The ATP Tour heads to Sofia and San Diego this week and our Andy Schooler has four outright picks, ranging from 12/1 to 25/1.
2pts win Alexander Bublik in the Sofia Open at 12/1 (BetVictor)
0.5pt e.w. Marcos Giron in the Sofia Open at 20/1 (BetVictor)
1pt e.w. Sebastian Korda in the San Diego Open at 25/1 (BetVictor)
0.5pt e.w. Brandon Nakashima in the San Diego Open at 22/1 (Sky Bet, BetVictor)
Conditions should suit ALEXANDER BUBLIK in Sofia this week and the Kazakh looks worth backing at 12/1.
Bublik’s big serve usually works to good effect indoors and that was shown in Nur-Sultan last week where he reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Soon-woo Kwon.
In his three matches, Bublik hammered down 61 aces and more can be expected in Bulgaria.
There was a bit of altitude to help Bublik on what were fairly sluggish courts in Nur-Sultan, which sits around 350m above sea level. They are even further up in Sofia (550m) where the Proflex surface also isn’t the fastest.
Still, with the altitude allowing the balls to fly quicker through thinner air, big servers have often gone well in the tournament’s short history.
Mirza Basic was a surprise winner here in 2018, while the champions since, Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner, certainly have good deliveries, even if there is a lot more to their game than simply the opening shot.
This will be Bublik’s debut in Sofia so he will need to settle into the conditions quickly but, as I’ve already said, they shouldn’t be hugely different to those he was playing in last week, while at altitude in Madrid earlier this season, the 24-year-old handled things just fine, beating top-30 stars Denis Shapovalov and Aslan Karatsev en route to the quarter-finals of that Masters 1000 event.
Bublik has landed in a decent-looking second quarter of the draw. His opener will be against Lorenzo Musetti or local wild card Dimitar Kuzmanov, while the out-of-form Filip Krajinovic is the player he’s seeded to face in the last eight.
Defending champion Sinner could come next but the bookies’ favourite may have to face Vasek Pospisil in his first match of the week. If so, that would be a rematch of last year’s final which Sinner edged in a final-set tie-break (much to the agony of this column which tipped Pospisil each-way at 16s).
Last week’s runner-up in Nur-Sultan, James Duckworth, and talented young Finn Emil Ruusuvuori are also in Sinner’s quarter, one which hardly looks plain sailing for a man chalked up at just 4/1.
The bottom half is headed up by Gael Monfils, a player who I tipped last week in Metz only for him to lose in the semis.
The French star could face our other semi-final loser of last week, Ilya Ivashka, in his opener, while his compatriot Adrian Mannarino, always competitive indoors, and Miomir Kecmanovic make this a tricky quarter to call.
The third quarter looks weaker with the seeds being the struggling Alex de Minaur (one win in his last seven matches) and John Millman.
I’m going to take both on with 20/1 shot MARCOS GIRON.
The unheralded American has been playing some good stuff of late and looks capable of a deep run sooner or later.
He made the quarter-finals in Winston-Salem just prior to the US Open and then gave Dan Evans a decent test in New York.
Having moved indoors last week in Metz, Giron defeated both home hope Arthur Rinderknech and De Minaur before being beaten in the last eight by Peter Gojowczyk, a player for whom conditions were ideal.
It would be nice to have a stronger track record at altitude, although that aspect isn’t particularly bad – it’s just he’s not played that much this high up at this level.
Giron did play Madrid this year and qualified before beating Pablo Andujar – a decent win on clay – while at lower levels he has won plenty of matches at altitude, including winning Futures titles.
This is not some kind of hugely confident pick but I’m tempted enough to play to small stakes at 20s.
San Diego is a new stop on the ATP Tour this year, basically due to the rescheduling of the Indian Wells Masters 1000 event.
The latter tournament had been due to take place in March but the Covid-19 pandemic forced a postponement. Given its place as the tour’s richest event, a new date was found and so too was one for a warm-up tournament. Hence, this week’s trip to the Pacific coast.
Given its position as a debutant, the event isn’t the most attractive to punters.
Conditions are hard to judge at this point. What we do know is they will play on a Laykold surface – that’s the type of court used at both the recent US Open and in Miami.
Still, it’s hard to believe it will be as quick here as in New York given Indian Wells lies ahead. The whole idea behind this tournament is to prepare the players for next week and the Plexipave courts in Indian Wells aren’t the fastest.
What does happen in Indian Wells is the balls fly through the air well given the dry desert air but such conditions can’t be replicated in the coastal city.
It is worth noting that the venue – the Barnes Tennis Center – is not the same one used by the WTA when they played in San Diego.
It’s a strong field that’s been gathered, with six of the world’s top 15 in attendance.
However, five of those players (Andrey Rublev, Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov and Diego Schwartzman) will be heading straight from the Laver Cup in Boston where they played indoors. The other, Hubert Hurkacz, arrives having played indoors in the fast conditions of Metz, France, on Sunday.
While the indoor-to-outdoor adaptation isn’t regarded as the toughest there is, I always remember Andy Murray saying it was a change he found particularly hard and it’s certainly likely to prove difficult for some given the quick turnaround. Schwartzman and Hurkacz will both have to play on Wednesday at the very latest.
Others in the field will have enjoyed much better preparation and given the big names will also likely have one eye on Indian Wells, I think this week is a good one to be eyeing value picks from down the market.
I’ll take one from each half of the draw and start with SEBASTIAN KORDA in the bottom section at 25/1.
He’s enjoyed some strong results on the US hardcourts this season, starting the year by reaching the final in Delray Beach and then making the last eight (on Laykold) in Miami where Aslan Karatsev and Schwartzman were among his victims.
Some will point out Korda was last seen retiring from a match at the US Open but that was due to food poisoning and, four weeks on, the 21-year-old should be fully recovered.
Korda faces Tommy Paul first up – he’s won both of their previous meetings – before a clash with either Lorenzo Sonego or Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Ruud, the weakest of the top-15 stars on a hardcourt, is his scheduled quarter-final opponent, while Auger-Aliassime is the man seeded to progress to the semis.
In my book, that’s a decent draw and Korda looks worth a punt at 25s.
In the top half, BRANDON NAKASHIMA gets the nod at 22/1.
Like Korda, he’s already shown he’s very much part of the next generation of US tennis.
It was only a couple of months ago that he made back-to-back hardcourt finals in Los Cabos and Atlanta and while form tailed off a bit after that, he still managed an excellent straight-sets win over John Isner at the US Open.
Nakashima’s backhand looks a real weapon and what’s particularly interesting for punters this week is that San Diego is his home city. He knows the venue and has already admitted liking the fact he’ll be able to stay at home during the tournament.
Fabio Fognini is Nakashima’s first-round foe with the winner to meet top seed Rublev.
That looks awkward for the Russian, one of those arriving from the indoor setting in Boston.
Schwartzman and Shapovalov are the other seeds Nakashima has, in theory, to beat in order to reach the final.
Still, I’m happy to give the talented youngster a go, albeit to small stakes, at his price.
Posted at 1700 BST on 26/09/21
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