Miami Open Third Round Preview Roger Federer Vs Juan Martin del Potro

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Finally, the match Roger Federer (4) and Juan Martin del Potro (29) fans, the one we thought we were getting last year at Key Biscayne, is here, this time in the Miami Open third round. The Tennis Review previews the highly anticipated action and predicts the winner.

A year ago, both Federer and del Potro were on the comeback from injury and surgery, and what a difference a year has made to these great friends and rivals. Since last March, Federer took six months off the tour from late June only to come back to the tour in slam and ATP 1000 winning fashion, raising the Australian Open and Indian Wells trophies, and del Potro has climbed all the way back to being seeded for ATP 1000s, (he is 29 in Miami) beaten the likes of Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray, and won an Olympic Silver medal.

Coming into this Miami Open third round match, del Potro is the rustier of the two, having just played three events (Delray beach, Dubai, Indian Wells), and going 6-3, but those three losses have come to the game’s best, that kind of quality needed to defeat the Argentine, the first to Milos Raonic, and the last two to Novak Djokovic, both times in three sets, the Argentine bringing out the best in the struggling Serbian each time.

Federer, meanwhile is anything but rusty, a finely oiled hybrid, part machine, part living legend, on a roll, winning 7 matches in a row, including wins over Rafa Nadal, and Stan Wawrinka. However, despite his best start to a season since 2006, after his Australian Open win, the world No.6 did suffer a third round loss in Dubai to 117th ranked qualifier Evgeny Donskoy and since revamping his game in 2014 and getting back to the top of the game after an injury hit 2013, he has thrown in the odd shock loss now and then, and early on in tournaments (Ramos Vinolas in Shanghai ’14, Isner Paris ’15), a sign for del Potro that while Federer may not be the best draw the Argentine could have asked for from the tennis Gods so keen to reward their long suffering fans with a match up (this is the first since the WTF 2013 which Federer won in three tough sets), this early match up, with Federer just coming off a big win and del Potro relatively fresh, could be a blessing in disguise.

Miami is not one of Federer’s best platforms to showcase his legendary best, either. Though Federer won the title in 2005 and 2006 and has compiled a 44-13 record, he has not played there since suffering a three set loss to Kei Nishikori in 2014, suffered a rare loss to Andy Roddick in 2012, and has not been past the semis since 2006. Back in that final, he beat now coach Ivan Ljubicic, back when he was at his best, and with his game currently the best in the business, this might be the year to strut his stuff in Key Biscayne once again.

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Still, Federer would have likely wished for an easier third round opponent that del Potro, who may be a little out of match practice since winning Stockholm late last season, but has the big match experience and champion’s mentality to draw upon his formidable skills whenever inspired, and he will surely be so in Miami’s humid conditions where he has a career record of 14-8, and made the semis in 2009. The Argentine is also likely to get a lot of support and love from the Latin Americans attending the event, but against Roger Federer, the sport’s darling right now, that will just about be an equalizer rather than an advantage.

del Potro will need some advantages in Miami’s medium slow conditions, his five wins over Roger Federer from twenty matches have come on faster, lower bouncing courts such as the 2009 US Open final, and indoors at Basel (2012, 2013) and the perfect indoor conditions of  the ATP WTF (2009, 2012). The Swiss, meanwhile, dominates the head to head, winning 15 matches in faster conditions like Dubai and Rotterdam, and slower conditions like Roland Garros.

That dominance is down to Federer’s superior all court game, and his ability to match del Potro on all his strengths, the serve and the forehand, and better him in movement and at the net. When it comes to the backhand, the shot which might make the difference in this encounter, the two have always been world’s apart style-wise, but neighbors in strength, with Federer’s one handed shot-maker, (on fire in recent weeks), and del Potro’s steady and at times explosive double hander a sweet contrast, but nowadays universes distance them on the backhand side, with the Argentine’s backhand compromised since wrist surgery, the Argentine relying more on the slice in defensive positions, leaving del Potro vulnerable to Federer exploiting that wing.

One positive for del Potro, however, is that the slow Miami conditions mean he has more time to run around his backhand and hit his inside out forehand, which could, if he gets rhythm on that side, be both devastating on the big points, and in the bigger picture, a match winner. However, the slow conditions also benefit Federer, who, perhaps a little tired after winning in IW and traveling to Miami, has a bit more time to set up his own shots, and has the attacking game to take the time away that del Potro will need to cover up his backhand.

How this match plays out depends largely on when in the day it happens, the court surface slowing down in the humid evenings, and whether or not the rain that has been afflicting the event holds off. The later in the evening and more humid things get, and the heavier the balls, the grittier the grip, and the slower the bounce, the more the match could swing del Potro’s way, and the deeper Federer will have to dig. The match, however, has been scheduled for the day, the first match on after two women’s matches, which means Federer and del Potro could be battling it out around 3pm with the temperature at 26 degrees with 52 percent humidity, conditions which means we should be treated to plenty of winners, sets decided on tiebreakers and some risky shot making on the big points.

If that latter scenario is directed by the tennis Gods up high, we lucky fans will have a match on our hands, the kind that would justify both the enormous respect these two have for each other and their individual fan bases have for them and their rivalry, and the expectations that are always going to come with two of tennis’ biggest names meeting so early at one of its biggest events, a tough draw for both men, but a great one for fans who, whatever happens in this Miami third round match, are guaranteed, with the winner progressing to the last sixteen, plenty of great tennis to come.

Prediction: Federer to win in three sets- del Potro to play his best in spells, but lacking the match toughness over recent months to take some of his chances, finally succumbing to Federer’s magic.

The Tennis Review

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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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