Uninspiring card on day one
Monfils looking to improve after return to tour
Wolf looking value over Bublik
Conditions expected to be a little quicker than Indian Wells
First of all, apologies for not covering the latter stages of Indian Wells last week. A flare of a lifelong condition meant I was admitted to hospital for four days - a far from ideal way to spend a long weekend - but thankfully things have improved and I'm now back in a position to return to action today as the Miami Masters gets underway.
Unfortunately, though, there's not a ton to get excited about on day one, which features a number of low-ranked players and plenty of clay courters in action as well.
This is far from ideal with many players not having a great deal of recent data away from the dirt, in advance of being able to make a firm judgement on conditions this year. I'm expecting conditions to be slightly on the slow side of medium-paced, based on historical data.
Murray headlines British interest
There's British interest on day one, which gets underway at 1500 UK time this afternoon. Andy Murray is a heavy 1.271/4 favourite to defeat the Serbian clay-courter Dusan Lajovic, while Kyle Edmund, who has seen his ranking slip outside the top 500 with long-term injury, is a big outsider at 6.611/2 for his meeting with the improving Chinese player, Yibing Wu
Monfils' level tough to predict
Another player with long-term injury issues is Gael Monfils, with the enigmatic Frenchman having played just twice since August, and losing both matches since in pretty unimpressive fashion. He faces countryman Ugo Humbert today, and is 1.392/5 to get the win against opposition who has hardly impressed himself in recent months. It would be rather in line with the variable nature of Monfils' level over the years if he rolled back the years and picked up an underdog victory today.
Fellow Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech could also be underdog potential for his meeting with Taro Daniel, who has benefited from a wild card to be here. Daniel saw his ranking drop outside the top 100 of late, but has done well in consecutive events in Acapulco and Indian Wells and I wonder whether this recency bias has affected the market pricing here today.
Rinderknech won their last meeting at a shorter price than today, and could well cause Daniel more problems than the market anticipates.
Wolf with edge as slight favourite
Several other competitive matches catch the eye, with Alexei Popyrin facing Mikael Ymer for the second consecutive week. Last week in the Phoenix Challenger, Popyrin won 6-2 6-2 when priced at around 2.56/4 pre-match, and has been slashed to 2.001/1 for this clash with the market finding it tricky to split the duo.
Popyrin was dominant in that match in Arizona, winning 58% of points in the match and creating 17 break point chances, so the market movement looks pretty justified here. It will be interesting to see if can back up that win last week against the Swede.
Finally, one marginal favourite I quite like to get the win tonight is Jeffrey John Wolf, who is 1.84/5 for his meeting with Alexander Bublik.
Wolf has lost three in a row but had a decent start to 2023 prior to that, and is a player on a clear upward curve.
Wolf simply has far better numbers on hard court than Bublik, particularly on serve, and beat the man from Kazakhstan indoors in Florence in October as well. It's not too long ago that Bublik lost ten matches in a row around the turn of the year, so Wolf is today's opening day pick.