Spain's Rafael Nadal serves to compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta during their third round singles match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020.
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves to compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta during their third round singles match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020.|Dita Alangkara | Associated Press
Tennis

Picks for Wednesday’s ATP Acapulco 500 matches, including a recap of Tuesday action and the Nick Kyrgios drama

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Are you enjoying where you are now, sitting in cold, rain, sleet, snow, wind, or all of the above, or would you rather be where they’re playing some knock out tennis this week, south of the border in Acapulco, which in southwest Mexico, overlooking the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean where the biggest fear is getting sunburned, having heat stroke, or drinking just a tad too much while you’re dreaming of riches and fame? If you’d rather be where you are now, you’re a lying son-of-a-gun, because the action is in Mexico, and you should be there joining the pros and the glitterati.

Rafael Nadal, currently #2 in the world on the ATP computer, has a chance to ascend to the #1 ranking by winning this week in Acapulco (he lost in last year’s second round to Nick Kyrgios and therefore has very few points to defend, but a ton to gain). For that to happen, Rafa must win here and Novak Djokovic can’t get past the semis in Dubai. Last night, the Mallorcan opened up his 2020 Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC on the Stadium against compatriot Pablo Andujar, whom he held a 3-0 record against going into their encounter. They’re about the same age, but because they play on different levels, the last time they encountered each other in a tournament was way back in 2014 when Rafa won his third of three matches with Andujar, who is ranked 54th in the world. After dropping his first service game and alllowing Andujar to hold, Rafa simply ground Andujar down, won 6 out of the next 7 games to take the first set 6-3, and 12 out of the last 15 games and came away with a very workmanlike 6-3, 6-2 victory.

Tuesday night began with Félix Auger-Aliassime knocking out Alex Bolt 6-3, 7-6, when the teenage Canadian took the second set tiebreaker in a tight 7-5 thriller. Timing is everything, and FA2 won the points that mattered, triumphed, and moved on with a match against Kyle Edmund. Meanwhile, Stevie Johnson won the first set off Dusan Lajovic in a tiebreaker and immediately called the ATP physio to do an on-court evaluation. That’s never good, and it didn’t end well for the American as Lajovic won the last two sets to move on to a matchup with South Korean Soonwoo Kwon. Johnson just didn’t win enough points on his serve to take out Lajovic. A big surprise to me was the absolute beat down Radu Albot experienced at the hands of Pedro Martinez. The 22-year-old Spaniard qualifier played very well and absolutely outclassed the Moldovan, ranked 69th in the world, 6-3, 6-2 in little more than 90 minutes. After not winning a match last week in Delray as defending champion, Albot was unable to replace last year’s Delray points, and he’s going to see his ranking drop. Martinez won 15 more points than Albot did, as if he needed any more proof that he totally dominated this match. Martinez got 75% of his first serves in, and he won 69% of those points played out on his first serves. They are pretty good serving stats, and Martinez completely deserved this win. Now he’s got a date with Stan Wawrinka, not much reward for his really nice win over Albot.

Meanwhile, Jason Jung, who I literally gave no chance against second seeded Alexander Zverev, managed to push their first set into a tiebreaker, and when Zverev double faulted to make the score 1-1 in that breaker, I thought, for the first time, that Jung might have a shot. Zverev, however, managed to eke out the breaker 8-6, and seemed to let out an audible sigh as he sat for the changeover. With that first set win, Zverev seemed to gather momentum and ran off the first three games of the second set to entirely take control of the match before he bombed Jung off the court 7-6, 6-1. While all this was going on, fan favorite Grigor Dimitrov took Damir Dzumhur to the cleaners 3 and 3 in only 75 minutes, and set up a meeting with Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. As I expected, Soonwoo Kwon topped Taro Daniel, but needed three sets to do so.

In the remaining Mens’ matches some interesting things were happening. As Dusan Lajovic rebounded from losing the first set in that tiebreaker to top Stevie Johnson 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, John Isner came out firing and went up on Micha Zverev 5-2, and it looked like some order had been restored to the world. John Millman and Taylor Fritz got locked in a really tight first set, and the fans simply patiently awaited the wild, wacky, wonderful world of Nick at Night, as the midnight hour rapidly approached, which meant that Nick would arrive on the Stadium court perhaps ready to play, perhaps not.

As Rafa took the first set, Isner did the same, and Fritz and Millman appeared locked in a mortal death grip, tied at 4-all in the first set before the American pulled away 7-5, 3-6, 6-1. Isner was never in peril against Micha Zverev, eventually winning 6-3, 7-6. The 6’10” American won 16 more points than Millman did, which indicated that the match could have been more competitive. Isner now takes on Marcos Giron, in what should be some really fine entertainment as long as Giron can return Isner’s dominating serve.

And then came The Drama. Kyrgios hit the court to play Frenchman Ugo Humbert, who was fresh from a semi-final showing in Delray, and appeared ready for the late-night crowd. But what’s a Kyrgios match without some controversy, and Nick didn’t disappoint the Mexican crowd. Early on he showed signs of a wrist injury that some have questioned when he called for the ATP trainer on the first set 1-4 changeover, and after Humbert served the set out at 5-3, Kyrgios threw in the towel to a crowd of loudly booing homefolk. Maybe his wrist actually did hurt, but never one to back down, Kyrgios had a few choice words for the crowd as he walked off the court. This only made them boo louder. Talking about those who pay his prize money, the Aussie could be heard saying, “I couldn’t give a f**k.”

And so, with Kyrgios’ default, Martinez upsetting Albot, and Lacovic topping Stevie Johnson, my second day’s record stood at 7-3, after going 4-2 on Monday.

My picks for Wednesday:

Alexander Zverev over Tommy Paul

Grigor Dimirrov over Adrian Mannarino

Rafa Nadal over Miomir Kecmanovic

Felix Auger-Aliassime over Kyle Edmund

Taylor Fritz over Ugo Humbert

Stan Wawrinka over Pedro Martinez

Dusan Lajovic over Soonwoo Kwon

John Isner over Marcos Giron

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