Stan Wawrinka headlines the Miami Masters draw in the absence of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, while Roger Federer could face Juan Martin del Potro as the Indian Wells champion goes for a Sunshine Double at the Miami Open.
We break down the Miami Masters 2017 draw, led by world no. 3 Stan Wawrinka who is hoping to make it to the quarterfinals or better at Crandon Park for the first time in the wake of his runner-up finish at Indian Wells last weekend.
Indian Wells champion Roger Federer tries to win the two spring hard-court Masters 1000 Series events back-to-back for the third time as he goes for his third Miami Masters title, but could encounter Juan Martin del Potro on the way, and 2016 runner-up Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic, returning from injury, are among the other contenders for the Miami Open title – as is Rafael Nadal, who has never (yet) captured the title at Crandon Park.
Projected quarterfinal: Stan Wawrinka (1) vs David Goffin (8) (3-1)
Stan Wawrinka (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Finding himself top seed in the wake of the withdrawals of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, who between them have won the Miami Masters title for the past six years, is heady stuff for Stan Wawrinka, who has never played well at this part of the season and whose career record in Miami is an unimpressive 7-8, having failed to reach the quarterfinals in eight appearances.
Wawrinka, however, tore up the form book when he finished runner-up at Indian Wells, another event where he had never played well, so he’s obviously capable of a good run in Miami – although the emotional way in which Wawrinka finished the event suggests the run, which was given a hefty helping hand by the draw, might still have taken a lot out of him.
The two names that catch the eye in Wawrinka’s quarter of the draw – apart from eighth seed David Goffin, who was a semifinalist in Miami in 2016 but seems to have slightly lost steam after a great start to the year, losing to Pablo Cuevas at Indian Wells – are those of Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios. The two played each other last week, Kyrgios winning and going on to score a memorable victory over Djokovic before equally memorably pulling out of his projected quarterfinal against Roger Federer due to illness (which he is presumably now over). Zverev, who won his first title in February, is slated to meet the out-of-form John Isner in the third round and Wawrinka in the fourth; Kyrgios, the big-serving Ivo Karlovic in the third and Goffin in the fourth. Both men have an excellent shot at making the quarterfinals.
I struggle to imagine Wawrinka making the semifinals, which looks like it could be the prize that awaits the winner of a potential Kyrgios-Goffin fourth-round clash – and it’s impossible to resist picking the unpredictable, but sporadically undeniable, Kyrgios.
Projected quarterfinal: Roger Federer (4) vs Dominic Thiem (6) (1-2)
Dominic Thiem (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Should top seed Wawrinka make it to the semifinals at the Miami Masters for the first time, he’ll likely receive the most dubious of ‘rewards’: A clash with Roger Federer, who beat him in straight sets (and reduced him to tears) in the Indian Wells final.
Federer’s dream comeback from last year’s injury issues continued last week when he claimed the Indian Wells title, and now he has an opportunity to do two things he hasn’t done since 2006 – win the Miami Masters, and complete the ‘Sunshine Double’ once more.
While Federer’s draw isn’t quite the laughable nightmare it was at Indian Wells, it still gets tricky quite quickly after an opening match against Konstantin Kravchuk or a qualifier, with former world no. 4 Juan Martin del Potro a probable third-round opponent. Del Potro’s last two tournaments have ended with three-set defeats to Djokovic and given Federer’s 15-5 head-to-head against the Argentine, and their respective form, it looks likely that a top seed will once again send the Tower of Tandil home – but hopefully not before an entertaining encounter.
Aside from del Potro, Federer could have to contend with Sam Querrey, who has been making himself troublesome to top players recently, in the fourth round but otherwise his road to the quarterfinals looks smooth. In the bottom half of this section, Dominic Thiem – the young Austrian who never saw a tournament he didn’t want to play – will hope to build on a solid quarterfinal run at Indian Wells and take advantage of a gift of a draw through the early rounds: Clay-court specialist Paolo Lorenzi in the third round, and likely the out-of-form Tomas Berdych, a Miami runner-up in 2010, in the fourth to set up a clash with Federer. Thiem has beaten the 18-time Grand Slam champion in their last two meetings, both on natural surfaces, but is unlikely to do it on a hard court.
Projected quarterfinal: Rafael Nadal (5) vs Milos Raonic (3) (7-2)
Rafael Nadal (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal has never won the Miami Masters, although it’s not for lack of trying – he’s been runner-up four times – and he will be pleased to see Federer, who has suddenly got his number, in the other side of the draw this week after running into the Swiss star in the fourth round of Indian Wells.
Nadal in 2017 continues to tease a return to form without quite getting there, but he has shown tennis good enough to beat most opponents most of the time – hence his run to the Australian Open final. Opening against Dudi Sela or a qualifier and likely to face Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round, there is the extremely intriguing possibility of a fourth-round clash with Grigor Dimitrov that would be a rematch of their very compelling Australian Open semifinal, which Nadal edged in five sets. The building excitement around what appeared to be a return to form for Dimitrov after a prolonged slump took a hit when he lost to Jack Sock at Indian Wells, but the Bulgarian has looked superb at times in 2017: Can he do in Miami what he couldn’t in Melbourne?
Milos Raonic, meanwhile, couldn’t defend his runner-up finish at Indian Wells in 2016 due to injury but if the Canadian is healthy, he has a great draw to the quarterfinals – last week’s semifinalist Jack Sock is his projected fourth-round opponent but isn’t likely to make back-to-back deep runs, and Mischa Zverev, who could meet Raonic in the third round, looks to me like the only man with a realistic chance to disrupt a healthy Raonic. Is he healthy, though?
Projected quarterfinal: Marin Cilic (7) vs Kei Nishikori (2) (6-7)
Kei Nishikori (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Runner-up in Miami in 2016, second seed Kei Nishikori is still looking for his first Masters 1000 title.
The two top seeds in this quarter have both been less than impressive in 2017 so far – Cilic demonstrably struggling more but Nishikori underwhelming, as with his defeat to Sock last week at Indian Wells.
Nishikori has a tough draw, with a potential opener against Kevin Anderson – the big-serving South African who is currently low-ranked due to injury – and a third-round clash with Dubai runner-up Fernando Verdasco on the cards. If he gets through that, the in-form Pablo Carenno Busta could await in the round of 16, if the Spanish player can bounce back from the effort of making his first Masters 1000 semifinal at Indian Wells last week.
Cilic, who is just 5-6 in 2017 and 9-8 at the Miami Masters during the course of his career, hasn’t really impressed so far this season but he is nevertheless one of the very few active players outside of the Big Four to have won a Masters 1000 title. There are plenty of pitfalls in his way, however, from powerful Jeremy Chardy in the second round to a possible third-round clash with the winner of the first-round encounter between Fabio Fognini and Ryan Harrison (both capable of making Cilic’s life difficult). Indian Wells quarterfinalist Pablo Cuevas and Lucas Pouille bracket a packed mini-section which includes the in-form Donald Young and the dangerous but erratic Martin Klizan and Benoit Paire, and which will provide Cilic’s fourth-round opponent. Cilic will have to raise the level he’s shown in the season so far to make the quarterfinals – let alone go further.
Miami Masters tennis is live from Miami from Wednesday 22 March-Sunday 2 April.