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Ricky’s Tennis Preview and picks for the Antwerp first round: Tiafoe vs. Murray and Opelka vs. Brooksby

Andy Murray takes on Frances Tiafoe in Antwerp. EPA-EFE/RAY ACEVEDO.

By Ricky Dimon

A blockbuster matchup in the Antwerp first round will take place on Tuesday, when Frances Tiafoe goes up against Andy Murray. Meanwhile, an all-American affair features Reilly Opelka and qualifier Jenson Brooksby.

Ricky previews the two matches and makes his picks.

Frances Tiafoe vs. (WC) Andy Murray

Tiafoe and Murray will be squaring off for the third time in their careers when they meet again in round one of the European Open on Tuesday. They have split their two previous encounters; Murray prevailed 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-1 last summer at the Cincinnati Masters before Tiafoe got the job done 7-6(4), 6-3 a couple of months ago in Winston-Salem.

Who will have the upper hand this time around? It’s actually Murray who is more the reliable player at the moment and in this situation. Tiafoe’s upside on any given day is higher, but the 48th-ranked American generally does his best work at home on outdoor hard courts–not indoors in Europe. In fact, indoor hard is the only surface on which he does not have a winning record in his career. Murray is playing well right now, is feeling good physically, and Antwerp (2019) is the scene of his only ATP title since February of 2017. This event should set up the 34-year-old Scot nicely to take some momentum with him into 2022.

Pick: Murray in 2

Jenson Brooksby faces fellow American Reilly Opelka. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

(5) Reilly Opelka vs. (Q) Jenson Brooksby

At No. 70 in the world, Brooksby won’t have to qualifier for ATP 250s much longer–perhaps not ever again. But he did this week in Antwerp, and the 20-year-old had no trouble doing so successfully at the expense of Michael Geerts and Norbert Gombos. Thus continues a great run of form for Brooksby, who wrapped up his summer with a fourth-round performance at the U.S. Open following a runner-up finish in Newport and a semifinal showing in Washington, D.C.

Up next for the California native is Opelka, who is also coming down the stretch of his best season on tour. However, the 25th-ranked American has cooled off a bit since reaching the Toronto Masters final. He has played only two indoor hard-court matches in 2021 (that’s even if you include the Laver Cup) and has lost both of them. With two matches already under his belt in Antwerp, a confident Brooksby may be poised for an upset.

Pick: Brooksby in 3

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.