The start of the 2021 ATP Tennis Season is finally upon us, with the Delray Beach Open being moved forward from its usual February spot in the calendar. Despite the withdrawals of Andy Murray and Reilly Opelka, the event features a quality field, with the likes of John Isner and Hubert Hurkacz looking to make good starts to the season. Here are my predictions for the singles matches on Thursday.
ATP Delray Beach Day 1 Predictions
Tommy Paul vs Ji Sung Nam
#5 seed and World #52 American Tommy Paul is currently at his career high ranking and will be looking to build on what was a successful 2020 season that saw Paul record notable victories over the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, and Kevin Anderson, the first of which saw him record his best result at a Grand Slam by reaching the third round of the Australian Open. Paul’s 2020 season ended with a three set defeat to Stan Wawrinka at the Paris masters. However, during that match he showcased his aggressive brand of baseline tennis, that put the Swiss under severe pressure forcing him to win a second set tiebreak, before he was able to up his level in the third set.
In 2021, Paul will be looking to continue this upward trend and his first match of the year is a first time meeting with World #244 Ji Sung Nam. The Korean has enjoyed wins on the Futures tour, and has reached two finals on the ATP Challenger tour. However, at Tour level, Nam has had little experience. On paper, this match points towards a relatively comfortable win for Paul, however with it being the first match of the season, both will be lacking in match-play. However, I’m predicting a straight sets win for the American.
Prediction: Paul in 2
Gianluca Mager vs Ryan Harrison
Gianluca Mager reached his career high ranking of #77 last season. He achieved his best result in his career in making the final of the ATP 500 event in Rio, a run that included a straight sets win over Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals. However, outside of that week, Mager struggled, failing to qualify for the Western & Southern Open and losing in the first round of the US Open, Roland Garros, and Rome, with the Italian mainly playing in clay court ATP Challenger tour events.
For Ryan Harrison, last season was mainly spent on the ATP Challenger Tour, with the American only qualifying for one ATP Tour event, which coincidentally was the 2020 Delray Beach Open, where he made the last 16. The highlight of last season for Harrison was reaching the round of 16 in the Doubles at the US Open with his brother Christian. This is the first meeting between the pair and despite being ranked at 481, the American is a far better player than his ranking suggests and given his past hard court success he will be a dangerous opponent.
Prediction: Mager in 3
Soonwoo Kwon vs Sebastian Korda
The third match of the day on Stadium Court features two players who are relatively close in the rankings. World #119 Sebastian Korda takes on World #95 Sebastian Korda. Before the season was shut down, the American spent the majority of time playing on the Challenger Tour, with his best result being reaching the quarterfinals in Drummondville. However, towards the end of the season, Korda qualified for the Western & Southern Open, and impressed in winning a set in a four set defeat to Denis Shapovalov at the US Open.
At Roland Garros, Korda announced himself to the tennis world, reaching the fourth round, and beating Andreas Seppi, John Isner, and Pedro Martinez en route to a defeat to Rafael Nadal. He continued this good form at the end of the season, reaching the final of the Eckental Challenger event. Soonwoo Kwon had success at Tour level last year, reaching the quarterfinals in Delray Beach and Acapulco as well as winning a round at the US Open.
Prediction: Kwon in 2
Mackenzie McDonald vs Sam Querrey
The final match of the day on Stadium Court is a first meeting between Sam Querrey and Mackenzie McDonald. The latter played a mixture of Challenger and Tour events last season, with his best result a quarterfinal showing in Nur-Sultan. At the Grand Slams, he lost in the opening round of both the Australian Open and the US Open. Both losses came from being two sets to love up against Dan Evans and Casper Ruud, and at Roland Garros he lost in the second round to Rafael Nadal.
Experienced campaigner Sam Querrey’s 2020 season will probably be remembered more for his breaking of the ATP Tour Covid-19 protocols than his results. On court, Querrey had an up and down year, reaching the last 16 in Adelaide and the third round at the Australian Open. However, first-round defeats at the Western & Southern Open, US Open, Rome, and Roland Garros followed. In terms of this match, I think Querrey’s powerful serve and forehand combination will see him through.
Prediction: Querrey in 2
Main Photo from Getty.