2018 Miami Open: Men's singles preview and predictions

The Indian Wells finalists lead a strong field into Miami with the second Masters 1000 trophy of the season on the line.

2018 Miami Open: Men's singles preview and predictions
Roger Federer won the title in Miami last year and will look to bounce back after a tough loss in Indian Wells. Photo: Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Mere days after the world was treated to one of the best finals in years, the stars of the ATP World Tour are right back at it on the east coast of the United States. The second Masters 1000 event of the season, the Miami Open, gets underway this week, with the Indian Wells finalists eyeing a potential rematch of their west coast classic two Sundays from now.

Th draw is out, the paths are drawn. Here is what to expect from the men at the Miami Open.

Top Quarter: Clear start for Federer

After a long tournament in Indian Wells, defending champion and top seed Roger Federer has caught a break with the draw in Miami. The Swiss is a combined 37-6 against seeded players in his quarter. The only seed who has ever beaten him in the past, accounting for all six of those losses, is 10th seed Tomas Berdych, who is Federer’s potential round of sixteen opponent.

The top seed has beaten Berdych nine straight times, seven of them in straight sets, with the Czech’s last win coming in 2013. However, Berdych has done well against Federer in Miami in the past, taking the eventual champion to a third set tiebreak last year and beating Federer here in 2010.

Roger Federer celebrates defeating arch-rival Rafael Nadal in the 2017 Miami final. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images
Roger Federer celebrates defeating arch-rival Rafael Nadal in the 2017 Miami final. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

After a bye, Federer will open again a qualifier and could meet 31st seed Fernando Verdasco, who upset Grigor Dimitrov earlier this month in Indian Wells, in the third round. 16th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, 18th seed Adrian Mannarino, and American Steve Johnson are potential fourth-round opponents.

To set a date with Federer, Berdych will likely have to go through sixth seed Kevin Anderson, who is also in that section of the draw. Anderson has done well of late in the US, having reached the final of the US Open last fall, winning the New York Open earlier this year before reaching the quarterfinals of Indian Wells. The Czech could also meet Australian Open semifinalist Kyle Edmund in the third round, while Anderson could have to go through recent Marseille champion Karen Khachanov.

Prediction: Federer d. Anderson

Second Quarter: Zverev’s shaky section

Seemingly anyone could be Federer’s potential semifinal opponent as the second quarter of the draw is full of streaky and inconsistent players. Fourth seed Alexander Zverev leads the way, looking to bounce back after disappointing results in the season’s first two big events. He will open against a fellow young gun, either Stefanos Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev, and could meet 2013 Miami runner-up David Ferrer in the third round.

Zverev could have his hands full in the fourth round, as Nick Kyrgios is his likely opponent. The Aussie has reached the semifinals in Miami the last two years, although he is making his comeback after missing several events with an elbow injury. To reach the fourth round, Kyrgios may have to go through the living embodiment of inconsistency, 15th Fabio Fognini, in the third round.

Alexander Zverev will look to bounce back after this disappointing loss in Indian Wells. Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Alexander Zverev will look to bounce back after this disappointing loss in Indian Wells. Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The American fans will be rooting for a blockbuster fourth-round clash between their top two players, as 8th seed Jack Sock and 11th seed Sam Querrey, who fell just short of his first Masters 1000 semifinal last week in Indian Wells, are on a collision course. However, surprise Indian Wells semifinalist Borna Coric may have something to say about that, as he could meet Sock in the third round. Querrey also faces a potential challenge in the third round in the form of either 26th seed Damir Dzumhur, the troublesome Viktor Troicki, or youngster Denis Shapovalov.

Whoever emerges from this section could meet Zverev or Kyrgios in the last eight.

Prediction: Querrey d. Zverev

Third Quarter: del Potro’s rough road

It will be a tough turnaround for the Indian Wells champion if he hopes to sweep the Sunshine Double. Fresh off a maiden Masters 1000 crown last week, Juan Martin del Potro could have his hands full starting in the third round, where he is slated to meet 2016 Miami runner-up Kei Nishikori. The Japanese, who is on the comeback from injury, has reached the quarterfinals or better in Miami four years in a row.

A win there could lead to a clash with six-time Miami champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round. However, Djokovic has struggled in his comeback after an injury-shortened 2017 season and will be hard-pressed to reach the fourth round. He was upset in his opening match in Indian Wells, admitting he was far from 100 percent, and will meet wither Mischa Zverev or Benoit Paire in his opening match in Miami before a potential clash with countryman and 22nd seed Filip Krajinovic in the third round.

Juan Martin del Potro won his first Masters 1000 title last week in Indian Wells, seen here hoisting the trophy. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
Juan Martin del Potro won his first Masters 1000 title last week in Indian Wells, seen here hoisting the trophy. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images

There are a plethora of potentially dangerous opponents waiting for del Potro in the quarterfinals. Third seed Grigor Dimitrov will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing result in Indian Wells. He could meet 30th seed Richard Gasquet in the third round. The other surprise Indian Wells semifinalist, Milos Raonic, could set up a rematch with del Potro should he make it past 13th seed Diego Schwartzman and whoever else emerges from that section of the draw, including Dimitrov or Gasquet in the fourth round.

Del Potro has the skill to get past all of these opponents, but at what physical cost? After a long tournament in Indian Wells and facing a brutal draw in Miami, will the Argentine have enough gas in the tank to go all the way?

Prediction: Del Potro d. Raonic

Bottom Quarter: The Kids challenge Cilic

The bottom quarter of the Miami draw highlights the stark contrasts between the old guard and the NextGen. Second seed Marin Cilic will be one of the many veterans looking for a reset after an early exit in Indian Wells. He will open against either Pierre Hugues-Herbert or American youngster Taylor Fritz, with 20-year-old Andrey Rublev looming in the third round. Should Cilic survive the early rounds, he will likely meet a big-serving veteran as 14th seed John Isner and 23rd seed Gilles Muller are potential opponents.

Marin Cilic is seeded second at the second straight Masters 1000 event this week in Miami. He bowed out early in Indian Wells. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Marin Cilic is seeded second at the second straight Masters 1000 event this week in Miami. He bowed out early in Indian Wells. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

2017 NextGen Finals champion Hyeon Chung made a breakthrough in Indian Wells by reaching his first Masters 1000 quarterfinal. To do even better in Miami, he will have to go through 12th seed Roberto Bautista Agut, already a two-time winner this year, in the third round.

There, he could meet seventh seed David Goffin, who is making his return after suffering a scary eye injury in Rotterdam back in February, or 25th seed Feliciano Lopez. Americans Ryan Harrison and Jared Donaldson both loom in that section of the draw. Whoever emerges from that could meet Cilic in the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Chung d. Cilic

Semifinal predictions: Federer d. Querrey, del Potro d. Chung

Final prediction: Federer d. del Potro