Monday, July 27, 2015

What to Expect at the BB&T Atlanta Open?

The BB&T Atlanta Open, aka "grown ups Kalamazoo", may be lacking the world's best players, but has more than enough Americans to draw in the Atlanta fans.  Lots of young Americans were in qualifying, and the main draw has a collection of Americans young and old.  Mardy Fish is making an appearance as he goes on his farewell tour this summer, and is also teaming with Andy Roddick in the men's doubles.   

In the top half it's hard to see anyone stopping John Isner and Jack Sock from meeting in the semifinals.  Steve Johnson could give Isner some trouble in the quarters, but this is practically Isner's home tournament and he always bring his best game to Atlanta.  Jack Sock's section includes Denis Kudla and Ryan Harrison, and it's hard to find anyone who 3 years ago would have picked Harrison as the one from this group to be outside of the top 100 in 2015.  Fish is also in this part of the draw, and may have a shot to win his first round match against Dudi Sela.  Look for Sock to reach the semifinals without dropping a set. 

In the semifinals, Isner should be able to squeak past Sock for the third time in his career in Atlanta, after previously knocking him out of the event in 2012 and 2014.  Sock's a much better player than in year's past, but picking against Isner in Atlanta is like picking against Federer at Wimbledon or Nadal at the French Open (maybe a slight exaggeration). 

The bottom half should be a little more open. Canadian Vasek Pospisil is the number two seed, and is looking to back up his run to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.  However, outside of Wimbledon he hasn't done much of note all year, and is hardly a sure thing to make a deep run.  Emerging young American Jared Donaldson had an impressive run through qualifying, and opens up against former NCAA champion Somdev Devvarman in a match that could go either way. 

Fourth seeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino just reached the finals of a 250 event in Bogota last week, and look for him to take out seventh seed Gilles Muller on his way to the semis.  Muller already destroyed Donald Young in his first round match, who has once again forgotten how to win matches at the ATP level after a promising start to the year. 

In the bottom section 17 year old American Frances Tiafoe is in with a wild card, and opens against big hitting Australian Sam Groth.  Tiafoe could have a bright future down the road, but it's hard to see him being competitive in this match given that he's been struggling at the Challenger level over the last couple of months.  Expect Pospisil to get past Marcos Baghdatis on his way to the semis, before knocking out Mannarino in the pair's first career meeting in the final four. 

In the finals, Pospisil may have a 2-1 head-to-head edge over Isner, but beating Isner in Atlanta and anywhere else in the world are two different stories.  It should be a big hitting and entertaining match up to watch, with the American prevailing in a third-set tiebreak to capture his third straight Atlanta title.   

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