Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) ATP No. 33; UTR No. 27 (15.45)
Alexander Zverev (GER) ATP No. 3; UTR No. 7 (15.81)
Here is a matchup we have all been waiting for. Red-hot teen sensation Auger-Aliassime will play Zverev for the first time in their professional careers. It certainly won’t be the last meeting between the two tennis prodigies.
Though he's won big on hard courts, clay appears to be Zverev’s best surface. He rates as the sixth-best clay-court player in the world according to his surface-specific UTR. Four of his ten ATP titles have come on clay, and his best Grand Slam result came at last year’s French Open, where he reached the quarterfinal.
Auger-Aliassime's sample size is small, but it's already clear that Felix is quite capable on clay. His heavy kick-serve, massive forehand and freakish athleticism are all valuable tools on the slow surface.
After a puzzlingly slow start to the 2019 season, this is a great opportunity for Zverev to re-establish himself as the top young tennis prospect in the world. Look for the 21-year-old German to take out the fast-rising Canadian star.
Rafael Nadal (ESP) ATP No. 2; UTR No. 2 (16.16)
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) ATP No. 22; UTR No. 10 (15.70)
In his first match on clay since winning the French Open for the 11th time, Nadal will face a tough opening-round test in Bautista Agut. But when it comes to Nadal on clay, his draw never seems to matter. The last time these two played on dirt, at the 2017 French Open, Nadal crushed the rock-solid Bautista Agut, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
Nadal’s health is a concern heading into the clay-court season, especially after withdrawing at Indian Wells and skipping Miami just a few weeks ago. But Nadal’s knees seem to always be in fighting shape once he steps onto his beloved surface—he's won this tournament 11 times, too. If Bautista Agut has any chance in this match, he will need to get out to an early lead.
Look for Bautista Agut to try and rip winners while mixing in some drop shots to try and keep Nadal off balance. Not known for his aggressiveness, this Spaniard knows he will need to play with greater risk in order to pull the upset. That, plus Nadal's reaction to it, should make for some exciting tennis.
We all know who the favorite is, and what the outcome will almost certainly be. Let’s just enjoy the unprecedented greatness that is Nadal on clay.