2017 Miami Open: Men's singles preview and predictions

2017 Miami Open: Men's singles preview and predictions

The top two are out, which means there's even more to play for at the 2017 Miami Open as the odds of a new champion being crowned has never been higher. Although Roger Federer might have something to say about that.

pete-borkowski
Pete Borkowski

With the BNP Paribas Open barely in the books, the ATP World Tour is quickly putting it in the rearview mirror, flying cross country from California to Florida for the 2017 Miami Open, which gets underway on Wednesday. This year’s event is particularly fascinating as the only two men to win the title in the last six years, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, have both been forced to withdraw with right elbow injuries.

Without the world’s top two players, BNP Paribas Open finalists Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer, the only former Miami champion in the draw, as well as four-time runner-up Rafael Nadal headline the final event prior to the clay court season. All 32 seeded players have a first-round bye. Here’s a look ahead to the 2017 Miami Open.

Top Quarter: Wawrinka’s opportunity

For the first time in his career, Stan Wawrinka will be the top seed at a Masters 1000 event. The Swiss is coming off a runner-up performance in Indian Wells and will be looking to take advantage of being the number one seed at a big event for the first time. The Swiss has a good draw, opening against either Horacio Zebellos or Gastao Elias. The first seed he could face is 31st seed Feliciano Lopez in the third round, with either 18th seeded American John Isner or 16th seed Alexander Zverev in the round of sixteen.

Stan Wawrinka lunges for a forehand during the Indian Wells final. Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images
Stan Wawrinka lunges for a forehand during the Indian Wells final. Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

In the quarterfinals, Wawrinka will meet eighth seed David Goffin, who has had a quiet 2016 so far in the big events, should seedings hold. However, 12th seed Nick Kyrgios is looming in that part of the draw and with no Novak Djokovic, who the Aussie has beaten in his last two events, Kyrgios will be looking for a different big scalp to claim. He reached the semifinals here last year and is primed for another deep run. He has a decent chance to do it, with 17th seed Ivo Karlovic as a potential third-round opponent before Goffin or possibly 2014 runner-up David Ferrer in the fourth round. Whoever comes out of that section would likely play Wawrinka.

Quarterfinal prediction: Wawrinka d. Kyrgios

Second Quarter: Federer’s early test

Roger Federer is contesting the Miami Open for the first time since 2014 and enters the event hotter than he has been in over a decade, having won the first two big events, the Australian Open and Indian Wells, in the same year for the first time since 2006. The Swiss will need to be at his best early in the event as, after opening against either a qualifier or Konstantin Kravchuk, he has a potential clash with Juan Martin del Potro looming in the third round. Should he advance, he will likely have to go through either 14th seed Roberto Bautista Agut or Acapulco champion Sam Querrey in the fourth round.

Roger Federer poses with his Indian Wells trophy. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Roger Federer poses with his Indian Wells trophy. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Dominic Thiem is at his highest ever seeding at a Masters 1000 event this year in Miami and has a fairly decent draw. Thiem will open against either Marcel Granollers or Borna Coric and the first seeded player the Austrian could play is the tournament’s lowest seed, number 32 Paolo Lorenzi, while 10th seed Tomas Berdych, who only has one win against a top 50 opponent so far this year, is Thiem’s likely fourth-round opponent. It’s a beatable draw for the Austrian, who would likely find himself in a showdown with Federer in the quarterfinals.

Quarterfinal prediction: Federer d. Thiem

Third Quarter: Who has the power

The third quarter of the draw features a disproportionate amount of the tour’s firepower. Fifth seed Rafael Nadal highlights the quarter, with a potential Australian Open semifinal rematch with Grigor Dimitrov on the horizon in the fourth round. Nadal opens against either Dudi Sela or a qualifier and could play the hard-hitting Philipp Kohlschreiber, seeded 26th, in the third round. History would dictate that Nadal make the final this year as the Spaniard has made the final every three years starting in 2005. 15th seed Dimitrov has a fairly clear path to the fourth round, the only real threat being the powerful American Steve Johnson potentially in the third round. Nadal narrowly edged Dimitrov in a monstrous semifinal tussle at the Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal hits a backhand volley in Indian Wells. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal hits a backhand volley in Indian Wells. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

And that’s just to reach the quarterfinals. The other part of this quarter doesn’t get any easier. Third seed Milos Raonic makes his return after missing Indian Wells with a leg injury. After a bye, the Canadian will open against either Viktor Troicki or Thiago Monteiro, with the crafty 28th seed Mischa Zverev potentially waiting in the third round. That could set a mouth-watering grudge match with recent Indian Wells semi-finalist Jack Sock, who was gifted the Delray Beach title earlier this month when Raonic withdrew prior to their final. Sock will have to go through either Yoshihito Nishioka or Jordan Thompson in his opener and potentially 19th seed Albert Ramos Vinolas in the third round to set the Raonic clash.

Quarterfinal prediction: Nadal d. Raonic

Bottom Quarter: Nishikori’s clear path

2016 Miami runner-up Kei Nishikori is among the many players who have their highest ever Masters 1000 seeding and, like Thiem and Wawrinka, has been granted a pretty good draw. He’ll open against either Kevin Anderson or a qualifier and could play 25th seed Fernando Verdasco in the third round. Nishikori could face a tricky fourth-round match against Indian Wells semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta, but the Spaniard will have to get past a far more experienced Gilles Simon if he wants to reach a second straight Masters 1000 fourth round, something he has never done before in his career.

Kei Nishikori hits a forehand in the 2016 Miami final. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Kei Nishikori hits a forehand in the 2016 Miami final. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Joining Nishikori in the bottom quarter is seventh seed Marin Cilic, who has a losing record so far in 2017. That being said, the Croatian has a decent draw, with only 30th seed Joao Sousa appearing as a threat in his section of the draw, although don’t count out Ryan Harrison on home soil. 11th seed Lucas Pouille, who has also had a quiet year, is the possible fourth-round opponent for Cilic, although he has a tricky quarter. American Donald Young is a potential second-round opponent, with Indian Wells quarterfinalist Pablo Cuevas potentially waiting in the third round.

Quarterfinal prediction: Nishikori d. Cuevas

Semifinal predictions: Federer d. Wawrinka, Nadal d. Nishikori

Final prediction: Federer d. Nadal

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