Indian Wells champion and world #6 Juan Martin del Potro begins his quest for the Sunshine Double against Dutchman Robin Haase. Del Potro, who won his first Masters 1000 title last week at the 51st attempt is arguably the form player in men’s tennis and is riding an 11-match winning streak coming into the Miami Open. Haase has had a mixed season so far, which has included a back injury, but has a respectable nine wins to his name for the year. But who will reach the third round?
Haase and del Potro, both of whom turned professional in 2005, have met four times on Tour over the course of their careers, with the Argentine winning all of them. Their first meeting didn’t come until 2012 at Wimbledon when they faced off in the first round. Del Potro was seeded ninth at the Championships but was worked hard by Haase, whose attacking style is well-suited to grass courts. Ultimately though, del Potro’s quality told as he won in four, 6-4 3-6 7-6 7-5.
The rivalry was renewed four years later in Basel, during del Potro’s first season back after a two-year absence with wrist problems. Del Potro, a wildcard, met Haase, a qualifier, in the first round where del Potro ran out a comfortable 6-3 6-4 winner. They then met in Miami at this stage last year, with del Potro winning 6-2 6-4, losing in the next round to eventual champion Roger Federer. Their most recent match was at the Paris Masters in the round of 16, with del Potro winning 7-5 6-4.
Path to the second round
With all seeds receiving a first round bye, del Potro has yet to take to the court competitively at Crandon Park this year. But Haase had to fight past Japan’s Yuichi Sugita to make the round of 64. Sugita had a career year in 2017, winning his first title in Antalya on the grass and reaching a career-high ranking of world #36 in October. But he has struggled somewhat for form this year, and after a succession of early exits he has just four wins so far in 2018.
He looked a player short on confidence in the early going of his match against Haase. The Dutchman was in control and took the first set six games to four. But Sugita, ranked one place above his opponent, fought back in the second set to level the match at one set apiece. An early break for Haase in the decider, however, shifted the momentum back in his favour and he wrapped up the match quickly to record a 6-4 3-6 6-1 win and make the second round.
How do they match up?
This match should provide an entertaining clash between two offensively minded players. Del Potro doesn’t possess the most varied offence. But though his game style may be fairly simple that does not make it any easier to stop. The cornerstone of his attack is a wrecking ball of a forehand that is one of, if not the most, powerful the game has ever seen. He is also hitting his backhand with renewed confidence and used it to good effect throughout the Indian Wells Masters.
Haase isn’t blessed with anything like the power that del Potro can call upon, though he does possess a useful first serve. Like the Argentinian he will look to do most of his damage with his forehand. He is able to hit the shot with an impressive variety of pace and spin, typically looking to unsettle his opponent and break up their rhythm as much as he does to hit through them. A finalist at the Australian Open and a quarterfinalist in New York in the doubles, he is a fine net-player.
It’s hard to see del Potro having the physical resilience to emulate Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer who have both completed the Sunshine Double in recent years. But whilst he may not win in Miami, Robin Haase won’t be the man to stop him. The world #6 just has too much power for Haase to handle and will surely be full of confidence after back-to-back titles in Acapulco and Indian Wells. Del Potro in straight sets.
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