Rafael Nadal made a major statement in Miami back in 2004 against the reigning world No. 1. (Getty Images)

With Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and so many more missing this year’s edition of the Miami Open, it was presumed that an unlikely player could find themselves in the later rounds.

What ended up happening—from the Hubert Hurkacz-Jannik Sinner final to Sebastian Korda’s quarterfinal appearance—was downright shocking. Multiple breakthroughs occurred throughout the 10-day tournament at a nearly unprecedented level.

While so much happened this year, the Miami Open isn’t short of surprise runs that were the start of bigger things. Here’s a look at five of those breakout performances. (All photos: Getty Images)

1

A Legend in the Making

Roger Federer kicked off 2004 with a start for the ages, one that saw the Swiss reach No. 1 in the world and win three of his first four tournaments, including his second career Grand Slam title in Australia. Fresh off winning the Masters event in Indian Wells, Calif., Federer headed to Miami and won his opening match. In the third round, the world No. 1 faced Rafael Nadal, a 17-year-old from Mallorca, Spain, who had been making his own gains on the men’s tour. Playing each other for the first time, Federer had no answer against Nadal and went down in straight sets. Nadal lost his next match, but let the tennis world know that he was going to be a contender for years to come.

2

Shining Bright

Winning six titles and reaching two Grand Slam semifinals, the American teenager Andre Agassi would finish 1988 ranked No. 3 in the world, but came back down to earth a year later. With the start of the new decade, though, came a renewed sense of focus. After reaching the final at the tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., which he lost to Stefan Edberg, Agassi turned the table on the Swede in Key Biscayne to win his first Masters-level title, which happened to be the biggest of his career to that point.

3

The Perfect 10

Forced to qualify for the 2007 edition of the tournament, Guillermo Canas was a one-man wrecking crew on the top half of the draw, knocking off five straight seeds—including world No. 1 Roger Federer—on his way to the final. In the championship match, the Argentine would face the 1oth seed, Novak Djokovic. Only 19 at the time, the Serb did some damage of his own, beating world No. 2 Rafael Nadal and future member of the “Big 4” Andy Murray in his last two matches before the championship round. In the final, Djokovic stopped Canas’ dream run in straight sets to claim his first Masters title.

4

Passing the Torch

At the end of 2000, Andy Roddick was the number-one ranked junior in the world after winning two boys’ Grand Slam titles. Having dipped his toes into the pro tour, Roddick kicked off 2001 outside of the ATP’s Top 100, but was rising fast. He received a wild card into Miami and after beating two strong veterans in his opening matches, the 18-year-old faced one of the biggest tests of his burgeoning career, defending champion Pete Sampras. Seemingly playing without fear, Roddick shocked Sampras that day and would go on to reach the quarterfinals. Three years later, he’d win the title for the first time.

5

A Big Win for the Big Guy

Not all breakthroughs are reserved for the young. Back in 2018, John Isner—one of the ATP Tour’s most consistent players for the better part of the decade—finally won his first career Masters 1000 title at the age of 32. Seeded 14th, the American defeated three of the top five seeds on his way to victory, a run that included wins over Juan Martin del Potro and Alexander Zverev in his last two matches.