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Tennis News: Ricky’s picks for the Atlanta Open: Former champs Isner, Kyrgios, and de Minaur all playing

John Isner is a towering presence in Atlanta. EPA-EFE/DAVID GUZMAN GONZALEZ

By Ricky Dimon

Although Newport is officially part of the U.S. Open Series, the summer action really gets underway at the Atlanta Open–the first hard-court tournament in the buildup to the year’s fourth and final Grand Slam. With the U.S. Open a little more than a month away, American players are especially eager to fine-tune their games for their home slam. Thirteen of the 28 participants in the main draw hail from the host nation, led by top seed Reilly Opelka and six-time champion John Isner. There are also a whopping seven Australians, including Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios and 2019 Atlanta winner Alex de Minaur.

Atlanta Open

Where: Atlanta, Georgia
Points: 250
Top seed: Reilly Opelka
Defending champion: John Isner

This might as well be the John Isner Invitational. In 11 previous installments of the Atlanta tournament, Isner has taken the title six times and has played in the final on nine occasions. Kyrgios, de Minaur, Mardy Fish (twice), and Andy Roddick are the only other players who have ever won it. That means just three active players have lifted the Atlanta trophy and all three are in the field again this year. Isner has a favorable draw at the bottom of the bracket away from Opelka (who beat him early in the 2019 event), Kyrgios, and de Minaur. Potential semifinal opponents for the 37-year-old American are Frances Tiafoe, Brandon Nakashima, and Sebastian Korda. Tiafoe has never played well in Atlanta and Korda has been out for a month with shin splints, so the door could be open for an Isner-Nakashima showdown in what would be a rematch of last summer’s final.

Kyrgios and de Minaur are on a collision course for the quarterfinals in the toughest section of the draw. However, Kyrgios will likely have a different all-Aussie affair on his hands prior to facing de Minaur. If both Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis take care of business in their respective openers, the Australian Open doubles champions will go head-to-head in round two. Meanwhile, the top-seeded Opelka is in lackluster form—and that may be putting it generously—so the winner of the Tommy Paul vs. Jack Sock first-round battle might be able to steal that semifinal spot.

Quarterfinal picks: Tommy Paul over Ilya Ivashka, Alex de Minaur over Thanasi Kokkinakis, Brandon Nakashima over Frances Tiafoe, and John Isner over Mackenzie McDonald

Semifinals: De Minaur over Paul and Isner over Nakashima

Final: Isner over de Minaur

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