Celebrating its 33rd year, the Miami Open tennis tournament is still one of the premier showcases in the sport – routinely drawing both established stars and young players on the rise from all around the globe.READ MORE: Police Chase Through Miami-Dade, Broward Ends In Tri-Rail Parking Garage
Fans will remember that it was at the 2004 Miami Open that a 17-year-old Spaniard named Rafael Nadal upset the then No. 1 player in the world Roger Federer in the second round of the competition – catapulting Nadal’s status and serving as the jumping-off point for one of tennis’ greatest rivalries.
Even though the tournament, which features a $1.1 million dollar purse for both the men and women champion, would tout some of the biggest names in tennis – this year’s bracket is missing some of the household names that resonate with even the most casual fan.
The top two ranked men, Andy Murray (No. 1) and Novak Djokovic (No. 2) both withdrew from the field with elbow injuries. Djokovic’s absence will open the door for a new men’s champion to be crowned since the Serbian has won the Miami Open the past three years – and five of the past six overall.
The one year that Djokovic didn’t bring home the crown, 2013, Murray did.
Perhaps the biggest void is superstar Serena Williams, who withdrew from the tourney with a knee injury. The 35-year-old Williams has the tournament eight times in her career – including a three-peat from 2013 to 2015 – and her absence definitely disappointed South Florida’s tennis fans.
Even without Murray, Djokovic, Williams – and you may as well throw in last year’s women’s winner Viktoria Azarenka, who is out on maternity leave – fans that make their way down to Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park will find brackets featuring plenty of great tennis players.
Just as they did over a decade ago, Nadal and Federer could end up squaring off in the tournament’s final.READ MORE: Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie Arrested, Charged With Perjury
Nadal, currently ranked No. 7 in the ATP rankings, sits on the bottom half of the bracket while Federer – ranked No. 6 – is on the top half.
The road to get there will be tough, though. Nadal may see No. 13 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 5 Milos Raonic in consecutive rounds if the top seeds win each matchup.
While Federer could end up seeing No. 8 Austrian-born Dominic Thiem in the fifth round and world No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in the sixth round just to reach the tournament’s final.
Fans should also relish the fact that they could also see the WTA’s new No. 1 ranked player if they attend the nearly two-week tournament.
Angelique Kerber recently overtook Williams for the No. 1 spot and earned the top seed on the bracket.
“It feels good to be back in Miami…it’s always a nice feeling here. I have a lot of good memories here,” Kerber told WTATennis.com. “I’m here to play good tennis and win matches.”
Venus Williams will play in this year’s Miami Open. Serena’s older sister has won the tournament three times – 1998, 1999 and 2001 – and could find herself playing across from Kerber in the fifth round.
Other notables on the women’s side include Karolina Pliskova, Dominika Cibulkova and Simona Halep – ranked No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 in the world respectively – Caroline Wozniacki and Elena Vesnina, who won last week’s BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.MORE NEWS: Former Sen. Bill Nelson Testifies At Senate Confirmation Hearing For NASA’s Top Job
For tournament information, brackets, and more visit www.MiamiOpen.com