The ATP Auckland Open (ASB Classic) promises to be a highly competitive affair with no clear cut favorites before opening day. Daniil Medvedev won’t be heading to Auckland this year after a grueling ATP Cup campaign for Team Russia. Nevertheless, the rest of the Auckland Open field consists of many young hopefuls and veterans of the game, each seeking to build much-needed momentum before the all-important Australian Open.
We preview and predict four first-round matches scheduled for Day 1 of the ASB Classic.
ATP Auckland Open Day 1 Predictions
Mikael Ymer vs Frances Tiafoe
Head to head – Tiafoe 1-0 Ymer
Two NextGen players continue their rivalry after meeting in a one-sided match at the Next Gen finals in Milan. Frances Tiafoe won that comfortably in straight sets but is undoubtedly wary of the talented Swede, Mikael Ymer.
Ymer has looked strong in qualifying and should be relishing the challenge of facing a relatively more experienced player on tour. Tiafoe plays his best on hard courts and while Ymer is certainly capable of holding his own, the American at his best is better than many as was evident in last year’s Australian Open. Expect Tiafoe to be locked in and get past the challenging Swede.
Prediction: Tiafoe in 2
Ugo Humbert vs Casper Ruud
Head to head – First Meeting
Another battle of the NextGen here in Auckland and should be a high octane clash. These two have never played each other before which adds a flavor of mystery to this matchup. Both these players are adept from the baseline and heavy power hitters as well.
On current form, however, one has to believe the Norwegian holds a slight edge after a successful ATP Cup campaign on a personal level. Ruud won two out of his three singles ties and lost only to Medvedev. Humbert had a good 2019 season and must have taken plenty of positives from it. It should be a tight contest but Ruud looked solid in the ATP Cup and should edge this one.
Prediction: Ruud in 3
Lorenzo Sonego vs Hubert Hurkacz
Head to head – Sonego 1-0 Hurkacz
Day 1 is full of must-watch matchups and this is another one of them. Lorenzo Sonego impressed one and all in 2019 while capturing his maiden title at Antalya. Hurkacz too had a decent 2019 but is capable of much better.
Sonego did beat Hurkacz in their sole meeting at Budapest in 2018 in a tight three-setter. However, that was on clay and Sonego is still some way off from his best on hard courts. Hurkacz, on the other hand, is already a title winner on the hard courts of Winston-Salem and if his ATP Cup campaign is taken into account, the Pole should be the favorite for this match. Hurkacz was impressive winning all three of his singles matches beating the likes of Dominic Thiem and Borna Coric. Expect Hurkacz to progress through.
Prediction: Hurkacz in 2
Benoit Paire vs Jannik Sinner
Head to head – First Meeting
The Frenchman, Benoit Paire, would be wise to forget and move on from his capitulation against Kevin Anderson at the ATP Cup because his first-round opponent will make full use of any drop in concentration. Jannik Sinner had an impressive 2019 and would be eager to keep the momentum going. The NextGen Finals winner ended 2019 on a great note and would be hoping the first-round loss at a challenger event in Canberra last week was a blip.
Paire won two titles in 2019 but both of them were on clay and is still searching for his first hardcourt title. Matchup wise, the 18-year-old is already quite solid from the baseline but is still inexperienced compared to the 30-year-old Paire. In the end, it’ll all boil down to playing the pressure points better and if Sinner doesn’t hold back on his groundstrokes and serves big as he can, the Italian can nab a win here.
Prediction: Sinner in 3
Main Photo from Getty.