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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday March 23, 2020

Opportunity knocks on the men’s side at the Miami Open. For the first time since the 2004 Rolex Paris Masters a Masters 1000 draw will take place without at least one of the Big 3—Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic—entered in the main draw.

So who is poised to take advantage of the situation? Let's have a look...

Andrey Rublev

Best Masters Performance: quarter-final Cincinnati 2019

Rublev is simply too good to hold a 14-21 lifetime record at Masters 1000 events, and here is a giant opportunity for the Russian (ranked 8th, seeded 4th) to turn that trend on its ear. To be fair, he likely would have already done it if more Masters had been played in 2020 (only three--Cincinnati, Rome and Paris were played). Now, here is a golden opportunity for Rublev to produce a career-best performance and all he has to do is continue to be the remarkably consistent force that he has proven to be at the 500-level.

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Best Masters Performance: finals Rogers Cup, 2018, Madrid 2019

Even today, several days after losing the final in Acapulco, Stefanos Tsitsipas is still carrying the disappointment from his loss to Alexander Zverev. He feels he could have found ways to win it and isn’t willing to be satisfied with his performance in Mexico. It is further proof of the champion’s mentality that the Greek possesses. Now let us see how quickly he can bounce back from the setback and make his presence felt on an even bigger stage. He doesn’t have an easy draw. He could face Kevin Anderson in the second round and Kei Nishikori in the third round. It will surely be a big test for the World No.5.

Aslan Karatsev

Best Masters Performance: A single qualifying loss

The tennis world is still trying to process the mysterious rise of Russia’s Aslan Karatsev. Even his compatriot Daniil Medvedev had to throw his arms up when he was asked to explian it during media day on Tuesday in Miami.

"I think nobody can understand," he said. "I'm honest. I think only he can try to explain at least what's going on."

Karatsev entered 2021 with a 3-10 lifetime record at the ATP level and has gone 12-2 in 2021, becoming the first ATP player in history to reach the semifinals on his Grand Slam main draw debut and then winning a 500 level event in Dubai last week just to prove he was for real.

Naturally, we can’t wait to see if he can keep it up at the Masters level. To date he has played just one qualifying match, back in 2019 at the Masters 1000s. This week in Miami he is seeded 17th and has a decent draw. He’ll face either Mikhail Kukushkin or Jack Draper after his well-deserved first-round bye.

Alexander Zverev

Best Masters Performance: Three titles (Canada, Rome, 2017, Madrid, 2018)

Zverev is fed up with his current ranking and believes he should get more credit for all the great tennis he has played of late. Well, here is the chance for the German to put his money where his mouth is. He can even earn some big points if he plows deep into the Miami draw, as his last appearance in Miami produced an early loss.

And it must be said, Zverev has been a very consistent force on tour of late. Through all his personal problems, he has managed to take his tennis to a very high level. A title in Miami would be a very nice step and further proof that he is headed in the right direction and likely to become a Grand Slam champion at some point in the not too distant future.

Daniil Medvedev

Best Masters Performance: Three titles (Paris 2020, Shanghai and Cincinnati 2019)

It’s all about consolidation of power for Daniil Medvedev at the moment. He’s thrilled to be ranked No.2 in the world, but he knows that Rafael Nadal will be putting pressure on him for the rest of the season. So what is the best way to stretch the gap between himself and Nadal, and to send a message to the rest of the tour that he is a dominant force on hard courts? And how can he get closer to the unthinkable - the No.1 ranking? Step up and take Miami, that's how! Without Djokovic in the lineup he’s the pre-tournament favorite, now let's see what he can do.

Other names to watch

Opportunities exist all over the men’s draw and young players will have a shot to make great strides as well. Denis Shapovalov looked great in his last hard court event and was a semifinalist on his last visit to Miami. Could it be his time to push for a first Masters crown? Lorenzo Musetti proved that he is a player to watch last week in Acapulco. Does the Italian have a deep run in him in his first ever Masters 1000 hard court appearance? Same for Jannik Sinner, who will also be making his first Masters 1000 hard court main draw appearance. Kei Nishikori has been on the rise this year, but still lacks a signature win. What will he do if he faces Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round? let's not forget Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ugo Humbert, two talented forces that seem closer to a breakthrough as each week passes.

The big three will be missed, but tennis fans will want to play close attention to this week’s tennis in Miami—it could provide some clues about the future of men’s tennis as we move forward.


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