2022 Paris Masters: Observations from Opening Two Rounds

The final true tournament of the 2022 ATP calendar resides in Paris. The 1000-event features Carlos Alcaraz, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, among others, and will ultimately cap off the tennis season for the players who aren’t competing in the ATP Finals, Next Gen Finals and/or Davis Cup.

The tournament has also featured some intriguing three-set matches, including a few on Wednesday.

So, how are things playing out? Who has the best chance of winning this event? And what players can use their current momentum for the January Aussie swing to start the 2023 campaign?

Players Who Are Having Great End to Season

There are players who are just playing on another level right now, and those include:

  • Denis Shapovalov
  • Felix Auger-Aliassime
  • Mikael Ymer
  • Holger Rune
  • Lorenzo Musetti

Shapovalov has really come into his own since making the final in Seoul. While he lost to Pablo Carreno Busta on Wednesday, he took the Spaniard to three sets. He also made the final in Vienna last week and reached the semifinals in Tokyo earlier in this hard-court swing.

What has really helped the Canadian succeed, is keeping his outbreaks under wrap. Instead, he’s channeling that energy into his game and his power on both wings.

Here’s another Canadian who is on a monster run. FAA is the hottest player in tennis right now, as he’s captured three titles in a row and is in the midst of a 14-match win streak.

On Wednesday, Felix barley escaped Ymer in a match that featured a third-set tiebreak and over three hours of tennis.

I’ve criticized Felix on this site multiple times during the summer for his shaky and inconsistent play, but the man is on fire right now and looks like one of the best players in the sport. Remember, he’s beaten Alcaraz twice during the latter part of the year.

Speaking of Ymer, the Swede has been absolutely terrific and is playing some of the best tennis of his career. His turnaround started in the Davis Cup, as he defeated Diego Schwartzman in straight sets and Jannik Sinner in three sets.

Since then, he’s reached the quarters in Metz, the semis in Florence and another quarterfinal in Stockholm. He lost to Felix on Wednesday, but there’s nothing to be ashamed of with that performance.

Showing greater offensive ability means good things to come for Ymer.

Let’s move on to Rune, who at 19 years old has really come into his own over the last couple of months. He’s up to a career-high ranking on 18 thanks to an appearance in the final in Basel, a tournament title in Stockholm and a finals appearance in Sofia.

Rune has been gritty in a lot of his matches, especially against Roberto Bautista Agut, when he owned clutch points against the Spaniard.

On Wednesday, Rune smoked Hubert Hurkacz, and that’s not a result we’re taking lightly. Rune truly has the ability to end up in the mix with Alcaraz and Sinner as the best young player in the world, and is a contender to win this event in Paris.

Musetti isn’t known for his abilities on hard courts, but he has certainly proven doubters wrong during this European swing. The Italian served masterfully in his win over Marin Cilic here in Paris and made quick work of Nikoloz Basilashvili (1:09) in his second-round match on Wednesday.

He lost his opening-round duel in Basel, but won the tournament in Naples (over Matteo Berrettini) and reached the semis in Florence and Sofia.

Things are looking positive for the Italian.

One Final Run for Simon

Taylor Fritz was -850 to beat Gilles Simon on Wednesday. Instead of blowing out the Frenchman, Fritz lost in three sets (5-7, 7-5, 4-6).

This is Simon’s final tournament of his career, and he’s making the most of his wild card berth. Simon beat Andy Murray in the opening round and upset Fritz thanks to his lack of unforced errors and steady play.

Simon certainly doesn’t look ready to retire, even at 37 years of age.

But next up is FAA.

And that’s the worst possible draw for Simon. Felix has played a lot of tennis of late, but Simon also just played over three hours of tennis at his “advanced” age.

Paul Gets Better of Nadal

Tommy Paul has put together a career season in 2022, including a Round of 16 appearance at Wimbledon. But the American hasn’t lived up to his potential during this indoor hard-court swing, playing ugly tennis in Stockholm and choking away his opening-round match against Dominic Thiem in Vienna.

He also got bageled in the opening-set of his only meeting vs. Rafael Nadal.

So, that’s why a lot of people weren’t expecting much from Paul on Wednesday.

Well, those people turned out to be wrong, as the American came back down a set to upset Nadal in Paris. This came one round after a dominating straight-set performance against RBA.

We already know about Paul’s athleticism, footwork and talent, but he displayed an efficient and effective net game vs. Nadal, and his fitness appeared to give Rafa some trouble, especially in that third set.

Paul now has to face his third straight Spaniard (Carreno Busta), but I like his chances to pull off what will likely be another upset. He’s playing with great confidence, and if he uses his net game and fitness to his advantage, that will keep Carreno Busta from dictating points.

2022 Antwerp Tennis: Previewing Day 3 of European Open

The European Open from Antwerp, Belgium featured three-set matches galore on Tuesday, as four duels went the distance.

On Wednesday, the draw picks up steam as the two top seeds play their first matches, two Americans go head-to-head and Dominic Thiem looks to continue his improved form.

Let’s dive into every match on Wednesday’s schedule of play.

Daniel Evans vs. Constant Lestienne

Evans is a much better, more experienced ATP player than Lestienne. He’s also had great results against Lestienne in the past, especially their most recent meeting in San Diego (6-1, 6-3).

But in their only meeting on an indoor hard court, Lestienne kept things close, losing in a third-set tiebreaker in Quimper back in 2019.

Lestienne, who has been a fixture on the Challenger Tour, has seen solid results in his last three ATP tournaments. He reached the quarterfinals in San Diego, the semifinals in Tel Aviv and won a match in Gijon.

While Evans should win this one, I expect Lestienne to keep things relatively close based on past results on a similar surface and form. But I don’t think it will be close enough to cover the 3 games on the betting line.

Dominic Stricker vs. Richard Gasquet

Both of these players are coming off of emotional first-round wins — Stricker upset 34th-ranked Botic van de Zandschulp while Gasquet saved three match points to beat Stan Wawrinka in three sets.

Despite being just 20 years old, I think Stricker handles this situation better.

This represents an opportunity for the Swiss to build on one of the biggest wins of his career, and he has advantages in two areas.

  • Stricker has never played Gasquet, which will be an adjustment for the Frenchman.
  • Gasquet played a two-hour, grueling match on Monday and he’s 36 years old.

Give me Stricker in this spot.

Dominic Thiem vs. Michael Geerts

It’s always tough to fade players competing in their home country, but in this case, I doubt Geerts — who is mainly a doubles player — will put up much of a fight against an improved Thiem.

Last week in Gijon, Thiem mentioned after his first-round match that it was the best he’s felt on the court since returning. He then went on to beat Marcos Giron and Francisco Cerundolo while being competitive against Andrey Rublev.

I think Thiem not only wins this match, but covers -5.

Hubert Hurkacz vs. Jack Draper

It’s tough to argue with how well Draper played in his opening-round match against Jenson Brooksby. He smoked the American, using his powerful forehand and serve to his advantage. He never allowed Brooksby to get comfortable, and it truly feels like this is a week where he can breakthrough convincingly.

Hurkacz will serve much better in this spot than Brooksby did in the first round, though. He also earned an indoor hard court title back in 2021 in Metz.

These two have never met, but I like I said, I feel like this is Draper’s week.

Manuel Guinard vs. Geoffrey Blancaneaux

Two Frenchmen lucky losers square off in this matchup, and I’m going to lean toward Guinard because of his form.

Guinard made the Round of 16 in Gijon last week, winning two qualifying matches before taking down Fabio Fognini. He lost to Cerundolo in straight sets, but he did force the Argentine into a tiebreaker in set one.

I watched Blancaneaux play in US Open qualifying, and while I liked his game, he’s lost three straight matches, including a recent retirement.

Marcos Giron vs. Sebastian Korda

This is the match I’m most excited to see on Wednesday, as these are two Americans who haven’t played since their thrilling three-setter at Newport Beach in 2020.

We’ll start with Giron, who made his only final of the 2022 season at San Diego and then gave Thiem a tough match in Gijon last week.

Meanwhile, Korda also reached one ATP final this season, and that run came last week in the same event (Gijon).

Korda notched some big wins along the way (Andy Murray, Roberto Bautista Agut and Arthur Rinderknech) before losing to Rublev in the final. At only 22 years of age, Korda just couldn’t keep up with the Russian (Rublev), who was just on another level in terms of experience and talent.

I love fading players after they’ve played deep into tournaments in the previous week — and that’s especially the case with a younger player like Korda.

I like Giron to win this one.

Jaume Munar vs. Yoshihito Nishioka

Both of these players are inconsistent, but they’ve recently had very promising results.

Munar beat Casper Ruud in straight sets in Toyko while Nishioka won Seoul, topping Ruud, Daniel Evans and Denis Shapovalov in the process.

This should be a competitive match, but I think the fact that Nishioka hasn’t played an indoor hard court tournament during this swing actually favors Munar in this match.

I still think Yoshi wins this one — he had a week off last week and I love to favor his groundstrokes on quicker courts — however, I would take Munar to win the first set from a betting perspective. I think it will take Yoshi a set to adjust to the surface.

2022 ATP Tour: Takeaways From Tokyo & Astana 500 Events

While there are two more ATP 500 events at the end of October, a 1000 event in Paris in November and the ATP Finals in Turin still to come, last week in Tokyo and Astana marked one of the final massive weeks of the 2022 tennis season.

That means we will soon be turning our attention to the Australian Open — the first Grand Slam of 2023.

But before we get ahead of ourselves (the excitement for 2023 is real — especially for this site, as it will be our first full season up and running), let’s break down our three takeaways from last week’s two 500 events.

We Got Robbed of One of the Matches of the Year

Carlos Alcaraz vs. Jannik Sinner at the US Open was insane (in fact, there were multiple insane matches in New York this year). The Rafael Nadal-Daniil Medvedev five-set final at the Aussie Open was a thriller. And Nadal-Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros had a wildly high level of play.

But the match between Djokovic and Medvedev on Saturday in the Astana semifinals was special, too.

Medvedev was playing the best tennis I’ve seen him play in a while, acting like a backboard from the baseline, picking his spots effectively on groundstrokes and serves, and frustrating Djokovic (something we all know few players can do). He won the first set 6-4 and honestly looked destined to pull off the upset in straight sets.

While Djokovic wasn’t serving at his best, his play was undoubtably strong himself, especially late in the second set when he started to stage his comeback.

Medvedev missed a routine volley that could’ve been the game changer, helping Djokovic win the second-set tiebreaker 8-6 to even the match at a set apiece.

We were headed for a thrilling third set in a match that would’ve most likely been the best non-major battle of this tennis season.

Unfortunately — and to the shock of many, including Djokovic — Medvedev retired immediately following his second-set defeat.

It was odd to say the least, at least to many of us watching the match. The Russian didn’t visibly seem like anything was bothering him physically.

Even Djokovic’s reaction was of pure shock, as he mentioned post-match that he didn’t expect Med to retire despite him showing signs of slowing down during the late stretch of the second set. He also mentioned that the Russian was the better of the two players in both sets.

Medvedev later explained his retirement to the media, mentioning a “strange pop in my adductor.”

Medvedev has beaten Djokovic four times in his career in 11 meetings, so it’s not shocking that he was able to assert himself against the 21-time Grand Slam winner.

But what was shocking — and disappointing — though was the fact that we were all robbed of arguably one of the best and most elite matches we’ve seen this season.

Denis Shapovalov Coming Into His Own

First of all, hats off to Taylor Fritz who beat US Open semifinalist and fellow American Frances Tiafoe in the Tokyo final (7-6, 7-6).

Fritz has had an up-and-down last two or so months, losing in the first round of the US Open to Brandon Holt, putting forth a questionable performance in the Davis Cup and nearly blowing a second straight lead to Cam Norrie in the Laver Cup.

But ultimately, the American captured his third title of the season and is now ranked in the top 10 for the first time in his career.

Fritz may have lifted the trophy, but there’s another player that I’m even more impressed with.

That man is Denis Shapovalov.

One week after reaching the final in Seoul, Shapovalov made another deep run at Tokyo, getting to the semifinals before dropping a three-setter to Fritz.

Shapo had a strong chance to win that match, too — he was up a break (3-1) in the third set.

But that’s besides the point, as Shapo’s attitude seems tweaked (it’s too early to say changed). He seems much more focused and energized, showing less outbreaks and disturbing mental mistakes on the court.

Sound familiar?

Nick Kyrgios has turned over the same leaf in 2022, and Shapo seems to be (hopefully) following his path.

Like Kyrgios, Shapo has undeniable talent. We know the pace on his groundstrokes are incredibly difficult to prepare for and execute against, and his serve is no slouch. He doesn’t nearly have Kyrgios’ upside, but they face similar obstacles in their careers that they seem to be working on.

Yes, Shapo told the crowd at the Italian Open to “shut the (expletive) up” earlier this season, forcing his ex-coach to drop him following that tournament. He also has finished seasons strong in the past.

But maybe this time is different, especially since Mikhail Youzhny reunited with the 23-year-old before the US Open and there have been positive results in Asia.

Obviously, things continue to evolve with the Canadian because one outburst could ruin this entire narrative. But at least for now, Shapovalov seems to be playing at a high level, which can be explained in part because of a potential shift in attitude.

Tiafoe Isn’t Going Anywhere

This takeaway may seem obvious to those who watched the US Open. Tiafoe was a semifinalist, beat Nadal and took the eventual champion of that same tournament, Alcaraz, to five sets. His serve was nearly untouchable the entire event and his maturity level was impressive.

Even after the Grand Slam result, I actually was still questioning whether Tiafoe would be a consistent contender at a high level.

And it turns out I’m wrong.

Because Tiafoe sure did compete this week.

He reached the final at Tokyo, and looked strong while doing so. He did get bageled by Soonwoo Kwon, but that was the only set he lost before the final — plus Kwon has been playing excellent tennis in his own right.

Tiafoe absolutely smoked No. 32-ranked Miomir Kecmanovic in their quarterfinal match and again looked like a worthy top-10 player for most of the event.

My reasoning for questioning Tiafoe has always been his consistency. Sometimes he can get wild with his groundstrokes and his serve hasn’t always been this effective. But his confidence is sky high and reaching a 500-event final (even if the draw was much weaker than Astana) shows that his trend is continuing upwards.

And it doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon.

2022 ATP Tour Buy or Sell: Brandon Nakashima, Lorenzo Sonego Highlight September

As we approach the final two months of the 2022 ATP Tour season, it’s time to check out who we’re buying and selling for the final stretch — and beyond.

Who will thrive the rest of the season and into the future?

And who will fade down the stretch — and possibly into 2023?

We have your answers below. Let’s dive right in.

Buy: Brandon Nakashima

After capturing his first ATP title last week in his hometown San Diego, Nakashima is up to a career-high ranking of 48.

While he dropped just one set in five matches in the tournament, the American was playing elite tennis even before he entered the Barnes Tennis Center in California.

Naka showed out in New York for the US Open, impressing in a second-round, straight-set win over Grigor Dimitrov before taking a set off Jannik Sinner in Round 3. He also reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, defeating Denis Shapovalov in the process.

I’m buying Nakashima now because I believe his upside is even greater.

I truly think he can be the best American tennis player. Yes, yes, I know Frances Tiafoe has beaten him four times (plus he just made the semis of the US Open), Taylor Fritz is ranked No. 12 and Tommy Paul had an excellent summer, but Naka is only 21 years old and has showed an advanced baseline game and elite decision-making skills.

If Nakashima can continue to develop his serve (it has looked a lot better over the last two tournaments), I think he is capable of becoming a top-20 player in no time.

Sell: Lorenzo Sonego

I’m going the opposite way for the other ATP Tour title winner last week. The 27-year-old Italian won Metz (250), failing to drop a single set (!) against Aslan Karastev, Gilles Simon, Sebastian Korda, Hubert Hurkacz and Alexander Bublik.

But let’s be honest, the Italian hasn’t had a great season overall.

He’s under .500 (23-24) in 2022 and had a single top-50 win all season before last week. He was ranked as high as No. 21 in the world in 2021, but there’s no better time to sell his stock than now.

Sonego can get a bit wild at times on both wings, and that’s why his game can be streaky. I’m not going to discredit him for his excellent play in Metz, but I’ll bank on last week being about him catching lightning in a bottle.

Sell: Aslan Karatsev

Karatsev doesn’t have a high stock at this point, but the Russian has just been flat out bad this season. Even though he won a title in Sydney to start the 2022 campaign, Karastev is 15-23 overall and has won more than one match in a tournament just twice since then.

He’s currently on a four-match losing streak, and lost in the first round in two of the three majors he’s competed in during 2022.

Most recently, Karatsev bowed out in the first round of Tel Aviv, losing to No. 87-ranked Tomas Martin Etcheverry in three sets, 6-2, 6-7, 6-4.

I wouldn’t want to back him from any perspective moving forward, especially after a match-fixing scandal earlier this year.

He’s also 29 years old, so the career trajectory isn’t there. Plus, players showing zero confidence is a bad, bad sign in an individual, mental-based sport like tennis.

Buy: Juncheng Shang

This one may seem odd, as Shang is not a regular on the ATP Tour. He’s lost all three of his ATP main draw matches this season, and is not a name casual tennis fans have come across yet.

If you follow the Challenger Tour, though, you have a pretty good idea of who Shang is and what his potential is.

First, here’s some background on Shang. He’s a 17-year-old Chinese player who is ranked just inside the top 200. His forehand is potent and his backhand has potential. His serve isn’t the biggest, but his groundstrokes give him an ability to control points despite his young age.

Obviously Shang has a ton of development to go and you can see his youth in a lot of his matches, but I’m buying his stock now while it’s as low as it can get. He’s completely under the radar, and that’s what I like for the purposes of this exercise.

Again, Shang isn’t going to breakout on the ATP Tour this year — or even next year — but the future is there — and is noticeable.

He passes the eye test — I’ve watched multiple matches of his, including his most recent loss to Jordan Thompson.

But most importantly, look at his results this season.

Shang won a Challenger Tour event in Lexington, reached the finals in Granby and won an ITF event in Naples.

His other notable results include:

  • Beating Francisco Cerundolo (who is now 27th in the world) in qualifying at Indian Wells
  • Playing Soonwoo Kim (who beat Felix Auger Aliassime two weeks ago in the Davis Cup) to three tough sets in Madrid qualifying
  • Upsetting Etcheverry in Eastbourne qualifying
  • Beating Brandon Holt in Indianapolis qualifying
  • Beating Thompson during his Granby run

And these are his losses since the beginning of June:

  • Thompson (Ranked 102)
  • Gabriel Diallo (Ranked 519) (Came in Final)
  • Christopher Eubanks (Ranked 153)
  • J.J. Wolf (Ranked 111)
  • Thiago Monteiro (Ranked 94)
  • Evan Furness (Ranked 223)

Diallo and Furness are tough defeats, but one of those came in a Challenger Tour final. The other losses come to respectable players who play more tour-level events than Shang.

Seriously, watch out for this kid.

2022 San Diego Open: Hometown Battle Between Nakashima, Svajda Highlights Day 2

The San Diego main draw kicked off on Monday with four matches, including two that went into three sets.

  • In a battle between two Aussies, James Duckworth defeated Alexei Popyrin in three sets.
  • Tomas Martin Etcheverry topped qualifier Fecundo Mena in two sets, but these two Argentine’s were already on the court for nearly two hours only halfway through the second set.
  • JJ Wolf pummeled Stefan Kozlov in two sets. Kozlov has actually beaten Wolf four times in their careers, but this was the first time they faced off at the ATP level.
  • Constant Lestienne took down Brandon Holt in three sets. It actually looked like Lestienne was done midway through the second set, as he was dealing with a calf injury and constantly complaining about scoreboard lights.

And don’t forget about this play!

Now we switch gears to Tuesday, as there are four more matches on slate starting at 11:30 a.m. PT. Two of the matchups will be all-American battles.

Let’s dive in and preview all four clashes.

Christopher Eubanks vs. Mitchell Krueger

Eubanks and Krueger go head-to-head in a battle between American qualifiers.

I’ll start with the 27-year-old Eubanks, who at 6-foot-7, relies heavily on his powerful serve and rocket forehand. He struggles a bit with his one-handed backhand, but overall, Eubanks has put together a solid season, winning four main-draw ATP Tour matches, including one at the US Open over Pedro Martinez.

Meanwhile, Krueger also relies heavily on his serve, and he too has won multiple main-draw ATP Tour matches this season (three overall).

The 28-year-old has struggled of late, though, needing two three-setters to even reach the San Diego main draw. Before that, Krueger lost five of his last six matches, including one to 356th-ranked Keegan Smith at a Cary, NC Challenger Tour event last week.

These two have four combined meetings, with two of the four going the distance and four tiebreakers being played in 10 total sets. Eubanks has won three of the four matches — including one in San Diego qualifying last year — but this will be the first time they meet in an ATP main draw duel.

I think Eubanks pulls out this victory. I like his form much better, and he has some confidence after winning a straight-setter at the US Open.

If you’re looking for a bet, I like the Over 23 games. Why? Well, just look at the past history between these two and the fact that they both rely heavily on their serves. Expect at least one tiebreaker and maybe a three-set match.

Taro Daniels vs. Emilio Nava

Beyond a nice win in Atlanta against Sebastian Korda and a tight match vs. Frances Tiafoe in that same tournament, it’s been a quiet summer for Daniels.

And on these medium-fast courts in San Diego, he could struggle.

That’s especially the case when playing Nava, who won his first ATP main-draw match this summer at the US Open against John Millman. He then took a set off Andy Murray in Round 2 of New York’s Grand Slam.

Nava also won a Challenger Tour title in Kazakhstan earlier this year, and most importantly, he just recently defeated Daniels in three sets in Winston-Salem qualifying.

This is a tough match to predict because of the tight recent scoreline between the two. I personally think Nava will win this match — he’s from southern California and is playing the best tennis of his young career — and will cover the +2 from a betting perspective.

But honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a close match that comes down to three sets. Remember, Daniels is a veteran at 29 years old playing a 20-year-old in Nava who he beat 7-5, 7-5 in qualifying of Indian Wells earlier this year before their latest three-set meeting that went the youngster’s way.

Denis Kudla vs. Fernando Verdasco

This is a battle between two veterans looking to shift the late stages of their careers.

For the American, Kudla, he is 5-15 on the ATP Tour this year, including just a single win during the US Open Series on hard courts this summer (def. Michael Mmoh in three sets in D.C.).

Last week, Kudla played deep into the Cary, NC Challenger Tour event, reaching the semifinals by the way of two three-set matches.

That could be a negative factor for the American, but he has an advantage against the 38-year-old Verdasco, who has just four wins in ATP main draws this season and has had very little success himself this summer.

In fact, the Spaniard is coming off of an ugly loss to 971st-ranked Koray Kirci in a Turkish Challenger Tour event. That comes on the heels of a loss in the third round of qualifying at the US Open to Pavel Kotov.

Verdasco hasn’t won an ATP main draw match since April, and I don’t expect it to get any better as he adjusts to an event that he has never played at in his career.

Brandon Nakashima vs. Zachary Svajda

This is the biggest mismatch of the day, but also a hometown battle between two players who are from the nearby San Diego area.

Nakashima is my pick to win this event, as he has put together a breakout season in 2022. The American is 21-19 on the season and has had solid success in three of the four Grand Slams.

Naka reached Round 3 of the US Open, looking superb in a straight-set, second-round win over Grigor Dimitrov before taking a set off of Jannik Sinner in his next match. He also reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon (before losing to Nick Kyrgios) and the third round of Roland Garros (lost to Alexander Zverev).

While he’s ranked just 69th in the world, Naka has an elite baseline game, is serving much better and is just 21 years of age.

Meanwhile, Svajda is just 19 years old, but doesn’t nearly have the experience and tour-level success that his opponent has. While he is certainly familiar with Naka’s game, Zach has won just one tour-level match in his career and is playing his first ATP main-draw match of this season.

Svajda is most comfortable rallying from the baseline, where his solid defense comes into play. That favors Naka because Brandon makes very few errors and can dictate any point from both wings.

Svajda doesn’t have much power — both on his groundstrokes and serve — so that shouldn’t be a factor in this match.

And if Naka serves well — which I think he will since he has been all summer — this match could be over quickly.

If you’re betting, take Naka -5.5.

2022 Davis Cup: Day 2 Results, Including Tommy Paul & Taylor Fritz

After a dramatic day one, day two of the Davis Cup lived up to its billing, especially the matchup between the United States and Great Britain.

Let’s dive into some observations:

The Summer of Tommy Paul

First, let me start by saying the Tommy Paul-Dan Evans match on Wednesday was absolutely sensational. The shot making and rallies were tremendous, and the energy level and grit was top notch.

While Paul ended up winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 — and getting payback after losing a three-set match at Cincinnati to the Brit earlier this summer — Evans shouldn’t hang his head because he too put on a great performance.

But where Paul’s career currently stands is the bigger storyline.

In my US Open observations, I talked about the upside of American tennis, and how fans should be very excited about where the country currently stands in the sport. A big part of that is Taylor Fritz — as well as Frances Tiafoe’s run at the US Open — but Paul shouldn’t be discounted on the totem pole of U.S. players.

Since joining forces with coach Brad Stine in 2020, Paul has slowly taken steps forward in his career. But this season — and this summer in particular — we’ve seen a full breakthrough from the American.

The 25-year-old reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, beat Carlos Alcaraz and Marin Cilic in Montreal and took Casper Ruud to five sets in the third round of the US Open.

Most importantly, he reached a career-high ranking of 29 this month and was seeded in New York.

We already know about Paul’s athleticism and terrific groundstrokes, but his game plans and tactics are much improved. His net game, in particular, was on full display vs. Evans on Wednesday, which is something he’s built consistently into his game this year.

He also served impressively in the third set against Evans. Unlike his net game, that is not something Paul has been able to do consistently in 2022. If he can somehow serve at that level from now on — and also become much better in clutch spots — that will help him take an even bigger step up the rankings.

All in all though, the win over Evans gives Paul another bolt of confidence moving forward.

Match of the Day? Norrie vs. Fritz

While Evans vs. Paul was incredible, Cameron Norrie vs. Fritz was the most intriguing match of the day.

Fritz looked like he was going to runaway with this match after the first set, as his two-handed backhand looked crisp and his serve was untouchable.

But as Norrie typically does, he bounced back with his stamina and mental toughness. The Brit won a second-set tiebreaker before finishing off a couple of breaks to win 7-5 in the third.

It’s hard to fault Fritz in this spot, as the crowd was a major factor on Norrie’s side. This was just a battle between two top players that ultimately the smallest of difference — the crowd and Norrie’s composure — gave the Brit the victory.

The Brit will never be flashy or a fan favorite (at least across the globe), but he’s incredibly consistent (44-20 record this season) and is never truly out of a match.

Meanwhile, Fritz is a little bit shaken right now. Many pegged the American as a darkhorse contender at the US Open before he went on to lose in the opening round in four sets to Brandon Holt, who had never won an ATP-level match.

Today, Fritz was holding his head down after blowing a one-set lead.

Maybe the pressure got to him in both situations, but Fritz didn’t play poorly in this particular match. And for that reason, I think his 35-15 overall season record and two titles in 2022 overshadow these last three weeks.

Ultimately, that was an awesome match to end the day’s singles slate with.

  • What a weird match between Benjamin Bonzi and Jan-Lennard Struff. The third set consisted of five breaks, and Bonzi blowing two match points and a 3-1 lead. Struff’s final service game at 6-5 was also stressful, as the German needed four match points and held off two break points to finally earn the point for his country. When Struff is serving well, he is far from an easy out, despite his current ranking of 132.
  • Was Borna Coric’s week in Cincinnati just lightning in the bottle? I would still say no based on who he beat that week and how. He beat four top-20 players and won five of his six victories in straight sets. That’s pretty damn impressive, especially upsetting Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Let’s also remember that Coric was previously in the top 15 in the world before injuries deterred his career. However, Coric’s results since that title in Cincy have been odd. He struggled in the opening round of the US Open against Enzo Couacaud, was handled pretty easily by Jenson Brooksby in Round 2 and blew a lead against Matteo Berrettini on Wednesday in the Davis Cup. I think Coric is here to stay if he’s healthy, but he’ll have to perform a lot better than he has over the last three weeks if he wants to prove that to everyone.
  • The crowds in Valencia and Glasgow seemed like awesome atmospheres. That’s great to see at an event like this.

2022 Davis Cup: Breaking Down Day 1, Including the Ymer Brothers & Felix Auger-Aliassime

The 2022 Davis Cup got off to a roaring start on Tuesday, with five three-set singles matches and multiple intriguing results.

Let’s dive into breaking down day one immediately:

Welcome to the Ymer Brothers’ Show

While Argentina was a pretty heavy favorite over Sweden (-345), this was a very one-sided matchup, as Sweden took the two singles matches — with one coming in dominant fashion.

The first matchup consisted of Elias Ymer taking down Sebastian Baez in three sets (6-4, 3-6, 7-6). Elias actually didn’t have a significant advantage in the overall stats, but he played better during clutch points.

In the third-set tiebreaker, Elias looked much more composed than Baez, who has struggled greatly on hard courts this season.

The 26-year-old Elias is 9-6 on the ATP Tour in 2022, but mainly plays Challenger Tour events. While this win obviously won’t significantly impact his career trajectory, it could inject a bit of confidence into the Swede as we wind down the tennis season.

Meanwhile, in the second singles match, Mikael Ymer cruised (and I mean cruised) past Diego Schwartzman, 6-2, 6-2.

I’ve mentioned in multiple articles this year that Ymer is much improved due to his more aggressive game. He used to have a tendency to get overly comfortable with playing defense and rallying from the baseline, waiting for an opponent to make an error. But this year — for the most part — Ymer has flexed a much improved offensive attack with his solid forehand.

He showed this off at the Citi Open — where he made a run to the semifinals — and at Wimbledon — where he impressed against Jannik Sinner.

But he again reverted to that old form in his opening-round match at the US Open against Jason Kubler, one in which he lost in four sets.

That’s why today’s result was incredibly promising — not just for Sweden, but for the future of Mikael. He’s two years younger than his brother and has shown flashes of brilliance (as I mentioned above).

Beating a player like Schwartzman (even though he’s struggled mightily this summer) is another step in the right direction to Mikael becoming more consistent than his No. 98 ranking.

If the brothers keep playing this way, watch out, as they can make a little bit of noise moving forward on tour.

Two Major Question Marks: Diego & Felix

Two of the more eye-opening matches of the day came when Schwartzman lost in straight sets to Ymer and Felix Auger Aliassime was routed by Soonwoo Kwon, 7-6, 6-3.

Both of these matches are stunning on the surface — especially how each player lost — but if you follow tennis consistently, you know things haven’t been totally right with Schwartzman and Auger Aliassime all summer.

I’ll start with the Argentine. He’s currently ranked 17th in the world, but he surely hasn’t looked like a top-20 player for the better part of the last few months.

Here’s the results for Schwartzman since May:

  • Madrid (1000): Second-round loss to Grigor Dimitrov
  • Rome (1000): Second-round loss to Marcos Giron
  • Roland Garros: Round of 16 loss to Novak Djokovic
  • London/Queen’s Club (500): Opening-round loss to Sam Querrey
  • Eastbourne (250): Opening-match loss to Jack Draper
  • Wimbledon: Second-round loss to Liam Broady (blown lead)
  • Bastad (250): Quarterfinal-round loss to Pablo Carreno Busta
  • Hamburg (500): Opening-round loss to Emil Ruusuvuori
  • Montreal (1000): Second-round loss to Albert Ramos-Vinolas
  • Cincinnati (1000): Round of 16 loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas
  • US Open: Third-round loss to Frances Tiafoe

Now, let me start by saying, some of those results are nothing to frown upon. Losing to Djokovic at a major, Carreno Busta in a quarterfinal match and Tsitsipas in the Round of 16 of a 1000-event are all acceptable results. But there are plenty that aren’t acceptable for a player of Schwartzman’s stature.

We know Schwartzman’s least favorite surface is grass, but his loss to Querrey was embarrassing and his Wimbledon results were incredibly disappointing.

That’s not the only surface he’s been shaky on, though. He was so-so during the 1000 clay-court events during the spring, and he only made the third round of the US Open because Jack Sock retired from two sets up in the first round.

So, while today’s loss is tough for Argentina and we shouldn’t take anything away from the incredible play of Mikael, there is a bigger issue at play for Schwartzman, who is normally consistent.

Now, let’s transition to the Canadian, Auger Aliassime. I touched on this a bit after Newport, but Auger Aliassime hasn’t been able to take the next step in his career. Ranked No. 13 in the world at just 22 years of age, Auger Aliassime has become an afterthought this summer compared to young players like Carlos Alcaraz, Sinner, Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud.

Maybe those are unfair expectations for the Canadian, and me being too hard on a young player, but the start of his season was so incredibly promising. He showed flashes of brilliance at the ATP Cup, made the quarters of the Aussie Open, won Rotterdam and made the final in Marseille.

With the US Open wide open, Auger Aliassime should’ve been one of the players to step up and be a factor.

Instead, his disappointing summer diminished his momentum.

He’s suffered nine losses to players outside the top 40 since March, including a second-round loss at the US Open, an opening-round loss in Newport and a first-round loss at Wimbledon.

Then, today, Auger Aliassime blew a 3-0 (and 4-1) first-set lead in the Davis Cup to Kwon. The final score didn’t do justice to how much of a blowout this really was. Remember, FAA got a three game buffer at the beginning of the match.

Ultimately, like Mikael above, we can’t gloss over the fact that Kwon played an amazing match. He was in the zone, ripping wicked forehands, dictating points with his backhand and picking his spots effectively with his serve. He had the crowd behind him, and he played the best match I’ve ever seen him play.

But FAA is still a top-15 player and someone who should dispatch Kwon.

Again, similar to Schwartzman, there may be a larger issue at play here with the Canadian.

Other Observations

  • The Alexander Bublik-Botic van de Zandschulp matchup was pretty much what we expected: a three-set match. But what we didn’t expect was all the break-point opportunities. These are normally two effective players on serve, and there was a total of 21 break points in the match with six total breaks. Fluke? I think so.
  • I’ve said this for years, but Alex de Minaur is one of my favorite players to watch on tour. When he’s in a groove, he can stay neck-and-neck with just about anyone, and he had that groove today against David Goffin (6-2, 6-2). Alex hasn’t exactly peaked like I expected, but he’s still an incredibly solid player. And he’s just 23 years old, so there’s room for more growth.
  • Kubler continues to be one of the best stories of this year in tennis. The Aussie has had six surgeries in his career, but in 2022, he’s had some special moments … finally. He made the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, the semifinals in Newport and won a match at the US Open. Add in a win in his Davis Cup debut against Zizou Bergs, and that’s a solid, solid season. Well deserved.

2022 US Open Observations: 4 Takeaways From Tennis’ Final Major of the Season

Two epic weeks at the US Open concluded with Carlos Alcaraz defeating Casper Ruud in four sets to capture his first Grand Slam and earn the world’s No. 1 ranking.

While tennis never stops — the Davis Cup is this week and Alcaraz confirms he will play — let’s pause after the year’s final major to go through four observations.

The Future is Now

With Novak Djokovic unable to play, Roger Federer injured and Rafael Nadal on a major downswing (more on that below), the US Open was wide open for the first time in a long time.

Would Alcaraz break through at just 19 years of age? Was Nick Kyrgios capable of winning a major? Was Daniil Medvedev really the true favorite? And how about the likes of Jannik Sinner, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas?

Not only did we get the answers to those questions, but we learned the future is right now.

When Djokovic returns, he’ll still be the best player in the tennis for the time being, but at 35 years old, how long the Serbian has at a high level is an obvious question.

What we do know is Alcaraz and Sinner will be fighting in majors for a long, long time, and their time is now.

Alcaraz is a rare breed. Not only does he have unbelievable court coverage, wicked groundstrokes and a flashy style of play, but he has rare mental toughness. What 19-year-old kid would be able to win three straight five-set matches and still win a Grand Slam? What player in general — regardless of age — would be able to even win three straight five-setters like he did?

Alcaraz is the answer, and that mental toughness and grit is the reason why.

Meanwhile, Sinner is right up there with the Spaniard. Remember, the Italian beat Alcaraz on two other surfaces this season, and was this close to beating him on another at the US Open.

Sinner needs to work on his second serve (as does Alcaraz), but his ball striking is elite. While he gets very streaky throughout matches, his mental toughness — like Alcaraz — is very strong at 21 years old.

Ruud is “old” compared to Alcaraz and Sinner, but he’s just 23 years of age, too. The Norwegian reached his second Grand Slam final of the season, thanks to his efficient play from the baseline, consistent serve and level-headed mindset. He isn’t flashy like Alcaraz and Sinner, but he’ll be right there with those two in majors for years to come.

Then there’s Frances Tiafoe, who came out of nowhere to make a semifinal run. He too is still growing at just 24 (more on him below).

Those four proved they can play at a high level at a major event, but that’s without factoring in an injured Alexander Zverev and two players who were bounced in the first round of the tournament, Taylor Fritz and Tsitsipas.

I don’t believe that Zverev and Tsitsipas have the mental edge that Alcaraz and Sinner do, however, their talent and abilities are undeniable, which will keep them in the top 5-to-10, at the minimum.

Overall, we’re seeing the transition of tennis from the Big 3 to the “Rising Youngsters” right before our very eyes.

American Tennis Renaissance is Here to Stay

The revival of American tennis was a massive discussion before the start of this year’s US Open, and it lived up to it’s billing in Queens.

Tiafoe became the first American to advance to the US Open semifinals in 16 years, and came within one set of advancing to the final.

Now, the Americans still own a near 20-year drought without a major championship — Andy Roddick in 2003 — but they are inching closer and closer to breaking the mark due to the depth of the current group.

Tiafoe is an obvious contender. This run will do wonders for his confidence, as he has been inconsistent and unable to put his game fully together in the past. His serve was firing on all cylinders in this event and his clutch gene was evident by his 8-0 tiebreaker record.

He beat Nadal, Andrey Rublev and Diego Schwartzman, and dropped just one set in the tournament before his semifinal match against Alcaraz.

But Tiafoe is not the only American to be excited about after the US Open.

While Tommy Paul lost in the third round, he pushed Ruud — a finalist — to five sets. He had a brilliant summer, as well, defeating Alcaraz and Marin Cilic in Montreal and earning a career-high No. 29 ranking.

Brandon Nakashima also lost in the third round, but he took a set off Sinner and looked capable of pushing the Italian further. If Naka can continue to serve like he did against Grigor Dimitrov, the American can back up his already strong baseline game and elite level-headedness.

And even Jenson Brooksby played Alcaraz tough in Round 3.

While just one American (Tiafoe) reached the Round of 16 and Fritz lost in his opening match, the potential is there for American tennis, and the revival is real. Expect players like Tiafoe, Fritz, Paul, Nakashima, Brooksby, Sebastian Korda, Maxime Cressy and Reilly Opelka to continue to rise and be a factor in big tournaments.

Who will ultimately rise from the pack? That remains to be seen, but as of now, it’s definitely Tiafoe, Fritz (despite his poor US Open performance), Paul and Nakashima.

Nick Kyrgios Not Ready to Win Big One

There was a lot of buzz about Kyrgios coming into this event.

And it was well deserved.

Kyrgios finally seemed to be piecing things together. He reached the Wimbledon final earlier this season, won the Citi Open in D.C. and lost a total of two matches between his trip to The All England Club and the US Open.

The antics were getting more rare (beyond screaming at his player’s box), and he truly looked focus and determined for the first time in his career.

Kyrgios produced arguably the greatest match he’s ever played in the Round of 16 against then-world No. 1 Medvedev, obliterating the Russian with untouchable groundstrokes and his serve. He was getting the crowd involved and looked like he was truly ready to compete for a Grand Slam title.

But that turned out to be wrong. Nick is not ready to lift a trophy at a massive event like the US Open.

Why? Because with all the expectations on his shoulders (the new betting favorite and a clear path to a possible title), he flopped in the quarterfinals, losing in five sets to Karen Khachanov.

Now, it’s not Kyrgios losing that makes me say this — it’s how he lost. He lacked energy. There was little to no motivation. He failed to get the New York night crowd involved when it was obvious they wanted to erupt for the Aussie. He seemed to be dealing with some type of injury in the opening set, but the stage looked a little too bright for Kyrgios.

It pains me to make this statement because Kyrgios — despite what people say on social media — still cares. It’s obvious he wants to win now more than any other point in his career, especially at the Grand Slams.

But that doesn’t mean he is ready to win a Grand Slam. Maybe next year he will be — as this transition continues — but for now, Kyrgios has to settle with having a wonderful season.

And that doesn’t sound so terrible for the Aussie after all.

Major Concerns With Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal is one of the best players of all-time — if not the best — and an obvious future Hall of Famer.

But I tell it how I see it, and right now, Nadal isn’t at a championship level.

Yes, he won the French Open and reached the Wimbledon semifinals before retiring due to an injury, but ever since then, he’s looked mortal. The 36-year-old has battled a plethora of injuries over the last few years and doesn’t have nearly enough of the fitness he used to possess.

Nadal lost to Borna Coric in his opening match at Cincinnati, essentially giving away a tiebreaker in the first set thanks to a plethora of errors.

He also lost in the Round of 16 at the US Open by looking a couple steps slower than Tiafoe. Even before that loss, Nadal dropped a set to No. 198-ranked Rinky Hijikata in the first round and lost the first set against a 35-year-old Fabio Fognini in Round 2.

Let’s not forget, Nadal was also very beatable at Wimbledon. Beyond cruising past Lorenzo Sonego in Round 3, the Spaniard lost sets to Francisco Cerundolo and Ricardas Berankis, and struggled against Fritz before suffering an injury.

This is bad news for a player that sees Alcaraz, Sinner and others rising all while Djokovic remains at a world No. 1-level. Will Nadal be able to recover at the late stages of his career? That is truly TBD for the first time ever.

2022 Hamburg Tennis: Preview & Picks for Thursday’s ATP 500 Matches

Alex Molcan ruined my perfect 4-0 record on Wednesday, as the 24-year-old defeated Pablo Carreno Busta in a third-set tiebreaker to advance to the quarterfinals of the ATP 500 event in Hamburg.

Beyond that match, though, there was lacking drama with the other three matches being decided in straight sets.

Now we flip the script to Thursday, when Carlos Alcaraz and Andrey Rublev are in action against their respective opponents.

I have a preview and prediction for all four matches in Germany on Thursday.

Francisco Cerundolo vs. Andrey Rublev

I actually picked against Cerundolo in his opening-round match, as he faced off against Daniel Altmaier, who grew up just four hours or so away from Hamburg.

Cerundolo lost the opening set in that match, but rallied to win thanks to his ability to save eight of 10 break points.

While Cerundolo has played excellent tennis (he won his first ATP event in Bastad last week and took a set off Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon), he’s going to run out of gas at some point. Even though I was wrong about the first round, this seems like a spot to double down on a Cerundolo loss.

Since Rublev wasn’t allowed to play in Wimbledon because of the Russian ban, he hasn’t played a ton of tennis recently. However, he looked strong in his opening-round match against Ricardas Berankis and he did reach the semifinals of Bastad last week.

Also, he has an outstanding 47-28 career record on clay, including three titles.

I expect Rublev to advance.

Fabio Fognini vs. Karen Khachanov

After a couple days to regroup following a dramatic three-setter vs. Jan-Lennard Struff on Monday, No. 7 seeded Khachanov will take on Italian clay specialist Fognini in the second round.

Khachanov — like Rublev — hasn’t played a lot of tennis recently. In fact — unlike Rublev — this is the Russian’s first tournament since mid-June, when he lost in the quarters at Halle.

Karen is an incredibly difficult player to figure out and picking him in any situation is incredibly strenuous because of his knack for blowing leads. He nearly committed his cardinal sin in Round 1, too, as he squandered a third-set break against Struff.

While Khachanov is good on clay, Fognini has always been elite. Obviously this year hasn’t gone as planned for the Italian, but he still reached two semifinals in clay-court tournaments this season.

I have zero trust in Khachanov, and because of that and Fognini’s skills and experience on the surface, I’ll back the Italian.

Carlos Alcaraz vs. Filip Krajinovic

Alcaraz was dealt a scare in his opening-round match vs. Nicola Kuhn, as the German won the first set and pushed the Spaniard to a third-set tiebreaker. The talented 19-year-old prevailed, but it was an odd sight to see him in a close match on his favorite surface to a player ranked outside the top 250.

It’s tough to knock Alcaraz, though, because he was re-adjusting to clay after playing Wimbledon two weeks ago.

Now that he was able to get the first match out of the way, I think Alcaraz mauls Krajinovic in this one.

Krajinovic has produced a solid campaign (17-13 overall) and is decent on clay (34-35 in his career). He also took Carlos to three sets in Croatia last year on the surface, so he has experience against the youngster.

However, the Alcaraz in 2022 is a much different player than the one from last season. He’s greatly matured, and I think he’ll be incredibly focused for this match, given that he wasn’t happy with the result of his first win in Hamburg.

And he’s trying to perfect his German pronunciation, which is a positive sign!

Aslan Karatsev vs. Daniel Elahi Galan

Karatsev is dealing with plenty of off-the-court issues related to a potential investigation into match fixing. He dealt with those distractions pretty well in Round 1 — defeating Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-0 — and in Bastad last week (he made the quarterfinals).

But remember, Basilashvili is also involved in these allegations, and Karatsev hasn’t performed up to expectations this year (12-16 overall).

Meanwhile, Galan seems to have something clicking this week. He looked solid in qualifying and defeated clay-court specialist Federico Coria in straight sets in the opening round.

Galan didn’t make it out of qualifying last week in Bastad and lost his opening-round match in a clay Challenger Tour tournament in Germany the week before, though. He also lost four straight main-draw matches on the red surface before this week.

Karatsev might not be entirely focused on the task at hand, but I think his shot-making and skills will be too much for Galan to handle.

Back Karatsev to win — ever so slightly.

2022 Hamburg Tennis: Preview & Predictions for Wednesday’s ATP 500 Matches

It was a wild Tuesday in Hamburg, Germany, as half of the matches went three sets, the No. 1 seed Carlos Alcaraz barely escaped and three seeded players were run off the court.

Wednesday’s schedule of play doesn’t have the same volume or cachet, but it’s still worth previewing and predicting as we get deeper into this 500 event.

Here’s everything you need to know about the ATP matches from Germany:

Ricardas Berankis vs. Andrey Rublev

Berankis was awarded a lucky loser spot after losing to Luca Nardi in straight sets in the final qualifying round. The 32-year-old is ranked outside the top 100, but he actually has played decently this year, taking a set off Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, reaching the quarterfinals of an ATP 500 event in Dubai and snagging a Round of 16 appearance in Melbourne.

Berankis is not very good on clay, though, as he’s 12-29 in his career overall.

Meanwhile, Russians were banned from Wimbledon, meaning Rublev hasn’t played a lot of tennis lately. The No. 8 player in the world was ousted in the semifinals last week in Bastad, but that’s the only tournament he’s played in since mid-June.

Regardless, Rublev should cruise in this match because it’s a surface mismatch. Plus, he’s just much better than Berankis.

Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Alex Molcan

While Berankis vs. Rublev is a first-round match, this one is a second-round clash between a consistent veteran and a talented youngster.

Carreno Busta cruised through his opening match vs. Nardi, allowing the Italian to grab just three total games.

Molcan had an extra day of rest, as he beat German qualifier Marko Topo in straight sets on Monday. The 24-year-old has had a breakout season this year, winning two matches at Wimbledon, making the finals in Lyon and Morocco and reaching the Round of 16 at Dubai.

With a 15-6 overall record, Molcan is also dangerous on clay courts.

While this match will likely be very close and is tough to predict, PCB is the much safer play. I’ll back the Spaniard, but the margin isn’t very wide.

Lorenzo Musetti vs. Emil Ruusuvuori

This is the match of the day, as 20-year-old Musetti faces off against 23-year-old Ruusuvuori.

Musetti won his opening-round match on Monday in three sets vs. Dusan Lajovic. Normally, that nearly three-hour match would be a major factor in Round 2, but the Italian had an extra day of rest compared to Ruusuvuori, who played on Tuesday.

Ruusuvuori’s court time wasn’t much shorter vs. his opponent Diego Schwartzman. Even though he won in straight sets, it took him 2:22 to get there.

The Finnish talent doesn’t have a great overall record on clay, whereas Musetti is 24-16 in his career.

But Musetti also hasn’t been in very good form. He played poorly last week in Bastad — losing to Laslo Djere in straight sets — and he’s lost his first match in five straight ATP events, including two majors.

If Musetti is going to do any damage, though, he’s certainly capable in this tournament. Ruusuvuori may be tired and is coming off a big win over Schwartzman. Meanwhile, the Italian is rested and loves this surface.

Give me Musetti.

Borna Coric vs. Tallon Griekspoor

Even though I picked against both of these players on Tuesday, they advanced to face each other in this Wednesday second-round match.

Coric dropped the first set to Laslo Djere before rallying to win in three. Meanwhile, Griekspoor continued to bury the out-of-form Holger Rune, winning 7-6, 7-5.

This is a massive event for both players, as they’ve been mainly Challenger Tour participants this season. It could be a huge breakthrough for either.

This is a toss-up type of match — Griekspoor has the form while Coric has much more experience on the surface.

I’ll back Coric in this spot since he’s played 88 more matches on clay at the ATP level than Griekspoor.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina vs. Jozef Kovalik

If it’s clay, give me Davidovich Fokina every time. This is his favorite surface, and just look at his results earlier this year in Monte Carlo for confirmation. In that ATP 1000 event, Davidovich Fokina defeated Marcos Giron, Novak Djokovic, David Goffin, Taylor Fritz and Grigor Dimitrov before losing in the final.

He also impressively beat Hurbert Hurkacz at Wimbledon despite owning very little experience on grass.

His opponent here, Kovalik, is 186th in the world and has played just three main draw ATP matches this year. While he beat German wild card Max Hans Rehberg in three sets on Monday, Kovalik’s run in Hamburg ends here.