Miami Open preview and prediction: ATP arrives in Miami

RealSport previews the Miami Open, the second half of the Sunshine Double. With a draw filled with star names, a terrific tournament should await in the Sunshine State.

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(Photo credit: Cassia Afini)

After a thrilling tournament in Indian Wells, the tennis world looks now to Miami for the second half of the Sunshine Double. The Miami Open, though perhaps not as prestigious as its sister event in the California desert, still has an impressive roster of former champions and draws the very best of the best in the men’s game year in year out. Despite some injuries thinning the field this year, it looks like an exciting week of tennis could be ahead.

Who’s playing?

The tournament this year is led by top seed and world #1 Roger Federer, who is also defending champion. Last year the great Swiss was able to complete the Sunshine Double as he rolled to victory in both events. The power of del Potro denied him the chance to do so again after the Argentine won his first Masters 1000 in Indian Wells. But on the quicker courts of Miami, Federer, whose record for the year stands at 17-1, will be feeling confident.

Surely second favourite for the title will be none other than del Potro. The world #6 was in devastating form in the desert, but also showed his mental strength, saving three championship points in the final before mounting an impressive comeback and lifting the title. The quicker conditions in Miami are perhaps less well-suited to him, but he can be assured of strong support from the local population. A second Masters 1000 title in as many tournaments is a distinct possibility.

His comeback didn’t quite go to plan in Indian Wells where he was felled in three sets by Taro Daniel, but Novak Djokovic was happy just to be back on court so quickly after surgery. He looked rusty against the Japanese and was suffering with illness which hampered his chances. He’s probably not a realistic title contender in Miami, despite having won the event six times, including his maiden Masters title. But if the Serbian, seeded ninth, gets on a roll, well, stranger things have happened.

Marin Cilic will be looking to get back into the winner’s circle and add to the only Masters he has won in his career so far, Cincinnati in 2016. The Croatian impressed in Melbourne, reaching the final and acquitting himself well in a five-set defeat to Roger Federer. But since then he hasn’t quite pushed on as he would have liked and finds himself without a title in March. He hasn’t thrived in Miami, with just nine wins and one quarterfinal to his name, but he has the power to trouble anyone.

Third and fourth seeds Grigor Dimitrov and Alexander Zverev both crashed out early in California. Dimitrov had a tough draw against Fernando Verdasco and the Spaniard caught him a little cold in three sets. His 2018 has yet to catch alight, but he has played well in Miami before, though he has yet to go beyond the fourth round. This could be the year he breaks that particular duck. Zverev has just eight wins to his name, and looks to be suffering from second season syndrome. He’ll be desperate to get his year heading back in the right direction.

Kevin Anderson, seeded sixth, was doubtless disappointed to lose his quarterfinal with Borna Coric in Indian Wells, but overall 2018 has so far been a fine year for the South African. Expect him to continue to perform in the state he has made his home in. David Goffin returns to the Tour after a freak injury sustained to his eye in Rotterdam ruled him out of Indian Wells and is seeded seventh. Eighth seed Jack Sock is another player looking to turn his year around and has the power to do it.

First round matches to watch

Denis Shapovalov’s clash with Viktor Troicki looks an exciting one. Shapovalov is box-office wherever he plays thanks to an aggressive style and a fan-winning one handed backhand. He will need to play well to overcome Viktor Troicki, however. The Serbian, once ranked as high as world #12, is a wily veteran and won their only previous meeting last year in Shanghai. Shapovalov can on occasion let exuberance get in the way of solid tennis but will have to avoid that if he wants to progress in Miami.

Swedish wildcard Mikael Ymer will have his work cut out for him against Germany’s Jan Lennard Struff. Struff is one of the most powerful players on Tour, and though he has yet to quite find the consistency to elevate his game to the higher echelons he is always a dangerous opponent. Ymer, 19, is still a promising prospect, but has yet to breach the top 300 and is currently ranked #407. His peers look to be pulling ahead of him and he could use a big result on the main Tour to reassert his credentials.

Taylor Fritz and Pierre-Hugues Herbert had excellent tournaments in Indian Wells with both men reaching the round of 16. Herbert, more at home in the doubles where he is a two-time Major champion, has had a respectable singles career none-the-less. But he will need to play well and upset the rhythm of Fritz who has been in fine form so far this season. The American is hitting his groundstrokes with authority and could have a fine week in Miami.

Prediction

He’s certainly not in as promising a position as he was ahead of Indian Wells after a bruising defeat in the Indian Wells final and a generally difficult tournament, but it’s still hard to look past Federer. With the exception of Djokovic, who is still a long way short of being match-sharp and fully fit, he’s the only man amongst the contenders with a good record in Miami and he is still the world #1 for a reason. He will allay the doubters with title number three for 2018 and further close the gap to Djokovic and Nadal in the Masters 1000 title count.

Who do you think will lift the title in Miami? Let us know in the comments below!

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