The ATP 250 in San Diego gets underway as hard court season begins slowing down. Last year’s champion Casper Ruud is ranked too high now to appear for a title defense, and the field is wide open, with Dan Evans holding the #1 seed. US Open surprise Brandon Holt is entering his second ATP tournament; can he swing another upset or two? We make the calls below; what do you think?
ATP San Diego Day 1 Predictions
Brandon Holt vs Constant Lestienne
Head-to-head: first meeting
This match is very difficult to call. Brandon Holt is a rising player, but it’s not clear where exactly his level is at yet. He moved past three decent qualifiers to play in the US Open main draw, where he upset childhood friend Taylor Fritz and then lost a tight five-setter to Pedro Cachin. Those are good results for a newbie, but he has no other ATP experience, and has only a 37% win percentage on hard at the Challenger level.
Lestienne, meanwhile, has achieved a rank of #76 in the world on the strength of not even a single ATP match this year. He has played well at the Challenger level, winning three tournaments and making the finals of two others, and has a 63% win percentage on hard court in his career at that level, along with five titles. But I’m not too impressed with the Frenchman’s wins recently, and Holt has had similar ones, and my primary uncertainty is whether Holt can reproduce his US Open level.
Prediction: Holt in 3
Alexei Popyrin vs James Duckworth
Head-to-head: Duckworth 2-1
This is a matchup of struggling players, both with just five wins at the ATP level this year, and each playing poorly on hard courts despite it being their preferred surface. I don’t know how much history counts for when each is playing so badly this year, but Duckworth has ten titles and a 70% win percentage on hard courts at the Challenger level, well higher than Popyrin, while their ATP results over their careers have been similar. Two of the H2Hs were sub-ATP, with Duckworth taking the lone ATP match, and all three were on hard. I don’t really want to pick a winner here, but I’ll give it to Duckworth on the strength of his history on the surface, and because he’s coming off of a Challenger final.
Prediction: Duckworth in 3
Tomas Martin Etcheverry vs Facundo Mena
Head-to-head: Mena 2-1
This battle of the Argentines has to have a winner, but neither men seeks out hard courts almost at all. Etcheverry has almost no experience even going down to the ITF level, while Mena at least has won two ITF titles on the surface, though he is here attempting his first ATP match. The H2H has all come in sub-ATP competition, and all on clay. Etcheverry at least has some ATP experience, but very little and is 1-12 on the year, without a win on hard court. Like I said, someone has to win it, and I have to dip back into the ITF level to give Mena the tiniest of tiny edges here. Could go either way.
Prediction: Mena in 3
J.J. Wolf vs Stefan Kozlov
Head-to-head: Kozlov 4-3
This is a strange matchup. Technically it is their first H2H, but only if you count ATP competition. They have met seven times at the sub-ATP level, and Kozlov holds the edge, including three out of four matchups last year. All seven have been on hard court. Both have very similar records (and five titles each) on hard court at the Challenger level, and very limited experience at the ATP level. But Wolf has been rising and has played some impressive matches, while Kozlov is well under .500 for the year, and currently sits on a nine-match losing streak.
Maybe his familiarity with Wolf and his previous victories will break him out of the slump, but Wolf has way more momentum at the moment and can reach a higher level. But I give it in three because Kozlov seems to cause Wolf trouble, which can happen when two players know each other well.
Prediction: Wolf in 3
Main Photo from Getty.