Over the past three-four years, has there been a major men’s tournament harder to predict than this year’s Sony Ericsson Open? Novak Djokovic, as defending champion and winner of this year’s two big hard court events is now undoubtedly the favorite to win the crown. But we all know that for the Djoker fatigue tends to kick in after a series of matches, and despite his excellent form, it’s too soon to consider the Serb anything near a lock to win the title.
I’m a little late, but let’s have a look at the draws nonetheless.
When Andy Roddick played one of the best matches of his career but still went down to Roger Federer in straight sets at last year’s US Open, I was sure. Andy was never going to stand another chance against Federer. The Fed seems to thrive in his encounters against Roddick, and the American’s game just isn’t gifted enough to knock off the No. 1.
But then the King got sick, and he suffers a loss to the US’ third player. In a way, that must have hurt Roddick, but it surely will have inspired him as well. In Dubai, Andy showed that he can still play with the big boys, as he defeated both Nadal and Djokovic en route to the title. Considering how much Federer is struggling, I tend to expect the unexpected from Roddick in Key Biscayne.
Semifinalist: Andy Roddick
I was a little shocked to see Andy Murray go down to Tommy Haas in Indian Wells. I would be surprised if Murray wouldn’t reach the Top 5 this year and he has a good draw in Miami, where facing Mario Ancic in the second round could be his biggest test en route to the quarters, at least. There he could face Ferrer, Youzhny, or, who knows, Fish. If Murray wants to prove he belongs at the top, he should get through here.
Semifinalist: Andy Murray
It is getting a little old to say this, but Richard Gasquet is having a disappointing season so far. He could face Dubai-finalist Feliciano Lopez in the third round, and Juan Carlos Ferrero, Tomas Berdych or Sam Querrey in the fourth. It’s time for Richie to put up some results after a shocking performance against James Blake in Indian Wells last week and early exits in Marseille and Dubai. If he makes the quarters, Gasquet will most likely face Djokovic. That’s where the fun ends.
Semifinalist: Novak Djokovic
There is no hard court tournament better suited to Rafael Nadal than Indian Wells. But a worn-down Rafa went down hard to Djokovic in the semis and now returns to the tougher conditions in Miami, where the balls don’t bounce as high as the Spaniard likes. He never reached his ’07 Indian Wells form in the desert last week and I expect Nadal to struggle at Key Biscayne. Nalbandian is a threat in this quarter but I’m not sold on his form in ’08 either. That leaves James Blake, who played very well in IW, but respectfully fell to Nadal in the quarters. Unless Nalbandian finds his A-game, Blake looks in good shape to put up a nice run.
Semifinalist: James Blake
Roddick – Murray could go either way, but if A-Rod indeed beats Federer, I’m not betting against his momentum. In the other semi, I believe Djokovic’ energy level will probably be down a notch by this point, but I believe his game is too solid for Blake to succumb to an upset.
In the final, I’ll pick an energized Roddick over a deflated Djoker in three.
Champion: Andy Roddick
Just as her male counterpart, Justine Henin is vulnerable on top of the women’s game. She is in Serena Williams’ quarter (surprise, surprise), but owns three consecutive wins over the defending champion in Miami. Henin blew two match points in last year’s final as she served for the match in the second set. Serena needs a win over the struggling Belgian to prove she is still a contender at the majors. She might not get a better chance than here on her home turf.
Semifinalist: Serena Williams
Serena and Venus recently played a hard-fought, three-set battle in Bangalore, where Serena prevailed 7-6 in the third before she won the title over Patty Schnyder in the final. Venus is in Kuznetsova’s quarter, with Radwanska, Peer and Bartoli as the dark horses. The Polish girl could mean trouble, but she needs to go through Kuzy before possibly facing Venus. I don’t think she’ll do that, and I don’t think Venus loses to the Russian in a US tournament.
Semifinalist: Venus Williams
Neither Anna Chakvetadze, nor Elena Dementieva featured in Indian Wells last week, which was a little surprising to me. Chakvetadze has been erratic in 2008 so far, winning in Paris but playing mediocre in other events. Dementieva played exceptionally well to win in Dubai earlier this month. Both Russians are in Jankovic’ quarter, who really needs to start planning a smarter schedule if she wants to do well in the big events. Jankovic keeps complaining about her fitness and small injuries. I’m going with the in-form veteran in this quarter to come through.
Semifinalist: Elena Dementieva
As always, we find the second seed in the bottom quarter of the draw. It’s still a little awkward to see Ana Ivanovic’ name as No. 2 seed in a major tournament, though obviously she was the top seed in Indian Wells last week. Also in this quarter is Nicole Vaidisova, who for me is one of the biggest letdowns of the season so far. Ivanovic is scheduled to face Hantuchova in the quarters, or maybe Vaidisova, if she finds her form. Ivanovic has been playing too well not to come through this section.
Semifinalist: Ana Ivanovic
When Serena and Venus played in Bangalore a few weeks ago, I believed Venus would win. Both players held match points in India, but despite the close scoreline, the quality of the match was hardly impressive. The sisters played some exciting points, but they were easily outnumbered by the number of head-scratching misses. I’ll pick Serena to win again in Miami. Dementieva beat Ivanovic in Dubai recently and holds a 3-0 edge over the Serb. Of course Ivanovic has made great strides in recent months and she should be able to outhit Lena D. from the baseline. However, the emotions of winning Indian Wells could catch up with Ana here in Miami and Dementieva is still high on confidence of winning Dubai. I’ll go with the Russian in this one, before she falls to Serena in the final.
Champion: Serena Williams
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