Sean Calvert’s ATP Washington Day 2 Preview

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Round one of the 2021 Citi Open in Washington DC completes on Tuesday and round two begins as the tournament awaits the arrival of Rafael Nadal to the main draw on Wednesday.

There wasn’t much joy for underdog backers on Monday, with just two of nine winning (and one of those was a marginal underdog) and we had no luck with Egor Gerasimov, who traded at 1.71 in-play from 3.45 and had a set point in the opener against compatriot Ilya Ivashka.

He didn’t take it, got broken the next game, and that was that, while our second bet was a void with Bet365, as Yoshihito Nishioka injured his calf at a set up on Jack Sock and had to retire a few games later.

Then, Sam Querrey produced a poor serving performance against a Kei Nishikori, who had had little time to prepare and the American’s measly 48% of first serves in play cost him and us dear.

Nishi said afterwards: “I was really tired after coming from Japan. I wasn’t sure if I was ready today…” A wasted opportunity for Querrey there.

We’re expecting more of a cloudy day on Tuesday in Washington DC, with temperatures getting up to around 27C in the shade and the humidity should be around the 50% mark. There should also be little wind, so decent conditions by the look of it.

We’ve got the remaining seven round one matches and the first five round two matches on the card today, with play starting at around 2pm local time (7pm UK).

Denis Kudla has had a weird relationship with his ‘home’ tournament (he was born in Ukraine, but went to school in Washington DC), with losses in all of his first six matches in Washington DC and then he made the quarter finals in 2018.

After that he was bageled by Tommy Paul in 2019 and so it’s fair to say he’s been rather hit and miss at the Citi Open.

What’s perhaps more concerning for Kudla backers at odds-on here is his awful record against left-handers on hard courts at main level, which reads 3-13 win/loss in his career so far.

I’m not sure I could press the button on Kudla’s opponent, Feli Lopez, though, with the Spaniard looking his age these days and in any case he’s yet to beat a top-100 ranked opponent in Washington DC in a very modest set of results at this tournament.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Lopez won, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Tennys Sandgren hinted at retirement after losing the bronze medal match at the Olympics a few days ago, saying: “I’m probably gonna’ quit. That might be my last match. I’m close, yeah, I’m close.”

Given his current mood and the fact that he hasn’t won back-to-back matches at main level since last August in Cincy it’s hard to see much value in him as slight underdog against James Duckworth, who’s been playing well lately.

He also hasn’t had long to recover from the trip to Tokyo, with Sandgren’s doubles loss coming as recently as Friday, July 30.

Brandon Nakashima won’t have had long to recover from his recent exploits either when he takes on Alexei Popyrin only two days after losing in the Atlanta final, which itself came straight away after the Los Cabos final.

So, Nakashima has played 25 sets of hard court tennis in two weeks, while Popyrin has played only 15 sets since the French Open and it’s taken him almost three months to play 25 sets.

Popyrin is on a poor run of one win in his last nine matches, although he’s had some rough draws in that spell, too, and I’m sure some will fancy backing the Aussie here on fitness alone, but I’m not keen on Popyrin’s price just on the basis of Nakashima’s likely fatigue.

Emil Ruusuvuori played well last week in Atlanta and he has won his last four against lefties at main level, while he’s also yet to taste defeat at this level when priced up shorter than 1.40 (only three matches though).

He beat leftie Cam Norrie last week, so his form looks solid enough to beat Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who’s 9-24 win/loss at main level and hasn’t won on the ATP Tour (main draw) since Pune at the start of 2020.

He does usually play his best stuff in quick conditions though and he held serve in every one of his 16 service games in qualies, so maybe a set one tie break could be of interest there.

Steve Johnson is unlikely to forget his only career meeting (until now) with Ramkumar Ramanthan.

It was in the final of Newport in the summer of 2018, not long after his father died, and it remains his most recent tour level title.

That Newport win was some achievement from Johnson in the circumstances and it’s fair to conclude that he hasn’t really been the same player since, but over the years he’s gone well on home soil and in Washington DC.

Ramanathan made the final of the Cary Challenger on hard a few weeks ago, but that Newport final on grass is so far the only time he’s really figured at main level, with a 14-21 win/loss record in tour level and slam tournaments.

On outdoor hard he’s 7-14 win/loss at main level (excluding Davis Cup, which is often misleading, as you could be playing a very low ranked opponent) and has broken serve only 13.5% of the time in those matches.

Johnson only breaks 14.8% of the time on outdoor hard at main level (entire career and also in his last 50 matches) though, so a tie break should be no surprise here either.

Johnson’s doubles partner from last week in Atlanta, Jordan Thompson (the pair made the final there) should, on paper, be beating Elias Ymer, who Thompson has already beaten twice on hard courts in two meetings and is more at home on the clay.

Ymer is 3-12 win/loss on outdoor hard at main level (excluding Davis Cup) and only two of the 41 sets he’s played in those 15 matches went to a tie break and only one other set went past 10 games.

The Swede has only held serve 66% of the time in those matches and broken 19% of the time, so his numbers are really poor at this level on this surface, and perhaps his best chance here is fatigue on the part of the Aussie.

Thompson has already withdrawn from Toronto next week and he’s played 20 matches since the French Open, including every week since Stuttgart began in early June, so he could be excused for being a tad jaded.

Moving on to the round two matches and Marcos Giron has a rough turnaround after a three-hour marathon in the heat and humidity yesterday against Ilya Marchenko and facing the in-form Cam Norrie doesn’t look an ideal situation for Giron.

Marchenko should have won that one, but allowed it to slip away, and this looks like it should be a win for Norrie against a fatigued opponent.

Indeed, it looks pretty slim pickings for underdog backers on Tuesday (now I’ve said that a load of them will probably win), but I don’t mind going in again on our outright Frances Tiafoe against Jenson Brooksby.

Tiafoe is always fired up to play his home tournament in Washington DC and he’s certain to be giving it his absolute all in this one, so I’m a little surprised that he’s slight underdog with some layers here.

Brooksby has been in decent form of late, but I’m yet to be convinced that his current best tennis (he’s only 20) can match Tiafoe’s best and if Tiafoe brings the level we saw from him in the first few matches he played at Wimbledon to the court today he’ll win this.

And that’s the thing with Tiafoe. We backed him with a +1.5 set start against Tsitsipas at Wimbledon, with the idea being that he’ll be fired up for that match and it’s a similar thing here – he’ll be well up for this, while his opponent is still very new to this level (10 main level matches so far) and can’t be relied upon to produce on a regular basis yet.

I don’t mind the 1.99 (SBK) or 1.95 (several others) about Tiafoe in these circumstances.

Our other outright, Seb Korda, is also in action on Tuesday and he takes on Vasek Pospisil, who seems more focused on his off-court activities these days and I’m hopeful that Korda can come through this one – on current form he should do.

Finally, there may be some value in siding with Andreas Seppi in some way against Felix Auger-Aliassime in a rematch of their French Open clash in which Seppi won as a 9.28 chance.

Seppi has actually never played Washington DC before, as he’s usually having his hip meddled with at this time of the season, but if he’s recovered okay from a three-setter yesterday he might fancy his chances a bit here.

FAA is coming off the back of another defeat from long odds-on (against Max Purcell as a 1.14 chance at the Olympics) in what was a difficult situation for him having been slated to face Andy Murray, who pulled out late on.

But you still feel he should have done better and the young Canadian will have to play better and make better choices than he did against Seppi in Paris if he wants to win here.

At the age of 37, Seppi is tough to predict, as he’s not the force of old, but I think he may have enough about him still to take a set here and 2.25 (Bet 365) about the Italian to do that or the 4.20 with BoyleSports about FAA winning it 2-1 look like fair choices here.

So, a tougher day for finding value today for me and I’ll just take a couple of small ones on Tuesday.

Best Bets

0.5 points win Tiafoe to beat Brooksby at 1.99 (SBK)

0.5 points win Auger-Aliassime to beat Seppi 2-1 at 4.20 (BoyleSports)