The Miami Open returns after being cancelled in 2020 due to coronavirus and Sean Calvert is back to preview this Masters 1000 tournament from an outright betting perspective.
We’re back at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami for the first Masters 1000 event of the year, but it’s seriously lacking in stardust this time, as the withdrawal list is extensive, with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all skipping it.
It’s been a rough start to the season from an outright perspective (apart from my 500-1 bit of luck on Basilashvili in Doha) and last time out in Acapulco that event was dominated by high seeds, with numbers one and two fighting it out for the title, so we were nowhere close there.
We were a little unlucky in Dubai, with top seed Dominic Thiem falling early, as I’d hoped, but our man in that section of the draw, Borna Coric, withdrew and instead of Coric a qualifier made the Dubai final for the very first time.
That man was Lloyd Harris, who was beaten in the final by 2021 sensation Aslan Karatsev, whose sudden and unlikely rise to prominence at the age of 27 continues.
Conditions and trends
There’s no Stadium Court being used at this year’s Miami Open, so the courts that are being used will be the ones more open to the elements, therefore wind could well be more of a factor to the high seeds than it was when they played here last in 2019.
The CPI was clocked at 35.9 in the tournament’s first year at the Hard Rock in 2019, which makes it quicker than it was when they played at Crandon Park (around 30 in 2017 and 2018).
Kevin Anderson compared the new surface to the old one in 2019: “It’s fairly typical of Miami I think. Slightly higher-bouncing, the serves are moving a little bit, the ball bounces, it grips.”
As far as the atmosphere is concerned, it’ll be nothing like the Miami Opens we’re used to seeing, which had 300,000 fans packed in and providing a lot of support (particularly for the Latin players).
This time only fans with reserved seats are allowed in and only to the main three courts, so most of the tournament will be played with no fans watching courtside and only 1,000 fans a day are allowed in to the complex.
As far as outright winners go, we enjoyed great success here in 2018 with 100-1 John Isner landing the title for us and Isner made the final again in 2019 as a 50-1 chance.
Isner’s 2018 win was the only occasion since Nikolay Davydenko won it in 2008 that the champion wasn’t a major winner (or went on to be a major winner), but that will almost certainly change this year (unless Cilic wins, which seems unlikely).
This year’s Miami Open draw is a big one – a 128-man draw – that’s the same size as a major and in quarter one the player I’ll take a chance on at a big price to win Q1 is Reilly Opelka.
The big American could well emulate the success that Isner has had in Miami and I like the fact that he’s been drawn to face top seed Daniil Medvedev in a potential round three clash.
That makes Opelka’s price attractive at 150-1 (Bet Victor) (now 125-1 best with Bet 365) and he should have no fear of Medvedev, having beaten the Russian on Medvedev’s home soil of St Petersburg on indoor hard as recently as last October.
Indeed, Opelka also came very close to beating Medvedev here in Miami the last time the tournament was played in 2019 when it went all the way to three tie breaks, while their only other clash also went to a final set tie break.
Opelka hasn’t done much yet this season after struggling with a knee injury at the end of last year, but he’s been tough for top players to beat, with Roberto Bautista Agut, Marton Fucsovics and Kei Nishikori needing final sets to beat him lately.
And tie breaks look highly likely again when Opelka will face either Alexei Popyrin or Feli Lopez in his first match – and if it’s Popyrin that could be a tough one for Opelka against the in-form Aussie.
But it’s hard to see Popyrin (if he beats Opelka) going on to then beat Medvedev, but Opelka just might, and that’s assuming Medvedev defeats Sam Querrey in his opening round match.
An in-form Querrey wouldn’t be anything like an easy first match for Medvedev (assuming Querrey beats Yen-Hsun Lu in round one) and as well as Medvedev has been playing lately, we’ll see if conditions in Miami suit his game as much as the slicker, lower bouncing Australian courts did.
The slower, higher bouncing Laykold surface might well be tricky for Medvedev and I don’t mind chancing Opelka to win the quarter at 20-1.
There are no such big servers in the section adjacent to Medvedev’s, with Dan Evans and Dusan Lajovic the seeds in there, and Frances Tiafoe could also contend for the right to potentially face Medvedev in the last-16.
The lower part of Q1 looks competitive, with Isner a likely contender despite his lack of form so far in 2021.
Isner came here in 2018 having won only two of his eight matches that season up to that point and he ended up winning the tournament, so in comparison a 2-2 record thus far in 2021 may not be an issue.
He’s won 12 of his last 14 matches in Miami (the two he lost were against Federer and Zverev) so it would be foolish to write him off in a quarter that he’s more than capable of winning.
We know that Isner tends to play his best tennis at home in the USA, so a section that also features Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jan-Lennard Struff, Roberto Bautista Agut, Andy Murray and Vasek Pospisil and Lloyd Harris looks winnable for the American.
Indeed, Isner beat RBA in the quarter finals here and FAA in the semi finals in 2019, while Murray doesn’t look anywhere near his old self and Harris must be exhausted after a tough run in Dubai.
Auger-Aliassime though, looks like he could be the value in this section at Unibet’s 60-1 after that strong run here in 2019 (as a qualifier), after which he’s moved from 57 in the world to the top-20 in the current standings.
The young Canadian has shown a lack of composure in finals, with a poor 0-7 win/loss (0-14 sets win/loss) mark so far at main level, but there’s surely much improvement to come from FAA and 60-1 is a backable price each-way if you think that conditions may not suit Medvedev.
Alexander Zverev has been in good form lately, winning Acapulco only a matter of days ago, and his record in Miami is decent as well, with a final in 2018 to his name and a quarter final the year before that.
He showed in Acapulco that the slower, higher bouncing hard courts suit him nicely and the German looks a fair favourite to progress from this quarter of the draw.
There are plenty of dangers though, with Jannik Sinner, Karen Khachanov, Alexander Bublik (who beat Zverev in Rotterdam), David Goffin, Grigor Dimitrov and Nikoloz Basilashvili, all capable of upsetting Zverev on their best form.
My 500-1 Doha hero, Basilashvili, might prove to be the value again if he finds that level that he rediscovered in Qatar.
The courts were probably too quick for him in Dubai and he could prove a tough round three opponent for Zverev (Basil made the last-16 the last time he played Miami in 2019) and he’s not to be ruled out at another huge price (he was up at 750-1 with BoyleSports, but they offered me 47 pence and then suspended the market).
But the one that makes the most appeal to me in Q2 is David Goffin, who’s a former Miami semi finalist and comes here with good recent form, having shaken off a poor spell by winning Montpellier in what looked to be slower conditions than normal there.
Typically, he’s been rather up and down since, losing a bad one to Taylor Fritz in Doha then to Kei Nishikori in Dubai, but 50-1 is fair enough for a player of his ability in a draw that lacks real superstar quality.
Moving on to the bottom half of the draw now and Q3 is very interesting, with all eyes on Russian pair Andrey Rublev and Andrey Karatsev after their superb starts to the season.
They met in the semi finals of Dubai last week and as I suspected it was just too quick for Rublev there, but he may well be able to reverse the result of his defeat to Karatsev if they clash here in the last-16.
The super-fast surface was perfect for Karatsev, but it’ll be harder for him in Miami I feel, and it should suit Rublev better, but the latter still has much to prove in majors and Masters 1000s.
He’s made only one M1000 quarter final so far in his career and while this obviously looks a great opportunity for him to better that record, I wouldn’t be so sure that he’s automatically going to go on and make the semis or the final here.
His draw looks about as nice as it could be unless Marton Fucsovics can somehow turnaround the recent losses to Rublev, which doesn’t seem that likely in all honesty.
It’ll probably be in the last-16 or quarters where Rublev’s first real test will come and that could be against Karatsev or maybe Fabio Fognini or Diego Schwartzman.
Either of those two could surprise Rublev and Fognini at 125-1 is tempting (he’s a former Miami semi finalist) in these slower conditions.
The Fog isn’t currently scheduled to play any of the clay ATP 250s the week after Miami (although he may decide to take a wild card into probably Cagliari if he loses early here) so we might see a performance from him here after he was reportedly sick in Acapulco.
It’s Rublev’s quarter on form, but there’s little value on him outright for me, so Fognini looks the best value alternative if you are taking him on in Q3.
Stefanos Tsitsipas backers will have been/will be a little concerned after the Greek appeared to injure himself in training in Miami when he dived full length for a volley for whatever reason.
He may well be fine, but Tsitsipas lost to Denis Shapovalov the last time he played here (in 2019) and it might happen again.
The pair are seeded to meet again in a potential quarter final clash and it’s Shapovalov that I like in this part of the draw at the prices, with the Canadian a 25-1 chance generally.
Shapo, despite what he says about his own game, seems more effective to me on a slightly slower surface that gives him a little more time to unleash the power he has off both wings and Miami should suit him.
Indeed, he’s 7-2 win/loss here and the fact that there’ll be (admittedly smaller) crowds in attendance should help Shapo, who seems to be the sort of player to thrive on an atmosphere.
The top section of Q4 doesn’t look the strongest, with Shapovalov more than capable of beating Milos Raonic in these conditions, while he beat Hubert Hurkacz last week (Hurkacz could still be a danger though) and Ugo Humbert looks well out of form and probably needs a faster surface.
Clearly, a quarter final against Tsitsipas wouldn’t be easy, but the Greek has some decent players to overcome in his section, including Alex De Minaur and a returning to form Kei Nishikori, plus he may well have to face Kevin Anderson in his opening match.
Tsitsipas is the likeliest winner of this quarter, but I’d like it to be a quicker surface before backing him and Shapo showed more than enough in Dubai to suggest he’s sorted out his serving problems (for now) and is ready to challenge at a big tournament.
With all of the biggest stars missing from the tournament there’s an opportunity for someone, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’ll be one of Medvedev, Rublev, Zverev or Tsitsipas that will lift the trophy.
I’ll oppose Medvedev in Q1 with Opelka and Auger-Aliassime, while in the bottom half the 25-1 about Shapovalov looks decent, too.
1 point win Opelka to win Q1 at 20-1 (Bet365)
0.5 points each-way Auger-Aliassime to win the tournament at 60-1 (Unibet)
1 point win Shapovalov to win the tournament at 25-1 (generally)