World #1 and defending champion Roger Federer takes on Australian young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis for a place in the Miami Open third round. The Swiss star, along with his triumph last year, won back-to-back Miami Open titles in 2005 and 2006, and will be looking for title number four to put the disappointment of his Indian Wells defeat behind him. Kokkinakis has just one previous appearance at Crandon Park, which came three years ago when he lost first round. But who will win this one?
Federer and Kokkinakis are yet to meet on Tour. The Australian, despite his youth, has already had a torrid time with injuries, which have limited his playing time. Federer has, unsurprisingly, far more experience than his opponent. He has 27 Masters 1000 titles to his name, whilst Kokkinakis’ best effort was reaching the fourth round in Indian Wells in 2015. He is also yet to win an ATP title, though he did reach the final in Los Cabos (lost to Querrey). Federer has 97.
Path to the second round
Federer, as top seed, received a bye into the second round. Kokkinakis, however, had to qualify in to the main draw. He did so impressively. The 21-year-old first defeated Thiago Monteiro of Brazil convincingly 6-2 6-3 before accounting for Taro Daniel 7-5 7-5. That was a victory made all the more impressive by the fact that Daniel beat Djokovic in Indian Wells last week. That earned him a place in the main draw where he began his tournament against France’s Calvin Hemery.
Hemery, like Kokkinakis, was making his debut at Masters 1000 level, and had only played a handful of matches on the Tour proper. But he had played impressively to reach the main draw and was ranked 25 places above the Australian. But Kokkinakis was undeterred and brushed his opponent aside in an impressive 6-1 6-2 victory. It was his first win at Masters 1000 level since defeating his countryman Nick Kyrgios in Cincinnati in 2015.
How do they match up?
Both players, at their best, are shot makers. Unfortunately for Kokkinakis, Federer is able to find his best tennis in almost every match. The world #1’s serve is unquestionably his most important shot. It’s peerless accuracy allows him to hold serve with metronomic regularity. His forehand is also amongst the best on Tour. Though, like his serve not hugely powerful, the Swiss hits it with such accuracy that he does not need to hit the ball harder.
One of his greatest skills is in his spreading the court. There are few, if any, players more adept at hitting from corner to corner. This combined with his ability to take the ball early makes it incredibly difficult to wrest back control of a rally from Federer when he gets on top. He is also comfortable and confident in the forecourt, and will regularly move into the net to finish off points, where his fine touch and still sharp reflexes make him exceedingly hard to pass.
Against that formidable set of skills Kokkinakis will have to play at his absolute best to stand a chance. The Australian’s best shot is his forehand, which he can hit with real venom. He also often hits it with heavy topspin and will have to use the shot well if he wants to force Federer back from the baseline, which will be crucial to his chances. He is a good volleyer, with one ATP doubles title to his name as well as the junior Wimbledon doubles title, and would do well to attack the net as much as he can.
Kokkinakis looks a good prospect, though perhaps not such a bright one as he did before his succession of injuries. But it is hard to see him getting much out of this match. Federer never quite reached his brilliant best in Indian Wells, though he was close to it. And anything close to his best should be enough for him to get past Kokkinakis. Federer will have too many avenues of attack for the young Australian to deal with, and will win in straight sets.
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