The 2021 ATP Barcelona Open features an entry list dripping with quality, with top seed Rafael Nadal looking to bounce back from his shock quarterfinal defeat to Andrey Rublev. Here are my predictions for Monday’s opening round action. We also predict the rest of the Day 1 matches between two other articles. One features Egor Gerasimov vs Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and the other features Bernabe Zapata Miralles vs Andrey Kuznetsov.
2021 ATP Barcelona Open Day 1 Predictions
Thiago Monteiro vs Jaume Munar
Head to Head: 1-0 Monteiro
Juame Munar had a great run to the final of the Andalucia Open a fortnight ago, which included a wins over Fabio Fognini and Carlos Alcaraz. This was on the back of reaching the final of the Andalucia Challenger a week earlier and hopefully this will see an upturn in the Spaniard’s form. Although not possessing an overpowering weapon in his game, Munar is an exceptional mover on clay and has a good weight of shot. He can be likened as having a similar game-style to David Ferrer in terms of his ability to out rally and outlast opponents from the back of the court.
Thiago Monteiro has had a decent start to the season, with the Brazilian reaching the semifinals at the Great Ocean Road Open at the start of the season. After a second round loss at the Australian Open, he played the majority of his tennis on the South American Clay, with his best result being a quarterfinal run at the Cordoba Open.
This will be a close match, however I think Munar’s recent form is better than the Brazilian’s, and I think he will get the win.
Prediction: Munar in 3
Nikoloz Basilashvilli vs Jeremy Chardy
Head to Head: 1-1
Both these players have had success this season. Basilashvilli beat the likes of Roger Federer and Roberto Bautista Agut during his title run in Doha, a run that seemingly came out of nowhere due to his recent struggles in form. Jeremy Chardy reached the semifinals at the Murray River Open, and backed this run up with quarterfinal runs in Rotterdam and Dubai.
Chardy’s big weapon is his serve, which he can regularly hit at over 130 mph, and he is a solid player from the back of the court. Basilashvilli has effortless power on his serve and ground strokes, however at times he can struggle for consistency. I think on the clay, the Frenchman has a greater advantage due to his ability to absorb power from the back of the court and his ability to come to the net. I think the Frenchman will get the win, but it will be a close match.
Prediction: Chardy in 3
Cameron Norrie vs Salvatore Caruso
Head to Head: First Meeting
Both these players gave a similar style of play, in their ability to make up for their lack of firepower, with consistency and a good length of shot from the back of the court. Norrie recorded good wins over Nishioka and Dimitrov in a run to the third round in Miami, backing up a career best run to the third round of the Australian Open where he lost to Rafael Nadal. Caruso’s first main tour win since the Australian Open came last week in Monte Carlo as he came through a tough match with the home wildcard Lucas Catarina. The Italian is a solid player but has struggled to find form this season.
Norrie has reached an ATP final before on the clay and the surface generally allows him to get more height and spin on his groundstrokes, particularly his forehand and I think this will go to three sets due to neither players ability to overpower the other, however due to his recent form, I am giving the edge to the Brit to come through in 3 sets.
Prediction: Norrie in 3
Kei Nishikori vs Guido Pella
Head to Head: First Meeting
Guido Pella has only won one Tour-level match this year and heads into Barcelona looking for form. The Argentine has undoubtedly got pedigree on clay, with his only ATP Title coming on the surface in Sao Paulo two years ago, as well as reaching 4 other ATP finals on the surface. Kei Nishikori has reached two quarterfinals on the ATP Tour this season, in Rotterdam and Dubai, however chose not to play in Monte Carlo last week. The Japanese player is still looking to find his best tennis again and there was some encouraging signs at the Miami Open, where he took a set off Stefanos Tsitsipas in a three set loss.
I expect this to be a close match and there should be plenty of long rallies from the back of the court. Neither player has an overpowering shot, however Nishikori’s backhand is difficult to break down and I think it is the effectiveness of this ground stroke that could be the key to the match. I think this will be close, but Nishikori will get the win.
Prediction: Nishikori in 2
Main Photo from Getty.