Monday 22 January 2018 / 07:11 AM

Usual Suspects: Week 1 Miami Sony Open

The news at the beginning of this week was that Andy Murray has parted company with coach Ivan Lendl, but it certainly doesn’t seem to have affected his game. Murray remains on course to retain his Sony Open title in the heat as he continues to recover his form after his back surgery last year, but if the Scot had hoped for an easy passage to the final, he’ll need to think again, as the usual suspects remain in outstanding form in Miami.

It has not been the easiest year for Murray so far, with a number of lacklustre displays following last year’s back surgery, but it certainly seems like the Scot is getting back to something close to his best on the hardcourts of Miami. He began his defence in the second round against Australian Matthew Ebden, dispatching him in three sets after losing the opening set. This set up a tie against the Spaniard Feliciano Lopez with the Scot winning in a comfortable two sets to set up a last-16 clash against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Firmly among the players looking to foil Murray’s quest for back-to-back Miami victories is Novak Djokovic, and the Serb has looked impressive in his only game so far. The Serb began his bid for a fourth Miami crown with an easy win over Jeremy Chardy, with the professional performance only slightly marred by an altercation between Djokovic and the chair umpire. The world number two had been due to face Florian Mayer in the third round, but after the German withdrew as a result of a groin injury, Djokovic was given a bye through to the fourth round where he will face 16th seed Tommy Robredo.

The man Djokovic beat in California is looking good too. The old master Roger Federer is yet to drop a set and has cruised into the fourth round and will face Richard Gasquet. Despite struggling to match his younger counterparts in recent months, Federer’s showing at the Indian Wells tournament indicated that he can still cause problems for Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka, and the wily old Swiss will be desperate to win in Miami to kick-start his season.

Bad news for all the men mentioned so far, though; Rafael Nadal looks at his rampaging best, and his 6-1 6-3 victory in only 69 minutes over Aussie Lleyton Hewitt indicated that he has what it takes to go all the way in Miami. Nadal thrives in the heat, and it seems likely that he will be there or thereabouts at the end of this week. Both Nadal and Wawrinka (who faced a rather more challenging three setter in his second round game) are yet to play their third round ties, but both will be hopeful of progressing into the last-16.

We said after the Indian Wells that it was great to see some renewed competition in the WTA tour, and we’re seeing that again in Miami, with both Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova needing to be at their best to overcome stubborn opponents in their third round ties.

Despite winning in straight sets in her second round tie, Serena didn’t have the easiest of games against Yaroslava Shvedova, with the Kazakhstani number one forcing her into a tiebreak in the first set. This was followed by a gruelling test against Caroline Garcia in the third round, with the Frenchwoman forcing Williams to go the distance, with the American finally triumphing 6-4 4-6 6-4.

World number seven Maria Sharapova enjoyed an easier second round, triumphing over Japanese youngster Kurumi Nara in straight sets, but the Russian found it more difficult in her third round match with Lucie Safarova needing nine matches points to finally see off the Czech in three sets.

Unfortunately for Flavia Pennetta, the Italian was unable to build on her triumph in California as she was beaten by 12th seed Ana Ivanovic in the third round, whilst there were wins for Angelique Kerber, Peta Kvitova and Venus Williams in the third round.

The tennis season is alive and well, and there are plenty more quality matchups in Miami before attention turns towards the Davis Cup quarterfinals and the start of the clay season.

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Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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