Less than 24 hours after his big victory yesterday at Indian Wells, Roger Federer and the rest of the tennis community will quickly shift focus to the other side of the U.S. to Miami, home of this week’s Tennis Masters Sony Ericsson Open.
The men’s singles draw was released earlier today and top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic drew the red-hot Federer in his half. That leaves Rafael Nadal to potentially quarrel with Andy Murray in the bottom section.
In the 96-draw which begins on Wednesday, Djokovic, who beat Nadal in the 2011 final, is slated to meet the Marcos Baghdatis/Leonardo Mayer winner Saturday night. Fellow Serb and No. 27 seed Viktor Troicki could meet Djokovic in third round ahead of the Feliciano Lopez/Richard Gasquet winner in the fourth. Things could get much more interesting in the quarterfinals with either David Ferrer or Juan Martin Del Potro looming – both guys have enjoyed excellent starts to 2012.
As if he needs any more help, Federer, winner of 15 straight matches, arguably has the easiest section, though he’ll have to get past two fiesty Americans in Ryan Harrison followed by a potential third round with the slumping Andy Roddick. Federer’s toughest test in the fourth round will be either Juan Monaco or the oft-injured Gael Monfils. In the quarterfinals he could run into another struggling American, Mardy Fish, or maybe, well likely, Nicolas Almagro.
Part-time Miami resident Murray has perhaps the toughest road. The Scot who was shocked in his opener at Indian Wells might have to rebound against the upset-minded Denis Istomin in his opener, then a very dangerous test against Milos Raonic in the third round followed by either Gilles Simon or Jurgen Melzer. In the quarters Murray could meet Tomas Berdych or even David Nalbandian who seems to be back inform.
For Nadal, like Indian Wells, it looks like another comfortable draw. He’ll open with a claycourter in Santiago Giraldo or countryman Pablo Andujar, then Radek Stepanek before either Marcel Granollers or Kei Nishikori. So it should be a breeze up to the quarters where he could face his first challenge against either the surging John Isner or JW Tsonga.
So the quarterfinals by seeding are Djokovic v Ferrer, Federer v Fish, Murray v Berdych and Nadal v Tsonga. The potential semifinals are Djokovic v Federer, Murray v Nadal.
Also to note in the first round, Bernard Tomic will meet Sergei Stakhosvky with the winner to meet Ferrer. James Blake and Nikolay Davydenko also will battle. David Nalbandian is also lurking in a good section of the Berdych quarter.
Overall, it’s a pretty balanced draw. Federer, to me, has the easiest route to the semifinals. Nadal’s looks great to the quarterfinals. I think Murray could get picked off early if he’s not careful and even Djokovic could slip up to Ferrer or Delpo (remember, Miami is like a South American event!).
I’d really like to see Federer, after beating Isner, play two more Americans in Harrison then Roddick – seeded down to No. 31 it could be Andy’s final Miami tournament. Those would be fun matches.
And the Murray-Raonic third round clash (Sunday?) is maybe the best pre-QF contest.
The tournament begins on Wednesday. Seeds start Friday – I think it’s safe to assume Nadal, Murray play on Friday, Federer/Djokovic on Saturday and alternating thereafter.
I’ll have a pick later in the week but right now after seeing the draw it’s hard not to make Federer the favorite.
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