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The Barcelona Open
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Tennis

Tennis: Abrams picks 1st & 2nd round Tuesday matches for the Barcelona Open – Nishikori, Fritz, Zverev brothers, Thiem, Ferrer, Tsitsipas

Matches start at 5 am EDT

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell
Barcelona, Spain
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Kei Nishikori over Taylor Fritz
I must say that Taylor Fritz is really impressing me by coming to Europe and winning matches on the tough red clay. He won two matches last week in Monte Carlo and followed up that great showing with a win here Monday over fellow American Reilly Opelka. He’s getting better and better quickly, and his tennis genes must help (his mother, Kathy May was a touring pro in the early ‘80’s). But he’s going to meet his match in Japan’s Kei Nishikori. Nishikori, the 4th seed here, can be a real nightmare for hard hitting players like Fritz, especially on clay, because his forte is to run down everything and not miss. This he does well. In fact he does it better than Fritz plays his game, as he did when they played in Memphis in 2016. And that’ll be the difference

David Ferrer over Mischa Zverev
We all thought that David Ferrer’s swan song would come at next month’s French Open, but he has pulled out of that tournament and plans on playing two or three more events before he calls it quits for good. He’s not going out, though, before he takes Mischa Zverev to the cleaners. Zverev has only one win to his name this year, and that was when Nicola Kuhn, a 19-year-old Spaniard retired at 2-2 in the third in Miami…and that almost doesn’t count. Mischa did win a doubles title this year in Acapulco with his little brother, Sascha, who is ranked No. 3 in the world, but that’s a long way from winning when you’re on the court by yourself. Ferrer will move on.

Sascha Zverev over Nicolas Jarry
Sascha, the younger of the Zverev brothers, is the second seed here in Barcelona, and starts his tournament with lucky loser Nicolas Jarry, a 23-year-old Chilean who sports a 2019 record of 4-8. Even so, Jarry will not be a pushover for Sascha. Jarry is 6’6” (the same as Zverev) and can serve well enough to win games, but probably not this match. Since they’re playing on red clay there will be rallies and long games, but Sascha is clearly the better player and will move on to Round 3.

Dominic Thiem over Diego Schwartzman
Schwartzman took out Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2 in the third on Monday and has some momentum coming into this match with three wins already in the tournament. But Thiem is too good a player to go down in his first match, no matter how much momentum Schwartzman has. Interestingly, these two have a fascinating history in their personal rivalry. Thiem holds a 3-2 advantage over the Argentine, but Schwartzman has won the two most recent matches, one by 7-6 in the third (this year on red clay in Buenos Aires), and the other by 7-5 in the third. One prior match went to Thiem 7-6, 7-5 and another went to the Austrian 7-5, 7-5, so this match should be very close and will be a tough battle, if their past matches are any indication of what might happen here. A case could also be made that playing three matches already might be counter-productive for Schwartzman, as he had to call the physio out to work on his upper right thigh in his win over Nishioka. But one way or another, these guys will battle to the bitter end.

Stefanos Tsitsipas over Marton Fucsovics
Tsitsipas is still only 20 years old, but he has followed up his tremendous 2018 season with an 18-8 record so far in 2019, including a monumental win over Roger Federer in the Round of 16 at the Australian Open in January. Somehow, that feels like a year ago, as these guys play every single week, and each week brings a new story to the saga of a Touring tennis pro. The Greek God is now ranked No. 8 in the world, and every player wants a piece of him, not the least of which will be 27-year-old Hungarian Marton Fucsovics this week. Fucsovics has the game to push Tsitsipas, but not particularly to the breaking point on red clay. The Greek’s all-court mastery should prove far too much for Fucsovics, and I see Tsitsipas moving on here.

Federico Delbonis over Nicola Kuhn
Nicola Kuhn, the very player that retired at 2-2 in the third set to give Mischa Zverev his only win of 2019, is a 19-year-old from Austria living in Spain, who is currently ranked No. 276. He’s played four Tour matches in his career, but for a 19-year-old, that’s not bad. Even so, Federico Delbonis, a 28-year-old Argentine, who qualified for the main draw with a terrific second qualifying round win over Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-0, has both confidence and momentum enough to take out the 19-year-old wild card. I see Delbonis moving into Round 2, and we’ll have to wait until next year to see more of Kuhn.