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Ricky’s Tennis Preview and Picks for Thursday in Atlanta: Isner, Sinner, Kyrgios, and More

By Ricky Dimon

How good is this for the second round of a 250 event–especially in the middle of the Olympics? For people who truly appreciate tennis, at least, this is pretty darn good.

Nick Kyrgios. John Isner. Jannik Sinner. Jack Sock. A red-hot Cameron Norrie…. All of them are taking the court for round two at the Truist Atlanta Open on Thursday. It will be Isner vs. Sock and Kyrgios vs. Norrie at night, preceded by Sinner during the afternoon session. And, oh yeah, Benoit Paire is also in action. Sure Paire probably doesn’t mean great tennis, but it does mean high entertainment value.

Ricky previews three of the matches and makes his predictions.

(6) John Isner vs. (WC) Jack Sock

Isner and Sock will be facing each other for the ninth time in their careers. The head-to-head series stands at 8-5 in favor of Isner, who won their only previous Atlanta encounter 7-5, 6-4 in the 2014 semifinals. They last met on the indoor hard courts of Paris in 2017, when Isner got the job done 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-4.

As Sock knows from first-hand experience, Atlanta is the last place anyone would want to see Isner on the other side of the net. In 10 previous installments of this event he has reached the final eight times and won five titles. Isner improved to 32-5 lifetime here after beating J.J. Wolf 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4 in round one. Struggling with injuries, Sock is ranked outside of the top 100 and had not played a hard-court match on the main tour since the 2020 U.S. Open prior to this week. The world No. 201 managed to outlast Ricardas Berankis 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5 in two hours and 49 minutes on Tuesday night. With Sock still rusty and Isner playing on what is basically his favorite court, you have to go with the No. 6 seed.

Pick: Isner in 2

John Isner of the US in action against J. J. Wolf of the US during their Men’s singles first round match of the Truist Atlanta Open men’s ATP tennis tournament at Atlantic Station in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 27 July 2021. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER

Nick Kyrgios vs. (3) Cameron Norrie

It will be a tale of two players with much different fortunes in 2021 when Kyrgios and Norrie collide on Wednesday. Opting to stay at home in Australia instead of traveling on tour during the Covid-19 pandemic, Kyrgios had played only three tournaments this year–and also just three since February of 2020–prior to arriving in Atlanta. As such, he finds himself down at No. 58 in the rankings.

When he actually plays, however, Kyrgios has been decent. The 26-year-old advanced two rounds in each of his first three appearances this season–including at Wimbledon before being forced to retire against Felix Auger-Aliassime. Healthy a few weeks later and playing at one of his favorite tournaments, Kyrgios defeated recent Newport champion Kevin Anderson 7-6(4), 6-3 on Tuesday night.

Norrie has compiled an incredible 35-14 match record in 2021 with his first title last week in Los Cabos, runner-up performances in Estoril, Lyon, and at Queen’s Club, and third-round results at each of the three Grand Slams. The 25-year-old Brit beat Kyrgios via retirement at this same Atlanta tournament in 2018, but the tide turned at the 2020 ATP Cup when the Aussie cruised 6-2, 6-2. With Kyrgios more rested and looking motivated this week, this is going to be a tough proposition for the No. 3 seed. Expect a high-quality contest, with favorable conditions for Kyrgios’ big-hitting game proving to be the difference.

Pick: Kyrgios in 3

Nick Kyrgios of Australia in action against Kevin Anderson of South Africa during a men’s singles first round match of the Truist Atlanta Open men’s ATP tennis tournament at Atlantic Station in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 27 July 2021. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER

Emil Ruusuvuori vs. Benoit Paire

Winning matches has been a rarity for Paire in 2021, but he is looking at least somewhat motivated in Atlanta. The 49th-ranked Frenchman, who entered this week with a 6-19 record for the year, held off Yasutaka Uchiyama 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-4 on Tuesday. He also won his first-round doubles match on Wednesday, teaming up with Treat Huey.

Still, you never know what you are going to get from Paire on any given day and Ruusuvuori represents a considerable step up in competition from Uchiyama. The 22-year-old Finn has earned exactly half of his 22 career main-tour match victories in 2021, including a 7-6(3), 7-5 defeat of Mackenzie McDonald on Tuesday. Asking Paire to string together two respectable performances back-to-back is probably too much, especially with Ruusuvuori in fine form.

Pick: Ruusuvuori in 2

Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland in action against Mackenzie McDonald of the US during a menÕs singles first round match of the Truist Atlanta Open men’s ATP tennis tournament at Atlantic Station in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 27 July 2021. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER

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