
WORLD NO. 1 – SIMONA HALEP (FIRST QUARTER)
Lucky loser Oceane Dodin had Simona Halep on the ropes in the Romanian’s Indian Wells opener, leading by a break in the third set and dictating the top seed from side to side. But when the Frenchwoman double faulted the break back, Halep grabbed the opportunity with both hands – and it could be exactly what the Indian Wells semifinalist needs to forge a deep run here.
Halep will next face no. 30 seed Agnieszka Radwanska – a difficult encounter at first glance, especially since the defensive duo are locked at five-all in their head-to-head record. Still, the former world no. 2 has been struggling for the past few months. Should the world no. 1 scrape through again, things only get tougher, with two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka (unseeded as she returns to tour), US Open finalist Madison Keys and quiet assassin Anastasija Sevastova all potential round four opponents. With the experienced Svetlana Kuznetsova and powerful Karolina Pliskova possible quarterfinal opponents, Halep is undoubtedly going to be put through her paces.
SEARCHING SPANIARD – GARBINE MUGURUZA (SECOND QUARTER)
Muguruza has played six tournaments so far this season, reaching the final of one and not claiming a single title as of yet. Injury has had a say in this, but after a second round loss to Sachia Vickery in Indian Wells, the 24-year-old needs to crank it up a notch to sustain her world no. 3 ranking.
A potentially horrible opening clash with fast-rising 16-year-old Amanda Anisimova was called off when the American youngster was forced to withdraw from the event, meaning Muguruza is going into the third round cold. There she will face big-match player (but rarely big-match winner) Christina McHale, with defending US Open champion Sloane Stephens on track for the fourth round if she can shake off her recent iffy form. As far as the quaterfinals go, 2016’s WTA Player of the Year Angelique Kerber is finding her range again and could well make that stage, while no. 7 seed Caroline Garcia is capable of formidable stuff on her day and has a fairly kind draw early on.
RISING STARS – DARIA KASATKINA and NAOMI OSAKA (THIRD QUARTER)
She has been on the radar for a few years, but 2018 is quickly becoming 20-year-old Daria Kasatkina’s breakthrough season. En route to the Indian Wells final, she defeated four straight Grand Slam champions, and her steady mentality and speedy footwork could take her to a similar run in Miami.
After opening against a qualifier, the Russian will potentially face Czech star Petra Kvitova, the unpredictable but lethal no. 9 seed. Fellow 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko, the defending French Open champion, is on track to face Kasatkina in round four.
Meanwhile, Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka has already continued her remarkable win with a 6-3 6-2 defeat of eight-time Miami Open champion Serena Williams. The competition does not let up, with 4th seed Elina Svitolina awaiting in round two. Should the unseeded 20-year-old maintain her exemplary focus, 26th seeded Aussie Daria Gavrilova could lie in wait, while out-of form no. 15 seed Kristina Mladenovic has a kind draw and may survive for the quarterfinals.
DEFENDING CHAMPION – JOHANNA KONTA (FOURTH QUARTER)
After a first round loss in Indian Wells, 11th seed Konta – who is yet to really get going this season – has landed one of the nicer quarters of the draw. Nevertheless, with the (albeit inconsistent) depth in the game, no match is a walk in the park for a player ranked outside the top ten.
Konta’s first opponent, Kirsten Flipkens, is a former Wimbledon semifinalist, and has captured several upsets on the faster surfaces with her tricky backhand slice. Melbourne semifinalist Elise Mertens, big-serving CoCo Vandeweghe, seven-time major champion Venus Williams and Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki are her projected opponents up until the semifinals, with 2016 Indian Wells victor Elena Vesnina also lurking. Bernarda Pera, the woman Konta lost against in Melbourne, could become her next opponent if the American upsets Mertens. It would be her third collision with Konta this season.