Championship Rematch In Miami? Federer & Delpo Drawn Into Opposite Halves
Juan Martin del Potro defeated World No. 1 Roger Federer at Indian Wells on Sunday, saving three match points to claim his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. And now, as the ATP World Tour travels to Florida for the Miami Open presented by Itau, the tennis world might be in for a treat: a rematch, just two weeks later.
Federer and Del Potro were drawn into opposite halves of the draw at the second Masters 1000 event of the season, and while recent form indicates that we may very well see both players across the net from one another again, one of them has a far more straightforward draw than the other.
World No. 1 Federer, who must advance to at least the quarter-finals to maintain his spot atop the ATP Rankings, has lost a total of two matches against the highest-ranked player he could face in each round en route to the final. And while he did lose a golden opportunity to retain his title in the Coachella Valley, don’t forget that Federer, a three-time champion in Miami, began his season 17-0 prior to that loss, a personal best for the 36-year-old.
The Swiss will open against a qualifier, before potentially facing an always-dangerous Fernando Verdasco in the third round (Federer leads FedEx ATP Head2Head 6-0). And despite the lopsided results, the pair has played just once since the 2012 US Open, and the Spaniard showed good form by defeating reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov at Indian Wells.
Federer has won all five of his FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against potential fourth-round and quarter-final opponents, No. 16 Pablo Carreno Busta (1-0) and No. 6 Kevin Anderson (4-0). But there are some other dangerous opponents lurking in the quarter-finals, including No. 10 Tomas Berdych, Australian Open semi-finalist Kyle Edmund and big-hitting Marseille champion Karen Khachanov. Fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who defeated Federer to win the Rogers Cup last year, is the second-highest seed in the Swiss’ half of the draw.
Del Potro, who is fresh off back-to-back titles for the first time since 2012 Vienna and Basel, will have to blast forehands through a minefield of opponents virtually every step of the way as he attempts to back up his Indian Wells/Acapulco trophies and achieve his best result yet in Miami, where he has only advanced past the Round of 16 once in nine attempts (2009 SF, l. to Murray).
Past Five Miami Open presented by Itau Champions
The ‘Tower of Tandil’, who will guarantee himself a return to the Top 5 for the first time since February 2014 should he complete the 'Sunshine Double', will open his campaign against Yuichi Sugita (leads 2-0) or Robin Haase (leads 4-0), who are both inside the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings at No. 43 and No. 44, respectively. But former World No. 4 and 2016 Miami finalist Kei Nishikori looms as a possible third-round opponent with six-time Miami titlist Novak Djokovic possibly awaiting the winner in the Round of 16. While the Serbian did not play the event last season, he has won it in his past three appearances and on five of his past six showings, winning 30 of his past 31 matches at the tournament.
And if that was not a dangerous enough path already, Del Potro — should he get through that section — could play the likes of Dimitrov or Indian Wells semi-finalist Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals, with the red-hot No. 13 seed Diego Schwartzman, who claimed his first ATP World Tour 500-level trophy in Rio de Janeiro, projected to play the Canadian in the third round.
Don’t forget about No. 29 seed Borna Coric, either. The Croatian played the tournament of his life at the BNP Paribas Open, leading Federer by a set and 4-2 in the semi-finals, and also by a break on two occasions in the third set, before succumbing against the top seed. He could potentially play No. 8 Jack Sock in the third round.
And it’s impossible to ignore second seed Marin Cilic, also in the bottom half, who has made the final at two of the past three Grand Slams. The Croatian, who was upset in the third round at Indian Wells by Philipp Kohlschreiber, will not be able to play his way into the draw in Miami. He will face one of two players who made the Round of 16 in California: #NextGenATP American Taylor Fritz or Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Seventh seed David Goffin, who assisted at Monday's draw ceremony, could meet Cilic in the quarter-finals of his first Masters 1000 tournament of 2018.
But Federer (17-1) and Del Potro (17-3), who are both tied with Dominic Thiem (17-4) for the most wins on the ATP World Tour thus far in 2017, have to be considered the favourites on their respective halves based on recent form. And after they brought the BNP Paribas Open to an epic close, there is a lot to be excited about at the second Masters 1000 event of the year.