The 2013 Miami Masters (also known as the 2013 Sony Open Tennis, to those who might get confused) is one of the most popular events on the ATP World Tour, but will be without three of the sports' top-four stars when play continues on Thursday.
No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic was bounced by No. 15 Tommy Haas in the two's fourth-round match, as Haas took home the 6-2, 6-4 victory over the world's best player.
Haas then advanced again on Wednesday, defeating Gilles Simon in straight sets to reach the semifinals at the Miami Masters.
David Ferrer will be his opponent in that match.
On the other side of the bracket, Andy Murray and Marin Cilic are set to renew their one-sided rivalry on Thursday in the quarterfinals at Key Biscayne, while Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet have a chance to re-do their last match at Indian Wells just over two weeks after they last met.
To get you ready for Thursday's prequel to the semis at the Miami Masters, check out these two previews of the quarterfinal matchups at Key Biscayne. With Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all out of the picture for the final five singles matchups at this tournament, it's really anyone's game. Murray might have something to say about that, but here's a look at two matches that could decide the final trophy holder over the weekend.
No. 2 Andy Murray vs. No. 9 Marin Cilic—Thursday, March 28 at 3 p.m. ET
The last time Murray and Cilic got together, Murray was on the cusp of winning the 2012 U.S. Open (via BBC Sport). That match took Murray's all-time record against Cilic to 8-1, but you can bet the underdog in this match has no intention of allowing that record to inhibit his ability to pull off the upset.
While Murray has cruised to this point in the tournament with straight-set wins in each of his three matches, Cilic is also riding a straight-set hot streak. The Croatian did go to a tiebreak set in each of his three clinching sets, but shouldn't be underestimated and is coming in on one of the best stretches of his professional career.
He won in his home nation of Croatia at Zagreb Indoors, and has been playing great in early rounds before falling short to guys like Kei Nishikor, Andreas Seppi and Benoit Paire.
Coming into this match, there's little doubt that Murray is the favorite.
He's the only member of tennis' "Big Four" that is alive in this match, in part because Federer and Nadal are nursing injuries and Djokovic bowed out early to Haas in an unexpected loss. The British star might not be playing his best tennis after losing in the Australian Open final, but he'll carry the weight of being the favorite the rest of the way.
It should be interesting to see how Murray reacts to that label, and how the pair's somewhat storied history will motivate Cilic to come out strong and keep punching. Neither has lost a set so far at the tournament, but that will change on Thursday.
No. 4 Tomas Berdych vs. No. 8 Richard Gasquet—Thursday, March 28 at 7 p.m. ET
This match carries a little bit less luster than the aforementioned one, but both Berdych and Gasquet have a chance to move on and face the winner of Murray/Cilic.
The two men have also squared off a considerable number of times, most recently at Indian Wells.
The duo have played to a 4-4 tie in head-to-head matchups, and the winner of this match will go ahead in that department until the next time these two men meet. That will likely be the last thing on the minds of Gasquet and Berdych when they square off on Thursday, and rightly so—a chance to win a tournament is on the line.
Berdych has been playing great this season, but has no tournament victories to show for it. He has been to the quarterfinals in all of the tournaments he has entered this year, including two finals appearances against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Djokovic—both losses.
He'll look to move one step closer toward his first tournament win of the season with a win over Gasquet.
The French tennis star is currently No. 10 in the world rankings, but can make a push for a higher place on the list with a win over Berdych, who is four spots up on that same list.
Gasquet lost in straight sets to Berdych at Indian Wells, making this match an interesting one with the revenge factor in play. Both men have been in multiple-set matches during the first four rounds of the Masters, but there's hope that the off day has given each enough rest to not use those wins as a crutch for this match.
In fact, the win depends on it.
With three of the world's best players out of commission over the next few days, this is a prime chance for a dark-horse to step up and embrace the role of spoiler for this tournament, and major tournaments to come over the next few months.
Odds are with the higher-seeded players to start, but the performance of Haas has opened the door for other upsets at Key Biscayne. We'll see if either Cilic or Gasquet can pull off a similar feat during the quarterfinals on Thursday.
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