Jun 26, 2021

2021 Wimbledon ATP Round One Writeup

Good morning. The bad news is I am going to be moving this week /competing in some events and am unlikely to catch enough tennis to really do a good job with the writeups. As a result, I’ll be a bit MIA for a week so I’m only covering the first round and then will likely be back for the hardcourt swing in the US. An incomplete product sucks, so I apologize, but also I am a turtle and have no concept of responsibility. The WTA 1st round will be up in a few hours, and DC has graciously continued hosting bracket competitions and odds competitions so check out the shtuff at the links below.

Registration is still open for the Wimbledon ATP and WTA bracket challenges!
Djokovic vs Draper :

Jack Draper has finally completed some matches and it’s a welcome change. Jack is a left-handed player from the UK who has been a promising junior for a while now. He hits the ball huge and has a pretty good ability to generate offense from anywhere on the court. This offensive tendency can lead to a lot of Shapovalov type games that go to duece unnecessarily, but his main trouble on tour has been injuries. Prior to this past month he’d withdrawn from a ton of matches and it was starting to look like his career might never get going. The recent grass swing has seen a lot of the British players get a few wins though, and he has played admirably in his few outtings. This match is a good example of pricing people out of a market. Djokovic lands at -28000, which means you’d have to risk 28,000 dollars to win 100; absurd to even think about. The local player is likely to draw some investment from fans and UK sports enthusiasts just looking to have some fun, but the markets here have basically been set in a manner to prevent you from being able to back Djokovic for any meaningful sums. The kneejerk reaction to having info or a feeling of reliability about an outcome is to want to profit from it, and so big vs small market instances or situations where public opinion is likely to be very heavy on one side means spreads and game totals are often slightly shifted towards the favorite as well (often half a game or a full game beyond where models would actually place the outcome). The instinct of most players is to look at the under 26.5, djokovic 3-0, or djokovic -10 games as the affordable second option, but it is important to note that as a result of this, these markets are often shifted more towards Novak just to balance the investment coming in. 26.5 as an under here is pretty ambitious to back, since it’ll be Novak’s first grasscourt singles match in a long time and he is notorious for winning 1 break sets. Draper’s health issues and relative inexperience make it impossible to really land on his side either.

Djokovic 3-0 seems like the most likely option here, but this is priced accordingly at -500 which is again intended to price people out. “Picking up pennies in front of a steamroller” is the analogy many people use, and it’s apt. When you’re consistently working in lopsided markets, the odds you lay for the favorite to win are always significantly higher than the odds of the event occurring simply because the books pricing is intended to balance the money in most cases. Although this is a pretty clear spot to just skip the match entirely, there is some information available in the Djokovic o/u games line. The under 18.5 games is basically exactly what you’d expect if you’re backing Djokovic 3-0 at -500 or taking the highly specific u26.5 total games, yet u18.5 games for Djokovic (meaning he’d win 6-X, 6-X, 6-X) is only -161. This may be the cheapest route to go in backing Novak, but at this price it’s likely to see most of the money and most of the money traditionally flows into the bookmaker’s pockets in situations like these. Bottom line is Draper is too much of an unknown in this situation to really predict anyway, but the Novak options here are likely to wind up being too specific to really make a profit with in the longterm. Draper has a good serve and sharp offense, and the crowd will get behind him if he gets any momentum, but there are just too many “ifs” and we are still only talking about him making the scoreline look respectable. Novak is in such good position to do well in this Wimbledon that the articles declaring him champion before the event has happened don’t really even feel like exaggerations, and if he gets off to a good start here the list of names that may trouble him will shrink rapidly. Djokovic in 3.

Anderson vs Barrios :

Kevin Anderson opened here around -350 which is about right. He’s a very accomplished server and works hard enough during rallies that he is able to break serve at times. The only issue here that makes him a flight risk is his recent injury withdrawals. His price has gone to -430 which isn’t surprising since he’s playing a clay specialist, but Barrios breezed through qualifying and Anderson not being 100% has often put him in some very close matches in the past. These guys are professionals, but the prize money at majors makes up a good chunk of their yearly salary so you see a lot more “played somewhat poorly due to not being 100%” outtings than you do withdrawals. If Anderson is okay, he likely wins this in 4 sets. In the first round of a 2 week long tournament, I’m not sure what the hurry is though and this kind of minor question mark should really be enough to keep you from guessing.

Sousa vs Seppi :

Sousa hasn’t been able to win a match in recent history, and Andreas Seppi can often be a terror on grass. He’s very consistent, has great ability to locate his shots, and hits very flat. Sousa though, has at least one very surprising run at Wimbledon in his pocket in the past, and the serve/forehand combo is likely to give him a puncher’s chance here since Seppi is a bit less physically able than he was a few years ago. Slumping claycourter against slightly past his prime grass specialist should see a small edge to Seppi, and at this point for Sousa it’s hard to really be doing anything but storytelling to predict him suddenly playing great. The tour this season has produced a ton of “wins after a terrible slump” to keep players in the top 100 though, and Seppi losing to Purcell and Kukushkin is right around the level that could see him fall to anyone in the top 200. Ifs are not something I’m really comfortable backing though, so it’s Seppi in 4 here if I was forced to choose something.

Kudla vs Davidovich-Fokina :

This is one of those spots where I like to think about exposure. Davidovich Fokina can really ball, but clay and hardcourt have been his best surfaces. Kudla is a nightmare on grass. He hits hard, he’s a quick defender, and he serves pretty well. It’s his best surface, but how many people really know that? He’s been mired around the fringe of the tour for a season or two and Fokina has been one of the biggest names this year. Yet this match is offered as a pickem. There is a lot of tea-leaf reading that can poison your decision-making process, but the main spot where info is given away is when the book prices thing significantly against the market sizes for respective players. Fokina is a big name now, and a big $ draw. On the other hand though, setting Kudla at even odds basically gouges out any real value that is to be gained by knowing how good he is on grass. Yes, he played great in the qualifier. Yes, grass is his best surface. Can Fokina still beat him though? Absolutely. With his last match ending in an injury withdrawal though, it makes it very difficult to know how well he’ll play here though. This is a spot where I generally will accept that the books are mitigating exposure against large bets on Kudla placed by “experts” (this is in quotes because most gamblers are in wild denial about their actual results/comprehension of the sport they’re following and the “sharps” and “experts” are generally just the largest bettors who are skating on the positive side of variance), and are comfortable taking a small hit if Fokina does win. A good option is generally to agree with the books when they take a position, but to do so a bit more conservatively. Something like Kudla to win a set might see you offering 3:1 odds, but genuinely is a simpler sweat than many of the more ambiitious options which have already been adjusted to by the books prices. Again, the information you head into these matches with is generally already reflected in the prices offered, and agreeing with the books and/or sitting in safer positions generally leads to lower variance and less stress accumulating over time since you tend to clear the hurdle quicker when you don’t need an extremely specific outcome. For wagering purposes, this price is set perfectly by the books to avoid exposure and to create relative doubt about the expected value of Kudla wagers. Luckily though, you don’t have to bet. One of the biggest pitfalls in gambling is heading in treating it like a multiple choice exam. You don’t have to fill out anything, and since the books are wildly predatory and are nearly impossible to beat due to the simple math of the fees they charge over time, you don’t really want to gamble with them anyway in these spots.

The best news about this is that pricing and “what ifs” aside, this is likely to be a really fun match. Fokina is a dangerous floater in any draw and his tennis is good enough that he can win in any situation. Kudla is likely to acquit himself well but I could easily see this going to 5 sets. Slight edge to Kudla simply because ADF is on his worst surface and may be slightly less than 100%, but these are two players who are in different tiers now and often the B game of the top guy is about even with the peak of the challenger tier player. Kudla in 5.

Garin vs Zapata Miralles :

Christian Garin on grass! Sign me up! It doesn’t seem like his game will ever translate to grass, but I do think the surface often favors the better athlete as much as it favors the better server. Zapata Miralles cruised through qualifying and point blank he has a better serve than Garin, but his best surface has been clay and this could easily become a baseline battle. It’s a similar spot to ADK vs Kudla where Garin is really in another tier of tennis than Bernabe, but Garin hasn’t played a single match since Roland Garros, and Miralles is likely to have a fast start. The price here is around -180 for Garin, which is low enough to reflect Miralles’ solid play and chances, but still will see split investment since Garin is the bigger name. The shortened season and lack of an extra week of prep is seeing books mitigate exposure more than anything else in these spots, and I think they’re doing the right thing here as Garin will come in relatively unprepared. I don’t see a way this ends in straight sets unless Garin really can’t find his timing, but this is a great spot for Miralles to make the second round. Miralles in 4.

Lu vs Polmans :

Lu is picking up useful checks with his protected ranking, but I don’t see him really getting back on tour. Marc Polmans hopped and skipped and bounded his way through qualifying, and if you ever wanted to watch a plucky fellow scoot around in an amusing hat, this is the guy for you. He can get a bit too excited on the court, but his athleticism and consistency should be enough here. Polmans in 3-4.

Travaglia vs Martinez :

Travaglia didn’t look great against RBA this past week, but he does have a pretty big serve at times so it makes sense for him to be favored here. Martinez has a full tennis game, but the wins haven’t come recently and bowing out in 2 to Nicola Kuhn last week in Mallorca wasn’t a great sign. Travaglia in 3.

O’Connell vs Monfils :

Is it too late for Monfils to really become a factor on tour again? He seems to have somewhat recovered from the doldrums and injuries that saw him go on a Benoit Paire-like skid, but he still lacks the killer instinct and gets outworked in matches in key moments. This is one of those spots where the pickem odds make sense, but Monfils winning in straight sets would still make sense. O’Connell is a great basliner, but he’s a bit of a paper tiger at times since his physicality is prone to disappearing. We saw fatigue hurt him in a few matches already this year, most notably against Radu Albot where Albot was really falling apart late in the match but O’Connell couldn’t push himself through. The qualifying run was good, and Tomas Machac has a pretty big game at times so O’Connell’s defending should be good enough. The question here is whose body gives out first. I would say the pickem odds are a nod to O’Connell but it is these slumping champion vs peaking challenger tour situations that make for the most exciting and most unpredictable outcomes. Monfils has yet to win a set on grass, and I think he may struggle to find it here against a surging qualifier who plays better against the slow pace that Monfils often offers. O’Connell in 4.

Schwartzman vs Paire :

Do I want to watch a tv show about these two as roommates? Yes please. Diego works extremely hard, and Benoit Paire owns 14 different kinds of beard shampoos. Diego cleans the living room, and Benoit hangs upside down from a jungle gym slapboxing his pet cats. Diego earns his place on tour, and Benoit smashes and slashes at the ball until it finally works and spends the rest of the season adjusting his collar. I’m not particularly mad at Paire, but he seemed to have worked out his issues and it’s really fun to watch him play well, so I think me and a lot of tennis fans just feel a bit robbed of his entertainment factor. Diego sits as a big favorite here, but Paire’s serve and skill at net on grass mean that he could steal a set very easily by getting to a tiebreaker. Unless Paire is completely checking out of the professional tennis tour, I’d expect a shootout here. Diego in 5.

Cecchinato vs Broady :

Cecchinato off clay is often not worth discussing. He almost seems to rush through matches when conditions aren’t perfect. Broady works hard enough to win this, and despite having faltered in some key moments late in matches, he should be comfortable here playing as the hometown favorite. Broady in 4.

Hanfmann vs Vesely :

Yannick Hanfmann is a pretty tremendous claycourt talent, but he does a lot of if behind a huge serve and volley attack, so grass is a pretty decent surface for him. His big swings can leave him a bit behind the pace on grass, but the same can be said for Vesely. A huge lefty server who seems to have all the tools but lacks the consistency from week to week to get back on tour, Jiri is very good but doesn’t beat a lot of players ranked ahead of him. This has a pretty good chance to see some sets exchanged and I think Hanfmann is sharper but Vesely plays a bit better on grass. There doesn’t seem to be a huge edge here for either on paper given Vesely’s quick exit to PCB last week. Vesely in 5.

Sinner vs Fucsovics :

He fell! He fell! Many people were excited by Sinner’s struggles against Jack Draper in his first grass outting, but it’s hard to see him taking too long to figure out the surface. He has good movement, but not yet on grass. He has tremendous power, but not quite the timing on grass. I think Fucsovics has a chance in this matchup as a result, but he tends to play a bit too passive at times and Sinner will have chances as a result. Another solid contest that’ll be fun to watch but difficult to see a clear outcome in. Fucsovics in 5.

Ramos-Vinolas vs Fognini :

Somewhere the body-painter is putting on Fognini’s absurdly tight “shirt”. Somewhere nearby ARV is studying latin with Indiana Jones to solve the secret of the Ark. Or something like that. Idk. Dude just looks like a secret archaeologist crossed with a book crossed with a falcon, and that is his game style as well. Grass is not a good surface for him, and Fognini should win, despite being relatively unreliable. Fognini in 4.

Djere vs Cuevas :

The cool thing about the grass season is all the clay specialists are coming in with tons of ranking points and get to play each other. Djere should win this as he has a bigger serve, but Cuevas is a lot more skillful and Djere has been having a less than stellar season as far as results despite some moderately good play. Cuevas in 5.

Berankis vs Harris :

Lloyd Harris should win this matchup every time, but Ricardas Berankis doesn’t disappear at majors. Harris has a huge serve, he’s a superb athlete, but he will have his hands full here. This is a classic match where Harris will look like a worldbeater if he’s able to win, and if Berankis wins it will feel like Harris underperformed. Losing to Moutet last week wasn’t great. This is probably a Harris victory but it may end up closer than the odds are indicating. Harris in 5.

Rublev vs Delbonis :

Bweh. Everyone’s favorite angry broccoli in 3.

Tiafoe vs Tsitsipas :

There was a time where this would be a juicy matchup, but Tiafoe hasn’t done much since returning to the tour after a good run at the challenger level. Tsitsipas is at the top echelon of tennis and despite not much play leading into this he should win a serving battle. Tsitsipas in 3-4.

Pospisil vs Carballes Baena :

Tricky one for Pospisil as RCB has made things very tough on people in the past week and Pospisil seems almost as bad as Paire in terms of results. At some point Vasek has to get it going, but it is tough watching him fatigue so easily after rallies and it sometimes feels like he’s a little bit too tall and 3/5 is a little bit too much tennis for him. Pospisil in 3 or RCB in 5.

Clarke vs Gerasimov :

Egor Gerasimov might still be injured, and he really hasn’t played well since a lopsided loss to Karatsev introduced the Lion to the tour at the AO. Jay Clarke has been set up nicely to get onto the tour by the UK tennis association, but the results haven’t come. He’s a workhorse, and has about the talent level of a Duckworth or a Djere, but there’s just not a lot of remarkable performances from him thus far so Gerasimov should get by here. Not worth backing as Egor might not be 100, but Gerasimov in 4.

Khachanov vs McDonald :

Another difficult draw for Khachanov. Mackie McDonald seemed like he’d lose the qualifier but the kid has won match after match this year. He’s fighting, and the results are very justified. Khachanov’s super extreme grip makes things pretty tough on grass, but his serve is capable of putting him as a favorite in this match, albeit a small one. The -150 odds offered for him are spot on. He’s supposed to win this, but it’s going to be extremely tricky and he hasn’t turned in the type of “stay down there” performances that you’d want to see against lower tier opponents. McDonald in 4.

Lopez vs Evans :

As long as there’s grass, Feliciano Lopez will stay on tour. The grasscourt leadups are just one of the softest times of the year. So many grinders drop them from their schedule and so many top players choose to rest or show up just to get matches in. The result is Lopez playing guys who just aren’t capable of defending against his serving. Evans should be able to beat Lopez, but I doubt it will happen in straight sets. Lopez serves too well and he’s had ample matches to be at his best here. Evans will have hometown support which is always a boost, and he’ll need it. Evans in 5.

Lajovic vs Simon :

This is a nice gift for whoever wins. Both are on the struggle bus, and while Simon’s game translates a lot better to grass, Lajovic is still competitive on tour situationally where Gilles seems resigned to just kinda participate and ease into retirement. I think Simon should win this though, as Lajovic’s backhand is really going to have trouble timing the ball on grass. Simon in 3.

Hoang vs Zhang :

This seems fair. Hoang has a great serve and forehand combo. His backhand is solid but his swing gets tight at times and he can make errors. Zhang is almost a mirror of this, and while he has a few more notable wins on tour, these two are very much fringe hopefuls. Zhang tends to win when he has the bigger weapons, but a lot of these wins come in the Asian swing where draws are a bit weaker and he’s likely more comfortable. Still, qualifying here was not only assured by his solid play, but pointed to by the bookies making him a solid favorite in most of his matches. Hard to expect anything but a back and forth exchange here from two quality qualifiers. Zhang might be a bit more consistent. Zhang in 5.

De Minaur vs Korda :

This is unfortunate. Sebastian Korda is not an easy out. He serves huge, and has very easy power in his ground game. His game reminds me of Jannik Sinner if he took a bunch of CBD oil before the match. Just a really mellow style yet the ball flies when he tags it. De Minaur deserved something a bit easier here after his solid play the past two weeks, but he can still win this match. Grass benefits huge offenses, but it also lends a bit of quality to smaller offenses and the quicker surface helps De Minaur serve and assists his groundstrokes in clearing the court. Movement will be key here, as Korda isn’t likely to keep up with ADM but is likely to give him some trouble with his power. This is two 2nd tier talents meeting as they both hit a pretty high level, and this is probably one of the best matchups of the first round. De Minaur in 5.

Shapovalov vs Kohlschreiber :

How many times can I type “Shapovalov should win this”. He should win this. Kohlschreiber is a bit too slow for grass, and Shap has all the tools. Somehow I still imagine it being tight, as he just doesn’t have any variation to his play. One speed, nonstop attack, and opponents hanging in and earning errors that his athleticism likely means he doesn’t have to make. I’m hoping to see a more reserved and calculated Shapo at some point. He should still win this though in 4-5.

Herbert vs Andujar :

Now everyone knows that Andujar can summon jaguars, but did you also know that he can turn people into them? This is likely his best chance to defeat Herbert, but as Pablo is a man of wisdom and class, he will likely just lose in 3. Herbert’s serve/volley game and overall variety are enough that he can hold serve very often on grass, and Andujar isn’t likely to blow him off the court so Pierre will have enough chances to break that he’ll find his rhythm. Jaguarbert in 3.

Otte vs Rinderknech :

Oscar Otte and Rinderknech are likely to turn in a really high level contest here, and with Murray/Basilashvili waiting in the next round it is a huge chance for one of these two challenger nightmares to score some big points. Otte has been sneaking onto the tour for a while, mostly winning on clay, but he almost shocked the world when he found hiimself up 2 sets against Zverev in Paris. I would say he has a bigger serve in this matchup, but Rinderknech’s forehand and baseline game are going to be a decent equalizer. Someone in 5.

Basilashvili vs Murray :

We’re all cheering for Murray to do well, but there hasn’t been much to indicate that he is physically capable of winning on tour. It’s a similar problem to the one that Venus Williams faces. Murray is still good enough to compete on tour but his inability to defend like he used to makes him vulnerable against everyone he plays. Basilashvili has enough power to expose this, but he tends to make errors when he gets frustrated, so I’d see this going quickly to him, or agonizingly to Murray. Hard to give Andy credit based on his season so far. Basilashvili in 4 but I think most people will be pulling for Murray.

Koepfer vs Opelka :

Opelka is carrying some lingering injuries, or else this would be a perfect spot for him. It’ll be tiebreakers and Koepfer is likely to be able to hold serve as well so this is a hard one to call especially given the questionable physical status of Reilly. Koepfer in 4.

Kwon vs Masur :

Soonwoo Kwon got a nice lucky loser spot and parlayed it into some wins last week, but losses to Gray and Dzumhur make this a tough spot. Dan Masur breezed his way through qualifying, besting big hitting Sebastian Ofner in the finals. The odds (around -300 Kwon) reflect Kwon’s edge from the baseline, and the relative gap in experience, but Masur should have his chances since Kwon has almost no serving ability. Similar matchup to Korda and De Minaur. I’m tempted to say Masur wins in 4 and since I’ll be moving when this prediction blows up, I’m gonna do it. Masur in 4. I gave the gamboooool chatter a rest for a little, but I wanted to note that these are spots where I’m more likely to skip the match since the underdog has been playing well than I am to back them. It’s always best to avoid situations that have uncertainty, that way over time your selections are more refined and less impulsive. The only real way to navigate a system that tests your discipline nonstop is to make the right decisions for enough time that it becomes reflexive. The same way you get good enough at your job to where it doesn’t require thought, you should look to become honest enough about your actual knowledge vs your hunches that you don’t comingle them when you actually go to make predictions. The funny thing here also is Kwon’s solid play this week makes him a favorite here, but had he not received that lucky loser spot his season would look wildly different and I would be leaning more into Masur. Honestly once you begin weighing options and trying to find the formula for “who wins” you’re already in a fun but difficult spot. Skipping things is always a solid choice.

Bagnis vs Kecmanovic :

I don’t think this one will be front page material, but Kecmanovic should be a bit more suited to winning on grass since he hits a bit harder than Bagnis on his forehand and has a slightly more offensive serve. Kecmanovic in 3.

Millman vs Baustista-Agut :

Somehow Millman and RBA will play a 4 hour match here, but it feels as if Millman should never win. RBA started slow this year and seems not to be his usual automatic self. He’s lost to some big hitters, and his turned in some very confusing performances. If it’s a lingering injury, I think he’d take time off. Millman has the endurance and plays well on grass, but the weapons to really put RBA away aren’t there, and RBA’s ability to move the ball with margin makes this an ideal matchup for him. For my magical turtle dollars, I can’t put too much faith in RBA against a guy who competes so hard in a season where Roberto has had injury questions, but he should win this in 4.

Pella vs Berretini :

Berretini was the other name that got thrown around before this event, and I think he’s in a good position to make a deep run. Servers don’t always win out at Wimbledon, but Berretini’s ability to hit the same serve in the 5th set as he hits in the 1st set is very huge. Pella is just not up to par on grass. Berretini in 3.

Barrere vs Van De Zandschulp :

The surprise of the qualifier has to be VDZ losing to Trungelitti. Marco basically was a clay specialist and has been barely making himself heard in qualifiers at tour events, but managed to turn back time and roll through. It makes Barrere’s chances here look a lot better, but Van De Zandschulp is a player much like Rinderknech in that he has the power and serve to really dominate affairs. If his serving falters, Barrere should win as he’s the more consistent player. It is likely to be a long match though, as both are playing well and neither have a dominant weapon to score with. Barrere in 5.

Bedene vs Moutet :

Moutet is an exciting player, but he complains a bit too much for me to cheer for him. Aljaz is a classy dude, andneeds a win here. For Moutet, the problem is always consistency. He gets upset when he goes down a set, but roars at the sky when he breaks serve. Bedene is likely to play solid throughout, and since this Wimbledon sees a very short prep and a post-pandemic tour that isn’t at its best, I’m sticking with that side of things. Bedene in 5.

Isner vs Nishioka :

Obligatory “David vs Goliath” reference. Isner’s serving on clay almost netted him some huge titles, and he seems to have found a good service rhythm at the right time. He will be a very tough out in this event, and Nishioka’s fortitude has proven to be results-oriented. Isner in 3.

Chardy vs Karatsev :

5 - Strongly agree. Oddsmakers have slated this to be a dangerous encounter and I think so as well. Karatsev’s magical run finally seemed to slow down at Roland Garros, and the early grass results have not been so good. Chardy has a big serve, way more experience on grass, and no pressure. Karatsev’s offense is solid but he seems like a player who thrives in conditions with very true bounces. Should be a tight match, and I’ll be pulling for Jeremy. Chardy in 4.

Ivashka vs Munar :

Always a weird time in the season when the clay monsters become the best draw you could ask for. Ivashka’s successes were mostly clay events, but his game translates a bit better on grass. He’s not likely to just serve this one out, but this reminds me of a more stable Paire vs a less competent (on grass at least) Diego. Ivashka in 3.

Popyrin vs Nishikori :

KEI KEI KEI. KEI KEI KEI. KEI NISHIKORI. KEI NISHIKORIIIII. AOOOWWWWW. This is a fun match, as Popyrin has the firepower to win but likely not the consistency to play that peak level for multiple sets in a row. Kei’s serve will be a problem for him at some round in this event, but he’s used to that. Same story with Kei anytime he plays someone good; he’ll have a puncher’s chance, but really will need a near perfect performance every round to keep winning. Popyrin’s couple grass matches so far haven’t gone as well as you’d want to back him here, but Nishikori is going uphill on grass. Nishikori in 4-5.

Thompson vs Ruud :

This is a “what do they think” match for me. Books have this at about +145 for Thompson, and while that makes sense, it is always hard for me to be sold on him as being a grasscourt terror. He wins some matches on tour, but is almost always winning them with effort. Ruud doesn’t look entirely comfortable on grass, but Thompson will give him a lot of chances to play himself into the match, and Ruud’s forehand remains a huge weapon even if it isn’t getting the benefit clay gives it. The books odds say avoid it if you’re not backing Thompson, but I want a lot more than 3 games or +145 to back a guy who barely wins matches on tour these days. Thompson in 5.

Monteiro vs Auger-Alliassime :

Felix’s trouble in finals seems like a strange focus to me. If you make the finals, you’re almost always playing someone else whose game is peaking, and since he’s making the finals of a lot of 250 events, it’s also fair to suggest that he’s often facing one of the other players of his caliber who is actually playing great that week. As a result, losing a lot of finals just kinda makes sense to me. His path has always seemed to be a gradual one, and he doesn’t change his game a lot according to the situation so I would guess his team has a long-term plan that they’re comfortable with. Making a bunch of finals means it’s working. Thiago Monteiro is still one of the coolest names around, but FAA should have this in control in 3.

Ymer vs Tsonga :

Tsonga can still etc etc etc. It’s been a while since French tennis has really dominated the middle ranks, and it’s guys like Monfils and Gasquet and Simon and Chardy and Tsonga who have just sort of aged out of their primes. We keep looking for a return to prominence, but man these guys have already played so much tennis that it’s hard for them to find the physical fitness, the time, and the desire. Mikael Ymer wants this match badly. He’s going to play his best and he’s working on improving. Tsonga is playing tennis because he loves it, but he is not taking it as seriously as a lot of other guys on tour. He has a beautiful family, he’s already established his tennis legacy, and he’s a tiny bit out of shape and returning from injuries. I think the pickem is spot on because he has such firepower at his command, but there’s been nothing to indicate he’ll dominate. Ymer in 4.

Mager vs Londero :

With all the qualifiers playing each other, this one seems unfair. Mager will have the bigger serve, and that should be enough. Londero is quicker, but wow has he had a bad run of losses. It rivals Cecchinato’s slide, and grass is not the best place for him. Mager’s big frame and the time he takes to produce his swings are a liability, but it’s unclear if Londero is going to expose that at any point this season despite his best efforts. Mager in 4.

Humbert vs Kyrgios :

Welcome back, Nick. Here’s the sharpest player on grass who isn’t in the big 3. Humbert played some unreal tennis to win the title Halle, defeating Rublev, FAA, and Zverev. His serve is so quick on grass, and his compact form on the forehand makes the ball slide well and also lets him pull the trigger from more positions than some of the other traditional forehands. Kyrgios is a mosquito at times, and just can’t seem to help himself from biting people when he’s upset, but hopefully he’s played a modicum of tennis in recent weeks and can play well here. An Humbert withdrawal this past week in Mallorca may inspire some hope in the Aussie, who has also signed on to play mixed doubles with Venus Williams. Since Williams can still hit hard when she’s standing still, and since Kyrgios loves to play a lot of the court and has a huge serve, they should do well. Kyrgios is also likely to be out of the tournament early so he’ll have his full energy for the doubles. Humbert shouldn’t lose this, but it’ll be close since Kyrgios can hold serve so well. Humbert in 4.

Nakashima vs Fritz :

This one makes me laugh. Nakashima played so well in qualifying that he’s actually favored over Fritz. Vukic is a huge server and Nakashima froze him. Troicki is a very competent and dangerous veteran, and Nakashima outworked him. Gulbis is commonly regarded as a lord of time and space, a sort of loveable Benoit, and despite his best efforts he was turned back. Enter Fritz, who hasn’t played since the French and isn’t really at his best this season. There are question marks all over Fritz and I would welcome Nakashima scoring a confidence-boosting win against the struggling American. Fritz, even rusty, is still a big step up from the guys he beat in the qualifiers, but Brandon’s game is complete and legit, so he should keep things going. Nakashima in 4-5.

Novak vs Johnson :

Pretty cool matchup. Not sure either has really shown something that would make them a huge favorite. Novak is a bit more relevant to the tour at this point but he’s been losing a lot of winnable matches. It’s like a confident guy who’s less powerful (Novak) against a frustrated dude who has bigger weapons (Johnson). Someone in 5 and with Nakashima/Fritz waiting this is a juicy section of the draw.

Sandren vs Gombos :

Gombos won just enough matches to get into main draws for a season, but his results began to suffer after that. Sandgren has pulled some tough first round matches this season, but has also talked himself out of matches where he had chances to win. Growing visibly frustrated and chattering is inspiring for your opponent, and I think Sandgren should win here but he’ll need to turn off his brain for a while. Sandgren in 4.

Zverev vs Griekspoor :

Tallon is finally making his way on tour, but this is a tough spot. He doesn’t really hit big enough and despite his loss to Humbert, Zverev looked pretty motivated on defense in that match. I think he’ll do well in this event. Zverev in his usually slow starting fashion, in 3.

Mannarino vs Federer :

Here we go again. Federer has not looked ready to win on tour again, and question marks are all you’ll see until he plays a few rounds. We want to see more amazing offense and effortless trickery, but he’ll need to scuttle over to the ball first. There was a report that him and Murray had a close practice set before the tournament, but I’m not sure what to make of that as they both seem around the same level physically going in. Mannarino is difficult on grass, but is the perfect opponent for Federer to play since he doesn’t hit the ball that hard. Fed will have time to warm up, and be able to move well enough to the ball. This is also an opponent that he beat 3:0 in this exact event in their last meeting. I’d expect Federer to slow down at some point, but I do think he’ll win his winnable matches in this event. Federer in 3-4.

Sugita vs Gasquet :

I am a big Gasquet fan. His mannerisms are unique, and his play is as well. He just seems to look very on the fence out there about his chances though, and I think that results in emotional fatigue and a bit of “going through the motions” at times. Sugita probably wins this matchup on hardcourt right now, but not on grass. Gasquet’s slices and serve should see him have a small edge, but at this point in his career he’s far from the lock that the -625 pricetag seems to indicate. Gasquet in 4.

Bolt vs Krajinovic :

BOLT! One of the neatest lefties on tourgets a shot here, and it’s a welcome one. Krajinovic is the guy who “should” win a lot of matches, and doesn’t. If you look at his results, there is something missing from his game that would really let him dismiss other players. He trains with Djokovic, and has a great baseline ability to redirect the ball and defend, but he just turns in the strangest losses. It makes this an exciting matchup. Kraj is by no means a worldbeater on grass, and Bolt’s offense and slice backhand will give him a lot of trouble here. I’m tempted to back the upset, but I think I want to see it more than I believe in it. Krajinovic in 5.

Norrie vs Pouille :

Luca Pouille is back! He isn’t winning, but he’s back! Cam Norrie is in a spot that usually sees him fold up, but the past few months have been nothing short of incredible. This is a guy who smaller weapons and less athletic ability outworking the rest of the tour week in and week out. It really is cool to see, and the fight he’s put in has come with improved offense as well. This should be straight traffic for him, but Pouille’s power and forehand are sometimes good enough to steal a set. Norrie in 4.

Sousa (Pedro) vs Sonego :

Sonego in 3. He grunts too loud, and he makes problems for himself sometimes, but this is the easiest first round and Sousa’s serve will have to be very solid for this to become an issue.

Coria vs Galan :

Really nice section of the draw for Sonego to have after a lot of matchtime this past week. These guys are both great on clay defensively, but lack the offense needed for quicker courts. Of the two, Galan has better results, so despite the -435 pricetag being more than I’d want to spend, he is likely to win here. Galan in 3.

Albot vs Duckworth :

Albot started off the season with a surprise run at the Australian Open, but now has kinda slowed down. The result is James Duckworth actually being favored in this match. Duckworth has a bit more power but Albot’s offense is cleaner when he’s playing well. It should be a close contest but Duckworth’s recent results have been a tiiiiiiny bit better. Duckworth in 5.

Querrey vs Carreño-Busta :

I think there’s a good chance that everyone who’s struggling this year will just have some windfall on tour. Sam Querrey has looked like he hasn’t even been playing tennis, but the grass season has seen him notch a bunch of wins. PCB should win this kind of encounter based on the “who deserves to win more/has been working harder” concept, but Querrey can just smash the ball right past people on grass, and this is a thieving opportunity if I ever saw one. The oddsmakers have set this at a pickem, and I’d hate to back either player at that price. Querrey still refuses to hang in a rally for more than a few shots, and PCB still doesn’t hold serve well. Querrey in 4.

Musetti vs Hurkacz :

I hate to back Hurkacz, but I’m not sure that Musetti’s game will transfer onto grass. He’s a great athlete, but the swings are big and a lot of his prowess on clay was about defending well and hitting hard. Hurkacz has the right game for grass, and should win here. Hurkacz in 3-4.

Giron vs Ruusuvuori :

Hehe. Two very similar presences on tour are here. These dudes work hard regardless of the situation, but neither can really string together enough wins to get out of that mid-lower tier on tour. Should be a close one, but I can see the finish line so Ruus in 5.

Bublik vs Kukushkin :

This is tricky. Kukushkin can be an absolute terror on grass, but he’s been on a dismal losing streak on tour. Bublik’s -500 pricetag is likely to balance the money, and he should roll through, but man is he an unlikely savior. He still isn’t taking the game 100% seriously, and this makes him prone to playing for the crowd rather than for the win. I do appreciate it though, and even the unreliable Bublik is worlds more entertaining than most of the tour’s offerings. Bublik in 3 or Kukushkin in 5.

Dimitrov vs Verdasco :

Dimitrov hasn’t played, and has withdrawn a bunch of times with a bunch of vague injuries (ribs/back/groin). Verdasco is washed up at this point, but this is about whose body holds up. Double forfeit.

Caruso vs Cilic :

I’m happy to see Cilic playing sharp again. Caruso has made zero inroads into finding his old form. Cilic in 3.

Bonzi vs Trungelliti :

I agree that Bonzi should be favored here, but Trungelliti’s entire qualifying run has been matches he shouldn’t win. A relatively straightforward claycourter on grass? Idk. Bonzi in 4-5 but there’s no reason to keep fading Marco at this point.

Medvedev vs Struff :

Medvedev looks like he could win this event. Flat strokes, great court coverage, and creativity and freedom that live behind one of the more easily repeatable service motions. The freedom of escaping clay somewhat unscatched, and a rematch against an opponent that just gave him a ton of trouble. It’s a good spot for Struff as well since he’ll be comfortable and confident. I’d always avoid backing somebody twice against the same player, but I’d also worry about paying any sort of significant price for Medvedev. A good one to watch is often a bad one to bet. Medvedev hopefully in 4.