With the 2021 Australian Open coming to an end this weekend, the ATP tour will now travel to the Asian continent for what will be the first indoor hardcourt tournament of the year.
World No. 36 Adrian Mannarino finds himself as the top seed at the Singapore Open, as he returns to action for the first time since being bundled out by Alexander Zverev in the third round of the Australian Open. Mannarino is joined by Marin Cilic, who will be looking to get his career back on track after having struggled with consistency over the last two years.
Cilic was dumped out of Melbourne in his opening match itself, at the hands of Grigor Dimitrov. The former US Open champion has been in the middle of a slump since 2019, with his ranking falling to 43rd in the world.
Talented youngster Alexander Bublik and Australia's John Millman round out the top four seeds at the ATP 250 tournament. On that note, here's a look at how the draw is expected to unfold in Singapore:
Top half: Adriano Mannarino posed with a tricky path to the final
Adrian Mannarino finds himself surrounded by some very tricky players on paper. Having received a bye in the first round, the Frenchman will likely play his first match in Singapore against former World No. 10 Ernests Gulbis.
Gulbis was once considered one of the most promising youngsters on tour, but his game has fallen away in recent years.
If Mannarino gets past the Latvian, his next opponent will likely be sixth seed Radu Albot. Although Albot doesn't have any huge weapons in his arsenal, he has a solid baseline game which could potentially break down Mannarino's unconventional style of play.
Third seed Alexander Bublik will be hopeful of meeting Mannarino in the semis. The next highest seed in Bublik's quarter is fellow youngster Yoshihito Nishioka, who might struggle to counter the Kazakh's big serve.
Bublik had a good start to his 2021 season as he reached the final at the Antalya Open, losing to Alex de Minaur. The 23-year-old has not won a singles title on the tour yet, which is something he will be looking to change in Singapore.
If Mannarino and Bublik both make it to the semis, the big-serving Kazakh might have a slight edge due to his explosive game.
Semifinal prediction: Alexander Bublik vs Adrian Mannarino
Bottom half: John Millman, Marin Cilic battle the Next Gen
Second seed John Millman has never won a singles title on hardcourt. But the 31-year-old is one of the tour's most experienced players, and has even defeated the great Roger Federer at the US Open in the past.
Millman has received a first-round bye and will play either Yuki Bhambri or Matthew Ebden in his opening match. If the Australian is able to win that match and reach the quarterfinals, he will most likely face a Next Gen player in countryman Alexei Popyrin or seventh-seeded Lloyd Harris.
The 21-year-old Popyrin is one of the most talented players of the 2000s generation, having defeated the likes of Dominic Thiem and David Goffin at the Australian Open in the past. His projected Round of 16 opponent Lloyd Harris is no pushover either; the big-hitting South African took a set off Federer at Wimbledon 2019.
Last but not the least, third seed Marin Cilic will be looking to end his nightmarish run by going deep at the Singapore Open. The former US Open champion has compiled a 7-13 W-L record in his last 20 matches, including an ongoing four-match losing streak.
It goes without saying that Cilic desperately needs a good result here. Having received a first-round bye, the Croat will open against a much younger opponent as he is slated to face either Ramkummar Ramnathan or Taro Daniel.
While Cilic has been vulnerable in his openers recently, he should be expected to win that match without much trouble. The 32-year-old's projected quarterfinal opponent is Korea's Kwon Soon-woo.
A possible semifinal clash between Marin Cilic and John Millman would certainly be very interesting. Cilic has a big serve that can keep the Australian on the backfoot, but he will need his baseline game to be far better than it has been lately. Millman is very quick on his feet, and will likely make the Croat play a lot of extra shots.
Semifinal prediction: John Millman vs Marin Cilic
Prediction for the final
Alexander Bublik vs John Millman