All eyes will be on Rafael Nadal as the Spanish ace returns from injury at Alberto Mexicano Telcel (Mexican Open), the ATP 500 tournament in Acapulco, starting Monday (February 26).
Update: The Spaniard has pulle dout of the tounament after aggrevating the hip injury he picked up during Australian Open 2018.
Nadal has not played competitive tennis ever since pulling out of Australian Open quarter-final against Marin Cilic in January with a hip injury. The 31-year-old has not started the season on a good note as he had also pulled out from Brisbane International.
Acapulco will thus be an important stop in Nadal's 2018 tennis tour as the two-time champion will look to regain confidence in the early-season hardcourt tournament.
The Spaniard has already conceded the world number one title to arch-rival Roger Federer, who has started the new season by defending his Australian Open crown and winning the ATP 500 title in Rotterdam.
Nadal, who finished runner-up in Acapulco in 2017, will start the tournament as the top seed. He will face fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in the opening round.
The world number two starts as the favorite against his lower-ranked opponent as the latter has not been in the best of his forms in the recent past (first round-exit at Australian Open and second-round loss in Rotterdam). Also, Nadal has a positive head-to-head record of 9-4 against his countryman.
Is a rematch of last year's final on the cards?
Nadal could face Sam Querrey, who defeated him in straight sets in last year's final, as early as in the quarter-final. The 30-year-old American is heading into the tournament on the back of a runner-up finish at the ATP 500 tournament in New York earlier this month.
Germany star Alexander Zverev, who had a dream season in 2017, is seeded second in Acapulco. The world number five will be looking to get back to winning ways after recent struggles in the new season.
Third seed Dominic Thiem, sixth seed Juan Martin del Potro, eighth seed John Isner and comeback man Kei Nishikori are also key contenders for semi-final spots from the lower half of the draw. Also, upcoming stars Denis Shapovalov and Hyeon Chung have another opportunity to prove their mettle against some of the big names in world tennis.
|1. Rafael Nadal|
|2. Alexander Zverev|
|3. Dominic Thiem|
|4. Jack Sock|
|5. Kevin Anderson|
|6. Juan Martin Del Potro|
|7. Sam Querrey|
|8. John Isner|
Key first-round matches to watch out for (Start times for the following ties will be updated soon)
- Rafael Nadal  vs Feliciano Lopez
- Juan Martin del Potro  vs Mischa Zverev
- Denis Shapovalov vs Kei Nishikori
- Alexander Zverev  vs Steve Johnson