Jan 18, 2022

2022 Australian Open Men's Round Two Writeup

Little late today but hopefully I am forgiven. The WTA is about halfway done and should go up right before gametime.
Kecmanovic vs Paul :

Nobody got a bigger boost from Djokovic’s withdrawal than Miomir Kecmanovic, because due to it being at the last minute the draw wasn’t reshuffled and a lucky loser got the #1 spot. That bonus fell to Caruso who has been battling hard to get back on tour but has only recently found the timing on his shots. He’s a bit removed from the hard hitting performances that netted him big upset wins in the past, but Kecmanovic, who decided to dedicate his performance to Novak as if he was deceased or something, played great in a straight sets win.

His second round opponent is Tommy Paul, who keeps a small notebook with the word “Gnarly” written in it that he reads during changeovers. Paul won in a similar manner, rolling Mikhail Kukushkin, and this should be a better contest than their recent results suggest. Kecmanovic is a guy who tore up the challenger tour and was showing signs of being a top tour player as well, but he’s had real issues with his forehand and a few subpar seasons. This resurgence is welcome, because when he plays well he’s a lockdown defender with a sneaky good serve. He’s outgunned on paper here against Tommy Paul, who has a better serve, a better forehand, and some really legit results on tour against top competition, but sometimes going uphill can produce favorable situations for a good defender. This section of the draw has to feel wide open, so I expect both to compete at their best, but Paul should be a tiny bit better. Paul in 4.

Otte vs Sonego :

Oscar Otte continues to break serve, and it’s starting to feel wrong to call him a servebot. Physically, he looks like a lanky dude who was napping nearby and just got invited to play in a tennis tournament. His forehand looks kinda relaxed and he comes to net after some shots that seem like they should get him passed, but his baseline game is somewhere between Seppi and Stosur and it works. Lorezo Sonego and Sam Querrey had the expected servers battle, and Querrey was unable to convert in the pressure moments due to lack of play. This next match is one Sonego will be slightly favored in, but while he has the bigger forehand and better movement, I don’t think he’s the more consistent player. Otte’s serve is easily repeatable, and Sonego throws in at least one poor service game every set. Otte knows what his game is, and Sonego tends to waver between dropshots and huge forehands. It’s great when it works, but can lead to errors in bunches when one goes wrong. It seems strange to take the weaker and slower player, but Otte is a very efficient player and Sonego seems to either catch fire, or underperform. Otte in 4-5.

Bublik vs Monfils :

Monfils put in a good first round performance against Coria, breaking early and staying composed. This Monfils is almost making me forget the one who would almost certainly lose this second-round contest against a talented server. Bublik made his backers pretty nervous by losing the first against Escobedo and going down a break in the second, but once he found a groove on serve he was able to earn points a bit too easily for Ernesto to hang on. Monfils will have an edge in all extended rallies so Bublik will be under pressure to score quickly. His height will give him a better chance to return as well. It’s a testament to the quality Bublik is capable of that he has a chance here. Their only previous meeting was a somewhat surprising win by Bublik 3:1 in the French Open in 2020, but this seems like an entirely different Monfils. I’d expect a shootout with Gael’s overall level letting him edge past and his speed around the court helping him negate Bublik’s netplay/dropshots. Monfils in 4-5.

Martinez vs Garin :

Pedro Martinez and Delbonis was expected to be a somewhat one-sided affair, but it wasn’t three rallies in the first before that seemed a lost hope. 20+ shot rallies were the norm and neither play would give up an inch. Delbonis maintainted control of most of the rallies with his forehand but couldn’t find clean winners, and Martinez found his way to net as often as he could but often found himself handcuffed and having to come up with absolute magic to get out of it. The set culminated in a 17-15 tiebreaker, and along the way a ballgirl had a medical emergency and had to be helped off court. Little changed from there, and the two exchanged single break sets before Delbonis sort of ran out of gas in the 5th. It was an emotional win for Martinez, but one that showcased how many of his points he earns the hard way. This means the likelihood of this next contest going the distance as well is high.

Christian Garin was up two sets and feelin fine against Facundo Bagnis but Bagnis managed to hang in and level things. It was a lot like a tinier version of the Martinez Delbonis match and despite Garin’s overall strength being a huge factor in best of five contests (his thighs look like they belong with Karatsev’s calves), Martinez has more variety. Garin’s backhand is not the best, and Martinez tends to work the short angle inside out very well with his forehand. Conversely, if Martinez thought the rallies were long against Delbonis, he’s going to have a difficult time dealing with Garin on the other side of the net. He’s fast, strong as an ox (oxes are strong I guess? never really been around an ox), and has a very heavy forehand. Garin will have a difficult time scoring on Martinez as well, as he covers the court incredibly well and just had practice playing against a bigger hitter with a better serve. I’d lean Martinez in 5, simply because he has more options on offense, but this could go either way.

Korda vs Moutet :

There’s an air of mystery around Korda. “What’s up with that kid’s haircut?” is one someone asked today at the park that made me laugh. Korda definitely puts a lot of thought into looking like he’s not putting a lot of thought into things. His health, how much he’s been playing, and whether he is part falcon are things that are often a question mark. Any questions were swiftly answered though as he dismissed Norrie as fast as anyone ever has. Norrie looked a bit off, but a lot of the credit has to go to Korda’s sharp play. He moved quickly to every shot and seemed very well drilled on what the next shot in each exchange was. He kept Norrie moving and went behind him often enough to negate his speed. Where he really unravelled Norrie was with the amount of spin he was getting on his forehand cross. When this ball jumps bigger, it forces Norrie to readjust. Since Norrie has a very abbreviated backswing on his backhand, the extra jump means extra steps and a minor adjustment. It sounds simple enough but the result was poorly timed backhand after poorly timed backhand, with a good number going into the net.

Moutet looked up against it early in his opener with Luca Pouille, but as the match progressed he pulled away and won it pretty comfortably. Moutet looked to feel a little of the pressure a favorite feels, where he knows that looking to outlast his opponent in rallies is just as important as playing his own offense. It let Pouille control things early, but he remains a little bit off with his execution. Moutet and Korda is an interesting matchup, with one player who’s been lights-out for a few weeks and one whose only performance thus far looks as good as he’s ever played. While Moutet is adept at keeping his opponent moving, I think he will get outhit here. Korda’s backhand is solid, and he has a much better serve than Moutet. A British tennis analyst who shall remain nameless and isn’t that British has been telling me Korda is the future of tennis and I’m starting to believe it. This should be highly entertaining but Korda’s ability to earn cheap points on his serve should get him through. Korda in 4.

Griekspoor vs Carreño Busta :

The hard part of the tournament is starting early for PCB. After a straightforward win in round one, he plays one of the hottest players on tour. Pablo tends to struggle early in events, but he was sharp in the ATP Cup and in round one. He’s one of the best defensive baseliners in tennis, capable of pressing the top guys and becoming a wall against any offensive talent. His best results have always come in majors, so it’s likely he brings his top level to this. The interesting thing is that Griekspoor has been so consistent there’s some question to whether PCB’s best level will be good enough. Tallon was clinical in beating Fognini in round one. He had a plan, kept the ball in spots where Fognini couldn’t create or go big down the line, and he served efficiently. This is a guy who went 20+ matches without losing, stepping up to one of the first majors where he had an actual chance, and delivering a confident victory. He’s a welcome addition to a tour that struggles with consistency.

Pablo beat Tomas Etcheverry in similar fashion, but the clay-courter isn’t exactly the challenge that Fognini is. This is a big test and very early. Carreño Busta has a few things that Fognini doesn’t. One, he’s willing to play defense. Two, he is willing to live in reality. The line here is -250 for PCB and he certainly is playing well, but this is closer than the pricetag. Griekspoor is serving a little bit better than PCB at the moment, but won’t earn points as easily as he did against Fognini. I wouldn’t expect any of the sets to be decided by more than one break, but changes in momentum here are very possible since both are going to have looks. The challenger is looking for his biggest victory on a huge stage and I think he gets it. He’s a little bit more willing to pull the trigger and I don’t think PCB will be able to wear him down. Griekspoor in 5.

Alcaraz vs Lajovic :

Trouble with lefties didn’t apply to Alcaraz in the first round. He broke early in every set against Tabilo and cruised through this match. It’s what you expect but it’s still fun to watch. He’s from Spain, so the shot selection is always going to be solid and any hints of greatness are going to be compared to Nadal, but there’s something very similar about the two. The fitness is there so best of 5 is no issue. His serve is getting better every season, so he’ll be able to compete at the highest level, his forehand is a cannon and he doesn’t just swing as hard as he can on every shot, and his backhand can throw in some occasional impatient errors trying to force the ball down the line, but the mechanics are very good and it’s just a matter of strength and timing to iron that out. All this makes it even stranger that he’s going to lose this match.

Just kidding. Lajovic needed a win, and Fucsovics happens to be one of the other players struggling as much as him in this one. The fast courts are making life difficult on some of the more defensive players, and Fucsovics did get to 5 but he was broken 5 times more than he broke. Lajovic will isolate Alcaraz’ backhand in this, and that will buy him time. He’s an extremely smart player, and moves the ball well if he can get inside the baseline. I expect the pace of the game to be pretty quick in the early going, and for Alcaraz to gradually pull away if Lajovic makes a few errors. It won’t be as lopsided as Tabilo’s match though, because Lajovic is much more stable from the baseline than Tabilo, who primarily plays offense behind his forehand and uses his backhand as a utility. Alcaraz is on a 6 match winning streak and there isn’t a big reason he’ll fold up here, but beating tour veterans is always more work than it sounds like it’ll be. Alcaraz in 4.

Kozlov vs Berretini :

Nakashima must have scared a lot of parlay holders, because he started out the first set playing perfect tennis. He was steady, didn’t go for too much, and isolated Berretini’s backhand nicely. Sorting through the comments section on some of the streaming sites I saw some very interesting descriptions of Berretini’s backhand, so the story on him remains the same. World class serve, tremendous forehand capable of stealing control of any rally at any time, and Steve Johnson’s backhand. “You asshole why you are backhand”, “Berreterrible” and “LMAO ITALY LMAO” were some of my favorite comments.

Disclaimer : We here at blurryturtle do not support internet bullying or any similar thing. If you are a beautiful Italian man whose backhand has been bullied, please contact the support line. We have a surprising number of operators standing by to assist you even though they know you’re with Ajla.

Kozlov represents another “cannot possibly win but will make Matteo work” situation. Kozlov has been pretty rough for as long as I can remember, and I’d always question his wildcards. He’s putting it together though, and while he’s a bit more straightforward than Nakashima, he has a much bigger forehand when he lets it go. This match will look like an older brother playing a younger brother. Similar approaches but one dude is just going to outhit the other. Berretini in 3-4.

Zverev vs Millman :

Altmaier played well but Zverev put away both tiebreakers (7-3 and 7-1) in the first and third. The second set was the lopsided 6-1 you’d kinda expect. Altmaier will have to work on giving up less court position, but he should stay on tour for the foreseeable future. Millman has lost to Zverev in deciding sets in each of their previous matchups, but Zverev has levelled up. The one bonus for Millman will be if this match is played in the evening, as the Aussie crowd is particularly rowdy this year. I don’t see how Zverev can give this one away, and Millman’s backhand is half a target. Zverev in 3.

Albot vs Vukic :

If you like dwarf/elf combos who are incredible at tennis, you’ll like Radu Albot. A hard fought win against Nishioka in round one saw Nishioka get mad only two games into the match, and Albot never dropped his level en route to a pretty straightforward 4 set win. On the other side of this bracket, Vukic served the lights out to overcome Lloyd Harris. I was very impressed by how his level didn’t drop throughout this match, and Harris is a difficult guy to win rallies against so Vukic couldn’t afford to drop serve too often. This is a tough spot to gauge, because both players are near their peak, and we haven’t really seen Vukic’s peak yet. He’s been a promising player for a season or two, but has remained a big server with power who doesn’t really win. The equation should be simple; Albot is a smaller version of Harris in many ways, so Vukic should win again. Radu’s current form is sharper though than Harris’, and he will move Vukic a great deal more. As fast as these courts are playing, I have to give a small edge to Vukic, but I don’t expect him to mount a similar comeback if Albot can secure the early lead the way Harris did. Vukic in 4.

Opelka vs Koepfer :

Anderson doesn’t seem sharp to start the season, and has lost every set played thus far. Opelka, on the other hand, has never served better. When he serves well, his forehand starts to thrive, and it means he has a good chance to sneak past a difficult opponent here. Koepfer and Taberner was pretty close throughout, but Koepfer had a much easier time holding serve. Koepfer Opelka is a matchup where I think Koepfer shouldn’t have a good shot right now, but their history says otherwise, with Koepfer having won the last 3. With Opelka, his current form dictates a lot of the results though, and when he’s off or playing through injury he’s an automatic win for much of the tour. This should be a perfect spot for him to level the score, but the H2H means Koepfer can clearly hold serve often enough to make this close. Opelka in 5.

Kwon vs Shapovalov :

Holgerrrrrrrrrrrr. Rune played well and kept his outbursts mostly in check during this round one loss. It was impressive to see Kwon navigate back from 2-1 down and his play to start the year has been near the peak he played at before knee injuries took him off tour and left him struggling to find wins. This next match is one that as a fan I think he can win, but when I think about the amount of work it will take, I’m hesitant. Shapovalov, who emotionally is cosplaying a puppy, plays to the level of his opponent too often. His game looks like a high octane future slam winner, but he can’t distance himself in the scoreline and he has more duece service games than PCB. Despite these close matches, Denis (or D-Nice as he’s known in the upper eastern canadian rap scene) has been seeing the ball go through the hoop an awful lot. He won all his matches at the ATP Cup and Kwon’s aggressive pace-pushing feeds into his strengths. For Kwon to win this he’ll need error, but he’ll also need to serve extremely well. Rune had a lot of break opportunities and Shapo is a much higher tier player in terms of returning. Kwon should make this close but I think the Canadian gets through. Shapovalov in 4.

Hurkacz vs Mannarino :

Mannarino had an impressive comeback to get here, but this is a bit too much. Gerasimov was up a break in most of the sets played, but Hurkacz is starting to look like a real dark horse to win the tournament. His serve is huge, he covers the court well, and he jogs to net quite often and gets himself very easy balls to work with. When you’re a big server, guys are just looking to make it in and earn errors on defense. Gerasimov knows not to do this, but I’ve seen a lot of players hoping Hurkacz would beat himself in the past year and it hasn’t happened. Hurkacz in 3.

McDonald vs Karatsev :

I mean, why wouldn’t Aslan go 5 sets? Why wouldn’t he give us the maximum amount of tennis? Aslan knows what we want, and what we want is more Aslan. There’s something so comforting about watching a guy go for big shots and actually make them. Makes me feel like all is right with the world, and as long as I stay off reddit’s mainpage, I can believe that. Munar played Karatsev tough in their previous meetings, and started off the year by dispatching some serious offensive talents in Anderson and Laaksonen, so it’s not the end of the world that he managed to push Karatsev. What does scare me is that Karatsev is only -175 here against Mackie McDonald. Mcdonald finally put a stop to Milojevic’s run, but he’s not really the caliber of player you’d expect to have a great shot against Karatsev. The story I’m reading everywhere is that Aslan is tired, and that McDonald will be able to wear him down with his sharp groundstrokes. But what about a different story. A story about a man, with a perfect round head, and pointy pointy calves. A story about a lion, trapped in a man’s body. A story about Australia. A story about a grand slam champion we could all get behind. To be honest though, the oddsmakers don’t miss that often. Karatsev is a huge market, and if they’re both fresh McDonald would be +200 or more almost every time. I hope Karatsev recovers, but 5 setters are something people are not generally used to, and Aslan’s title run was more tiring than his qualifying run last year. This could be the end of the road, but when has Aslan not gifted us a great story, and just a lil more road. Someone in 5, hopefully Karatsev but probably McDonald in 4 disappointing sets WHYYYYYYYYY.

Khachanov vs Bonzi :

I got late word that Gojo was injured and just picking up a check, and man did his performance reflect that. He hit the ball out frequently, and Bonzi was gifted 154 thousand dollars and some ranking puntos. He’ll have hope here against Khachanov since Kudla pressured the big Russian fellow, but Khachanov is a tough out because of his stubborn play, not because of any hole in his game. He tends to take the Gauff approach and try to knock his opponent over with sheer power. Power is great and can wear down an opponent, but when you hit at the same speed every time, you play them into a great rhythm. If Karen starts working on the finesse side of his game, he’d find a number of simple dropshot opportunities and could get his opponents to hang on the baseline where his weight of shot could get them to miss. He’ll have a big edge here against Bonzi, but will need to get through quickly as a long day against Nadal is ahead in the next round. Khachanov in 4.

Hanfmann vs Nadal :

Despite a crowd that bangs on the bleachers like Hanfmann is an animal in a pet shop and they’re trying to agitate it, Yannick managed to get past Kokkinakis. Thanasi’s body did not hold up after his title run, and Hanfmann served incredibly well (he’s been on point since dropping a set in the first round of qualifying). Elsewhere, Nadal was throwing himself his usual surprise party. Every season he manages to convince us he’s rusty, or that he might be finished, or that hardcourt might be too quick for him. The suddenly, we’re scrolling further and further in the draw looking for anyone who might actually stop him. Hanfmann is not that dude, but he’ll be able to hold serve a great deal easier than Giron. Giron hung tight in rallies, but Nadal’s level was too high. Hanfmann is basically a servebot for all intents and purposes in this matchup, and I think his ceiling here is two tiebreakers. When Giron swung for the fences, Nadal’s defenses did crack, but he has a way of wearing down your legs and your will without allowing you back into the rally he makes you play extra balls in. Nadal in 3-4.

Molcan vs Andujar :

The smoke clears. But is it smoke? Or is it ….. ANDUJAAAAAAAAAAR. A woman shouts. “MI AMOR!!!!!” But Andujar is not swayed. He has only one love. The Earth. Blessed from birth with the rare ability to become a mountain, many have asked him “but isn’t that boring?” But wait, where did he go? And why are they 4,000 feet in the air suddenly surrounded by mountain goats and mountain frogs and whatever else lives on mountains? That’s what you get, when you mess with PABLO ANDUJAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRR. Legend has it that sightless cave shrimp have only ever opened their eyes to look at one thing. ANDUJAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRR. Before there was time, before there were legends, there was probably ….. ANDUJARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. The guys good, ok?

Molcan won the most ridiculous tiebreaker I think I’ve ever seen. After dominating affairs for a few sets, Molcan began cramping in the fourth. Things became so bad in the tiebreaker that at times it did not look like he could even turn around to return serve in time. He collapsed to the floor after rallies. Somehow, in all of this, a lightswitch flipped. He started going bigger on offense, and Safiullin played a bit safe. I honestly have zero idea how Molcan was able to finish this set, and it’s not really clear to me that he’ll be able to compete fully today. The dehydration is something an IV of fluids can fix, but the general pain/fatigue from your muscles clenching as they did (dude’s leg looked like a bodybuilder flexing onstage) is tough to play through. None of this matters though, because he is now officially lost in the jungle anyway. Are there jungles in Australia? There are if Pablo Andujar wants there to be. Everywhere he goes grass and flores grow around him, and if anything could melt Damir Dzumhur’s icy heart, it is the warmth of of Andujar’s gaze,and the ayahuasca he put in Dzumhur’s gatorade. Unfortunately, Dzumhur had a bad time out there. On equal terms, Molcan should win this matchup. He played great against Safiullin, and he’s somehow more experienced on hardcourt than Andujar even though he’s new on tour. I don’t think he can recover though. Andujarrrrrrrrr in 3-4 or a forfeit.

Majchrzak vs De Minaur :

Two slight surprises here for me at least, as Majchrzak played dominant tennis from start to finish, and Musetti played some decent hardcourt tennis. Both are welcome, and this match seems straightforward but might not be. De Minaur is the big ticket item in the majors, always garnering big pricetags and generally beating the guys he’s supposed to. In the past season though he’s looked a bit like Goffin and the thought was that he was suffering from long COVID. The ATP Cup brought a resurgence for him and he won a match or two, but he’s still not the automatic win that he was. Majchrzak beating Seppi quickly means he’ll be set here to hang in longer rallies, and given his success against Nishikori a few seasons ago (a long time but a good example of how solid he can be) he will make De Minaur work for this. De Minaur really only seems to suffer against players with big power, so he should win this, but it will take a while. De Minaur in 4-5.

Murray vs Daniel :

Basilashvili fell just short of the mark here against Murray, getting within 1 swing of 100 errors but ending with just 99. He must be very upset, but he did play some entertaining tennis and he dealt well with an extra annoying crowd. Murray complained for idk, 3 hours? 4 hours? As long as I’ve watched him, I’ve never been able to compartmentalize this part of his personality. He’s a whiny bitch. Phew, feels good to say. Your errors are not your boxes fault. Your coaches are not your diary. You gain very little by venting in this manner, you only solidify the idea that you have some self-image you need to defend and who everything must go perfectly for. This is a small view of the self, and leaves you prone to overthinking which does not lead to the best tennis. Murray, in his defense, is dealing with a strange time in someone’s career. He’s still good enough to compete at the pro level, can’t win anymore, but can get oh so close.

Physical limitations are tough to accept, but perspective is the path past all of this. Murray, with a clean slate, would be enjoying this greatly, instead of clenching his face and making angry faces whenever he wins a point. You don’t lose the ability to compete if you stop making tennis a deathmarch, and his outbursts only serve to make his opponents see hope at the end of a tunnel. Why do you think Djokovic spends so much time fighting his own temper on court? Nothing lends itself to the idea that an opponent might miss or that I should make one extra get more than them getting upset. This is a tour of people who literally sideways peek across the net at their opponent anytime they win a point to see their reaction, but Murray has a team of coaches who won’t tell him this, or an ego barrier that won’t let him see it. Either way, the dude is great but he’s a fairweather friend. There’s a good line in the Tao Te Ching (Stephen Miller translation which is frowned upon by some but still) that says “the lord of the land does not flit about like a fool … if you let yourself be blown to and fro, you lose touch with your root”. The gist of it isn’t to just be completely numb to outcomes (though that would help you compete freely), but that when you react to everything and take it personally, it puts you in an unstable state, and each further reaction puts you in a more unstable state. When you get upset about a point, a minor grievance the next point makes you get upset. Soon you’re smashing your racquet like a child, even though from your starting point (0-0) this seems like a ridiculous choice. When you see people who lost their temper it always looks crazy, but it was generally a series of things that pushed them to that edge. You lose your own stability by being results-oriented, and this is the thing Murray will need to fix if he wants to have a real chance at getting to the top again.

If it feels like I’m hating on Murray a bit, strap in. Taro Daniel has been a workhorse on tour for years, but this season he’s playing his best ball. He will play forever from the baseline, and has a way of dragging matches out and making them difficult physical contests. With Murray coming off a very physical 5 setter where his opponent made a lot of errors, this will be a tough spot for him. Murray can beat Daniel in three single break sets, but Daniel will make him do so. Murray wants a deep run, and this will be a physical match that may prevent him from being ready for Sinner in the next round. Daniel in 4. Haha just kidding. Murray in 4-5.

Johnson vs Sinner :

Johnson and Thompson were very evenly matched but Johnson managed his emotions better, and his reward is a match against Jannik Sinner that won’t be fun. Johnson’s serving well and Sinner can throw in errors, but the constant pace and onslaught are going to break down Johnson’s backhand. Sinner in 3-4.

Bautista-Agut vs Kohlschreiber :

The best thing about RBA, which stands for Robot Ball Admirer, is that he never ever takes a point off. He looks to make good contact and he puts the ball in the spot where it’s most likely to trouble an opponent. He’s mastered the use of the slice retrieval to buy time when his opponents are coming to net, and his accuracy is world class. In a different world, with a better serve, he’d have a major title already. A match with Kohlschreiber is the same as with Travaglia; it feels like he should win in straight sets but it likely will take 4 sets and a few close ones. Kohl is very experienced and plays his best ball at majors. The problem for him will be any errors at all will cost him a set, since RBA is in rare form right now. RBA in 3-4

Tiafoe vs Fritz :

Honestly, I got my money’s worth watching these two struggle in the first round. Fritz was beaten several times in the first set, but his serve is a huge bailout and Marterer missed a few sitters in the tiebreaker with set point. Fritz is hitting harder than he ever has during rallies, and this is a key to him finally starting to avoid these early upsets. Tiafoe had a gamer with Trungelliti but in the end his serve and forehand are just a bit too strong once your opponent has kinda levelled off. Anything can happen in this matchup. Tiafoe is faster and hits a bit bigger, but Fritz is in a great service rhythm. Fritz probably has the better backhand, but Tiafoe’s can catch fire. It’ll be a shootout and one I’d be surprised if either player played poorly in for too long. Fritz starts as the favorite for me but it’s dangerous to go against a guy like Tiafoe who is capable of finding top 20 level tennis at any given moment. Fritz in 5.

Dimitrov vs Paire :

Watching Paire scramble to net after his serve always makes me think he’s foot-faulting, but the guy doesn’t even leave the ground to serve half the time so how could he be. Dimitrov narrowly escaped Lehecka but was in control the whole time, if that makes sense. Lehecka is solid, but is just generic enough for Dimitrov to deal with, and just good enough that Dimitrov didn’t take any points off or have any mental lapses. Paire likely should have lost to Monteiro, and faced a good number of break points in the fifth set that will haunt Thiago. In this one, I think Paire will outperform his line but Dimitrov will be a bit better at capitalizing on break opportunities than Monteiro was. A big boost for Paire is his cheering section, and it sounds cliched but them chanting after every single point drowned out any support for Monteiro. Paire’s serve gives him a chance here, but a five setter he barely won isn’t the kinda thing that makes me expect the upset. Dimitrov in 4-5.

Baez vs Tsitsipas :

For all the hype (my own hype) around Tsitsipas not being ready to play, he controlled the match well against Ymer. This next one will be tougher as far as the skill level in the rallies, but Baez has proven to struggle holding serve early his hardcourt career. Tsitsipas in 3-4.

Rublev vs Berankis :

You can’t just show up and smash your way to victory Khachanov. C’mon Gauff you need a plan B you can’t just hit everything as hard as you want. Yes, Rublev, beautiful Rublev. At times I can be a little results oriented in my criticisms of gamestyles, but Rublev has perfected the single speed tennis plan. A straight sets victory in round one sets up a winnable match against Berankis, who crushes the ball also but is likely to feed directly into Rublev’s game. Rublev, who looks like a jellyfish that fell in milk, in three.

Gombos vs Cilic :

I keep forgetting the Gombos is the Gombosiest, but he is always there to remind me. Skatov was up a break in the fourth and looked like he’d steal this match, but Norbert had a big edge in rallies and kept Timofey moving throughout. Him and Cilic should be good, but it reminds me of the match above where Cilic will have a tiny extra edge in all departments. Cilic Rublev is gonna be really good, and it looks like a very likely outcome. Cilic in 4.

Evans vs Rinderknech :

Evans had such a simple win that I was somehow nervous even with him up two sets and a break. Goffin really had no answers and when Evans sniffs victory he plays at such a fast pace that it’s hard for his opponent to settle. No such ease for Rinderknech, though, as the crowd boosted Popyrin to a thrilling five set loss. Popyrin hits the ball so clean that he is a threat in any match, but holy turtles can he find the net from anywhere. He hits more backhands into the net than anyone else on tour right now. He needs a coach, and as much time spent grinding on clay as possible. The crowd was wild, but Rinderknech handled it tremendously. He never got upset, he never changed his expression, and when they threw out some funny chants or yelled something he could be seen smiling.

I’m not sure he’ll have enough firepower to beat Evans here, but it could be close. Rinderknech has a very good serve, and though he can seem a little baby deerish at times he makes great use of his lanky frame at net and knows when to come in to apply a little pressure. Since Evans is prone to slicing the ball on his backhand, Rinderknech will have opportunities. The near loss to Popyrin though means that defensively, he’s going to have a hard time dealing with Evans. Evans constantly challenges your movement and he doesn’t make many errors. He’ll see the finish line here and likely get the win, eventually. Evans in 4.

Davidovich Fokina vs Auger-Alliassime :

Alex Bolt is struggling a bit, and ADF was very happy to get the win. I tuned in just in time to see him roar at match point, so I’m not really qualified to give an opinion on his level here. I know he’s healthy, and I know he’s a tremendous competitor. FAA may have hit a higher tier though in the past season, despite ADF’s past heroics. Ruusuvori and FAA was the best match of the first round in terms of quality, and FAA came through with flying colors. It’s a testament to his composure that he made the comeback, as Ruus put a 6-0, 6-3 performance on in the 2nd and 3rd set that seemed nearly unbeatable. In this match, ADF will have the same chances as Ruus to take shots at FAA when his level drops off or when errors appear, but FAA is a step up from anything ADF has dealt with in the past season on hardcourt, and the injuries don’t appear to be an issue but some slight rust may be. FAA in 4.

Schwartzman vs O’Connell :

The best thing about Diego Schwartzman is everything about Diego Schwartzman. His opponent will have crowd support, but this is one where I don’t think they’ll be able to get as fired up. O’Connell is a consistent baseliner, and outworks his opponents. Diego is that on a top 10 level. O’Connell has the ability to hang here but I’m not sure how he’ll score without Diego giving him errors. Schwartzman in 3-4.

Machac vs Cressy :

Oddsmakers put this kinda low which scares me. If you took the over 61 games in the Isner match, sorry, you pushed. If I told you you’d be playing a guy for 3 hours and not break serve, you’d do anything different to change that going in. Yet still, Isner wasn’t broken until the very last set. It’s a great result for Cressy, and a deserved one. Isner got extremely lucky on a few shots (including an overhead that clipped the tape and died out when it bounced) in the fourth set tiebreaker and it would have hurt for Cressy to lose that after all the work he’s put in in the last few months. Machac was down a break in the third against Cerundolo but turned things around and cruised from there. He’s a regular top performer on the challenger tour, and though his best results are on clay he has a good serve and a lot of power in his groundstrokes. This is a tricky one if Cressy is tired, because Machac is very familiar with his game and only lost a third set tiebreaker when they met last year. This feels a bit like the Karatsev line, where one player is going to see a ton of the wagers, but is a little bit too tired to be at his best. Machac in 5.

Gasquet vs Van De Zandschulp :

I’ve been watching announcer-less streams, and it’s been really enjoyable not having to hear Americans try to pronounce BVDZ’s name. Equally enjoyable was watching Gasquet turn back the clock and play freely against Humbert. Gasquet got to net often, and applied pressure with his backhand whenever he could. It was an example of the type of tennis I’d like to see Murray play, but despite his ability to hit any shot and to challenge his opponent’s movement, I think he’s up against it here. Botic beat Struff easily, and a fresh Botic means a long day on defense. Gasquet can pressure opponents into errors, but Botic is very accurate and doesn’t really have a hole in his game except a slightly slower ability to move than most guys on tour. Scary when a veteran starts rolling, but Van De Zandschulp in 4.

Kyrgios vs Medvedev :

“Kyrgios is actually trying” is what I read in the DC chat before tuning in. That’s always worth the price of admission, and I must say, the emotional dude, the human highlight feel, the official scorekeeper of all referee faux pas and crowd overzealousness put on a great performance. Broady went with the “I’m going to keep it in play and you’re going to miss plan” and nope. Kyrgios hit winner after winner after winner. His forehand was sharp and his serve was used to great effect. This next match is going to be very interesting and the crowd is going to be extremely intoxicated. For Medvedev, this is a tough spot but one he’s capable of rolling with. He’s fine being the villain, he’s defensively adept enough to keep Kyrgios’ shots coming back, and he has a good enough serve to get himself out of trouble since Kyrgios is not the best returner on his forehand wing. I’d say Medvedev runs away with this at some point, but I’d expect Nick to be able to get to the 7-6, 7-5 region in at least one set if he plays his best, so we could get extra innings. Medvedev in 4.