Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2017 Miami Open presented by Itau.
Welcome to Miami.
We’re at the point of the tennis season where the sprint has just about started and won’t really relent until more or less the end of summer in September.
One week you’re in Indian Wells for the season’s fifth Grand Slam, the next you’re in Miami, and then you’ll soon be in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Paris, London, etc. etc. Bam bam bam, the calendar just doesn’t stop, or only ever so slightly.
So yes, welcome to Miami this week for the 2017 Miami Open presented by Itau. This tournament is more or less an exact replica of the BNP Paribas Open that comes just a week earlier, with big money prizes, a larger than usual main draw, a combined men’s and women’s event… and yet, it’s Indian Wells that’s the fifth Grand Slam while Miami gets nothing? Doesn’t seem fair. (Well okay, this event is in MIAMI so it wins by default.)
Anyway, here’s how we expect both draws in Miami to break down.
Well, waddayaknow?! A year later and, yep that’s Angelique Kerber once again leading the pack atop the WTA Tour rankings. Let’s go ahead and say that she’ll best the semifinal berth she managed at this event in 2016; even though her 2017 season has been pretty uneven so far, this should straighten things out. Kristina Mladenovic has always been a great doubles player but she’s progressed quite a bit in singles too and with a final and semifinal berths at her two most recent events, she’s playing as great as ever. Simona Halep is the supposed favourite in the second section of the draw but her results haven’t been there this season, so we should expect a few surprises here; and in all honesty, we could probably say the same thing about the third section. We’ll ride with two players in form for the final section and predict that Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova will face off in the quarterfinals.
Quarterfinals: Angelique Kerber over Kristina Mladenovic; Madison Keys over Simona Halep; Caroline Wozniacki over Elena Vesnina; Elina Svitolina over Karolina Pliskova
Semifinals: Angelique Kerber over Madison Keys; Caroline Wozniacki over Elina Svitolina
Final: Angelique Kerber over Caroline Wozniacki
It’s not every year that when the first- and second-seeded players of an event pull out, tournament organizers are like, “Nah actually we’re good” but such is the life of the folks in Miami. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic might have withdrawn, but with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer playing at such a high level, all things are rolling.
Stanislas Wawrinka might be the favourite, but we see the top section of the draw belonging to Nick Kyrgios, who’s playing as well and is as focused as ever. (Of course, Djokovic isn’t there, so maybe the Australian will not perform since there’s no possible way he can spoil another of the Serb’s title defense?) Meanwhile, Federer is this close of becoming once again the foremost Swiss Guy on tour and 2016 reports of his demise—of which we were among the main culprits—seem to have been greatly exaggerated. He’s played so well in 2017 that he did his patented humblebrag “Oh this wasn’t part of the plan“ and we almost believe him. The final section is a battle and, when in doubt, go with a quarterfinal that pits a favourite and a surprise performer.
Quarterfinals: Nick Kyrgios over Stanislas Wawrinka; Roger Federer over Dominic Thiem; Rafael Nadal over Mischa Zverev; Kei Nishikori over Benoit Paire
Semifinals: Nick Kyrgios over Roger Federer; Kei Nishikori over Rafael Nadal
Final: Nick Kyrgios over Kei Nishikori
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG