Nadal Could Meet Federer In SFs
by Matt Fitzgerald|
It’s been nearly six years since Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer met in the semi-finals of a main draw event, but that streak could end in Miami as the two were drawn in the top half of the men’s singles event. (They were seeded to meet last year in the Cincinnati semi-finals but Nadal lost in the quarter-finals to Marcos Baghdatis.)
After a first-round bye, Nadal, the top seed, will begin his Sony Ericsson Open campaign against either Jeremy Chardy or Kei Nishikori. The top quarter of the draw features new kid on the block Alexander Dolgopolov, the 21st seed, and a potential fourth-round opponent of Nadal’s. The Ukrainian could face the lively Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in an intriguing third round matchup – Dolgopolov upset Tsonga in a grueling five-set match in the third round at the Australian Open.
One of the most notable floaters in this section is the big-serving Ivo Karlovic. The Croatian wild card displayed impressive form in Indian Wells last week, pushing Nadal to a final set tie-break in the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Open. Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and Albert Montañes are featured seeds in his section.
At the bottom of Nadal’s quarter is the No.7 seed and 2010 finalist, Tomas Berdych. He awaits the winner of French youngster Adrian Mannarino and Spain’s Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo. His first possible seeded player is the 28th seed, Ernests Gulbis. Should Berdych and Nadal advance to the quarter-finals, Nadal will be favored. He holds a nine-to-three career advantage and eight match winning streak against the big-hitting Czech, but all of Berdych’s wins against the World No. 1 have come on hard courts.
Federer has to like his chances to get through to the semi-finals. His combined head-to-head record against the group of seeded players in his section is 43 wins to five losses. He’ll face either Fabio Fognini or Radek Stepanek. Mikhail Youzhny and Marcos Baghdatis, both well suited for outdoor hard-courts, are possible fourth round opponents.
2010 champion Andy Roddick is seeded 8th and his quest will start with Pablo Cuevas or Michael Berrer. Gilles Simon, the 25th seed, could meet Roddick in the third round but may face American wild card Ryan Harrison, who achieved his best tour level result last week at Indian Wells, reaching the fourth round (l. to Federer).
10th seeded Jurgen Melzer, who took part in today’s draw ceremony, is also in Roddick’s section. He’ll face Florent Serra or Philip Petzschner, his full-time doubles partner. The prospect of playing someone he knows so well early on is not the best of scenarios for Melzer.
“It’s tough. We’re best friends and spend a lot of time together. We’ve had great success in doubles,” Melzer said. “It’s definitely the type of match you don’t want to play but I hope he gets through so we can have a nice second round match.”
Perhaps the most jarring part of the draw is Robin Soderling’s quarter. The winner of Andrey Golubev and Ivan Dodig will play the Swede but that’s not where Soderling will be keeping his eye. Juan Martin Del Potro looms as a potential third round opponent and is making an impact again on tour. His ranking jumped 39 spots this week after the former US Open champion reached the semi-finals of Indian Wells. When asked about his first thoughts on the draw, Melzer immediately highlighted this section. “It’s definitely tough for Robin. Juan Martin is so dangerous and is finding his form again,” Melzer said.
Soderling’s draw doesn’t get much easier should he come through. Mardy Fish and Richard Gasquet are prospective fourth round opponents, both of whom have winning records against the world No. 4
At the top of this quarter stands two-time semifinalist David Ferrer, seeded sixth. Probable third round opponents include rising Canadian star Milos Raonic, whom Ferrer knocked out in the fourth round of Australian Open and Somdev Devvarman, who reached the fourth round of Indian Wells after successfully qualifying.
At the bottom of the draw is Novak Djokovic, undefeated in 2011, and winner of this event in 2007. He’ll begin the tournament by playing Dennis Istomin or a qualifier. Thomaz Bellucci, seeded 27th is the first seed in the Serbian’s section. James Blake, a wild card here, is also a potential third round opponent. Friend and compatriot Viktor Troicki and Sam Querrey are the next seeds in line to meet Djokovic.
Scotland’s Andy Murray, champion here in 2009, is seeded 5th. After losing to Djokovic in the Australian Open final, he’s bowed out in his opening matches at two straight events. He’ll look to regroup when he plays the winner of Victor Hanescu and a qualifier. Should Murray advance, he could square off against American John Isner, the No. 30 seed.
Also in Murray’s section are the 9th seed, Fernando Verdasco, and 2008 champion Nikolay Davydenko, who is unseeded this year. Those two could meet in the third round. Also featured here is the 24th seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Australian wild card Bernard Tomic.
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