We’re on the back to back with Masters 1000 events this month and after Indian Wells over the last fortnight, attention turns to the East Coast as the ATP and WTA Tours move onto Miami.
Four picks last week and whilst there were early exits for Grigor Dimitrov and John Isner, Juan Martin Del Potro picked up the title for an 8/1 winner, whilst Kevin Anderson’s quarter-final appearance gave me a good run at 25/1.
Like last week, I won’t be making any picks until the draw is made in a few days’ times, but I’ll run through some of the main contenders to give you a feel of where I’ll be looking to place my money
The Miami Masters have been going since 1985 and as with all events at this level, has been dominated by the Big Four in recent years. Roger Federer won his third Miami title last year, whilst Novak Djokovic picked up a 6th title in 2016, a record he shares with Andre Agassi.
Since 2005, the title has been won by one of the Big Four each year, except 2008 when Nikolay Davydenko beat Rafael Nadal. That defeat was one five in the Miami final for Nadal, with this being one of just two Masters 1000 events he is yet to win
The main draw has 96 players and the 32 seeds all receive first round byes. Qualifying starts on March 5th and twelve players will emerge from there to make it into the main draw which begins on Wednesday March 21st.
Key Players to Watch
All runs come to an end and so it transpired for Federer who finally lost a first match of 2018 in an epic final against Del Potro. Federer looked off in his semi-final against Borna Coric, but he combined with Del Potro to produce what will ultimately be one of the best matches of the year. Regardless of the defeat, he’s still the best player in the world and could take some beating in Miami. He’ll be a short priced favourite again though, and there is better value to be found in the each-way market.
If you can find a more popular tournament winner in 2018 than Del Potro then I’d be surprised. Unbelievably, that was the Argentine’s first Masters 1000 title. He loves the hard courts and has to be considered for Miami glory. The Sunshine double has actually been completed in each of the last four years (Djokovic in 2014-2016 and Federer last year) although Alex Zverev in 2017 was the first player outside the Big Four to win back to back Masters titles since David Nalbandian in 2007. The bookies may well be onto the Del Potro revolution and value could be had elsewhere.
In hindsight, I should never have backed Grigor Dimitrov last week. He’d never gone beyond the 3rd round in Indian Wells and his poor form continued as he lost a tough match against Fernando Verdasco in the 2nd round. March clearly isn’t the Bulgarian’s favourite month as in seven visits to Miami, he’s reached the 4th round just twice, and last year was bounced in the 2nd round. He’s one to avoid this week.
Alex Zverev looks to be struggling to live up to his billing as one of the top five players in the world. Since winning the Canadian Open last year as part of back to back Masters 1000 titles, he’s reached the 3rd round in just one of the last four Masters events, and went out in the 2nd round last week. His quarter-final appearance in Miami last year was his first real breakthrough at an event of this stature, but with all those points to defend this week, he could struggle.
Kevin Anderson made my final picks list last week, but once again, he choked in the quarter-finals of a Masters event, losing from 4-2 up in the final set to make it a woeful 0-9 in Masters 1000 quarter-finals. But he enjoys hard courts, with all nine of those quarter-finals coming on this surface as well as his best Grand Slam being the US Open. All bar two of his ATP Tour finals have also come on hard courts, and whilst you may struggle to get him close to 28/1 this week, he should be on everyone’s shortlist
You can’t not mention Novak Djokovic, but he’s still clearly a long way away from being back to his best. He ran out of steam against Taro Daniel last week on his return from injury, and whilst he’ll be better in Miami for playing that game, don’t expect him to troubling the latter stages of events for a few more weeks.
Nick Kyrgios has been struggling with an elbow injury that caused him to withdraw from Indian Wells. But if he’s healthy, then he has to be one to watch in Miami if he gets the draw in his favour. He’s won more matches in Miami than in any other Masters 1000 event, and has reached the semi-finals here in both of his appearances.
Check back in a couple of days once the draw has been made and I’ll be posting my tips for the event
Post Draw Analysis
Like last week, the first round is underway as I’m writing this and looking for my picks for this tournament. The reason behind not doing it before the first round begins is to give me more time to analyse the draw and also because the odds on the players I’ll be looking at (the seeded players) won’t change after the first round as all the seeds get a first round bye here.Straight up, I’ll be avoiding the top quarter. ROGER FEDERER is the top seed once again and whilst I won’t be backing him at such short odds, I can’t really oppose him either such has been his form this year. For those who want to look at players in this quarter, the big serving KEVIN ANDERSON is a potential Quarter-Final opponent for Federer but to get there, he will have to get past the likes of KAREN KHACHANOV, KYLE EDMUND and TOMAS BERDYCH. That minefield means there are safer quarters to look at. ALEX ZVEREV is the 4th seed and leads the way in the second quarter. He made his breakthrough in Miami last year, but his form in 2018 hasn’t been great and with points to defend, I can see him buckling under the pressure. I’ve already mentioned NICK KYRGIOS above and if he is fully fit after his elbow injury, then a third successive semi-final appearance isn’t beyond him. He could face a third round matchup with another of last year’s semi-finalists, the mercurial FABIO FOGNINI. Who knows which Fognini will turn up on any given day though and he can never be confidently backed. The bottom of this quarter is the most intriguing. BORNA CORIC immediately jumps out of the page after his semi-final heroics last week in Indian Wells, but can he do it in back to back Masters events? Probably not.JACK SOCK hasn’t quite hit the heights he did at the end of 2018 when he captured the Paris Masters and made the semi-finals in London. But he won the doubles in Indian Wells with fellow American John Isner, and reached the Quarter-Finals last year in Miami.However, this quarter belongs to yet another American for me. SAM QUERREY had a great second half of 2017, reaching the semi-final of Wimbledon and Quarter-Final of the US Open. He reached the final of the inaugural New York Open earlier this year and reached just his fourth Masters Quarter-Final in Indian Wells. There could be some value to be had in the third quarter. 3rd seed GRIGOR DIMITROV has never been able to get going in Indian Wells and Miami whilst it remains to be seen just how much last week’s superb run took out of 5th seed JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO. NOVAK DJOKOVIC is 9th seed but still looks far from healthy as does 26th seed KEI NISHIKORI. This quarter is the walking wounded with 20th seed MILOS RAONIC also just returning from injury and whilst his semi-final appearance in Indian Wells suggest he is back in form, like Del Potro, just how much did that take out of him? One player who could go under the radar amongst all those top players is DIEGO SCHWARTZMAN. The Argentine is playing some of the best tennis of his career and whilst he’s predominantly a threat on clay courts, he has reached two hard court finals (both indoors) and his best Grand Slam performance came at the US Open last year whilst he also reached the quarter-finals in Montreal last year.
With the 3rd quarter so deep with talent, there’s a real chance for someone to make a name for themselves in the bottom section. MARIN CILIC is the obvious candidate, but he’s struggled to get going since the Australian Open and has never played well in Miami, reaching just one Quarter-Final in nine appearances. JOHN ISNER has to be given serious consideration given his record on US soil, and one of his nine Masters semi-final appearances came in Miami back in 2015.
DAVID GOFFIN returns from injury this week having retired from his semi-final in Rotterdam. But he has previous form here, reaching the semi-finals in 2016 and he has two semi-finals to his name in 2018. The player that catches my eye in this quarter is HYEON CHUNG. Chung made my players to watch list this year and he’s been lights out in 2018. He reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open where he found Federer too good and then made his first Masters Quarter-Final last week in Indian Wells, where he also found Federer too good. With the Swiss legend in the opposite half of the draw, this is a great chance for him.