Nadal withdraws from ATP Cup Match. Day 2 Preview/Picks
(Photo Credit: Reuters)

Day 1 of the ATP cup is in the books, and despite many of the top players having been in action, the story of the day revolves around a certain legend who wasn’t.

Rafael Nadal withdrew from his opening group stage match against Alex De Minaur, citing a stiff back. Spain still took down Australia in both singles matches, with the rock solid Pablo Carreno-Busta filling in seamlessly. However, tennis fans have to be nervous about the timing of this injury, with the year’s first major beginning next week. 

Nadal, along with the history of the sport in general, have so much riding on the 2021 Australian Open. Not only is Nadal tied with Federer for the most major championships of all time, he could also become the first player ever to win all four majors twice with a win in Melbourne. Hopefully his withdrawal Tuesday is just a case of him being overly cautious and trying to keep his body as healthy as possible given how much is on the line. Would have to respect him taking a page out of the NBA’s “Load Management” book.

Day 1 ATP Cup Recap

Now let’s quickly discuss some of the notable players who actually were in action. 

Djokovic took down Shapovalov in a rematch of last year’s ATP Cup thriller. In what was his first competitive match of the year, Djokovic ought to be pleased with his performance. He faced no break points and created six of his own against the Canadian. While both sets were tight, you never felt like he was in much danger.

Berretini easily took down Thiem in what was a rather disappointing match given the potential when two of the biggest hitters in the sport meet. Thiem came out extremely flat, never really finding his rhythm. He seemed overmatched by the power of Berretini. I was on the over here so obviously I was displeased with the effort I saw from Thiem. I definitely would have expected that a Berretini win would require a battle. But as we know with Domi, he does tend to have these inexplicably flat performances. He won just three games in a first round encounter with Krajinovic in Cincinnati in 2020 before going onto win the US Open two weeks later, so I’m not going to take too much from his performance yesterday.

Other top players in action, all of whom won, were Medvedev, Bautista Agut and Rublev. I was most impressed by Rublev, who took down Pella in just 60 minutes. Pella has a history of playing well in big matches, despite his ranking of just 44, so Rublev should be pleased with his performance. He also should be feeling fresh for his match tonight against Nishioka.

Day 2 2021 ATP Cup Picks

YTD: 0-1-1 -1.1u

As noted above, I took an L on the Berretini/Thiem over yesterday. Medvedev -5 was a push vs Schwartzman, and with Nadal pulling out, Bautista Agut got moved in seeding and his match with Millman didn’t happen. Onto Day 2, let’s find some winners.

I’m taking a stab at 3 O/U’s today.

Zverev-Shapovalov O 22.5

These two have had battles in the past, and while Zverev has proven he’s the better player, Shapovalov has taken their past two encounters. I expect a battle, with Zverev opening up his season tonight and Shapovalov looking to continue his good form after playing Djokovic tough yesterday.

Rublev-Nishioka U19.5

Rublev tends to absolutely beat up on inferior opponents, who can’t handle his consistent pace/power. While I’m a little worried about Nishioka’s crafty leftiness coming into play, I don’t see him having the weapons to cause too much trouble. Give me Rublev in a quick one.

Tsitsipas-De Minaur O 22.5

Another battle between youngsters here. Stef hasn’t lost in his matchup at the pro level, but De Minaur loves these fast hard courts, and I expect this match to end in two tight sets or go to a third.

Check me out on Kriegs Korner! Will hopefully be making more appearances there moving forward.