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Miami Open 2021: Men's singles draw analysis, preview & prediction

Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas
Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas
Rudra Biswas
ANALYST
Modified 23 Mar 2021
Feature

The ATP tour travels to Miami this week for what will be the first Masters 1000 tournament of the year. That said, a significant portion of the caravan will be missing the event - including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Roger Federer - due to a string of different reasons.

If the withdrawal of the Big 3 wasn't damaging enough, there has also been a state of emergency declared in Miami - along with an 8 p.m. curfew. The second wave of COVID has hit the city hard, forcing the Miami Open to allow only a limited number of fans on site.

But the tournament will likely still offer a lot of entertainment, with the 'Four Horsemen' of the NextGen being the headliners. World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev returns to action for the first time since winning his 10th career title in Marseille, and he will be joined by Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev as the top four seeds.

A lot of veterans may be missing in action, but that also means there's a good chance of a new player making a career breakthrough. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have monopolized the Masters tournaments lately, sharing 99 such titles between them. So in their collective absence (for the first time since Paris 2004), the younger pack could perhaps strengthen their charge towards the top.

With main draw action set to kick off on Wednesday, here's a look at how the men's singles field is likely to play out:

Top half: Can Daniil Medvedev continue his strong run of form?

Daniil Medvedev
Daniil Medvedev

Top seeds: [1] Daniil Medvedev, [3] Alexander Zverev, [7] Roberto Bautista Agut, [8] David Goffin

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Expected semifinal: Daniil Medvedev vs Alexander Zverev

Dark horse: Andy Murray

Analysis: Daniil Medvedev has put up a great run since last year, winning titles at the 2020 Paris Masters, the 2020 ATP Finals, the 2021 ATP Cup and the 2021 Open 13 Provence. Although the Russian fell short in the Australian Open final, he seems primed for another big win - and will be the proverbial player to beat in Miami.

Medvedev could face the big-serving Reilly Opelka in the third round. And while he has a fairly straightforward projected Round of 16 match against either Dan Evans or Dusan Lajovic, the going will get much tougher from there.

There are several good players on the other side of Medvedev's quarter, including seventh seed Roberto Bautista Agut, former Miami champion Andy Murray and Next Gen star Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Andy Murray won the Miami Masters in 2009 and 2013
Andy Murray won the Miami Masters in 2009 and 2013

Andy Murray, a former World No. 1 who has had to endure serious hip injuries in recent years, enters the Miami Open as a wilcard. The three-time Major champion believes he can still compete with the world's best players, and will be put to the test right from his opening match in Miami as he takes on Dubai finalist Lloyd Harris.

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If Murray gets through that match, a blockbuster second-round encounter against Roberto Bautista Agut awaits. The winner of that match will most likely face Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is currently ranked 19th in the ATP rankings.

The in-form Alexander Zverev will also be looking to add the Miami Open to his already healthy tally of Masters 1000 wins. However, the German finds himself in a trickier quarter than Medvedev.

Zverev could face either Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori or talented 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in his opener, before possibly taking on Doha champion Nikoloz Basilashvili in the next match. The 23-year-old might then have to diffuse the challenge of either fast-rising Jannik Sinner or big-hitting Karen Khachanov in the Round of 16.

Eighth seed David Goffin finds himself in a relatively easier part of the draw compared to his other top seeded peers. Ninth seed Grigor Dimitrov, USA's Taylor Fritz and the unpredictable Alexander Bublik are the only high-profile names in Goffin's path.

Predicted semifinal: [11] Felix Auger-Aliassime vs [3] Alexander Zverev

Early round matches to watch out for: Andy Murray vs Lloyd Harris, Andy Murray vs [7] Roberto Bautista Agut, [11] Felix Auger-Aliassime vs [18] John Isner

Bottom half: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev looking to rebound by winning their maiden Masters title

Stefanos Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas
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Top seeds: [2] Stefanos Tsitsipas, [4] Andrey Rublev, [5] Diego Schwartzman, [6] Denis Shapovalov

Expected semifinal: Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Andrey Rublev

Dark Horse: Aslan Karatsev

Analysis: Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is seeking his career's first Masters 1000 title in Miami, has been in great form so far this year. The Greek defeated Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open from two sets to love down en route the semifinals, before finishing runner-up in Acapulco to Alexander Zverev.

That said, Tsitsipas would be disappointed at dropping the championship match against Zverev in the manner that he did. The World No. 6 wasted three break points that would have given him a 5-1 lead in the first set, after which Zverev assumed full control of the match.

Tsitsipas will, needless to say, be looking to shake off that loss by producing a strong performance in Miami. He could face either Kevin Anderson or Thiago Monteiro in his opener, before most likely taking on 28th seed Kei Nishikori in the third round.

The prospective match-up between Tsitsipas and Nishikori, who finished as the runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Miami in 2016, would be their first meeting since 2018. If Tsitsipas is able to navigate past the Japanese' challenge, he will most likely face 15th seed Alex de Minaur in the Round of 16.

The Greek could then face eighth seed Denis Shapovalov in the quarterfinals, which could be a contender for match of the tournament if it happens. Tsitsipas will be hoping to even his head-to-head record with Shapovalov this week, having lost to the Canadian at the 2020 ATP Cup and also at this very tournament two years ago.

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Fourth seed Andrey Rublev will also be gunning for a maiden Masters 1000 triumph in Miami. The Russian has been in fine form himself this year, having won the Rotterdam event before reaching the semifinals at Dubai to extend his winning run at 500-level events to 23.

Rublev was stopped by eventual champion Aslan Karatsev in the last four. The World No. 8 will likely have revenge on his mind now, with Karatsev looming large on the other side of this quarter.

Rublev's draw early on is quite docile, with the seeded players in his path being Marton Fucsovics, Benoit Paire and Cristian Garin. Things get tricky from the Round of 16, where Rublev could face Karatsev or fifth-seeded Diego Schwartzman.

Predicted semifinals: [17] Aslan Karatsev vs [2] Stefanos Tsitsipas

Early round matches to look out for: [2] Stefanos Tsitsipas vs [28] Kei Nishikori, [12] Milos Raonic vs [26] Ugo Humbert, [6] Denis Shapovalov vs [26] Hubert Hurkacz, [17] Aslan Karatsev vs [10] Fabio Fognini

Prediction for the final

Alexander Zverev vs Stefanos Tsitsipas

Predicted champion

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Published 23 Mar 2021, 02:12 IST
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