Matches start at 5 am.
Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Felix Auger-Aliassime over Malek Jaziri
There are a couple of pros who I have gained some respect for this year, but none more so than the Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime. This 18-year-old has the game, the head, the fight, and the discipline of a seasoned vet, and he’s quickly gaining the experience and the stature among his peers. Already ranked No. 31, I could see him rising to the top 15 by the end of the year with a couple of wins here and there, and I really believe that he’s a future Grand Slam champion whom we’re all going to say that we knew him when. He should walk over Malek Jaziri, a 35-year-old journeyman from Tunisia with a current rank of 72 and a 2019 record of 3-11. Between the journeyman and the future Grand Slam champion, whom would you pick?
Lucas Pouille over David Ferrer
Every match David Ferrer plays simply adds to his legend, and he has become a fan favorite, since he’s retiring in a matter of weeks. Unfortunately for him, I think at this point in their careers, Lucas Pouille is the better player and I think this match goes to the Frenchman, even though the home crowd will be pulling for their boy with all their heart and soul. Pouille has beaten the Spaniard both times they’ve played, both on hard and on clay, and his win on clay was very, very decisive. It just occurred to me why Ferrer pulled out of The French Open—he feels that playing the best of five sets is too much for him at this point, and I think that was a smart decision. He still hits a great ball, but he covers just a little bit less of the court, is a step slower, and, of course, is 37-years-old. Maybe 37 doesn’t sound all that old, but Ferrer has been playing on the Tour since 2000, and that’s a lot of miles to put on the legs of a 5’9” player competing with guys almost a full foot taller than he is. This will be a good show, but I think the winner will be eating cordon bleu rather than paella after the match.
Rafa Nadal over Leonardo Mayer
Okay, okay, Rafa is human. We now know that. After Nadal won four straight titles in Paris and then lost to Robin Soderling in the Round of 16 at the French Open in 2009 people thought Nadal’s superhuman run on clay was over. How did he follow that up? He just won five more in a row. Rafa lost in the quarters to Djokovic in 2015 and was forced to withdraw from the 2016 Open before his third round match with a bad wrist, and the naysayers raised their heads again. Rafa responded by taking the title in both 2017 and 2018, to push his record to eleven French Open titles, the most titles of one Grand Slam event ever won by a single individual. So for those who think he’s vulnerable on clay now, just because he threw in a clunker last week in Monte Carlo against Fabio Fognini, and are anxious to see how he plays against Leonardo Mayer (who he’s 5-0 against), watch closely. As long as Rafa is healthy, he’s a beast, and he is still the premier clay court player in the world, for now and all time.
Denis Shapovalov over Cristian Garin
It’s easy to think that these pros are machines, because they’re such fantastic athletes. But they’re not. They all lose. Federer has won only two tournaments this year, and for all his dominance, Djokovic has only won once. Nadal? Well you saw him lose, and lose badly last week. They all lose. And I’m afraid that this match is going to be a problem for Shapovalov, the talented Canadian who just last week turned 20 years old. Yes, the kid from up north took the match the only time these guys played back in 2016, but this match is going to be a nail-biter. Cristian Garin, aged 22, is a Chilean clay court specialist with an excellent 12-5 2019 record before this tournament, and is coming off a very nice straight set victory over Martin Klizan in the first round here. He’s got a ton of experience—he turned pro in 2011. (You do the math.) I like Garin a lot, especially on clay, and although this match will be a fight, something tells me that the Canadian is going to eke this one out. If he doesn’t? I told you so…
Daniil Medvedev over Albert Ramos-Vinoas
Daniil Medvedev, a resident of Monte Carlo by way of Moscow, has been having just a terrific year. He’s ranked 14th in the world and has compiled an impressive 2019 record of 21-7 already. As long as Medvedev is healthy and not suffering from possible exhaustion, I think the Russian is going to roll over Ramos-Vinolas, a hometown favorite from Barcelona. Ramos-Vinoas destroyed Brit Cameron Norrie 2 and 2 in the first round, and will have plenty of fans pulling for him, but Medvedev should roll here.
Fabio Fognini over Nicola Kuhn
After last week’s title in Monte Carlo, how could you think that Fabio Fognini will follow that performance up with anything other than more wins? I actually think the Italian is going to find it difficult to match last week’s success, and I believe that he’ll go down here in Barcelona, just not to Nicola Kuhn, the 19-year-old Austrian who now lives in Spain. Kuhn, who was given a wild card here, took out qualifier Frederico Delbonis in the first round 6-2 in the third, and earned this chance to play last week’s hero. I feel confident that Fognini has enough left in his gas tank to take out the teenager, but we’ll see what he’s got left after this match.
Gilles Simon over Mackie McDonald
Frenchman Gilles Simon is a stalwart on clay courts, and is seeded 11th here in Spain. He’s played Mackie McDonald, a former UCLA Bruin, once, and crushed the young American 1 and 1 last year on indoor hard courts. Okay, maybe McDonald has improved and gotten some experience and some confidence since then, but now he’s drawn the Frenchman on red clay, and I fear that the American is going to get a lesson on how to play on this stuff here. It should pay off immediately for Simon, and hopefully it will pay off for McDonald later on down the line.