Alexander Bublik – Kei Nishikori
Kei Nishikori has made a good impression on me since the Olympic Games and the resumption on hard court. We can feel that he is comfortable on this surface and he had the opportunity to prove it again in his first round match against Sam Querrey. Very mobile, he will go for the aggressive shot and the small upsetting zone as soon as he has the opportunity. Yum.
Alexander Bublik is on a surface that he also likes and he will have some qualities to show. I am thinking in particular of his excellent service and his offensive mindset. The Kazakh should not stay locked in long rallies. He should, as usual, cut it short by trying a spectacular shot or going to the net.
Nevertheless, Kei Nishikori has all the weapons to counter Alexander Bublik. The Japanese knows how to rebound well, but also how to attack before his opponents. Not to mention that he has the speed to counter the numerous bunts that Bublik would have to make (little rascal).
Add to that the fact that Kei Nishikori is in a tournament that has often succeeded him (he reached the 1/4 finals in his last 4 participations and he already lifted the trophy in 2015). Also, the current 67th should not take this match lightly as we are in an ATP 500 and he needs points in order to get back to a ranking that better corresponds to his real level.
Prediction: Kei Nishikori
Grigor Dimitrov – Ilya Ivashka
We could be far from the pleasure game for Grigor Dimitrov. Indeed, Ilya Ivashka is not an easy man to beat on a good day. His first match seemed solid and that tells me that he can win this match. In fact, this is his third time in Washington and the first time he’s made it past the first round.
Despite many points of attention, I really want to believe in a victory of Grigor Dimitrov. First of all because the Bulgarian has often played seriously this American ATP 500. Indeed, he has only lost once in his first match in this tournament (in 5 participations) and it was in the first round.
Then, it is true that Grigor Dimitrov is still far from his best level (will he ever find it again?), but he has enough talent to beat this opponent. Ilya Ivashka serves very good first balls, but he is limited on his seconds. Where Dimitrov has a shot to play is that the Belarusian doesn’t seem to be totally sharp on serve right now. He only hit 55% of his first serves in his first match and won 48% of his second points. So I expect the Bulgarian to be able to get the rallies going on Ivashka’s serve more than once.
In the rallies, Grigor Dimitrov has enough technique and variation to make his opponent’s head spin. If he keeps a certain consistency in his game (and this is one of my biggest fears here), then there is no reason why he can’t do the job.
On the other hand, Grigor Dimitrov will play his first match since his elimination at Wimbledon in early July. He might need some time to get back into it. Nevertheless, he will have the opportunity to play doubles (with Tommy Paul) this Tuesday and that could be good for him.
Prediction: Grigor Dimitrov