Top seeds seek title success at Miami

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Ivan Ljubicic upstaged all the big stars at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells earlier this month, but the top seeds will be looking to make amends at the second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event of the year.

Eight of the world’s top 10 players have descended on Miami for the Sony Ericsson Open, with world No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro and 2008 titlist Nikolay Davydenko (both with wrist injuries)  missing from the field.

Four of the remaining top 10 players have won the Miami title on at least one previous occasion, including defending champion Andy Murray.

The Scot remains title-less in 2010 and hasn’t quite been at the top of his game since that emotional Australian Open final loss to world No. 1 Roger Federer. Murray came under fire for experimenting with his game at the Dubai Tennis Championships and bowed out in quarter-finals at Indian Wells, losing in straight sets to world No. 7 Robin Soderling after making a slow start to their match.

Should Murray reach the final eight at the Sony Ericsson Open a potential rematch with the hard-hitting Swede awaits, and there’s the potential first match-up since Melbourne Park between the 22-year-old and Federer in the semis.

The third seed defeated three top-10 players on his way to the title last year, and will likely need to do the same if he’s to successfully defend his crown, which Murray claimed last year in the final against Novak Djokovic.

The Serb presents a conundrum of his own at Miami. Djokovic is another who is not quite in top gear right now, but did find a way to dig himself out of trouble from the second round onwards in Dubai last month, staging three come-from-behind victories between the second round and the semi-finals to eventually win the title.

At Indian Wells, Djokovic saved three match points in the third round against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber before becoming 20th seed Ljubicic’s first big-name victim. The world No. 2 will need to play some more consistent tennis in Florida if he’s to add a second Miami trophy to his haul.

Then there’s Federer, the world’s best player and Miami titlist in 2005-06. With a cool 16 Grand Slam titles already in his pocket, the Swiss could be forgiven for having less motivation to win here than most. Marcos Baghdatis may have celebrated the “best win of my career” against Federer in the third round at Indian Wells, but the world No. 1 wouldn’t have been too phased by the result.

It’s all a process for Federer, and the end goal is to build that collection of major titles. Still, the 1000 ranking points that come with winning a Masters 1000 event would increase that buffer between him and any challengers for the top ranking, so there’s still incentive to win it. In just his second tournament back since the Australian Open, and since overcoming a lung infection, the Fed-Express might just be primed and ready to roll.

Andy Roddick is the other past champion in the draw, winning the title back in 2004. The American narrowly missed out on winning his first Indian Wells title over the weekend, falling to Ljubicic in the final. The sixth seed has form on his side, and a potential chance to take some revenge over the Croatian in the fourth round.

There’s also one notable name who is yet to etch his name on the history books in Miami and that’s Rafael Nadal, who has twice been runner-up at the tournament. Another to lose to Ljubicic at Indian Wells, the Spaniard did show in his first tournament back from a knee injury sustained at the Australian Open that he’s not about to change his game for anyone. And that his body is still able to withstand the rigours of his physical style – at least for the time being. The world No. 4 may be even better in the second tournament of his return.

There will be plenty outside this elite group who will fancy their chances at replicating Ljubicic’s Indian Wells achievement in Miami, but it’s hard to imagine that for a second straight Masters 1000 tournament not one of the top seeds will be the last man standing. 



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