Federer just doesn’t lose much
Novak Djokovic over Bernie Tomic
Tomic got a great break in his draw when Tomas Berdych pulled out of the tournament and was replaced by Brazil’s Qualifier Thiago Monteiro, ranked #117 in the world. Tomic took Monteiro to task in straight sets, but now must play World #1 Novak Djokovic. Assuming that Nole won’t play another match like he did last week in Indian Wells when he totally laid an egg against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round, the top seed should move on quite comfortably. If Djokovic plays poorly, Tomic has a chance, but even then, I like The Joker.
Roberto Bautista Agut over Janko Tipsarevic
Tipsaravic, a former Top Ten player, is making his way back onto the Men’s Tour after having FIVE operations in the past four years. The Serbian, sporting a nifty ranking of #453, rocked American rookie Brad Klahn in straight sets yesterday, and although not playing near his peak, appears strong enough to get to the Top 100 by the time the U.S. Open starts in early September. Bautista Agut, ranked 25th and seeded 22nd here, is a tall order for Tipsarevic at this time. Not counting RBA’s straight set debacle last week in the second round of Indian Wells against Yoshihito Nishioka, the Spaniard has been one of the Tour’s most consistently excellent players this year. I’m assuming that last week RBA simply ran into a hot player (Nishioka also took out Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 in the third), took his beating, and had an opportunity to rest and relax while dining on all the fantastic food they had in Coachella Valley. Rested and hungry, RBA should improve his lifetime record against Tipsarevic to 3-1 here in Miami.
Fabio Fognini over Guido Andreozzi
The volatile, enigmatic, mysterious Italian, Fabio Fognini, comes into Miami as the giant question mark that he always is. Will he bring his exciting, charismatic, spectacular brand of tennis along with his usual emotionally verbal outbursts, or will he be the player who has the propensity to roll over and play dead when not into playing? The only player on the Tour who is more mysterious is Nick Kyrgios, and that is not a compliment. If Fognini brings his desire and “A” game, he’ll take out Andreozzi, the 80th ranked Argentinian, without much fanfare. If Fognini is in one of his moods, he could be off the court in under an hour as a loser. He was foul last week when he got crushed in his first match by Rado Albot in singles, but he made up for that desultory result by teaming with The Joker in doubles, where they went all the way to the semis (they won two straight Champions tiebreakers) and split $111,860. Look for Fognini to rebound in singles and at least win a round here.
Felix Auger-Aliassime over Marton Fucsovics
Felix Auger-Aliassime (now being referred to as “FA2”), the 18-year-old Canadian, has been a revelation this year. He has gone from a guy who has a lot of potential to a constant threat to the top players on the ATP Tour. A few weeks ago he announced his presence when he went down to South American to battle some of the best clay courters on the slow stuff in Rio, and got all the way to the Finals with wins over Fognini, Garin, Munar, and Cuevas. One thing is for sure: he sure doesn’t play like a teenager. Fucsovics, the 27-year-old Hungarian, is playing his best tennis right now, so this should be a very appealing match to watch. I’m going with FA2 because watching him mature in front of my eyes is a thing to behold. He’s on a mini-roll and shouldn’t be stopped by Fucsovics. Nonetheless, a win over the 36th best player in the world is still a nice scalp to take as a prize for the young Canuck.
Nikoloz Basilashvili over Mischa Zverev
Mischa Zverev hadn’t won a match on the Tour since last August before he got lucky when Nicola Kuhn, his first-round opponent here, had to retire at 2-2 in the third with debilitating cramps yesterday. He should have no such luck with Basilashvili, who is a very tough out. The Georgian is steady and consistent, and this should prove too difficult for Mischa, the older brother of 3rd ranked Sascha, to overcome. I expect the 19th ranked Basilashvili to roll over the Russian with nary a problem.
John Isner over Lorenzo Sonego
John Isner is the #1 ranked American on the Tour, and although his game is not well rounded, his excellent serve keeps him in most matches, and wins many for him. I expect Isner to simply serve Sonego, a 23-year-old Italian, off the court. The courts are gritty in Miami, so I don’t expect Isner to stay back and pound groundies against the much steadier Sonego. Isner will do what he can to advance to net on rallies, and as long as the 6’10” American moves well and competes, he’ll take this match.
Nick Kyrgios over Alexander Bublik
Any time Aussie Nick Kyrgios goes on court he draws spectators who wonder if they’ll see the most singular talent on the ATP Tour play, or if they’ll end up watching a giant mental patient unravel right in front of their eyes. One thing’s for sure: he’s usually worth the money to watch, either way. After watching him self-destruct and disrespect the game, his opponent, and himself in a bewitching display of mediocrity and illness in Delray, Kyrgios displayed unusual self-control and exhausting brilliance as he beat Andreas Seppi, Rafa Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, John Isner, and Sasha Zverev in succession in taking the title at the Mexico Open in Acapulco at the end of February. He won’t need his best game to take out Bublik, a 21-year-old Russian. But if we see the evil Nick, all bets are off.
Gael Monfils over Robin Haase
Monfils is playing his best tennis. Period. I know…he’s 32, and that’s approaching being a Crypt Keeper on the ATP Tour, but he’s 15-3 this year, and that’s counting a match that he didn’t even play in last week in Indian Wells as a loss. After absolutely destroying Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-0, 6-2 in the Round of 16 the athletic Frenchman came up lame and had to default in his expected quarterfinal showdown with Dominic Thiem. If Monfils has not recovered from his hamstring injury from last week, he won’t be able to use his incredible mobility in this match with Haase. Should Monfils not be able to run the 65th ranked Haase, from The Netherlands, will win. But if Monfils is all in this match will be over quickly.
Diego Schwartzman over Reilly Opelka
This match should be a real study in contrasts as Schwartzman, the diminutive (5’6”) Argentinean will try to run his record to 2-0 over Opelka, the 7’0” 21-year-old American who lives in West Palm Beach. Schwartzman competes like a pit bull, and as long as he can get his racket on some of Opelka’s serves he will give the American trouble. If Opelka serves well and keeps the rallies really short, he’s got a very good chance to take the upset. My concern for Opelka, however, is that the courts in Miami are gritty and slow, and that means a big advantage to Schwartzman once the ball is in play.
Roger Federer over Radu Albot
Albot had to qualify for this tournament, winning three matches in the qualies and then another over Aussie Andrew Ebden in the first round. Albot has had a terrific year, having taken the title in Delray Beach, and proving that he will be a mainstay on the Tour. But he’s playing Federer, and Federer just doesn’t lose much. The Fed has his ranking back up where he’s now in the Top Five and I don’t see the gritty Moldovian giving Federer a setback here in Miami. I expect Roger to roll.
Stefanos Tsitsipas over Mackie McDonald
McDonald has had a stroke of luck this week already, having been placed in the main draw as a lucky loser from the qualies, and then taking out 20-year-old Frenchman Ugo Humbert 7-6 in the third in a match that lasted way past midnight last night. McDonald’s luck is over, as Tsitsipas is too versatile, too strong, too steady, and too spectacular for the UCLA Bruin. Although these guys have never played before, I expect the Greek God to establish dominance over the Californian and win this encounter with a solid victory. Mackie will compete, because that’s what he does best. But Tsitsipas will move on.
Denis Shapovalov over Daniel Evans
This match will showcase vastly different styles as Shapovalov is a flashy striker and Evans is a steady retriever. Shapovalov is another Canadian teenager who looks like he may take the sport by storm, but at 19-years-old, he is still learning and is not as consistently excellent as he may be in the near future. Evans, meanwhile, has come back from cocaine suspension with a new maturity and eagerness that has served him well: he’s crafty and competes well. These guys have played twice and the Brit has won both of those matches, but one took place when Shapovalov was just 16, and the other when he was 17, so I’m going to discount those. In a close match I think Shapavalov takes his first match against Evans.
Marin Cilic over Andrey Rublev
Cilic is not the overwhelming favorite that he would have been five years ago when he won the U.S. Open. Still, he is ranked #11 in the world, and is slowly getting most of his game back after falling out of the Top Ten. At 6’6”, Cilic has an overwhelming serve when he’s on, and is tenacious from the backcourt when he’s moving well. Rublev, at 21-years-old, has already been on the Tour for five years, but can’t give Cilic much copetition if the big man is on his game. Rublev qualified for the main draw and then took out Taro Daniel to set up this second round encounter, and will take home the loser’s purse of $26,430 if he doesn’t get by Cilic.
Sascha Zverev over David Ferrer
Sascha, who now wants to go by his given name, Alexander, is the second seed here, as his #3 world ranking becomes him. He holds a 4-2 lifetime advantage over David Ferrer, who has already announced his retirement, which should take place after Wimbledon. Ferrer, the 36-year-old Spaniard who spent years in the Top Five, had a compelling win yesterday over American Sam Querrey, and looked almost dominant in subduing the 6’6” American. He’ll do no such thing to Zverev, as Sascha…er…Alex, who plays for Germany, has a more complete all-court game than Querrey, and should beat Ferrer at his own game. Ferrer will compete, but the scoreboard will end up in the German’s favor.