By Ros Satar
- Heather Watson v Patricia Maria Tig – First Meeting
- Aljaz Bedene v Jan-Lennard Struff – First Meeting
- Kyle Edmund v Jared Donaldson – First Meeting
MIAMI, USA – A raft of first encounters await Heather Watson, Kyle Edmund and Aljaz Bedene as they start their Miami Open campaigns.
Heather Watson v Patricia Maria Tig – First Meeting
Catching up with Heather Watson after a second round exit in Indian Wells, with fourth round points to defend in Miami, the Brit was keen to play down the pressure of defending points. There are not too many places separating Watson from Patricia Maria Tig. The young Romanian has had a few notable runs including the semi-final in Seoul and the quarter-final in Madrid last year, but her 2017 has been a tale of qualifying and early exits.
This is by no means an easy one for Watson. Tig has improved her serve (much like the Brit) and can move well, sending the ball back with some pace. She has an aggressive game style, which Watson has also been working on developing.
Perhaps Watson’s strength is that she is also very good at switching to defence and has maybe a little more variety to her game. The Brit needs to come through some tight matches to regain her confidence. She was in control a lot of the time in the recent Fed Cup rounds where she showed some impressive form albeit against mostly players ranked below her.
As always – this is winnable for the Brit but expect it to be a tight match.
Prediction: Watson in three sets.
Aljaz Bedene v Jan-Lennard Struff – First Meeting
This has been a great dash back up the rankings for Aljaz Bedene after a bit of a freefall. The news that his appeal to be eligible for Davis Cup had been rejected really affected the Slovenian-born Brit, and affected his results considerably as he dropped from in and around the Top 50 to outside the Top 100 at the start of the year.
His progress this year has been slow – he returned to the Chennai tournament and reached the quarter-finals, but has not really made much of a dent in tour-level main draws. It took a run to the Irving Challenger title to put him back in the Top 100 and a couple of comfortable wins in qualifying to make the first round of the main draw in Miami. He actually has a couple of rounds to defend from last year, so a win against Jan-Lennard Struff would be much needed.
The German started the year with a run to the Canberra Challenger final but has not really managed to string together any back to back ins since then, so if Bedene’s confidence is up he could gain some ground here.
Struff has a solid serve and likes to clobber the ball, and his backhand is his main weapon. Bedene, while being generally consistent does not have any real weapons to speak of, so this may be more of a match of patience for the Brit. We give him the edge, just on confidence of wins alone.
Prediction: Bedene in three sets.
Kyle Edmund v Jared Donaldson – First Meeting
British No. 3 Kyle Edmund is still chasing the No. 2 spot, and starts his bid against American qualifier Jared Donaldson. Edmund was close to taking a set off Novak Djokovic in Indian Wells for the first time, but perhaps understandably got a bit tight when it mattered, but can he make the draw count for him this time?
Donaldson has been making a few waves this year, with a good run at the start of the year in Brisbane, reaching the fourth round before having a bit of a lack-lustre time until opting for the Irving Challenger, where he was beaten by Bedene in the quarter-final.
He has come through qualifying through and is match tight in Miami, and with home crowd advantage, Edmund will need to have his serve and his own fore-hand firing well. Donaldson has a whippy fore-hand that has in the past reminded people of a young Rafael Nadal, but probably could do with some development, weight and at times court-smarts to it.
Edmund should come through this, but expect it to be quite tight.
Prediction: Edmund in straight sets.
Dan Evans v Ernesto Escobedo – First Meeting
First up on the schedule is Dan Evans who faces qualifier Ernesto Escobedo. Evans is just about holding on to his No. 2 British ranking with Edmund chasing up close behind. This time last year it was the Yorkshireman making strides up the rankings and indeed has a couple of rounds to defend, while Evans had dropped back to earning a crust on the Challengers and so could lengthen his gap over Edmund.
He takes on American qualifier Escobedo, who enjoyed a spirited run up the rankings at the Australian Open, reaching the fourth round. It should be winnable for the Brit if he turns on the flair,
Prediction: Evans in two sets.
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