Neal Abrams has his eye set on two veteran players
Dominic Thiem over Laslo Djere
Dominic Thiem’s game was made for the slow clay courts of South America and Western Europe. Here in Rio, he will put on display his dominant style of clay court tennis, and will begin with a win over Laslo Djere, a 23-year-old Serbian. Djere is ranked just 90, and has little experience on the grand stage of international tennis. Thiem, at 25, is already a finalist in a Grand Slam tournament, having lost to Rafa Nadal last May in Stade Roland Garros. More importantly, Thiem is ranked No. 8 in the world, and has over 350 Tour matches under his belt, while Djere has just under 50. That discrepancy of inexperience will be the difference here. Thiem will dominate.
Fabio Fognini over Felix Auger-Aliassime
This should be a very interesting first round clay court match to watch. The 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime, one of the new top tier of Canadian tennis players, is a very compelling figure, at 6’3”, 191 pounds. He has the game and is a shot-maker. He just needs a few years of world-wide Tour experience, something that only time will give him. Fognini, on the other had, has a lot of experience, and is the consummate shot-maker . . . if a little bit out of control from time to time. When he’s playing well, he is exciting and beautiful to watch. But when he’s playing poorly, he’s even more fun to watch, because you never know what he’s going to do! If he takes seven rackets onto the court, he might need an eighth, as he enjoys chastising his rackets for not giving him the kind of shots he expects to hit. If he’s playing where Spanish is the spoken word, refer to your Spanish-to-English decoder, because he’ll be using English to yell his displeasure. But keep other dictionaries and thesauruses close-by, because he will shout in any language at any time, and if you don’t want to miss his specialties, you’ll need the appropriate interpreter to know what he said. Either way, there will be exciting tennis here, but don’t miss what is spoken---because that might be what decides the match.