By Jürgen Fritz, Sat 19 Feb 2022, Cover photo: abiertomexicanodetenis-Screenshot
What a starting field at the 500 tournament in Acapulco next week! Five of the top six in the world will be there: Daniil Medvedev, defending champion Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, 2020 winner Rafael Nadal and Matteo Berrettini.
Rafa feels fit enough to compete in Acapulco
Of the top six, only No. 1 Novak Djokovic is missing in Mexico. Nole is competing in the parallel event in Dubai, also a 500 (D category), and is playing his first tournament there in 2022. There is also a very strong field of participants there for a D tournament. Besides Djokovic, Rublev, Auger-Aliassime, Sinner, Hurkacz and Shapovalov will play in Dubai.
The defending champion in Acapulco, which has been played on hard court instead of clay since 2014, is Alexander Zverev. The German won his first major tournament there since November 2018 in 2021, and that was also the opening round for six (!) tournament victories last season, all at higher-ranked events. By comparison, Tsitsipas has won seven ATP tournaments so far in his career, and only two of them higher-ranked (from D category upwards).
Two years ago, Rafa won the tournament in Acapulco (2005 and 2013 also, but then still on his special surface clay). The final there on 29 February 2020 was his last match before the five-and-a-half-month pandemic break in 2020. Last year he did not compete in Mexico. This year, too, it was not clear until midweek whether he would play. After his victory at the Australian Open almost three weeks ago, he was, in his own words, very, very tired and wanted to see how quickly he could recover from this difficult tournament – 128-player field, seven rounds over best of five. Of course, when you are over 35, you don’t regenerate the way you do when you are 20 or 25.
In the final of the Australian Open, the second longest Grand Slam final of all times, Nadal had defeated Daniil Medvedev after a 2:6, 6:7, 2:3, 0:40 deficit in five sets after 5:24 hours. In the quarter-final against Shapovalov, he had to go through five sets, suffered a heat stroke in the third set and had severe circulatory problems, and was only able to somehow drag himself to the finish with the last of his strength.
But the regeneration seems to have worked well. The Spaniard flew to Mexico on Wednesday evening, so he should already be training in Acapulco to play his third tournament this season. He won the first two, first the 250 event (E) in Melbourne, then the Australian Open (A category), so he is still unbeaten this year, match record: 10-0.
Very strong field for a 500 tournament (D)
But the competition in Acapulco will now be extremely strong. Rafa will be seeded 4th in the 32-player field, provided that no player is injured at short notice, and if he is unlucky in the draw, he can then meet Berrettini in the quarter-finals (third round) and the defending champion Zverev in the semi-finals, or Medvedev again, whom he somehow managed to defeat after almost five and a half hours in the legendary Australian Open final twenty days ago. However, it will certainly not be that long in Mexico, where it is not best of five, but best of three (two winning sets).
These top players will be competing in Acapulco:
- Daniil Medvedev
- Alexander Zverev
- Stefanos Tsitsipas
- Rafael Nadal
- Matteo Berrettini
- Cameron Norrie (Delray Beach-Finalist)
- Taylor Fritz
- Pablo Carreño Busta
- Reilly Opelka (Delray Beach-Finalist)
- Lorenzo Sonego
- John Isner
- Carlos Alcaraz (Rio de Janeiro-Finalist)
Update from Sunday
In the meantime, the draw for Acapulco has been made. Here’s how Rafa’s path through the tournament might look: 1. round one (R32): Delray Beach finalist Reilly Opelka, 2. in the last 16: Dimitrov or Cressy, 3. in the quarter-finals: Matteo Berrettini (or Sebastian Korda), 4. in the semi-finals: Daniil Medvedev (or Taylor Fritz), 5. in the final: Stefanos Tsitsipas or Alexander Zverev.
Here’s how the draw looks overall (possible quarter-finals):
- Medvedev vs Fritz
- Nadal vs Berrettini (or Korda)
- Carreno Busta vs Tsitsipas
- Norrie or Alcaraz vs Zverev
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