With the dust settling on yet another fantastic Indian Wells event Ivan Ljubicic will slowly be coming to terms with his first record-breaking ATP Masters title and I bet that smile hasn’t faded one inch on those rugged, ageing lips.
Almost as soon as one showcase finishes, another is set to begin: such is the modern game of tennis.
Miami is the stage this time around as the Masters makes its way across North America before leaping over the Atlantic to Europe.
Featuring 16 of the world’s top 20 players it promises to be as vivacious and tantalizing as its western brother just gone and all eyes will be on the big stories of the last two weeks.
Can Andy Murray build on his 2009 victory? Will R-Fed be looking to banish the ghosts of Marcos Baghdatis? Will Rafa finally return to the form we know he can so breathtakingly produce? Can Ljubicic become only the seventh player since Jim Courier to win these two titles back-to-back? Now that would really be turning back the clock for the Croatian freight-train.
The four quarters of the draw make your mouth simply gush water as you cast your eyes through each one.
Starting with the first, we see that the potential of a Federer-Cilic quarter final is on the cards. Holy smokes! Having only met once before on the hard courts of Paris in 2008 Federer holds the advantage. Yet two years has seen the young Croat grow in stature to match his vast frame and his performances Down Under in January certainly make this no easy feat for the greatest player of all time.
And who would write off Marcos Baghdatis after his exploits over the past two weeks? He seems to revel in being the underdog, the unknown. Perhaps people talking up his chances once more may be detrimental. Or maybe I’m being a little hard on a guy whose career has been tragically ravaged by injury.
Should he make it that far and overcome the likes of Cilic, Fernando Verdasco, Jurgen Melzer and Juan Ignacio Chela then Victor Hanescu could meet Federer again in that quarter final.
In the second quarter, third seed Andy Murray will begin his defense by facing the winner of Mardy Fish and Leonardo Mayer. Certainly not an easy ride, such is the strength of the men’s draw these days. Overcoming that he could face Lukas Lacko, Michael Berrer or the Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.
Stanlislas Wawrinka, Nicolas Almagro, Mikhail Youzhny, Fernando Gonzalez and Murray’s Indian Wells conqueror Robin Soderling also provide exciting prospects for a quarter final berth.
Rafa and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga head a very talented third quarter which also includes American of the moment John Isner and returning Argentinean wildcard David Nalbandian.
A possible third round match between Isner and Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero is on the cards with the pair never having met before. Ferrero has arguably had the better start to 2010 with two titles and a record of 15/4 but many will be excited by the battle of strength vs. panache.
The final quarter gives us a possible fourth round Ljubicic-Andy Roddick rematch but A-Rod must first overcome possible encounters with Igor Andreev and no. 32 seed Julien Benneteau. Ljubicic may also face Spaniard Tommy Robredo in round three.
Brazilian Thomaz Belluci is looking to build on his impressive start to 2010 at Miami but could face a tough second round encounter with James Blake before the prospect of Novak Djokovic in round three.
Argh! I’m shaking with excitement already. So, being a betting man, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is, my neck on the block. Predictions time!
Roger Federer v Marin Cilic
Andy Murray v Juan Monaco
John Isner v Rafael Nadal
Tommy Robredo v Novak Djokovic
Roger Federer v Andy Murray
John Isner v Novak Djokovic
Roger Federer v Novak Djokovic
But then, how many predictions have I got wrong this year? OK, so I’ll make a safer one: Miami is going to be damn good! And with Sky Sports broadcasting so much of the Masters Series in to British homes this year I canny wait for Saturday. Bring it on!