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ATP Tour 2021: Atlantic Open

Damien Kayat previews selected tennis fixtures

Image copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Damien Kayat previews selected Round of 16 Matches from the Atlantic Station, Atlanta, Georgia.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

ATP Tour 2021
ATP Tour 2021
Atlantic Open
Atlantic Station, Atlanta, Georgia (Outdoor Hardcourts) 
Selected Round of 16 Matches- 31 July

Nick Kyrgios (69/100) vs Cameron Norrie (3) (11/10)

2016 Atlanta Open Champion Nick Kyrgios put on a show Tuesday night. He wowed the crowd with a brilliant straight sets victory over Kevin Anderson, finding the perfect balance between ruthlessness and cheeky playfulness. He won 86% of his first-serve points, not conceding a break point in the entire match. He even had time for a ‘tweener’ and some underarm serves (we’re just going to have to accept that this will always be part of Kyrgios’ makeup). The 26-year-old Aussie hasn’t won a title since 2019 (though that is obviously mediated by his stringent stance on Covid last year). Kyrgios is looking for an explosive end to the 2021 season. Kyrgios is a true enigma, capable of beating any player in the world on his day. But he can just as easily implode when he wants to get back to his hotel room and watch his favourite Netflix show.

What a year it has been for Cameron Norrie. The 25-year-old Brit has been the man for all seasons this year, reaching finals on clay, hardcourts and grass. Norrie has reached four finals this year, winning his maiden ATP Final last week in Los Cabos. But a slightly deeper look at those stats reveals just how incredible his form has been. He has now won 16 of his last 20 matches. His only defeats during this period have been to elite opposition (Federer, Nadal, Berrettini and Tsitsipas). The lefty also has some history in Atlanta, reaching the semi-finals here in 2018 and 2019. Norrie’s decision to skip the Olympics (where he would have automatically qualified) has already paid dividends: he is now inside the top 20 in the World Rankings.

This will be the 3rd meeting between these two. Norrie won their first match at this very tournament in 2018 (Kyrgios retired when Norrie had the lead). Kyrgios would avenge this defeat at last year’s ATP Cup. Norrie will go into this match as the ostensible favourite due to form. But Kyrgios is a sleeping giant ready to explode onto this North-American circuit. Kyrgios also tends to play well against lefties (Nadal only leads him 5-3 in their head-to-head matches). I can see Kyrgios winning in straight sets at 17/10.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

John Isner (6) (47/100) vs Jack Sock (33/20)

In an event that has traditionally been dominated by Americans, no one can match John Isner’s absurd Atlanta record. He has participated in eight of the ten finals in the history of this event, winning a whopping five Atlanta titles. The 36-year-old remains threat as long as that megawatt serve exists. The wind-up toy consistency of that motion has offset his growing issues with mobility. He has actually enjoyed a pretty solid season without one headline-grabbing result. He overperformed in Madrid, picking up an excellent quarterfinal finish. He reached his first semi-final of the year in Los Cabos last week. But there were some signs of fatigue in his opening match against J.J. Wolf. He ultimately ground out a three-set victory, digging deep against Wolf’s volcanic groundstrokes. Next up he will meet close friend and compatriot Jack Sock.

Jack Sock has really fallen off the tennis map in recent times. The man with a name seemingly ripped out of a children’s nursery rhyme, Jack Sock was once ranked 8th in the ATP rankings. His unbelievable 2017 Paris Masters triumph helped him sneak into the ATP World Tour Finals by the thinnest of margins. But a series of injuries (one ironically caused by a medicine ball) has really dampened his progression. The pandemic then interrupted his mini-renaissance last year. But things do seem to be turning around for Sock. He won the ATP Challenger title at Little Rock last month before a quarterfinal run at Newport (he would be eliminated by eventual champion Kevin Anderson). Last week he was rocked by the tragic death of his uncle. He has stated that this week’s performance is dedicated to his family. A gruelling three-set victory over Ricardas Berankis bears testament to that.

John Isner leads the head-to-head 5-3, twice beating Sock in this event over the years (both of those in straight sets). He is clearly the favourite here. But for some reason I can’t shake this nagging feeling that Sock could pull off an upset here. I’m suspectable to sentiment (probably not great in this profession) and I can see Sock using his recent tragedy as added motivation this week.

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