The tour shifts from the dry desert of Indian Wells across the country to the tropical, lush climate of Miami where the tournament finds its new home in a ….PARKING LOT. That’s right, the event has moved from the scenic sand beaches of Key Biscayne to concrete slab at the Hard Rock Stadium just off of I-95. What breathtaking vistas!
Before I slack further on the event, I will say having seen video and pictures, what an incredible job the tournament did in just a few months after the Miami Dolphins wrapped up to get park ready for one of the biggest tennis events on the planet. It looks pretty good and credit to the staff for getting it ready.
That said, as we saw today, they left out one glaring architectural structure: A ROOF. South Florida rains have already cancelled the start of women’s first round play today and the forecast isn’t great for tomorrow either. If there’s an outdoor Masters event that needs a roof, it’s probably Miami.
Back to tennis, though, weather permitting.
There’s no Rafael Nadal, no Juan Martin Del Potro, but Novak Djokovic returns seeking a
sixth seventh Miami title. And in a bit of a surprise to me, Roger Federer will play despite a busy week at Indian Wells. I thought if Federer went deep in the desert that he would skip Miami especially now that he’s added clay back on the schedule, but Swiss has proved me wrong yet again.
I think Novak will have something to prove after crashing out last week at Indian Wells to Phil Kohlschreiber. Federer, though, should be OK even with the Thiem loss, and my guess is he’ll leave Florida happy as long as there’s no injury.
So, on to the draw.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC QUARTER
If John Isner is going to defend his biggest career title from a year ago, he’s likely going to have to get through Mr. Djokovic to do it. Isner, who stunned Alexander Zverev a year ago, will have a tough match against Lucas Pouille in the third, then Milos Raonic in the fourth followed by Djokovic in the quarters. That’s a very big ask. And I think Raonic gets through to face Djokovic, who other than a potential Tomas Berdych second rounder, should be good in this section.
The Pick: Novak Djokovic
DOMINIC THIEM QUARTER
Arguably no one comes into Miami with more confidence right now than Dominic Thiem. The Austrian earned his biggest career win Sunday outlasting Roger Federer in a terrific Indian Wells final. But I doubt the courts will be that slow and I have to think Thiem will let down just a little after that first Masters title. And there’s a lot of danger in his section. Thiem could face the improving Hubert Hurkacz in his opener, the underrated Marton Fucsovics in the third with Gael Monfils in the fourth, assuming the Frenchman’s achilles is OK. In the quarters, it could be Kei Nishikori, Borna Coric or maybe Nick Kyrgios. I think Coric upends Gilles Simon but falls to Nishikori who ousts Kyrgios. I had Nishikori going deep at Indian Wells, so I’ll try him again here to beat Thiem.
The Pick: Kei Nishikori
ROGER FEDERER QUARTER
What a loaded section! You have 3-time champion Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Russians Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev, Grigor Dimitrov, Kevin Anderson and even Diego Schwartzman who will get a lot of support from the Latin crowd. Obviously, Federer is going to be the favorite, but any of the above players could get through, even Schwartzman! If the wind is a factor like it was on the Key, that will help Federer beat the likes of a Medvedev. And with Anderson coming off of an elbow issue, I think Roger beats Stan, Daniil and then Khachanov to make the final. Again, the heat, humidity and wind I think helps Roger. But I’m not fully sold.
The pick: Roger Federer
ALEXANDER ZVEREV QUARTER
Wouldn’t it be fun to see 2018 finalist Zverev take on Stefanos Tsitsipas? I think that would make for a good rivalry and we could have them battle in the quarters in Miami. Tsitsipas has a decent early draw with Guido Pella as his first seed, but then a tricky one with Denis Shapovalov or Marin Cilic who could meet again after the Canadian won at Indian Wells. I think Denis does it again and then upsets Tsitsipas. And I do like Zverev to come out of a tough little quadrant beating Sam Querrey (who opens against the retiring former finalist David Ferrer) and then American hope Frances Tiafoe, before possibly Ivo Karlovic. But I think Zverev tops Shapovalov for a spot in the semifinals.
The Pick: Alexander Zverev
Djokovic d Nishikori: I don’t think Kei has the goods to beat Novak this deep in an event.
Zverev d Federer: Zverev finally gets that big win over Roger who may be running on empty.
Djokovic d Zverev: Djokovic back on track.
The big question mark in Miami will be the conditions. How hot will it be, the wind, the humidity, the rain, the new courts. The event is now far from the coast where it tends to be a little cooler, though breezier. And how hot will it be inside that stadium which is inside another stadium (will that add to the heat?).
As I said, in this final hardcourt event for almost four months, I think Djokovic will want to get that bad taste out of his mouth from Indian Wells, and a stunning opening round loss a year ago to Benoit Paire.
It’s a shame no Rafa or Delpo, but credit to Roger for play. And before the Rafa tour gets underway in another month or so, can one of these young kids steal a Miami win?
When the weather allows, Tennis Channel will have full coverage in the U.S.
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