(14)Carlos Alcaraz d. (6)Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-4
6, 8, 14, NS
SEEDS: ONE & DONE (1st Match Loss)
13 out of 32
MIAMI NEWS & NOTES
*Carlos Alcaraz’s 2022 victory came with the Spaniard as a massive 1.35 (-285) favorite in last year’s final against Casper Ruud. Alcaraz was the third first time winner in Miami in the last four runs after a long period of dominance by the Big Four from 2005-2017. In that stretch, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer racked up all but two of the titles at this stop. Those came from Nikolay Davydenko in 2008 and Andy Roddick in 2009. Alcaraz is bidding to be the first repeat winner in Miami since Djokovic in 2015 and 2016. Djokovic was also the last #1 seed to win in Miami in 2016. The top seed has missed out on advancing past the quarterfinals since that run from the Serb.
*There were 23 underdog hits out of 94 completed matches at the 2022 Miami Open. The largest score came in round one when Juan Manuel Cerundolo took down Dusan Lajovic as a massive 7.25 (+625) dog. Ten of the 23 hits were substantial at 3.00 (+200) or better, so there is definitely an advantage to be had by looking for those spots where taking a larger underdog makes sense.
*Twelve seeds bit the dust in their openers with Miami as another tournament where seeds get a first round bye. That’s just over 38 percent of the seeds down in round two last year, which continued a trend of double digit seeds being eliminated early. In the last five runs in Miami, 60 of the 160 seeds have gone one and done with at least ten going down each year. As you’d expect, a larger portion of the underdog hits do come in round two as a result of seeds losing. In 2022, nine of the eleven underdog scores in round two involved a seed losing.
*There were 30 three set matches in 2022. Look to round two where eleven of those three set finishes took place last year. 2021 also double digit second round matches go the distance with ten of the 32 matches falling into that category. Interestingly, the business end of this Masters 1000 has not seen all that many three set finishes. Just three of the last 20 matches in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals have gone the distance. John Isner’s 2018 title win over Alexander Zverev was the last time the championship match featured three sets and you have to go back to 2015 for the next three set final.
*While Miami still rates as a slow hard court, it will be a welcomed speed increase from Indian Wells. Miami’s slowness overall is around equal to that of Acapulco by most numbers. That makes perfect sense when you think of both locations and the weather conditions that are typically warm and humid. As with Indian Wells, players who have the requisite power on serve will still get their freebies at times in Miami, but it certainly won’t add anything for those who do not possess that trait. Miami should continue to suit guys like Alcaraz, Sinner and Medvedev who can defend deep and chase down balls all over the court. That shouldn’t be a surprise with Alcaraz winning in his first try here, Sinner making a final and quarterfinal in two trips and Medvedev having found his way to the quarters the last two years.
*The 96 player draw is led by the defending champion Carlos Alcaraz who is back into the #1 spot in the rankings after his Indian Wells triumph. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud and Daniil Medvedev round out the top four seeds this week. All have seen some success here, but it’s only Ruud who has made it as far as the final in 2019. The Norwegian has also lost twice in round one in his other two trips. Medvedev has previously mentioned has made the quarters twice in four visits, while Tsitsipas has a single quarterfinal run as his best finish in four tries. The line behind them is intriguing with Felix Auger-Aliassime, Andrey Rublev, Holger Rune and Hubert Hurkacz holding down the five through eight spots in the seeded field. Hurkacz has been the most consistent of the bunch at this stop, winning Miami in 2021 and following up with a semifinal trip last year. Both Felix and Rublev have one semifinal on their resume in Miami, but mostly failed expectations outside of that one run. For Rune, it’s his first time in the main draw as he looks to improve after losing in round three in Indian Wells.
*The remainder of the top half of the seeds is highlighted by Fritz, Sinner and Norrie at the 10-12 spots. While Indian Wells has been better to Fritz, Miami is a site where he has yet to make it past the round of 16. Sinner has shown well already at this stop with a finals trip in his debut in 2021 and a solid quarterfinal run last year that ended due to a retirement in the first set against Francisco Cerundolo due to blisters on his feet. Norrie was solid at Indian Wells with another quarterfinal, but has found Miami difficult to navigate. The Brit found his best result in 2022 with a run to the round of 16 after a third round finish and two early exits in round one. Perhaps the most intriguing guy in the 10-16 mix is Zverev who made the final in 2018 here and has a pair of quarterfinal finishes. He nearly beat Medvedev last week in Indian Wells and appears to be finding some more consistency recently.
*The other half of the seeded field has a lot of mediocrity residing within it. The most intriguing guys might be Matteo Berrettini and Ben Shelton. Berrettini has yet to look like a real threat in 2023, but he’s been getting more reps by playing the Phoenix Challenger last week and that will pay dividends at some point. It may not be this week, but keep an eye on the Italian to see if he figures things out. As for Shelton, he’s found the post-Australian Open landscape to be challenging as we all expected. Difficult draws have kept the American from finding a rhythm so far with just one win in three tournaments. Still, Shelton is competing hard each match. He likely runs into Hurkacz in his second match if he survives his opener, but those challenges are all part of his growing process. It feels like a “marquee” win is coming soon for Shelton.
*Unseeded players have had a fair amount of success in making deep runs recently in Miami. Last year it was Francisco Cerundolo with the shocking semifinal finish along with Miomir Kecmanovic making the quarters. Cerundolo’s semifinal run along with Felix Auger-Aliassime doing the same in 2019, makes it two of the last three runs with an unseeded player in the final four. Overall, four of the last five Miami Opens have seen at least one unseeded quarter finalist. That said, 2007 was the last time there was an unseeded finalist here and you have to go back to the very first Miami Open in 1985 to find the ONLY unseeded champion in the history of the tournament in American Tim Mayotte.
*Three qualifiers in 2022 made it all the way through to the third round with one (Kokkinakis) making it as far as the round of 16. That is the second time in the last three runs that has happened with Auger-Aliassime also making the fourth round back in 2019 as a qualifier. Two others also made it to round three that year. 2018 also saw a pair of players (Mmoh/Kokkinakis) get as far as round three with 2017 also featuring one fourth round surprise in qualifier Jared Donaldson. So in the last five runs, at least one qualifier has made the fourth round three times and at least one qualifier has made the third round four times. Don’t sleep on the qualifiers with plenty of talent again in that draw, including a red hot Nuno Borges, Cristian Garin, Jan-Lennard Struff and Jordan Thompson.
There are again a few potential spots of interest in the Carlos Alcaraz quarter this week. There was a possible clash with Tommy Paul if things worked out in Indian Wells last week, but it did not materialize when Paul fell short against Felix Auger-Aliassime who would lose to Alcaraz in the next round. This time around, Paul has what appears to be a more certain chance to get a shot against the world number one. Alcaraz’s half realistically may come down to the Spaniard and Paul in the round of 16. The only prospective fly-in-the-ointment type may be Maxime Cressy in round three. Cressy will do well to make it there however with a date against Murray or Lajovic in his opener for round two. Cressy’s serve and volley would be an interesting twist against Alcaraz, perhaps the only intrigue early for the top seed.
As for Paul, his half has Davidovich Fokina as the other seed. Paul had his best showing here last season with a third round finish, but looks poised for more in 2023. Off the bye, it should be a manageable opener against Huesler or Ramos-Vinolas. Huesler has not recaptured the magic we saw in spots in 2022 as he carries a five match losing skid in ATP main draws into the week. Ramos-Vinolas, while tricky at times, has lost his last seven on hard courts. As for Davidovich Fokina, watch his starter against either Otte or Nakashima. I feel like Nakashima could give him a run despite the American’s sluggish 3-4 start to the season. Otte has struggled overall with a 3-9 mark this year, so a win at all would be big for him. Asking for two in a row though could be too much. Davidovich Fokina had a solid week at Indian Wells in making the quarterfinals, but he’s only played once in Miami and stands at 0-1. Now if seeding holds, it could be a real banger in round three with Paul and Davidovich Fokina who played a roller coaster five setter in Melbourne this year. Paul prevailed, but had to rally back from down 2-1.
The bottom half of the draw is led by Miami debutant Holger Rune as the seventh seed. Fritz, Shapovalov and Schwartzman are also in this part of the draw. You have to like Rune’s set up with Schwartzman as the closest seed and still mired in a slump that has seen him go just 2-8 in 2023. Diego will do well to avoid defeat in his opener I think against Wu or Edmund with Wu seeming to be the tougher out. Edmund did make the round of 16 the last time he played Miami in 2019, but he’s 0-3 this year and has not played since Australia. That’s a recipe to me for a first round loss to Wu. Fucsovics would be the harder foe against Rune in round two, but the Hungarian off a good fourth round run at Indian Wells. I think that is the danger spot for Rune and if he avoids that, he looks good for a fourth round berth.
Up top in that half, Fritz could see a familiar face in John Isner to start his Miami campaign. The 9th seed has been steady at this stop the last two years with fourth round finishes, but slightly disappointing losses in those spots to Bublik and Kecmanovic. Fritz has beaten Isner three of the last four meetings. Shapovalov remains an utter disaster with opening match losses in three of his last four, and his 2023 record standing at 5-6. He did make the semis in Miami in 2019, but hasn’t cleared round three since that run. The Canadian at least looks set up for a possible opening win, but seems unlikely to beat Fritz in round three if that falls into place. He is 5-3 against the American, but has lost two of the last three, including 6-4, 6-4 in Acapulco this year. The consistency just isn’t there for Shapovalov at this time. If we get Fritz against Rune for the quarterfinal slot, that’s a first time encounter. Fritz has been the more consistent of the two with Rune alternating strong runs and earlier exits the last four tournaments. I would not be stunned to see Wu or Fucsovics in the fourth round instead, but Rune certainly has the tools to win and push deep into the tournament.
Is Alcaraz an easy pick to win this quarter? Perhaps, but I think there are two potential match-ups that can trouble him. Tommy Paul and Holger Rune would be the toughest ones in my opinion. We know Paul already beat him once last Summer, while Rune won an injury shortened match in Paris last Fall. For me, those are two players who have the defensive capabilities to at least make Alcaraz work. Whether or not they can consistently find ways to punish him over three sets is another story, but they likely would be the harshest tests for the top seeds in getting to the semifinals. For me, it’s Paul with the best chance as he’s one who has tasted victory already and has really only laid one egg in 2023 when he lost to Radu Albot at Delray Beach. Some might ask what about Fritz? I just don’t think he’s got the all-around game to keep pace with Alcaraz and would need a mostly flawless serving day to fuel any sort of upset.
ONE AND DONE WATCH
Fucsovics over (7)Rune
Nakashima over (24)Davidovich Fokina
Murray over (30)Cressy
Wu/Edmund over (31)Schwartzman
Ruud, Rublev, Sinner and Zverev highlight the second quarter. For Ruud, the question remains when or if he will get his game together? He is still yet to win consecutive matches at a tournament this season and is defending finalist’s points in Miami. The good news is his half of the draw and those nearest to him early are also mired in slumps or carry injury questions. If he can’t put together two straight with this early draw, I think it’s time to begin thinking that Ruud isn’t going to cure what ails him any time soon. The one curious matchup could be if van de Zandschulp shakes off a foot injury that took him out of Indian Wells. The Dutchman has beaten Ruud twice and played him tough in defeat a third time last year on clay in Rome. Otherwise Ruud has no excuses for not pushing into round four with this set up, but nothing has been simple for the third seed so far this year.
The bottom portion of the top half with Zverev looks like a fairly nice path for the German to do some damage. He showed better in Indian Wells last week with a fourth round run where he narrowly lost to Medvedev in three. He made the quarters a year ago in Miami after consecutive one and dones sandwiched by a finals trip in 2018. He’s at least begun to beat players he should beat nine times out of ten. The biggest issue for him could be Ruusuvuori in round three if the Fin makes it through. It would mark their third meeting with Ruusuvuori beating him in Miami two years ago and pushing Zverev to three sets last week in Indian Wells. Zverev likely would prefer RBA whom he has beaten four straight albeit with the last clashes coming in 2018. Still, Bautista Agut has stumbled since Australia with a 1-4 record, including a loss to Ruusuvuori last week. This tournament has been good to RBA with a quarterfinal and semifinal in 2019 and 2021. He doesn’t quite seem up to snuff with that sort of run right now though unless he flips that magic switch, but it’s a tough path to a deep run for the 22nd seed. If Zverev can find some rhythm again, this is probably a great time to try and exact revenge for Ruud beating him in Miami last year after the German had taken the first two in their head-to-head.
In the bottom half, Rublev and Sinner lead the way. The Russian was a rare disappointment last week in getting drubbed by Norrie 6-4, 6-2 in round three at Indian Wells. Granted his results have been a bit more up and down since Australia, but he’s still been competitive for the most part. Rublev has only tasted a deep run once in Miami with a 2021 semifinal showing standing out among mostly second round exits here in his career. The good news is Rublev starts against either Wolf or Bublik whom he is a combined 4-0 against. With Monfils, Humbert or Kecmanovic as a potential third round foe, Rublev has reason to believe he can crack past round three this year. Keep an eye on Monfils this week. He’s now had two matches back and even though he lost both, he showed improvement in his Phoenix Challenger loss. He can match up with Humbert in round one and one win might be just what he needs to boost his confidence. I think both Rublev and Kecmanovic will be weary of a confident Monfils in this section if that happens. Humbert appears to have shaken out of the funk that has plagued him for quite some time, so he’s not an easy out for anyone in this section either.
Sinner meanwhile has been blessed with a seemingly great draw. Dimitrov is the only seed in his section and Grigs pulled up lame at Indian Wells with a knee issue. It remains to be seen how healthy he is this week and Miami hasn’t been kind to him regardless with the Bulgarian not getting past round three since 2016. That could give Fognini or Lestienne an opportunity to knock him out in round two. Sinner really has no reason not to cruise into the fourth round with this set up and his current run of form. I’d be stunned if he fell short of that point and believe he’s the guy to beat, not just in this half, but in this quarter. Rublev has split four matches with the Italian, but the current form and this surface I think favors Sinner again. The road block would be Zverev if he can get to a quarterfinal. The German owns three wins in four tries against Sinner, but it’s been almost a year since Zverev last beat him on clay in Monte-Carlo. That’s one I would definitely be down to see in 2023.
I think I’d gladly be wrong taking Sinner this week. If he doesn’t make it through to the last four, then someone stepped up and played very well to take him out. There are players capable of that, but I don’t see the consistency in anyone that Sinner has shown all year.
ONE AND DONE WATCH
Fognini/Lestienne over (21)Dimitrov
Ruusuvuori over (22)Bautista Agut
Popyrin/Ymer over (26)van de Zandschulp
Humbert over (29)Kecmanovic
Daniil Medvedev will be thrilled to be out of Indian Wells, but Miami is still a slow court that isn’t the greatest for his game. Meddy has made two straight quarterfinals here however. His draw isn’t bad either with Berrettini, de Minaur and Nishioka the seeds in his half. I’m still not in on Berrettini just yet as he still seems like he has work to do to find his best after losing to Alexander Schevchenko in the Phoenix Challenger quarters last week. The Italian has also never won in Miami with this being just his second main draw participating. As such, I’ve got him on upset watch early. Even if Berrettini avoids a first match up, de Minaur could take him out with the Aussie having beaten him at the ATP Cup in 2022 in their last clash. ADM was a disappointing loser to Fucsovics in his Indian Wells opener and has not been past round three in Miami, so winning an opener is his first priority. That’s there for him to take, but I think Halys could be a tough opening act to battle if the Frenchman gets through round one. Even without a love for the slower surfaces, Meddy doesn’t appear to have anyone who is going to do max damage against him before any potential round four matchups with someone like Berrettini, de Minaur or an unexpected surprise.
To the top half where Hurkacz and Norrie are the highlight seeds. Hurkacz has had the most success in Miami amongst players in this section with the Pole winning ten of his last eleven at this tournament. Hurkacz wasn’t done any favors with lucky loser Thanasi Kokkinakis slotting in against him in round one. That’s not an easy one. The only other player who would be of interest in stopping him short of the fourth round I think is Shelton. Shelton makes his first appearance in Miami and it’s been a learning process as expected since his surprise Australian Open run. The American has lost three of four since then, finally avoiding a first round loss in Indian Wells against Fognini last week. He looked better in defeat to Fritz the next round as well, so he could be ready for take off again. Mannarino would be the trickier opener for him, but if he gets past that test, then it’s game on for a potential Hurkacz showdown in round three. The other half houses Coric and Norrie as the seeds. Norrie made his third straight quarterfinal last week with an Indian Wells loss to Tiafoe. His round of 16 finish last year was his best run in Miami. Coric was a surprising flop against Molcan last week in Indian Wells, but this path looks nice for him and it would be a bit of a surprise to not see Norrie and Coric square off in round three. Coric owns a 2-1 mark against the Brit and has had better success in Miami with a pair of quarterfinals to his credit.
This is a fascinating quarter for me. You have the in-form guy in Medvedev who hates slow hard courts. You have Hurkacz who has done very well here and then you have the likes of Norrie, Coric and Shelton who all appear capable of taking advantage IF Medvedev gets tired of the playing conditions. And maybe even Berrettini if he can find more consistency this week, albeit it I’m not sure he’s ready to run through several of the top guys in this section to get through to a semifinal just yet. Edge still has to go to Medvedev based on the last few weeks, but I definitely think there are other chances here with Hurkacz as the obvious Octopus whisperer. The Pole has won three of five from the Russian, including two straight with one of those being in Miami last year. He’s also taken a set in both defeats. I think the big thing with Hubi is weighing how much of a threat you think Kokkinakis can be in round one because he could be dead in the water before you even settle in for the week.
ONE AND DONE WATCH
Kokkinakis over (8)Hurkacz
Halys over (15)de Minaur
Galan/McDonald over (19)Berrettini
Molcan/Thompson over (29)Nishioka
Mannarino over (32)Shelton
The big question here is if Tsitsipas can get back on track? After winning 13 of his first 14 matches to start the year, he’s dropped two of three in his last two tournaments. That included an unceremonious loss to open Indian Wells against Jordan Thompson. He has been steady yet unspectacular in Miami by advancing to the round of 16 three straight years, with one of those going a step farther to the quarters in 2021. The likelihood of another round of 16 berth seems good with this draw. Khachanov, Musetti and Baez are the seeds standing in his way of that achievement. I don’t know what any of them will be in position to meet Stef if the Greek gets through to the fourth round. Musetti likely faces the up and comer in Lehecka to start and Baez has a tough one whether it’s Giron or Garin to open. Tsitsipas’ toughest foe could be his first with Gasquet or lucky loser Christopher O’Connell off the bye. Gasquet has remained competitive after his surprise Auckland title in January and who wouldn’t want to see those two one handed backhands battling each other? Khachanov seems the more likely seed to survive, but Lehecka could be a threat too. If it’s Khachanov, that’s a super plus for Stef who is 6-0 against KK.
The other half looks tasty with Auger-Aliassime and Tiafoe as the top seeds along with last year’s semifinal shocker Cerundolo. Felix has lost two of his last three in Miami, but does carry momentum from his quarterfinal run at Indian Wells. FAA has two wins over Cerundolo on hard courts this year, so that’s not a worry in getting to round four. In the other half, it’s hard not to like Tiafoe who also comes in hot off a semifinal showing at Indian Wells. Considering Evans is the other seed in that section, there seems to be little to stand in the way of Tiafoe pushing through if he harnesses that consistency. Evans looks a bit upset possibility in his opener against Sonego or Thiem with the Brit having lost four of five career main draw matches in Miami. Big Foe has been solid in Miami over the years with three round of 16 finishes and a quarterfinal in his last four runs. Nothing is set of course, but a Felix-Foe fourth round blockbuster looks like a big hope with this draw. Advantage Auger-Aliassime who has taken three of three from the American. Is Felix versus Stef a lock in this half? Certainly not, but it does looks quite possible. Tsitipas is 5-3 in the H2H, but Felix won the last time they met in Rotterdam in 2022.
It is difficult not to see a seed coming through this quarter. Tsitsipas, Medvedev, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz certainly look the part of contenders. Outsiders to consider could be Coric and perhaps Tiafoe or a super long shot in Shelton. I do think Medvedev may fall short again this year in Miami, so he’s out for me. The set ups look better for Tsitsipas and Auger-Aliassime, but it’s a tough call on who gets through this quarter.
ONE AND DONE WATCH
Lehecka over (18)Musetti
Sonego/Thiem over (23)Evans
Giron/Garin over (27)Baez
This being another massive field with 96 players, it is again one where I say don’t overlook the outright odds for the “to win their quarter” markets. Alcaraz is at around 1.71 (-140) to win the first quarter and in the neighborhood of 3.0 (+200) to win Miami outright. I do think Alcaraz has a few guys in his way in the quarter, but the odds seem fair. For me though, I’ll pass. Taking a bigger shot at Paul at 10.0 (+900) or Rune at 9.0 (+800) might be worth some studying. Fritz is around 7.5 (+650) to win the quarter, but as I laid out earlier, I don’t think he beats Alcaraz – so that investment to me is done with the hope that someone takes care of the top seed for him ahead of a potential quarterfinal clash.
In the second quarter, Sinner is set as the lead with 2.75 (+175) odds to win the quarter. I think that feels proper given his form and the lack thereof for Ruud 7.0 (+600) and the somewhat inconsistent play of Rublev 6.0 (+500) and Zverev 4.5 (+350). Zverev makes some sense to me here as I do like the matchups he has along the path to a quarterfinal that puts you in position to win something. It’s all about the trust factor you have in the German and of course that is still an iffy one for me. Sinner at 12.0 (+1100) to win Miami is interesting, but it all comes down to your taken on his chances most likely against Alcaraz in a potential semifinal. We know it’s hard to beat the same player two tournaments in a row, but Carlos Alcaraz is a unicorn, so that sort of thinking doesn’t apply. Alcaraz has also won both hard court meetings which also gives pause to making that investment on Sinner. I think taking the shorter odds to win the quarter makes much more sense.
I think if you’re looking for a bigger shot to win it all in Miami, you have to start with the bottom half opposite of Alcaraz. Medvedev is the second favorite on the outright market at around 3.6 (+260). As I said earlier, I’m out on Meddy winning here with his past history and a heavy workload too. I’m not even interested in his quarter price at 1.83 (-120). I’d much rather go after Hurkacz again this week in that market at 6.0 (+500) or take a bigger shot at someone like Coric or Shelton who both carry 15.0 (+1400) as their price to win the quarter. Norrie at 6.5 (+550) might interest some, but I’m not sure I like him in this quarter. For me, this is a good quarter to take a chance on someone other than the favorite. Hurkacz’s 43.0 (+3300) tag to win Miami might be a dartboard type shot. Even if Medvedev holds up, Hubi has shown the ability to beat him. The only really poor matchup before a final would be Tsitsipas who owns a 7-2 record against him. Also remember Hubi played Alcaraz to a two tie break loss last year on those courts, so he’s not that far off against the top dog.
Speaking of Tsitsipas, 3.5 (+250) to win the quarter looks pretty solid. I think it would be a huge failure for him to not be in position to advance with a quarterfinal battle against the likes of Auger-Aliassime or maybe Tiafoe. He is 5-3 against Felix despite having his four match win streak against the Canadian broken last year in Rotterdam. Tiafoe might be more dangerous with the American having beaten the Greek three of the last four times they’ve battled. If you believe in Big Foe, he’s around 5.0 (+400) to win the quarter. Tsitsipas at 19.0 (+1800) to win Miami outright is tasty to me. He’s beaten Medvedev three of the last four times they’ve met and Stef is 7-2 against Hurkacz if the Pole advances to the semis. Guys like Norrie and Coric have been tougher on him, but the chances of meeting them is certainly a bit lower.
I can’t fault anyone who takes on Alcaraz to win it all. The price is still solid enough that as long as you see him in the final, you’re in good shape. For me though, there is enough traffic and history against him in this spot to avoid it. Roger Federer was the last male player to win both Indian Wells and Miami back in 2017. Of course we’re looking at a generational talent in Alcaraz where the “rules” again may not apply. I’m one of the dummies who still seems to think they do until I’m proven wrong, which could well happen on Championship Sunday in Miami.
Join me for the daily #PIGPIX and keep an eye out on Wednesday for the VIDEO PREVIEW of the men’s doubles draw in Miami.
Sinner to win quarter 2.75 (+175)
Tsitsipas to win quarter 3.5 (+250)