The latest Masters 1000 event of the ATP season, the Miami Open, gets under way on Wednesday. Our Andy Schooler has a 35/1 shot among his picks.
- Miami, USA (outdoor hard)
Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev fully justified their positions are the top of the Indian Wells market last week by making the final.
The Spaniard won that match quite comfortably on Sunday, ending Medvedev’s 19-match winning streak, but between them the two were clearly the best two players on show in the Californian desert, this despite Medvedev’s damning verdict of the slow court surface.
Given the continued absence of Novak Djokovic, who US authorities won’t let into the country, the pair simply have to be at the head of the market going into this week’s Miami Open.
Yet neither is bigger than 3/1 and as well as they both played in Indian Wells, I’m finding it hard to get excited about such prices.
The ‘Sunshine Double’ of Indian Wells and Miami has proved a tough one to complete over the years – indeed only Djokovic and Roger Federer have managed it since Andre Agassi’s feat in 2001.
A big reason for that is the differing conditions.
The players come out of the dry, thin desert air, which the balls fly through, and into the humidity of the Floridian city which makes the balls fluff up and therefore harder to power through the court.
At least the surface should be a bit quicker with the much-criticised Plexipave being replaced by Laykold in Miami, although don’t expect conditions to be slick given that issue with the balls – and we’re back to the Dunlop ones which have angered many already this season with their ‘fluffiness’.
Essentially, there’s going to be a lot of adapting to do and for the likes of Alcaraz and Medvedev it will need to happen quickly.
The former won here last season and 12 months on his year is progressing in similar fashion.
As in 2022, he won a title on clay in South American before impressing in Indian Wells – this year he won the title whereas last season he lost in the semis.
The Spaniard used that effort as a springboard to success in Miami though and I’d make him favourite here given he’s proved he can handle the conditions.
I’d be more wary of backing Medevdev, who has played a lot of tennis over the past month or so.
He’s got another six rounds to negotiate here if he’s to lift the trophy but he’s never gone past the quarter-finals, while a more detailed look at his Miami record shows he’s yet to beat a top-30 player.
I’m certainly happy to take the Russian on and will do so in the form of CAMERON NORRIE.
The Briton has made an excellent start to 2023 and has already passed the 20 wins mark, going 21-4 so far.
He beat the likes of Taylor Fritz, Rafael Nadal and Alex de Minaur on the Australian hardcourts at the start of the season before reaching back-to-back finals on the South American clay and then, in Indian Wells, defeating Andrey Rublev en route to the last eight.
Norrie continues to improve his game and I’m not overly concerned by a 4-4 record at this event – the last two editions have brought defeats to eventual finalist Casper Ruud and Taylor Fritz which is no disgrace.
His consistency contrasts with the enigmatic nature of potential opponents Borna Coric and Hubert Hurkacz. The biggest danger is Medvedev, who is a possible quarter-final foe.
Still, with Norrie at 35/1 and Medevdev just 3/1, I’m prepared to take a chance on the Briton.
On the other side of the draw, if anyone can stop Alcaraz, then there’s a good chance that man will be JANNIK SINNER.
He’s another who has proved his ability in these conditions and arrives in good form having made the semis in Indian Wells on the back of a strong indoor run which brought a title in Montpellier and a semi-final appearance in Rotterdam.
In Miami, Sinner made the final two years ago and looked on course for a repeat last season when injury struck in the quarter-finals.
That was a tough one for this column to take – we backed him that week – but the Italian’s draw gives him a great shot at going deep here again.
Last year’s beaten finalist Ruud is struggling at present (he holds a losing record in 2023), while Rublev has again come up short too often against the elite.
Alex Zverev is still some way short of his best as he continues his comeback from long-term injury, while Roberto Bautista Agut, a player who has done well here in the past, is also finding results hard to come by right now.
Perhaps Grigor Dimitrov, the man we sided with in Indian Wells only for injury to strike again, could provide the toughest test for Sinner in round three.
However, I’m still happy to side with the 21-year-old, whose ability from the baseline was there for all to see in Indian Wells where he took out Fritz and gave Alcaraz his hardest match of the tournament.
While Sinner probably isn’t up there with Alcaraz in terms of shotmaking ability, he’s certainly not far behind and if the two were to meet again in the last four, I don’t think that match would be a foregone conclusion.
That second quarter certainly doesn’t look the strongest but neither does the fourth, as highlighted by the fact Stefanos Tsitsipas is the 11/4 favourite to win it.
He’s done little since his run to the Australian Open final and could well be worth taking on.
Felix Auger-Aliassime hasn’t hit the heights he was reaching at the end of 2022, while Melbourne semi-finalist Karen Khachanov has a wretched 2-6 record in Miami.
Perhaps Frances Tiafoe, a semi-finalist in Indian Wells, can repeat the trick here but I quite like the look of Jiri Lehecka, who is in Khachanov’s section and could meet Tsitsipas in the last 16.
The 21-year-old played some fine tennis at that Australian Open, beating Coric, Auger-Aliassime and Norrie en route to the last eight. He’s since been to the semis in Dubai where he lost to Andy Murray having held five match points – another agonising loss for this column as we had him at 20/1 each-way!
This will be his debut in Miami so we’re a bit in the dark as to how he’ll adapt and that factor is perhaps why I’m not prepared to pull the trigger in the quarter betting at 13/2.
However, if other firms go up with double-figure quotes, he may well be worth a try.
Posted at 1415 GMT on 21/03/23
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