The second ATP 1000 event, part of the nine super series tournaments has a new sponsor Itau this year. Miami will mark the return to the fold for Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro (US Open 2009 champion) and the flamboyant Frenchman Jo Wilfried Tsonga. The winner at Indian Wells last Sunday Novak Djokovic who is defending his title here will will aim to become the first player in the history of the game to sweep both the hard court titles in North America for an unprecedented third time. Having already attained the feat of winning in the desert of Indian Wells, California and Key Biscayne, Florida in 2011 and 2014; the world’s top player is poised to claim his fifth title having won previously in 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2014. The event played over 12 days and having 96 players in the men’s draw will not feature the 2005 and 2006 champion Roger Federer and the US Open champion Marin Cilic.
The spotlight will entirely be on Djokovic and the other players who have been struggling to attain the desired results after returning from injuries. Four-time runner up in Miami, Rafael Nadal will be bidding to claim his maiden title while Andy Murray, two time winner in 2009 and 2013 would be hoping to add a third in his second home Miami. Djokovic won his Fifth Australian Open title apart from winning his fourth Indian Wells title by BNP Paribas is 19-2 this year and could run into the sixth seeded Spaniard David Ferrer in the quarter-finals. Ferrer has won a tour best three titles in 2015 (Doha, Rio De Janeiro and Acapulco) and like Djokovic boasts a 19-2 start to the year. Del Potro has a tricky assignment against Canada’s Davis Cup hero Vasek Pospisil while the 11th seeded Tsonga who has a bye into the second round will play the American Tim Smyczek who was a winner on Day One beating Spanish qualifier Adrian Menendez- Maceiras.
Rafael Nadal will open his campaign against fellow countryman Nicolas Almagro, another former top ten player who too was sidelined by injuries last year. Almagro was a winner on day one as he beat the Russian Sergey Stakhovsky the man who put Federer out of Wimbledon 2013 in the second round. Nadal would also have the opportunity to avenge his quarter-final loss in the Australian Open as he has a potential re-match in the last eight against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic who halted his 17 match loosing streak as he upset the world no 3 in straight sets in Melbourne. Andy Murray has a rematch of the Davis Cup first round against left handed American Donald Young whose first round opponent Yen Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei retired trailing 1-5 in the first set. Murray is in the same quarter of the draw as the 2014 Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka who will be hoping to make amends after loosing in the second round in Indian Wells to Robin Haase. The Swiss will open up against Argentine Carlos Berlocq who outlasted Australian teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis in three sets on Wednesday.
The last remaining quarter of the draw features features the two young guns Kei Nishikori of Japan and Milos Raonic of Canada. Nishikori who beat Raonic in Japan’s first round loss in the Davis Cup is seeded one one place above the Canadian at Number Four. Raonic had a break through win against Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells before loosing to Roger Federer in the semi-finals. He has also reached the quarter-final or better in his last 10 ATP 1000 tournaments. He has a difficult fourth round match against the winner of the match between Bulgaria’s Grigor Dmitrov or the top American John Isner in the round of 16. Should the top four seeds reach their appointed semi-final places Novak Djokovic would have the opportunity to avenge his US Open 2014 semi-final loss to Nishikori while Nadal will play Murray in the bottom half of the draw.
The highlight of the opening day was the 18 year old Korean teenager Hyeon Chung who won his first tour level match when he defeated the the Spaniard Marcel Granollers in three sets and now faces Berdych in the second round. Apart from Young and Smyczek three more Americans Sam Querrey, Jack Sock and Austin Krajicek too won their first round matches. Juan Monaco of Argentina joined countryman Carlos Berlocq while giving company to Almagro was fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The remaining six winners on Day One were the Austrian Dominic Thiem, German Jan-Lennard Struff, Finland’s Jarrko Nieminen, Dutchman Robin Haase, Fillip Krajinovic of Serbia and the Australian James Duckworth.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy.You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]