Damien Kayat previews selected round of 32 matches between Jordan Thompson and Llyod Harris as well as Kevin Anderson and Nick Kyrgios.
ATP Tour 2021
ATP 250 Series
Atlantic Station, Atlanta, Georgia (Outdoor Hardcourts)
Selected Round of 32 Matches- 26th-27th July
Jordan Thompson (23/20) vs Llyod Harris (8) (68/100)
Big-serving South African Llyod Harris will be making his first tournament appearance since Wimbledon. He endured a very disappointing grass-court campaign (with his height and serve he should be going deeper on grass). I’m sure that he will be revved up for the return to hardcourts. Harris has made huge strides on this surface over the past two years. He reached his maiden ATP Final at last year’s Adelaide International. But it was his performances earlier this year that really cemented his burgeoning hardcourt reputation. He became the first qualifier to reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships. He made it to the final before falling to Aussie Open sensation Aslan Karatsev. During that period of the year, he accounted for a host of major casualties: Thiem, Shapovalov an Wawrinka were amongst his victims.
27-year-old Jordan Thompson was in inspired form over the grass-court campaign. He reached the quarterfinals in Mallorca before going one better in Newport. There was a big question mark as to how Thompson would deal with the switch from grass to hardcourts. But he seemed to embrace the challenge, reaching the quarterfinals in Los Cabos last week. That was his 2nd hardcourt quarterfinal of the year after Adelaide. That takes his win-loss record in his last four tournaments to 9-4. The indefatigable Thompson is trying to eek out as much from his game as possible (despite its limitations). He’s pretty much the antithesis of fellow Aussies Kyrgios and Tomic.
This will be the first meeting between these two. While Thompson has form on his side, I think that Harris has far more firepower in his arsenal. The South African has enjoyed a nice break from the game and will be enthused for this return to hard surfaces. I think he could take this at a canter in straight sets at 33/20.
Kevin Anderson (1/1) vs Nick Kyrgios (79/100)
This is certainly the pick of the early matches at this week’s Atlanta Open. Nick Kyrgios has been at it again, lambasting the ATP for organizing clay-court events at this point of the season. I have to admit that I grudgingly agree with him. There are just too many ATP events in a calendar year. The tour has to figure put a way to lend more prestige to these small events, not diminish them. It will be interesting to see what we get from firebrand Nick Kyrgios. The Aussie hasn’t taken to court since his unfortunate withdrawal at Wimbledon. Kyrgios has only played eight full matches this year (winning six of them). More importantly, he hasn’t lost to a player ranked outside the top 30 this year. The Aussie will look to draw on some fond memories this week (he won the title here in 2016). I think Kyrgios has generally been more reliable over the past three years, less likely to ‘tank’ on big occasions. But this week he will be facing a former Grand Slam finalist who has run into some surprising late season form.
Kevin Anderson really took advantage of the wildcard granted to him at last week’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championship in Newport. He won his 7th ATP title after a gruelling straight sets victory against NextGen prospect Brooksby. It was really a shot from the dark, as the 35-year-old South African has really struggled with form after a series of shocking injury issues. His victory catapulted him 39 places up in the ATP rankings (he moved from 113 to 74). The former two-time Grand Slam runner-up has proved a resilient figure on the tour, with a single-mined determination to repel retirement. He is also a previous runner-up in Atlanta, losing to John Isner in the 2013 final. But Anderson has really struggled to find his feet on hard surfaces this year. He hasn’t won on hardcourts since the 2nd round of the Great Ocean Road Open. I think the physical demands of the surface are a real challenge for the South African.
Kevin Anderson leads the head-to-head with Nick Kyrgios 2-0. Anderson won their last match in four sets at Roland Garros last season. But I think that Kyrgios is the only option this week. Anderson had to dig deep to claim his 7th title last week, coming back from a set down in both the quarterfinal and semi-final.