Matches start at 5 pm EST.
After a successful first day that saw some competitive Men’s and Women’s matches on Monday, the Men’s first round really gets going on Tuesday, when some big names are scheduled to hit the Mexican turf. They’re playing for real money here, with the winner scheduled to take home over $372,000, and first round winners are guaranteed at least $25,730. Just being in the draw pays the losers $14,210. Isn’t it funny how money brings out some big names?
With that said, a quick recap of my Monday picks. Frenchman Adrian Mannarino made me look bad, which can happen, as he picked up a three set win in two hours over my pick, Cam Norrie, after Norrie won the first set. Congratulations go to the bald Frenchman, as this was his first win over Norrie after losing their first two matches. To make matters worse for me, Alex de Minaur won an easy first set and then got outclassed by Miomir Kecmanovic. I salvaged a bit of pride by picking Tommy Paul to take Mackie McDonald, and I got lucky when Paul dropped the first set in a close tiebreaker but came back to win the second and third sets with identical 6-4 scores. Paul won 109 out of the 206 points played, so by winning twelve more points than McDonald, it showed that Paul was the superior player Monday night. The one thing that I really liked about McDonald, however, was that he was aggressive, came to net, and even served-and volleyed on occasion. That was nice to see, and it should serve (and volley) him well over time.
The nightcap saw Stan "The Man" Wawrinka eke out a close match with Frances Tiafoe just as Marcos Giron finished his first set against local boy Gerardo Lopez Villasenor. After losing the first set, Big Foe won the second in a tiebreaker, saved a match point against at 4-5 in the third before pushing the Swiss to 5-6 in the third, where Tiafoe dug himself a hole to 15-40 before saving two more match points. Wawrinka had enough, but Tiafoe wasn’t done. He saved four match points on his serve and took Stan The Man into a deciding set tiebreaker. They split the first two points in the breaker and then Wawrinka went up a mini-break by taking the third point on Tiafoe’s serve. From there, the Swiss simply put the pedal to the metal and roared through the tiebreaker giving up just that single point, and triumphed 6-3, 6-7, 7-6. Wawrinka’s biggest weapon Monday night? Thirty-five (35!!) aces!
By the time these guys shook hands, it was after 1:00 a.m. Eastern time and Kyle Edmund and Feliciano Lopez still hadn’t made their way to the Stadium court. But Giron/Villasenor were coming to the end of their two set beatdown in which the American won 6-4, 7-6 in a match that was far closer than I expected, and the fans were starting to show the signs of maybe imbibing just a tad too much on what was left to their Monday night… Edmund and Lopez hit the court at 1:13 am EST in a match that eventually went Edmund’s way. Edmund broke serve at 5-4 to take the first set—one in which the Brit won ten more points than his Spanish opponent . They started the second set with Edmund holding to love and breaking immediately to take a 2-0 second set lead with that break in hand. Edmund held, broke again for a 4-0 lead, and that was pretty much all she wrote as the Brit rolled through the second set, 6-1, which left me with a 4-2 record leading off the week.
Now, before we move on to real pressing matters, I want to vent a little. I’m a traditionalist in a lot of ways, although I always thought of myself as a rebel. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and remember well when you played tennis in whites, you gave your opponent credit when he hit a good shot, and the game was a gentleman’s game. I even remember that to determine who served first you “spun” your racket and someone either called rough or smooth. Remember that? Yes, Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase, and later John McEnroe provided a look into the entitled face of the Baby Boomers on court, but their act just simply became a part of the show and grew to be expected and then enjoyed and appreciated. I remember the very first tiebreakers, which where 9-point breakers. Those were pretty cool, because you could go to 4-all in a tiebreaker and it would be simultaneous set point. Or at a set apiece, and 4-all in the third set breaker…simultaneous MATCH point But that’s all gone now. In fact, forget about the breaker, forget about spinning the racket, forget about Connors’ snear, McEnroe’s tirades, and Nastase’s craziness, and forget about the whites. But please tell me, just who is making and designing those awful tennis clothes that these guys wear? I mean, after all, how much money do you have to be paid to agree to look so stupid? The shorts clash with the shirts, but even each piece individually is incredibly ugly and crass. Nike…Adidas, Asics, Lotto, Diadora, New Balance…it doesn’t matter. They’re all awful!
And now back to the tournament…
Alexander Zverev, the tournament’s second seed who used to be known as Sascha and now wants to be known by his real name, plays tonight with a match against Taipei’s 119th ranked Jason Jung. Let’s just say that, although I hate to use this cliché, Jung has no shot. And although Alexander Hamilton didn’t want to give up his shot, Jung’s going down, and quickly. Playing later will be American 6th seed, John Isner. He got an incredibly lucky draw by drawing Zverev’s older brother Mischa, who can’t buy a win. Isner’s got this one in the bag.
Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime (FA2) will make his first round appearance against Australia’s Alex Bolt, a lucky loser. This one will go the Canadian’s way. Rafa Nadal makes his Acapulco debut as he takes on Pablo Andujar. I can’t see Rafa losing this match. After Rafa tops Andujar, Nick Kyrgios will test his “injured” wrist against Ugo Humbert. Now, if Nick wants to play and is healthy, he’ll win, although Humbert will test him severely. But you never know with Kyrgios. He could be in his “bad place”, which means you can expect a lot of histrionics and extra-curricular stuff along with his excellent play. Or he can just be in the Hell that appears to be Kyrgios’ own personal space, in which he’ll totally lose control of himself, and then nothing is guaranteed, other than a show. After all, he’s got the marquee spot in Acapulco’s Stadium on Opening Night, not Rafa. There’s gotta be reasons for that!
2019 U.S. Open semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov takes on Damir Dzumhur tonight. Expect Dimitrov to roll.
There are two other courts where matches are being played. Court 4 starts off with a good one, when 8th seeded Dusan Lajovic takes on my newest friend, Stevie Johnson. Normally, I’d rail about the fact that Johnson can’t hit a backhand and that any good pro who can play should be able to form an effective enough strategy to beat him. But, lo and behold, this past week in Delray Johnson showed up with a newfound topspin backhand added to his repertoire. Will this be enough to take out Lajovic? I don’t know, but I’m going to guess that it will. I’m taking the American.
Court 4 will also host Radu Albot against local Pedro Martinez, in which I’d take Albot, followed by lucky loser Taro Daniel against South Korean Soonwoo Kwon. Kwon was scheduled to play last week’s Delray Beach Champion Reilly Opelka, but Opelka decided to take this week off, and why not? He deserves it. After playing two matches and a full six sets on Sunday to capture the Delray title, Opelka chose not to jam his 7-foot frame into one of those God-awful airline seats that we mere mortals complain about, and stay home where he can work out the stiffness that he surely must feel after his yeoman efforts of the past week. Opelka was replaced in the draw by Daniel, and I think Kwon will win that matchup. He is just a better player.
Court 1 hosts American Taylor Fritz against the stubborn Aussie John Millman. Fritz had a crappy week in Delray where he was a disgrace in both singles and doubles, and he needs this win. I think he’ll get it.
So, get ready for some sparks to fly from one of the greatest vacation spots in North America and let’s not forget that Kyrgios won this title last year, beating Nadal along the way…