ATP Tennis returns to Tokyo after a two-year absence but is missing the two previous champions in Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev. Nick Kyrgios has a big part to play in the draw and will be one of the favorites to repeat his 2016 title, while Casper Ruud will certainly be hoping to do much better than he did in Korea he was thrown back by Yoshihito Nishioka in only his second match of the tournament. Can a very low-ranked home favorite like Shintaro Mochizuki cause a big upset in Round 1, or will the seeds last for another day? We make the following calls including Pedro Martinez vs Alexei Popyrin.
ATP Tokyo Day 1 predictions including Frances Tiafoe vs Yasutaka Uchiyama
Pedro Martinez vs. Alexei Popyrin
Head to head: Martinez 1-0
This is an unplayable game. Both had bad years and played poorly on hard court, with Popyrin’s level being particularly low. The Australian has only five wins on the Tour this year, albeit all on hard, while the Spaniard has also only five wins on hard, although his overall record is better due to his clay-court preference. More experienced on the surface at ATP level, Popyrin even has a title and faces an opponent who has lost seven games. But Martinez won the H2H hard early in the season. So everything balances; but I will give it to Popyrin as he at least had a decent low level performance US OpenChun-Tsin Tseng hitting and playing close against Diego Schwartzman.
Prediction: Popyrin in 3
Brandon Nakashima versus Shintaro Mochizuki
Head to head: first meeting
Nakashima recently won his first-ever ATP title and should be confident. Coming in as a wild card, Mochizuki ranks outside the top 400 and is only making his fifth ATP start (no wins yet). He’s only an ITF player at this point and while he should have the support of the home crowd, Nakashima reckons he’ll come through this easily.
Prognosis: Nakashima in WW2
Taro Daniel vs Bernabe Zapata Miralles
Head to head: Daniel 1:0
No player avoids fast surfaces more than Zapata Miralles. He has competed in one tournament on hard and one on grass in the last six months, with the rest on clay. Neither produced a main draw win. Taro Daniel also prefers clay, but he has quite a bit of experience on hard, at least at the ATP level, and has eight wins on the surface this season. I don’t have enough faith in Daniel to break this in two, but I see no reason to pick Zapata Miralles unless it’s on clay.
Prediction: Daniel in 3
Frances Tiafoe vs. Yasutaka Uchiyama
Head to head: first meeting
Technically, these two have met twice before, both on hard courts in 2016, and they shared those games. However, Tiafoe was just beginning his career at the time and is achieving his all-time best result his US Open semifinals Appearance, as well as a victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Laver Cup. Uchiyama was 78th a few years ago but has dropped to 311th and doesn’t seem to be a challenge for the rolling American.
Prediction: Tiafoe in 2
Main photo by Getty.