Mar 24, 2021

2021 Miami Open ATP/WTA Round One 🐢

When you think Miami spring break, you think Daniil Medvedev. The handsome beachgoer can often be seen enjoying such wildchild activites as chess, scowling, shrugging, and snoozing in hair-curlers. As the #1 seed in this event, and with Fed/Djoko/Nadal sitting it out, this is a great chance for him to continue to rack up points and solidify his #2 ranking. But can the partyboy put his wild jazzy ways behind him to win the title? Idk. Maybe? Anyway, I’ll be writing up all the Miami matches for the ATP/WTA. As usual, the tennis picking competition is being run by kuklachert. Feel free to check it out in the “Competitions” section : ) Free to join, and some small cash prizes to the winners.

Miami Open tipping competition
ATP Singles
Querrey vs Lu :

Sam Querrey hasn’t done a lot of winning despite having a number of straightforward draws recently. He’s starting to get into the tour-veteran category and with his mobility/consistency not being the best from the baseline, he needs to have some good runs quickly. Miami courts are quick and Yen-Hsun Lu is improving every event, but is likely on his way off the tour once his protected ranking expires. Lu is a good challenger level player at best, doesn’t really serve aces, and doesn’t overwhelm with power or offense. In other words, Querrey will have ample chances to pull ahead in this one, and if he manages to lose this, it’s time to start questioning whether his heart is really in professional tennis anymore. Querrey in 2.

Lopez vs Popyrin :

Lopez matches are difficult to call yet generally go in a similar direction. Once or twice a year he’ll find his rhythm on serve and win a few matches in a row, and the rest of the time he’ll lose in straight sets because while he’s still in great shape and supremely skillful, the pace of rallies on tour is a bit beyond what he can expend for a full match. For that reason alone, Popyrin should win, but it’s an interesting matchup because Popyrin’s willingness to play offense at any point in the rally can lead to him shooting himself out of games he should win. Against a server, wider margins during the rallies can often be a huge benefit, both because you don’t want to give them cheap points and also because Lopez is likely to force the issue if he isn’t finding openings and that can lead to easier passes.
Popyrin has been one of the brightest young players on tour in the first 3rd of this season, and he has the serve to hold his own here, and likely has an edge in rallies also. This is a mental challenge for him, and will be a good warmup for Opelka in the next round. The good Lopez will make this a shootout, but the tour hasn’t seen him in a few months. Popyrin in 2-3 very tight sets.

Tiafoe vs Travaglia :

These two seem fit for a rematch. Tiafoe enters this having his best year ever. He’s committed to playing challengers and clay events out of his comfort zone, he’s playing a bit more confident on the court, and he’s found a nice tempered method of alternating kick serves and the real cannon that he has. The results are sort of coming, but he is (as shown by Munar/Musetti) still unable to put players away in a convincing fashion even with better weapons. His forehand will be the biggest weapon on the court, and the oddsmakers have given him the nod which is fair, but the 3-0 loss to Tiafoe that Travaglia suffered at the AO was entirely the result of Travaglia playing a finals match against Jannik Sinner 2 days prior.
Had Travaglia not suffered a strange stall in quality against Fognini a week ago, I would almost like him to exact revenge here. Serving for the set though in the first, he managed to lose 5 games in a row. Fognini’s quality was there, but Travaglia will have to shrug that off and find the form that led him to his finals run. He plays a forehand heavy game and winds up looking like what most American coaches think is perfect tennis. Working against him are simply his recent struggles and Tiafoe feeling familiar with both his patterns and the courts. Working for him are that Tiafoe just came off a loss to Musetti and a pretty close match with Nakashima as well. The level won’t be unattainable, but Tiafoe’s recent results have been a bit better than Travaglia’s and running out of steam against Fognini last week leaves a big question mark. Tiafoe in 3.

Escobedo vs Lorenzi :

Nothing like qualifying and getting to play another qualifier. Huge bonus here playing Dusan Lajovic in the second round who is always tough but never a guy who just blows you off the court. Escobedo came through qualifying in spectacular fashion. He’s crushing the ball, serving fairly well, and playing consistent enough to dispatch Nakashima whose current quality is right at the cusp of the tour. Lorenzi went a different route, keeping the ball in the court and outlasting his two opponents in a way only Paolo can. Extended noises on his opponents shots, squeaking his sneakers while they’re in their service motion, and just a general clear intent to push are the best qualities Paolo offers, but begrudging a 39 year old guy his wins on tour isn’t something I want to do. It is incredible that he can accomplish what he does with wavering physical ability, and using some shady veteran tricks is lamentable but somewhat fair against 20 year olds.
In this matchup Escobedo’s power should be able to earn errors and control from Lorenzi, but his inconsistency will be a very big issue as Lorenzi is in his best form in a while this week. Hitting through Nakashima means he should be able to do so here as well, and the only reason Lorenzi can be considered a threat here is because of how subpar Escobedo’s results have been compared to his talent. This is a great opportunity, and he and his team should know that. Escobedo in 2.

Herbert vs Sousa :

Herbert finally got things going indoors in France, and despite extremely different conditions this is a great first round for him. Pedro Sousa looks like a high school math teacher that takes his frustrations out on the tennis court every weekend, and while he has a powerful serve and a very big forehand at times, it really only functions on claycourt. Herbert’s composed service rhythm and the slower pace that he plays the game at will likely frustrate Sousa, and it should be an all Frenchish name encounter in the second round with Auger-Alliassime against Herbert. Herbert in 2.

Pospisil vs McDonald :

I’m excited to write about this tournament but there are a lot of very unique matchups between guys making a push for points at the same time. Vasek Pospisil looked real good against Fucsovics for a set and a half, and has to be kicking himself for losing. He did do a good chunk of giving up in that match though once the second set got even, and while Mackie McDonald is no Marton Fucsovics, he has a similar work ethic at times on court. Those times are these times, because McDonald has made up for 2 very poor seasons with a quick start this year. He’s playing a ton of challengers, winning tour matches (5-4 record on the season sounds average but any positive ratio is very strong on tour), and serving decent also. The quicker Miami courts give him a bit of extra offense, and Pospisil’s movement has been suspect for quite some time.
On the opposite side of the fence, McDonald has just had a very tough match with Dr. Ivo Karlovic, and with Isner waiting in the wings McDonald will likely be just about sick of playing big servers. The tough thing on the tour is that since every is capable of playing great tennis, but not everyone has been winning matches, there are a lot of matches like these. Pospisil’s peak beats McDonald. McDonald’s current form is about even with Pospisil’s play against Fucsovics. I’m inclined to think that Pospisil needs the first set here to get through, but the quality against Fucsovics and Ivo being able to hold serve make me think Pospisil can find the finish line here also. Pospisil in 3.

Gaio vs Berankis :

This is a real interesting one. Gaio played admirably in qualifying and has some good results on hardcourt for a guy who is usually best on clay. The one-handed backhand is solid and Berankis has taken a month off from tennis. Berankis is likely to beat Gaio, but in a world of question marks that make predictions difficult, a month without a competitive tennis match is something that can leave you flat against a motivated qualifier. Berankis having played Gaio before will give him a bit of a boost, and his consistency should give him an edge in rallies. I expect Gaio to acquit himself but a late struggle against Broady may indicate a bit of fatigue. Berankis in 3.

Harris vs Nava :

Lloyd George Harris has finally found his game. His run in Dubai was exceptional, and all of his wins came in hard-fought wins against quality players like Nishikori, Shapovalov, Krajinovic, and Thiem. That is the kind of wins that get you to the quarters of a major, and Harris in the past has been content to just hang in rallies and earn errors, but he really went after his forehand and his backhand in Dubai. The long flight can have an impact on him, and although he’s gone from playing Murray to a guy ranked in the 500s, this may be a tougher draw for him. I don’t think there’ll be a huge drop in level, and while Nava’s run in the qualifiers was not only impressive but predicted (bookmakers had him set as a very small underdog against Torpegaard which is an unreal nod to his quality), this might be too much of an ask. I’m excited to see Harris play a somewhat mediocre RBA in the second round, and I expect his quality of play to be enough to get there despite the usual post-finals slump. Harris in 2 or 3 if he’s a bit jetlagged.

Alcaraz vs Ruusuvuori :

Where are all the easy matches? If nothing simple and predictable is present, at least Miami is bringing a lot of very unique and new contests. Alcaraz was looking to be the posterboy for junior tennis for a few weeks, and while his hardcourt game wasn’t slated to be as good as his clay, he beat Goffin in a very shocking result and got a lot of attention, also beating Van De Zanschulp (i’m spelling that wrong, sorry Botic). Since then he’s struggled a little to win matches but hardcourt ATP tennis is always a matter of what draws you get. Ruusuvuori is seemingly Alcaraz from the future as far as expectations. A lot of attention, a ton of wins, and then a period of struggle to put it all back together. His hardcourt game is better than Alcaraz’s, if only just because of the vast amount of experience he has on his young opponent.

Ruusuvuori is capable, and serves well enough to hold here. Alcaraz is quick, and hits big enough to gain control of rallies when he has the chance. Alcaraz has shown in a handful of losses though that when he’s on defense, his backhand is prone to errors and he loses length on his shots at times. Ruusuvuori in 2 is what I’d lean towards, but there’s not a ton to separate these two and both can lose confidence and throw in a lot of unexplained errors. When I say that, I don’t mean that they’re bad but rather that both are trying to transition into what their games will be rather than what they are. It’s similar to how Shapovalov spent a few seasons losing via errors to guys he could have beaten just by pushing; these young talents aim very high and growing pains can come in the form of missed opportunities. With Zverev in pretty great form, the winner is on his way to a 2nd round paycheck, and I think Ruusuvuori matches up better in rallies than Alcaraz at this stage so I’ll be pulling for him.

Tabilo vs Ymer :

Tabilo had a solid run through qualifying. Being a lefty with a great understanding of the dropshot and some laser-like forehand offerings translates well to hardcourt, and dispatching Dzumhur is a good indication that he can hang against Ymer. The problem is that where Dzumhur lacks offensive power, Ymer has it in spades. In fact, his mobility will likely be his main path to winning here. Tabilo won’t really blow you off the court, but Ymer won’t either. He had a great Australian Open but has had a somewhat mundane career. Some challenger wins, and a 250 1st round win here and there, but nothing consistent you can point at and say “yes he’ll definitely win today”. Too much speed can often lead players playing less than offensive, and that has been his issue at times. Frustrating as me saying “this is a unique and new matchup” can be, this is yet another one. I believe Tabilo’s backhand is a safe target for Ymer, and as long as his timing isn’t off he should get the job done. Ymer in 3.

Gaston vs Koepfer :

Hugo Gaston returns! With Sinner waiting in the next round it’s not likely either of these guys is going into the 3rd round, but Koepfer really played well in Acapulco. He’s hitting his backhand extremely clean, and his off-forehand is being utilized well. He’s a streaky player, and currently is in good form. Gaston’s dropshot heavy game has finally netted him a win or two during the short indoor tour in Europe, but I don’t think he has the power to outduel Koepfer, whose speed and skill make him a slightly better hardcourt version of Gaston. Koepfer in 2.

Johnson vs Hanfmann :

When I first started watching (betting blindly on) tennis I thought Steve Johnson was great. I wasn’t watching, just seeing Steve Johnson always listed as a favorite in events. You can imagine my surprise when he consistently was able to lose from this position. Who is this Johnson guy? What is wrong with Dimitrov? I couldn’t figure it out. Neither could my bank account. I solved my problems by frustrated throwing paperclips at my coworkers, but Steve Johnson never solved his issues on tour. It’s been a long slide into relative obscurity, and while he’s still capable of winning, I think he’s settling nicely into being an occasional visitor rather than a nonstop competitor.
On the other side of the spectrum, Yannick Hanfmann has played nonstop tennis for a few years now. Every challenger he can get his hands on, and every tour match he’s able to grab. While he’s best on clay with a bit of extra time, he has a big serving game and enough power to make this an even contest. Johnson’s forehand is always a great weapon, and in the outdoor conditions Johnson’s slice can be a weapon in windy conditions and a liability in still ones. 11mph winds are expected, but that’s not exactly going to move the ball a ton like the conditions in Delray Beach might. This first round is just chock-full of guys who haven’t been playing against guys a slight cut below in experience but who’ve been balling a lot. I’m siding here with Hanfmann, as some of Johnson’s frustrations have at times spilled over into his game and his competitive drive. Hanfmann in 2.

Norrie vs Nishioka :

Grumble. Do you know who’s going to win between Cameron Norrie and Yoshihito Nishioka? I don’t. I do know that Norrie was incredible in Acapulco. He remained composed against Fognini, who played angrily but well. I said, “wow, Norrie is finally making his move.” The problem is, he always seems that way when he wins. Then next round against Koepfer, Norrie found an edge in the whole first set and kept getting to net with opportunities. Koepfer looked exhausted at times and doubled over after some points, then won the set anyway. Norrie is always starting to look aggressive but he just doesn’t put rallies away, and against professional tennis players that almost applies more pressure to your own game than theirs. Having those windows get smaller and smaller and trying to dictate against a guy who’s just concentrating on reflecting your power can lead to errors, and Norrie ended up making them.
The good news here is that Nishioka has been even more hapless than Norrie. Despite a number of very high-profile “almost” wins on tour, Nishioka has not really been winning the lower-level matches. He’s a great defensive talent, but that’s starting to count for less and less on tour as the better defenders have already begun adding offense to their games, and as many junior talents start to make their way up the rankings. Norrie is sharper, and should win this, but it has been exhausting expecting Norrie to win. Norrie in 2.

Giron vs Paul :

Tommy Paul playing Marco Giron into Taylor Fritz makes me squint a little bit. The most recent meeting between these two went to Tommy Paul, and despite both winning a bit here and there, and losing most of their higher profile matches, I think of Tommy Paul as a tier above Giron. Giron plays a bit of a smoother game, but Paul hits a bit harder. Giron has a good service motion, but Paul tends to hit a lot more unreturned serves. Fast courts also benefit Paul a bit, and since I will be expecting the winner to beat Fritz (sorry Fritz!), I am okay with any outcome. Tommy Paul looks like a spring break sorta fellow, but I think he gets the job done here. Paul in 3.

Vesely vs Djere :

Jiri Vesely is having a much better year than Djere. He should be a pretty moderate favorite here (books have him at -177). The problem is that Djere, despite losing in straight sets to Zverev last week and not really winning any matches at all, let alone hardcourt matches, played well and put a lot of Zverev’s serves back in play. He made errors, but he showed bright points, and he and Vesely are likely to have a lot of crushing rallies. Vesely is playing better, but he’s prone to hugging the baseline to his own detriment, so Djere working hard can make this close. Vesely also as a larger fellow has some fatigue issues, and so I would not be surprised if this took a while, and I do think that Djere is likely to find his form again in the next month or so. Vesely in 3 for now.

Duckworth vs Zverev :

It’s cool to see Duckworth getting direct entry into this event. It’s gross to see Mischa Zverev winning matches. He is relatively useless from anywhere behind the baseline, but the qualifier field in Miami wasn’t exactly full of worldbeaters. I did expect Viola to beat Zverev, but hitting a full match full of passing shots is not only difficult but also something that challenger tour players aren’t used to. Serve and volley is almost a completely lost art at that level, and Duckworth is juuuuuuuuuuust mediocre enough to struggle with it as well. I liked what I saw in the Aussie swing from Duckworth though, and as hard as he works during the rally, I expect him to be able to keep Mischa locked in the deepcourt. Duckworth in 2.

Caruso vs Uchiyama :

Call me crazy, but this is a good opportunity for Uchiyama. Caruso has been really struggling to win matches. He went winless in the South American swing, and lost quickly to a sloppy John Isner last week in Acapulco. Uchiyama isn’t a dominant player, but certainly moves the ball well and will require a good bit of work to beat. He has a very good forehand down the line, and since Caruso employs a slice on that wing, Uchiyama can gain control of rallies when he goes there. The problem for him is that he earns all of his points. Caruso has been struggling, but he’s one of the most skillful mid-tier guys and can rally all day. Similar to Podoroska and Sherif yesterday, I think Caruso is struggling but will have ample opportunities to right the ship. Caruso in 3.

Kecmanovic vs Broady :

Liam Broady getting through qualifying is huge. Not only because of the dramatic way he did it winning in the third against Gaio, but also because he’s been losing in the qualifiers for quite some time despite being around as good as some of the other players who were getting wildcards. Experience on tour is huge, and although he doesn’t have the easiest match, Kecmanovic is a guy prone to losing his timing completely on court. He’s having a less than stellar 2021, but managed to beat Lopez last week and played ok against Dimitrov. Broady is sharp, and has the same sort of chance as Uchiyama/Tabilo/Gaio. Can it happen? Sure. Would it be the best win of their career though and require the best level they’ve ever displayed? Yes. For that reason, I’m sticking with Kecmanovic. There are a lot of matches (for betting purposes) that are better looked at for reasons to avoid them. If there are unknowns (as there always are in the first round), the beauty of tennis is that you get to watch everyone play and know the answers for the next round. In sort of a “prove it” concept, you can’t really predict upsets that would be career-changing for a player, but you can also acknowledge the quality of a qualifier and avoid a wager that ends up mostly as a guess. Kecmanovic in 3.

Draper vs Kukushkin :

Jack Draper! I’m not terribly familiar with him, but the books have set him as a +160 underdog against Kukushkin, and that is not the correct price. Kukushkin has struggled this year, but is a well-known tour stalwart. He also won two matches in Dubai before falling to Struff. The idea that a guy who’s not really yet dominating the challenger tour would only be +160 against Kukushkin lends itself to the idea that Jack Draper is a lot better than his ranking indicates, and is a threat to win this match right now. As a bettor, you may be excited to read into the tea leaves, and use this line as a good option for “value” to take Draper. The problem is, the odds are already shortened in Draper’s direction at these prices, and Kukushkin is still a major hurdle for a young player. Using the price as a reason to avoid the contest altogether is likely the right move, but I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.
Draper has some good UTR wins, including a 2-0 win against compatriot Cam Norrie. He’s a player to watch, but is in an uphill battle even with Kukushkin’s struggles. The good news for me in hemming and hawing about who to give the nod to is that Karatsev waits in the next round, so give up hope all ye who enter here. I expect Draper to acquit himself, as the books don’t make a living by letting people grab favorites for cheap prices. I expect a 3 setter, and I lean Kukushkin still (I’ll believe it when I see it regarding Draper), but it’s cool to see a quality youngster from the UK getting started on tour.

Korda vs Albot :

Sebastian Korda is a great player at beating the guys he is supposed to. He even has won some challenger matches that he seemed relatively disinterested in recently. Losing to FAA last week was somewhat expected, and the question here is whether Korda is supposed to beat Albot. Radu Albot has outperformed all expectations already this season, and his serving and aggressive play during the rally has netted him indoor wins that seemed beyond the reach of his game in the past. Korda’s height has made his movement the main way to attack his play, and he didn’t look too spry last week against FAA. Sebastian’s serving will always have him able to compete in this match, but if Radu continues his solid play he may be able to win this duel. Albot in 3.

Cilic vs Coria :

Nothing like an easy first round for Cilic to make you start whimpering and pleading with him to please win. Coria has played no hardcourt tennis in over a month, and doesn’t really have the weapons to beat Cilic. Cilic has dropped two uninspired matches against Korda and Popyrin, but those guys are a good sight more dangerous than Coria. It seems to be that Cilic is always trying to recapture the lightining in a bottle that he’s had when he made big runs in majors on tour. The problem is that as we age and deal with and recover from injuries, it can be important to change your approach or wind up shooting yourself out of matches. For Cilic, I don’t know if just winning a few matches here and there is something he’s interested in. Still, he can think about this while he wins this match. Coria is solid and is open to anyone erring themselves into the ground, but Cilic should have ample chances and with Garin in the next round and Paire as the other seed in this small section he has a real easy chance to make a run here. Cilic in 2.

Mmoh vs Musetti :

Michael Mmoh is finally starting to win some matches on tour, but this is one of the tougher first rounds this week. Musetti played absolutely solid from the baseline in his upset win against Dimitrov, and while he isn’t the most offensively creative hardcourt player, he showed a few times last week that he can add an extra bit of pace to his shots and really challenge players. Mmoh is good, but outlasting Musetti isn’t the best plan. For Lorenzo to lose here, he’d have to have gone for too many shots too quickly. Possible, but unlikely. Musetti in 2.

Mochizuki Kokkinakis :

A forfeit and a straight sets victory over Emilio Gomez see Mochizuki into what I’m pretty sure is his first ATP level event. Very cool for a guy ranked 554 without much fanfare surrounding him, and playing a qualifier is as much as you can ask for. The problem is that qualifier is Thanasi Kokkinakis, who is displaying a pretty good level of play in most of his outings this year. The serve is too easy of a weapon to have in Kokkinakis’ pocket here, but it’ll be interesting to watch Mochizuki as I haven’t seen much of his game. Kokkinakis in 2.

Martinez vs Sandgren :

I don’t know if Martinez will beat Sandgren, but I hope he does. Tennys’ slump has brought out the worst of him. Flinging racquets, moping around, accusing umpires and fans of being biased, and general mumbling have populated Sandgren’s losses, and while he still has the same scrappy game and great serve, Martinez is a good prospect to counter these things. Pedro wins almost 100% of the matches he’s supposed to, and his play from the baseline is pretty high-tier. A little concerning is his not having played a match since the Australian Open, and as many of the players on tour show up injured to pick up the bigger checks, I’d advise ppl to wait and watch him for a few games to see where his fitness is at. If he’s fit, I think he overcomes the rust. If not, Sandgren gets a gift. Martinez in 3.

Kwon vs Ivashka :

Ivashka is actually one of the last guys to beat Karatsev, but it is one of his last wins also. As a player who came in in the Hurkacz/Ruusuvuori/Hanfmann way just dominating the challenger tour, more has been expected for a while of Ivashka than he has offered. An occasional straight sets win has often been followed by a lackluster performance, and he’s in good company as Soonwoo Kwon has really just been meh. He seems like a mini-Djokovic at times and his backhand has great length, but he struggles behind his serve and it translates to a lot of players having a shot against him. I think he’s a bit more suited to the quick courts here after playing a lot of indoor tennis, and he just has had better results on tour. Ivashka is dangerous, but I’ve been thinking that for too long. Kwon in 3.

Chardy vs Kudla :

Chardy is having himself a merry little christmas. The cagey veteran has won a tonnnnn of matches he “wasn’t supposed to”, and has solidifed at least another year on tour with just the points he’s already racked up this year. Kudla does well on American soil, but he’s been subpar and to win here would be wholly unexpected. Luckily, tennis is full of mercurial runs ending at the hands of random ducklings. I’m not expecting it here though. Chardy in 2.

O’Connell vs Sousa :

Chris O’Connell seemed at one point like he was ready to really break out on tour. He beat Struff easily, and was set up against Albot in a match many expected him to win. He just tightened up enough though, and as much as Joao Sousa has been an automatic win for most players on tour this season, O’Connell’s passive play have betrayed him a number of times. This is exactly what he does though; beat guys who are making errors by keeping the ball in play. Joao Sousa was better at one point than O’Connell has ever been, but that point seems so far away in history, and his slide has been almost unexplainable. O’Connell in 2.

Thompson vs Delbonis :

A nice claycourter for Thompson in the first round, and a somewhat ready to falter Raonic in round two? His place in tour isn’t in question, but this is a must-win match for Thompson. Thompson in 2.

Galan Riveros vs Seyboth Wild :

In the matchup of the two coolest names in the draw, Seyboth Wild has finally started to win matches. The straight sets win against Mitchell Kreuger may not net him any trophies, but Kreuger is the sort of player who routinely beats guys who aren’t quite there yet with their games, and I did expect Thiago to falter and get outworked. Winning sets up an interesting clash with Galan, who is similar to Garin in the sense that he is either a complete wall or a hot mess. Wall Galan can win this matchup, but Seyboth is definitely coming in in better form. Used to the courts, in desperate need of wins, and with no real scar tissue in the matchup to worry about. The problem for Seyboth is that when Galan gets going, he is an exhausting player to play against, and behind Seyboth’s wins are those awful losses he took in the South American swing where he just plain got outworked. I expect Seyboth to start quick, and either win in straight sets or lose in 3.

Fratangelo vs Verdasco :

Finally a straightforward matchup. Bjorn “Don’t call me Bjorn” Fratangelo was the best qualifier by far. He has always been right around the fringe of the tour, but plays very consistent when he’s playing well, which he is this week. He doesn’t serve aces, but gets his first serve in and mixes the placement. He doesn’t hit outright winners, but moves the ball around well. On the other side of the net is a guy who hasn’t played a match since losing to Milman in Nur-Sultan last year. Verdasco is getting older, and despite having huge weapons for a fast court, Fratangelo will likely get himself into a somewhat winnable second round encounter with Sonego here. Fratangelo in 2.

Bedene vs Fabbiano :

Fabbiano was great in the qualifiers and it’s somewhat frustrating that he has drawn Bedene. Outlasting Brooksby who’s won a ton of matches in the past few weeks is great, and Fabbiano has the game to compete on tour, but Bedene doesn’t really give away much, and tends to lose to guys with much bigger weapons. This could certainly be close, but I expect Bedene to be fresh and after acquitting himself nicely against Nishikori last week, I think he’ll be ready for the runback. Bedene in 3.

Anderson vs Monteiro :

This line opened up and $ has just been pouring in on Monteiro. While I love the Brazilian lefty’s commitment to playing a fast paced game, Kevin Anderson isn’t exactly an automatic win. He hasn’t won a lot since returning from some injuries, but he has one of the biggest serves on tour, and a very powerful ground game and decent movement for a big guy. I think this will be close, and lack of matches can hurt Anderson, but he trains in Florida often and I think he’ll be more comfortable here than the public money seems to expect. Likely to be some tiebreakers here, and I lean towards Anderson in 3.

WTA Singles
Baptiste vs Kucova :

This is already making me grumble. Baptiste played great in qualifying and beat Greet Minnen who is never an easy out. Kucova did the same though, beating Schmiedlova who played very well last week and this week even in the loss. As a brand new matchup, this is tough to call. Kucova has way more experience and has beaten bigger names, but Baptiste’s ceiling is likely higher. I expect Kucova to come through just based on how consistent she was against Schmiedlova, but I’d avoid backing either of these players since Baptiste was really good at holding serve and that’s a huge thing on the women’s tour. Kucova in 3.

Ostapenko vs Wang :

Ostapenko is slumping a slight bit, but Wang hasn’t won a match in a while. 0-5 in her last outings, she’s likely to be at the mercy of Ostapenko’s Winner/Unforced Error count. On a quicker court, the winners are likely to come easier. Ostapenko in 2.

Hibino Zarazua :

A fair matchup for Zarazua as a reward for coming through qualifying. Nao Hibino is always juuuuuuust about to drop off tour and then manages to find some wins. Since she’s not the most powerful of players, she tends to lose in stretches due to tough draws, and finds points at events others are kinda sleepwalking through. Zarazua also wins mostly on speed and keeping the ball in play, so this is likely to involve a lot of lead changes and long rallies. With Hibino in a bit of a slump, and having just lost to Paolini (a player very similar in strategy to Zarazua) this is a good chance for the qualifier. Zarazua in 3.

Bolsova vs Wang :

Bolsova is through qualifying and it’s a welcome thing for her, as she’s struggled a tiny bit in the last season. While Wang is also in a slump, her slump is against the tours best, and I expect her to be able to hit through Bolsova here. Wang in 3.

Mladenovic vs Collins :

Mladenovic is probably not too pleased about this draw. She’s had some good matches this year despite not racking up many wins, but Collins is just an extremely difficult player to deal with on a fast court. Her backhand is better than Mladenovic, and her attitude on court is a distraction for her opponents and somehow a catalyst for her play to turn around when she’s struggling with errors. I think Mladenovic has a bit too much variety at times and this leads her to play a bit less offensively than she should. It’s easy for Collins to pick a shot since she swings the same two swings at every ball. When you’re using variety it’s more likely you second-guess yourself and try to fool your opponent and this can be trouble. Collins in 2-3. I think 2 is more likely but she’s had a habit of starting slow.

Pironkova vs Kostyuk :

This is starting to feel similar to the men’s draw in terms of amazing yet unique matches. It’s great for tennis but really difficult for turtles trying to predict them. Pironkova is a top 20 level player and until she’s there she’ll keep moving up the rankings. There just aren’t many players who are so competent in the rallies on their backhands and have such a variety of ways to win points. She did struggle in qualifying though to really put distance between herself and her opponents. Her run at the USO was magnified by the relative obscurity of her shot selection, and I think gradually her opponents will understand what she’s going to do from each position. Still, her tennis IQ is off the charts and she’s shown the ability to problem solve.
Marta Kostyuk is definitely a problem. She has a huge serve, and a ton of power. I think it plays into Pironkova’s strengths a bit though, as counterpunching and exposing Kostyuk’s slightly subpar defending is something that will pay big dividends here. Despite Kostyuk’s recent slump on tour though, Pironkova isn’t a clear favorite here, because she really did have a hard time in qualifying and her first serve is a second serve. Kostyuk is still developing and at some point these are the types of matches she will win. Today though, I lean Pironkova in 3.

Buzarnescu vs Garcia :

I’ve been a fool Caroline! Maybe two years ago, I watched Garcia hit balls sideways, into the bottom of the net, and into the backstop on a fly. It stuck with me, and I always expect that to come back. At times she can be awkward, and errors do come, but she really has mad strides in her tennis, and I should note that. In the Dubai event, I really did expect Kerber to outlast her, and the opposite happened. This is a similar contest. Buzarnescu is a problemo if you are making errors. She’s lefty and that is always annoying, she’s consistent and that’s frustrating, and she’s playing her best after a long slump which can sort of be offputting to an opponent. Winning in 3 against Friedsam though isn’t so great, and while Fernandez was great last week, she mainly lost due to the hangover. In an effort to make amends, I’m going to pick Garcia to win here. Haha, no I’m not. I can’t do it. Too many errors. Ok fine. I’ll do it. Garcia in 3.

Danilovic vs Sevastova :

The best thing about cheering for Danilovic is how much she also cheers for herself. She has a pretty big serve for her height, goes after a good shape/depth on her forehand, and screams louder as each point brings her closer to the end of the match. Idk what she’s screaming, but it’s nice to see how much progress on tour means to her. With wins against Martic and a few other tour pros starting to rack up, she seems like she will have a decent chance here against Sevastova.
Sevastova famously gave Gauff a tour of the court in their previous encounter, and it would be nice to see them play again. She’s been winning more matches the past month or two than she has in over a year, but the attitude and frustration leak through quickly and that is just poison against a momentum player like Danilovic. Ahn employed a slice backhand to slow down Danilovic, and she stayed focused and got low on the ball every time. That’ll be key against Sevastova, who doesn’t really crush the ball but gives you a lot of looks and pressure. I still think that Danilovic will have a good shot here. Danilovic in 3.

Siniakova vs Konjuh :

Ana Konjuh sounds like anaconda. So is she secretly a giant tropical snake? Her attorneys tell me no, and “desist”, but I’m not so sure. Siniakova has been in a slump, losing a lot of matches, and despite having the power and movement to beat Konjuh, Konjuh is the fresher player, having just returned to the tour from injury and having won a few matches at the last two events she attended. Slumps tend to last on the WTA side (sorry Sloane), and I think Konjuh will be a tiny bit sharper, so she’ll have a chance to get across the finish line if she can get it down quickly. Konjuh in 2 or Siniakova in 3.

Cornet vs Kuznetsova :

Cornet is so consistent that it’s hard to imagine her having lost so many matches recently. She has a tough one here also, as Kuznetsova has just come from the St. Petersburg event, where Russian players pretty much dominate every year. Kuznetsova may struggle a bit with the travel fatigue and the finals-run hangover, but Cornet has struggled to win matches at all. Cornet did win their last encounter, so the question here is if Kuznetsova can bring her St. Petersburg form with her. If so, she should win in 2. If she’s a bit off though, I think Cornet will outlast her despite her slump.

Shvedova vs Martincova :

If you’ve missed the past few weeks, Martincova has been great in early rounds. She hits big, and is likely to win here and give Andreescu all she can handle. I’m not trying to write off Shvedova’s chances, but one player has been winning a ton of matches recently. Martincova in 2.

Stephens vs Dodin :

Will Stephens win a match outside a major this year? Probably not. Dodin is a great talent with a solid serve and huge laserlike groundstrokes. She struggles with errors as she goes big on a lot of shots, but she’s the type of player who can beat Stephens if she isn’t motivated, which she rarely is. Even with her struggles, Stephens still has the ability to make matches close, but at this point, who cares. Dodin in 2.

Kalinskaya vs Begu :

Despite having a back problem against Golubic last week, I think Kalinskaya has a good chance in this match. She was hitting well and had her chances, but Golubic really found a next level form, including roping some Thiem-like backhands down the line. I am always a bit suspicious of the “back massage” medical timeout when an opponent is having a good run, and I think that 4-5 days to recover will be enough for Kalinskaya. Begu has been having a great year with a lot of wins, but she doesn’t tend to blow anyone out, and her movement/defending are not quite as good as Golubic’s. The outright win will be tough for Kalinskaya, but I think it will be a close match. Someone in 3.

Pera vs Tormo :

Scary matchup for both. Pera has some very crisp offense when she’s on, and Tormo tends to give away control of the rallies automatically. Against Fernandez, it proved to be costly as Fernandez played several shots until she found a winner. Against Pera, it’s a good strategy because she loses most of the time due to unforced errors. Fatigue has to be a factor for Tormo at some point, but crowning Pera as the winner here is tough to do since her triumphs are often randomly spaced. Tormo’s run is reminding me a lot of ARV in that South American swing where it’s clear she’s sorta running on fumes, but is playing so consistent that it’s hard for players to get the job done against her. Tormo in 2.

Petkovic vs Zhang :

These two really have been losing recently so there’s not a lot to go off of. Zhang won the most recent encounter, but it was 2 years ago. Just because I know she’s more invested in tennis, I lean Zhang.

Cocciaretto vs Sanders :

This is exciting. Cocciaretto played great in qualifying, and will feel confident here against a somewhat inexperienced player. Storm Sanders is one of the better lefty prospects on the tour though, and while she doesn’t have a ton of results, she played a greaaaaaat tournament in Adelaide. I think she’s a pretty solid favorite to come through here, and it’s unfortunate they play into Pegula. Sanders in 2-3.

Giorgi vs Samsonova :

Samsonova was on her way right out of the qualifiers, and just looked all sorts of bad against Niculescu early in the match. She didn’t blink though, and just kept swinging for the fences and getting to net. Here she really has a winnable match, and it’ll require the same singular approach. Giorgi at one point admitted that many players on tour don’t want to practice with her, since she plays such an aggressive style. That style has gotten her more wins than pushing ever would have, but it has taken several years of quick L’s to get her to this point. I think Samsonova can agree with that plan, but Ludmila likely has a bit better defensive prowess than Giorgi, so despite struggling in qualifying, I like her to come through here. Samsonova in 3.

Boulter vs Kr. Pliskova :

Boulter beat Gauff, took a set off Osaka, and then went back to normal. The 300 ranking doesn’t seem right, but it may be until she finds consistency. Krystina Pliskova is a great server and even thought she’s lost a few matches in a row, she will have an easier time scoring here. If Boulter wins here, then I’d expect her to climb the rankings by year’s end. It would be unexpected though as thus far her wins on tour have been very infrequent. Pliskova in 2.

Watson vs Stojanovic :

Heather Watson is always dangerous, but Stojanovic has been dispatching offensive talents left and right. She plays very consistent, and although her serving isn’t much, her recent form has to make her a favorite here. Stojanovic in 3.

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