We are down to just eight at the season’s second Tennis Masters Series tournament. The men’s quarters from Miami get underway later today, and after a week of play in the tropical paradise the draw has gone mostly to form.
If there are any real surprises this first part of the tournament I’d look to wins yesterday by Roger Federer over Richard Gasquet and Andy Murray’s blowout win over JW Tsonga as two eye openers. And I like the Alex Dolgopolov has continued his fine form from Indian Wells.
Rafael Nadal been playing great also. And Novak Djokovic looks sharp thus far. So it’s shaping up to be a good conclusion to March Madness.
Today we have Djokovic-Murray and at night Federer-Kei Nishikori. Tomorrow it’s Tomas Berdych-Alex Dolgopolov and then Nadal-Milos Raonic.
As for my picks today…
Novak Djokovic v. Andy Murray
It’s nice to see both guys playing confident tennis again. Djokovic looked a little shaky earlier this year but after winning Indian Wells – and getting that title monkey off his back – he’s seems to be back in form – his win streak without Becker is 32 straight now!
Murray has been slowed by that bad back and more recently and more importantly with Ivan Lendl’s departure. And since the news of Lendl broke last week, free of the Lendl cloud he’s been playing some of his best tennis of the season, though yesterday he looked to come up lame with that hip.
Assuming Murray’s hip/back are indeed ok, this should be fun to watch.
Djokovic has the lead in this their 20th meeting. He’s won 11 and two of their three in Miami including the 2012 final against his friend from juniors.
“Andy is a defending champion, and, you know, more successful player out of those two guys,” Djokovic said. “He won a couple of Grand Slams, Olympic gold medal, and obviously he’s the player who can, you know, play big‑time tennis on a big stage.”
While Murray’s got two titles in his backyard of Miami, Djokovic has done even better winning three. And to Murray, who spends much of his time in Miami, conditions could play a role.
“The conditions can change a lot here,” Murray said. “Obviously can be extremely windy or very hot and humid. Sometimes it’s, you know, cloudy and colder and, you know, there are all sorts of things that can influence matches. But ultimately whoever deals with those things better on the day and whoever plays better will win. Whether I beat him the last time or he beat me the last three or four times, I don’t think it matters too much.”
For me, though, their rivalry does matter. Novak leads in their head-to-head for good reason, he’s just the better player. And today I still don’t think Murray’s is at full strength. That said neither is Djokovic but I still tip Novak here.
The pick: Djokovic in two
Roger Federer v. Kei Nishikori
We know Nishikori is prone to injury. At just 24 the Japanese star is among the most frail players on the tour. And after playing a tough, three hour match against David Ferrer just yesterday I wonder how well he’ll feel today.
So for me that’s a dealbreaker. And when you add in how well Federer’s been playing – he had two easy rounds before his absolute destruction of Richard Gasquet yesterday – this pick is pretty easy.
Nishikori did beat Federer last year at Madrid and the guy has additional wins over Ferrer and also Novak Djokovic, so he’s got the talent and the game to pull out these kinds of wins. I just don’t think he’ll be healthy enough to do it, and even Federer wonders that as well.
“He had obviously a very difficult match with Ferrer, but a great one which everybody watched in the locker room and the player restaurant,” said Federer. “Kei did a good job getting it done at the end.
“Clearly I think it’s an advantage at this point now that I had a quick match today and he had a really brutal match against Ferrer. Can I take advantage of it? Can he recover quickly? We will see tomorrow. But I’m sure we will see him out on the court, and he will give it everything he has. He always has.”
Even if Kei has recovered I still don’t think he can threaten Federer who is just playing too well right now to lose here.
The pick: Federer in two
The women will also play their final two quarters with Li Na against Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska taking on Dominika Cibulkova. Both are even matchups but I’ll lean toward Li Na and Radwanska here.
ESPN2 has coverage of the day session while at night they’ll tag team with Tennis Channel.
WEDNESDAY MIAMI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 10:50 am
WTA – A Medina Garrigues (ESP) / Y Shvedova (KAZ) vs [WC] M Hingis (SUI) / S Lisicki (GER)
Not Before 1:00 pm
WTA –  D Cibulkova (SVK) vs  A Radwanska (POL)
Not Before 3:00 pm
ATP –  A Murray (GBR) vs  N Djokovic (SRB)
WTA –  C Wozniacki (DEN) vs  N Li (CHN)
Not Before 9:00 pm
ATP –  R Federer (SUI) vs  K Nishikori (JPN)
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