Miami Open Preview Big Chance for ATP 1000 Trophy Nishikori Nadal Wawrinka

Miami Open Nishikori

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com

The Miami Open is underway and the withdrawals of top seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, who have won 8 of the last ten trophies between them, opens up the way for a new Miami Champion to be crowned. The Tennis Review previews the players most likely to take advantage.

Kei Nishikori (seeded 2)

Why he could win: 

Nishikori’s big breakthrough has to come at some time or another, and after ten years on tour, and three years after his one and only trip to a slam final, an ATP 1000 trophy seems already too long overdue.

Nishikori has been to three ATP 1000 finals, and was on the verge of winning one before injury got the better of him versus Rafa Nadal in Madrid ’14, and lost the other two to Novak Djokovic (Miami ’16, Toronto ’16). Those losses were typical of Nishikori in big matches versus the game’s biggest players- in the first, his body letting him down, in the second and third, the Japanese putting in an underwhelming performance allowing him to be overwhelmed by his rival.

Nishikori does have his moments, though- see his win over Murray in the ’16 US Open last eight- and with Djokovic and Murray out of the draw, while there are still some big players in the draw like Federer, Nadal, and Wawrinka, none are as consistent as the world’s top two, and Nishikori has proven he is capable of beating all of them in big matches (Federer in Miami and Madrid, Nadal in Canada and the Olympics, Wawrinka at the US Open.)

This is not the first time in recent weeks Nishikori has been faced with a promising ATP 1000 chance- Japanese looked like he had a shot to contend for the title last week in Indian Wells, but was defeated by Jack Sock in the quarters. That Sock loss might actually be good for Nishikori in terms of Miami where has been to the final and the conditions suit his aggressive baseline game. The loss to Sock gives him time to work on what let him down- mainly his mentality- and motivate him for what is easily the best chance he will ever have to win his first ATP 1000 title and get tennis’ lost generation in the right direction again.

Why he might not: 

Rewatch the Sock match in Indian Wells or his WTF semi final versus Djokovic last season. If Nishikori’s mind does not get the better of him, his body might.

The Japanese also has a tough potential third round match with Fernando Verdasco, and the Spaniard will be ready to take advantage if Nishikori feels the pressure of being the second seed and one of the biggest favorites at an ATP 1000 for the first time.

However, if Nishikori can make it past the third round, he has a pretty favorable draw with Pablo Carreno Busta in round four, the struggling Marin Cilic lined up for the last eight, and Rafa Nadal in the semis, an opponent who may lead him 9-2 in their head to head but who Nishikori defeated in a tough three setter back in Rio and against whom, if his aggressive baseline game is in good shape, he can, as he also showed in Madrid ’14, push to the limits.

Rafa Nadal (seeded 5)

Why he could win: 

Nadal is a four time finalist, going all the way back to 2005 when he lost to Roger Federer in five sets after leading two sets to love, and there are not many big events like Miami where Nadal has played so well, from earning his first ever win over Federer in 2004 to compiling a 35-11 career record, but has only been at the losing end in the biggest match.

Still going strong, and stronger than he has been for some time with his recent Australian Open final appearance, Nadal enters the Miami Open at a good time- Federer just won Indian Wells and it would be a lot to ask of a 35 year old fresh off a tournament win to win back to back titles, and Djokovic and Murray are out of the draw.

If Nadal, himself, is fit, he has the experience, a game which suits the Miami courts, and the top spin to get the better of both his tricky opponents and the sometimes windy conditions.

Nadal will have his work cut out to defeat Philipp Kohlschreiber in round three, Grigor Dimitrov in round four, Milos Raonic in the last eight, Kei Nishikori in the semis, and Stan Wawrinka in the final, but few players have worked harder than Nadal over the last thirteen years in Miami and the time seems right, with the recent resurgence of the Spaniard’s great career rival Roger Federer and his own comeback to form, for Nadal to win his first Miami trophy.

Why he might not:

Federer said Nadal was not fully fit after his straight sets win over him in Indian Wells, and Nadal will need to be in tip top shape to get through a draw that could see him have to beat, from the fourth round, Dimitrov, Raonic, Nishikori and Wawrinka or Federer in the final,

Stan Wawrinka (seeded 1)

Why he could win: 

Stan Wawrinka can win practically anything he has his heart on, he just has to get deep in the draw to get the heart wanting.

Wawrinka has never gone deep in Miami- in 8 appearance, he has been to the last sixteen twice (‘09, ’14) and has a 7-8 record. But past form at an event means little for Wawrinka who had never been past the quarters of the Australian Open or Roland Garros before winning those events- what matters for the Swiss No.1 is the here and now

Wawrinka is coming in match fit, coming off a finals appearance in Indian Wells where he won two three set tiebreakers back to back, and with a point to prove after being beaten in the final by Roger Federer.

The Miami conditions should suit Wawrinka, the medium slow hard courts complimenting his big back-swing and the Swiss capable of the necessary power to hit through the courts, and if the Swiss can get to the final, through a draw which schedules him versus Alexander Zverev in round four, David Goffin in the last eight, and Roger Federer in the last four, he will be the favorite to win.

Why he might not:

Wawrinka has a poor record in ATP 1000s for someone who has won three grand slams. In 93 main draw appearances, he has won just one title (Monte Carlo ’14), reached three other finals (Rome ’05, Madrid ’13, BNPPO ’17), and been to five other semis and 12 quarter finals.

Getting up for early matches in ATP events seems to be a struggle for the big match loving Stanimal, and it will be interesting to see how he handles being the top seed in an ATP 1000 event for the first time- will it motivate him to jump out of the right side of the bed from the get-go, or will the pressure wear him out and have him hiding under the covers in his opening rounds?

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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