ANOTHER winning week for tennis analyst Gavin Mair (@gavinnightmair) last week. He's back to look at this week's Acapulco event.
ATP Acapulco | 27th Feb – 3rd March 2017
Last week Delray Beach delivered the dream outcome as both of my selections reached the final. Unfortunately, the player I expected to win – Milos Raonic – was unable to contest the championship match as he was forced to withdraw due to injury. However, that meant WeLoveBetting followers received a bigger return as the longer odds Jack Sock claimed the title.
This week 500 ranking points are up for grabs in Acapulco, which features six of the world’s top ten players, a couple of whom go back on tour for the first time since Australia.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal play their first tournament since the first Grand Slam of the season, which ended in contrasting fortunes for two of the ATP’s ‘Big Four’. Nadal has never lost a match in Acapulco and arrives here on the back of an unexpected final appearance in Melbourne.
Djokovic on the other hand completely underwhelmed as he has done for most of the last half year, losing early to a surprisingly competent Denis Istomin.
Whilst Novak is clearly demonstrating a major loss in form, there is something to be said for the playing conditions Down Under this year that were akin to Cincinnati, an event where the Serbian has never excelled. If Novak were to design his dream court he would very likely choose a slow, high-bouncing hard court – and that is exactly what awaits him in Mexico.
In 2014 Acapulco tournament organisers altered the playing surface from clay to hard in an effort to attract elite players that understandably weren’t so keen in putting on their clay court shoes a couple of months early.
Since then, Acapulco champions include David Ferrer, Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem – all of whom have styles tailor made for slower terrain. Let’s have a look at the draw and analyse the contenders.
After the draw was made, social media commentators decreed that Novak Djokovic had received a nightmare route to the title. I disagree. The hardest match before the final will almost certainly be against Juan Martin del Potro who arguably started the downfall of Djokovic with an unexpected victory at the Olympics that caused a heavy amount of emotional grief for the Serbian.
In that match Del Po edged past Djokovic by producing a tough performance, but in their career meetings to date it has been Novak that has had the upper hand winning 11 of their 15 matches. Djokovic will certainly be fired up for that one, and I am unconvinced that del Potrowill be ready to deliver that peak level so early into his 2017 season.
Beyond the two star names in this quarter lie the two bad boys of tennis – Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios. The former plays very well in Acapulco reaching a Quarter-final and Final on his two previous ventures. However, anybody who watched him tanking in Delray Beach last week will understand exactly why they shouldn’t put a great deal of faith in Tomic bettering an army of higher ranked players this week.
His compatriot Kyrgios is another player capable of doing great damage when in the mood. His results to date this year have underwhelmed, but he has excelled in 500 level tournaments before. It’s hard to trust his attitude, and after flying to Mexico from Marseille where he failed to retain a title in slick conditions perfect for his playing style I believe that it is a stretch to expect him to better Djokovic here.
Defending champion Dominic Thiem heads to Acapulco after scoring victory last week on the clay courts of Rio de Janeiro. However, every discussion of the Austrian at the moment is prefaced with a note about his scheduling practices. Whilst I tend to side with the opinion thatunconventional scheduling can have a positive effect on his future, it is hard to argue that view this week.
Two weeks ago Thiem made the last eight on indoor courts in Rotterdam. Last week it was a title run on clay in Rio. This week it’s outdoor hard court. As the reigning champion it is understandable that Thiem is here, but the back to back 96 player tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami should take precedent for most top players.
David Goffin carries the other seeding in this section and he smartly took a week off after back-to-back finals on the European indoor circuit. The Belgian is very consistent, and should be the favourite to advance from this quarter.
His first round opponent is 2016 semifinalist Sam Querrey, but his form is poor including in the US where he shows his best stuff. Goffin has won both their previous meetings and looks a nightmare match-up for Querrey. Whilst Goffin is consistent he is powerless to upset the established elite players.
I was in Rotterdam a couple of weeks ago and was impressed with how 3rd seed Marin Cilic performed, even though he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Croatian gets a lot more balls back into court than you would expect a giant to make. However, he looked badly lacking in confidence succumbing to his French opponent more due to what was in his head, than his racquet.
Cilic has started his season with a number of events where he has a poor results history. Acapulco is no exception having fallen in the first round last season. Unfortunately for Marin his first round opponent, Alexandr Dolgopolov, has a great record at this event, with two semi-finals and a quarter-final in the past three years – albeit in less competitive fields.
Dolgopolov lifted a title a couple of weeks back and will be difficult for Cilic to beat if his confidence is still absent. Steve Johnson defeated the other seed in this section, John Isner. Whilst that is a commendable victory I can’t find a great deal of evidence to support Johnson having a great week.
Delray Beach champ Jack Sock lines up in the same section that contains Rafael Nadal. Both players have won over 80% of their matches this season and are understandably the players to stop this week.
I am hesitant to suggest that Nadal is back to his best despite his runner up finish in Australia, but I still favour him to do well this week. Beyond Sock there is nobody to worry about for Rafa and I don’t see him falling at the hands of the American even though he has two titles on his resume this season.
ATP Acapulco – Novak Djokovic to win (13/8 Betfair)