March Madness: Will the upsets continue at the Miami Open?

After a third-round upset at Indian Wells, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic should be motivated for a strong showing in Miami. George Walker/Icon Sportswire

Eleven women had a shot at emerging from the Australian Open holding the No. 1 world ranking. Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu was not one of them.

Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka, each of whom has won multiple Grand Slam singles titles, competed at Indian Wells the past two weeks. Dominic Thiem won the title -- his first Masters 1000 triumph.

Volatility is the buzzword for the pro game these days. The WTA is producing contenders at an uninterrupted clip, while the Big Four are slowly but surely loosening their grip on the ATP.

Two major tournaments are in the books so far in 2019 -- the Australian Open and Indian Wells. The year's 19 ATP tournaments haven't produced a single successful defending champion, while the 13 WTA events have generated only two. So far this year, seven ATP pros have broken through to win their first titles.

So what will it be at the Miami Open, in the last tournament of the long, fragmented early hard-court season: further volatility or a last-ditch restoration of the status quo?

Here are some clues on both the women's and men's sides for the Miami Open, which opens first-round play on Tuesday and runs through March 31 (full schedule of when and where to watch on the ESPN family of networks below):


2018 final: No. 13 seed Sloane Stephens d. No. 6 Jelena Ostapenko
Top seed: No. 1 Naomi Osaka
Former champions entered: Stephens, Serena Williams, Johanna Konta, Victoria Azarenka
Notably absent: Maria Sharapova (shoulder)

Players to watch

You can bet all eyes will be on defending champion and No. 4 seed Sloane Stephens. She busted out of the long slump that followed her win at the 2017 US Open last year in Miami, her confidence carrying her right through the clay-court season to the French Open final. But with a load of rankings points to defend and a woeful 5-5 record thus far in 2019, Stephens probably will feel plenty of pressure.

New sensation Bianca Andreescu also will be the focus of great attention, but she's likely to still be physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted from her spectacular title run at Indian Wells. Don't expect much.

No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber played a terrific final at Indian Wells and hasn't lost before the round of 16 all year. That kind of consistency is a good sign, especially if the courts at the new Miami site (the tournament has moved from its previous home in Key Biscayne to Miami's Hard Rock Stadium this year) play on the faster side.

It's hard to get accustomed to seeing Serena Williams seeded so low (No. 10), but then she hasn't won a tournament since the beginning of 2017.

Has there ever been a less flamboyant world No. 2 than Petra Kvitova? But beware: While the two-time Wimbledon champ took a tough loss to Venus Williams in her first match at Indian Wells, she's off to a fine start in 2019, with a title and a Grand Slam final that somehow slipped through her fingers added to her resume.

Belinda Bencic, ranked No. 20 in the world and rising, had her 12-match winning streak halted last week by Kerber. Look for her to bounce back.

Desperate for a win

While world No. 3 Simona Halep's 12-5 record isn't exactly awful, she has dropped from the top spot and her losses all were to players ranked between Nos. 16 and 61.

No. 13 seed Caroline Wozniacki is just 3-3 this year and has struggled with rheumatoid arthritis and an unspecified virus.

No. 17 seed Madison Keys is a dismal 4-3 for the year, and that includes a Fed Cup win over world No. 157 Kimberly Birrell.

Former champions Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta are struggling, and neither is seeded. Konta is 7- 5 in tournament play this year, Azarenka just 4-5.

Key potential matchups

If Osaka gets past erratic but always dangerous multiple Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza (seeded No. 20) in a potential fourth-round clash, she might face either 2018 breakout star Aryna Sabalenka (No. 9) or Kerber in the quarterfinals -- and Kvitova in the semis.

Stephens could have back-to-back matches in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, with struggling but dangerous heavy hitters Camila Giorgi (seeded No. 29) and last year's finalist, Ostapenko (No. 22).

Serena Williams could meet tough out Elina Svitolina (seeded No. 6) in the fourth round and Halep in the quarterfinals.

And we could get a rematch of Sunday's Indian Wells finals early in Miami: If both advance, Andreescu and Kerber would meet in the third round.


Defending champion: No. 14 seed John Isner d. No. 4 Alexander Zverev
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
Former champions entered: Djokovic, Roger Federer
Notably absent: Rafael Nadal (knee), Juan Martin del Potro (knee)

Players to watch

No. 1 seed Djokovic is the only man to complete the "Sunshine Double" (winning Indian Wells and Miami in succession) four times. Having been bushwhacked by world No. 42 Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round at Indian Wells, you can bet Djokovic will be motivated in Miami.

Thiem won his first Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells on Sunday, but he's been on the cusp of stardom for a long time. A superbly conditioned, dedicated athlete, he can handle the heat and humidity of Miami, where he's seeded No. 3.

The Austrian leapfrogged fellow Indian Wells finalist Roger Federer in this week's rankings, dropping Federer to No. 5 in the world, but the Swiss icon is seeded No. 4 in Miami (due to Nadal's absence). Federer lost his first match in Miami last year, so he can pop right back into the mix near the top of the rankings with a strong performance.

Gael Monfils had to issue a walkover before his Indian Wells quarterfinal last week due to a strained Achilles. He's seeded No. 16, but he's tied for the most wins this season (15) with the No. 8 seed, Next Gen standout Stefanos Tsitsipas.

John Isner (seeded No. 7) has taken some tough losses this year. But Miami is where he turned around his dismal 2018 start, and he went on to have a career year.

Oft-injured Milos Raonic is coming on strong again and Nick Kyrgios appears to be on the rise once more despite a setback at Indian Wells. Both are seeded outside the top 10.

Desperate for a win

No. 9 seed Marin Cilic, a Grand Slam champ, is an anemic 4-3 on the year.

Grigor Dimitrov, ranked No. 4 a year ago at this time, has slumped to No. 29 in the world and hasn't played since the Australian Open due to a shoulder injury.

David Goffin, ranked No. 9 a mere 12 months ago, is No. 20 and is 6-7 on the year (he played a Challenger tournament last week after losing early at Indian Wells).

After a blazing start in Australia, Next Gen star Frances Tiafoe is just 1-5. American compatriot Steve Johnson is 4-6 with the clay-court season looming. Both are low seeds.

Key potential matchups

No. 15 seed Fabio Fognini -- the crafty guy everyone hates to play -- could meet Djokovic in the fourth round, with the winner to get the victor in a potential home-run-derby serving battle between Isner and Raonic.

Kyrgios could face No. 5 seed Kei Nishikori in Round 3.

An all-Russian Next Gen quarterfinal clash between Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev (seeded Nos. 10 and 13, respectively) is a tantalizing possibility.

If Thiem and Federer hope to reprise their Indian Wells final, Thiem likely will have to get past Djokovic in the semis, while at that stage Federer is penciled in to meet No. 2 seed -- and 2018 finalist -- Alexander Zverev. Their series is deadlocked 3-3.