Miami Open stories and sub-plots: Can Medvedev shine in absence of Nadal and Djokovic?

If you thought the Miami Open lacks intrigue given the absences of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, then think again.

The tennis tours will complete the second part of the prestigious Sunshine Double next week as we move from Indian Wells to Miami. 

It's the last major hardcourt event before the season moves to clay, and it is one that holds plenty of intrigue this year.

We examine some of the biggest Miami Open stories and sub-plots to follow during the tournament.

Very important tournament for Daniil Medvedev

Daniil Medvedev could overtake Novak Djokovic as world number one

With both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic missing from the draw, all eyes will be on Daniil Medvedev to see if he can reclaim the world number one spot he briefly held earlier this month.

A run to the semi-final would do for Medvedev, although that would also represent his best ever performance in the tournament so it is far from a gimme.

Miami is an important event for Medvedev though as it is the last major hardcourt tournament before the ATP Tour moves into clay season - and everyone knows Medvedev hates playing on clay with a passion.

It may, therefore, be a case of making hay while the sun shines for Medvedev, who will be looking to get over his disappointing performance at Indian Wells quickly.

Last time we'll see Andy Murray for a while

Andy Murray loses in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open

If Medvedev is going to have a deep run at the Miami Open, then it's likely his second-round opponent will be Andy Murray.

Murray has appeared to be in a bit of a holding pattern for far too long with him struggling to string wins together. He is still capable of beating top-ten players, and he has proven that, but it's becoming quite clear that his metal hip makes recovery for him between matches a big problem.

Miami is the last we will see of Murray until grass season, though, with him already announcing he will skip clay because of how physical it is. Roger Federer skipped clay season for years, so it's not unprecedented by any means.

He doesn't look ready to give up though, and after Miami he will go into some intensive training with former coach and Grand Slam legend Ivan Lendl. Murray won all three of his majors with Lendl, so if anyone can get him back on track it's him.

Can anyone complete a Sunshine Double?

Taylor Fritz ended Rafael Nadal's streak to win the Indian Wells

The Sunshine Double of Indian Wells and Miami is one of the toughest accolades to win in tennis. Djokovic has won it four times, of course, and Roger Federer and Steffi Graf both have two apiece, but generally it's a rarity to see someone win it.

In fact, no one has won a Sunshine Double since 2016, when both Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka managed it.

This year it is Taylor Fritz and Iga Swiatek who have the opportunity, and both will be fancying their chances. Swiatek is in fine form this year, and the conditions should suit her.

Fritz, meanwhile, will be boosted by the record of his fellow Americans. Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi have all won a Sunshine Double and he will be confident he can add his own name to that impressive list.

Carlos Alcaraz coming of age?

With Nadal and Djokovic absent, it's just possible that the most talked-about player in the competition is Carlos Alcaraz.

The tennis world has known about Alcaraz for some time, but not many expected him to have made as big an impact as he has so early in his career.

The 18-year-old reached the semi-finals at Indian Wells and came within a whisker of beating compatriot Rafael Nadal. That run saw him climb up to 16 in the world.

There may be a touch of 'after the Lord Mayor's show' for Alcaraz in Miami, but he is the first player in more than a decade to look like he could genuinely be a comparative level to the likes of Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray, so he is definitely one worth keeping a very close eye on.

Raducanu needs a confidence-boosting win

Emma Raducanu

Speaking of teenagers with a big future, it's all starting to look very hard work for Emma Raducanu.

It was probably to be expected, but the pressure appears to be getting to her a little since her amazing US Open win last year.

In fact, she has only won two matches so far this year and neither of those was especially convincing.

There is, of course, a lot more to come from Raducanu, and no one will be begrudging her a little time to learn how to deal with everything that has changed in her life since New York.

The Miami conditions should suit her game, though, and a decent run would do her confidence the world of good heading into her first ever professional clay season.

Can Zverev shake off the ATP Finals curse

Alexander Zverev facing possible ATP ban

Another man who badly needs a bit of a confidence booster is Alexander Zverev, with all him really succeeding in proving this year is that the ATP Finals winners' curse may be a real thing after all.

Zverev disappointed at the Australian Open and was ejected from the tournament in Acapulco for disciplinary reasons. Last week, Rafael Nadal's resurgence kicked him out of the top world's top three.

However, Zverev will be the second seed in Miami and remains one of the most irresistible players in the world when he is on song.

It would surprise no one to see him win the whole thing.

READ MORE: Which tournaments will Rafael Nadal miss following his rib injury?

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