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Ricky’s Preview and Picks for this Week’s ATP Tennis 500-Point Events in Dubai and Acapulco

An aerial view taken with a drone of the venue for the Mexican Tennis Open in Acapulco, Mexico, 14 March 2021. The ATP 500 tournament takes place from 13 to 20 March 2021. EPA-EFE/David Guzmán


By Ricky Dimon


The Indian Wells Masters world normally be in full force this week of the year, but the alternative in 2021 is not too bad. A pair of 500-point tournaments have been postponed from February to March, and they will take center stage now. Although the Dubai field is missing Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, among those taking part are Dominic Thiem and Andrey Rublev. In Acapulco, title contenders include Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Where: Dubai, U.A.E.
Surface: Hard
Points: 500
Prize money
: $1,897,805

Top seed: Dominic Thiem
2020 champion: Novak Djokovic (not playing)

Draw analysis: Federer’s withdrawal means Rublev is the No. 2 seed in Dubai and on a collision course with Thiem for the title match. Of course, both players have a long way to go before they can start thinking about that potential matchup. Neither one has a particularly difficult draw, but two other Doha semifinalists are in his eighth of the bracket. Taylor Fritz and Doha champion Nikoloz Basilashvili will meet again, this time in the Dubai second round following respective byes. The winner could run into Rublev in the last 16. There is plenty of depth in the other quarter of the bottom half even though Stan Wawrinka pulled out. Semifinal contenders in that section are Roberto Bautista Agut, Dan Evans, Jannik Sinner, Aslan Karatsev, and Alexander Bublik.

Thiem will kick off his campaign against one of two qualifiers (Lloyd Harris or Christopher O’Connell) before possibly meeting Filip Krajinovic. David Goffin, Borna Coric, and Kei Nishikori are potential quarterfinal foes for the top-seeded Austrian. Elsewhere in the top half, seeds Karen Khachanov and Alex de Minaur have tough respective opening matches on their hands with Alexei Popyrin and Jeremy Chardy.

Quarterfinal predictions: David Goffin over Dominic Thiem, Alex de Minaur over Hubert Hurkacz, Roberto Bautista Agut over Dan Evans, and Andrey Rublev over Marton Fucsovics

Semifinals: Goffin over de Minaur and Rublev over Bautista Agut

Final: Rublev over Goffin. 

Andrey Rublev of Russia reacts after winning the final of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament against Marton Fucsovics of Hungary in Rotterdam, Netherlands, 07 March 2021. EPA-EFE/Koen Suyk

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Abierto Mexicano Telcel

Where: Acapulco, Mexico
Surface: Hard
Points
: 500
Prize money: $1,053,560

Top seed: Stefanos Tsitsipas
2020 champion: Rafael Nadal (not playing)

Draw analysis: To say that Tsitsipas has an interesting draw would a gross understatement. It starts off incredibly favorable in the form of Benoit Paire and then gets much, much tougher in a big, big hurry. John Isner, for whom conditions in Acapulco are just about ideal, is a possible second-round opponent for Tsitsipas. The top-seeded Greek is 2-2 lifetime against Isner and he has the same record on the main tour (far worse overall) against Auger-Aliassime, which could be a quarterfinal matchup in Acapulco. Diego Schwartzman and Grigor Dimitrov are also in the top half of the bracket.

The other side is nowhere near as deep, which is good news for Zverev and Milos Raonic. Zverev does, however, have an interesting first-rounder against 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz—who is already making a push for the top 100. Assuming the German can take care of business and Raonic can get past Tommy Paul in round one, those two big hitters should be well on their way to the semis.

Quarterfinal predictions: John Isner over Felix Auger-Aliassime, Diego Schwartzman over Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic over Fabio Fognini, and Alexander Zverev over Casper Ruud

Semifinals: Schwartzman over Isner and Raonic over Zverev

Final: Raonic over Schwartzman

Milos Raonic of Canada in action during his men’s singles fourth round match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, 14 February 2021. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

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