The second Tennis Masters event of the season begins Wednesday in Miami. Indian Wells finalist Roger Federer won’t be there, but World No. 1 Novak Djokovic returns bidding for a fifth career Miami title under the hot and sticky South Florida sun. Let’s go right to the draw.
Djokovic, who has won his last 10 Masters matches, is housed in comfortable first quarter that slots him against David Ferrer in the last eight. Djokovic could also run into Gilles Muller, Tommy Robredo, Ivo Karlovic and Steven Johnson. But really, there’s no one of any real opposition who should threaten Djokovic.
And I can’t really see anyone getting a set. Maybe Karlovic gets lucky in a breaker, but what a nice draw for someone playing well enough that he doesn’t need one.
The pick: Djokovic
Kei Nishikori is the class of this section and he’ll need to be playing well to repeat his Final Four run of a year ago. His 16 section is relatively easy with only David Goffin and Roberta Bautista Agut in his path, but the quarter match could be tricky with big servers John Isner and Milos Raonic looming along with Grigor Dimitrov, Jeremy Chardy and the return of Juan Martin Del Potro who plays Vasek Pospisil in the first round. What a though section that is! I like how Raonic is progressing so I’ll lean his way.
Nishikori just beat Raonic and I think the Canadian would beat Isner and then Dimitrov if those matches happen. So…
The pick: Nishikori
Two-time winner and part-time Miami resident Andy Murray is in the third quarter along with Stan Wawrinka. I’d love to see that match in the quarters. I like Murray’s draw with just Donald Young, Santiago Giraldo and Kevin Anderson in his way early on. Stan’s road looks a little tougher with wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis, Andrian Mannarino, and either Feliciano Lopez or Jack Sock. So I think somewhere he stumbles, leaving…
The pick: Murray
Will this be the year Rafael Nadal finally wins in Miami? Assuming his right ankle is OK, it could be. But it’s a dangerous section, one that even includes the return of JW Tsonga! Nadal could meet countrymen Nicolas Almagro then Fernando Verdasco, then Ernests Gulbis – who finally got a win in Indian Wells! – followed by a big showdown against 2014 semifinalist Tomas Berdych. Of course that would be a massive rematch from the Australian Open and I know, everyone knows, Rafa wants revenge. And he’ll get it.
The pick: Nadal
Semifinals: Djokovic d. Nishikori, Nadal d Murray
Novak’s just too good right now while Murray just doesn’t seem to have it against the top guys. Maybe if Stan is there he can bother Rafa, but not Andy.
Final: Djokovic d. Nadal
It’s a rematch and a replay of the 2014 final. Rafa will have to wait for the clay to get back on top of Novak.
Tennis Channel has coverage tomorrow I think. ESPN starts their coverage next Wednesday through the finals.
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