Indian Wells showed top level tennis still has plenty of capacity to surprise, with Dominic Thiem the shock winner over Roger Federer after Novak Djokovic was knocked out in the third round.
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But the best bookmakers expect things to be back to usual when the 2019 Miami Masters gets up and running this week, with Djokovic and Federer still positioned well clear at the top of the odds.
Djokovic became the youngest ever winner of the tournament when he lifted the trophy for the first time in 2007 at the age of 19 and he now owns six Miami Open titles – a joint record.
At the other end of the scale, Federer’s triumph at the tournament back in 2017 – when he was 35 – makes him the oldest player ever to have come out on top at this event.
This year the Miami Masters has a new home, with all matches set to be played at the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium, but Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro are both absent due to injury. Nadal reached the semi-finals at Indian Wells but pulled out of a clash with Federer.
“Now I go home and try to make a smooth transition to clay. My next event will be Monte Carlo,” Nadal said as he switches focus towards winning yet another French Open title in a few weeks.
John Isner is the defending champion and Thiem’s momentum makes him an interesting name in the frame too, but where can the best value be found in the betting for the Miami Masters?
Will Djokovic Bounce Back?
Philipp Kohlschreiber produced one of the shocks of the season at Indian Wells, knocking Djokovic out in the third round, but the world number one can never be written off.
However, after a first-round bye in Miami, Djokovic will open up his campaign against either Tomas Berdych or Bernard Tomic, neither of whom should be straightforward to beat.
Djokovic would be expected to come through a match against either Tomic or Berdych, though, with John Millman his most likely opponent in the third round this week. Djokovic beat Millman at the Australian Open after a shock success against Roger Federer for the American.
After that, the draw looks set to put Djokovic on course to face Roberto Bautista-Agut or Fabio Fognini in the fourth round, while defending champion Isner is his possible quarter-final opponent. It is not the easiest route into the latter stages the Serbian great could have received.
With that in mind, Djokovic’s status as the favourite may be questioned, especially for those who saw how out of sorts he was in losing to Kohlschreiber. His odds of around 6/4 look quite short.
All Eyes on Dominic Thiem
There has never been any doubt about the talent Dominic Thiem holds, with questions instead raised about his ability to produce on the big stage against a quality opponent when the pressure is on.
The Austrian went some way to responding to those critics in beating Roger Federer in the final at Indian Wells, a surprise win that will put him firmly in the spotlight in Miami this week.
Thiem is priced at as big as 20/1 to win back-to-back tournaments, which might look juicy, but his price reflects the fact he is in the same half of the draw as Djokovic.
Fourth seed Thiem has a bye in the first round so his opening clash will either be against Matteo Berrettini or Hubert Hurkacz, who got to the quarter-finals at Indian Wells and Dubai recently.
Thiem could then face Marton Fucsovics and Gael Monfils before reaching the last eight, where the seeding has him set to come up against Kei Nishikori. The Japanese star, though, has Nick Kyrgios looming in his mini-section of the draw and the Australian is a two-time semi-finalist in Miami, so this is a tournament where he has played well before.
Kyrgios may be a decent wild card option on an each way basis at small stakes only, offered at around the 40/1 mark by the main tennis betting sites, with the same caveat that he is in Djokovic’s half of the draw.
How Will Federer Fare?
Roger Federer was a big favourite to beat Thiem in the Indian Wells final but found himself outplayed by the Austrian, which could be a warning sign for his status as the second favourite this week.
But the draw has been relatively kind to the Swiss great, who could face off against countryman Stan Wawrinka in the third round. The pair also met early on at Indian Wells with Federer, as he usually does against Wawrinka, coming out on top.
Daniil Medvedev is lurking in this section of the draw and the rising star is in need of some form after failing to meet expectations over the course of the last couple of weeks.
Federer has also been placed in the same quarter as Kevin Anderson, who makes his return to the court as he recovers from an elbow injury that has kept him out since the Australian Open.
The South African’s giant serve always makes him a dangerous threat, but with so little tennis in his legs of late it is hard to see how he can make a big impact on this tournament.
Federer is offered at 9/2 by the bookies for the 2019 Miami Masters title, but it is worth keeping in mind that he lost in the second round to Thanasi Kokkinakis last year. He has won the event three times in the past, though, albeit at a different venue to the Hard Rock Stadium.
Longer Shots Gather in Fourth Quarter
At the bottom of the draw, last year’s beaten finalist Alexander Zverev (14/1) has a potential quarter-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas to look forward to, although the Greek has to bounce back from a shock first-round exit at Indian Wells.
Zverev comes up against Sam Querrey or David Ferrer after his first-round bye with either Frances Tiafoe or Miomir Kecmanovic likely to be up next in the third round.
Veteran Ivo Karlovic is a lurking threat in this section of the draw but at the age of 40 it is hard to see him coming through more than a couple of matches and his 600/1 price reflects that.
Tsitsipas has crashed into the top 10 of the world rankings but showed in losing to Felix Auger-Aliassime last week that he now has a target on his back for other players to take aim.
Leonardo Mayer or Guido Pella await in the third round and Tsitsipas could also have to knock out another of the game’s most exciting young players, Denis Shapovalov, if he is to get through to that potential clash with Zverev in the last eight. Tsitsipas is offered at a price of 40/1.
Miami Masters Picks and Best Bets
Indian Wells was a welcome reminder that just because Djokovic and Federer are in the draw for a tournament, it does not necessarily mean one of them is guaranteed to win the event.
Dominic Thiem’s success should give hope to a clutch of other players that pushes them on to produce high class tennis over the course of the next week or so, with the draw looking quite open.
Djokovic and Federer will still be expected to get through to the latter stages, of course, but there is no reason why there cannot be a shock name going all the way to the final.
With that in mind, Karen Khachanov looks excellent value at a price of around the 50/1 mark. Placed in the third quarter with Federer, the Russian got the quarter-finals at Indian Wells and has no real tests in his way before a potential last eight clash with the Swiss superstar.
Denis Shapovalov may also be worth considering from a quarter that should be dominated by Zverev. At 80/1, the draw might just open up for the Canadian, especially if Tsitsipas exits early again.
Of the major contenders, Federer is preferred to Djokovic at 9/2 having at least got to the final last week, while there are worse each way options than Daniil Medvedev at 80/1 as well.