10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

Ricky’s picks for this week’s ATP events in Dubai, Acapulco, and Santiago

The long slog that is the February swing on the ATP Tour is finally coming to an end, but it is going out with a bang. A pair of 500-point tournaments are on this week’s schedule, with Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev, and Andy Murray taking the court. Djokovic, Medvedev, and Murray headline the Dubai field along with Andrey Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Hubert Hurkacz. Alcaraz is joined in Acapulco by Casper Ruud, Taylor Fritz, and Holger Rune. Meanwhile, the Golden Swing wraps up in Santiago. 

Here are my previews and picks for this week’s ATP tournaments.

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Where: Dubai, U.A.E. 
Surface: Hard 
Points: 500 
Prize money: $2,855,495 

Top seed: Novak Djokovic 
Defending champion: Andrey Rublev 

This is Djokovic’s first appearance since the Australian Open and it will probably be his last until the clay-court swing. Indian Wells and Miami are once again a no-go for the unvaccinated Serb barring a last-minute miracle, so he can empty the tank in Dubai before taking more than a month off in advance of the Monte-Carlo Masters. Djokovic is 43-7 lifetime in Dubai with five titles, so based on both past history and current form you have to like his chances this week. Being in the same half of the draw as Medvedev could end up being tough in the semifinals, but the Russian will surely be at least somewhat fatigued following back-to-back titles in Rotterdam and Doha. 

The bottom half of the Dubai draw is where everyone wants to find themselves. No Djokovic. No Medvedev. Even Murray (runner-up in Doha) and Hurkacz (champion in Marseille) are in the top half. That means the door is open for Jiri Lehecka to make another run, or Rublev and Felix Auger-Aliassime can get back on track. 

Quarterfinal picks: Novak Djokovic over Andy Murray, Daniil Medvedev over Dan Evans, Felix Auger-Aliassime over Jiri Lehecka, Karen Khachanov over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 

Semifinals: Djokovic over Medvedev and Auger-Aliassime over Khachanov 

Final: Djokovic over Auger-Aliassime 

Abierto Mexicano Telcel

Where: Acapulco, Mexico 
Surface: Hard 
Points: 500 
Prize money: $2,013,940 
Top seed: Carlos Alcaraz 
2022 champion: Rafael Nadal (not playing) 

Alcaraz will probably withdraw. If not, I expect him to lose early. Playing back-to-back finals on clay (Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro) is tough enough even at 100 percent, but when you are also dealing with a leg injury it is difficult to recover. The 19-year-old Spaniard has semifinal points to defend in Indian Wells and title points to defend in Miami, so he needs to rest up. If Alcaraz does exit, a huge opportunity presents itself to Fritz and fellow Americans Tommy Paul, Frances Tiafoe, and Brandon Nakashima in the top half of the bracket. Fritz, however, faces a tough opener against John Isner—who is especially dangerous in Acapulco conditions. 

Norrie, who beat Alcaraz in the Rio Open final, is on the other side of the draw and could also pull out. Either way, his chances for immediate success going from consecutive clay-court finals to a hard-court tournament are slim to none. Rune may be less than 100 percent because of a shoulder issue, so look out for Ruud, Alex de Minaur, and Matteo Berrettini. 

Quarterfinal picks: Tommy Paul over Brandon Nakashima, Taylor Fritz over Frances Tiafoe, Matteo Berrettini over Holger Rune, and Alex de Minaur over Casper Ruud 

Semifinals: Fritz over Paul and Berrettini over De Minaur 

Final: Fritz over Berrettini 

Movistar Open

Where: Santiago, Chile 
Surface: Clay 
Points: 250 
Prize money: $642,735

Top seed: Lorenzo Musetti 
Defending champion: Pedro Martinez 

Alcaraz and Norrie are taking their talents from the Golden Swing to the hard courts of Acapulco, so both final spots on the last leg of the February clay-court run are up for grabs to some different players. One of those contenders to a red-hot Nicolas Jarry, who reached the semifinals in Rio before falling to Alcaraz in three sets. Chilean crowds are always raucous, so Jarry will get awesome crowd support in Santiago. The highest seed in Jarry’s quarter is an ice-cold Diego Schwartzman and No. 1 seed Lorenzo Musetti isn’t in particularly good form, either, so the door is open. 

Chile’s highest-ranked player, Cristian Garin, finds himself on the other side of the bracket. Up first for him is a blockbuster first-round battle with Dominic Thiem, whose comeback from a wrist injury has hit a serious snag in terms of poor 2023 results. It’s a difficult draw for both guys especially considering that Sebastian Baez awaits in round two.  

Quarterfinal picks: Albert Ramos-Vinolas over Lorenzo Musetti, Nicolas Jarry over Roberto Carballes Baena, Sebastian Baez over Laslo Djere, and Dusan Lajovic over Francisco Cerundolo 

Semifinals: Jarry over Ramos-Vinolas and Baez over Lajovic 

Final: Jarry over Baez 

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