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Australia’s Nick Kyrgios is in Cincinnati for the Western & Southern. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios is in Cincinnati for the Western & Southern. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)|Associated Press
Tennis

Western & Southern Wednesday: Abrams picks Kyrgios vs Khachanov, de Minaur vs Opelka, Tsitsipas vs Struff, Nishikori vs Nishioka, and more

Matches start at 11 am EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Western and Southern Open

Cincinnati, OH

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Men’s Wednesday picks

Sascha Zverev over Miomir Kecmanovic

Miomir Kecmanovic had a great win over Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round here, but since both Rafa Nadal (the 2nd seed) and Dominic Thiem (the 4th seed) pulled out of the tournament, Zverev has a real shot at getting to the finals, if he puts his head down and plays with resolve. Those withdrawals leave Zverev and Nishikori as the highest seeds left in the bottom half of the draw, so if Zverev is smart, he’ll view this as the fantastic opportunity it is and take advantage of it. He shouldn’t lose to the teenager Kecmanovic.

Nick Kyrgios over Karen Khachanov

Oh, boy, I really wanna watch this one. Khachanov, who has a ton of talent, but who hasn’t cashed in on his potential yet, has played well over the past two and a half months after spending the first five months of the year underperforming. But, as always, this match depends on Nick Kyrgios. I saw Kyrgios hit a shoe-top backhand half-volley for a winner Monday that was one of the greatest shots I’ve seen in at least ten years. If he plays like that, and he shows that he cares, Nick-at-Night will blast his first serve 140 mph, his second at 130 mph, hit a couple of ‘tweeners, serve underhanded once or twice, hit a bunch of winning drop shots, and make this win look easy. Of course, if we get “Bad Nick”, he’ll be out of the tournament in less than an hour.

Kei Nishikori over Yoshi Nishioka

It’s always interesting when two guys from the same neighborhood play each other. World ranking and stature mean nothing, because a neighborhood brawl takes precedence. In this one, Nishikori, the 6th seed, should seize his opportunity to challenge in the now-weak bottom half of the draw, and pull away from his friend and countryman, Yoshi Nishioka. Nishioka has been improving immensely, and he has really impressed me lately, but these guys play the same game, it’s just that Kei plays it better.

Stefanos Tsitsipas over Jan-Lennard Struff

These guys have played twice this year, splitting those matches. But Tsitsipas has a better all-court game, moves better, and has played big points better than the ever-improving German, Jan-Lennard Struff. All of these Tour players are such wonderful athletes that nothing surprises me anymore, but it would, in fact, be a surprise if Struff put together enough games to win this match.

Roberto Bautista Agut over Frances Tiafoe

Frances Tiafoe got a win over Gael Monfils on Monday primarily, from what I could see, because the Frenchman was nursing a bad ankle that made him default last week in Montreal. Big Foe is not playing like he did at the beginning of the year, and I don’t expect him to win this match. My only question is, will it take RBA two or three sets to subdue the young American?

Alex de Minaur over Reilly Opelka

It’s fun to watch these two good friends play each other, because there’s always a little extra-curricular communication going on. It might be them discussing line calls, or congratulating each other for a good shot (or a luck net cord….), but when they play it looks like they’re both having fun. It will be more fun for the Demon, because his slick all-around game is superior to Opelka’s booming serve and crushing forehand.

Stan Wawrinka over Andrey Rublev

How about Wawrinka’s 7-6 in the third victory yesterday over Grigor Dimitrov? If Dimitrov never had to play Wawrinka again for the rest of his career he’d thank his lucky stars because it’s now becoming a “thing” between them. But when Wawrinka plays well, he can and does dominate almost everyone, and I think he’s playing well enough to take out the tough Russian, Andrey Rublev. Rublev had a really nice first round win over Nikoloz Basilashvili, who I thought would win that match based on his recent play. But Rublev showed heart and soul, and won 6-2 in the third. Against Wawrinka, that’s not gonna happen.

Daniil Medvedev over Benoit Paire

Benoit Paire continues to surprise me, and just him still being in the draw shocked me based on what I saw when he lost his mind two weeks ago playing Stefanos Tsitsipas in D.C. But he took advantage of Fernando Verdasco retiring without playing a game in the second set, which is a nice way of sliding through to the second round. He’ll have no such luck against the 6’6” Russian, Daniil Medvedev, who is now ranked #9 in the world. The Russian is far too solid for Paire, and I’m going to watch just to see if Paire throws a “hissy-fit” again. Those are always fun to watch.

Richard Gasquet over Federico Delbonis

Richard Gasquet, who is coming back from an injury himself, revealed that Andy Murray is not ready for prime time yet. On Monday, Gasquet used a slew of drop shots, and effectively hit behind Murray time and again, and it became apparent to me that Murray’s first step was either slow or nonexistent, and that he had extreme difficulty changing direction. Gasquet, who owns one of the best one-handed backhands in the game, won’t have an injured player to exploit in Federico Delbonis, but Gasquet should totally dominate Delbonis, a lucky loser who is more a dirtballer than a hard court phenom. Gasquet should keep the points short. Once a rally goes more than six shots, the advantage will be in the Argentine’s favor.

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