Roger Federer follows through on a shot in the second set against Juan Ignacio Londero at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament in Mason, Ohio, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. (Sam Greene/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
Roger Federer follows through on a shot in the second set against Juan Ignacio Londero at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament in Mason, Ohio, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. (Sam Greene/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)|Associated Press

Western & Southern Thursday: Abrams picks Federer vs Rublev, Djokovic vs Carreno Busta, Medvedev vs Struff, plus Kecmanovic, de Minaur, more

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Western and Southern Open

Cincinnati, Ohio

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Men’s Thursday picks

Diego Schwartzman over Richard Gasquet

Gasquet won two matches in a row here, for only the third time this year. He has had a bit of difficulty coming back from groin surgery, and seems to have lost his confidence, and it’s been a long ten years since he was ranked #7 in the world. He does have a 2-0 lifetime record over Schwartzman, which the players both know, but I think the diminutive (5’6”) Argentine is due. I like Schwartzman’s play, his attitude, and his momentum, and I think he’ll take his first win over the dashing Frenchman.

Roger Federer over Andrey Rublev

A lot has been written about Roger Federer over the years, and I can’t really shed any new insights on the living legend, but I would point out that, while watching him play Juan Ignacio Londero, it occurred to me how truly wonderful his footwork is. Watching Fed play is like watching a dance recital in which his every movement is choreographed, it’s that perfect. Yes, he does everything else really well, too, but the footwork is a thing of beauty. Watch him while he takes out the tough Russian, Andrey Rublev, who had a nice win over Roger’s compatriot Stan Wawrinka, and you’ll agree with my sentiments.

Novak Djokovic over Pablo Carreno Busta

Boy, the ATP Tour sure is a tough grind. No sooner had Pablo Carreno Busta completed a 7-6 in the third thrilling victory late Tuesday night over John Isner, that he has to turn around and play world #1, Novak Djokovic. This is not an enviable draw. Whereas I marveled at Federer’s footwork, Djokovic is more of a defensive specialist who doesn’t miss, retrieves really well, moves quickly and has true shot-making ability to close out points. He strikes the ball cleanly all the time, and sometimes he just misses. He’s human. But he won’t lose to the Spaniard.

Daniil Medvedev over Jan-Lennard Struff

At 29-years-of-age, Jan-Lennard Struff keeps getting better. He won a really tough-fought victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6 in the third (yes, a lot of matches go down to the last few points) to set up this clash with the 23-year-old 6’6” Russian, Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev is 3-1 against Struff because he has a better all-around game. They haven’t played since 2017, and although the German has improved a lot since then, the Russian has improved more and is in the Top Ten now. Rankings usually don’t lie, and I think Medvedev should roll.

Roberto Bautista Agut over Miomir Kecmanovic

Kecmanovic surprised me and took out Sascha Zverev in a match Zverev really needed. The 19-year-old is playing great tennis and is a very dangerous opponent. However, RBA is ranked #11 and is 32-14 for the year and just doesn’t lose much. He’s a superior player who has the desire of a champion, and that should put him over the finish line against Kecmanovic.

Alex de Minaur over Yoshi Nishioka

Nishioka had his first lifetime victory over a Top Ten player yesterday when he beat his friend Kei Nishikori. But that win appeared more a function of Nishikori struggling with a couple of injuries and donating a lot of important points to his compatriot, than Nishioka just being better. Yoshi deserves credit, but Alex de Minaur is faced with the chance of his young lifetime here. All the top seeds are gone in this bottom half of the draw, with only RBA left. This means that the Demon has a chance of reaching the finals in this huge Masters 1000 event, and that isn’t a chance he can take lightly. Because of the importance of this match, I think de Minaur will do everything he can to to win.

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