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Ricky’s ATP Tennis Previews And Picks For This Week’s Events With RAFA in Acapulco,Dubai, and Sao Paulo

Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal participates in an exhibition match during the Acapulco Open tennis tournament in Acapulco, Mexico, 25 February 2018. EPA-EFE/JOSE MENDEZ



By Ricky Dimon


Rarely is Dubai overshadowed by anything going on at the same time, but that will certainly be the case this time around. February’s final week features Acapulco as the best of the trio—and it isn’t even close. Rafael Nadal is back from the hip injury that he suffered at the Australian and he is joined in the Acapulco field by Dominic Thiem. Alexander Zverev, and Juan Martin Del Potro. Grigor Dimitrov headlines a relatively grim field by Dubai’s lofty standards, while the Golden Swing concludes in unceremonious fashion in Sao Paulo.



Abierto Mexicano Telcel


Where: Acapulco, Mexico

Surface: Hard

Points: 500

Top seed: Rafael Nadal


Nadal has fallen to No. 2 in the world behind Roger Federer, but that is just about where the bad news ends for the Spaniard. The good news is that he has apparently recovered from his hip issue and is ready to take the court for the first time since retiring against Marin Cilic in the Australian Open quarters. What looks like a friendly draw starts with a showdown against compatriot Feliciano Lopez in the opening round followed by either Thanasi Kokkinakis or a qualifier. Nadal could then get a shot at revenge on Sam Querrey in the quarters (Querrey’s amazing run to the 2017 title saw him upset David Goffin, Thiem, Nick Kyrgios, and Nadal). Also in the top half of this draw are Jack Sock, New York champion Kevin Anderson, and Australian Open semifinalist Hyeon Chung.


Whoever emerges from the third section to reach the Acapulco semifinals will probably deserve a trophy even if he does not go on to win the title. It is home to Thiem, Del Potro, Kei Nishikori, Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov, and David Ferrer. Nishikori and Shapovalov are going head-to-head in round one, with the winner likely to meet Thiem. Another blockbuster first-rounder pits Rublev against Ferrer, with the winner likely to face Del Potro. At the bottom of the draw, Diego Schwartzman (Rio winner), Fernando Verdasco (Rio runner-up), and Peter Gojowyczk (Delray Beach runner-up) are all making quick turnarounds on the heels of long and successful weeks. A more rested Zverev may be able to take advantage.


Quarterfinal picks: Rafael Nadal over Jared Donaldson, Kevin Anderson over Jack Sock, Andrey Rublev over Kei Nishikori, and Alexander Zverev over Ryan Harrison

Semifinals: Anderson over Nadal and Rublev over Zverev

Final: Anderson over Rublev



Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships


Where: Dubai, U.A.E.

Surface: Hard

Points: 500

Top seed: Grigor Dimitrov


Andy Murray (injured), Novak Djokovic (injured), and Roger Federer (already back at No. 1) are Dubai mainstays who are now on the sideline. That leaves the top-seeded Dimitrov as the clear title favorite. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals winner is 10-3 this season with a semifinal performance in Brisbane, a quarterfinal result at the Australian Open, and a runner-up finish in Rotterdam (fell to Federer). Dimitrov should not have much trouble until facing either Roberto Bautista Agut or Richard Gasquet in the semifinals, but possible quarterfinal opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber is dangerous whenever he is at his best.


A weaker bottom half of the bracket is completely wide open. Lucas Pouille is the only one of the four seeds in particularly good form these days and he has already endured a long February with a title in Montpellier and a runner-up showing in Marseille. Fatigue will surely be a factor for the Frenchman. Marseille champ Karen Khachanov may be running on fumes, too, so an opportunity could await Evgeny Donskoy—who shocked Federer last year in Dubai.


Quarterfinal picks: Grigor Dimitrov over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Richard Gasquet over Joao Sousa, Filip Krajinovic over Evgeny Donskoy, and Jan-Lennard Struff over Karen Khachanov

Semifinals: Dimitrov over Gasquet and Krajinovic over Struff

Final: Dimitrov over Krajinovic



Brasil Open


Where: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Surface: Clay

Points: 250

Top seed: Albert Ramos-Vinolas


Thiem, Schwartzman, and Verdasco are all back on hard courts prior to Indian Wells and Miami. That is bad news for Sao Paulo tournament organizers; it is good news for everyone else playing in Sao Paulo. It may be an especially notable development for Cuevas, who is the three-time defending champion and he should have a great chance of making it four straight—and keeping his 250 points—even though is current form is questionable. With the likes of Thiem, Schwartzman, and Verdasco absent, things are already looking good for the 33rd-ranked Uruguayan. He also has a favorable draw, with Fabio Fognini, Leonardo Mayer, and Federico Delbonis perhaps the only danger in the bottom half.


The Brazilian crowd will be entertained by the other side of the draw, where Thomaz Bellucci, Thiago Monteiro, and Guilherme Clezar are all playing. Monteiro and Clezar have to go head-to-head in the first round, with the winner earning a matchup with top-seeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Coming off respective Rio de Janeiro collapses against Fognini and Gael Monfils, Bellucci and Horacio Zeballos are set for an all-lefty affair in round one. The winner will meet none other than Monfils for a place in the quarters.


Semifinal picks: Albert Ramos-Vinolas over Nicolas Kicker and Pablo Cuevas over Federico Delbonis

Final: Cuevas over Ramos-Vinolas


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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