Dallas Open Singles Preview


(2)Reilly Opelka d (4)Jenson Brooksby 7-6(5), 7-6(3)

2, 3, 4, 7

SEEDS: ONE & DONE (1st Match Loss)
1 out of 8


*Last year was the first year for the indoor stop in Dallas. Six of the eight seeds made it through to the quarterfinals. Top seeded Taylor Fritz was stopped in the quarters for the biggest underdog score of the tournament at 4.41 (+341) in favor of Marcos Giron. All three of the biggest dog hits came via a seeded scalp. (6)Maxime Cressy’s loss in the opening round yielded the second largest at 3.82 (+282) when he was eliminated by Jirij Rodionov. Jordan Thompson’s win over (8)Brandon Nakashima in the round of 16 provided the third highest hit at 3.46 (+246).

*Overall however, the 2022 Dallas Open was a haven for chalk wins. Opelka won the title match at 1.79 (-126). Four of the last seven matches in Dallas saw winners at 1.61 (-163), 1.63 (-158), 1.66 (-151) and the the 1.79 in the final. Only five of the 27 total matches found underdog winners last year. Three of the underdog hits came in round one at 2.07 (+107), 2.20 (+120) and 3.82 (+282).

*Ten of the 27 matches did require three sets to settle. Only two of those came after the first two rounds. There were 20 tie breaks played out of 64 sets for a 31.2% rate. The courts at Southern Methodist University where the Dallas Open is played were described mostly as slick and fast. It certainly seemed to aid those loaded with big serving power like champion Reilly Opelka who tallied 100 aces in four matches.


*The draw is predictably loaded with American players with five of the eight seeds from the United States. There are a dozen American players in the main draw with the potential for a few more to make it via qualifying. Only six players in the draw are inside the top 50 with Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Denis Shapovalov, Miomir Kecmanovic, John Isner and J.J. Wolf filling those roles.

*There would have been a bit more “star” power in Dallas, but a slew of withdrawals took the likes of Reilly Opelka, Ben Shelton, Jiri Lehecka and Brandon Nakashima all out of this year’s field. Opelka was injury related as he has yet to step on a court in 2023 for an ATP match.

*Among the seeds, Fritz, Isner, Giron and Mannarino all have experience playing on these courts a year ago. Both Isner and Giron made the semifinals in the inaugural run with Fritz and Mannarino going out in the quarterfinals. A few of the other direct main draw entries did play in 2022 also in Otte, Kudla, Sock and Thompson. Both Sock and Thompson did win matches with the Aussie making it to the last eight before losing to Brooksby.

INDOOR RECORDS 2022 (All levels)
Fritz: 9-5
Tiafoe: 5-4
Shapovalov: 6-4
Kecmanovic: 1-2
Isner: 3-2
Wolf: 12-10
Giron: 6-5
Mannarino: 6-7

*An interesting thing to watch this week will be how the players fare who have had matches since Australia. All of the seeds will be seeing their first action since the Aussie swing, while a handful of the unseeded players have been in Challenger and Davis Cup matches. Mackie McDonald played Davis Cup in Uzbekistan, scoring a win, and could see a familiar foe in Tiafoe early on. Yibing Wu flies in under-the-radar after making the Cleveland Challenger final indoors. He is won to watch as he’s gone 14-1 indoors at his last three Challenger events. Steve Johnson made the semifinals in Cleveland and gets a crack at (8)Mannarino to start, a rematch of a round one match here in Dallas in 2022. Players who have had regular reps could have an early edge.


*Jack Sock vs Ilya Ivashka
Someone has to win and while both arrive without a win since 2022, the winner gets a big chance in round two against Fritz. Sock lost his season opener last week in Cleveland and has not won an ATP main draw match since last August in Washington, D.C. Ivashka? He lost his lone 2023 match in round one at the Australian Open and hasn’t won since Gijon last October, a stretch of five straight losses. He did have a pair of quarterfinal runs at smaller venues indoors in 2022 in Marseille and Sofia. Sock played in Dallas last year and lost to Fritz in round two with the higher ranked American now having mowed down Sock in each of their last three meetings. Ivashka as a first time matchup might be more difficult for Fritz.

*Michael Mmoh vs Yibing Wu
I touched on Wu’s hot run in Cleveland earlier and his prowess indoors so far. Toss in Mmoh who had a nice three round stay in Melbourne and you could have the best opener in Dallas. Of course it’s a quick turnaround for Wu after a longer week in Cleveland, but form is there while Mmoh hits the courts for the first time since Melbourne. Mmoh was very good indoors last year at 17-8, all at Challengers. I think this one sets up as one of the better and probably more unheralded unseeded clashes early on if Wu shakes off the finals’ loss on Sunday.

*(8)Adrian Mannarino vs Steve Johnson
As I mentioned, it’s a repeat of last year’s opener where Mannarino survived 6-7(2), 6-2, 7-6(2). That was only the second win for Mannarino in seven career meetings with Johnson as the American got back on the winning track when they faced off in Cincinnati last Summer. Mannarino has generally been better indoors at the smaller 250 events like this and Johnson hasn’t won a tour level main draw match since Seoul last September. The American was just 16-17 at the ATP main draw level in 2022. Both players got reps last week with Johnson in Cleveland and Mannarino scoring a Davis Cup win over Marton Fucsovics.

*There could be a couple of other interesting and potential bangers in round one with both Wolf and Giron waiting to find out their opponents out of qualifying. There is some talent in the quali field that could make those matches ones to watch, but we’ll have to wait and see who gets through the two round qualifying process.


QUARTER ONEThis is a solid quarter with Fritz and Giron as the seeds. Fritz certainly will be looking to get back on a roll after a disappointing second round exit in Melbourne. The top seed could get a chance to avenge his quarterfinal loss to Giron here a year ago if seeding holds. I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that we get that matchup. Giron in particular could have a couple of tough matches early. We have to see which qualifier he gets and then both Otte and Eubanks have the big serving game to do damage on this surface that can make things difficult. Fritz obviously gets the edge with the bye and probably won’t mind seeing Sock who he has figured out at this point in winning three straight against his fellow American. Ivashka might be the wild card in this quarter. He’s one of those guys who just meanders through the tour with mediocre results and then pulls out some impressive wins in succession out of the blue. Could this be one of those weeks?

I’ll give Fritz a slight edge in this section, but I expect he will be battling to get through with the conditions here helpful to some in his section. Giron is sneaky good at times and as long as his serve holds up, he could be in the mix. Ivashka and the survivor of Otte-Eubanks in round one will be ones to watch if an unseeded player pushes deep.

Ivashka over (1)Fritz

There is little doubt that Shapovalov is the best overall talent in this quarter, but consistency and motivation will be the keys for me. It’s an interesting twist for the Canadian who is playing American-based tournaments in February after traditionally going for the Doha-Dubai swing in the post Australian Open environment. It’s going to be intriguing to see what he does after the layoff with either Mmoh or Wu as his first opponent. Both are surely capable of pulling a shock. Mannarino has a tough section too with Johnson first and then the survivor of Thompson-Kudla. He is a combined 5-1 against those two however, so he knows who to get the job done. I think the toughest one is that opener against Johnson. If it falls to the seeds, Shapo and Mannarino have split two career matches. Those were over five years ago though, so I won’t read much into that at this point.

The conditions in Dallas SHOULD favor Shapovalov’s electric ground strokes if he keeps his serve consistent aka avoiding the double fault-itis. Johnson and the Mmoh-Wu winner will be the unseeded pair I think with the most juice to try and keep as seed out of the semifinal mix.

Mmoh-Wu over (3)Shapovalov
Johnson over (8)Mannarino

Kecmanovic and Isner are the seeds in this section. There isn’t the buzz for me in this quarter that there is in others for the unseeded players, but that doesn’t mean one cannot emerge from here. Let’s face it, Isner has seen better days. The original American servebot is 0-2 to start the season, but of course his serve on these courts will be a massive weapon. Tseng has struggled against power at this level so far, but there’s always a chance with Isner’s lack of a consistent return for tie breaks and stealing sets. Kecmanovic got in a Davis Cup win to set the tone for his return to the tour this week. He hasn’t had a ton of indoor success in his career, so this is an interesting spot for him. Gomez-Daniel could be a good opener with Gomez off a semifinal run in Cleveland and Daniel off a Davis Cup win for Japan. I feel like Daniel would be the tougher out for the 4th seed with Gomez capable, but generally seeing his best results at Challengers.

Kecmanovic versus Isner is 1-0 for the American if that is the quarterfinal match we get. He won on clay against the Serb in Madrid two years ago. I’d think the surface again favors Isner’s serve, but can he do enough to trouble his opponent? I still have a hard time going against the Isner serve in this quarter, but I also don’t really trust him enough early in the season. This quarter could wind up with an awkward or unexpected winner, but I just don’t see it being a non-seed.

Daniel over (4)Kecmanovic

This quarter looks like it could be a great watch, especially as the action wears on. You’ve got Tiafoe and Wolf as seeds coming in with both off to solid starts in 2023. That doesn’t mean it’s easy for either one early. A potential Tiafoe-McDonald round two clash looks tasty. What I’m curious to watch is if Tiafoe is prepared for that next step. That step where you are the same stud we see for a while at a Grand Slam – EVERY week. That’s what separates the greats from the interchangeable parts of the ATP Tour. In a draw like this where he’s the clear cut favorite, he needs to prove himself. McDonald certainly opened some eyes with a few wins at the Australian Open, but he’s been an inconsistent performer at this level. The layoff for Tiafoe and the bye could be problematic, so McDonald is the guy to watch if he advances. As for Wolf, this seems like a spot for him to succeed. If he gets a decent round one draw, you have to like his chances the next round against Albot or Krall. Given from what we’ve seen early, Wolf should be favored in that section. Krall is a college guy who plays for SMU (host site) and gets his ATP debut in round one, so that’s a big moment, but also tough against a vet like Albot.

I like one of the three Americans I’ve highlighted to get through this section. Wolf may have the easier go of it, but Tiafoe is undeniably the most complete package in this quarter. Of course at a 250 that doesn’t always mean a whole hell of a lot.

McDonald over (2)Tiafoe

The outright market is giving the best “outsiders” odds to Ivashka and McDonald. That seems fair to me, but also means you’re trusting one or both to knock off a one or two seed. Shapovalov as the third favorite is a guy I am looking at with a little more kick that Fritz or Tiafoe. He’s also 5-2 against Fritz with one of those wins coming indoors in Vienna last year. The question of course is how much you trust Shapovalov. His draw is workable when you look at it overall. I’m out on Tiafoe, even if he wins this whole thing, the potential battles along in the first two or three matches turns me off. I’d rather look to someone like Isner at more than double that price and try to ride that big serve. His experience here last year is a bonus.

I think there are better options than taking the top two prices on the board this week. Yes Fritz and Tiafoe are excellent and could run rough shod over this field, but at 250s the experience is usually that things can go awry for the top seed. We did get two of the top four seeds in the final a year ago though and all the semifinal spots went to seeds, so I think it’s smart to look to the seeded field in Dallas as the guys who are likely going to be in the championship mix.

Here’s my two choices for this week. Join me for the daily PIG PIX and I’ll be doing a little tweet preview of the doubles field on Monday. Follow @tennispig

Shapovalov 6.5 (+550)
Isner 14.0 (+1300)


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