James Duckworth – Jannik Sinner
Even if, on paper, James Duckworth should not really worry Jannik Sinner, I found this match interesting. Indeed, the Australian has already played three matches in this tournament (two qualifying matches + the first round match) while the Italian hasn’t played since he won the trophy in Washington (his first ATP 500). Duckworth could be in a better position to enter this match and surprise his young opponent of the day.
This would not be the first time that James Duckworth has worn the underdog hat and upset the favorite. We remember his last Masters 1000 appearance in Miami, where he won in two sets against David Goffin.
The key to this match is still in the hands of Jannik Sinner. If he is playing at his best, then there is no need to worry. James Duckworth’s serves are clean, at least his first few, but it’s not impossible to make rallies on them. Also note that he can have trouble staying reliable when rallies go on too long. Not to mention that he is not the best defender on the circuit and the Italian’s fastballs may leave him hanging more than once.
James Duckworth had a decent 1st round against Taylor Fritz, but he mostly took advantage of the American’s troubles (who stalled out of the match after a problem with his heart which he said was getting out of control). I doubt that the Australian will have as much ease if Jannik Sinner manages to spread his wings.
This remains a major point of attention in this match. The last time Jannik Sinner won a title and followed it up shortly afterwards, he lost in the first round (victory in Melbourne and defeat in the first round of the Australian Open a week later). So be careful.
Prediction: Jannik Sinner
Lloyd Harris – Rafael Nadal
Lloyd Harris eliminated Rafael Nadal last week in Washington (in their first meeting). Will he be able to achieve the same feat? If we believe the form of the Spanish and his latest statements, then it is totally possible.
Rafael Nadal has announced that he is not at his best physically. He also has a foot problem that prevents him from being comfortable in his movements. The surface is fast, so we can imagine Lloyd Harris succeeding in making the Spaniard move and pushing him to his limits. Add to that the fact that the South African had the opportunity to go through the first round where he won against Schnur. He was able to familiarize himself with this new surface and this is also an element to take into account.
I’m not afraid to predict a defeat for Rafael Nadal, but I expect him to step up in this tournament. The Spaniard said that he feels better in practice than he did in Washington and is looking forward to playing at a satisfactory level.
Secondly, this is a Masters 1000 tournament that has been very successful for him in the past. Indeed, in his 13 previous participations, he was eliminated only twice from the start, reached the 1/4 finals 9 times and lifted the trophy 5 times (including his last two participations in 2018 and 2019).
There is no doubt about Rafael Nadal’s tennis skills. He’s a good receiver who has to be able to get Lloyd Harris to play. And, one thing is for sure, the Spanish will not accept to be eliminated twice in a row by the same opponent (I am not sure if it has already happened to him).
Know that if it wasn’t Rafael Nadal, my confidence would certainly have been even lower.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal