The men's singles event at the Miami Open - starting today - continues the March Masters action on the US hard courts, and with Juan Martin Del Potro surprising Roger Federer in the Indian Wells final on Sunday, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, returns to preview the event...
"Federer has been installed as the market favourite, at a similar price to his pre-event line for Indian Wells a fortnight ago, at a current [2.44] on the Exchange. This is pretty unsurprising, given that he's the only player on the ATP Tour currently exhibiting data of an elite level, but given his taste for quicker conditions, it seems he's this price rather due to the lack of other realistic contenders."
Conditions similar in Miami to those experienced at Indian Wells
Historically, the profile of the Miami Masters is virtually identical to that of Indian Wells. Firstly, the best players have tended to perform well - only Andy Roddick and Nikolay Davydenko have been non Federer/Djokovic/Murray winners in the last decade - and this is unsurprising given the financial and ranking point rewards on display in the coming fortnight.
In addition, court speed at Crandon Park is medium-slow, again similar to that in California, with just 77.1% of service games held in the last three years, a figure 2.3% down on the ATP hard court mean. The three-year aces per game figure of 0.45 is very low for a hard court event, and again reflects the lack of pace on the courts at the venue.
Federer an uneasy favourite despite elite-level data
The upshot of this is that some return-orientated clay-courters could get some joy in the opening couple of rounds at big prices, and we saw this demonstrated at Indian Wells as well. Furthermore, serve orientated players are likely to not find conditions to their liking, and perhaps that's demonstrated by Roger Federer's lack of success at the venue - even in last year's triumph, he needed to win final set tiebreaks against Nick Kyrgios and Tomas Berdych, and two tiebreaks against Roberto Bautista-Agut.
Despite this, Federer has been installed as the market favourite, at a similar price to his pre-event line for Indian Wells a fortnight ago, at a current [2.44] on the Exchange. This is pretty unsurprising, given that he's the only player on the ATP Tour currently exhibiting data of an elite level, but given his taste for quicker conditions, it seems he's this price more due to the lack of other realistic contenders.
Anderson and Coric with the potential to make an impression
Looking at the main rivals for Federer in the top half of the draw, Kevin Anderson, Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios will fancy their chances of going deep in the event, although the latter two have shown quite an inconsistent level in recent months. Sam Querrey and Borna Coric have improving hard court data and the Croat prospect, Coric, really should have beaten Federer last week at Indian Wells, throwing away numerous leading positions. He's also shown a big improvement in 2018 so far.
Anderson, winning 71% of service points, and 35.5% on return, has top 10 hard court data - he's certainly not over-rated by his ranking, at least on this surface - and he's in good shape this year, with similar 2018 data. A segment with the injury doubts Tomas Berdych and Kyle Edmund, and a slightly over-rated Karen Khachanov could be worse, and he's seeded to face Federer in the quarter-final. At [42.0] on the Exchange, he offers some trading potential, as well as the 66/1 on Coric with the Sportsbook.
Bottom half of the draw wide open
The bottom half of the event is wide open, with the fitness doubts Novak Djokovic (shocked by Taro Daniel a fortnight ago), Milos Raonic and David Goffin joined by the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov, Roberto Bautista-Agut and Marin Cilic.
Picking players to come through here is akin to trying to pick the winning lottery ticket - there isn't a great deal to split them statistically right now - and with the fitness of a number of players up for debate, it's tough to make a call.
Djokovic with much to prove following Daniel defeat
Certainly, Djokovic would have liked to get more matches in his legs last time out in California, and the way he capitulated to Daniel - a player ranked outside the top 100 - in the final set would be a huge concern for the Serb. Benoit Paire is a potential opening opponent in round two, and a match-up against the talented but inconsistent Frenchman will be a good marker of where Djokovic's game is at right now.
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