The Miami draw is out, and to me it doesn’t actually look that bad. The advantage of having a lot of tough players in Rafa’s half rather than more evenly spread out (yes, there is one) is that they tend to beat up on each other instead of being matched up against lesser players and presenting a steady diet of tough matches for Rafa.
Round One: bye. no problem! :)
Round Two: Bolelli or Gabashvilli. I honestly don’t feel either of these guys poses any significant threat unless both Rafa’s wheels totally come off AND they play the match of their lives. Possible? Sure. But not likely.
Round Three: Probably Karlovic. Karlovic could of course be tough because of his big serve. He’s not going to hang with Rafa if there are any rallies. They’ve played twice, once on grass and once on carpet, each three sets, and five of those sets were tiebreakers. Karlovic won two of the tiebreakers. The one set that wasn’t a tiebreaker went 6-1 to Rafa. Of course that was in 2004 and both men are different players, but Rafa’s still that much better overall. Rafa needs to be vigilant about his own serve and not let second serve opportunities pass him by, and I think he’ll come through again.
Round Four: Probably Andreev or Wawrinka. I like both of these guys but I don’t imagine Rafa will have a great deal of problems. Andreev has beaten Rafa once, that lone clay court victory that was his last loss before his record-breaking clay court match winning streak. The other four times and he’s rarely had trouble with him. As for Wawrinka, he’s been playing well and can be a dangerous player if he’s on form, but Rafa has never so much as dropped a set to him. Still, I predict that if he should meet Wawrinka, it will be his toughest match on the way to the semis.
Quarterfinals: My guess is on Ferrer, Del Potro, or Tipsarevic. Possibly Cilic. Ferrer, sadly, has never quite gotten back to being the player he was during his big run in 2007, and I wouldn’t anticipate a great deal of worry from him. Del Potro either. A lot of people seem to dislike Del Potro (and some people have better reasons than “he’s freaky tall,” miri! ;) ) but I think if he buckles down and works on his game, he could really be trouble later. He’s already improved a lot in the last couple of years, so only time will tell. I don’t think he’s anything to worry much about this week, however. Of the remaining possibilities, I’m actually more concerned about Cilic than Tipsarevic. Tipsy can be explosive but seems unable to ever really sustain anything. Perhaps he grows tired, laboring under his own ego (oooh, was that catty?), and can’t keep up his energy. Regardless, I think Cilic has a greater potential to be worrisome. Though not in Miami. I don’t think he has the experience to handle Rafa in the quarters of a Masters tournament just yet.
Semifinals: I really don’t see anyone getting past Andy Murray. If he should stumble, I think it could be Verdasco or Lopez. If it’s the latter two, Australian Open marathon aside, I think Rafa will go to the final. Lopez isn’t beating him. He’s five years older than Rafa and has only beaten him once, back in 2003 when Rafa was only 17, and Feli was about 22. On carpet. And it still took three sets and a third set tiebreaker to do it. Verdasco could be tough if he maintains his form but Rafa is not going to make the mistake of underestimating him again. I do think that was at least part of the problem at the Australian. Most of it was Nando being fabulous, but I think Rafa kept expecting him to fade as Nando is apt to do. Rafa has beaten him seven times. A few of those were utterly brutal defeats. Nando got bageled in the second set of their French Open match last year, and only managed 3 games in the other two sets. I think the only person Rafa has a realistic chance of losing to in a semifinal is Murray. Maybe Nalbandian but Rafa learned a lot from that match in Indian Wells, I guarantee it. He isn’t going to be afraid of him anymore.
Final: My guess? Simon or Federer. Yes, Simon. I don’t know, I’m just feeling it. No guesses on what happens in a final, it depends on a lot of things. I think Rafa’s got a good chance, regardless.
So, my predictions:
Quarterfinals: Nadal def Ferrer, Murray def Verdasco, Simon def Djokovic, Federer def Roddick.
Semifinals: Nadal def Murray, Simon def Federer.
Finals: Nadal def Simon.
:) Yes, I am way out on this limb. Come on and join me, it’s not that scary. What do you guys think?