By Jake Davies
- Jack Sock  vs Rafael Nadal 
- Kei Nishikori  vs Fabio Fognini
- Roger Federer  vs Tomas Berdych 
- Nick Kyrgios  vs Alexander Zverev 
MIAMI, USA – The Miami Open quarter-final line-up is settled and two of the Big Four line up against the ATP Next Generation.
Jack Sock  vs Rafael Nadal  H2H: Nadal leads 2-0
Four eagerly anticipated quarter-finals are finely poised in the Men’s Draw at the Miami Open with our first preview featuring America’s, Jack Sock. The 13th seeded Sock will play the 14-time Grand Slam singles champion Rafael Nadal, who is experiencing a bit of a resurgence following his first Grand Slam singles final at the 2017 Australian Open, his first in three years.
A lot has been made over the years, particularly since the retirement of Andy Roddick, of where the next great American male will come from and just how much will they achieve in their career, but after a very dry period in singles many are looking to Sock to lead by example at the highest level of the sport.
The hype and excitement surrounding Sock has numbers to back it up. The 13th seed is the first American male to feature in four consecutive Masters 1000 level quarter-finals since 1999. Many expected a bit more from John Isner and Sam Querrey, but Sock might just make up for the long slump in American Men’s tennis in recent years.
Nadal’s resurgence is quite remarkable in itself. Some may predict that he still had a very decent chance of reclaiming his dominance at Roland Garros, but I do not think many forecasted him making another Australian Open final at this point of his career after all the setbacks he had experienced, most recently the wrist problem that hampered his 2016 season.
In this match-up you are looking at two players that produce the highest levels of spin on the ball, especially off the forehand side. The real question will be whether Sock’s vast improvements in his backhand and in his fitness, that has enabled him to cover the court with greater ease, will be at the required level to beat one of the finest competitors in tennis.
Nadal is not unbeatable. There are a lot more lapses in his game compared to his greatest years on the tour and the fearsome forehand falls much shorter, which gives his opponent greater opportunities to take control of the point. The better players will expose the lack of depth of that shot, but it still remains to be seen whether Sock will make the most of the openings that occur in this match.
Prediction: Nadal in 3 sets.
Kei Nishikori  vs Fabio Fognini H2H: Nishikori 2-0
The second-seeded Kei Nishikori takes on Italy’s Fabio Fognini on Wednesday. Nishikori has stumbled his way through most of his opponents throughout the opening rounds with tight wins over Fernando Verdasco and Federico Delbonis in the last two rounds.
Fognini has beaten some very good players on his way to the quarter-final. He beat Memphis champion Ryan Harrison in the first round, 30th seed Joao Sousa in the second round and also handled Donald Young easily in the fourth round of the Miami Open. Yet the unpredictability of his application to matchplay and deviations in focus throughout the course of a match means you never know what you will get next.
Nishikori holds the advantage in the head-to-head leading 2-0. In their last meeting in Madrid, Nishikori actually won by saving a match point, so they have definitely had some tightly-contested matches in the past and this should be no different.
Prediction: Fognini in three sets.
Roger Federer  vs Tomas Berdych  H2H: Federer leads 17-6
Federer and Tomas Berdych meet for the 24th time in a rivalry spanning 13 years in total. Berdych managed to win the first ever meeting in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but Federer has gained the upperhand particularly in recent encounters by winning all of the last six matches against the highest ranked Czech.
The 2017 Australian Open champion is the form player this year. He has lost just the one match this season and is yet to drop a set during the Indian Wells and Miami hard court swing.
One could make the case that this fortnight in Miami is Berdych’s best performance of the year so far. The World No.14 has dropped outside of the ATP Top 10 for the first time in seven years, losing matches to opponents he would normally beat with ease, which has led to many believing that Berdych is on the decline. Two successful weeks in Miami may silence the doubters as he looks for some signs of progress with the help of grand-slam-winning coach and player Goran Ivanisevic.
If Berdych is going to make any inroads in the Federer service games and make a serious impression on this match, he can do it on a hard court, but the Swiss eighteen-time Grand Slam champion looks imperious in all of his matches, so will be extremely hard to stop.
I think Federer will win in straight sets. He is taking the ball incredibly early, taking time away from his opponents and now is even more dangerous because of the stability and secureness of the one-handed backhand. It is almost like a completely different shot to what we saw before his absence from the tour at the back-end of 2016.
Prediction: Federer in two sets.
Nick Kyrgios  vs Alexander Zverev  H2H: Kyrgios leads 1-0
Both Top 20 players at ages 21 and 19 respectively and also both were Junior World No.1 players, both transitioning to the Men’s game at an unbelievably fast rate, which is why this is a tremendous match-up. After a seriously disappointing start to the 2017 season, where Kyrgios surrendered a two-set lead to lose to World No.89 Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open, the 21-year-old Australian has rebounded well, posting impressive results in every tournament that has followed.
The two wins over World No.2 Djokovic in Acapulco and Indian Wells stand out, but what needs to be applauded is the consistency in his results, which has not always been the case for Kyrgios. Hotheaded, he still has his tantrums on court, but the tennis is shining through, which marks a considerable improvement as we saw with a semi-final run in Acapulco and Marseille and a Quarter-Final in last week’s Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells.
Zverev is already a Top 20 player and a two-time title winner at the age of 20, one of the few younger players making some serious noise at the higher echelons of the Men’s Game, with the game being a much ‘older game’ in recent years.
The pair met at the third round of Indian Wells last week and Kyrgios won it in devastating fashion. The Aussie, a defending semi-finalist at the Miami Open, opens up as the favourite, but I would not be surprised if Zverev steals a set from him, especially coming off a fantastic win over the top-seeded Stan Wawrinka in the round before.
Prediction: Kyrgios in three sets.
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