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 Newport Tennis: 3 Takeaways From ATP 250 Hall of Fame Open

This was the best field that the Hall of Fame Open in Newport, Rhode Island ever had, and the tournament lived up to the hype. Whether it was the circus of a match featuring Felix Auger-Aliassime, an underdog making a run in Jason Kubler and a final decided by a third-set tiebreaker, this week was truly a successful one for the 250 event.

In the end, it was American Maxime Cressy who held up the cup after he defeated Alexander Bublik, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6, in a thrilling final.

We’ll dive deeper into that result below, as we offer up three takeaways from the event. Yes, a 250 event is tough to significantly read into, but some of the results cannot be ignored.

Americans Are Elite On Grass — For First Time in Long Time

American tennis is not typically known for grass courts. In fact, Newport is the only tournament in the entire country that’s played on grass.

While the United States’ overall play — no matter the surface — has been weak for years, this grass-court season has been a massive break through for the future of American tennis. It shows the great upside and depth that’s currently floating throughout the professional game. It will be noticeable on every surface, but it’s especially noteworthy on this one.

Because Maxime Cressy won this event, let’s start with him.

If you read our previews this week or have been following the grass-court season, it’s well known to you how good Cressy has been playing. His serve-and-volley game is dangerous on the surface, as he reached the Eastbourne final, knocked out Auger-Aliassime in the first round of Wimbledon and won Newport.

In southern Rhode Island, Cressy’s poise was particularly impressive. He lost the first set to Steve Johnson in the quarterfinals, but rallied to win. Despite losing the second set vs. John Isner immediately following a dominant first set, Cressy didn’t hang his head and broke “Big John” for the third time in the match.

In the final, Cressy looked toast, as he was down a set and a break to a focused and motivated Bublik. He wasn’t converting his first serves, couldn’t stop Bublik’s passing shots and wasn’t moving with intensity or fluidity.

From there, something clicked. The American rattled off six straight games (!) to win the second set. He was finally finding his first-serve conversions, and his net play was marvelous.

In the third set, Cressy held serve until capturing the tiebreaker to win his first title.

And as good as Cressy was in this tournament and has been on grass this year, he’s only the second-best American on the surface.

Remember, Taylor Fritz was the player who beat Cressy in Eastbourne. He also reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals before losing to Rafael Nadal in five sets.

But it doesn’t end with Fritz and Cressy.

Tommy Paul showed immense potential on the surface. Brandon Nakashima and Frances Tiafoe both made the Round of 16 at Wimbledon. John Isner is still a four-time champ at Newport and beat Andy Murray at the All England Club. And while Jenson Brooksby didn’t perform well overall during the season, he showed his talent and abilities in a blowout of Benjamin Bonzi in England.

We know American tennis is back, but on grass, it’s official after Cressy’s title.

Time for Serious Concerns With Felix

We wrote about this earlier this week after Auger-Aliassime and Kubler were forced to stop their match late in the third set due to insufficient lighting, but it’s big enough to talk about again.

Since a blistering start to the season that featured a victory at the ATP Cup, a quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open, a victory at Rotterdam and another finals appearance in Marseille, Felix hasn’t done much of anything.

Here’s his results since that four-tournament stretch:

  • Indian Wells (1000): Loss in opening match to Botic van de Zandschulp
  • Miami (1000): Loss in opening match to Miomir Kecmanovic
  • Morocco (250): Loss in Round of 16 to Alex Molcan
  • Monte Carlo (1000): Loss in opening match to Lorenzo Musetti
  • Barcelona (500): Loss in Round of 16 to Diego Schwartzman
  • Estoril (250): Loss in quarterfinals to Sebastian Korda
  • Madrid (1000): Loss in quarterfinals to Alexander Zverev
  • Rome (1000): Loss in quarterfinals to Novak Djokovic
  • French Open: Loss in Round of 16 to Rafael Nadal
  • ‘s-Hertogenbosch (250): Loss in semifinals to Tim van Rijthoven
  • Halle (500): Loss in quarterfinals to Hubert Hurkacz
  • Wimbledon: Loss in opening match to Maxime Cressy
  • Newport: Loss in opening match to Jason Kubler

Now, to be fair, there’s nothing wrong with losing to Alexander Zverev, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal. But on the flip side, there are some wacky early exits (Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, etc).

Maybe things will change for Felix as we transition to the hard courts, but he’s said time and time again that he loves playing on grass. Cressy is obviously playing excellent, but if Felix wants to be considered a top-10 player, those are the types of matches he needs to win.

Why are we bringing this up now? After all, while Felix hasn’t played his best tennis of late and didn’t look right in Newport, he certainly isn’t having a bad season overall.

The reason is because the US Open is wide open for the taking at this moment. We still don’t know if Djokovic is going to be able to participate. Nadal and Zverev are dealing with injuries. Daniil Medvedev is dealing with form issues of his own. And Carlos Alcaraz hasn’t truly proven himself in a major this year.

Auger-Aliassime is on a short list of players who are capable of breaking through to potentially capture that coveted major. However, after watching him the last few weeks, it’s hard to say he’s ready to compete at that high of a level.

Form can change quickly in tennis and there’s still a month and a half left (including a couple of 1000 events) until the New York grand slam, but things are trending downwards for the Canadian.

Andy Murray Won’t Be Seeded for US Open

On the broadcast this week, the announcers mentioned that Andy Murray is looking to play much more tennis this summer in order to increase his ranking. The goal for the Brit is to be seeded by time the US Open comes around.

It’s a goal that isn’t surprising.

Murray, who is currently ranked 50th, had no shot at making a run at his favorite tournament (Wimbledon) in part because of his draw. Facing James Duckworth and then John Isner is no easy task, and at this point in his career, he can’t afford to be playing long matches early in big events.

I don’t think Murray will be getting there regardless. Why? Because he’s not playing at that level anymore, unfortunately. Murray is a fan favorite and a future Hall of Famer, but he’s 35 years old and has dealt with a lot of injuries over the years.

Murray didn’t look great at Wimbledon, and he certainly didn’t look good in Newport. While he cruised through Sam Querrey in the opening round, he nearly lost to a tired, overworked Max Purcell in the second round and was easily dispatched by Alexander Bublik in the quarters.

And remember, grass is his best surface — 115-25 overall record in his career.

Murray looks like he’ll be back at the ATP 250 event in Atlanta next week, so we’ll get a chance to judge his form on a hard court.

2022 Newport Tennis: Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Jason Kubler Suspended Late in Third Set

**Editor’s Note: Kubler ended up defeating Auger-Aliassime in a third-set tiebreaker on Thursday afternoon. He will now face James Duckworth in the quarterfinals of the Hall of Fame Open on Friday.**

While Andy Murray nearly lost to Max Purcell on Wednesday in the ATP 250 Hall of Fame Open in Newport, and the No. 1 seed in the Bastad 250 tournament, Casper Ruud, fell, the biggest story of the day in tennis was a match between Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jason Kubler that didn’t even finish.

The No. 9 player in the world, Auger-Aliassime, and the No. 102-ranked talent on tour, Kubler, were forced to suspend their match in Rhode Island due to darkness.

But the level of tennis before nightfall hit was terrific.

Felix won the opening set, 6-4, as Kubler was broken at love at 4 all. But the Australian had no plans of going away quietly. Kubler upped his level of play, using his nasty forehand and excellent court awareness to surprisingly capture the second set, 6-3.

While the high level of play continued in the third and final set, there were no breaks before the match was called at 6-5. Kubler will be serving when it resumes on Thursday (Not Before 1 p.m. ET).

Originally, it looked like the tournament was intent to finish the match, but both Auger-Aliassime and Kubler began pushing for a suspension. Kubler was especially adamant after slipping twice along the baseline — he actually wanted the match to be called in the middle of the 5 all game, but was overruled.

The chair umpire even called the conditions “extreme” when talking to who we presume were tournament officials. Meanwhile, the fans were booing and pushing for the match to “play on” — which is no surprise if they don’t have tickets for Thursday’s session.

While the drama is certainly something we wanted to write about, the actual tennis analysis of this match is critical.

We’ll start with Kubler. He’s jumped onto the radar over the last two weeks or so, but he’s truly been playing insanely good this entire year. The Aussie reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, won a Challenger tournament, captured two ITF events and made the Roland Garros main draw.

Kubler has battled injuries throughout his career, but he’s playing some of the best tennis of his life.

And it definitely was evident in this match via the eye test. The 29-year-old was dictating the pace of play, was controlling a significant amount of points and showed a clutch gene on his service games.

Regardless of the result, this type of match proves that Kubler is capable of doing major damage in future tournaments — especially on grass — if he can stay healthy long term.

Meanwhile, Auger-Aliassime seems to be in an odd place at this point in the tennis season. He’s always said he enjoys playing on grass, but after an impressive 2021 grass-court season, he’s struggled this year. The Canadian lost in the first round of Wimbledon and didn’t look very sharp in this first-round match.

He committed many uncharacteristic errors on Wednesday — both mentally and physically — that allowed Kubler to get back into the match and force a third set.

This isn’t a good time to be in shaky form, either. With Novak Djokovic’s status for the US Open up in the air, Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev injured and Daniil Medvedev having his own form issues for known reasons, the final major of the year is for the taking. Obviously, the US Open is played on an entirely different surface and is still about a month and a half away, but it’s still worth discussing.

But first of all, who will ultimately advance in Newport? Well, that’s likely going to be decided by a tiebreaker.

The winner will then have to face James Duckworth in the quarterfinal round.