2015 ATP Miami Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic is pleased to have credentialed onsite coverage of the Miami Open all week long from our correspondent Esam Taha who will be reporting from the grounds of the Miami Open on all of the happenings. As an appetizer to that coverage, here is a preview of the Men’s draw.
Miami Open presented by Itau
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
Miami, FL, USA
March 25-April 4, 2015
Prize Money: $5.381,235
Top 8 seeds (All 32 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Rafael Nadal (3)
3: Andy Murray (4)
4: Kei Nishkori (5)
5: Milos Raonic (6)
6: David Ferrer (7)
7: Stan Wawrinka (8)
8: Tomas Berdych (9)
Two-time Miami Champ and Indian Wells finalist Roger Federer opted to skip Miami to spend time with his family, Marin Cilic is out with a shoulder injury, and Richard Gasquet (back) and Nick Kyrgios (ankle) join Cilic on the list of injured players out of Miami. Veterans Philipp Kohlschreiber, Julian Benneteau, and Andreas Seppi are also out, but the rest of the top 50 will be playing this Masters event.
First round matchups to watch:
Alex Dolgopolov vs. Ricardas Berankis
The more accomplished Dolgopolov should be favored against Berankis, but he will be under great pressure in Miami, as he’s defending quarterfinalist points, his ranking already having dropped out of the top 60 due to his failure to defend his semifinalist points from Indian Wells. Berankis meanwhile is one of the biggest underachievers on tour, as he was a former top junior and now at 24 is still ranked outside the top 70. That said, the undersized ballstriker Berankis is in relatively good form as he reached a semifinal at a challenger in Poland, and the quarterfinals in Zagreb in his last two events. Dolgopolov meanwhile isn’t playing that poorly, even with his ranking having dropped, as he won two matches in Indian Wells, and prior to that reached the quarters in Delray and Acapulco, all outdoor hard court events. Dolgo has a prior win over Berankis at the Australian Open, and I still expect him to win but this match could be closer than expected between talented shotmakers.
Steve Johnson vs. Mikhail Kukushkin
Johnson, who is on the verge of reaching the top 40 and hasn’t lost a match in the opening round at any tournament this season, is favored, and should beat the top Kazakh player Kukushkin, but expect a competitive contest. Johnson is 2-0 against Kukushkin in his career, with both meetings taking place on outdoor hard, but Kukushkin has been streakily good at points this season, including in Davis Cup play, and in Sydney where he reached the final as a qualifier. Johnson comes off the third round in IW and has three ATP quarterfinals, all on hard courts, as his best results on the year, while Kukushkin was injured in his last match, an opening round exit in Indian Wells. This is another good form test for Stevie J.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Simone Bolelli
A battle of talented veterans with big hitting groundstrokes, Bolelli has a lone win over Baghdatis years ago but that was on clay, and Baghdatis may have the inside track to even up the h2h and win this match, given his superior recent form. The Cypriot veteran reached the quarterfinals in the stacked Irving Challenger in between IW and Miami, with two wins over quality ATP players and has an ATP semifinal (Zagreb) and a third round showing in Melbourne on his resume. Bolelli has a pair of quarterfinals on his resume but he’s a pedestrian 2-3 in his last 5 matches, though two of those losses were to top 10 players (Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic). This match should be enjoyable as both players can really work the ball into tight spaces and are tactically smart.
Vasek Pospisil vs. Juan Martin Del Potro
Del Potro is playing his first match since Sydney, having rehabbed his injury again, and he will face off with the IW doubles champion Pospisil, who has yet to reach even a quarterfinal at any tournament in singles this season. 4 of Pospisil’s 7 losses this season have come against top 10 players, including his most recent one in Indian Wells to Andy Murray, and with that in mind, unless fatigue is an issue, I still expect the Canadian to beat the rusty Argentine, though with time Del Potro can return to being a top 20 player on the tour.
Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (WC)Andrey Rublev
17 year old wild card Rublev, the top Russian young gun on the tour, will be playing his second ATP event of the season, as he was also granted a wild card in Delray Beach just up the road from Miami. In that tournament, he reached the second round as he beat Dudi Sela in his opening match, and he has a nice chance to score his second ATP win over the dirtballer PCB. Carreno Busta is just 2-7 this season and he’s lost three straight matches, on top of that, he’s not a quality hard court player. That said, Rublev may not be his best either as he lost in qualies to Kyle Edmund in Irving. Though I doubt he will dominate, I do have Rublev winning this match in an upset ranking wise, though his future is much brighter than Carreno’s.
Sergiy Stakhovsky vs. Nicolas Almagro
Stakhovsky has been in good form this season, while Almagro is 0-2 on hard courts, and will be playing his first match since January on the surface. Almagro does have a lone h2h win on hard courts over Stakhovsky in 2011, and he played relatively well on South American clay but he’s still finding his feet having come off an injury and Stako should be a small favorite over the fan-favorite Spaniard. While Stako is just 2-2 on his last four, prior to that he had two quarterfinals and a semifinal showing all at the ATP level post Australian Open, and neither of his losses, to Tomas Berdych in Indian Wells, and Tim Smyczek in Irving were bad, so I have him getting through this with his serve and volley style in 3 sets.
The four-time, and defending champion Novak Djokovic, who also triumphed in Indian Wells on Sunday, will open his Miami Open campaign against most likely Martin Klizan, assuming Klizan defeats clay courter Paolo Lorenzi. Though Klizan hits a heavy ball, and has the ability to trouble top players, I don’t see him giving Novak much trouble. In the third round, Djokovic, who tends be bothered by big servers, could be in for a struggle against 30 seed Gilles Muller however. The Luxembourger will face Malek Jaziri or qualifier Steve Darcis in his opening match. Jaziri broke a 5 match losing streak by winning a round in Indian Wells, and his h2h is 1-1 with Darcis, the serve and volleying veteran. Muller comes off the semis in Irving, so his serve and volleying appears to be clicking, thus I expect him to beat either Darcis or Jaziri. Djokovic beat Muller in 3 sets at the AO this year, so he should still be favored, not to mention he handled the big serving of John Isner well in Indian Wells.
16 seed Tommy Robredo found some form in Indian Wells as the veteran rejuvenated himself in the desert and reached the third round with a top 15 win over Grigor Dimitrov. That said, I have Dolgopolov advancing over him as long as he beats Berankis, in what would be their first career meeting. Look for the Dolgopolov/Robredo winner to have an inside track to meet Djokovic in the round of 16, as veterans Lleyton Hewitt and Thomaz Bellucci, along with 19 seed Pablo Cuevas are either out of form, or poor on hard courts. Even without having played a singles match since the AO, Hewitt, in his final season, has to be somewhat of a favorite to reach the third round with Bellucci and Cuevas both struggling on hard courts.
David Ferrer, a former finalist, will open with Jiri Vesely or Federico Delbonis. Ferrer lost to Bernard Tomic, earlier than he would have liked, in Indian Wells, but he always tends to play better in Miami, and he can’t be expected to have a hard time with his draw in the early rounds. Delbonis prefers clay and Vesely was sick in Indian Wells, after that, Lukas Rosol, who reached the round of 16 in Indian Wells and broke a lengthy losing streak, is likely opponent. The seeded Rosol will have to deal with the big serving Sam Groth or young gun qualifier Alex Zverev in round 2. Ferrer is 3-0 on hard courts against Rosol with just 1 set dropped.
12 seed Gilles Simon has a rather difficult draw, if he is to reach the round of 16. First up will be the Kukushkin/Johnson winner, and though Simon reached the round of 16 in IW, he didn’t beat any top players to do so, and Johnson is playing well right now, on home soil I’d give the American a great shot at the upset and have him through in my own bracket. Simon/Johnson is likely to face Ivo Karlovic in round 2, assuming Karlovic beats a qualifier (either Michael Berrer or Alejandro Falla both veterans), as he’s a seeded bye. Johnson just beat Karlovic in Indian Wells, and I have him doing so again to reach the round of 16 as an unseeded player.
Kei Nishikori, who exited in the round of 16 in Indian Wells, likewise with Ferrer earlier than he would have liked, gets his own section of the draw this time and will look to do his best with it. The Japanese should dispatch either Andrey Golubev or slumping veteran Mikhail Youzhny in the second round, and then get a more stern test against the Baghdatis/Bolelli winner or 32 seed Viktor Troicki in round 3. Troicki shockingly exited in the first round in Indian Wells and will look to do better in Miami. That said, Baghdatis is 4-1 against him, with all their matches taking place on hard court, while Bolelli is 2-2 on hard courts, though Troicki won their meeting this year in Sydney. I have Baghdatis into round 3 in my own bracket, and again the h2h favors him, as he’s 4-1 against Nishikori. Even more shockingly, all of those matches came on hard courts, and his four wins were all in straights. Even with that h2h it’s hard for me to pick against this top 5 version of Nishikori, but it does create an interesting upset opportunity for those bold enough to pick it.
Nishikori or another player should be on track for a round of 16 meeting with Roberto Bautista Agut, the 13 seed, if the seeds hold true to form. RBA, who hasn’t had the best of seasons, but is still a top 20 player, exited in his second match in Indian Wells, and will open with Jerzy Janowicz or qualfier Edouard Roger-Vasselin in round 2. RBA beat JJ in Miami last year and he’s in awful form, going just 1-3 since retiring in the Montpellier final. The qualifier ERV may even have a chance of advancing given clay courter Diego Sebastian Schwartzman beat JJ in Indian Wells. That said, JJ is 5-0 against ERV in the h2h and beat him last week in Irving. In the third round, Borna Coric or 18 seed David Goffin are the most likely opponent for Bautista Agut. Goffin, who just 2-3 since Melbourne, may have trouble with Coric, who has played well this season, and qualified in Indian Wells. Though Goffin beat Coric in Basel last year, that match went 3 sets and the young gun is improving all the time. He will have a repeat of his round 1 in Indian Wells against Andreas Haider-Maurer in round 1. RBA-Coric is intriguing matchup, and I’m going bold and putting Coric into the round of 16 myself.
9 seed Grigor Dimitrov continues to play below his ranking, he will get the Pospisil/Del Potro winner in the opening round, and if he gets through that, John Isner could prove to be trouble in the third round. Isner played his best tournament of the season as he reached the round of 16 in Indian Wells, and on home soil he should defeat the Golubev/Carreno Busta winner to setup a meeting with Dimitrov. They have never met before, but I have Isner through, as I feel he’s rounding into form and Dimitrov has performed below expectations all season.
5 seed and Indian Wells semifinalist Milos Raonic will look to remain immune to upsets against lower ranked players. His first match will be against Pablo Andujar or Teymuraz Gabashvili, with both players in poor form, and Gabashvili having failed to win an ATP match this season. Raonic has a good draw, as he should also dominate with his big serve against Jeremy Chardy/Ryan Harrison/Jurgen Melzer in the third round. Melzer qualified for IW, and Harrison is playing reasonably well this year and Chardy is just 7-8 on the season, though he’s the seed, I have Melzer or Harrison through to the third round, and in my own bracket I have Harrison, who will then fall to Raonic almost certainly.
Two-time champion and last year’s finalist Andy Murray, who also reached the semis in Indian Wells, in a good week for him, will open with Donald Young or Rendy Lu. Young should beat Lu on home soil, given he’s playing well against all but the top players, but Murray dominated him in Davis Cup and I expect the same again. In round 3, Murray will also have a relatively easy draw, as the seed is the 27 Santiago Giraldo, while Kyle Edmund or qualifier Robin Haase are the other options. Edmund reached the semifinals in Irving, and with Giraldo struggling, he has a nice shot at the third round, as does Haase who played well in qualifying and shocked Stan Wawrinka in Indian Wells, That was just his second main draw win of the year in IW, and he’s 4-1 in his last five matches. Giraldo is just 1-4 in his last five. I have Haase into the third round to face Murray, who will then reach the round of 16.
15 seed Kevin Anderson is the seeded favorite for the round of 16, Victor Estrella or Sam Querrey will be his first opponent, and neither of whom are in great form, though Anderson lost early in Indian Wells. Big Kev, like Murray, has a good draw, as his round 3 opponent will be Leo Mayer/Jarkko Nieminen/Marinko Matosevic. Mayer much prefers clay, Matosevic is struggling, and Nieminen is a fading veteran to some extent, though I have the Flying Fin into the third round, Anderson should handle him to reach the round of 16 given the 3-0 h2h record.
7 seed Stan Wawrinka was shocked by Robin Haase in Indian Wells and will look to recover in Miami. His first match could doom him to another opening match defeat as wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis is likely to be his first opponent, assuming the teenage Aussie beats Carlos Berlocq, a clay courter. Wawrinka is on a two match losing streak, and Kokkinakis has won 6 of his last 8, including a round of 16 showing in Indian Wells, where he beat three ATP caliber opponents before losing to his countryman Bernard Tomic in 3 sets. Given fatigue may be somewhat of a factor, I favor Wawrinka to recover and beat Kokkinakis, but that one could very well go three sets as the Aussie is a warrior who doesn’t go out easy in his matches. Wawrinka/Kokkinakis have the inside track for the round of 16, as 28 seed Adrian Mannarino, who is at a career high ranking after reaching the round of 16 in IW, is the likely third round opponent, assuming Mannarino beats Joao Sousa/Albert Ramos. Ramos won two matches in a row on hard courts in Indian Wells, and may upset Sousa who is struggling. Wawrinka and Mannarino have never met.
10 seed Feliciano Lopez, a quarterfinalist in IW, will face Dominic Thiem or Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in round 2. DSS is 2-2 on hard courts this year and Thiem has really struggled this season (4-7 on the year), thus I have DSS through in an upset. Lopez should face Indian Wells doubles champion, and round of 16 participant Jack Sock in the third round. Sock, who won three matches from a set down in his first tournament back since a hip injury, faces Go Soeda in his first match, and then 21 seed Fabio Fognini would be his round 2 opponent. Sock beat Fognini in the doubles final, and Fognini has struggled in singles all season, especially on hard courts. Given how well he played in IW, improving throughout the tournament, Miami should bode well for Sock, having knocked off the rust off his game. Lopez has a 1-0 h2h record against Sock, and he’s playing well, so that should be enough to get him through to the round of 16, though it should be a quality match.
A four-time finalist, though he has never won the Miami Open, Rafa will open with the Stakhovsky/Almagro winner, which is not the easiest opening match to have. Still I’d expect the IW quarterfinalist to prevail and setup a third round meeting with Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco has a qualifier, either James Duckworth or Damir Dzumhur in round 2, and given Nadal is 6-0 against him on hard courts, Nadal should reach the round of 16.
14 seed Ernests Gulbis continues to struggle, and Juan Monaco should give him the boot in round 2. Monaco opens with qualifier Ruben Bemelmans and is playing well at the moment as he’s 8-3 in his last three tournaments, he beat Marin Cilic in Indian Wells. Gulbis is just 1-6 in his 7 matches this season and their h2h is relatively even. Benjamin Becker/Jan-Lennard Struff and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez all have relatively equal odds to reach the third round. Struff and Becker, Davis Cup teammates, meet in the opening round, and I have Struff winning that one, and then I have GGL advancing and snapping a two match losing streak in round 2. Struff does have a lone h2h win over GGL last season, but the Spaniard is slightly more talented. Monaco and GGL have a 2-2 hard court h2h, and I have Monaco reaching the round of 16 given his good form, the Miami crowd should also be behind him.
8 seed Tomas Berdych played well in Indian Wells, except for the semifinal, and he should get through his first match against either Hyeon Chung, a young gun wild card, or Marcel Granollers. Berdych should also be favored over Bernard Tomic, though the 25 seed has had an excellent season. He withdrew from the IW quarterfinals with tooth and back problems, and he could lose to qualifier Austin Krajicek or Denis Istomin in round 2, but no matter, Berdych, who beat him in Melbourne, has the inside track to reach the round of 16. I have Krajicek upsetting Tomic in my own bracket. Istomin just beat Krajicek in IW, but I also see that result reversing, as it was a close match and AK played well in qualies.
11 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and 17 seed Gael Monfils are both back on tour this week. Tsonga opens with qualifier Adrian Menendez-Maceiras or American Tim Smyczek. Smyczek was a finalist in Irving, and Tsonga hasn’t played a match this year, so with rust playing a factor, I’m going with Smyczek in a big upset. With Monfils 9-3 on the season, he should have a better run than Tsonga, his first opponent will be non-hard courter Dusan Lajovic or qualifier Filip Krajinovic, a Serb like Lajovic. After that expect him to defeat Smyczek/Tsonga for a spot in the round of 16.
Dark Horses: Steve Johnson, Borna Coric, Jack Sock, Juan Monaco
Johnson will likely need to beat Kukushkin, then seeds Simon and Karlovic but he has a shot at reaching the round of 16 and facing Ferrer. He would be an underdog there, but as Tomic showed, Ferrer is beatable.
Coric must beat Goffin and likely RBA to reach the round of 16, but it would be massive result for the young gun who has already reached a pair of 500 level semifinals in his career, including in Dubai earlier this year.
Sock, presuming he beats Fognini and upsets Lopez, would have a winnable match with Wawrinka/Kokkinakis likely on his plate in the round of 16, and could reach the quarterfinals on home soil.
I have Monaco reaching the round of 16 with wins over seeds Gulbis and Garcia-Lopez, though he will have little chance against Nadal, his best pal, at that stage.
Round of 16:
Djokovic d. Dolgopolov
Ferrer d. Johnson
Nishikori d. Coric
Raonic d. Isner
Lopez d. Wawrinka
Murray d. Anderson
Berdych d. Monfils
Nadal d. Monaco
Djokovic is 3-0 against Dolgo and playing lights out right now, Ferrer and Johnson have never met but I have the Spaniard returning to his gold standard and reaching the quarters, likewise Nishikori should have the edge on Coric by this stage, and Raonic is a better version of Isner, given their similar styles even though Isner is 2-0 in the h2h, with both meetings having come on hard courts.
Wawrinka is 2-1 against Lopez on hard courts, but Feli is playing better right now so I have him winning an upset. Murray is 2-1 against Anderson and plays well in Miami, Berdych is 3-0 on hard against Monfils, and Nadal is 6-1 against Monaco, though that lone loss was their only hard court meeting. Given they are best friends and frequent doubles partner, they know each other well and Nadal is likely to improve, not get worse in Miami, as he’s played more matches on hard courts.
Djokovic d. Ferrer
Raonic d. Nishikori
Murray d. Lopez
Nadal d. Berdych
Djokovic has won his last six hard court meetings against Ferrer, and given how well he’s playing right now, has to be a strong favorite. Raonic is just 2-5 against Nishikori, and lost to him this season but Raonic won their outdoor hc match in Brisbane, and he’s playing very well right now, in what should be a close match. Murray just beat Lopez in IW, and it’s a good matchup for him, and Nadal normally dominates Berdych. Even though Tomas won their AO meeting, I have Nadal getting revenge and reaching the semis.
Djokovic d. Raonic
Murray d. Nadal
Djokovic is 5-0 against Raonic and beat him this year at the AO. Nadal and Murray are a close 6-5 in the hard court h2h, and Murray is playing better right now on the surface, so thus I have him sneaking past to the final in a close match.
Djokovic d. Murray
Djokovic dominated Murray in Indian Wells, and likewise in Australia, Murray has struggled against the other big 3, and Djokovic is too much for him right now. If Novak is committed and focused, he’ll win Miami again, just like last year’s quarterfinal.