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Five Things To Watch Out For In The Miami Open Men’s Draw

With a pay cheque of $1,354,010 at stake for the winner, here is the storylines to follow this year in Miami.

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Novak Djokovic (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

2019 marks the dawn of a new era for the 35th edition of the Miami Open.

 

From this year, the event will be hosted at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens after previously being held in Key Biscayne for 21 years. The venue is known best as the home to NFL team Miami Dolphins and will host the prestigious Super Bowl in 2020. Following its development into a tennis venue, a temporary 14,000 capacity premier court has been built within the stadium. There are also 27 further courts built around it.

The men’s draw for the tournament took place on Monday with plenty is interest surrounding the top names in the sport. Here are five things to following throughout the Masters 1000 tournament.

Novak’s shot at history

Novak Djokovic is the most successful player in the history of the tournament alongside Andre Agassi with six titles each. This year he will be bidding to become the most decorated male player in the history of the Miami Open with a seventh title.

The world No.1 will be keen to make up for a disappointing run in Indian Wells, where he was stunned in the third round by Philipp Kohlschreiber. Making it the first time he has failed to reach at least the quarter-finals of an event since the Canadian Open in August.

“I’m going to have Marian (Vajda), my coach, joining us in Miami.” Djokovic told reporters last week. “There is plenty of time until my first singles match there. Things to work on, without a doubt. I’m not at my highest level. I know that. But I’m slowly building, and hopefully I’ll be able to peak in Miami.”

Whilst it is expected that the Serbian will rapidly recover from his recent misfortunes, he needs to keep his guard up in the draw. Djokovic’s opening match could be against Tomas Berdych, who has he defeated in 25 out of their 28 meetings. Providing Berdych defeats the unpredictable Bernard Tomic in his opening match. Further, in the draw, the top seed could face challenges from John Millman and Roberto Bautista Agut. Although there are other threats lurking in his section, including defending champion John Isner being a possible quarter-final opponent.

Djokovic currently has a win-loss record of 42-6 in the tournament. He made his debut back in 2006.

Federer on course for Wawrinka test

After being denied the Indian Wells title by Dominic Thiem, Roger Federer aims to get back on track. He will be hoping that history will not repeat itself after getting knocked out in the second round of the tournament 12 months ago.

“Everybody’s got to get used to center court or the conditions at the new site. I’m eager to find out how it’s going to be like.” The three-time champion said about the new venue.
“I feel really good, so why shouldn’t I go into the tournament and to the event confident? But then again, we’ll see what the draw is like. We will see how I feel in six days. There is still a lot of open question marks.”

Federer’s path to the title could see him lock horns once again with Stan Wawrinka in the third round. A player he defeated in straight sets only last week. He could start against Australia’s Matthew Ebden, who plays a qualifier in his opening match.

“I’m going to Miami. The body is perfectly fine. That also always keeps me upbeat, and I feel it’s a privilege when I feel this way leaving a tournament.”

Making his debut back in 1999, Federer has won 50 main draw matches at the tournament and last won the title in 2017.

Thiem’s sunshine double bid

Fresh off winning his maiden Masters 1000 title, Dominic Thiem is aiming to continue his winning momentum. After a lacklustre start to the season due to illness, the Austrian defeated four seeded players on route to the Indian Wells title, including his third career win over Federer.

“What makes me happy that I turned pretty bad start to the season to a very good one. I’m back in the top 8 in the race. I’m 4 in the rankings, which is my best ranking. So I turned it from really bad into really good.” Said Thiem.

Thiem now has the chance of achieving the sunshine double, where a player wins both Indian Wells and Miami within the same month. The milestone is a rare occurrence in the sport. In fact, only seven men and three women has achieved it.

Thiem’s draw has ensured that he will play nobody ranked higher than 16th seed Gael Monfils until at least the quarter-final stage. Monfils is currently recovering from an Achilles injury. The 25-year-old has only made it to the quarter-finals of Miami in one out of four attempts. However, it has been reported by some that the courts at the Hard Rock venue are slower. Something that favours Thiem’s game.

The Next gen clan

20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas didn’t have a pleasant experience in his first match as a top 10 player. Losing in straight sets to Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is another rapidly rising star of the men’s game. Seeking to make up for it in Miami, Tsitsipas will be playing in a Masters 1000 main draw for only the 12th time in his career.

Seeded eighth in the draw, the Greek is hoping to reach the quarter-final of a Masters event for only the second time in his career. In order to do that, he may need to overcome either Denis Shapovalov or Marin Cilic in the third round. He could play fellow Next Gen player Ugo Humbert in his opening match if the Frenchman wins his first round match against a yet-to-be decided qualifier.

28th seed Frances Tiafoe in the youngest American player in the top 100. He faces a potentially tricky start to his campaign. Awaiting him will be either former French Open semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis or ex junior world No.1 Miomir Kecmanović. Kecmanović was a surprised quarter-finalist in Indian Wells.

List next gen players in the top 100 (w/c 18/3/2019)

Ranking
Player
Age
Playing 2019 Miami Open
57 Felix Auger-Aliassime 18 Yes
23 Denis Shapovalov 19 yes
95 Miomir Kecmanovic 19 yes
10 Stefanos Tsitsipas 20 yes
26 Alex de Minaur 20 no
63 Ugo Humbert 20 yes
98 Casper Ruud 20 yes
3 Alexander Zverev 21 yes
34 Frances Tiafoe 21 yes
56 Taylor Fritz 21 yes
58 Reilly Opelka 21 yes
61 Jaume Munar 21 yes
99 Andrey Rublev 21 yes

Crunch time for 2018 finalists

Reigning champion Isner and runner-up Alexander Zverev will be feeling the pressure in the tournament. Isner, who has won one title since his triumph in Miami 12 months ago, is defending 1000 points. Meanwhile, Zverev is defending 600.

Isner has enjoyed a solid start to 2019 be winning 10 out of 16 matches player. Reaching the semi-finals of three consecutive tournaments before losing in the third round at Indian Wells to Karen Khachanov. Nevertheless, Isner must advance to at least the semi-finals in Miami to have a chance of remaining in the world’s top 10. A position he has held since September 10th 2018.

Meanwhile, Zverev has already contested a final on the tour this season at the Mexican Open in Acapulco. However, the German has been hindered by illness recently and looked far from his best during his latest match on the tour.

This year Isner is seeded seventh and Zverev second.

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Jamie Murray Wants More Funding For Scottish Tennis Ahead Of Challenger Event

Jamie Murray wants more funding for Scottish Tennis after admitting disappointing response from the LTA.

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Jamie Murray (@the_LTA - Twitter)

Jamie Murray has spoken out on his frustration at the LTA for not giving Scottish enough funding ahead of the Glasgow Challenger event. 

 

The seven-time grand slam champion is getting ready for the Murray Trophy in Glasgow which begins this week where he will be competing.

However one of the concerns right now is the lack of funding it is receiving despite the success of the Murray brothers, who have won a combined ten grand slams between them.

Ahead of the event in Glasgow, the doubles specialist think more can be done to capitalise on their success, “I think so. Certainly from what we’ve achieved over the last however many years, going back to our junior days of playing,” Murray said to STV News.

“If you think about the Scottish players that have represented us in Davis Cup and won ties, I would say they do (deserve more funding), We’re a country after all, not a county.

“Things could have been better over the last ten years to make the most of what Andy has been achieving. Up here Tennis Scotland are doing their best to take things forward. We haven’t always had the best deal from the money that the LTA gets to hand out to Tennis Scotland.”

It’s certainly an issue that has been raging on for the last few years that both Andy and Jamie Murray have been very passionate about.

But only time will tell whether the Lawn Tennis Association listen to the concerns of the two men have been responsible for Great Britain’s recent tennis success.

As for Murray he will be partnering John-Patrick Smith in the event, which is taking place this week and is looking to continue his momentum after winning the US Open mixed doubles title.

Now for the Brit, his main goal is to win Wimbledon as he looks to achieve more doubles success, “It’s been exciting for me in the last few years to go to these level of tournaments and feel you’ve got a genuine chance to win,” Murray admitted.

“For me, Wimbledon would be the biggest goal until the end of my career, to win the men’s doubles. It didn’t work out for me this year but next year. There’s always next year.”

 

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Karolina Pliskova lifts her fourth title of the season in Zhengzhou

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Number 1 seed Karolina Pliskova cruised past number 7 seed Petra Martic 6-3 6-2 after 1 hour and 36 minutes in the final of the Zhengzhou Open, an inaugural WTA Premier tournament. The final was postponed by six hours after torrential rain.

 

Pliskova came back from 0-2 in the first set by winning 12 of the next 15 games to win her fourth title this season after Brisbane, Rome and Eastbourne. The Czech player is the fifth top seed to win a tournament this season after Aryna Sabalenka in Shenzhen, Alison Van Uytvanck in Budapest, Caroline Garcia in Nottingham and Anastasjia Sevastova in Jurmala.

Pliskova took a re-match against Martic, who beat the Czech player in four of their previous five head-to-head matches and won their third round clash at Roland Garros.

Pliskova saved two of her three break points and converted four of her eight break points.

Martic earned an early break with a forehand return winner to open up a 2-0 lead in the first set. As the match resumed after a rain delay Martic did not convert a double break point. Pliskova broke back in the fourth game with a forehand winner to draw level to 2-2.

Pliskova saved a break point chance in the seventh game with a forehand down the line. The Czech player broke serve in the eighth game, when Martic made a forehand error and sealed the first set 6-3 with a service winner.

Pliskova dropped only six points on her first serve in the second set and broke serve in the third game when Martic sent a backhand slice wide. The former world number 1 player held her serve with an ace before breaking for the second time in the fifth game. She hit four winners to seal the win, as she was serving for the match at 5-2.

“I think I played good matches. Of course, not all the matches were perfect, the week never can be really perfect because it’s so many days and so many things can be just different every day. I beat tough players, which I maybe lost to a couple of times before. I think that was the biggest plus of this week, especially with Petra. These wins are always important. It doesn’t matter where you play, which tournament you play, but it’s always important. To get the trophy is always special. It does not matter really which tournament or how big the tournament is, it’s always good”, said Pliskova.  

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Nao Hibino beats Misaki Doi in all-Japanese final in Hiroshima

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World Number 146 Nao Hibino beat Misaki Doi 6-3 6-2 in the all-Japanese final of Haa-Cupid Japan Open in Hiroshima.

 

Doi broke serve at 15 in the second game with a deep return, but she dropped her serve at love in the third game. Dou earned another break with a forehand to open up a 3-1 lead. Hibino pulled the break back in the fifth game, when Doi sent her backhand long.

Hibino reeled off nine consecutive games from 1-3 down to build up a 6-3 4-0 lead with two consecutive breaks in the seventh and ninth games of the first set and two more breaks in the first and third games of the second set. Doi dropped her serve in six consecutive service games and hit 8 winners to 14 unforced errors. Doi pulled back one break in the fifth game. Hibino broke for the third time at deuce to win the second set 6-2.

Hibino claimed both the singles and the doubles titles at the same tournament for the first time in her career. She teamed up with Doi to clinch the doubles title with a 6-3 4-6 10-4 win over Christina McHale and Valeria Savinykh.

“I was so nervous today, so much more than the semifinals, but because I experienced being nervous in the semifinals, I knew what to expect. I was able to stay positive during the match today”, said Hibino.

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