Ugo Humbert at Newport.
Ugo Humbert at Newport.|

Tennis Tuesday: Abrams picks 1st Round play at the Atlanta Open – Opelka vs. Bublik, Tiafoe vs. Tomic, Humbert vs. Gromley, Dimitrov & more

Matches start at 11 am EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

BB&T Atlanta Open

Atlanta, GA

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Men’s First Round

Reilly Opelka over Alexander Bublik

Bublik is coming off a finals appearance on Sunday in the Hall of Fame Open, where he lost a tough one to John Isner, who won the tournament for the fourth time. And although Bublik walked through four wins, his highest ranked opponent, before Isner, was 72nd ranked Tennys Sandgren, who no one will mistake for Roger Federer. Bublik is fun to watch play, because he’s a bit of a loose cannon, which is very unusual for a player who comes from Russia, but he’ll become a fan favorite if he develops just a bit more and appears in some later rounds. He’ll have his hands full with 7’ American Reilly Opelka who serves bazookas and won his first ATP title this year earlier at the New York Open indoors. It’s going to be real hot in Atlanta and the heat on the hard courts there will help Opelka. I like the seven footer here, as his serves are usually just too tough to even get back into play.

Frances Tiafoe over Bernie Tomic

There’s a big difference between Tiafoe and Tomic. Tiafoe is a professional, cares deeply about his performance, and wants to win badly. Tomic… . . . not so much. In fact at Wimbleon, they thought so little of Tomics’s desire that he was fined his whole prize money for giving too little effort. Enough said.

Ugo Humbert over Cole Gromley

Cole Gromley is a college kid right out of Georgia Tech. Ugo Humbert is a 21-year-old professional from France who has been out on the Tour for three years already. Humbert is dangerous. He’s ranked #46 in the world, and he just beat Monfils, Granollers and FA2 at Wimbledon, so he should be playing with plenty of confidence to beat a college kid, especially one who wasn’t even one of the top in the NCAA.

Grigor Dimitrov over Kevin King

Kevin King is a career minor leaguer who is trying to make a living on the Challenger Tour and to break through for a few big paydays on the ATP Tour. He’s here because he got a retirement from the favored Ryan Harrison in the third and last round of the Atlanta qualies. King will take on Grigor Dimitrov, who, on his end, is trying to return to the spotlight and reignite his career. What really happened to Dimitrov? In November of 2017, the stylish Bulgarian was ranked third in the world. Let’s put that in perspective. That was before Andy Murray “retired”, and there were still the Big Four. Well, Dimitrov was THREE! But since then, he’s been nothing more than a big question mark. After a year of desultory results, I thought he was back on the mark by this year’s French Open, where he beat Tipsarevic and Cilic, and then lost in three straight tie breaker sets to Stan Wawrinka. But he followed that up with first round losses in London at the Fever-Tree, and Wimbledon to run his 2019 record to 11-11. He looks like he plays the same way, but he’s not winning. So Dimitrov’s move to stem the flow was to hire Andre Agassi to coach him, and that’s where we stand. He should start his second half well, with a good draw versus Kevin King.

Dan Evans over Jason Jung

Evans has continued his recovery from the cocaine suspension he suffered and now has his ranking back up to #55. He got to the finals of Delray Beach (lost to Albot) and has been kinda stuck in Purgatory ever since, seemingly troubled by the competition of the Tour stops, but downright dominating the recent Challenger events, winning two in a row in June right before Wimbledon. Not being entirely comfortable on grass even though he’s a Brit, with his best results coming on hard courts, Evans nonetheless won two matches in Eastbourne and at Wimbledon, and appears ready for the summer hard court season. He should have little trouble with Jason Jung, who he tuned in straight sets at the Indian Wells Challenger in the California desert just this past February.

Miomir Kecmanovic over Jack Sock

Jack Sock is a really interesting story. One of the highest ranked Americans over the past five years, the Nebraskan was ranked as high as #7 in the world in November, 2017. Sock then fell on hard times last year in singles when he totally lost his confidence, and ended up partnering with Mike Bryan to win two Grand Slam doubles championships, at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, as well as the Nitto ATP Finals championships to finish 2018 ranked #2 in the world in doubles, just behind his partner. But he had dropped out of the Top 100 in singles, lost in the very first round of the 2019 Australian Open, and then suffered a right thumb injury that required surgery and rehab. This match with Miomir Kecmanovic will only be Sock’s second of the year, and until I see him winning again, I can’t expect him to be the Jack Sock of old. Kecmanovic is young (19), hungry, good, and match tough, and I think this match is the Serbian’s to lose.

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