2014 ATP Miami Preview, Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
Sony Open Tennis
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
Miami, Florida, USA
March 19-March 30, 2014
Prize Money: $4,720,380
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (1)
2: Novak Djokovic (2)
3: Stanislas Wawrinka (3)
4: David Ferrer (4)
5: Roger Federer (5)
6: Andy Murray (6)
7: Tomas Berdych (7)
8: Juan Martin Del Potro (8)
All 32 seeds get byes into round 2 and just one of the top 20 is missing (#14 Mikhail Youzhny)
Miami is stacked.
First round matchups to watch:
Daniel Gimeno-Traver vs. (WC) Karen Khachanov
Gimeno-Traver is a Spanish journeyman who prefers clay but can be counted on to put a lot of balls back in play on any surface without bringing much special talent to things. He’s a good matchup for the 17 year old rising Russian Khachanov, who played well in the two Russian ATP events (St. Petersburg and Moscow) last year as a wild card, and gets a wild card into Miami this year to try and continue that run of success. He’s a reasonably big hitter who hasn’t done much this year, losing in ATP Chennai qualies round 2 and a Davis Cup match against Jerzy Janowicz in straights. He should be the underdog here, but I think he will pull off the upset against DGT, who is just 3-7 this year at the main draw ATP level on both clay and hard.
Bernard Tomic vs. Jarkko Nieminen
Bernard Tomic returns from a groin injury sustained at the Aussie Open and his first match back will be a tough test against the consistent veteran lefty Nieminen, who Tomic beat in Sydney last year in a close 3 setter, but reached the third round in Indian Wells. He very nearly reached the round of 16, needing only a few extra points against Roberto Bautista Agut.
Tomic looked his usual talented self before the AO but coming off the injury his form will have to be rusty, and he probably falls in straights to Nieminen, who his in better form than he was before IW.
Sergiy Stakhovsky vs. Sam Querrey
Stakhovsky comes off semis in the stacked Irving Challenger, and he has lost in the second round of his last 3 ATP events (Indian Wells, Dubai, Marseille). Querrey continues his ice cold play, as he is just 2-6 post Australian Open, with both those wins coming against players ranked outside the top 100. He was bounced in the second round of Indian Wells and shows no real signs of getting it together on home soil.
Querrey is 2-0 career against Stakhovsky, but neither of those meetings came on hard court. Given the current form of both players, I think Stako will win this one.
Ivo Karlovic vs. (Q)Paul-Henri Mathieu
Karlovic and Mathieu, both veteran players, have met just twice in their careers, with PHM winning the only hard court meeting in Cincinnati 5 years ago, the other meeting a Karlovic win on clay 6 years ago. Both players are in decent form. Karlovic won a round in Indian Wells, and before that he reached the quarters in Acapulco. PHM has been working his way back to the top 100 slowly, as he qualified in IW and gave Roger Federer a good second round match, and then qualified in Miami with a pair of solid wins. This one should be close and could go three. I’m favoring a slight upset here and going with PHM.
Daniel Brands vs. Radek Stepanek
After near upsets of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in consecutive tournaments, Radek Stepanek should be pleased to see his next opponent is a step down the competitive ladder, as the German Brands has really been struggling this year. Brands is just 5-9 overall, with 2 of those wins coming in Doha at the start of the year. His ranking has dropped as he lost in the opening round of both Indian Wells and Dubai, along with a second round loss in Irving to eventual champion Lukas Rosol. Stepanek reached the second round of his last two tournaments, Dubai and Indian Wells, and suffered close losses to Federer and Nadal. His form looks dangerous if he can avoid grueling matches. I expect the Czech to win this match.
Lukas Rosol vs. (Q)Dominic Thiem
Rosol comes off a challenger title at the stacked Irving challenger and he nearly beat Andy Murray in Indian Wells round 2 before that, pushing him to 3 sets. The week before, he made quarters in Dubai and beat Dmitry Tursunov, so things are looking pretty good for the Czech world number 38.
Thiem, a 20 year old rising Austrian, qualified for yet another ATP event, as he has upped his ranking to a career high of 86 after reaching the third round of Indian Wells as a qualifier with a good win over Gilles Simon. Both these players are playing some great tennis right now and could make surprise runs, but one of them has to lose in what will be their first meeting.
Thiem seems on the cusp of something special as he has qualified in 4 of the 5 ATP/Grand Slam tournaments he has entered this season, but Rosol seems to be bashing opponents at present. I favor Rosol to squeak past in this matchup by a hair.
Rafael Nadal, who lost to Alex Dolgopolov in the third round after scraping past Radek Stepanek in round 2, looks to bounce back In Miami, opening with Lleyton Hewitt or Robin Haase. Both of them lost in the second round of IW. Hewitt is 3-1 career on hard courts against Nadal, but hasn’t beaten him since 2005. Things have clearly changed since then. Assuming Nadal survives, he will meet one of Dmitry Tursunov/Denis Istomin/Nicolas Mahut in round 3. Tursunov was competitive against Federer in the second round of Indian Wells and could cause trouble.
Nadal’s likely round of 16 opponents are one of 14 seed Fabio Fognini, 19 seed Jerzy Janowicz, or the in form Roberto Bautista Agut.
Janowicz will face RBA or qualifier Steve Johnson in round 2, he was upset in the first round of Indian Wells, while RBA reached the round of 16 in IW.
Fognini lost in the third round of IW, and opens with Kenny De Schepper or qualifier Lukas Lacko, before being likely to meet JJ/RBA in the third round. Fognini is 3-1 in his career against RBA, but RBA won their only outdoor hard court meeting at the AO last year, and that should be an entertaining third round match, as Bautista continues to rise up the rankings.
Juan Martin Del Potro, who pulled out of IW citing continuing wrist problems, will face Ryan Harrison or Federico Delbonis in round 2. Harrison has a nice chance at the third round if he gets past the dirtballing Argentine, and faces off with a still not healthy Del Potro, as his wrist problems don’t seem to be going away even though he has passion to play. The survivor of that section will face either a qualifier, Aljaz Bedene/Jimmy Wang or a struggling Vasek Pospisil in round 3 in what is a very weak section as well.
Whoever survives the above section will face off with Milos Raonic, the 12 seed, or Gael Monfils, the 23 seed, in round 4. Raonic faces Guido Pella or qualifier Jack Sock in round 2 and then Monfils or Bradley Klahn/Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Monfils lost a nail biter against Fognini in IW, while Raonic played well in reaching the quarterfinals. Monfils is 2-0 career against Raonic, but they have not met on outdoor hard courts before. I have a hunch Milos will be the one to survive.
3 seed Stan Wawrinka, who lost in the round of 16 in Indian Wells, opens with Gimeno-Traver/Khachanov and then should get a very tough test against Marin Cilic in round 3.
Cilic has to get past Igor Sijsling/Edouard Roger-Vasselin in round 2. He lost to Novak Djokovic in 3 sets in Indian Wells, and his form has been great all season, while Wawrinka was only decent in IW.
I’ll go with the upset and say Cilic gets through to round 4. Cilic is 2-1 on hard courts in his career against Wawrinka, their last meeting coming 3 years ago won by Wawrinka.
Cilic/Wawrinka should get a cracker of a round 4 match against the winner of the stacked section below them that features 22 seed Alex Dolgopolov and 13 seed Tommy Haas on pace for a third round meeting. IW semifinalist Dolgopolov, who has been in great form the past month, opens with Tomic/Nieminen in what could be a tough ask. Assuming he wins, he should meet Haas, who lost to Federer in IW but regained his form in the process as he reached the fourth round.
Haas has to get past Yen-Hsun Lu or Mikhail Kukuskhin in his first match to reach the third round. Lu made the third round in IW and has been good this season, but Haas is 2-0 career against him. Haas and Dolgo have a tied 1-1 h2h, with both meetings on hard courts, and Haas won the last meeting in Miami last year in straights. Given the fatigue factor, I think Haas will make the round of 16.
7 seed Tomas Berdych, who was bounced early by Bautista Agut in Indian Wells, but has had a strong season otherwise, faces qualifier Alex Bogomolov or Stephane Robert in round 2, then one of Gilles Simon/Pablo Carreno Busta/Joao Sousa in round 3. Simon has a 2-1 outdoor hard court h2h edge, and an overall h2h edge over Berdych, but he has lost his last two matches and hasn’t been that great this season, their last outdoor hard court meeting came in 2009. I think Tomas will recover and reach the round of 16.
IW semifinalist John Isner, the 10 seed, faces Carlos Berlocq or his countryman Donald Young in round 2. Assuming he advances, he will face one of Stakhovsky/Querrey or 18 seed Nicolas Almagro, who is returning from injury this week, in round 3. Given Almagro is on a 3 match losing streak, Isner should be safe to reach the round of 16. Stakhovsky should be the one going for a round 2 upset as well.
Indian Wells champion and 3 time Miami Champion Novak Djokovic is in great form as he faces off with Jeremy Chardy or Juan Monaco in round 2 and one of Florian Mayer/Ivan Dodig/qualifier in round 3.
Mayer is the seeded player but has lost 3 straight matches and is struggling, while Dodig has also lost 3 straight, giving the qualifier a nice chance at advancing.
Tommy Robredo, the 16 seed who was bounced in round 2 of IW by Cilic, opens with Rosol or Thiem.
Robredo is 2-0 on hard courts against Rosol in his career, including a win this season in 5 sets at the Australian Open, while Thiem is a dangerous lurker. Robredo/Rosol/Thiem will meet Ernests Gulbis/Julien Benneteau/Kyle Edmund in round 3. Gulbis and Benneteau both come off quarters in Indian Wells, and they both picked up some nice wins there: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Feliciano Lopez for Benneteau most notably, and Grigor Dimitrov and Bautista Agut for Gulbis. Gulbis should be the survivor from this section and reach the fourth round.
Defending and two time Miami champion Andy Murray, who lost to Milos Raonic in IW round of 16 and continues to struggle, opens his title defense against Matt Ebden or Lukasz Kubot before facing Feliciano Lopez in the third round. Feli needs to beat Jiri Vesely or Filippo Volandri in round 2. Murray has never lost to Lopez in 8 meetings, 5 of which came on outdoor hard courts. Murray beat him at the AO this year as well.
A struggling Jo-Wilfried Tsonga opens with Adrian Mannarino or Nikolay Davydenko in round 2, and I still think he will advance in his current form to do battle with one of Philipp Kohlschreiber/Santiago Giraldo/Marcos Baghdatis in round 3. Kohli was routined in his opening round IW match while Giraldo and Baghdatis are also struggling and really this entire section is quite weak. Tsonga has a large H2H advantage over Kohli, and even in pedestrian form probably reaches the fourth round against Murray.
Defending finalist David Ferrer returns from an injury he sustained in Acapulco and will face off with Marcel Granollers or Teymuraz Gabashvili in round 2. Assuming he’s healthy, expect Ferrer against Brands/Stepanek or 31 Seed Andreas Seppi in round 3. Seppi has been struggling all season, and Stepanek has a nice chance at the third round and a shot at an upset against Ferrer. However, I expect the grinding Spaniard to get out of his section.
Grigor Dimitrov, who continues to improve his game, but hasn’t quite made a masters breakthrough yet, opens with Michal Przysiezny/Albert Montanes in an easy opening match, and then should face Kei Nishikori, who got bounced out by Tommy Haas in IW round 3. Nishikori has to beat Marinko Matosevic/Alejandro Falla to get there and he is 1-0 against the Bulgarian with a win in Shanghai against him last year. Both players have had streaks of good form and are on the cusp of top 10 quality, making this a tough section to call. I think Dimitrov will be the survivor who should face Ferrer in the round of 16.
IW finalist Roger Federer has won Miami twice and has been great this year. He will do battle with PHM again or Karlovic in round 2 and then Fernando Verdasco in round 3, Verdasco needing a win against qualifier Thiemo De Bakker or Victor Hanescu.
Meeting the likely Federer in the round of 16 will be Kevin Anderson or Richard Gasquet in the section below, IW quarterfinalist Anderson, who lost to Federer in the IW quarters and is in great form otherwise. Kev opens with Horacio Zeballos or a qualifier, then should face Gasquet, who needs to beat Alejandro Gonzalez or qualifier Malek Jaziri in his first match. Gasquet is 3-1 against Anderson including 2-0 on an outdoor hardcourt, but he was run out of town by Fernando Verdasco in the IW second round and isn’t playing that well.
Dark Horses: Roberto Bautista Agut, Marin Cilic, Radek Stepanek, Nikolay Davydenko
RBA is a pretty obvious choice from the first quarter of the draw: the Spaniard and his gifted forehand will need to beat Steve Johnson again like he did in IW, Janowicz and then most likely Fognini to reach the fourth round, but once he does a test against Nadal should be on tap. With the way Rafa played in IW, an upset is certainly possible there in a battle of Spaniards.
Cilic is seeded, but he is somewhat of a favorite in his quarter, needing to beat ERV/Sijsling, Wawrinka most likely, and then Dolgopolov/Haas and Berdych/Isner to reach the semis. He’s in a section full of in form and talented players, but he is one of them and has been a man on a mission this year. He ran into the Djokovic buzzsaw in IW, but beyond that he looks to be playing top 10 level right now.
Stepanek has an outside shot at the quarters and a decent chance at the round of 16 if he can beat Brands, Seppi, most likely Ferrer in an upset, and then another upset against Dimitrov/Nishikori in the round of 16.
Davydenko isn’t in good form and really hasn’t been for years as his prime has passed him, but he’s a solid competitor who occasionally shows flashes of his former elite level of play. This is a section with few dark horses, but if he can get past Mannarino, upset Tsonga, then beat Kohlschreiber/Giraldo/Baghdatis on a bad day, he will be in the round of 16.
Nadal d. Bautista Agut
Raonic d. Harrison
Cilic d. Haas
Berdych d. Isner
Federer d. Anderson
Dimitrov d. Ferrer
Murray d. Tsonga
Djokovic d. Gulbis
RBA and Rafa have never met. RBA is 2 years younger than him, they’re both Spanish, and this all depends on the form of Nadal. RBA can beat him, but it will take a deflated Nadal to do it. It’s hard to predict that, so I think the world number 1 will advance.
Raonic (or Monfils) should cruise past whoever he meets in the round of 16. I’m going with Harrison, though a qualifier is also a possibility in such a weak section (injured Del Po, rusty Pospisil). The h2h on that matchup is 1-1 and Harrison has the lone outdoor hard court win, but Raonic is a much better player right now. Cilic has a 2-2 h2h with Haas with no outdoor hard court meetings, having just beat him in the Zagreb final this year, and I have him doing so again.
Isner is 2-1 against Berdych on outdoor hard, but I think Berdych will be fresher and will prevail in that matchup.
Federer should blitz Anderson again, Dimitrov is in better form than Ferrer, though Ferrer leads the h2h 3-1, and 2-0 on hard. Murray is in better form than Tsonga, and Djokovic should continue his win streak. The h2h is 2-1 on outdoor hard against the Latvian number 1.
Nadal d. Raonic
Cilic d. Berdych
Federer d. Dimitrov
Djokovic d. Murray
Nadal 3-0 is against Raonic on outdoor hard in his career, not having dropped a set. Even off his peak form, he should beat the Canadian. Berdych is 2-0 against Cilic on outdoor hard and beat him in the Rotterdam final this year in straights, but Cilic has beaten him twice and they play close matches, I think Cilic has the extra edge in form to prevail in that one. In that Rotterdam final, he was fatigued clearly and that influenced the result.
Federer has met the player formerly known as “Baby Federer” only once at the ATP level, beating him last year indoors in Basel in straights, and given his current form, he should do so again.
Djokovic is currently playing much better than Murray and I don’t think that one will be much of a match.
Cilic d. Nadal
Djokovic d. Federer
Nadal and Cilic haven’t played in 3 years, and their outdoor hard court h2h is 1-1. Given current form, I think Marin will pull off a big upset to reach the final. I would also pick Berdych to do the same under similar circumstances. Djokovic-Federer is a reprisal of the Indian Wells final, and we saw what happened there: Federer can compete with him, but runs out of fuel late.
Djokovic d. Cilic
A rematch of their Indian Wells meeting last week, Cilic took a set off the world number 2 but lost the next sets 6-2 6-3. A similar thing should happen if they meet in this final, as Novak is back in machine-like form at present, though he is beatable. Novak is 7-0 against Cilic on outdoor hard and 8-0 overall.