The Miami Masters is the last major tournament before the tour switches from hard courts to clay. Rafael Nadal’s rivals could be forgiven for thinking that if they don’t prevent the red stuff-loving Spaniard lifting another title over the next 10 days, they will have a long wait until another chance arises.
Nadal is going from strength to strength, quite literally. His famous powers of durability and determination were again showcased at Indian Wells, where he saved five match points whilst defeating David Nalbandian in the last 16.
He lost last year’s Miami final to a red-hot Nikolay Davydenko and the struggle to identify the likely candidates to stop him going one better this time around is getting more difficult.
Davydenko cannot defend his title due to injury and only Andy Murray of the rest of the world top five appears in the form to compete with Nadal, although the Scot is still feeling his way back after illness and proved in his heavy defeat at the BNP Paribas Open final that facing Nadal when not fully fit will result in only one outcome.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are searching elusively for lost form, with the Serb particularly hard to back – there is any number of players in his quarter of the draw who can end his title bid, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, disappointing so far this year, my tip for a semi-final finish.
Federer has a prospective quarter final showdown with Andy Roddick (who disposed of Djokovic at Indian Wells) to contend with. The American won a final set decider between the two at the same stage last season and having won 23 matches out of 27 this year, is playing with enough confidence to repeat the feat. Roddick to reach the final is a straight tennis bet certainly worth having.
As for the women, I simply can't see Serena Williams not lifting a trophy she has claimed in five of the last seven years. She missed Indian Wells but is famously adept at progressing through tournaments with little preparation. Her major rivals are plagued by inconsistency and the Nadal - S.Williams double is to be relied upon to pay out as it did at the Australian Open.
By Philip Oliver