It is the fourth round of the Miami Masters 1000 event and the initial field of 128 has been whittled down to an elite field of 16.
Here are four key matches to look out for in the fourth round:
Novak Djokovic vs. Tommy Haas
Novak Djokovic enters this tie not only as the favorite for the match but also as the favorite for this tournament. So far in this tournament, Djokovic has progressed with relative ease, blasting through Lukas Rosol—Rafael Nadal's Wimbledon 2012 conqueror—6-1, 6-0 and India's Somdev Devvarman 6-2, 6-4.
The Serb has been in relentless mode and it is hard to see any area where Haas can trouble Djokovic. Their head-to-head record (4-2 to Djokovic) also doesn't make good reading for any Haas fans out there. That said, Haas' current standing among the top 20 in the world at the ripe old age of 35, ahead of so many more touted and praised "youngsters," is a testament to the man behind the player.
Depending on who you talk to, it could be said that any records held against Djokovic before his 2011 breakout season could be somewhat asterisked, as the player we witness nowadays is so far removed from the player of the years prior. Tommy Haas has faced this "new" Djokovic twice in 2012 and although he lost both times, he was competitive. He took a set off the Serb in Toronto and will feel it's something he can at the very least do this time around.
David Ferrer vs. Kei Nishikori
This time last year, David Ferrer came into the Miami tournament with three title wins to his name. He lost early in Indian Wells and would go on to lose at the quarterfinals stage of the tournament to Novak Djokovic.
Fast forward a year and things are not so different.
He is just outside the top four, he has two titles to his name and has to get past a potentially tricky match against Japan's Kei Nishikori to proceed to the quarterfinals. Last year at the same stage, he dispatched Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3, 6-3, and the outcome of this match doesn't seem like it will be any different.
The head-to-head matchup between the two makes for interesting but unclear reading. The two are tied at two each, with the latest win, Ferrer's, coming at the Australian Open earlier this year.
So far in 2013, Nishikori has a 12-4 win-loss record, with one title on American hard court. He is ranked No. 15 in the world—matching his highest-ever ranking—and is improving year on year. However, he remains a part of the current group of young players blessed with talent who have yet to find their identity.
Richard Gasquet vs. Nicolas Almagro
As a spectacle, the tie between Gasquet and Almagro has to count as the most promising of the round. Both possess one-handed backhands to drive the likes of Roger Federer to envy. Almagro has the uncanny ability to hit his with the power of most people's forehands and Gasquet with the feel of the best executed drop shots.
For two players with remarkably similar playing styles, the differences in how both approach the game is astounding. Almagro is brash and confrontational and has often struggled to endear the watching public. Gasquet, on the other hand, is the darling of the French tennis watching public and has been known to be averse to confrontation.
Almagro leads the head-to-head meetings between the two, which is unsurprising, as they have met mostly on clay. But Gasquet has made a career renaissance of sorts over the last few months, culminating in his current position in the top 10 in the rankings.
The winner here will be the player who wants it more. Their personal histories suggest who that might be, but things change.
Andreas Seppi vs. Andy Murray
When we talk about Andy Murray and his credentials as a member of the Big Four, our inability as pundits and fans of the game to pin down, understand and predict Andy Murray remains one of the great mysteries of tennis nowadays.
Whenever you watch Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal or Djokovic play, there is always an air of expectation, an appreciation of the occasion being witnessed. With Murray though, the only expectation is the anticlimax. He won the U.S. Open and the best he mustered was a hunch of his knees and the covering of his face with his hands.
The last time these two players met on a hard court was in 2010 in Indian Wells, a match Murray won relatively easily—6-4, 6-4—in 86 minutes.
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