Although he failed again in the final (for the seventh time) this year, Felix Auger-Aliassime has performed well, more regularly in terms of level of play and results, even if everything is not perfect, especially on the mental level. A finalist at Murray River and then in the round of 16 at the Australian Open, he is coming off a solid tournament in Acapulco where he could have won against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals if he hadn't cracked on his serve, committing double faults at the worst possible moments. The Quebecer has a great record of 10 wins and 3 losses on outdoor hard courts and has already defeated the likes of Denis Shapovalov and Sebastian Korda in 2021. In the first round, he managed to counter Pierre-Hugues Herbert's offensive game (59% of points won behind the first for the Frenchman) to win in two sets (6-4, 6-4), while P2H was on a very positive momentum. For this second round, he will be opposed to a bigger server in the person of John Isner who had not left him a good memory in Florida in 2019 since the American had won (7-6, 7-6) while the Canadian had a break lead in both sets. Sidelined for two months between Delray Beach and Acapulco, he played the fifth match of his season in his opener against Mackenzie McDonald, a match in which he managed to reverse the trend and raise his level of play on the first ball (2-6, 6-3, 7-5). Given his lack of pace and Auger-Aliassime's good form, Isner will not be the favorite, but with his quality of service, anything is possible, especially since Auger has a record of 7 losses in 8 matches on hard court against the big servers... Rodolphe Gilbert : With John Isner, these are always difficult matches to predict. I was very surprised that he wasn't the favorite against MacDonald in the first round. It's true that the American hasn't played much, so it's hard to gauge him, but Miami is a tournament that has done him very well with a title and a final. Felix Auger-Aliassime is not an all-risk insurance, he is capable of missing matches. We can't say that he is a great returner, even if he was not bad at that level against Herbert, he will have a server of another caliber in front of him. This match will depend a lot on the quality of Isner's serve, which can be very difficult to maneuver if his first ball is on target. After that, yes, FAA will be the favorite, but more because we've seen him play, unlike the American who will be playing his sixth match this year. Isner had an average first round, but he will probably get better as the matches go on. It's very hard to bet on a match like that, the only thing I'll do is avoid taking Auger-Aliassime at such low odds.  


Daniil Medvedev vs Alexei Popyrin

With the defeat of Alexander Zverev against Emil Ruusuvuori, Daniil Medvedev has a royal road to reach his fifth Masters 1000 final (even if he will probably have to get past Bautista Agut). The new world No. 2 just won his tenth title in Marseille last week and his little setback in Rotterdam (first round loss to Lajovic in two sets), seems to be long gone. The Russian is back on his favorite surface (72% of career wins) and seems almost impossible to beat on hard court since the resumption last August (3 losses in 20 matches, including two against Djokovic, Thiem and Bautista). His first round match against Yen-Hsun Lu (ranked 533rd) looked like a practice match as Medvedev didn't have to force himself to win (6-2, 6-2). The adversity will be quite different against Alexei Popyrin in his second round match. The Australian has been showing great things since the beginning of the season and just won his first ATP Tour title last month in Singapore. Having beaten the likes of Tommy Paul, David Goffin and Alexander Bublik, Popyrin is clearly a top 30 player since the beginning of the year. A trend that was confirmed in his first two rounds with victories over Feliciano Lopez (6-4, 7-6) and especially Reilly Opelka (6-4, 6-2), against whom he managed to return very well (35% of points won behind the American's first). It's no surprise that Medvedev will be a huge favorite in this match, especially considering his rare losses to lower-ranked players in the Masters 1000 on hard court (more than 87% wins). The Russian is 2-0 in his head-to-head meetings with Popyrin, the last of which took place at the 2020 Australian Open (6-4, 6-3, 6-2). Beware, however, of a player who is in full confidence and who will play freely. Rodolphe Gilbert: This is a great match between a guy who is on the rise and the world number 2 who has been in impressive form for several months. Obviously Medvedev will be the favorite, like Djokovic when he gets on court. He had a little mishap in Rotterdam, but made up for it in Marseille and won his first round match very easily. It's going to be a different level against Popyrin, who just won Singapore. Can we think that he can beat the Russian? Yes, everything is possible, we saw Zverev get knocked out. The playing conditions are complicated and many players have difficulty adapting physically to the heat and humidity of Miami. Other than that, Medvedev is his own man in that he does everything better than Popyrin, but he can come out of the match at times and I can see that causing him to falter. If his attitude is good, I don't see him losing. Now, with this No. 2 ranking in the world, he wants to show that it's not stolen. Winning Miami is something prestigious, and it would send a signal to the competition. So even if Popyrin plays well, it could be a close set, but I see Medvedev going through.  


Roberto Bautista Agut vs Jan-Lennard Struff

After a slow start to the season until the beginning of March (defeated by Albot at the Australian Open and by Davidovich Fokina in Rotterdam), Roberto Bautista Agut found his form again in Doha, where he had a magnificent run, beating Opelka, Bublik, Thiem and Rublev in a row before falling to the ogre Basilashvili. In addition to his run, it was his level of play that impressed during the week, with the Spaniard being much more aggressive and forward than usual. His loss in the second round the following week in Dubai was more to the credit of Jannik Sinner, who played a great match to knock off RBA in three sets (6-4, 3-6, 7-5). He will enter the third round directly after the withdrawal of Lloyd Harris and will perhaps lack a little rhythm in the beginning of the match, but we can trust him to quickly take the measure of his opponent. Apart from a great ATP Cup, Jan-Lennard Struff is not really at his best at the beginning of the season and his three consecutive losses in the first round have been a bit worrying (defeat in three sets in the first round of the OA against O'Connell, against Gojowczyk in Montpellier and against Goffin in Rotterdam by scoring four games). He did the job against Richard Berankis for his first match (6-4, 6-3), without really reassuring. Bautista Agut will be the favorite in this match, as he rarely goes wrong against lower-ranked players in the Masters (70% of wins since 2016). But be careful, as Struff won their last match on hard court in early 2020 in Dubai (7-6, 7-5) and has a balanced record against the Top 20 players on this surface (7 wins to 7 losses). Rodolphe Gilbert: Unless Struff has a great match, I don't see the German winning. And lately, he hasn't really shown much. Of course, if he hits the ball very well and doesn't make mistakes, he has the weapons to upset a lot of players, including Bautista Agut, but I think there is a big difference between the two men at the moment. Even an "average" match from the Spaniard can be enough to win. Physically, he is also a very solid player, even in difficult conditions like the one in Florida right now. He is a player with an impeccable mindset who doesn't say a word, who hangs in there. I give him a big advantage in this game.  


Jannik Sinner vs Karen Khachanov

It's a duel of big hitters that we will have between Jannik Sinner and Karen Khachanov. The Italian is back after two first round losses at the Australian Open and in Montpellier. After a very good tournament in Dubai (even if he didn't make better than a quarter-final), Sinner won convincingly against Bublik and especially Bautista Agut, showing a level of play worthy of a member of the Top 10 during the second match before falling in three sets against Aslan Karatsev. He managed to get through his first match without too much effort against Hugo Gaston (6-2, 6-2). As for Karen Khachanov, he continues to be irregular in terms of results, but also in terms of his level of play. If he has produced some good matches in 2021, including against Tsitsipas in Rotterdam, the Russian is globally disappointing for too long. As a proof, he won only 2 of his 10 matches on hard court (his favorite surface) against the Top 50. In this match, Jannik Sinner will start with a small psychological advantage since he already beat Khachanov this year at the Great Ocean Road in a very close match (7-6, 4-6, 7-6). But we mustn't forget that Khachanov won the last US Open, too (3-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-0, 7-6) after a long battle. The Italian is currently playing better tennis than the Russian, so he will be the logical favorite, but it could be another close match between the two men, with a possible tie-break to separate the two players who win nearly 80% of their service games. Rodolphe Gilbert: As I often say, I find Khachanov very average for a while now and I have a soft spot for Jannik Sinner. I find the Russian so far from his best level that the Italian is the logical favorite despite the difference in ranking between the two men. I still see a close match, but Khachanov has a hard time to play full matches. Sometimes he can play very well, but it rarely lasts a whole match, he sometimes has big gaps. I also have the feeling that when it's close, he rarely wins, that's also what makes me say that Sinner will win this match. After that, is it worth playing the Italian at only 1.50? Not necessarily in my opinion as Khachanov is still a top 20 player, capable of playing well. I would have probably put a slightly smaller spread on the odds.  


Cameron Norrie vs Taylor Fritz

Norrie is in great shape! The Briton is slowly approaching his best career level (41st in May 2019 and currently 51st provisionally). Yesterday, he was not yet 20 years old, but he thwarted the prognosis by going to pick Grigor Dimitrov, seeded n°9, in two sets (7-5, 7-5). Norrie's serve was once again very convincing, an area he has worked on a lot in recent weeks and it shows (10 aces and 78% success on first serves). His tactics were also very accurate, namely positioning himself on his baseline with fairly linear and worked balls (difficult for one-handed backhands) but also as a "counter" in a match where Dimitrov offered explosive shots but cruelly lacked length. In the next round, he will face American Taylor Fritz, an opposition that must be familiar to him since the two men will be facing each other for the 6th time in less than two years on hard court. Norrie leads 3-2, but Fritz's composure in his last match against Giron suggests that the American will be keen to equalize against the Briton on home soil. Fritz totally stifled Giron with a clear supremacy in the rally and a clean finish to boot. Solid on serve (86% of points won on his first points), Fritz was never worried (0 break points conceded). Despite Norrie's form (13 wins to 6 losses this season) and a favorable H2H for the Briton, Fritz is the favorite of the match. Norrie is playing his 4th consecutive tournament in a month, so maybe it will be difficult for him to keep the pace. But it should be noted that Nishioka was leading 5-1 in the third set and that Dimitrov had a really bad match in the previous round. This is enough to qualify Norrie's presence in the third round. Rodolphe Gilbert: Norrie took advantage of a huge non-game from Dimitrov to win and on the other hand, I thought Fritz was pretty good against Giron. His opponent didn't play very well, but I still thought he was solid. It's a tournament that he's never really done well in, but I'd go for the American. On the other hand, I didn't find the Briton incredible, but he's a survivor. He was 5-1 down in the third against Nishioka and he manages to win, so in those moments you can say to yourself that it's just a bonus afterwards, that's also something to consider. Even if I see Fritz as a favorite in this game, he is not an all-risk insurance either, at times it seems that he is without solution when things go wrong. I commented on his game against Giron and I saw him serve well, hit hard, so if he can continue in that way, he can win. He's just going to have to be there mentally, because Norrie will be there. I think the odds are pretty logical.  


Frances Tiafoe vs Dusan Lajovic

Third confrontation between these two players. It's a perfect tie for now. Lajovic had beaten him in 2017 on hard court and Tiafoe got his revenge in 2020 in indoor. Tiafoe has alternated between the good and the not-so-good this early in the season. In Delray Beach, he reached the quarterfinals. In Melbourne and at the Australian Open, he was quickly eliminated by Moutet and Djokovic. On clay, it was not a great success with two eliminations in the second round of the tournament in Buenos Aires and Santiago. In Acapulco last week, in a very good match against Musetti, he was beaten by the young Italian in the third set, but he showed that he had regained some rhythm in his game. This week, he dominated Travaglia who has not been able to do so since his final in Melbourne. In the second round, he also lost the first set to Evans. He was strong and converted the break points that came his way while saving the 3 break points conceded in the rest of the match. He also served well with 78% of points behind his first serve, including 10 aces. It was a physically demanding match as it lasted almost 3 hours. The American's ability to recover will be the key to the match. He will face a player who will make him play and vary a lot by finding angles with his very good and beautiful one-handed backhand. Angles and variations that could push him to the foul. The physical power and heavy hitting of the American should, on the other hand, challenge Lajovic who needs time to prepare his attacks. As for the latter, he has a mixed record over his last 10 matches with 5 wins and 5 losses. At the beginning of the year, after a fourth round loss to Zverev at the Australian Open and early eliminations in Montpellier and Doha, the Serbian gave his best performance against Medvedev in Rotterdam. For his first round here in Miami, he was solid and did not let himself be surprised by the local Escobedo. He was solid on serve and in the important moments saving break points. He was patient and converted the opportunities that came his way. It could be an open match. Lajovic will want to take Tiafoe on his backhand on the diagonal to fix it. Tiafoe will try to turn on his forehand to speed up the game at the risk of making mistakes. Tiafoe has a slight edge because his game is more suited to this surface. Lajovic needs too much time and will be attacked. Note that Tiafoe's last two wins after losing the first set are interesting arguments in his favor. Rodolphe Gilbert: It was a great win for Tiafoe to beat Dan Evans in a close match, who is always a tough player to play on hard court. I thought he was pretty good in this match. Lajovic, on the other hand, beat Escobedo in the first round when he was unthinkably underdog. I thought it was a relatively even match, so I think on his home soil it could do for the American. But once again, the Serbian's rating is incredible! Tiafoe is 60th, Lajovic 25th and he's at 2.70 when he just beat Medvedev in Rotterdam on hard court? So yes, he plays better on clay, but that's crazy. In the previous round, I wouldn't have put a dime on Escobedo and in this match, he can totally beat the American. To put such a gap is to underestimate Lajovic.  


Emil Ruusuvori vs Mikael Ymer

The Nordic youth has shaken up the top seeds! At only 21 and 22 years old, the two players have not finished surprising us. While Mikael Ymer dominated Nikoloz Basilashvili (6-3, 4-6, 6-4), Emil Ruusuvuori took out Alexander Zverev (1-6, 6-3, 6-1). The Finn confirms his good start to 2021 and Ymer finally performs after hopes glimpsed in late 2019. On paper, Ruusuvuori has clearly convinced more than the Swede and is therefore logically favorite, against a player with whom he shares many common points. The winner of this match will play his first round of 16 in Masters 1000. On paper, the two players seem quite similar. Rodolphe Gilbert: For me, it's 50-50 in the sense that these are two guys who play well on hardcourts and don't really have any experience at this level of a Masters 1000. It's a match that I think is wide open. Having Ruusuvuori as the favorite seems odd to me, even though he just beat a player like Zverev. Ymer, on the other hand, just beat Basilashvili anyway, though obviously much less prestigious. I think the backlash might come more for the Finn than for Ymer. They are two youngsters who probably know each other very well. Again, I think it's a very open game and I wouldn't put Ruusuvuori as a favorite at all because I think Ymer is quite capable of beating him on a regular basis. So given the odds, if there's anything to try, it's the Swede.


Alexander Bublik vs James Duckworth

Bublik easily defeated Laslo Djere, who was much less opportunistic than in his previous round against Vesely. Indeed, the Serbian brought less variation and made more mistakes. However, Bublik was not particularly brilliant, especially on his service games (4 aces, 60% of first balls and 5 break points conceded). However, as soon as the rally started, we could feel the contrast in power between the two camps. On one side, Bublik, with his linear and powerful strokes and on the other side, Djere a little disconcerted and late on his shots. Let's remember that the latter has a very negative record on this surface (22% of victories in 40 games). Bublik will have to be vigilant in his next round against James Duckworth who, in 2021, has achieved a second reference victory on "outdoor hard court" by eliminating David Goffin a few weeks after having surprised Hugo Humbert in Melbourne. It must be said that the Belgian was non-existent during the entire match with no less than 32 unforced errors. The 29 year old Australian, who is more consistent, thus achieved the most important victory of his career and will now discover the 3rd round of a Masters 1000. The net advantage given to Bublik by the bookmakers seems justified in relation to his style of play which is perfectly adapted to annoy the Australian who does not appreciate big servers (1 win in 6 matches). Moreover, the Kazakh has a real card to play here in Miami and will be determined as he is in the least ranked quarter of the tournament avoiding Medvedev, Tsitsipas or Rublev. The highest ranked player in his bracket is Khachanov, seeded No. 16, whom he has beaten twice... Rodolphe Gilbert: On paper, Bublik is the favorite, but I watched Duckworth's match; he played really well! He didn't miss a ball, he hit, he played well, he moved Goffin very well, I thought he was really good. To put 3 and 1 to Goffin, you have to do it. After that, the Kazakh doesn't have the same profile as the Belgian, so it will be a different match. I think that Bublik has become much more consistent in the last 6-8 months, he is much more stable than he was in the past. So logically he will be the favorite, but watch out for the Australian who has really impressed me. If he plays the same kind of match again, he can beat Bublik. Now, if the Kazakh plays at his level, he is strong enough to get out of the trap set by Duckworth. We could have a pretty close match between the two men and I'd be willing to take a shot at the Australian based on what I've seen.  


Editor's Opinion ⭐️⭐️⭐️--- ⭐️⭐️ Isner 1 set / Ymer 1 set ⭐️ Isner win / over 21.5 games into Khachanov vs. Sinner match / Ymer win


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