ATP Tennis returns to Tokyo after a two year absence, but lacks the previous two champions in Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev. Nick Kyrgios looms large in the draw and will be a favorite to repeat his 2016 title, while Casper Ruud is surely hoping to perform much better than he did in Korea, where he was bounced by Yoshihito Nishioka in just his second match of the tournament. Can a very low-ranked home favorite like Shintaro Mochizuki spring a huge upset in Round 1, or will the seeds hold for another day? We make the calls below, including Pedro Martinez vs Alexei Popyrin.
ATP Tokyo Day 1 Predictions Including Frances Tiafoe vs Yasutaka Uchiyama
Pedro Martinez vs Alexei Popyrin
Head-to-head: Martinez 1-0
This is an uncallable match. Both have had poor years and have played badly on hard court, with Popyrin’s level being especially low. The Aussie has managed just five wins on tour this year, though all on hard, while the Spaniard also has only five wins on hard, though is overall record is better because of his clay preference. Popyrin is more experienced on the surface at the ATP level, and even has one title, and is going against an opponent on a seven-game losing skid. But Martinez won the H2H on hard at the start of the season. So everything balances it out; but I will give it to Popyrin, since he at least had a decent low-level showing at the US Open, beating Chun-Tsin Tseng and playing Diego Schwartzman closely.
Prediction: Popyrin in 3
Brandon Nakashima vs Shintaro Mochizuki
Head-to-head: first meeting
Nakashima has recently won his first ever ATP title, and should be feeling confident. Mochizuki comes in as a wild card, ranked outside the top 400 and making just his fifth ATP start (no wins yet). He is only an ITF player at this point, and though he should have home crowd support, Nakashima figures to take this one easily.
Prediction: Nakashima in 2
Taro Daniel vs Bernabe Zapata Miralles
Head-to-head: Daniel 1-0
No player avoids fast surfaces more than Zapata Miralles. He has attended one tournament on hard and one on grass in the last six months, and the rest has been spent on clay. Neither yielded a main draw win. Taro Daniel prefers clay, too, but he at least has a fair amount of experience on hard at the ATP level, and has eight wins on the surface this season. I don’t have enough confidence in Daniel to call this in two, but I don’t see any reason to pick Zapata Miralles unless it’s on clay.
Prediction: Daniel in 3
Frances Tiafoe vs Yasutaka Uchiyama
Head-to-head: first meeting
Technically these two have met twice before, both on hard courts in 2016, and they split those matches. Tiafoe was just starting his career at the time, though, and is coming off his best result ever in his US Open semifinal appearance, as well as a win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Laver Cup. Uchiyama was as high as #78 a few years ago, but has sunk to #311, and doesn’t figure to be a challenge for the rolling American.
Prediction: Tiafoe in 2
Main Photo from Getty.