Jan 15, 2022

2022 Australian Open Men's Round One Writeup

I know. I know. You were all hoping for another Djokovic post. Not into it though. Turtles have very little use for drama, and mostly enjoy sitting on local logs, and chasing small fish. The ATP is starting to have a bunch of depth, so the next two weeks should have some really great matches. The warmup events have had some incredible quality play, so I’m pretty excited about this. As usual, kuklachert and the team at DegensClub set up their bracket competitions. You can enter them here : MENS BRACKET COMP - full signup details in the comments below

Djokovic vs Kecmanovic :

I’ve left this blank pending the results of the hot mess.

Kukushkin vs Paul :

If a man escaped from the Minecraft world and joined the professional tennis tour, you’d respect it. You wouldn’t discuss how flat he hits the ball, because you’d understand that there are only right angles for such a pixelated man. But announcers still misunderstand Mikhail Kukushkin. The man who proves all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares is back on tour, and it’s a welcome sight. After a season or two where he really seemed stuck on the Challenger tour, Kukushkin edged past last week’s title winner Escobedo in the finals of qualifying. Escobedo can ball, but he seems to have one singular approach which is to swing huge on his forehand and backhand. Good enough, but not consistent enough yet to really get inside the top 100.

Mikhail’s reward is a big paycheck and a first round match against Tommy Paul, the answer to the question “What if the USTA had a world class athlete with a complete game who wins against top international talent and spent all their money marketing Taylor Fritz instead?” Tommy Paul has been winning sets against top opponents since his initial breakout performance a few years back where he took one off Thiem at the French and absolutely terrified everyone. Tommy upped his fitness level last year and the result is him as a threat in any match. He has the bigger serve here, and his backhand is solid enough that it’s hard to point to a hole in his game. Kukushkin is crafty, but lack of matches at this higher level will likely mean Paul is able to play his normal game while Kukushkin will have to focus very hard on every point. That kind of “must put the ball back” mindset can lead to some tension, and tension causes errors. Paul should wrap this up in 4 at most.

Otte vs Tseng :

Tseng has been getting wildcards into challenger events and losing for quite some time. He’s a very good junior, and it’s fair for him to get chances but it had started to look like he wouldn’t materialize as a tour-level player. That changed this past winter as he went on an absolute tear on clay. He backed this up with a few hardcourt wins on the challenger level, and there’s a good chance that he’ll work his way onto the tour by 2023. He’s in the AO as a wildcard, and Oscar Otte is not the first round you want as a baseliner, but he’s playing him at the right time. Tseng’s last match was winning a finals against Nuno Borges (who is already tour level, and plays like a funky, slightly more defensive Pete Sampras), and he’ll have a shot since Otte dropped his last two matches against Taro Daniel and Steve Johnson.

Otte is a servebot who somehow eclipses his movement problems in the rallies and creates a number of break opportunities. This is the problem for Tseng. Otte knows he’s not going to win all the rallies, so he doesn’t work extra hard in them. He’s happy to move the ball around and use height and pace changes to try to earn errors. He also gets to net religiously and is one of the best serve and volley players in the event. Tseng will have to be very sharp from start to finish to avoid the loss here, and even so he will have a difficult time breaking serve. Coming from clay to hardcourt is never easy, and this is too tricky to navigate at this time for Tseng. Otte in 4.

Querrey vs Sonego :

Sam Querrey used to be very good, but the dude just isn’t playing a lot of tennis anymore. He’s married, he has a kid, and when he does play his groundstrokes go long a bit too much. At this point he’s the Madison Keys of the ATP, likely to lose 80% of his matches and randomly make a semifinals when he actually catches fire. Sonego might be similarly inconsistent, but he played a terrible/gutsy match against Karatsev this week that makes him a healthy favorite here. He missed a ton of shots, but spent two hours going for them. That’s huge against a guy who might just be showing up for a few more paychecks at this point. Querrey’s serve can win him the set if Sonego throws in a ton of errors, but I think he’ll find that in rallies he’s unable to execute when he needs to. Sonego in 3.

Monfils vs Coria :

Coria is a wall, and Monfils is a larger wall. After several seasons of “we hope he gets his game together”, Monfils treated us to several seasons of “we hope he gets his game back.” Now it seems we are in the prime of Monfils. He’s kinda shrugged off the manufactured swagger, is doing a little less sock-tugging and ankle-holding after long rallies, and he looks like himself on the court. For a guy who played too slice-heavy and allowed himself to be bullied around the court to change up and swing hard and not go for too much takes some major change, and it looks like his relationship with Svitolina has him in a really good place. Maybe it’s happiness? He seems like a great dude, and the tennis is great to watch. Coria will play his best, but Monfils’ serve gives him a huge edge here and if he keeps his groundstrokes low the way he did against Paul this will be over quickly. A loss to Monteiro is slightly concerning, but most of the top guys are looking to bail out of the 250 the week before a major anyway. Monfils in 3.

Bublik vs Escobedo :

I literally just got that “running into an ex at a party” feeling when I saw Escobedo’s name here. I shouldn’t have criticized his game earlier I guess, especially since this is a winnable match. Bublik is the most entertaining player in tennis, but you have to tune in early in the event to see him play. Clever dropshots and slick underhand serves go well with a service motion that mirrors Kyrgios but requires less power. He still has the absolutely best T serve in the game, and when he bothers to hang in rallies from the baseline you can see that his groundstrokes are absolutely perfect. The problem is that with a lot of talent, comes a lot of easy wins, and a lot of bad habits. Bublik plays to entertain, and has insisted that he doesn’t really care and only plays for the money. This is partially true, but is a bit of a copout from a player who doesn’t realize how good they could be, and doesn’t realize how rewarding hard work is once you get your body in shape to perform it. For now, he lost his opener against Vukic, and Vukic and Escobedo are right around the same level.

Escobedo is the kind of player that will outwork Bublik, but may also be terrorized by his variety since he is swinging for the fences on most shots. The rallies on tour are a bit different than on the Challenger level, and Bublik will likely be more motivated here than against Vukic at a 250. This is priced at even odds at most books, and that seems spot on. Bublik is better but hasn’t gotten started yet this season. He’s a flight risk, and everyone knows it. Escobedo on the other hand is playing his best tennis, but his ceiling traditionally is right at the bottom of the tour. If you back Bublik, you’re expecting him to wake up, and tennis isn’t always the on-command thing that we want it to be for our favorite players. Escobedo on the other hand, looks flashy and is playing his best but doesn’t have this type of win on his resume. Someone in 5.

Delbonis vs Martinez :

Delbonis hits the ball huge, but the swing is equally huge. For this reason, it’s really hard for him to trade in the fast-paced baseline rallies that hardcourt entails. Being lefty helps, and playing a guy whose results can be all across the board is useful also. Pedro Martinez has a beautiful game, and in the classic Spanish style can execute every shot when it’s time to. He’s suffered some minor injury setbacks in the past few seasons so he hasn’t really risen to the level he might be capable of. Heading into this though he had a decent win against Popyrin, and he should like his chances since he’s generally competitive for two rounds in all hardcourt majors. Martinez in 3.

Bagnis vs Garin :

Facundo Bagnis has really never done much on hardcourt, and yet he opened up the season by serving his way past Andy Murray, despite Murray’s constant insistence that it was his box’s fault. He turned in a good performance then against Grigor Dimitrov, and things kinda fizzled out as he played a mildly resurgent David Goffin. The time off during the offseason can allow a lot of players to come back very sharp, and they sometimes tend to devolve into their old game style both due to fatigue and from mental lapses. It’s very easy to gameplan a new serve or a set of more aggressive shots, but it’s hard to do this over and over. The fear for Bagnis here is that he’s playing a more physically able player in Garin.

Garin was hard to watch during the ATP cup, but this shouldn’t be so surprising. He’s a workhorse, and a clay specialist. For him to win on clay, he has to be playing someone who doesn’t have big weapons, and most of the guys who went to the ATP Cup were very capable indoors. In a 2/3 structure, I think Bagnis has a good chance. Given Garin’s struggle, Bagnis’ spot serving will allow him to hold fairly easily in the early going, but Garin hits a heavy ball on his forehand side and he can get to literally everything. It doesn’t seem like Bagnis has the explosive offensive to blow him off the court, and Garin tends to play better as the match progresses. He was helpless, but had some bright moments against RBA, and there’s a decent chance that Garin’s base level is good enough to beat Bagnis’ peak. Garin in 5.

Norrie vs Korda :

Korda enters this one having not entered any warmup events. With his physical issues and frequent withdrawals, this is a question mark. If he’s fit, this is very winnable. Norrie has played two matches this season, but has lost both of them. Korda’s last play was at the Next Gen finals where he was nearly unplayable and almost stole the title from Alcaraz. He also won their only prior meeting in 2021 in a 6-3, 7-5 victory. Oddsmakers have opened Norrie as around a -180 favorite, and I think one of the themes of this event is that the guys who played warmup events might be a bit sharper than those that didn’t. Norrie is coming off his best season, and there’s very little quit in the kid.

Two players who’ve both shown a lot of promise playing first round is a bit unfortunate, but mostly for me because I’m not really sure there’s a clear argument for either to be better. Norrie losing to Fritz isn’t great, because he’s a very similar level and player to Korda. Korda having beaten Norrie in straights points to him, but hasn’t played a match yet due to testing postitive for COVID upon landing in Adelaide. He posted a video of himself hitting himself in the berries on twitter, and said he didn’t have symptoms, but it could be a slow start for him. Minor gripe for me, is how many tennis players I’ve seen whacking the ball around in their hotel rooms because they had to quarantine. If you’ve played a sport for 15+ years, you can take a week off. As far as the tennis, Korda has a great and easy service motion, and hits with great power. If Norrie isn’t moving him around, he’ll lose. On the flipside, Korda’s movement is not the same as Cam’s. If a guy like Murray can run two crosscourt sprints before he’s completely left the court open and has to go from broke, Korda at this point can do about three. Should be a close match, and I’d give a slight edge to Norrie since he’s played some matches already. Norrie in 5.

Moutet vs Pouille :

Moutet managed to curse at the umpire and get himself tossed from the tournament last week, and then wrote some vague twitter post about “when they need me they’ll be nice” or something to that effect. This micro-sized rage hamster has throw enough cumulative tantrums on the court that they could kick him at any time in any match and it would be deserved. He’s a grade A bitch, but a tremendously entertaining player. He turned his play into the main story this week and notched wins against RCB, Struff, Fucsovics, and Monteiro before bowing to Arthur Rinderkech, who is the spirit animal of all baby deer. Pouille has been off tour for as long as I can remember, and he’s been losing there also. The challengers tour sees him very often go to three sets, but very seldom win the decider. I’m not sure what’s changed, as his serve/forehand combo and speed around the court made him seem like he’d be a top 40 player for a long time,and now he can’t win a match. He’ll be comfortable playing Moutet, but he’s struggling to find form and Moutet is on a tear. Moutet in 3-4.

Griekspoor vs Fognini :

Talon Griekspoor hadn’t lost a match since August of 2021, but he was forced to withdraw against Nadal a week ago with a foot injury. That makes it near impossible for me to accurately gauge his chances here, but I’ll give you the “what we do know”. Fognini is what you would get if you allowed a sentient moustache to choose an avatar and live on Earth. He gives a relatively good effort in the past few years, but his best tennis is behind him. He’s a tremendous athlete, and is capable of elevating his level to play against top competition, but rarely defeat it. He makes halfassed efforts at times and has a hard time navigating through adversity because of his short temper and hyper-inflated ego. His shirts have recently applied to refugee status in the US after being worn entirely too tightly by Fognini for upwards of 20 years. It’s time to accept that you are not a Small, Fabio. Embrace the Medium.

Tennis-wise, we’d be betting on Griekspoor here because he’s more motivated. It’s a chance for a big paycheck, and a difficult spot mentally for Fognini because he’s playing a kid he feels he’s better than. Add in that Griekspoor has been exceptional on serve throughout his run of wins, and he starts to look like a small favorite. The books have priced this as a pickem, and it’s hard to say if that’s just the assumed market share that Griekspoor’s run has landed him, or if that’s what a model would predict for this match. With the foot injury, it makes it a very speculative thing since everyone in the draw is liable to enter a bit hampered just to pick up the 103k that 1st round losers receive. That money is huge for Griekspoor, who will have this entire season to build enough points to remain on tour. If he’s healthy, I think he gets the job done here. Winning begets winning, and he’s been navigating matches for months and months without blinking. Griekspoor in 4.

Etcheverry vs Carreño-Busta :

Etcheverry closed out his qualifying in style against the newcomer Flavio Cobolli, who is likely to appear in a Next Gen finals in the next 2-3 years. Not a great reward for a claycourter to be playing PCB in the first round, but these points are huge to pick up. Against a server or an offensive talent, I’d like Etcheverry’s chances more, but PCB and RBA tend to be the pinnacle of solid from the baseline from non-title contenders at the majors. Lucky for Tomas, PCB has major issues holding serve at times. It’s not that he’s a bad server, he just tends to play every point in the same patient way, so a lot of his games go to duece. Etcheverry will have chances, I just think PCB will have more of them. PCB in 4.

Alcaraz vs Tabilo :

Tough draw for Tabilo, who was almost a hero in the ATP Cup a few times and has served his way nicely through qualifying. Alcaraz is on a short-list of favorites to win any tournament in the futures markets, and it seems a matter of when rather than if for him. He has the biggest forehand after FAA on tour right now, and his physical training seems to be on par with Nadal which means that over time his base level of play is going to eclipse a lot of other guys on tour who work hard, but not as hard. The saving grace for Tabilo here is that Alcaraz has struggled a little with left-handed players on tour. He had a lopsided loss to Monteiro, and it seems that his backhand can become a liability, which causes him to force a lot of shots down the line when it isn’t really necessary. On the flipside, Tabilo’s backhand is just okay. He isn’t going to hit it for many winners from deep in the court, and Alcaraz will be able to get his forehand on plenty of shots. Tabilo may get off to an early start since this is Alcaraz’ first match, but it should be a good chance for Carlos to exorcise his lefty demons. Alcaraz in 3.

Fucsovics vs Lajovic :

A nice win against Botic Van De Zandschulp makes Fucsovics’ early season look slightly less depressing, but comparing it to Lajovic’s makes it look like he’s won a grand slam. Dusan is capable of high-level tennis, but on hardcourt it’s a bit rare, and seems very matchup dependent. The one-handed backhand is just not the best approach on hardcourt, and Lajovic being a bit on the short side for the tour means that he’s involved in a ton of even baseline rallies on his own serve. Fucsovics should win this, but nothing about either player’s play so far can point to anyone being too dominant. What’s funny about Marton is that in the matches he’s been completely blown out of, he’s let loose and hit some extremely skillful shots. We need more of that and less of the triathlon performances where he plays 25 shot rallies every other point. Let him and Bublik meet somewhere in the middle as far as shot selection and you’ll have 2 top 20 players. Fucsovics in 5.

Kozlov vs Vesely :

This is the first wildcard that Kozlov definitely deserves. He was stuck on the USTA challenger circuit for so long that I didn’t really expect him to step things up, but he did very well in the fall/winter season and finally let the guns go a bit on his forehand side. He plays a very reserved game too often, content to smooth the ball in rallies, but he can also crush the ball. That’ll be necessary here as he’s playing a guy who plays the exact opposite strategy. Vesely serves big, and hits big. His game is a bit straightforward, but if Kozlov is passive he’ll lose this match. Vesely is another guy who was on tour and kinda faded off, but that’s the case if you have a stretch of injuries or close losses. He seems back and motivated, and despite a loss to Nakashima last week he seems ready to compete. What I did see from Vesely’s time on the challenger tour though is that he doesn’t really put his opponents away. A lot of close service games, and a lot of big hitting for not huge results (reminds me of Shapo a bit where he’s crushing the ball but to predictable targets). I’d give Vesely a slight edge, but it’ll be hard for either player to pull away here. Kozlov’s top level wins this, anything else is Vesely in 5.

Nakashima vs Berretini :

Tough draw for Brandon, who seems like an all-around good dude. Nakashima seems like the kinda kid who works in his dad’s shop all day, and then when he gets off work goes to the park and pets all the squirrels and feeds all the birds. Just the kinda kid who helps an old lady cross the street, but also turns his hat backwards sometimes. His tennis is great, but he’s a smaller fellow so he has to earn his points. Earning your points makes you look tremendous, but involves you in too many close matches. Berretini is the polar opposite. He’s taller, he can hit his forehand right by the best players, and his serve is incredible reliable. This could be a good performance from Nakashima and still be a straight sets loss. Berretini didn’t fare too great in the ATP Cup, only notching one win, but Nakashima having just lost to Opelka doesn’t bode well for his chances against an arguable better server with a great baseline game to go with it. Berretini in 3-4.

Zverev vs Altmaier :

Altmaier has turned in some gutsy performances on the challenger tour, and for a clay specialist his hardcourt results have been great. The problem I’m seeing with his game is that he gives up too much court position to hit the ball hard. When he has control of rallies, you’re done. He hits to the open court with a heavy and fast ball on both wings (great Thiem-like one-hander), but he’s always taking a step back to do it. We can get into reasons why Zverev is a total dingus later, but he is a bit too good at this juncture to take these kinds of early losses. Expect his traditional slow start, and for him to gradually maintain that level and pull away. Too many guys have to redline just to compete with him, and Zverev’s serve is starting to look like something that will net him several majors in the next few years. Zverev is the kind of guy that pushes a child’s face into birthday cake and gets upset that no on finds it funny, but he should still win. Zverev in 3.

Lopez vs Millman :

Feliciano Lopez isn’t worth analyzing. His serve is either on, or it isn’t. Millman is going to work hard, and he hasn’t won a lot of matches so far this year, but you know what you’re going to get. If Lopez is on fire, he can win. He’s played some challengers to keep sharp, with middling results. The weather in Australia doesn’t look that bad, so a first round physical lapse probably isn’t expected for most of these players. I did see quite a few 3rd, 4th round players struggling in the past week though, so keep in mind Australian heat is really tough to play through. As a tricky veteran, Lopez isn’t someone I love betting against. Still, Millman has to win this match. Playing on home soil, against a guy who needs to keep rallies short. Millman in 4-5.

Albot vs Nishioka :

Nishioka is in the badlands, and he’s not taking it well. He’s been losing matches, and reacting poorly. I felt bad for a while but the attitude is something that needs to change. He’ll have a chance to see what a great attitude looks like when he plays the man who inspired the Mr Rogers show, Radu Albot. I once saw Radu Albot lay across a river full of crocodiles so a herd of wildebeasts could pass. When they were done, he allowed the crocodiles to eat him. If you could send one ATP player to learn at Hogwart’s, who would it be and why would it be Radu Albot. After grinding on the challenger tour for a while, he found form in qualifying and ran away with his matches, beating familiar face Joao Sousa in the final round. Albot’s ability to get to net will be key here, as Nishioka’s struggles to find form will make it tough for him to come up with passes when he needs to. I’m a fan, so I’m biased, but Albot really has a winnable match here, and is coming in familiar with the courts and in better form. Albot in 4.

Vukic vs Harris :

Mysterious weeks, with Vukic being slated by the books to do very well in all his matches, and then doing so. It’s a good sign for the powerful sorta servebot from Australia. He’s had a few finals runs in the challenger tour, and Lloyd Harris hasn’t played a lot of tennis in the past few months. I want to point to the loss to Kwon as being something bad, but Kwon gave Harris a tough time in their previous matchup, and I think Harris will have a hard time losing to Vukic here. The main thing Harris tends to do well is drag rallies out. He is very fast, and plays very safe on his forehand side. This means more extended rallies, which for a server like Vukic can gradually take your legs out from under you. If Harris is misfiring, sure he can lose to anyone, but he’ll have 3 sets to find a rhythm, and Vukic has a great serve, but Harris is capable of dishing out just as many aces. Vukic split matches with Johnson, and Kozlov, and that’s where I currently think his level is. He’s going to make this close, but I don’t think he will be able to get clear of Harris quick enough to win. Harris in 4-5.

Opelka vs Anderson :

Anderson opened up at just -200 against Jaume Munar, which is super low. Munar doesn’t really win on hardcourt, and Anderson is one of the better and more reliable big-men on tour, so this price should ring alarm bells for anyone looking at the markets. It wasn’t surprising when Munar beat him in straights (but without this low price it would be). It is problematic for predicting this one though. Was it Munar’s crisp play (he really did start out the season on fire and serving well) or a combination of that and Anderson’s rust. Compared to that performance, Opelka’s serving this week and his good play on the forehand wing look like they should be dominant. In a battle of servers, I often want to give the edge to whomever will be more stable in rallies, and that’s almost always going to be Anderson. Is he ready to play though? The big body can wear down, and I tend to want to watch all servers play a round before backing them. I’ve seen Opelka though, firing ace after ace against Murray and genuinely confusing him into playing a poor tiebreaker (Opelka won points against the Murray serve and they had some decent rallies). This should be close, but I give a small edge to Opelka. Opelka in 4.

Koepfer vs Taberner :

Koepfer has just kinda fizzled. He’s a fizzler. Taberner is consistent, and can easily win this if Koepfer continues to just kinda scurry around and miss. I shouldn’t belittle this match, but they both have a bunch of losses in their recent history, and it’s likely that the winner goes down quickly against Anderson/Opelka. Koepfer’s been playing the higher level matches, so he’ll start as the favorite, but I’d avoid this one. Koepfer in 4.

Rune vs Kwon :

Holger Vitus Rune sounds like a special item you have to find in a Zelda game, but he’s been one of the most exciting stories on tour. After a great performance against Djokovic though at the US Open, he kinda struggled. He had some matches where he was a heavy favorite, and just didn’t perform. He popped down to the challenger tour, and got snagged a few times there also. It makes this an interesting spot. Kwon suffered some leg injuries and it kept him from really being at his best for a while, but he played great against Harris and acquitted himself nicely against Rinderknech. He also beat Rune in three in their previous meeting so he’ll be familiar with the youngster’s game. Frustration was an issue for Holger in his early outtings on tour and in a slump this could be an issue again. Tempted to go with Kwon here, as he’s a bit outmatched in terms of power but way more consistent from the baseline. Kwon in 5.

Djere vs Shapovalov :

Laslo is just good enough to make things competitive on hardcourt, but not to pull upsets. His points will continue to come from clay until he improves his serve location. Shapovalov has been doing more and getting less, and I think he really needs to make some changes to the pace he delivers the ball with. Guys are walking to his shots before he hits them, and in close matches there isn’t really another top player who feels more likely to double fault. He also tends to make a great get, and when the rally gets reset, he goes to a slice when re-entering the court. Once he’s bought the time, he shouldn’t then give his opponent a chance to retake control. It’s minor stuff, but the main plan with his gamestyle is to apply pressure and it just doesn’t seem like he’s executing that. This is a safe match for him, and although he lost a few matches at the ATP Cup his overall level was near his best. Shapo in 3, but he’ll find some way to make it 5.

Hurkacz vs Gerasimov :

Hurkacz has somehow never dropped a set to Gerasimov, but this is a likely spot for it. Despite Hurkacz looking like a title contender for major titles this year in his ATP Cup performances, Gerasimov is at his best right now. He went down against Mager in their second serving battle of the week, but he was very strong from the baseline against Khachanov and has been serving great in every match. Fatigue is always his main enemy, so it’s good he had a few days off to prepare for the AO. Despite his sharp form though, Hurkacz is starting to really look legit. His serve is top 10 quality, and easily repeatable. His movement is smooth and he isn’t overhitting at all. The main hole in his game is his backhand down the line goes into the net way too often, but the shot is there for the taking when he misses it so it’ll be very hard to dismiss him for Gerasimov, who isn’t the best defensively. Hurkacz in 4.

Duckworth vs Mannarino :

Both of these fine gentleman have three losses in a row. Mannarino seems to play to the level of his opponents, and Duckworth won their previous encounter. When Mannarino gets his serve going, he’s the more dangerous opponent here, but that perfect rhythm seems to pop up more in high profile matches and at random 250s on hyper fast courts. This could really go either way as neither has much to feel good about heading in, but Duckworth should be a bit more at home. Duckworth in 5.

Milojevic vs McDonald :

Playing Milojevic on hardcourt is supposed to be easy, but nobody bothered to tell him that. After cruising through qualifying, the hard-working Serbia is playing Mackie McDonald first round in what should be an easy win for Mackie but likely won’t. McDonald gets a lot of respect from bookies, but the results aren’t consistent. When he’s playing his best, his speed around the court and significant power for his stature are great, but he doesn’t really serve anyone out and he’s prone to strings of errors. Milojevic downed Sachko and Couacaud, two players whose current form would give them a puncher’s chance against McDonald. This price (-500 for McDonald) seems a little off. He should still win, but I think it might be close. McDonald in 5.

Munar vs Karatsev :

Munar would like this draw about a week ago. After some COVID concerns had Karatsev seeming like he’d board the struggle bus, he has found his best tennis this week in Sydney and is playing Andy Murray in the finals. I expect him to win that title, and carry his solid play into this week. Keep in mind that Munar gave him a bit of trouble in their previous matches, and that he’s started this season off sharp. The Karatsev serve/forehand combo is just a bit too strong though, and it looks like him and Hurkacz are going to run into each other in what should be a really high level contest. Karatsev in 3.

Khachanov vs Kudla :

Dennis Kudla will beat anyone on tour who is off their game, and no one who is on. He’s been a tremendous bisector of form for a long time, and although Khachanov is classic for going five sets in early rounds, he has to be glad to get this section of the draw. Kudla won a few matches to open the year, but no major upsets. Khachanov seemed to serve better than usual in his season opener, and did well despite losing out to eventual champion Monfils. A win against Cilic in his current form is excellent, and he is primed for a deep run at this event. Khachanov in 3.

Bonzi vs Gojowczyk :

This is one that confuses me a little. Bonzi was opened here as a -250 favorite, but there really isn’t a lot to indicate he’ll back that up. Bonzi has all the tools, and plays a bit like a weaker but more consistent Norbert Gombos. He’s done well on tour but without notching wins. It’s really tough to break through that “wins against rusty veterans” level and get to “challenges guys playing their best”, simply because on the challenger tour you’re often playing guys who are too burnt out from playing every week to really be at their peak offensively. Gojo can struggle with form, and he hits a very flat ball so he is prone to battling the net and losing, but his results in hardcourt majors last year were very impressive, and in a 3/5 format it seems like he’ll have ample time to find that form. This is offense against consistency, and Gojo’s serve will likely be the deciding factor. If he can land first serves, his entire game starts to thrive and playing a guy in a good service rhythm who returns as aggressively (albeit errantly) as Gojo can be a tough ask for Bonzi. Gojowczyk in 4.

Hanfmann vs Kokkinakis :

Ya boy Hanfmann has been squeaking by in the qualifiers, but it’s a welcome return to the tour for one of the more interesting players. He’s a very tall guy with a huge serve, but prefers clay. He serve and volleys, but is very content to hang at the baseline on defense. No reward is in store for his hard work though, because Thanasi Kokkinakis has found his game. The problem in my mind for Kokkinakis is his physical ability has always hindered him. He’s a talented offensive player, but he’s fragile. Injuries to just about everything have held him back, and while injuries heal, it’s hard to get to a solid overall fitness level when you’re constantly resting and rehabbing. He’ll play a final tonight against Rinderknech, and a few days to recover is fine, but when’s the last time Kokkinakis played 5 matches in a week. It’ll be interesting to see how he recovers, but he still should have an edge in quality since Hanfmann is squeaking (the aforementioned squeaking) by challenger level players and Kokkinakis is beating tour level players. Hopefully Kokkinakis gets by, because a second round against Nadal at his home slam should be a memorable occasion. Kokkinakis in 3-4, or a sadpants withdrawal.

Giron vs Nadal :

GAAAAAAAME …. NAH-DOLLLLL. If you didn’t hear it in Mo Layani’s voice, perhaps you’ll get to this week. Giron hasn’t been sharp to start the season, and Nadal won a title. “Nadal is rusty”, “Nadal is not a threat on hardcourt anymore”, and other generic statements are flying as usual, and I’ve even had those thoughts, but once it’s time for someone to have to outwork him for 3 sets, it just starts to seem impossible. I’m not sure how far he’ll go here, but Giron’s backhand isn’t going to hold up to the barrage. Nadal in 3.

Ruud vs Molcan :

Molcan has been really terrific on the challenger tour, and his current rank sits in the 70s so a few good results this year could save him from having to be so terrific. Both these guys are a bit better on clay than hardcourt, but Ruud has really worked himself into being a contender on hardcourt by virtue of swinging his forehand like it’s Thor’s hammer or something. Molcan suffered a lopsided loss to Ruusuvuori a week ago, but he did earn a 6-4, 2-0 withdrawal win against Ruud on clay in 2018 so he’ll have some level of comfort. For me, the Ruusuvuori loss stands out as a spot where Molcan looked a bit flat. It takes a good performance to beat Ruud, and with Molcan not at his best, Casper should be able to control his own destiny. Ruud in 3.

Ivashka vs Andujar :

Ilya Ivashka was a hero in 2021, and although he hasn’t played a much yet this year, he has a pretty good chance against Pablo Andujar. But wait, why is there so much foliage around him? And why are there jaguars? Why is this spirit eagle perched atop a chiseled statue of a man? Wait. Is it a statue? Or is it … ANDUJAAAAAAAAAAR. Stronger than a tree frog. ANDUJAAAAAAAAR. Quicker than a caterpillar, and only slightly less adorable. ANDUJAAAAAAAR. The inspiration for Zorro, the Three Musketeers, and writer of three episodes (count them) of Darkwin Duck. ANDUJAAAAAAAAAAR. Regularly voted best dressed at the nude beach. ANDUJAAAAAAAAAAR. Sick of me writing nonsense about him. ANDUJAAAAAAAAR. Long story short, Pablo Andujar isn’t my hero, because they say don’t meet your heros, and we all have met Pablo. Because he lives in our hearts. Not spiritually, he is able to shrink down and ride a tiny jaguar named Tito (also shrunk) into our actual hearts. Unfortunately, he lost to Durasovic, so the odds of him beating Ivashka are minimal unless Ivashka is in poor health. No real way to gauge that, so Ivashka in 3-4 is the most likely result. Andujar is steady enough and capable of playing a perfect set, but Ivashka’s defensive ability is such that he can hang even in these extended rallies.

Seppi vs Majchrzak :

Andreas Seppi keeps showing up to majors, and keeps besting younger players in marathon matches. Why would this be any different? His spot-serving makes me wonder why more guys don’t take a little bit off, as he really seems to get a ball to work with on every return. Majchrzak has been on the tour for a little while, but his game doesn’t really lend itself to him blowing anyone off the court. He plays a solid style, and this is winnable for him, but Seppi has to start as a little bit of a favorite. Seppi in 5.

Musetti vs De Minaur :

Lorenzo Musetti is still a great player, but he’s having the same struggles that Thiem did on hardcourt early in his career. It’s tough to get enough time to take this big swings (Musetti has a huge one-handed backhand), and it’s tough to give up that much court position and score. De Minaur was having similar struggles last year, but has started off the year moderately well, defeating Berretini and Humbert. Playing at home, coming off two excellent wins in a pressure-free environment, and playing a guy who isn’t at his best is a great spot for Alex. De Minaur in 3.

Basilashvili vs Murray :

These two just played last week, and they set a very interesting line of -400 for Murray but an over/under of 21 games. That’s a bit high for a guy who’s supposed to be a 4:1 favorite, but the result makes sense when you consider Basilashvili plays well at a maximum two events a year. If his timing is off, he just keeps swinging and missing, and this means he can lose a set in 15 minutes. On the flipside, when he lands his shots he is very hard to defend against, especially for a guy like Murray who’s mobility is not what it used to be. Given Murray’s finals run, there’s a lot to be happy about. Given Murray’s finals run though, there’s a worry that his body won’t recover well for this first round. I still don’t expect Basil to play great here, but I don’t really like backing people in a back-to-back matchup either. Murray in 4-5.

Daniel vs Barrios Vera :

Taro Daniel gets what he deserves, which is a winnable first round. He’s been at his best in the past few weeks and he’s worked really hard in qualifying to win in a safe manner. Barrios has yet to drop a set, but Daniel has a great deal more experience at this level. As a baseliner, Taro is never going to win quickly, but he should have an edge on stamina since he’s used to playing extremely drawn out contests. Daniel in 4.

Johnson vs Thompson :

Here it is, the moustache finals. Jordan Thompson played well last week, but he just doesn’t have the firepower to get himself deep in events. It’s always a good serving performance. It’s always a gutsy fight. It’s never “his tennis was too good”. On the opposite side, Johnson gets the same compliments from the announcers, but does things entirely differently. His seems like a polished skillful approach, but he doesn’t ever rattle his opponents. This is probably the 100th time I’ve said it, but his backhand is the reason he’s not in the top 100 whenever he isn’t. You can’t have a slice backhand on the main tour without having an absolutely legendary forehand. Delpo and Berretini are the only two players I can really think of, and both of them have a decent two-hander and look to use it when they can. Is it “too late” for Steve to develop a two-hander? I really don’t see why. He never has though, so he gets what he gets. The winner of this gets to lose to Jannik Sinner in the second round. Someone in 5 (I think Johnson is a bit sharper).

Sousa vs Sinner :

A lot of lucky losers thrive, but this is a tough ask for Sousa. I’m glad he got into the draw as he’s been mired off tour for a while and I don’t think he’ll find his way back on easily. His backhand is quite bad, but his forehand and work ethic are top of the line. Sinner is too complete at this juncture, and should wrap this up in 3. Sinner in 3.

Bautista Agut vs Travaglia :

Travaglia is the sort of player you’d expect to lose in three to RBA, but he has a pretty big serve and may get close in at least one set. When he redlines (it’s somewhat rare) he plays a similar game to Tiafoe, but RBA at the ATP Cup was as good as I’ve seen him in some sets. He is primed for a deep run in Australia, and has a very winnable match against Tsitsipas on the horizon. RBA in 3.

Kohlschreiber vs Cecchinato :

“Two please,” said Philip as he handed over his $. The cashier looked back, confused. “I’m not sure if we can just sell tickets into the Australian Open, sir. “No, it’s ok, just let us in, they know we’re coming,” said Marco, while practicing smashing his racquet with both his forehand and backhand. I am always surprised to see Kohl and Cecch in a major, and they always seem to get favorable draws. Cecchinato rarely wins on hardcourt, and Kohl often pulls a few big upsets before bowing out of these events. They both have one-handers, but Kohl spreads the court nicely and is a better returner than Cecchinato. Kohlschreiber in 4.

Tiafoe vs Trungeliti :

The Dzumhur Trungeliti match was electrifying. It’s rare you see the crowd really annoying the players with their cheers, and Dzumhur and Trungeliti both were celebrating at each other as much as they were celebrating. Trungeliti managed to break Damir while he was serving for the match, and the run of the next three games included multiple diving gets from Marco. For a claycourt player to randomly become one of the most consistent hardcourt qualifiers is very interesting, and his speed and effort make this a tough first round for Tiafoe. Tiafoe is never reliable, but has played some of his best tennis in Australia. The courts are fast, and Trungeliti facing the end against Dzumhur means that Tiafoe “should” win in 3-4 sets. Tiafoe in 5.

Marterer vs Fritz :

Maximilian Marterer has one of the coolest names. If I were buying an ornate puzzle, or a used submarine, I would very much expect to buy it from a guy named that. Instead though, the largish lefty fellow has chosen to play tennis, and what a delightfully smashy brand of tennis it is. Taylor Fritz will somehow win this in 3 tiebreakers, but I will be cheering for him to take the L. Marterer is one of the guys who seemed like he’d make it onto the tour but never quite got there. He’s a great player and has a big serve, but it seems (like Shapovalov) that his game has been solved by most of his opponents. Playing at one speed can do that on tour. It’s tough in these spots because the upset is possible, but not likely at all. Marterer did beat him in three in their only prior meeting on the ultra fast courts of Miami. Fritz in 4-5.

Dimitrov vs Lehecka :

Danger for Dimitrov here in an early round where he sometimes is a bit tentative. Jiri Lehecka isn’t a household name, but very few players have won more matches recently on the challenger tour. We know it’s a lower level, but the difference between the top 200 players are very narrow and many matches come down to who gets lucky in the big moments and who gets more chances to compete on tour. This feels similar though to the Fritz Marterer match, where one guy is beatable, but probably not for an entire match. Lehecka is used to downing a much less significant defense, and there’s a good chance Dimitrov puts this away in 4.

Paire vs Himself :

In what has traditionally been an unwinnable affair, Paire and himself will go toe to toe once again. The Australian Open has decided to thicken the plot though, and let Thiago Monteiro compete against him as well. Paire got 4 and 0 against this week’s hometown hero Kokkinakis, while Monteiro has turned in some excellent performances in the past two weeks, playing peak Cilic close and sneaking by Monfils after his title run left him a tiiiiiiny bit depleted. Paire can easily win this match, and he can easily send it to 5 sets by serving well. His skill is undeniable, but his emotional tolerance is 0, and at times it seems like he’s mostly mad that he cannot even remember what he is mad about. He’ll pick it up at some event this year, but for now Monteiro is in the driver’s seat here, and having the clay background means Monteiro is going to work hard during every moment of this match. Monteiro in 4.

Baez vs Ramos Vinolas :

This match is priced interestingly. Sebastian Baez is a big new name on tour. He plays tenacious ball, has the clay pedigree that makes him so stable, and is making inroads into being a decent hardcourt player. As he progresses though, public opinion of him is inflated a bit beyond his current accomplishments. He has some nice wins against O’Connell, Altmaier, Polmans, and Monteiro, but these are all just at or below the level that ARV has traditionally displayed. Fast hardcourt is his worst surface but he can be an absolute wall as his opponents offense becomes a little less crisp. This is winnable for Baez, but I think the -227 he’s priced at is more a reflection of his name recognition (next gen finals, a few challenger wins) than of his actual odds to win. After all this doubt, I somehow still can’t come up with a good argument for how ARV will show up sharp. He’s on a string of 5-6 losses in a row, and hasn’t played a warmup event. Baez in 5.

Ymer vs Tsitsipas :

Mikael Ymer is not the first round you want if you’re Stefanos Tsitsipas right now. He played a single match at the ATP Cup and was not only slightly hampered by his elbow, he was also a little bit sloppy at times. It doesn’t mean he can’t put it all together, but it does mean that playing a guy who’s going to make him play 1,000 balls is not ideal. Tsitsipas wins on hardcourt when he serves well, so it’ll be essential that he lands a good percentage of first serves. Ymer plays pretty generic tennis, but is extremely fast and hits with good enough pace to punish Tsitsipas for short balls. It’s one of those spots where there’s no fast route past the opponent, which might mean there is no route at all. Full disclosure, I don’t expect a deep run from Tsitsipas at this event. He was rated at a pickem with Diego at the ATP cup, which means prior to the match even going off oddsmakers knew he wasn’t really ready to play at his usual level. Tsitsipas in 4 or Ymer in a withdrawal.

Rublev vs Mager :

There are some tricky spots in this draw for the top guys, and this is one. Rublev hasn’t been himself, and hasn’t played any tennis. Mager is mainly a server, with big power, but he has a pretty good chance to win a set here. But do we wanna talk about that, or do we wanna speculate on where Rublev will go when he finally takes a vacation. Will he go and live with the walruses for a month? Will he go and yell at the sqwaking birds who live atop the seaside cliffs?Will he buy sunglasses and cruise Rodeo Drive? Am I getting a bit tippy in my teacups from typing for so long? Rublev’s incredible run made me spoiled, and when he faltered, I think myself and everyone else thought OH NO SOMETHING IS WRONG! It likely is just that something was very very right during the run, and that normally Rublev isn’t able to just blast away without errors. In his career he’s had 3-4 seasons where he was strong but inconsistent, and one where he was a top 5 player. Which is the outlier, and why do we expect everyone’s peak to become their base level? I don’t know, but I’ll be happy if he wins here. Mager will punish him if his serve goes away, and Rublev is prone to double faults, but Rublev’s pace on his groundstrokes is a bit too fast for Mager’s movement. This means Rublev just needs to put returns in play, and we get to see him and Berankis blast away at each other. Rublev in 4, peak Rublev in 3.

Carballes Baena vs Berankis :

RCB is a great baseliner and outperforms his hardcourt reputation all the time. Berankis is not commonly regarded as a threat and wins all his early rounds in pretty consistent fashion. It’ll be the perfect matchup for Berankis really, as RCB won’t ace him, and Ricardas will be hitting the ball slightly bigger at every juncture. It’s a similar match to ARV vs Baez, but Berankis is way more steady than Baez generally. Berankis in 3-4.

Skatov vs Gombos :

Timofey Skatov really leveled up quickly in the past week. He was down in South America grinding away on clay, and I watched him not exactly take his losses well. This week though he’s been holding serve and has yet to drop a set in qualifying. His opponent, Norbert Gombos, has won each of his matches in 3, but played a few former tour players in Matt Ebden, Renzo Olivo, and Andrey Kuznetsov. I fully expect Gombos to hang in there, but I don’t see Skatov losing his serve too often either, or his nerve. It’s great for whichever one of them gets to the second round, and while Gombos has the more all-around game, his main plan is to hit big and Skatov’s very capable of hanging in that department. This is the first one where I’m leaning into an upset. Skatov in 5.

Gomez vs Cilic :

Great run in qualifying for Gomez, who wasn’t favored in any of his matches. Not the best first round for him, as Marin Cilic has displayed the type of tennis this week that lets me finally see how he could win a major. The guy makes a deep run in random events, but it always feels like his timing is a little off. He was short-hopping forehands this week in his match against Paul that were incredible, and his attitude while competing was top tier. This is the right first round for him to get going, and playing two inexperienced servers in the second is even better. Cilic in 3.

Evans vs Goffin :

Just when Goffin gets a few wins a row, he lands this draw. Dan Evans may have lost to Karatsev last night, but he competed as hard as he could. This is on the back of him playing great at the ATP Cup, turning in three beautiful wins. Goffin was forced to withdraw against Murray, and this would be a big upset for him. Evans in 3 is the most likely outcome, because the only reason Evans lost to Karatsev was because he was outhit. Goffin doesn’t boast that type of power, and is lacking the Aslan serve. Is this article about Karatsev? Yes.

Popyrin vs Rinderknech :

Alexei Popyrin is crisp when he plays well, but still is looking for that consistent performance and that solid belief. Rinderknech has managed to find that, and a finals run this week (plays Kokkinakis tonight) feels normal but is a huge result for the dude. Rinderknech has a really nice serve, a smooth forehand and a sneaky good ability from the baseline for a tall guy. He has less raw firepower, but is doing more with less than Popyrin. It’s possible he’ll be a bit fatigued for this, but he should head into this one a fairly healthy favorite after Popyrin’s quick exit a week ago against Pedro Martinez. Bookmakers have set this at a pickem, which is a traditional move that I have never really understood. Logistically, I understand that the guy coming off a title run is expected to gas out in the next week or so. If you research the results though, it seems very random when this actually happens or doesn’t. I still think Rinderknech is a bit better. Rinderknech in 4.

Davidovich Fokina vs Bolt :

Peak to peak, Fokina will beat Bolt in 3. Injuries and rust though abound for ADF, and it’s easy to forget that he’s a young player who’s navigating all this stuff for the first time. He lost to Lajovic a week ago, and Bolt went quickly out to Steve Johnson. Fokina, who is very clearly the evolved Pokemon form of Goffin, has to be happy to play a slumping player who doesn’t spend much time on tour. On the flipside, Bolt is a very crafty lefty who tends to use his footspeed and the extreme spin and feathery touch he brings to sneak past guys on tour who can’t put in the work. It’s tough to see either having a great edge, but the -357 pricetag for Fokina is my favorite Cam’ron song, so I will take him to win in 4.

Ruusuvuori vs Auger-Aliassime :

Felix Auger-Aliassime is the most promising player on tour. He’s a top player, but somehow still seems like a happy kid on the court. He has the professional attitude that is required to reach the absolute top tier, and his physical ability and tennis skill is there as well. It’s only a testament to how good he is that the thing I generally discuss is what’s left for him. His backhand is extremely interesting. It seems a bit whippy at times, and it can lose it’s length. On the flipside, I really love that he’s one of the few players who’s using different ranges of height on his backhand, and his footwork when he moves to his forehand is always solid. It’s a shame for Ruusuvuori to land here in the draw, because he played tremendous tennis against Nadal last week, and a fast hardcourt is ideal for his game. I wouldn’t count him out of this at all, and I expect it to be a bit of a shootout, but it’s hard to overlook FAA beating RBA last week. It was the second time he beat him, and hitting through RBA really indicates that your game is not only top level, but also doesn’t require you to redline/gas out. This might be the best match in the first round, and FAA’s serve should give him a slight edge, although I do think Ruusuvuori’s backhand is a tad bit better at penetrating through the court. FAA in 4-5.

Schwartzman vs Krajinovic :

Diego was on fire at the ATP Cup, and it’s somewhat rare in the past season or so that he plays well on hardcourt. At the majors though (barring last year’s L to Karatsev), he generally is a very difficult out regardless of the surface. The consistent players are just tough to beat over a duration that you’re not used to playing, and I’m not sure what training options these guys can have when the majors tend to leave everyone physically depleted. Sometimes Krajinovic seems like an impostor who took Krajinovic’s place without knowing that the guy had to go play professional tennis. He just seems unprepared in some matches, though when he gets in a rhythm he seems like he should be contending for titles. This is oddly the case with most tennis players. These guys are all tremendous, but the game is played at such a fast pace and there are so many events that it’s easy to just land in a few unfavorable matchups and seem like you’re not doing your best. I have heard a lil birdie say that Kraj likes to party a lil bit, and the thought of someone trying to show up and play professional tennis hungover actually makes me like him a little more. Anyway, rumors are not the best, but Krajinovic is not expected to compete well here. Much of tennis in the first round is a very “doubt this person until they prove me wrong” situation, which isn’t great for interesting predictions, but this draw seems fairly straightforward in a lot of spots and the first two weeks have given us a look at a lot of players who are very sharp and a lot who are just not ready to perform. Schwartzman in 3.

O’Connell vs Gaston :

I just wanna remind everyone who’s high on Gaston that after his claycourt run at the French, he was almost completely unable to win matches on hardcourt. People had begun to write him off completely, but he salvaged things with a run indoors out of nowhere at the Paris Masters. Since then there have been a healthy numbers of losses in a row, and O’Connell does have a decent pedigree to at least lend itself to this being an even matchup. O’Connell is a very good pusher from the baseline and if the announcers have a chance THEY WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU THAT HE ONCE WORKED ON A FISHING BOAT CAN YOU BELIEVE HE ONCE WORKED ON A FISHING BOAT? Gaston has a better serve, and more variety, but O’Connell should be able to play his normal game here and expect a decent amount of success. He covers the court well and hits with decent length, so Gaston’s dropshot heavy approach might not work. O’Connell in 5.

Machac vs Cerundolo :

Tomas Machac was in trouble in the first round of his qualifying against Ugo Carabelli, but after that he cruised. Bhambri is not really ready for tour play yet, so that was expected, but beating Jesper De Jong in straights comfortably is pretty good considering Jesper has been winning a ton of matches recently on the challenger tour, including beating Gilles Simon. Machac gets a really nice spot in the draw against Juan Manuel Cerundolo, who will make things sticky but doesn’t really have hardcourt credentials yet. Machah has a big serve, and solid power for a little guy. Cerundolo being lefty and defending well can make him dangerous, but Machac should be able to get a healthy lead before Cerundolo is able to catch up to him. Machac in 4.

Cressy vs Isner :

Cressy has been the only person on the challenger tour to overshadow Griekspoor. He’s been -300 or more almost every round there, and has won nearly every time. In Melbourne he beat Munar, Opelka, Dimitrov, and pushed Nadal. He backed that up by adding Mannarino and Lajovic to his resume, and since he’s a serve and volley guy, it seems he’s able to physically endure all these matches without a terrible amount of fatigue. Isner’s serve makes this an even contest, but Cressy seems a bit more adept during rallies and moves much better. This season, Isner almost seems to be laboring to get back and forth across the court, so there’s a decent chance that Cressy’s aggressive returning will be very effective if he’s able to get a read on things. This is likely to go to tiebreakers though, so there’s not a huge edge to be seen. Cressy in 4 is what I’d expect given Isner’s general appearance of mental fatigue.

Humber vs Gasquet :

Ugo Humbert and Richard Gasquet are two of the most enjoyable players on tour to watch, but their careers are heading in different directions. Humbert is starting to have notched enough good wins that he’s considered a threat anytime he plays. His consistency isn’t there, but I think that’s largely because he’s not really working with the strongest physical frame. Gasquet has shown some resurgence and still has the most beautiful backhand you could ever see, but it’s been a while since he won a match of this quality. Humbert had the perfect warmup at the ATP Cup, playing against top competition, and he should be the better player here. The France vs France matchups have always been close, so I could see Gasquet extending this, I just don’t think he will be able to keep Humbert from dictating play with his forehand. Humbert in 4-5.

Van De Zandschulp vs Struff :

Struff, whose usual expression is Blue Steel, has a very tough match here. Botic suffered a loss last week though against Fucsovics. and lost to Dimitrov the week before, so his confidence may not be at an alltime high. Struff crushes the ball, and has a huge serve. He has started to get to net a lot and this is really good to add to his game since the weight of shot he has can make it tough to execute passes. I don’t really think he is better from the baseline than Botic though, and between the two of them Botic seems to have his game more together, and also has more ways to score. His offense looks much more composed, and Struff seems to be exerting himself. BVDZ has a really good chance to get by here, but Struff played his best against Shapovalov so it will take a lot of work. Van De Zandchulp in 5.

Broady vs Kyrgios :

Liam Broady is not anyone’s favorite dude right now. After Roman Safiullin’s beautiful run at the ATP Cup, many were announcing him as the next Karatsev. That may be, but he seemed to fatigue during the qualifiers, and had a very funky combination of players. First he played Bernard Tomic, who spend the entire match pinching his nose like he was exasperated with a child that kept saying “why?” Tomic went on a weird rant or two, and genuinely gave up and complained rather than playing. In the next round, Safiullin turned in a perfect performance in the first set against Chris Eubanks, who won just about 0 rallies. In set two Eubanks found his serve (he had 7 love holds in his previous match) and Safiullin unravelled. Sometimes you’re such a heavy favorite to win that there’s pressure on you somehow, and this was an example of that. Eubanks really can’t hang in rallies for too long, and Safiullin got by, but playing a lefty baseline grinder in the next and final round just seemed to have him all out of sorts. Broady has been around the tour for a while so it’s good to see him earn his way in, and he he has a scratchoff in his hands here. Nick Kyrgios has pulled out of everything thus far, and it’s not entirely clear if he’s healthy for this. The odds of -200 for Nick indicate there’s a decent chance he pulls out, and if he plays it’s pretty clear that he’s not ready to compete (he’d be around -400 if he were healthy and motivated against Broady). I do expect him to have some interesting instagram comments this week with the whole Djokovic fiasco, but I’m not expecting him to play much tennis this season as he doesn’t train hard enough to avoid injuries to his big frame. Broady in 4 or via withdrawal.

Laaksonen vs Medvedev :

Medvedev is becoming one of the most fun players to watch, and he really has gotten adept at ending these early round matches at majors in quick fashion. Getting to the finals or semis with minimal wear and tear is huge and is what had him so fresh for the USO finals where he blitzed Djokovic. Laaksonen should stay on tour with his ability to serve and the improvements he’s made to his baseline game, but there’s not a lot of chance here. Medvedev in 3.