Washington Open Preview and Prediction: Will Murray make mark on return?

RealSport preview the Washington Open where the draw is led by world #3 Alexander Zverev and returning Grand Slam champion Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.


(Photo credit: Keith Allison)

As the most important of the US Open warm up events, aside from the Canadian Open and the Cincinnati Masters, the Washington Open always attracts its fair share of star power and this year is no different. Two top ten players, a former world #1 and another three-time Grand Slam champion are amongst the participants, and the competition to claim the title will be as fierce as ever. But who will emerge triumphant at the week’s end?

Who’s playing?

The tournament is led this year by top seed and defending champion Alexander Zverev. The German is already a three-time Masters champion, having added the Madrid Open earlier this season to the Canadian and Italian titles he won last year. He has also played some of his best tennis on the hard courts of North America. He is still awaiting his real breakthrough at the Slams, but if he can build up a head of steam here, the US Open may be the perfect stage for him to do just that.

Former world #1 and wildcard Andy Murray may now be ranked outside the top 800, but his brief return on the grass at Queen’s and in Eastbourne was promising, and there is no doubting his star-quality. A run all the way to the title may be beyond the Scot, but no one will relish facing him. The same is true of his fellow wildcard and three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, now ranked 201st in the world after injuries, but with plenty of power still in his racquet.

Second seed John Isner may have never won in Washington where he has three times fallen at the final hurdle. But he is enjoying the best season of his career after a first Masters title in Miami and a first Major semifinal at Wimbledon (lost to Anderson). His thunderous serve ensures he is always a threat. Third seed David Goffin has endured a difficult season after a freak eye injury sustained in Rotterdam, but will be eager to get back to winning ways and can trouble anyone.

Another man enjoying the best season of his career is the fourth seeded Kyle Edmund. He is still looking for his first title and faces a potentially difficult second round clash with mentor and compatriot Murray, but he has the game to put together a deep run. So too does fifth seed Nick Kyrgios, if his mind and body can hold up to the challenges presented. Unfortunately, he withdrew from his Atlanta quarterfinal and may need to swallow some more disappointment.

Sixth seed Lucas Pouille has had a season to forget, but has shown throughout his career that he is capable of turning it on at any moment. Seventh seed Kei Nishikori won this tournament in 2015 and the Japanese looks to be getting back to his brilliant best after a run to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon (lost to Djokovic). Eighth seed Hyeon Chung has struggled with his form of late, but early season successes showed his quality and he will be one to watch for in Washington.

First round matches to watch

Almost certain to attract the most attention in the first round is Murray’s clash with American young gun Mackenzie McDonald, who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon earlier this month. He will provide a difficult test for Murray, but it will also be a great opportunity for the American to measure himself against one of the biggest names in the game. Ultimately, the three-time Major champion will probably have too much, but expect an entertaining clash.

Australia’s 19-year-old Alex De Minaur has already done much to make a name for himself this season, with a run to the Sydney final a highlight. He also reached the third round at Wimbledon and acquitted himself well in defeat to Rafael Nadal. Vasek Pospisil, his first round opponent in Washington, has failed to live up to his considerable talent, but his aggressive style should make for an entertaining match up when pitted against De Minaur’s all-court ability.

Prediction

Alexander Zverev may have had a North American hard court swing to remember last year, at least in the early going, but he has looked fatigued and out of form on his most recent outings this year, certainly not in the right sort of mindset to make another title run here. A break may have revitalised him, but it is Kei Nishikori, who has played so well over the past few months, who seems the likelier man to be lifting the title at the end of the tournament.

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