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Murray River Open 2021: Men's singles draw analysis, preview & prediction

Stan Wawrinka
Stan Wawrinka
ANALYST
Modified 30 Jan 2021
Feature

The ATP tune-up events for the Australian Open will begin with the Murray River Open - along with the Great Ocean Road Open - on 1 February. The former will be headlined by top seed Stan Wawrinka and second seed Grigor Dimitrov.

A total of 56 players are competing in this event, which is scheduled to come to a close on 7 February. The top eight seeds have been given a bye, as is the norm in most ATP 250 tournaments.

Aside from Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov, the other big names here are Felix Auger-Aliassime, Borna Coric, Casper Ruud, Taylor Fritz, Ugo Humbert and Dan Evans.

On that note, let us take a closer look at the draw, beginning with the top half:

Top Half: Three-time Major champion Stan Wawrinka leads the way

Stan Wawrinka
Stan Wawrinka

Seeded players: [1] Stan Wawrinka, [4] Borna Coric, [6] Taylor Fritz, [8] Dan Evans, [10] Adrian Mannarino, [11] Marin Cilic, [13] Nick Kyrgios, [14] Richard Gasquet

Expected semifinal: Stan Wawrinka vs Borna Coric

Dark horse: Nick Kyrgios

Analysis: In an era where Grand Slam champions outside the 'Big 3' are scarce, the top half of the Murray River Open surprisingly features two Major winners - Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic.

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The Swiss star has received a bye in the opening round and will play against one of Juan Ignacio Londero or Mikhail Kukushin in the second round.

In the third, Wawrinka is projected to face Richard Gasquet, but mercurial Aussies Thanasi Kokkinakis and Alex Bolt could have something to say about that. The winner of Kokkinakis vs Bolt will likely meet Gasquet in Round 2.

Marin Cilic meanwhile goes up against Jeremy Chardy in the first round. This promises to be an interesting clash between two experienced campaigners of the tour.

The Croat could then face one of Elias Ymer or Gilles Simon in the second round. Sixth seed Taylor Fritz is also in Cilic's section, and has received a bye in the opening round. The American could play one of Radu Albot or Federico Coria in his second round match.

The first quarterfinal of the top half is expected to be between Stan Wawrinka and Taylor Fritz. However, players like Cilic, Kokkinakis, Gasquet and Simon could all have a say in that.

Fourth seed Borna Coric has also received an opening-round bye, and in the second round he awaits the winner of the clash between Viktor Troicki and Emil Ruusuvuori. Coric is an accomplished hardcourter but he will have to play out of his skin to get out of this section, which boasts several big-hitting players.

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Bernard Tomic takes on countryman Marc Polmans in the opening round. Should he win that match, a clash against Nick Kyrgios or Alexandre Muller awaits the Aussie in the second.

Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios

Tomic vs Kyrgios would undoubtedly be the blockbuster early-round clash of the tournament. But Kyrgios' form is a big question mark, given that he hasn't played any competitive tennis since the tour was shut down last year.

Adrian Mannarino and Dan Evans complete the list of seeded players in the bottom quarter of the top half. Evans is the expected quarterfinal opponent for Borna Coric.

The Brit has received a bye in his opening round and will face one of Pedro Sousa or Li Tu in the second. That isn't the hardest draw by any stretch of the imagination, so if Evans is able to replicate his 2020 form, he can be backed to go deep in the tournament.

Semifinal prediction: Stan Wawrinka vs Nick Kyrgios

Bottom half: Grigor Dimitrov and Felix Auger-Aliassime looking to kick-start their 2021 on a strong note

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Grigor Dimitrov
Grigor Dimitrov

Seeded players: [2] Grigor Dimitrov, [3] Felix Auger-Aliassime, [5] Casper Ruud, [7] Ugo Humbert, [9] Lorenzo Sonego, [12] Albert Ramos-Vinolas, [15] Tommy Paul, [16] Marton Fucsovics

Expected semifinal: Grigor Dimitrov vs Felix Auger-Aliassime

Dark horse: Ugo Humbert

Analysis: Grigor Dimitrov will be playing for the first time since his quarterfinal loss at the Vienna Open last year. The 29-year-old is the second seed at this event, and has naturally been granted a bye in the opening round.

In the second round, the Bulgarian will be up against one of Taro Daniel or Andrew Harris. Dimitrov will fancy his chances of coming out of this quarter, which also features Tommy Paul and Alexei Popyrin.

The 15th-seeded Paul opens his campaign against Cameron Norrie, who made the semis of the Delray Beach Open earlier this month. A win against Norrie will likely earn the American a shot at Dimitrov in the third round.

At the other end of the quarter, Ugo Humbert also has an opening-round bye. The talented Frenchman will face one of James Duckworth or Tomas Machac in the second round.

Humbert's section also has compatriot Corentin Moutet and promising American Frances Tiafoe. Moutet and Tiafoe have been pitted against each other first up, in what promises to be one of the most riveting opening-round contests of the event.

Should Tiafoe survive the Moutet test, he will be up against one of Albert Ramos-Vinolas or wild-card entrant Blake Mott.

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Third seed Felix Auger-Aliassime has been handed a tricky quarter on paper, with Quentin Halys, Egor Gerasimov and Marton Fucsovics all in his path. The Canadian last played at the Sofia Open in November, but will not be afforded much time to find his rhythm.

Auger-Aliassime is drawn to face one of Quentin Halys or Yuichi Sugita in the second round.

Felix Auger-Aliassime
Felix Auger-Aliassime

Giant-killer Lorenzo Sonego meanwhile is in the same quarter as fifth seed Casper Ruud. The two are projected to face each other in the third round, which will undoubtedly be a stern test for Ruud.

One of these two players will also be the likely quarterfinal opponent for Felix Auger-Aliassime.

India's Sumit Nagal meanwhile is drawn to face Ricardas Berankis in the first round. Should he win that match, Nagal will be up against Sonego, who plays wild card entrant Jason Kubler in his first round.

Semifinal prediction: Ugo Humbert vs Lorenzo Sonego

Predicted final

Ugo Humbert vs Nick Kyrgios

Predicted champion

Ugo Humbert

Published 30 Jan 2021, 15:31 IST
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