ATP Miami Open 2019 Preview: Will the Old Guard prevent another first time winner of an ATP Masters 1000?

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Over the last two editions of the ATP Masters 1000 series, two new champions were crowned. At the tail end of 2018, Russia’s Karen Khachanov stunned World No.1 Novak Djokovic in Bercy to capture his maiden Masters 1000 title.

In the first Masters 1000 of 2019, Dominic Thiem backed up that trend and ensured that the third time was a charm. After losing his previous two finals at this level, the powerful Austrian exceeded expectations and defied the odds to overcome Roger Federer in three pulsating sets in the final to become champion of the BNP Paribas Open. Could another surprise winner be in store in the Hard Rock Stadium, the new home of Miami Open? Who are the likely possibilities?

Novak Djokovic will still be the man to beat

Novak Djokovic’s eyebrow-raising loss to Philipp Kohlschreiber should not be cause for concern. The Serb labeled that loss as “one of those days” and vowed to bounce back at the Miami Open. Djokovic is currently tied with American Andre Agassi with six Miami Open titles, a record at the tournament. The World No.1 has won the “sunshine double” on four different occasions. In spite of losing at Indian Wells, he is still firmly the clear favorite heading to the second stop of the March Masters.

Dominic Thiem eyes an unlikely Sunshine Double

Dominic Thiem will have the weight of history on his shoulders as he heads to Miami. The new World No.4 – a man synonymous with outstanding clay court results – is now staring at the chance of clinching an unlikely Indian Wells-Miami Open Double. Roger Federer is the last man to achieve that feat (2017). Of course, it was the legendary Swiss that the Austrian beat to claim his first Masters 1000 title of his career last weekend.

Roger Federer will be the fourth seed following Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal

Federer suffered a shocking loss in his last outing in Key Biscayne, falling to then World No.175 Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round. He will be hoping for a change of fortune in Miami Gardens as he chases his fourth Miami Open title. With Rafael Nadal nursing a knee injury, and Andy Murray just recovering from hip surgery, the famous Big Four is now a Big Two.

Could Nick Kyrgios be the new first-time winner of an ATP Masters 1000?

The writing was on the wall at the BNP Paribas Open when Acapulco champion Nick Kyrgios was tipped to be the man to stop the Djokovic juggernaut. Instead, Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated them both. However, it is worth pointing out that the veteran German was playing some inspired tennis before he ran out of steam during his encounter against Gael Monfils.

Given the recent success of first-timers at the Masters level, the mercurial Australian could be the spark at the Hard Rock Stadium this fortnight. Kyrgios was involved in one of the most spectacular matches in the history of the Miami Open when he lost to Roger Federer in three tiebreaks in 2017. John Isner won last year’s edition of the Miami Open, and a Kyrgios triumph this year is certainly not beyond his capabilities.

Early Round matches to look forward to

Novak Djokovic is the top seed and receives a bye in the opening round. He faces an enticing matchup against either Tomas  Berdych or Bernard Tomic in the second round. The Serb could meet Roberto-Bautista Agut in the fourth round. The Spaniard scored an impressive victory over the World No.1 in Qatar in January.

Roger Federer could meet countryman Stan Wawrinka in the third round for the second straight tournament. Federer beat the 3-time Grand Slam winner in straight sets at Indian Wells. Also in that quarter of the draw, Kevin Anderson will make his comeback from injury, along with Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev.

Dominic Thiem will be buoyed by his recent success in Indian Wells. At a career high ranking of World No.4, the Austrian could open up against a tricky second round opponent. BNP Paribas Open quarterfinalist Hubert Hurkacz or Italian Matteo Berretini awaits.

Nick Kyrgios could face Kei Nishikori in the third round. The Japanese is a former finalist but he is yet to hit the heights of the opening week which saw him end his title drought in Brisbane. If the pair meet, Kyrgios could have an edge.

Denis Shapovalov could be a dark horse in the tournament.  He outclassed Marin Cilic in Indian Wells last week. The pair could see each other in a rematch in Round 3.

The highlight of the first round matches will certainly be the one between David Ferrer and Sam Querrey. The former World No.3 will almost certainly play his last hard-court tournament with his retirement imminent. Ferrer is former finalist in Miami and he is playing Querrey at possibly the right time. The American World No.68 is at his lowest ATP ranking since 2014. The winner of this match will play Alexander Zverev, who is the second seed.

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