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Monday, March 31, 2014
Novak Djokovic tearing up the tour

By Greg Garber
ESPN.com

We were a little unsure of Novak Djokovic after the Aussie Open. But, apparently, there was no reason to panic after he pulled off one of the most arduous feats in tennis, winning Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back. So he's on fire, but how about the rest of the best?

Nadal

Rafael Nadal: After sweeping the three big North American hard-court events last summer, the world No. 1 got a little banged up at Indian Wells, losing early to Alexandr Dolgopolov in California and to Novak Djokovic in the Miami final. That's OK. Nadal is heading into the clay-court season, which is as close as it gets to comfort food for the gritty Spaniard.

Djokovic

Novak Djokovic: He's got that look in his eye -- again. The No. 2-ranked Djokovic beat Roger Federer in the final at Indian Wells and then Nadal for the Miami championship. It doesn't get much better than that. Is this the year that Djokovic can challenge eight-time French Open champ Nadal at Roland Garros?

Wawrinka

Stanislas Wawrinka: The Australian Open champion still finds himself at a career-high No. 3, but now he is a marked man. He lost in the fourth round at Indian Wells to Kevin Anderson and to Alexandr Dolgopolov in Miami, also in the fourth. Maybe the excitement of Davis Cup will help him pick it back up again.

Federer

Roger Federer: It's hard to fault a guy who is off to a 22-4 start to the season. Ranked No. 4, he's more than two months ahead of last year's victory pace. And yet ... he had Kei Nishikori down a set and a break in the Miami quarterfinals when an old problem surfaced -- he couldn't finish. Nishikori won in three sets, and Federer, a two-time Miami champion, was done. His serve and, at times, his nerve let him down, which is something we're growing more accustomed to seeing.

Ferrer

David Ferrer: Maybe it's just circumstance. The ATP's No. 5 player skipped Indian Wells with a nicked-up thigh, and here in Miami he went out in the fourth round to Kei Nishikori. But it was how Ferrer lost that was troublesome. Always one of the fittest players, Ferrer turns 32 this week. Maybe (just maybe) his age is starting to show.

Dolgopolov

Aleksandr Dolgopolov: The 25-year-old from Ukraine is off to a blazing start, the best stretch of his career, winning twice as many matches as he's lost (18-9). He knocked off No. 1 Rafael Nadal in Indian Wells, and in Miami it was No. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka. By the time the ATP's No. 23-ranked player got to the quarters in Miami, he was shot -- and admitted it in a postmatch press conference. Maybe he's ready to make deeper pushes in the majors.

Murray

Andy Murray: The back remains an ongoing issue -- and so is the loss of coach Ivan Lendl. Murray said all the right things after losing to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, but finished the match with a whimper, losing a dozen straight points. It was so bad, he said he was looking forward to the clay-court season. On Sunday, Murray -- now ranked No. 8 -- left for Naples, where he'll lead Great Britain into its Davis Cup quarterfinal clash against Italy.

Del Potro

Juan Martin del Potro: You have to feel awful for the amiable Argentine. After struggling to come back following surgery on his right wrist that essentially cost him a year, he gets hit with a similar injury to his left wrist. He could miss the rest of the season. The good news? Surgery apparently went well -- and he knows what he's up against in terms of recovery.