Miami, and the Miami Open in particular, remains special for world number one Novak Djokovic. In 2007, the Miami Open was Djokovic’s first ever ATP Masters 1000 title.
Today, Djokovic stands tall with 32 ATP Masters 1000 titles, and is the only player ever to have won all nine at least once. The Serb is tied for the most number of Miami Open titles with Andre Agassi, with both having won six times each.
Djokovic will be looking to stand clear with seven titles this year. The Key Biscayne location of the Miami Open brought plenty of success for the world number one, and he will be hoping for the same from the new Hard Rock Stadium.
The Serb’s Indian Wells campaign ended prematurely with a third round loss to German Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets. Djokovic has since been at the practice courts with some days of intense training. He is now back in Miami, with conditions that suit his game immensely, and now with a point to prove after the disappointing Indian Wells loss.
With arch rival and world number two Rafael Nadal pulling out due to a knee injury along with Juan Martin del Potro, the members of the field that can pose a stiff challenge are limited.
The obvious names that come to mind are Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, and Dominic Thiem.
“Next Gen” players like Stefanos Tsitstipas, Danill Medvedev, Karen Khachanov, Borna Coric among others pose a challenge to anyone these days. Then there are the likes of Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic among others, and then there is always Nick Kyrgios.
Of these, Cilic has looked off-color this year, with indifferent form and fitness. Tsitsipas and Medvedev have shown a lot of promise this season with good results to back it up; but both have alluded to having already played too much tennis in recent times, with Tsitsipas playing every week in February.
Khachanov and Coric in 2019 are yet to look like the players they were in the latter half of 2018. After a phenomenal resurgence, Kei Nishikori has also been out of sorts in the last few tournaments and has a head-to-head with Djokovic that is largely skewed in favor of the Serb.
Zverev has had a strong showing in ATP Masters 1000s, already winning three in his career, and was a finalist here last year, losing to the champion John Isner. However, after winning the ATP Tour Finals in London last November and promising a lot for this season, Zverev is yet to hit peak form, and the year has not got off to an ideal start for him.
Despite a poor start to the year, Dominic Thiem has shown what he is capable of on the slower hard courts, at the US Open in 2018, and winning the Indian Wells Master last week. Should he maintain his form, he can be a strong threat to all at the Miami Open.
There is of course, Roger Federer, who has been in good form in the last two tournaments and makes for a mouth-watering match-up with Novak Djokovic every time they meet.
That rivalry has remain tilted in favor of the world number one heavily of late, though.
Last, but not least, there is always the Nick Kyrgios factor, who on his day, given which version of Kyrgios shows up, would back himself to beat the best on the biggest stage. Interestingly he has a 2-0 head to head against Djokovic.
Djokovic’s draw at Miami has its share of challenges and hurdles, but nothing that the Serb has not dealt with before and one can expect him to come out with flying colors again. Being back at one of his favorite tournaments, with a field that has plenty of challengers, but none too strong to be favored against him, it is hard to look beyond the world number one.
With the odd battle here and the hiccup there, expect Novak Djokovic to win his first Masters 1000 of 2019 and a record seventh Miami Open title.
Djokovic begins the Miami Masters at 5/4 (Betfair) to win the tournament.