John Isner goes for his third Hall of Fame Open title against Alexander Bublik.
John Isner goes for his third Hall of Fame Open title against Alexander Bublik. |Lynne Sladky | Associated Press
Tennis

Picks for Thursday’s ATP Acapulco 500 matches, including a recap of the wild & wicked Wednesday action featuring the ouster of 4th seed FA2

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Thank God for John Isner. Isner, the 6’10” 34-year-old American topped fellow American Marcos Giron Wednesday night 6-3, 7-6 with 28 aces, to restore order to a Wild, Wicked, Wacky Wednesday that saw upsets galore. The shockers started almost immediately with the very first Men’s match on, when Tommy Paul knocked out second seeded Alexander Zverev 3 and 4. Zverev was his own worst enemy as he double faulted nine times in his nine service games. That would suggest that it’s kinda hard to win matches when you give up one free point every game you serve.

Fourth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime had all sorts of problems with the tough Brit Kyle Edmund and fell 4 and 4 in a bit over an hour and a half. Edmund overcame 13 FA2 aces by winning 79% of the points played on his first serve. South Korean Soonwoo Kwon continued the run by the underdogs when he upset 8th seeded Dusan Lajovic 6 and 0. Evidently once Kwon realized that he could hang with Lajovic, he started to play with more confidence, and just rolled through the second set. Kwon overcame seven double faults, but won 22 more points in total than Lajovic, as his control tightened over the match as it progressed. Lajovic was particularly hurt by winning only 8 of 38 points played (21%) on his first serve, a generally pitiful statistic.

Taylor Fritz played particularly well and toyed with Ugo Humbert and notched a win, 4 and 1. The difference there was that Humbert won only 6 of 21 points played on his second serve (29%) while Fritz won 19 of the 25 points played on his first serve (76%). Sometimes I forget that Humbert is only 21-years-old. Grigor Dimitrov stopped Adrian Mannarino 7-6 in the third, but this match could have gone either way as two out of the three sets went the distance.

Thursday’s schedule is a good one as the quarterfinals all all get played. Leading off the day for the Men in the Stadium Court will be the all-American battle between John Isner and Tommy Paul. Paul is coming off a resoundingly good win over Sascha Zverev, but I don’t think he’ll have as much success returning Isner’s serve as he did with the German. I’m going with Isner.

Taylor Fritz will do battle with Kyle Edmund next. I’m willing to concede that Edmund is having a really good 2020, but Fritz won the only time these guys played, and I place a lot of emphasis on the history between players, so my money’s on Fritz in this one.

Grigor Dimitrov plays Stan Wawrinka third up in the Stadium and I’m picking Stan the man here. Stan has been serving really well here, but he is also hitting his groundies with authority, both when he’s engaged in baseline rallies, and when he’s got a target to pass. As long as he keeps pounding those groundies, Wawrinka will be hard to beat.

The nightcap Thursday features Rafael Nadal, who had a little trouble in the second set with Miomir Kecmanovic, but moved on. The difference in Rafa’s match was that he won 81% of the points played on his first serve, while Kecmanovic cashed in on “only” 54% of his initial deliveries, which just isn’t good enough against a quality player like Rafa. Nadal now will confront Soonwoo Kwon in the quarters in another match that I just can’t see Rafa losing. Kwon is improving and he’s starting to make his mark on the Tour, but a win over the #2 player in the world will have to wait.

Neal’s Thursday picks:

John Isner over Tommy Paul

Taylor Fritz over Kyle Edmund

Stan Wawrinka over Grigor Dimitrov

Rafael Nadal over Soonwoo Kwon

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