Top six players to watch out for at the Miami Open

Photo of the Miami Open at the Hard Rock Stadium. (By David Rey)

The Miami Open is a melting pot where the biggest names in tennis come together from all over the world. Just a step below the majors like the U.S. Open, the tournament started yesterday and runs to April 3 at Hard Rock Stadium.

Last year’s capacity was limited, but sponsors plan to go full speed again this year. Men’s champion Hubert Hurkacz will be back, but women’s champion Ashleigh Barty, the No. 1 female tennis player, who suffered an injury and hasn’t fully recovered.   

Also absent will be Novak Djokovic, ranked as the second-best tennis player in the world, who is prohibited from entering the country because he refuses to be vaccinated. Australian Open 2022 champion Rafael Nadal also withdrew from the tournament, claiming that the quick transition from the American hard courts to the French Open clay courts is “a risk for injury.” Nadal finished second at the recently concluded Indian Wells tournament.

But not to worry, there are still many talented players coming to the Miami Open. Here are the top six players to watch: 

Photo of Daniil Mededev. Christopher Levy/ Flickr 

Daniil Medvedev

Twenty-six-year-old Russian athlete Daniil Medvedev is currently the world’s No. 1 male player in the ATP rankings. At 6-foot-6, he’s also become the tallest No. 1 tennis player in history. 

Medvedev has won 12 ATP Tour singles titles and one Grand Slam title, defeating Djokovic at the U.S. Open in Sept. 2021. This year, he’s lost only three matches. Medvedev was defeated twice by Nadal in the Australian Open and the Mexican Open. He was also recently beaten by Gael Monfils in the Indian Wells tournament, where he smashed his racket in frustration. 

Currently, there’s controversy on whether or not Russian and Belarusian players should be allowed to play because of the Russia-Ukraine war. The U.K. sports minister states that Medvedev will be banned from Wimbledon unless he assures he doesn’t support President Putin. Players will not be able to compete under the Russian flag. No Russian flags will be allowed either.

Photo of Alexander Zverev. Christopher Levy/ Flickr

Alexander Zverev

Zverev is a German who has won 19 career titles, including an Olympic gold medal in the 2021 Tokyo event. 

Ranked as No. 3 in the world, he has won six ATP titles and remained in the top 10 since 2017. Alexander “Sascha” Zverev began his junior career at age 13. His playing style is aggressive — he moves strategically through the court. Zverev’s height – 6 foot, 6inches – is important, but he was advised early in his professional career to increase muscular strength to perform better. 

Earlier this year, in the Mexican Open, Zverev was suspended due to his aggressive reaction when he lost a doubles game. Zverev smashed his racquet against the umpire’s chair three times, followed by a complaint the referee “messed up the entire game.” The penalty was later reduced, but authorities remain cautious about his attitude.

Photo of Stefanos Tsititsipas. David Gordon/ Flickr

Stefanos Tsitisipas

Tsitsipas is a Greek tennis player currently ranked as No. 5. His best ranking occurred in 2021, when he was in third place, making Tsitsipas the highest-ranked Greek tennis player in history. 

Tsitsipas was the youngest player to win the ATP finals in 18 years and currently holds seven ATP singles titles. Both of his parents are involved in the tennis industry. His mother is a former professional tennis player, and his dad worked as a tennis coach. Tsitsipas was No. 1 during his junior career, wherein in 2016, he achieved four Grand Slam titles. Stefanos has performed the doubles games alongside his brother, Petros, in seven tournaments, in which they have only won two. 

During the 2021 U.S. Open, Tsitsipas was criticized for taking extended bathroom breaks. During the Mexican Open, the Greek player became the first man born in 1998 or later to achieve 200 career-tour level wins. 

Photo of Emma Raducanu. Kevin Oakhill/ Flickr

Emma Raducanu

Emma Raducanu is a British tennis player who won the 2021 U.S. Open at 18 years old, making history by becoming the only player in the game’s history to reach the finals of a Grand Slam tournament while competing as a qualifier. 

Raducanu currently ranks as No. 13 in the world. The biggest achievement in her junior career was her participation in Wimbledon in 2018. She became the first British woman to reach the U.S. Open finals since Virginia Wade in 1968. Raducanu will participate in her first Miami Open this year. 

Interestingly, the young player is fluent in English, Romanian and Mandarin due to her family roots.

Photo of Andy Murray. Dana Anders/ Flickr

Andy Murray

Andy Murray, a 17-year veteran, is currently ranked 88th. At age 29, he was the first British No. 1 singles player in the world. 

After winning the Miami Open back in 2009 and 2013, Murray returns to Miami this year as a wildcard. He has claimed three Grand Slam singles titles and 46 singles titles overall. He was the first British player to win two Olympic gold medals in singles. He’s also the only player with more than seven victories over the three biggest names in tennis: Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic. 

Even after having two hip surgeries, the latest one being in 2019, Murray doesn’t see his tennis career ending just yet. Recently, he reached a major career milestone: his 700th ATP match win, after defeating Taro Daniel in Indian Wells on March 11. Despite his loss against Alexander Bublik on March 13, Murray’s presence in Miami will give him the opportunity to prove his resilience. 

To help children in Ukraine affected by the war against Russia, Murray plans to donate all his prize money for the rest of the year. 

Photo of Reilly Opelka. Christopher Levy/Flickr

Reilly Opelka

Reilly Opelka is an American tennis player who has won three ATP singles titles and one doubles title. During his junior career, Opelka’s biggest achievement was winning in Wimbledon in 2015. He is currently ranked No. 5.

Opelka was born in Michigan but moved to Florida early. He started playing tennis at age 12 in Boca Raton. During the 2018 season, Opelka won three ATP Challenger titles. Wimbledon 2019 saw Opelka get his best Grand Slam result. In 2020, the American player raised his second career trophy in the Delray Beach Open. In the 2021 Miami Open, Opelka announced that he would be donating $100 to spinal cord research each time he hit an ace. 

In 2022, Opelka played in the Australian Open, in which he lost to Shapovalov, the Dallas Open, where he won his third singles title, and in the Delray Beach Open, in which he lost to Norrie. Reilly Opelka is scheduled to continue his season in the Miami Open.

Nicole Ardila is a Colombian-American student majoring in digital journalism at FIU. She's currently an opinion writer for PantherNOW and strives to become a photojournalist and travel/lifestyle writer in the future.

Paula Silva is an undergraduate student majoring in Digital Journalism, she writes for the sports section at PantherNOW and wants to specialize in Sports Journalism, focused in the Motorsports world.