Tennis Best Bets for July 21

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We’re on to the second round down in Los Cabos, and the action is heating up to match the weather. I’ve got my eyes on a favorite that’s too short, and and underdog that’s too long, and will go through why I like both of them now.

Denis Kudla (-152) vs. Ernesto Escobedo (+119)

It was nice to see World No. 182 Ernesto Escobedo, an American of Mexican decent, break through with his first win in three tries at the Los Cabos event on Monday night. It’s never easy taking out Mackenzie McDonald, who has immense talent, but this surface wasn’t really one that fits McDonald’s style.

Things are slower here in Los Cabos, which makes his flat groundstrokes a bit more ineffective. While that also hurts Escobedo, who has a massive serve, the combination of a slightly slower surface than the grass that McDonald had been playing on, combined with some poor form, made things a bit easier on Escobedo.

For those reasons, I’m not rating that loss as highly as I might have at other points during the season. On the other hand, I was super, super impressed with how Denis Kudla battled back from a set down against Thanasi Kokkinakis, particularly with the way the Aussie was serving. He hit some massive shots, and appears to be picking up right where he left off after a successful grass-court season. All that work Kudla’s done in the offseaosn is transforming him into a dangerous tennis player, and a run to at least the quarters here should be on the cards.

Kudla’s given a 64.1% chance to win based on his hardcourt Elo rating at Tennis Abstract, and I’d agree that the cost to back him here against a Challenger-level player should be a bit more expensive.

Edge: Kudla -152

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Brandon Nakashima (-179) vs. Sam Querrey (+139)

It pains me to say, but Brandon Nakashima, one of the fastest-rising Americans of the last two years, seems to have hit a wall. The 19-year-old worked his way up to the top 140 with a boatload of match wins last year, but he’s gone just 22-15 this season with some head-scratching losses. Even in his wins, he’s looked very unconvincing. He fumbled away the second set to J.J. Wolf in the first round in Los Cabos, and struggled to get his footing on the grass with some disappointing results in the Challengers.

Prior to that was a disappointing hardcourt swing. After winning the Quimper Challenger, Nakashima was bounced from Acapulco in the first round and started to spiral downward from there. He’s yet to truly recover, and with the youngster seemingly stagnating in his growth I have no choice but to fade him against a very accomplished veteran like Sam Querrey.

The former World No. 11 had a decent grass court season with a trip to the final in Mallorca and a win over Roberto Bautista-Agut on the way there before he suffered a somewhat surprising loss to James Duckworth in the second round at Wimbledon. He rolled over for Max Cressy in Newport, but there was nothing for the grizzled Querrey to really play for there.

Here in Cabos, Querrey can get his form right in preparation for the final slam of the year, the U.S. Open. The big man should be engaged and highly-motivated, making it hard to trust his result in Newport. I also can’t trust Nakashima in this spot considering the amount of bad losses we’ve seen from him. He shouldn’t be a favorite of this magnitude.

Edge: Querrey +139

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