Australia’s Nick Kyrgios walks with his towel in his mouth as he changes ends at the Australian Open in Melbourne Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios walks with his towel in his mouth as he changes ends at the Australian Open in Melbourne Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)|Associated Press

Tennis: Neal Abrams picks 5 first round matches at Delray Beach

It’s always nice when tennis bets go off in our time zone

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Delray Beach Open
Mens Singles First Round

Juan Martin Del Potro over Yoshihito Nishioka
Most of the men who played last week on Long Island took a plane south and are playing this week in Delray Beach. Juan Martin Del Potro is not one of those men. The top-seeded Argentine used last week as another in a series of much-needed weeks of rest, now that he’s 30-years-old and playing against Father Time, injuries, as well as his opponents. Hopefully for him, only Yoshihito Nishioka will show for this first round match. Delpo is now ranked No. 4 in the world, and he is simultaneously a threat to win every tournament he enters and could withdraw due to an injury any week of the tournament schedule. Here, his match against 23-year-old Nishioka should be a walk for the 6’6” Del Potro, even in the outdoor har-tru environment of South Florida. Nishiioka can be dangerous, but if Delpo is healthy this match should be more of a showcase for Delpo’s skills than a competitive highlight for the tournament.

Nick Kyrgios over John Millman
Here in the States, the controversy of the makeup of the Australian Davis Cup Team means very little. But to these two guys it means a lot. Kyrgios, the most talented player from Down Under, was left off the team by new Captain Lleyton Hewitt, and has put a rift between the players and the Coach. Evidently, in Australia, you’re either on Hewitt’s team, or you’re not, with a players’ attitude seemingly more important than their skill. In this match, Kyrgios is clearly the superior player, but that usually means very little when two players square off against each other. If Millman is consistently solid he could pull off this upset, but I would be on Kyrgios’ side becaue the match means more than just a simple first round match. It is a match where anyone dedicated to Australia gets to announce their political preference through proxies. Those who like Hewitt will root for Millman, and those who don’t will go for Kyrgios. Those who want the best tennis player to win will acknowledge Kyrgios for that.

Frances Tiafoe over Daniel Evans
Tiafoe had a breakthrough Australian Open having reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam Tournament for the first time in his young career. Yet, as the second seed, Tiafoe was beaten in his first match last week to Taiwan’s Jason Jung on Long Island. So, where is Tiafoe’s head? Hard to say, but lets just bet that he doesn’t want his second homecoming to end in dismal failure as his first one did. I think he’ll come through against Evans, who had to qualify here, and after his Round one bye, steamroll into the quarters in the warm South Florida air. All the players are now playing to get adjusted to various elements as two relatively big American tournaments show on the calender: Miami and Indian Wells, Calif. And if Tiafoe has scheduled himself the right way, he’ll look back at this match against Evans, the 5’9” experienced Brit as simply a stepping stone on to the more lucrative tournaments.

Brayden Schnur over Adrian Mannarino
Okay, who is Brayden Schnur and why am I picking him to beat the tough Italian, Adrian Mannarino? Schnur is a 23-year-old former NCAA champion for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, from Canada. Last week he won his first main draw professional match on Long Island (against former two-time NCAA champion Stevie Johnson who now hasn’t won a match since last August!!!) and used his confidence and momentum to then take out Paoli Lorenzi and Sam Querrey, in addition to his first round win over compatriot Jack Mingjie Lin and Johnson in round two, to reach his first ever Finals. There, Schnur fell to the streaky Reilly Opelka 7-6 in the third, but he established himself as a player deserved to be in the main draws of the top tier professional tournaments. If that confidence and skill spill over to Delray Beach, bet on Schnur taking out Mannarino, a very proficient player in his own right, currently ranked No. 51.

John Isner over Peter Polansky
It has been said by many a tennis announcer that John Isner has the single best serve and second serve in the history of the men’s game. I’m not sure that I’d go that far, but statistics don’t lie, and they tell us that over the past TEN YEARS Isner has held serve in over 91% of the games that he serves. That is dominance. Not that there’s a whole lot more room to go considering that the Georgia Bulldog player is currently ranked No. 9 in the world, but if he could ever give some time to making his backhand as strong as his forehand, or if he could get his volley to be as forceful as his serve, this man would pressure for a Top 3 or so ranking. I doubt that will happen, but No. 9 is still pretty darn good! Certainly good enough to beat the 122nd ranked Canadian, Peter Polansky.

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