After a thrilling first ATP Masters 1000 tournament of the year in Indian Wells, won by Dominic Thiem, the ATP Tour heads to Miami with another 1,000 ATP Ranking points up for grabs for the titlist. ATPTour.com looks at five potential early-round matches to watch:
Kei Nishikori vs. Nick Kyrgios (R3)
At the BNP Paribas Open, there was much anticipation for a potential Novak Djokovic vs. Nick Kyrgios third-round battle. But German Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated them both.
There is another third-round blockbuster on the horizon for Kyrgios. But this time, it could be against sixth seed Kei Nishikori. If both guys advance to the third round, the Aussie will be especially motivated, given that Nishikori has won all four of their FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.
“I always find it tough playing him,” Kyrgios said after his most recent loss against Nishikori, at Wimbledon last year.
Kyrgios has one of the best serves on the ATP Tour. And when he is on his game, like when he triumphed at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco, he can take the racquet out of almost anyone’s hands. But Nishikori’s returning skills, speed, and ability to play aggressively could make for a thriller in Miami, three years after he beat Kyrgios in this event’s semi-finals in straight sets.
Novak Djokovic vs. Tomas Berdych (R2)
There might not be a more enticing second-round match than the potential of top seed Novak Djokovic meeting former World No. 4 Tomas Berdych. Less than four years ago, they were both inside the Top 5 of the ATP Rankings at the same time.
Djokovic has won 25 of 28 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Berdych — including all 21 of their matches on hard courts. But the Czech has proven his ability to challenge anyone in the world, owning multiple victories against each member of the ‘Big Four’.
Berdych at his best elicits short replies with his serve and immediately seizes control of rallies with his flat, penetrating groundstrokes. He got off to a quick start in 2019, winning 11 of his first 14 matches.
But Djokovic will be hungry to get back on track after a third-round loss against Kohlschreiber in Indian Wells. Last year, the six-time champion lost his opener in Miami against Benoit Paire. The World No. 1 certainly won’t want to endure deja vu.[ALSO LIKE]
Roger Federer vs. Stan Wawrinka (R3)
Rematch, anybody? Roger Federer beat Stan Wawrinka in the third round at the BNP Paribas Open last week. Wawrinka may have a chance to return the favour in the third round at the Miami Open presented by Itau.
Like Djokovic-Berdych, this has mostly been a one-sided FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry, with Federer winning 22 of 25 battles against his Swiss compatriot. But former World No. 3 Wawrinka has shown throughout his career that his best tennis is as good as anyone’s.
Wawrinka did a good job of making 73 per cent of his first serves against his fellow Swiss star in the California desert. But Federer was not troubled, winning 41 per cent of those points. In fact, Wawrinka won 12 per cent more second-serve points than he did with his first delivery.
If the friends do battle in the third round, it’ll be an opportunity for a breakthrough for Wawrinka, who is still working his way back from two left knee surgeries in August 2017. The 30th seed seeks his first win against a Top 5 opponent since beating then-World No. 1 Andy Murray at 2017 Roland Garros.
Marin Cilic vs. Denis Shapovalov (R3)
Another rematch that could be on the cards in Miami would pit Marin Cilic against #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov. In the span of five months, the two have split their only two FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.
In Indian Wells, Shapovalov needed just 78 minutes to dismiss Cilic, winning all but three of his first-serve points and saving the two break points he faced. This matchup is entertaining in that both have similar games, looking to land a big first serve and dictate play from the first ball of rallies. The intrigue: who can do their best better?
Shapovalov advanced to the fourth round in Miami on debut last year, and he may have to get by Cilic in the third round if he is to repeat that showing, and possibly go further, this time. Cilic, on the other hand, has lost three of his past four matches, so he will be keen to perform well at the year’s second Masters 1000 event.
Sam Querrey vs. David Ferrer (R1)
Perhaps the most interesting first-round match in Miami could be former World No. 3 David Ferrer’s last at the tournament. The Spaniard faces former World No. 11 Sam Querrey, who has won at least one match in Miami 11 times.
Both players will be plenty motivated, as Ferrer, who made the final in 2013, will try to make a magical run in his final hard-court Masters 1000 event. World No. 68 Querrey is at his lowest ATP Ranking since 2014, so he will be hungry to get back on track with a strong performance in Miami.
The bonus for the winner: a clash with second seed Alexander Zverev.