Who will follow del Potro's lead in Miami? Our ATP preview and picks

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Alexander Zverev has won a Masters title on hard courts and is due for a big result in 2018. (AP)

Roger Federer at the top, Marin Cilic at the bottom, Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic set to meet early: Didn’t we just see how this draw played out at the BNP Paribas Open? There are a couple of notable additions in Miami: David Goffin and Nick Kyrgios are in the field, as of now, after missing Indian Wells with injuries. Otherwise, though, the deck has been reshuffled, the players have flown across the country, and the game begins all over again at Crandon Park.

Now that the 29-year-old Del Potro has shown that Federer can still be beaten, isn’t it time for a few younger guns to follow his lead and make their moves?

MEN'S DRAW: Click here

*****

Championship point, Indian Wells, Juan Martin del Potro vs. Roger Federer:

First Quarter

Federer played a lot of tennis this past weekend. Theoretically, he should be able to bounce back with a week’s rest; in 2017, he won Indian Wells and Miami back to back. Still, last year he was visibly wearier in Key Biscayne, where he had to stage a last-ditch escape to survive against Tomas Berdych.

This time Federer’s draw should help him with his recovery. After starting against a qualifier, his path to the semifinals is scheduled to take him up against Fernando Verdasco, Pablo Carreño Busta and Kevin Anderson.

Semifinalist: Federer

*****

Second Quarter

What happened to the Next Gen? Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios have spent most of 2018 spinning their wheels and fending off injury. But they’ll get another shot at a deep Masters 1000 run in this otherwise wide-open quarter.

The German and the Australian would both seem due for a big result here. In 2017 Kyrgios made the semis, where he lost to Federer in the match of the year, and the slow hard courts should suit Zverev’s game. Zverev could face David Ferrer in the third round, while Kyrgios is slated to collide with Fabio Fognini. Is there a chair umpire ready to take that one on?

Potential third-round matches to watch: Zverev vs. Ferrer; Kyrgios vs. Fognini; Borna Coric vs. Jack Sock

Semifinalist: Zverev

Match point, Australian Open, Hyeon Chung vs. Alexander Zverev:

*****

Third Quarter

Now that Delpo has a Masters 1000 title, is he ready, mentally and physically, to make a serious run at another right away? The fifth-seeded Argentine will have the South Florida crowd behind him, and his draw should make another trip to the semifinals a possibility. Del Potro is scheduled to face two high-quality players who are just coming back from injury: Kei Nishikori in the third round, Djokovic in the fourth round. And the top seed in this section is Grigor Dimitrov, who is in the middle of one of his periodic slides in confidence and form.

Player of Interest: Djokovic. The former No. 1 is seeded a seemingly too-high ninth. He once owned the spring hard-court swing, but now he comes to Miami after one of the most dispiriting losses of his career, to Taro Daniel in Indian Wells. This week he’ll start against either Mischa Zverev or Benoit Paire; another immediate defeat would have many of us wondering what, if anything, is in store for Djokovic during the clay-court season and beyond.

Semifinalist: Del Potro

*****

Fourth Quarter

Cilic’s place in the ATP hierarchy remains hard to gauge. He has been to two of the last three Grand Slam finals, and he took Federer to a fifth set in the title match in Melbourne. Yet his early loss to Philipp Kohlschreiber last week in Indian Wells barely made a ripple; no one, it seems, expects the Croat to go deep at any given event. And it’s hard to expect much from him in Miami, where he’s 9-9 for his career.

So who might emerge from this quarter? The top four seeds are Cilic, David Goffin, Roberto Bautista Agut and John Isner, but the player who may generate the most chatter is Hyeon Chung. The 19th seed is slated to face Bautista Agut in the third round, and Goffin after that. Goffin, if his injured eye socket is properly healed, may be the most likely to succeed; he reached the semis in Miami in 2016.

Player of Interest: Taylor Fritz. The American showed that he has the shots and the heart in Indian Wells, but he has shown us that before at that event. Is the young American ready to take those shots on the road, and become a fixture in ATP main draws? He’ll start against Pierre-Hugues Herbert, and would face Cilic, who he beat in Indian Wells last year, in the second round.

Semifinalist: Goffin

*****

Semifinals: Zverev d. Federer; Del Potro d. Goffin

Final: Zverev d. Del Potro


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