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26 Feb 2018

Mexican Open Preview and Prediction: Nadal to make his return

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Who’s playing?

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First round matches to watch

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Prediction

(Photo credit: Michael Frey)

The Mexican Open that takes place in Acapulco concurrently with the Dubai Tennis Championships begins on Monday. It boasts a very strong draw with a number of players from the top ten looking to get their hands on an ATP 500 trophy. However, the quick hard courts in the resort town on Mexico’s Pacific coast have thrown up upsets in the past and their will be plenty of lower-ranked players eager to make their mark against one of the sport’s star names. Who will lift the trophy at the end of the week?

Who’s playing?

16-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal leads the field in Acapulco. The Spaniard was forced to withdraw in the fifth set of his quarterfinal match with Marin Cilic at the Australian Open with a leg injury that has kept him out of competition since. But the Spaniard says he has recovered and if he is at full fitness he could take some stopping. Last year a stunning Sam Querrey performance denied him in the final, but that will likely have left Nadal desperate to go one better.

Joining Nadal in Mexico is Germany’s Alexander Zverev. So far 2018 has been a disappointing year for the talented 20-year-old and he took the decision to split with his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero as a result. Boris Becker is rumoured to be in the frame as his replacement but for this week at least Zverev will be hoping to get his season back on track by himself. He has the talent and the power to trouble anyone but has failed to marshal it effectively so far this year. Could this be the week it comes together for him?

Dominic Thiem is the third seed in Acapulco. The Austrian has struggled away from his preferred clay for some time, but he did win his only ever hard court title at the event in 2016, defeating Bernard Tomic in the final. He will be hoping to recapture some of the spirit that was with him then. Jack Sock also returns to Acapulco and the world #8, who has just one win to his name this year, will be desperate to kick start his season. He lost first round in his last visit to Acapulco but will need to start picking up wins quickly if he wants to maintain his top ten place.

Kevin Anderson, who made the final in 2014, has had a rather more productive season so far than Sock. Though he too lost first round in Melbourne he picked up his first title of the year in New York which secured a return to the top ten. A good run in Acapulco could see him climb further up the rankings. Juan Martin del Potro, whose early season has been disrupted by personal problems, will be hoping to put them behind him in Acapulco, but it could be too soon for a title run for the Tower of Tandil.

Defending champion Sam Querrey is seeded seventh. The American had a career-year in 2017 and his run to the title in Acapulco was one of the most impressive moments for him. Although he lost first round last time out in Delray Beach one suspects his exertions the week before in making the final in New York played a role in that. He certainly shouldn’t be ruled out of another title run. Rounding out the seeds is John Isner, who has endured a miserable year so far, and lost to Gojowczyk in the round of 16 in Delray Beach. He will be hoping for a swift improvement in Acapulco.

First round matches to watch

Nadal’s match with his countryman Feliciano Lopez looks like an interesting test for the world #2. The elder man has four wins from thirteen matches against Nadal, not a record to be scoffed at and came away victorious in their last two matches, both on hard courts. His aggressive style will be aided by the fast court and it is certainly not an easy reintroduction to the Tour for Nadal. How Lopez’s backhand stands up to Nadal’s pressure will be crucial, if Lopez is able to keep unforced errors to a minimum off that wing the upset will be possible.

Kei Nishikori’s match with Denis Shapovalov should also be an entertaining watch. Nishikori represents something of a lost generation in tennis, with much expected of he and his peers such as Dimitrov and Raonic but comparatively little achieved. Shapovalov, meanwhile, seems to have an incredibly bright future in the game. But the wily Japanese will be no pushover for him and Shapovalov will have to be at his very best to hit through Nishikori’s defence.

Prediction

The draw is fairly open despite the presence of some star names. It will surely be too soon for Nadal as he makes his comeback from injury whilst Zverev is struggling badly to recreate the form that saw him win Masters titles in Rome and Montreal. But the big servers such as Kevin Anderson or Sam Querrey could well benefit from that and both bring good form into the tournament. Expect either South African or American to be the last man standing.

Who do you think will win the tournament in Acapulco? Let us know in the comments below!