Preparation for the US Open begins for ATP Tour players as the outdoor-hard ATP 250 in Atlanta begins. It will be hot in Atlanta and the tennis should be top-class for this year’s version of the event.
Who will win and who will come up short? I give my best guesses!
ATP Atlanta Day 1 Predictions
Marcos Giron vs Soonwoo Kwon
Head to Head: never played
Marcos Giron has not played since Wimbledon, but Giron made it one round further than Kwon, falling in the second round to Alex Molcan. Soonwoo Kwon will be looking to snap his five-match losing streak in Atlanta. Kwon also last played at Wimbledon, where he lost in four sets in the opening round to Novak Djokovic.
These two have never played before. Kwon is a good ball striker who can control the baseline well. He also hits his spots on serve. However, Kwon can start spraying unforced errors and start pressing when he’s made to play extra balls or forced on the run. Giron doesn’t have a huge weapon, but gets consistent depth on his groundstrokes. Giron is also very fit and should handle the conditions in Atlanta well. Giron’s higher rally tolerance will be crucial to him grinding down Kwon and advancing to the second round.
Prediction: Giron in 3
Taro Daniel vs Sebastian Korda
Head to Head: never played
Taro Daniel qualified for Atlanta without dropping a set, beating Ricardas Berankis and Adrian Mannarino in the process. Daniel won a combined 55/71 first-serve points and was only broken once during qualifying. Sebastian Korda hasn’t played since Eastbourne due to injury and it is unknown how he will fare in this matchup against Daniel.
These two have never played before. Daniel has a strong backhand and a high rally tolerance. However, Korda at his best, has the better serve and the better groundstrokes. Even from the backhand wing, Korda’s backhand makes more of an impact than Daniel’s and he can play with controlled aggression from both the forehand and backhand sides at a higher level than Daniel. While it’s a risk to pick Korda here due to the injury factor, he should get plenty of free points on the quick Atlanta courts with his serve and be able to power through Daniel from the baseline.
Prediction: Korda in 2
John Millman vs Alexei Popyrin
Head to Head: 4-0 Millman
John Millman hasn’t competed since losing in the first round of Wimbledon in four sets to Miomir Kecmanovic. One of the fittest players on tour, Millman should have no problems in the hot conditions of Atlanta. Alexei Popyrin will be looking to break his five-match losing streak in Atlanta. Most recently, Popyrin lost in straight sets in Newport.
Millman leads the head to head 4-0, but they’ve only played once since 2018 and the last three matchups have all gone three sets. Millman is consistent from the baseline and gets good depth on his groundstrokes. He also has a heavy forehand that he can use to dictate when given the opportunity to do so. Popyrin has a big serve and tries to play offense when given the opportunity. He should enjoy the quicker conditions in Atlanta, but there are times when his rally tolerance suffers as a result of him trying to play offense when the opportunity doesn’t present itself.
I think Millman can goad Popyrin into plenty of unforced errors in this one, Millman’s scrambling and counterpunching ability will be the difference in this one, as he should edge this match out against an out-of-form Popyrin.
Prediction: Millman in 3
Brandon Nakashima vs Jordan Thompson
Head to Head: 2-1 Nakashima
Brandon Nakashima hasn’t played since losing in five sets to Nick Kyrgios in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon. However, Nakashima loves the conditions in Atlanta, having made the final last season before ultimately falling to John Isner. Jordan Thompson last played on the grass of Newport, where he had a routine defeat to Jason Kubler. Thompson is a competent hard-court player and the fast conditions in Atlanta will give him a small boost of power on his serve and groundstrokes.
Nakashima leads the head to head 2-1 (all on hard courts), although Thompson won in straight sets earlier this season in Dallas. Nakashima has the better serve and more powerful groundstrokes, with his backhand being the best shot on the court in this matchup. However, Thompson’s foot speed, improvisation skills, and rally tolernace will make it hard for Nakashima to hit through Thompson effectively.
Ultimately, given how comfortable Nakashima looked in Atlanta last season, I think he’s ready for this challenge. He should be able to control the baseline, dictating with his backhand, and his forehand has improved over time, as well, so Thompson won’t be able to pick on this wing. Nakashima will get the win here, but it won’t be easy.
Prediction: Nakashima in 3
Main Photo from GEtty.