Three Little Pigs: ATP Memphis 2-9-16

MEMPHISPIGS

Seventh seed John Millman opens play on Tuesday against American Austin Krajicek. The Texas A&M product is one of five Americans scheduled for singles action at the Memphis Open. Here’s a look at three key matches including those Americans in today’s edition of Three Little Pigs.

(7) John Millman vs Austin Krajicek
The 7th seeded Aussie has been in good form to start the season. He made it to the third round of his home slam in Melbourne and last week, made the quarterfinals indoors in Montpellier. He lost to eventual runner-up Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-3. Millman improved his form indoors greatly last season with a Challenger title on the surface in Kobe, Japan. He also made a Challenger final in Kyoto, Japan early in the season on the surface.

For Austin Krajicek, the lefty has had an average start to the year. He’s gone 2-3 with losses to Borna Coric in Chennai and Kei Nishikori at the Australian Open. Last week, he dropped his opener on clay in Ecuador to Roberto Carballes Baena. Krajicek had a good run in Memphis last year after making it through qualifying, he advanced to the quarterfinals. He lost there to three-time Memphis champion Kei Nishikori, but he managed to take a set. To date, that is his only success at the ATP level on this surface. He’s been okay, but not great indoors at the Challenger level.

Over the past five years in Memphis, at least two seeds have dropped their opening matches of the tournament. Sixth seed Sam Groth joined that club on Monday with a loss to Illya Marchenko. Millman could have a tough time in this one after traveling across the globe, and trying to settle in against a player who has beaten him once and taken him to three sets on another occasion. That win for Millman came last season at the Aptos Challenger 7-5, 2-6, 6-3.

Prediction
Krajicek wins in three sets

(wc) Taylor Fritz vs (q) Michael Mmoh
This should be a fun match-up with the two talented 18-year-olds going head-to-head for the first time at any level. Taylor Fritz has quickly become the more accomplished American youngster with two Challenger titles to end 2015 and one already this season in Happy Valley. Michael Mmoh has played just a handful of Challenger events since turning pro. His best result was a quarterfinal showing last year in Las Vegas. Both played Maui last week and lost in the second round.

Mmoh may have a small edge to open this match after going through qualifying to get to the main draw. Fritz got his way in via a wild card. Mmoh won a long final qualifying match in a tiebreak against Bjorn Fratangelo.  The match lasted nearly three hours. Mmoh hasn’t quite harnessed the natural power of his six foot one, 190 pound frame. His serve is still a bit of a liability due to a lack of consistency. That is an area where Fritz should have an advantage on this surface.

For Mmoh, this is his first trip to an ATP World Tour main draw. That may mean nerves will be a big part of his potential problems on Tuesday. Fritz only has three main draw ATP matches under his belt, but is coming off making his first Grand Slam earlier in the year at the Australian Open. Even though he lost, he showed well in five sets against Jack Sock and that will breed confidence on this smaller stage. Fritz should have the swagger coming in that this is his match to win. If Fritz brings the consistency on serve, he should advance in this one.

Prediction
Fritz wins in straight sets

Benjamin Becker vs (wc) Tommy Paul
Another up and coming American will be in action in Memphis. Tommy Paul had a stellar year in 2015 as a junior, winning the French Open title and making the U.S. Open final, where he lost to Fritz. Paul did debut indoors late in 2015, where he made the final fo his first tournament in Charlottesville. He would go 0-2 though in his final two matches on the surface.

Becker meanwhile is the consummate professional. The 34-year-old has toiled away on the ATP tour for over a decade. He’s never found top notch success, but on his day, he can be a difficult out. He played in Dallas last week and lost in the quarterfinals to Edmund. He will be seeking his first ATP main draw win since last September. That also came indoors during a semifinal run in Kuala Lumpur.

Becker has played Memphis several times, but his best showing was back in 2012 when he made the semifinals. He has lost twice in the opening round since that run. Paul is making his Memphis debut. The young American is comfortable in rallies, but he may not find many of those if Becker has his way. The German can produce a walloping serve, but often lacks consistency with it. Paul is solid off the ground from both wings, so he’ll have some opportunities if he can find a way to get on Becker’s serve or if the German can’t consistently set himself up in good positions on-serve.

Prediction
Becker wins in straight sets

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