John Isner v Juan Martin Del Potro – ATP Stockholm
There should be plenty of big serving on display in this match between John Isner and Juan Martin Del Potro but I am a little surprised the latter is such a strong favourite. He did win the first four matches played between them, but it is John Isner who has managed to battle through in the last two matches.
There hasn’t been too many sightings of Isner on the Tour since the US Open and his sole match since then was a one sided loss to Alexander Zverev. 2016 has perhaps not been as productive a season as Isner would have liked, but I do wonder if his opponent Del Potro has much left in the tank after playing as many matches as he has on his return from injury.
He looked a little tired in his defeat in Shanghai last week, but Del Potro will at least know he won’t be involved in long rallies in this one that might sap energy. Instead he has to show his mental strength in a match where John Isner is going to be tough to break even if his serving has been below par in the last six weeks.
Tie-breakers look to be the order of the day with Isner and Del Potro in the match and I do think the American might have the mental edge having won the last two times these players have met on the Tour. I am a little bothered that Isner has barely played any tennis since early September, but Del Potro might already be looking towards 2017 and being able to recover both physically and mentally from a tough 2016. I’ll take the games with Isner in this one and look for him to keep it competitive if not win outright.
It is very difficult to trust Grigor Dimitrov to perform as you would expect when you see the form he has produced over the last two years. His straight sets loss to Daniel Evans last week in Washington was yet another shot to the confidence which has already been severely dented over the last few months.
Despite the disappointing manner of that loss, Dimitrov has played his best tennis on the hard courts and this is a First Round match I fully expect him to win.
Yuichi Sugita is still outside the top 100 in the World Rankings and he is a player that spends almost his entire year off the main Tour. He has only reached a couple of Quarter Finals on the hard courts at the Challenger level and his defeats tend to be a little one sided as he is not blessed with the biggest serve and is forced to work hard for every point he earns in a match.
That can be difficult on the faster surfaces where it can be tough to recover breaks of serve that the Sugita game has to expect to face. I do think Sugita might find himself having some chances to break too with the way Dimitrov’s confidence has been reduced, but I have to think the latter is still good enough to win a match like this with room to spare.
I believe Dimitrov can come through a couple of awkward moments to win this match 63, 64 and move into the Second Round in Toronto.
The manner in which John Isner was beaten last week in Washington will bother the American who was looking to win the title there as the Number 1 Seed. He will be looking to bounce back in Toronto with a strong run on another North American hard court as he faces Dudi Sela in the First Round.
On first glance this looks a big number for Isner to cover considering his limited return game, especially if Sela is mentally focused when the scoreboard pressure is on him. The one issue for Sela is that his serve can be a weakness and Isner is going to be aggressive and look to swing out on the return of serve, especially on any second serves he sees.
The Isner serve is always going to be a big weapon on the faster surfaces and he has changed his tact by throwing in a serve and volley to disrupt opponents returns. It is a good idea as Isner’s volleying isn’t too bad and I can see him use a chip and charge on the return to put more pressure on Sela to find the passing shots consistently.
Sela has not been able to take his form on the hard courts at Challenger level onto the main Tour and I am backing Isner to cover this number in a 63, 64 win in the First Round.
This might be the seventh meeting between two Americans Jack Sock and Denis Kudla, but the former is certainly looking like a player that is moving in a positive direction in the World Rankings. Jack Sock was an unfortunate Quarter Final loser in Washington last week, but he looked much better than Denis Kudla who was beaten by John Millman 75, 60.
Last year Sock and Kudla did split two matches, but I think the confidence levels are much different going into this match. Kudla has failed to win any of his last five matches and he is just 5-9 on the hard courts over 2016 in both main Tour and Challenger events.
Kudla does have a half decent game behind him, but it is one that can quickly fall apart if he is not feeling the ball as well as he can. His serve will give Sock something to work out, but you have to believe the latter is going to be the better player in the rallies and has the forehand to really hurt Kudla.
It has to be a strong serving day from Sock to keep the pressure on Kudla, but he was serving very well in Washington last week and I expect that to continue. The hard courts should be the perfect surface for Sock who can beat his compatriot 64, 63 to move through to the Second Round.
It isn’t easy to always predict what we are going to see when these two players head to the court and the wind in Acapulco has been another issue. That hasn’t affected these players though as they use plenty of slice and variation to put opponents in awkward spots on the court and I am interested to see how it develops.
The edge goes to Alexandr Dolgopolov for me because I think he has recorded the more impressive wins this week and looks to be in the stronger form. Bernard Tomic fans might point out that he has yet to drop a set but I think he has had the more straight-forward draw and a better player than Illya Marchenko would have given him big problems on Thursday.
Dolgopolov is a better player and looks to be playing the more secure tennis and I think he will find himself in the Final after a three set win. It could easily end up a score similar to 26, 63, 62 in this one and I think the Ukrainian will head through.