The Ocho: Miami Open Wrap-up

Ocho

“The Eight” …. Every week, @tennispig will give his top eight ATP singles players and top eight ATP/WTA doubles teams from the previous week. It’s a great way to monitor who is hot … and who is not. This week, it’s all about the Miami Open.

1. John Isner
Isner’s tennis is never going to be a phenomenal watch, but you can still appreciate what the 32-year-old accomplished by winning the title in Miami. The title is his lone Masters 100 title and 13th for his career. The win also pushes Isner into the top ten in the rankings at #9 this week. Isner was last inside the top ten right around four years ago in April 2014. For a guy who was 2-6 in 2018 before winning six straight in Miami, it was a monster week.

ISNER

2. Alexander Zverev
Despite losing in three sets to Isner in the final, Miami could well have been the boost that Zverev needed to get his season out of neutral. The German was 8-4 on the season, but really void of any impressive runs. That changed in Miami with wins over Nick Kyrgios, Borna Coric and Pablo Carreno Busta. Sure, he didn’t keep it together very well in the final and we saw a little of the mentally fragile Sascha again – but overall, he should have gained confidence from this run. His forehand was consistent and if he takes only that moving forward this season, he may begin to rack up more impressive results more consistently.

3. Juan Martin Del Potro
Del Potro simply had to be on the list this time around, even though his 15 match win streak was ended by Isner in the semifinals. I thought Del Potro would have gassed out earlier in Miami after title runs in Acapulco and Indian Wells, but he persevered into the semifinals and remained steady at #6 in the rankings. The Argentine showed us during this winning streak that he’s got the passion, play and perhaps finally – the fitness – to be a major player in 2018. He’ll take a break after a heavy workload and has already talked up a reduced clay court schedule. That’s smart thinking for a player who wants to still be strong as the season rolls back into hard court play in the summer.

4. Bryan Brothers
The first six weeks of the seson belonged to Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, but since then it has been Bob and Mike Bryan who have shown the most consistency on the doubles scene. They were finally rewarded for that with a title in Miami after failing to win in finals appearances in both Acapulco and Indian Wells. The twins remain a solid #2 to Marach-Pavic in the rankings and have closed the gap to juder under 800 points. One month ago, they were nearly 1,800 points back.

BRYANS

5. Borna Coric
Coric completed the Sunshine double with a quarterfinal showing in Miami, his fourth at a Masters event. That followed his first Masters 1000 semifinal at Indian Wells. The Croat scored wins over Denis Shapovalov and Jack Sock, showing that defense again is a good way to beat players who definitely have a bit better weaponry on the offensive end. Considering that the season now flips to clay, where Coric should be even better – a golden opportunity could be waiting for the 21-year-old in the next two months.

6. Grigor Dimitrov
What is an “Ocho” without Dimitrov on the list once again for the wrong reasons. The shine of his early season has dimmed to darkness with Dimitrov going 1-2 in Indian Wells and Miami combined. Losses to Fernando Verdasco and then Jeremy Chardy in Miami are not the thing that a player ranked #5 should be experiencing. We’re once again back into “wait mode” with Dimitrov, waiting for him to realize all that potential and turn it into consistent results. He may well turn it back on during the switch to clay, but consistency is really still pretty elusive for Dimitrov especially at Masters and Slams.

7. David Goffin
I don’t think much was expected of Goffin in Miami due to the lengthy layoff after the freak eye injury in Rotterdam, but what transpired is very troubling. Goffin was crushed by Joao Sosa 6-0, 6-1. Goffin admitted his pupil is still “expanded” in that injured eye and that he needs to gain confidence with his vision again. The Belgian said he felt he practiced and trained well for the event, but that at full match speed – he now knows he has a lot of work to do to rediscover his overall confidence and rhythm.

8. Novak Djokovic
The Serb is also on this list for the wrong reasons. More was expected of Djokovic in Miami after he flopped in his return at Indian Wells. Perhaps we again expected too much of a player who missed months due to an elbow injury and then had to have some procedure done on it again this season. He’s had just two matches since Melbourne with losses to Taro Daniel and then Benoit Paire in Miami.

On top of that, Djokovic has ended his relationships with Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek, who were the two key cogs of his coaching team. The Agassi relationship seemed flawed and Djokovic’s lack of health since they began working with each other last May really jinxed any chances of seeing success. From statements from Agassi, it also appears they never got on the same page with what they wanted to do. For the Serb, finding his confidence and game again should be paramount to finding another coach.

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The Ocho: Indian Wells Wrap-up

Ocho

“The Eight” …. Every week, @tennispig will give his top eight ATP singles players and top eight ATP/WTA doubles teams from the previous week. It’s a great way to monitor who is hot … and who is not. This week, it’s a look back at Indian Wells.

1. Juan Martin Del Potro
Well who else is going to top the list than the champion of the tournament? NOBODY. Roger Federer may have been struggling some with back issues the last few rounds at Indian Wells, but all credit goes to Del Potro for the title win on Sunday. He had his back up against the wall with Federer serving for the match at 5-4 in the third with two match points. After blowing his own opportunity in the second set at 8-7 in the tiebreak to win, the Argentine fought off Fed and wound up rolling in the third set tiebreak to win his first Masters title. The win pushes DelPo into the 6th spot in the rankings and further cements him as the 1B to Federer’s 1A right now on the ATP World Tour.

DELPO

2. Roger Federer
Federer is in this spot alone for the way he fought through in the semifinals against Borna Coric. With his back certainly effecting his play some, the Swiss was able to overcome the talented Croat 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. It was a match he looked like he was destined to lose, but came up with the goods at the right time to win. It helped him run off his 17th straight win to start the season, a personal best for Fed. Despite the loss, it’s clear that Federer is still the gold standard on tour and seemingly the field will need these physical issues to crop up from time to time to give them their best chances to KO the world number one.

3. Borna Coric
The fairy tale week for Coric looked like it was going to get the perverbial cherry on top with an unexpected win over Federer, but alas it was not to be. Still, it was a first for Coric with a run to a Masters 1000 semifinal. That included upset wins over seeds Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Roberto Bautista Agut and Kevin Anderson. The win zips the 21-year-old to #36 in the latest rankings, up 13 spots from last week. He’s also just three spots behind his career best ranking of #33.

4. Grigor Dimtirov
Back on the list for all the wrong reasons as Dimitrov once again could not solve Indian Wells. This time instead of surrendering himself in the third round, Dimitrov was knocked out in his first match in round two by Fernando Verdasco. He’s still ranked fourth, but he’s again struggling to live up to expectation. This Indian Wells-Miami double has been a trouble spot for him in his career, never advancing past round four in Miami and round three at Indian Wells. Dimitrov heads to Miami on a three match losing skid with two opening match losses in his last three tournaments.

5. John Isner/Jack Sock
Isner and Sock can’t get out of their own way in singles, but the Americans came together to win the doubles titles at Indian Wells this week. Isner and Sock are now 15-5 all-time when pairing up. For Sock, who has now dropped out of the top ten in singles to #11, it’s his second doubles title this season and 10th of his career. His two doubles titles equal the number of singles’ wins he’s been able to rack up this year at just 2-5. I’m also still blocked by him on Twitter, which is still fantastic to me. Isner is just 2-6 in 2018, but has chosen to let the Pig live his life by seeing the Isner tweets.

isner-sock

6. Su-wei Hsieh/Barbora Strycova
You can’t ask for anything more than winning a prestiguous doubles title as a first time pairing. That’s exactly what Hsieh and Strycova did this past week. The duo paired up at the last minute, literally signing up for doubles ten minutes before the entry deadline. They even tried to switch partners at the last minute, but it wasn’t allowed. Good thing, eh?

hey beat Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-4, 6-4 for the titles. What is more impressive is that Hsieh paired up with a different partner for the second straight tournament to beat the 2nd ranked Russians. Hsieh paired with Shuai Peng in Dubai last week to knock off Makarova-Vesnina en route to the Dubai final. Hsieh is now ranked twice in the top right with Peng at #6 and Strycova at #8 after the big win at Indian Wells.

7. Bryan Brothers
The Bryans went another week without a title, but they continue to gain momentum. Bob and Mike moved up a notch to number two in the rankings with their finals run at Indian Wells. It was their second straight tournament final after doing the same in Acapulco. The key right now is that they are producing consistent results early on and getting deep in tournaments. They head to Miami where they have made the semifinals or final in five of the last six years.

8. Matteo Berrettini
I can hear the google search engine revving up for this one and go ahead – the Italian deserves some recognition with what he is doing right now. Berrettini snuck into the Indian Wells main draw and acquitted himself well with a three set, opening round loss to Daniil Medvedev. The 21-year-old was able to parlay that into a finals run at the Irving Tennis Classic on the Challenger circuit after losing in California. It was his second Challenger final in 2018, having notched a title win in Bergamo earlier in the season.

Berrettini

He also qualified for his first Grand Slam in Australia via qualifying, He is 1-3 in main draws at the ATP level this season, but looks to be a legitimate riser and one to watch for at this stage. Berrettini is at a career high #95 this week and that is quite an achievement for him, considering that he was in the 800s last year after missing a good chunk of 2016 due to a knee injury. Berrettini is a big kid at 6’4″ tall who has shown some prowess on both hard courts and clay on the lower levels. Keep an eye on him in Miami qualifying this week.

2018 BNP Paribas Open R2 Preview: John Isner vs Gael Monfils

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(15) John Inser vs Gael Monfils

Isner Looks to Resurrect Himself

John Isner will hope that a trip to Indian Wells will cure what ails his 2018 season. Thus far, Isner is just 1-5 with four opening match losses out of five tournaments played. The American has made the fourth round in three of the last four years at the BNP Paribas Open, but faces a stiff challenge from Gael Monfils. Monfils leads the head-to-head 5-4 and whipped Isner at this very tournament last year 6-2, 6-4. It was the fourth win for the Frenchman in their last five meetings. Isner’s lone win in that stretch came at the 2013 U.S. Open.

Monfils came to Indian Wells off of a solid run through the South American clay swing, where he made the quarterfinals or better in Quito, Buenos Aires and Rio. He’s already played a match at Indian Wells, beating Matthew Ebden 6-3, 6-3 in round one. Monfils will be seeking to make the fourth round for a third straight season at Indian Wells. He made the fourth round, losing to Dominic T hiem last year. In 2016, he made the quarterfinals – his best finish at the BNP Paribas Open.

The Formula

Last year’s match between these two was their first since 2014. It was a night match, whereas this year’s tussle will be first up at 11:00 am local time. Monfils’ wins the last two teams have featured the Frenchman going through in straight sets without dishing out any break chances. Monfils had plenty of success targeting the backhand return of the American and you can bet that will be at the top of the list again on Sunday. He did a nice job of stretching Isner wide and that was usually a winning run of play from the Frenchman that followed. He can take the short ball and finish with aggression as he moves in, typically finishing with a power forehand.

Isner will set up deep in return, hoping to get some big swings. If Monfils is hitting his marks though, Isner isn’t likely to trouble him much. Monfils won 68 percent of his first serve points against Ebden and was broken only once. I would expect that win rate to be higher against Isner. In the last to wins against Big John, Monfils has averaged right around an 80 percent win rate with his first serve. He has actually out aced Isner 14-13 in those matches, but generally does his damage without getting that many freebies. Isner will have to hope Monfils is off his game some on serve and generally should try to be as aggressive as possible to keep Monfils pinned back to the baseline.

As for Isner’s serve, you will see Monfils set up at least a foot behind the baseline when Isner is prepping for his ball toss. From there, the Frenchman mixed it up in their last meeting. He would move back to the baseline a few times and also stayed set in that deep position as well. Isner was adept at taking the short ball off of any returns that Monfils did not get much on. He moved in well and looked to finish off the rally quickly on the next shot. Isner definitely does not want to get into very many long baseline exchanges with Monfils. We know who plays better defense and we know that a fatigued Isner is a less effective serving Isner.

The Pig-nosticator

Isner’s numbers are a tick below his career averages this season. His win rates on 1st and 2nd serve are at 76 and 54 percent, down two percent in both categories over his career numbers. The biggest difference in his game so far this season has been his inability to save break chances as well as he has in the past. His career average is 70 percent. This season, he’s saving just 52 percent of the break chances against his serve. Monfils converted four of six break chances against Isner and converts at a 46 percent clip this season. Over the past year, he ranks in the top 20 in that category.

Obviously that makes this a not-so-great match-up for Isner with his current struggles. I think if he has any shot to ward off Monfils in this one, it stems from building his confidence with some early success. Isner has lost the first set in all six matches he has played in 2018. He’s only come back the one time against Radu Albot in Delray Beach to capture a win. Isner has also been very poor in tie breaks this season,just 1-5. His career wing percentage in breakers is around 61 percent.

I think it’s a pretty straight forward formula for Monfils. Hold serve and see if Isner cracks under pressure as he has been prone to do this season. Until he proves different, I’d go against Isner avoiding the upset on Sunday.

Prediction: Monfils wins in three sets

2018 BNP Paribas Open Men’s Doubles Preview

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Doubles Race Takes Shape in Indian Wells

The next month is set to shape the doubles race on the ATP World Tour with stops in Indian Wells and Miami. Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic are still atop the rankings with almost a 1500 point cushion. Masters 1000 points could quickly change that or see Marach-Pavic run further away. They head to Indian Wells as the third seeds and making their debut together at the BNP Paribas Open. Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo slot in at #1 in this week’s draw. They lost last year’s Indian Wells final to Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram, who are no longer partnered up. The second seeds are Henri Kontinen and John Peers. Kontinen-Peers has yet to find much luck in 2018 as they come in ranked 21st. Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares round out the top four seeds. They come in fresh of winning the Acapulco titles and will be looking to improve on their semifinal run in 2017.

Rounding out the seeds in this year’s Indian Wells doubles draw are Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut at #5. The French duo won the titles in 2016, but were outsted in round two last year. The sixth seeds are Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau. They are just 2-4 as a tandem at Indian Wells, but did make the quarters last season. They’ve rocketed to fifth in the rankings and come in with the Dubai titles in their pockets. The Bryans come in at #7 as two-time winners here, but haven’t made it past the quarterfinals since winning their last Indian Wells title in 2014. The 8th seeds are Ivan Dodig and Rajeev Ram, a first time pairing at this event. This will be their fourth tournament together in 2018. They have made the semifinals of their last two.

Recent History Shows Top Seeds Struggle

The Bryan Brothers’ last title run at the BNP Paribas Open marks the last time that the top seed has been as far as the semifinals at this event. The top four seeds have had a habit of finding themselves as early upset victims the last few years. Last year, the Bryans were seeded second and lost their opener. In both 2015 and 2016, two of the top four seeds followed suit with round one defeats. Amazingly, if you track all the way back to 2006, there has only been one year where a top four seed has not fallen in their opener.

Let’s take a quick glance at the top four seeds this year and which ones might be in danger of joining that trend. (1) Kubot-Melo will battle Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer in round one. Don’t dismiss the Spaniards as a random pair up, they’ve played together nine times the last two seasons, going 6-3. One of those losses as a straight sets whipping by Kubot-Melo at last year’s event in Halle on grass. Kubot-Melo have cooled off after a hot start, going 2-2 in their last two tournaments. I would not be surprised if they had to work a super tie break to escape round one and RBA-Ferrer certainly are capable of causing an upset.

The second seeds, Kontinen-Peers, will obviously be the ones many are watching and expecting to flop. Since making the Brisbane final, they are 1-2 with stunning losses at the Australian Open to Radu Albot and Hyeon Chung and then last week in their opener in Dubai to Damir Dzumhir and Filip Krajinovic. They draw Adrian Mannarino and Fabrice Martin in round one. The Frenchmen haven’t played together since 2015, but both have experience. Martin is a regular doubles player at the ATP level. Still, even with Kontinen-Peers struggling a bit, this would be a real shocker. I think the seeds fend off the challenge in this spot.

Marach-Pavic arrive as the third seeds with a little of their luster worn off. They have lost two of three since their 17 match winning streak to start the season ended. Neither was a poor loss, but they will want to find that winning feeling again early. They start against Steve Johnson and Daniel Nestor. Johnson-Nestor played once last year and were overwhelmed by Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus in Cincinnati. Nestor has been switching partners about every week with little success at 3-8 this season. It’s difficult to see Johnson-Nestor winning this match against a team with better chemistry.

That leaves us with the fourth seeds, Murray and Soares. They open against the pairing of Philipp Petzschner and Dominic Thiem. Murray-Soares have been pretty consistent at 10-3 in 2018 with two finals appearances out of the four tournaments played. Petzschner and team have never played together, but once upon a time, Petzschner was one of the top doubles players along with Jurgen Melzer before injuries stonewalled Petzschner. The German is a two-time Grand Slam champ, having won the U.S. Open titles with Melzer in 2011 and Wimbledon in 2010. He won his 7th doubles title in Bastad last season alongside Julian Knowle. Thiem hasn’t had a ton of doubles success the last couple of years, but his matches are often very close. This is the one that sticks in my brain as a possibility, even if it seems a bit far fetched.

If I had to rate them in order of best shot at losing round one: I’d go 2-4-1-3.

Doubles Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
(1) Kubot-Melo
(8) Dodig-Ram

Breakdown
There are some dangerous floaters in this section that could definitely help continue the top seed curse. If Kubot-Melo survive Bautista Agut and Ferrer in round one, round two could be just as tough. They play the winners of Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Fernando Verdasco vs John Isner and Jack Sock. Isner-Sock are 11-3 in the last two seasons with a title in Shanghai in 2016 and a finals appearance in Beijing last year. I’d rate them the tougher out of the two. In the bottom of this quarter with Dodig-Ram as the seeds, the winner of an opening round barn burner between Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus vs Juan-Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah loom as big threats.

Klaasen-Venus seem to have finally gelled together after winning the titles in Marseille. They did lose in the quarters in Dubai last week, but are 5-1 in their last six matches after a 2-3 start to their partnership. Cabal-Farah are 9-4 and showed they are hard court threats with their run to the Aussie Open final. They don’t have a ton of experience surprisingly at Indian wells despite their lengthy partnership, so Klaasen-Venus might be the team two watch. Dodig-Ram start against Ben McLachlan and Julio Peralta. Two good doubles players, but they’ve never played together before this week. So edge to Dodig-Ram.

The Pig-nosticator

I think it’s safe bet that one or both of the two seeds here won’t see the quarterfinals. I think Dodig-Ram might actually be the safer shot to squeeze through this quarter. I won’t be surprised at all to see an unseeded team make a run out of this bracket and into the semifinals. An unseeded duo has made the semifinals each of the last four years. Look to the survivor of that Klaasen-Venus v Cabal-Farah match as a good shot to join that club.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(3) Marach-Pavic
(6) Rojer-Tecau

Breakdown
Marach-Pavic should get out of round one against Johnson-Nestor, but round two could have a huge speed bump in their way. Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya look to be the probable team in that spot. Mektic-Peya open with Fabio Fognini and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi. I won’t totally discount an upset there, but chemistry is better with the regular pairing of Mektic-Peya. Mektic-Peya have made two finals this year and beat Marach-Pavic in Acapulco last week. Revenge may be on the minds of the third seeds, but that won’t be an easy match at all.

The bottom half with Rojer-Tecau is interesting. The seeds here come in hot after winning in Dubai, but they haven’t had a ton of success here outside of their 2017 quarterfinal run. They open with a mish mosh pairing of Ryan Harrison and Max Mirnyi. Having lost in the first round two of their last three trips to the desert, watch out for the big serves of Harrison and Mirnyi to potentially add to their wores. The survivor gets either Juan Martin Del Potro and Grigor Dimitrov of the Lopezes, Marc and Feliciano. Team Lopez made the semis in 2016, but lost in round one last year. They lost their opener in two of four tournaments this year and despite the lack of playing together, DelPo and Dimitrov could be tricky.

The Pig-nosticator

Marach-Pavic have the motivation and could get back on a roll if they exact some revenge on Mektic-Peya along the way. Rojer-Tecau could be the sneaky pick here if they avoid the upset in round one. That’s the big question mark for them. Mektic-Peya is the unseeded threat for sure in this quarter.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(4) Murray-Soares
(5) Herbert-Mahut

Breakdown
Murray-Soares have the tougher path to the quarterfinals. If they get out of round one against Petzschner-Thiem, they could face Rohan Bopanna and Eduoard Roger-Vasselin. Bopanna-ERV have yet to break out at 6-6 this season, but they’ve made two semifinals this year and rarely been an easy out. Bopanna-ERV will need to skirt past Gilles Muller and Sam Querrey in round one and that may be a tight match. In the Herbert-Mahut half, the French have Dzumhur-Krajinovic to contend with in round one. Look no further than their win over Kontinen-Peers to show that the French need to be on point from ball one.

The winner of that first rounder gets either Pablo Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos or Nicolas Monroe and Santiago Gonazalez. Cuevas-Zeballos are solid veteran duo with experience and while Monroe and Gonzalez are teaming up for the first time, both are solid doubles guys with track records of winning with multiple partners. Either one could provide a tough test in round two for either Herbert-Mahut or Dzumhur-Krajinovic. This part of the draw could blow wide open if a seed falls early.

The Pig-nosticator

I think this one could fall to a seed vs seed scenario in the quarterfinals. Both teams do have some pitfalls early though. I think Murray-Soares would be the likelier to not get to the quarters because of Bopanna-ERV. That’s my unseeded team to watch in this quarter with Cuevas-Zeballos also a dark horse team.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Kontinen-Peers
(7) Bryans

Breakdown
Kontinen-Peers have a lot to prove during this Indian Wells-Miami swing. They’re off to a sluggish start and this swing has not been good to them during their previous two seasons together. As such, I don’t think they’ll be involved in the mix for a semifinal slot. They may escape round one against Mannarino-Martin. Round two would see either Diego Schwartzman and Marcus Daniell or Philipp Kohlschreiber and Lucas Pouille. Those are mix and match first time teams, but all with players who are pretty decent at doubles. I mean I have a hard time picking a team here to beat Kontinen-Peers based on talent and teamwork, but they just have not found their groove. I’d say IF they get past the French in round one, then perhaps they can work to the quarters.

It’s an all-brothers showdown in round one with the Bryans taking on the Zverevs, Mischa and Alexander. The Bryans got in a nice groove in Acapulco with a finals run and I think that carries over to start this week. A win would then likely get them a date against Pablo Carreno Busta and David Marrero. The Spaniards open against Kyle Edmund and Franko Skugor. PCB-Marrero do have some history together, but their best results have come on clay. Edmund is 1-10 all-time in ATP doubles matches, so even with a good partner like Skugor, tough to see them winning.

The Pig-nosticator

I think this quarter sets up nicely for the Bryans. The intrigue could come if Kontinen-Peers find some rhythm and we get an all-seeded quarterfinal. Kontinen-Peers have owned the Bryans with a 3-0 head-to-head record, including not dropping any sets against the American twins. That would be the big road block for the 7th seeds.

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO ….

Your last three men’s doubles champions have been seeded 6th, 7th and 8th. 2012 was the last time an unseeded pair took home the titles with Marc Lopez and Nicolas Mahut doing the honors in an all-unseeded final against John Isner and Sam Querrey. If there is some unseeded magic this week, I think the mix of potential dark horses include Klaasen-Venus, Cabal-Farah and Mektic-Peya. My brain though is stuck on the Bryans this week, who haven’t won a title since last summer in Atlanta. If a top four seed breaks the curse, Marach-Pavic seem to have the best road in my estimation.

2018 Abierto Mexicano Telcel Preview

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Rafa’s Return Highlights 2018 Field in Acapulco

It’s the fifth year for the Abierto Mexicano Telcel to be contested on hard courts after being played on clay for the first 20 years of its existence. Rafael Nadal is scheduled to return to the court this week after missing about a month due to a hip injury suffered at the Australian Open. I don’t believe Nadal for a minute, when he says he isn’t concentrating on retaking the top spot in the rankings after after Roger Federer scooted past him earlier in the month. I do believe him when he says he is simply focused on this tournament first though. Nadal will also be hoping to gain a bit of revenge for losing last year’s final to Sam Querrey. Rafa is the top seed in what is a very loaded field, maybe more dangerous even with players who are not seeded.

Rounding out the top four are Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Jack Sock. Zverev makes his debut in Acapulco and Sock lost his opener in his lone visit to the tournament last year. Thiem has the most experience of this group with a title here in 2016. Thiem is 7-1 in two trips to Mexico, making the quarterfinals last year. Among the rest of the seeds, it’s 7th seed Sam Querrey who has had a surprisingly good run of luck in Acapulco. The defending champion also made the semis in 2016.

The other players in the seeded field are #5 Kevin Anderson, a finalist in 2014, sixth seed Juan Martin Del Potro and 8th seeded John Isner. Del Potro has never advanced past round two, while Isner is winless in two trips since the tournament flipped to hard courts. Seeds have usually been a big part of the championship mix in Acapulco with Querrey’s title run last year as an unseeded player as the only one since 2014. The top seed has had the most difficult time here with just one finals appearance in four years, a loss by Kei Nishikori in 2015.

Multiple seeds have lost their openers in Acapulco in three of the last four years since the hard court switch. With that to chew on, let’s look at this week’s Eliminati.

ELIMINATI

Ernesto Escobedo
It’s difficult not to put Jack Sock on this list these days. Yes, he did avoid his third straight one and done in Delray Beach last week, but he’s still just 1-3 on the season. Sock has lost his opening match in six of his last eleven tournaments dating back to Cincinnati alst summer. Escobedo shook off a retirement in Delray Beach qualies last week to get through qualifying in Acapulco. This is his third main draw that he has qualified for in 2018 with New York marking his best result as he made round two. They’ve never met, but this might be interesting given Sock’s struggles.

Radu Albot
I think you have to give Albot a slight shot to take down Kevin Anderson in round one. The Moldovian has played some big servers tight this season, beating John Isner once and taking him to three sets last week in Delray Beach. He also lost in three to Jiri Vesely in Auckland earlier in the season. Albot also put together a decent effort in losing in three to Kei Nishikori in New York in the quarterfinals. Anderson might be in better form than all of those combined, coming in off the New York title – but he’s had a difficult time putting opponents away in straight sets. Seven of his nine matches have gone the distance this year.

Ryan Harrison
Harrison draws John Isner who is just 1-4 this season. He did get win #1 last week in Delray Beach. Isner owns a 5-2 advantage in the head-to-head with Harrison, but they have split their only two meetings in the last two years. Four of the five sets played in those matches went to tie breaks, so there is a small margin for error for Isner. Harrison has had problems topping big servers this year with his losses coming to Nick Kyrgios, Marin Cilic, Ivo Karlovic and Reilly Opelka. Something has to give here and considering Isner’s 0-fer in Acapulco, Harrison could fancy his chances to get a rare win over Big John.

Steve Johnson
The American got some much needed wins in Delray Beach last week, making his first ATP semifinal since making the Houston final last April. He opens against Alexander Zverev who was a disappointing round of 16 loser to Andreas Seppi in Rotterdam when was last saw him. Sascha has played just two tournaments this year with the Davis Cup win over Australia arguably being his best tennis this season. Johnson beat Sascha at the Miami Open in 2016 in two tie break sets in their only previous match. The American’s previous experience in this tournament in conditions could be an advantage here, so keep Sascha on upset alert.

Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds 
(1) Rafael Nadal: 4-1 (record in Acapulco on hard court)
(7) Sam Querrey: 9-2

Breakdown
Nadal gets a familiar face to open with Feliciano Lopez. Lopez surprisingly has won their last two meetings, both coming on outdoor hard courts. The last came in 2015 in Cincinnati. Overall, Rafa is 9-4 against Lopez. Lopez is just 1-2 in two trips to Acapulco. Given Rafa’s time off, it’s easy to think Lopez will at least push Nadal in his opener. The winner takes on the survivor between qualifier Alexander Bublik and Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kokkinakis is again an injury question mark after pulling out of the Morelos Challenger in the semifinals due to an ankle injury. That could give the 20-year-old Bublik a chance to score his first ATP level win in 2018. In either case, as long as Rafa shakes off any rust – he looks a good shot for the quarterfinals at minimum.

The bottom half features the defending champ Querrey and he opens against Matthew Ebden. Querrey is 2-0 in his career against the Aussie and should have a shot to get out of the gates with a win. Round two would pit him against either Jared Donaldson or Nikoloz Basilashvili. Donaldson won both meetings with Basilashvili on hard courts last year. The American has dropped his opening match in his last two tournaments however and that makes this close to a 50-50 call. Querrey is a combined 4-0 against Donaldson/Basilashvili and will be confident of beating either one. This quarter could play out to a Nadal-Querrey repeat from 2017.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(4) Jack Sock: 0-1
(5) Kevin Anderson: 7-2

Breakdown
Sock will look to avoid the early upset against Escobedo. The winner gets Hyeon Chung or Donald Young. Chung returned to the court in Delray Beach after recovering from his Australian Open blisters. He made the quarterfinals and will be looking to establish himself more solidly this week. Young lost their only previous encounter on clay and has lost his opener in five of his last six tournaments played. Chung has a legit shot to squeeze through this top portion and be in the quarterfinals. Sock would likely prefer Young whom he has beaten three out of three meetings. He’s never met Sock.

Anderson has Albot first up, who could be a little dangerous. If Anderson shows up motivated as usual though, I think he’ll escape. The winner gets either Adrian Mannarino or qualifier Ricardas Berankis. The two have split four career meetings with Mannarino getting both his wins on outdoor hard courts. As long as Anderson doesn’t get caught flat out of the gates, this should set up to be a winnable quarter for him. The fifth seed is 3-1 against Mannarino and 1-0 against Berankis. I fancy Anderson in this quarter with a look to Chung as the unseeded player who could cause some upsets. An unseeded player has made the semifinals every year that this tournament has been played on hard courts.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(3) Dominic Thiem: 7-1 (W – 2016)
(6) Juan Martin Del Potro: 1-1

Breakdown
This might be the toughest quarter of the tournament with dangerous floaters like Kei Nishikori, Denis Shapovalov, David Ferrer and Andrey Rublev. An earlier than expected loss for Thiem in Rio last week might be good for him this week. The Austrian won the title here in 2016 and made the quarters last year. His first round match against qualifier Cameron Norrie is likely to afford him a winning start. Round two will be very tough against either Nishikori or Shapovalov. This is a great litmus test for Nishikori with the young Canadian with the potential to push him.

The other half features Del Potro who lost to Frances Tiafoe during Big Foe’s 1st ATP title run in Delray Beach. DelPo didn’t look top notch, so he will need to improve this week if he’s going to be a factor. He opens against Mischa Zverev, who has lost six of eight this year. The winner gets either David Ferrer or Andrey Rublev. The “random” draw pits those two against each other for the second time this year. The Russian beat Ferrer in five sets at the Australian Open. Ferrer has struggled for wins with four straight losses. The Spaniard has dropped his opener in three straight tournaments.

I think all eyes should be on Nishikori this week. He does have a tough path, but he’s 2-0 against Thiem and has beaten Del Potro in two of their last three meetings. He needs a quick start against Shapovalov, but could curry that win into a nice run. DelPo is the other guy I like here.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Alexander Zverev: 0-0
(8) John Isner: 0-2

Breakdown
This quarter could get blown up early. Zverev opens with Steve Johnson who is coming off his best run in nearly a year. Sascha hasn’t played a ton of tournament tennis this year and this is his Acapulco debut. There’s a possibility that he could be out early. Either way, the winner of this first round match will be in decent shape in round two. Delray Beach runner-up Peter Gojowczyk or wild card Lucas Gomez is the foe. Gojo will have to contend with the championship loss hangover. Gomez is a 22-year old Mexican who is just 1-9 all-time as this level. He may not be the one to KO Gojo, but you’d fancy Sascha or Stevie J to make the quarters in this spot.

The other half is led by John Isner. I laid it out in the Eliminati that Ryan Harrison has every reason to feel like he can beat Isner in round one, despite the lopsided head-to-head. The survivor of that All-American first rounder gets the survivor of the Rio title rematch with Diego Schwartzman and Fernando Verdasco playing again in round one. It is often difficult to repeat success against the same opponent, but Verdasco had a long week playing singles and doubles. Diego should parlay that Rio title into at least an opening round win and this quarter could actually open up for him if he can keep the ball rolling.

The Pig-nosticator

Each tournament previewed, the Pig-nosticator will list out @tennispig‘s picks to sizzle and fizzle for the week. Don’t forget that if something you peruse through in the preview provides you with something helpful – a visit to the Tip Jar would be kindly appreciated.

Sizzle
Kei Nishikori
Kevin Anderson

Fizzle
Alexander Zverev
John Isner

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …

You always have to believe that a healthy Rafael Nadal is in it to win it, but this is a stacked field with Rafa coming off a month without playing a competitive match. I’ll look elsewhere for the champ this week considering the top seed’s troubles in even getting to the final since Acapulco went to hard courts. Anderson seems logical as an option given good form and good history here. Keep eyes out for both Kei Nishikori and Hyeon Chung among the unseeded players. Both appear healthy and Nishikori especially seems like it’s just a matter of time before he gets back into the title mix.

Doubles Draw Preview

Seeds
1. Kubot-Melo: 0-1
2. Marach-Pavic: 0-0
3. Murray-Soares: 4-0 (W – 2017)
4. Bryans: 0-0

Top Half Breakdown
Kubot-Melo and the Bryans lead the top half. Since making the Aussie Open quarterfinals, Kubot and Melo have not won back-to-back matches in either Rotterdam or Rio. They have a potential landmine in the opening round with Americans Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock as their opponents. Sock teamed up with Jackson Withrow to take home the doubles crowns in Delray Beach last week. Harrison-Sock have teamed up seven times before, but not since 2014. You would expect the chemistry of Kubot-Melo to win out, but this won’t be easy. The winner gets the survivor between Alexander Sascha Zverev battling Marc and Feliciano Lopez. The Zverevs are 0-1 this year, while Team Lopez is 1-3 this year. Kubot-Melo really need to turn up here and make a run in with a winnable draw.

The other half with the Bryans will see the American twins battle Fabrice Martin and Franko Skugor. Chemistry again could be a key here with Martin-Skugor not havinh paired up since 2013. The Bryans are only 1-2 since the Australian Open, so they need to get going quick in round one. If they win, they get a shot against either Santiago Gonzalez and Julio Peralta or Rio champions David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco. The Spanish duo beat them last week in Rio in a super tie break. On hard courts, it will be interesting to see if the result is reversed. This could fall to the seeds, but keep an eye on the Marrero-Verdasco v Gonzalez-Peralta winner as a dark horse.

Bottom Half Breakdown
Marach-Pavic return to the court for the first time since suffering loss #1 of 2018 in the Rotterdam final to Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. Outside of that loss, it’s been a blistering start to the year for the top ranked pair who have made the final of all three tournaments they have played – winning two titles. They open against qualifiers, so they should get through to the quarterfinls. There, they will face either Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya or wild cards Marcelo Arevalo and Miguel Angel Reyes Varela. Mektic-Peya have made the finals in two of their last three tournaments and will be the tougher out.

Murray-Soares come back to Acapulco as the defending champions and off a semifinal showing in Rio last week. Their opener comes against the mish mosh pairing of Hyeon Chung and Denis Shapovalov. The winner gets either Ben McLachlan and Nicholas Monroe or Marcelo Demoliner and Sam Querrey. McLachlan has continued his solid doubles play that we saw in Melbourne, but it’s been with Hugo Nys. Switching partners to Monroe will challenge him to find some quick chemistry. If they do, they could be a sleeper team to watch. Otherwise, this could wind up being Murray-Soares vs Marach-Pavic in the semifinals. Marach-Pavic have a win over them already this season.

The Pig-nosticator

Sizzle
Marach-Pavic
Kubot-Melo

Fizzle
Bryans

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …

The bottom half of this draw looks as if it could produce the champion this week. The two seeded pairs in Marach-Pavic and Murray-Soares have form and history here to make deep runs possible. If you’re looking for an unseeded duo to join the lengthy history of unseeded duos doing work here – look to Marrero-Verdasco and perhaps McLachlan-Monroe. This is a chance for a team to grab momentum heading into the Indian Wells-Miami double in March. Kubot-Melo got hot in that stretch last year and have the draw to get through in Acapulco. I do think this one falls to one of the seeds. I’d love to see another Kubot-Melo vs Marach-Pavic showdown.