SONY ERICSSON OPEN
Federer & Roddick On Collision Course
by Matt Fitzgerald|
World No. 3 Roger Federer has been dealt an earlier-than-expected test at the Sony Ericsson Open, facing a potential third-round clash with former champion and American favorite Andy Roddick. Defending champion and top-ranked Novak Djokovic will begin his repeat title quest at Crandon Park against Marcos Baghdatis or Leonardo Mayer.
Federer enters the event on the back of a 15-match win streak, lifting trophies in Rotterdam, Dubai and most recently at Indian Wells this past weekend. The Swiss defeated John Isner in the BNP Paribas Open final to tie Rafael Nadal for the most ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles with 19. The two-time Miami champion will play 19-year-old American Ryan Harrison or Potito Starace in his opening match.
Mardy Fish, a semi-finalist last year, is the highest seed at No. 8 in Federer’s quarter of the draw. Fish is hoping to rebound from a slow season start, which has seen him fail to win back-to-back matches, posting a 4-4 record. His Miami run in 2011 propelled him to overtake Andy Roddick as the No. 1 ranked American for the first time in his career, a distinction he has maintained the past 12 months. Nicolas Almagro, the No. 12 seed and Gael Monfils, the No. 14 seed, also feature in this section.
At the top of the draw stands Djokovic, looking to capture his second title of the year after claiming his fifth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. The Serbian could square off against compatriot Viktor Troicki, the 27th seed, in the third round. Fifth seed David Ferrer, the first player to win three titles this season, and No. 11 seed Juan Martin del Potro, are potential quarter-final opponents for Djokovic.
The third quarter of the draw is led by fourth-seeded Andy Murray. The 2009 champion is looking to avoid his third straight opening-round loss at the event, upset by Fish in 2010 and Alex Bogomolov Jr. last year in second-round action. Should he get past the winner of Alejandro Falla and Denis Istomin, Murray could face the 26th seed, Milos Raonic. The Canadian has enjoyed early-season success, winning titles in Chennai and San Jose, and reaching the final in Memphis.
Seventh seed Tomas Berdych, the runner-up two years ago and a semi-finalist in 2011, holds a 3-2 head-to-head record against Murray, and is the highest seed the Scot could meet in the final eight. The Czech will open against wild card Fernando Gonzalez or Nicolas Mahut. Gonzalez is playing the final tournament of his career. Ninth seed Janko Tipsarevic, 13th seed Gilles Simon and 18th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov round out the highest seeds in Murray’s section.
At the bottom of the draw, second-ranked Rafael Nadal will aim to win his first title at the event. The Spaniard dropped to a 0-3 final record in Miami last year when he was edged out by Djokovic in a final set tie-break. He’ll face countryman Pablo Andujar or Santiago Giraldo in the second round.
In a difficult section, Nadal’s quarter includes sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 10 seed John Isner. The 26-year-old American reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final last week in Indian Wells to break into the Top 10 for the first time. Others in the bottom quarter include 16th seed Kei Nishikori, a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open and Nikolay Davydenko, who capped off an impressive run to beat Nadal for the 2008 title. The Russian faces off against American veteran James Blake in an intriguing first-round encounter, having never defeated Blake in their seven previous meetings.