These matches start Tuesday at 6 a.m. EDT
ATP Grand Prix Hassan II
First Round picks
Sascha Zverev over Denis Istomin
These two guys played each other four years ago in the Qualies in Cincinnati when then-17-year-old Sascha Zverev overcame Russia’s Denis Istomin. Now that Zverev is ranked 3rd in the world and is 21-years-old, I think the German should have no trouble with the 104th ranked Istomin. Because they’re playing on the slow red clay in Marrakech, I’d say that the match will take some time, and it will appear very competitive, but as long as Zverev hits his shots, the outcome should never be in doubt.
Fabio Fognini over Jiri Vesely
Watching Fabio Fognini play, especially on slow clay courts, is an entertaining couple of hours. He can hit every shot, and sometimes tries to hit those that he really can’t hit, like the back-to-the-court between-the-legs passing shot against a net-rusher. But that’s the fun of watching him play; he’s unpredictable, yet spectacular. The Italian holds a 3-1 career record over Vesely, with Vesely’s only win coming on the grass courts at Wimbledon in 2018. The clay courts in Morroco are about as far away from the grass courts in Britain as is possible, and I think that the odds are stacked heavily in Fognini’s favor for three reasons. First, Fognini will be playing on his favorite court type, and that makes a difference. Second, Fognini will have the confidence going into this match with a reasonably dominant record over Vesely on clay. And third, Fognini is the better player, period.
Philipp Kohlschreiber over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
I find it hard to hide my affection for Kolschreiber and his solid, yet unspectacular, tennis game. Just three weeks ago the German ran all over No. 1 ranked Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-4 in the Third Round of Indian Wells in a match that he surprisingly dominated from start to finish. The endearing German, who is 35-years-old now, will challenge 19-year-old Spanish rookie Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in his first ATP Tour level match. The occasion alone should be enough to instill some fear into the Spaniard, but Kohlschreiber’s game will speak for itself. Although Kohlschreiber seems more comfortable on hard courts, he will be equal to this task and should take out Fokina with nary a worry.
Fernando Verdasco over Adrian Menendez-Maceiras
It’s hard to believe that these two Spaniards have never played each other but according to the ATP, this will be the first match between the 35-year-old Verdasco and the 33-year-old Menendez-Maceiras. Perhaps it’s because the 33-year-old has been toiling on the lower rungs of the professional circuit in Futures and Challenger events, having compiled a lifetime record of only 5-17 on the Tour level events. Verdasco, on the other hand, is 528-395, with a 2019 record of 8-6, while this will be the initial Tour level match for Menendez-Maceiras this year. Another sign of the difference in experience between the two? Verdasco is trying to add to his $16, 411,000 in prize money, while Menendez-Maceiras will be looking forward to padding his $1.1 million lifetime purse. Experience alone should tell you that Verdasco will roll.