The tour goes from the left coast to the right coast, shifting from the dry desert air of California to the tropical humidity of Miami, site of the final Miami Open to be held in Key Biscayne.
After their thrilling final Sunday at Indian Wells, defending champion Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro are back, along with Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov.
Once again, though, many big names are not here – Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, JW Tsonga and Gael Monfils – so like Indian Wells, expect some surprising results.
On to the draw…
ROGER FEDERER QUARTER
The 3-time champion Federer is again the favorite to win the title, but he’s got some tricky opposition in his section. The returning Thanasi Kokkinakis could be his first foe, then the dangerous Fernando Verdasco who always seems to push the top guys. Maybe Adrian Mannarino in the fourth then could come a big test with Tomas Berdych in the quarters. Berdych had matchpoints against the Swiss a year ago in Miami, though the Czech may not make it that far. In a tough section, he’s grouped with the feisty Australian Alex De Minaur, Melbourne semifinalist Kyle Edmund and then in the fourth round either Kevin Anderson or Karen Khachanov. I think Anderson, who’s been in form, makes it through in the end but falls to Federer in another Masters quarterfinal loss.
The Pick: Roger Federer
ALEXANDER ZVEREV QUARTER
When will Alex Zverev get back on track? What about Jack Sock? Is Born Coric the real deal? Is Nick Kyrgios OK? I guess we’ll learn more because all are stuffed in this second quarter. Just going by the eye test, someone like David Ferrer could get through, but he’s just too past his prime for my liking. After his breakthrough last week, Coric I think will flame out, maybe to Sock. I don’t trust Kyrgios yet, Zverev has been shaky, but I like Sam Querrey. Good draw early, then he beats Sock and Ferrer who makes Zverev work too much (or maybe Fognini!). Sam gets his first Masters semifinal.
The Pick: Sam Querrey
GRIGOR DIMITROV QUARTER
By far the toughest quadrant of the draw is the Dimitrov quarter. The Bulgarian, who once won the ATP Finals, is joined by Del Potro, Kei Nishikori, Djokovic and Milos Raonic. The “Quarter of Death”? Yeah, you could call it that. Del Potro is probably the slight favorite. If there’s a “home” Masters for him, this is it because of the Latin support he’ll receive in South Florida. But coming in on an 11-match win streak, how much will he have in the tank? The draw doesn’t help either with former finalist Nishikori in the third round, 6-time winner Djokovic in the fourth, then Dimitrov in the quarters. That’s brutal if it happens. Nishikori is just coming back from injury – otherwise I would take him here – Djokovic is awfully unsteady and could just as well lose to countryman Filip Krajinovic. I also like Raonic’s draw. The Canadian should be able to serve his way to a fourth round against Dimitrov. But I’ll lean to Dimitrov to beat Raonic, then beat a wary Del Potro in a nighttime thriller to make the semifinals.
The Pick: Grigor Dimitrov
MARIN CILIC QUARTER
Former quarterfinalist Marin Cilic is the small favorite to make his first semi in Miami in this section. The Croat who has made two Grand Slam finals in the last nine months, faces a difficult path, though. The improving Taylor Fritz at the open, the Russian Andrey Rublev followed by big-serving American John Isner. In the quarters, David Goffin is coming back from an eye injury, Roberto Bautista Agut is in the mix but I like this Hyeon Chung. In heavy, humid conditions, I think the Korean can hit through the court, beat RBA, beat Jared Donaldson in the fourth then take out Isner.
The Pick: Hyeon Chung
Federer d Querrey: Another final for Federer!
Chung d Dimitrov: The Korean sets the rematch.
Federer d Chung: Chungs gets closer to beating the legend, but not close enough.
Unlike Indian Wells, I think anything could happen in this event. Federer is 36, he could have one of his “senior moments” at any time. He’s due. That wouldn’t surprise me. Though this could be his last event for a while until the grass in June, so might that be some extra motivation?
Del Potro could be gassed. Years ago – back in 2008/2009 – once he got on a run he was extremely dangerous. But I wonder if at 29, after all he’s been through, after the high of winning Indian Wells and Acapulco, how much will have to give? Still, he’s the clear No. 2 favorite after Federer here.
The youngsters are a random sort. Zverev we don’t know anymore, but more than capable of breaking out. One of the Russian kids could make a run, maybe a young American like Fritz gets on a roll again or Denis Shapovlov. De Minaur could surprise Berdych and course my guy Chung.
There are several guys returning form injury. Djokovic, Kyrgios and Nishikori would be viable semifinal or even final picks, but they remain question marks until they can prove otherwise – and I want to see how Djokovic does here. He looked so bad at Indian Wells, he’s got to show up better in Miami.
And then you have the big men like Berdych, Raonic, Anderson or Isner. All will be tough outs.
So again, with many big names again absent, we are going to see some strange names come the final few days. But in the end, I think old guys still rule.
By the way, the tournament has already announced that Djokovic will play Friday afternoon, Del Potro Friday night, Federer Saturday afternoon and Kyrgios Saturday night.
WEDNESDAY MIAMI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 11:00 am
ATP – R. Harrison (USA) vs J. Sousa (POR)
ATP – P. Herbert (FRA) vs T. Fritz (USA)
Not Before 3:00 pm
WTA – C. Bellis (USA) vs [WC] V. Azarenka (BLR)
WTA – [WC] S. Williams (USA) vs N. Osaka (JPN)
Not Before 7:30 pm
ATP – J. Donaldson (USA) vs [WC] M. Baghdatis (CYP)
Not Before 9:00 pm
WTA – M. Puig (PUR) vs S. Stosur (AUS)
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