Mackenzie McDonald – Nick Kyrgios
Mackenzie McDonald will have the advantage of playing in his country and this is not negligible (especially since the tournament will host its maximum capacity of spectators). Nevertheless, the American will face a man who is also appreciated by the public and who is, on paper, stronger than him.
While Mackenzie McDonald has yet to win a match in the main draw of this ATP 500 (in one appearance), Nick Kyrgios lifted the trophy the last time he set foot here (in 2019 at the last edition).
Add to that the fact that McDonald is far from being an extraordinary dynamic. He lost his last two matches, in the first round of Los Cabos (Escobedo) and Altanta (Ruusuvuori), without taking a set and conceding a total of 20 break points. There is no doubt that Nick Kyrgios will take advantage of this if the American does not increase his level of play considerably.
We know how inconsistent Nick Kyrgios is (he showed it in Atlanta against Norrie). However, I doubt he will lose this match if he gets his fingers out of his butt (and I expect him to).
Prediction: Nick Kyrgios
Kei Nishikori – Sam Querrey
We find Kei Nishikori in Washington, less than a week after his last match in Tokyo. We know that the Olympic Games can be quite demanding physically (especially with the heat in Japan right now), but also mentally. So we can wonder if he will be at 100% for this 1st round.
It is important to note that the Japanese has never taken this ATP 500 in Washington lightly. Indeed, in his 7 participations, he lost only once in the 1st round (in 2010) and he reached the 1/4 finals in his last 4 participations between 2014 and 2018. Note also that Nishikori won the tournament in 2015.
I talk a lot about Kei Nishikori because the outcome of this match depends a lot on him. Sam Querrey will be playing in front of his home crowd and it’s never easy to play an American on home soil. On the other hand, the current 70th in the world is clearly not riding a good wave at the moment. He has lost four consecutive matches and is showing signs of weakness in the rallies.
The biggest challenge for Kei Nishikori will be to get the rallies going on his opponent’s serve. It must be said that Sam Querrey can quickly become unplayable when his first balls go through. But the good news for the Japanese is that the American is struggling to hit 60% first serves at the moment and his second serves are much less sexy.
Kei Nishikori seems to me much more complete to win this 1st round. As I said above, I still have a doubt about his ability to continue after the Olympics (which prevents me from putting my highest confidence in this prediction).
Finally, here is a small statistic that is in favor of Kei Nishikori: the Japanese has never lost to Sam Querrey in a match played in the United States (out of 4).
Prediction: Kei Nishikori