What’s at stake as the action hots up in the Miami heat?

Stars and teenage prodigies on both the ATP and WTA have packed the draws as the Miami Open heads towards the business end.

Ashleigh Barty Australian Open 2020©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

The tennis world has turned its focus to the postcard setting of Florida.

Over at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami key names are on the march and brilliant breakthroughs are taking place with the 1000 level events edging over half way.

Let’s take a look at what is up for grabs Stateside. 

Can Barty reassert herself?

World No.1 Ash Barty headlines a sensational Last 16 in the WTA draw, facing two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka as she looks to defend her title. 

The Australian returns to action following encouraging displays on home soil in Melbourne and Adelaide.

However, Naomi Osaka (up against Elise Mertens) played a mesmerising Australian Open for her fourth major. 

It will be intriguing to see which of the top two seeds advances the furthest in Miami to lay claim to the top spot. 

Jannik Sinner©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Chance to spring a surprise

With the ‘Big Three’ absent from the men’s event, there is an opportunity for a fresh face to head for a champion’s photoshoot.

Jannik Sinner continues to compile statement victories. The last time the Miami Masters was held in 2019 the Italian teenager was outside the Top 300, now he’s up at world No.31.

The Roland-Garros 2020 quarter-finalist, with remarkable retrieving and exemplary execution, outlasted 14th seed Karen Khachanov in a three-hour tussle to book a last 16 clash with fellow teen Emil Ruusuvuori.

Finland’s finest has already upset third seed Alexander Zverev and another Next Gen protege Carlos Alcaraz thus far in just his second Masters 1000 tournament. Who will claim a quarter-final ticket?

Fellow Top 100 teenagers Sebastian Korda and Lorenzo Musetti remain in contention.

Korda, a breakout star at RG 2020, toppled world No.17 Fabio Fognini from a set down to earn a duel with the man of the moment Aslan Karatsev.

The Russian, who lifted his first ATP title in Dubai, lost to Korda in RG 2020 qualifying. A lot has changed for both since then…

Meanwhile Italian world No.94 Musetti, having taken down Michael Mmoh and Benoit Paire in straight sets, is gunning for glory against 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic.

Four explosive and versatile talents, all with a chance to make a Masters 1000 mark.

Andreescu back in the groove

Having missed 2020 on the sidelines, 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu is out to roar back into contention for the most prestigious prizes.

Bianca Andreescu©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

The 20-year-old, with a 4-2 record Down Under earlier this season, sent out a signal to her peers with a titanic 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 6-4 passage past American Amanda Anisimova in Miami. 

"My game, I know that it can be better, but I'm trying to find ways to push through on my off days, and I think I'm doing that well," mused Andreescu.

"I think that's what makes a really good player, and I'm trying to be that really good player like I was in 2019. I just want to fight and give it my all and then the rest will come."

No rest for the Canadian, who takes on recent Dubai champion Garbiñe Muguruza in another Box Office Last 16 bout on Monday. 

A deep run in Miami would certainly propel Andreescu back into the contender conversation. 

Daniil Medvedev Open 13 Provence Marseille©Corinne Dubreuil / OPEN 13 PROVENCE

Medvedev can keep building momentum 

Newly-crowned world No.2 Daniil Medvedev is deputising his career-high ranking in Miami and the top seed is seeking his fourth Masters 1000 trophy. 

The 25-year-old defied cramp and an abundance of spirit from in-form Australian Alexei Popyrin 7-6(3), 6-7(7), 6-4 on Sunday having held three match points in the second set.

It was a scorching battle in the Miami heat, indicating Medvedev will leave it all out there to prolong his stay in Florida to stamp his authority at the top. 

“It’s probably one of the sweetest victories in my career, because I was cramping like hell in the third set,” said Medvedev, 14-2 in 2021.

The Russian, who lifted his 10th title in Marseille earlier this month, has Frances Tiafoe next in his path.

Who can stop the all-court craft of Medvedev?

Stefanos Tsitsipas Australian Open 2021©Tennis Australia / Scott Barbour

Maiden Premier prize on offer 

Also in the men’s draw Acapulco finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas will hope to transfer his form to Florida to clinch a first Masters 1000 title.

The reigning ATP Finals champion is joined by fourth seed Andrey Rublev. The Russian has excelled at the 500 level, but has only advanced past the fourth round once in Masters 1000 action. Will Miami tell a different story?

Wildcard Ana Konjuh’s captivating comeback from her fourth elbow surgery gathered more pace as the Croatian outmanoeuvred RG 2020 champion Iga Swiatek in three sets over the weekend.

The 19-year-old, ranked No.20 four years ago, is one of the players seeking a surprise success for a first WTA 1000 title.

Ons Jabeur is another player in stunning form, dismissing Sofia Kenin 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in a high-quality contest. The Tunisian’s first Top 10 victory in a year suggests if she can prevail past Sara Sorribes Tormo, the world No.30 could do some real damage.