ATP Cincinnati Masters Day 1 Predictions Including Andy Murray vs Frances Tiafoe

Reilly Opelka preparing for the 2020 Cincinnati Masters

Over five months after the tennis season was brought to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic, the ATP Tour returns for the Cincinnati Masters, to be held at New York’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre due to travel restrictions in the United States. But there should still be no shortage of entertaining action in the Big Apple with a number of the world’s best having made the trip to the USA. But who will advance on day one?

ATP Cincinnati Masters Day One Predictions

Andy Murray vs Frances Tiafoe

Head-to-head: first meeting

Former-world #1 Andy Murray, given a wildcard into the Cincinnati Masters, faces a tough early test up against the USA’s Frances Tiafoe. But having been facing down the very real prospect of retirement as recently as last January, Murray will surely be glad to be back competing and may well also have benefitted from the extended break in the season. He has also enjoyed success in Cincinnati and New York before, winning the US Open in 2012 and the Cincinnati Masters in 2008 and 2011.

Clearly then, the Briton can play on American hard courts. But so too can Tiafoe. The American took Roger Federer the distance in New York in the first round in 2017 and has reached the second round at the US Open in the last two years, as well as the quarterfinals at the 2018 Australian Open in similar conditions. His combination of a big serve and forehand can make him almost unplayable when he is at his best, and he is also an excellent mover.

But despite a career-high ranking of world #29, he is not in Murray’s class and has, for the most part, struggled badly over the last 18 months. Indeed, it is Murray who has lifted an ATP title more recently after his triumph at the European Open in Antwerp last autumn. With both men likely to be slightly rusty, a closely fought encounter is to be expected. But that will also almost certainly favour Murray thanks to his competitive spirit and tactical skill.

Prediction: Murray in 3
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Sam Querrey vs Milos Raonic

Head-to-head: Raonic 4-2 Querrey

Short rallies seem likely to be the order of the day in this match. Both men possess thunderous power from the line and the back of the court, but neither are amongst the best athletes in the game. Thus for both Sam Querrey and Milos Raonic, it will be essential to get the first strike in early. But with this the first competitive match either man has played in over five months, one suspects that that will be easier said than done.

Both men should at least be relatively comfortable in the conditions and have the experience to know how best to prepare. But it is Raonic who has enjoyed the better of their rivalry of late, winning their last four matches, including last season at the Indian Wells Masters in straight sets. He is also perhaps the more consistent of the two, even if he has struggled in recent years due to a succession of injuries. But surely now well-rested, expect the Canadian to edge this one.

Prediction: Raonic in 3
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Benoit Paire vs Borna Coric

Head-to-head: Coric 2-0 Paire

Borna Coric remains a fine player with a good all-round game. But after an excellent end to the 2018 season, highlighted by his run to the Shanghai Masters final, the Croatian has rather lost his way of late, with injuries not helping his cause. That was reflected in his difficult start to 2020 with Coric winning just four of his first nine matches and losing in the first round at the Australian Open, although he did show some promise in reaching the semifinals in Rio de Janeiro.

Benoit Paire, meanwhile, has not quite managed to shake his reputation as one of the less reliable players on the men’s tour. But although consistency may not quite be his watchword, he has played some excellent tennis over the last two seasons, reaching the fourth round at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon last season, as well as winning titles in Marrakesh and Lyon. And he continued that good form into the early weeks of 2020 by reaching the final at the Auckland Open.

In short then, this looks likely to be an exceedingly tough test for Coric. Particularly as he will struggle to win backhand-to-backhand exchanges with the Frenchman, who possesses one of the most powerful two-handers in the men’s game. Coric does have an excellent return game and could therefore make in roads against Paire’s serve. But his own serve has been vulnerable of late and he has been short of the sort of confidence that Paire had in spades before the season was suspended.

Prediction: Paire in 3
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Cameron Norrie vs Reilly Opelka

Head-to-head: Norrie 1-0 Opelka

Reilly Opelka’s best shot may be his serve, but there is more to the big American’s game than just a powerful first delivery. His backhand is unusually solid for an American and like most of the ATP Tour’s taller men, his forehand is a lethal weapon when he is given time on the ball. But, unsurprisingly, he is not amongst the best movers and can be particularly vulnerable when forced to change direction quickly. It is those weaknesses that Cameron Norrie must seek to exploit.

The Briton will at least have the benefit of match sharpness after coming through the qualifying with wins over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan and Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak. Equally, however, neither of those opponents, both of whom tend to favour patient point construction and accuracy rather than outright power, are the ideal preparation for facing Opelka, who offers his opponents little rhythm. And on a court that has traditionally favoured big-hitters, it should be the American who has the edge.

Prediction: Opelka in 3

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