The top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic and the promising Austrian Dominic Thiem have set up an intriguing fourth round match up between two of the most successful players in 2016 with comfortable straight sets wins on Sunday. Djokovic who has a 24-1 record this year with wins in Doha, Melbourne and Indian Wells easily beat Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-4,6-1 to keep alive hopes of a sixth Miami title and a fourth Indian Wells-Miami double.
The 14th ranked Thiem who has 24-5 record with titles in Buenos Aires and Acapulco dispatched the Japanese qualifier Yoshhito Nishioka 6-2,6-2. Indian Wells semi finalist David Goffin of Belgium had a surprisingly easy 6-1,6-1 win over Serbian Victor Troicki, while the Frenchman Richard Gasquet beat fellow countryman Benoit Paire 6-3,6-0. The seventh seeded Tomas Berdych who was a finalist in 2010 (lost to Andy Roddick) ended the hopes of the lone American in the top half of the draw, the 31st seeded Steve Johnson in a long 2 hour 43 minute encounter 6-3,6-7(6),6-3.
It was the end of the road for two Spanish veterans, as the eighth seeded David Ferrer and the unseeded Fernando Verdasco were eliminated in tightly contested three set matches on Sunday by the unheralded Frenchman Lucas Pouille and the lucky looser from Argentina Horacio Zeballos respectively.
Another seed to fall was the 11th seeded 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia who also lost in three sets to another Frenchman Giles Simon. Ferrer lost a 2 hour 45 minute battle in which he won 125 points, while his victorious opponent Pouille won 123 points.
Both players traded service break twice in the opening set which Ferrer won easily 7-1. The 88th ranked Pouille though levelled the match in a second set tie-break which he won 7-4. The pair had two breaks of serve in the second set as well. The third set too looked set for a decider but Pouille broke serve for the third time in the set to claim the match 6-7(1),7-6(4),7-5.
Giles Simon, who had taken Novak Djokovic to five sets at the Australian Open this year, took the first set 6-3 against Cilic who evened the match by claiming the second set in a tie-break. Simon then took the third easily at 6-3 and will now play fellow countryman Lucas Pouille in the round of 16.The scoreline was 6-3,6-7(4),6-3.
Horacio Zeballos who only got into the draw after Roger Federer withdrew due to a stomach virus on Friday, followed up his win over fellow Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro with a come from behind win over the Spanish left hander Fernando Verdasco 1-6,6-4,7-6(4). The 58th ranked Zeballos has only one career title, in 2013 he beat Rafael Nadal to claim the Chilean Open in Vina Del Mar.
The following is a list of matches to be played in the bottom half of the men’s draw with my pick mentioned first :-
Andy Murray (2) v. Grigor Dmitrov (26)
Gael Monfils (16) v. Pablo Cuevas (23)
Milos Raonic (12) v. Jack Sock (22)
Kei Nishikori (6) v. Alexander Dolgopolov (27)
Jo Wilfred Tsonga (9) v. Roberto Bautista Agut (17)
Nick Kyrgios (24) v. Tim Smyczek (-)
Mikhail Kukushkin (-) v. Damir Dzumhur (-)
Adrian Mannarino (-) v. Andrey Kuznetsov (-)
The two time champion Murray has a 6-2 record against Dmitrov who has dropped to 28th in the world ranking from a once lofty number 8 in August 2014. The Indian Wells finalist Milos Raonic and the Marseille champion Nick Kyrgios take on the Americans Jack Sock and Tim Smyczek respectively.
In another intriguing line up, the Ukrainian Alexander Dolgopolov nicknamed The Dog will play Japan’s Kei Nishikori. Jo Wilfred Tsonga and Gael Monfils would hope to join the trio of Frenchman from the top half in the round of 16 but could be severely tested by the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut and the Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas respectively. Cuevas won two titles this year in Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paolo, winning back to back titles.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]