Familiar faces and potential future stars feature in 2015 Miami Open Men’s Qualifying
Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
As one Masters tournament ends, another begins with the start of the qualifying rounds at the Miami Open. Like Indian Wells, the draw consists of 48 players battling for the 12 spots in the main draw. The diverse field consists of both veterans of the tour as well as young up and coming talent from the junior circuit.
Leading the field will be Brazilian top seed Joao Souza. Souza is currently at a career ranking high of 70 in the world after enduring a successful run at two ATP tournaments in Brazil last month where he reached the semifinal in Sao Paulo followed by the semifinals of the Rio Open. On the other hand Souza does have a disappointing record in Masters events. Since 2010 the 26-year-old has participated in 8 Masters qualifying draws, but has only managed to qualify in one of them (Madrid 2013). In the first round, he faces an intriguing encounter with young German hopeful Alexander Zverev. So far this year Zverev has failed to reproduce the form which took him to the semifinals of the German International Open last year and is yet to win a main draw match in 2015. The German does process weapons on the court that could trouble Souza but it is touch and go if he is currently in the right form to produce them.
Second seed Tatsuma Ito failed to end his Masters losing streak in Miami. The Japanese player has so far never won a main draw match in any Masters tournament. Ito has enjoyed some success on the Challenger Tour this year already by reaching the final in Hong Kong and the semifinals in Kyoto, Japan. In his first match he was defeated by the experienced Michael Berrer. Berrer, who is playing his last season before retiring, enjoyed a shock win over Rafael Nadal at the start of the year in Qatar. He also recently produced an impressive run recently at Indian Wells where he reached the third round as a qualifier. Now with a win over Ito, Berrer has the inside track to qualify for his fourth ATP event of the season (Doha, Zagreb and Indian Wells the previous successes).
Benoit Paire (3) will enter the draw with a large amount of confidence following his recent triumph’s on the Challenger Tour. The Frenchman has made three finals since February in which he has won two of them (Bergamo, Italy and Quimper, France). In his first match he defeated Austria’s Gerald Melzer in 3 sets for the first time in his career. Melzer is currently ranked 168th in the world and played in his first ever Masters qualifying draw at the age of 24.
Rounding off the top four is Steve Darcis. The Belgian has beaten four top 100 players so far this year (Adrian Mannarino, Tatsuma Ito, Jarkko Nieminen and Jeremy Chardy). In his most recent tournament he reached the quarter-finals of the ATP Irving Challenger in Texas before losing to Kyle Edmund. In the first round, he will open up against 22-year-old Italian Marco Cecchinato. Two two has played each other once before which was on clay last year. On that occasion Cecchinato took the win in three sets.
Make way for the young guns
As well as the usual names on the entry list, the organizers of the tournament have also given some younger players the chance of qualifying for their first ever Masters tournament. 2014 US Open boy’s champion Omar Jasika has received a wildcard into the draw. Jasika was tantalizingly close to his first ever Grand Slam first round but lost in the final stage of qualifying to Marius Copil. The 17-year-old is yet to win a title at pro level. The Australian will play 19th seed Aljaž Bedene. Last week Bedene won his first title in almost a year by winning the ATP Irving Challenger.
Elias Ymer has also been granted a wildcard into the draw. Ymer, who was recently referred to as top 50 material by former world number one Mats Wilander, reached his first Grand Slam main draw earlier this year at the Australian Open where he lost in five sets to Go Soeda. In the first round, he will play 7th seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver.
Finally, junior world number 7 Michael Mmoh got his first taste of life on the main stage against 21st seed Alejandro Falla, a match he lost 6-2 6-1 to the experienced Colombian. Last year Mmoh won a Grade A junior tournament in Mexico and also reached the final of the prestigious Eddie Herr International Open. On the pro tour the 17-year-old has won one Futures title (USA F29 , 2014) and is currently ranked 655th in the world.
In-form players Thiemo De Bakker and Edouard Roger-Vasselin have also scored qualifying wins today, as has American Chase Buchanan over James Ward, and Japanese young gun Taro Daniel. Daniel’s countryman Yoshihito Nishioka wasn’t as successful as he lost to Damir Dzumhur in straights.