ATP
(REUTERS/CIRO DE LUCA)

What promises to be one of the most exciting ATP seasons in years has begun, with top players returning to action Monday evening (Tuesday morning local) in Melbourne, Australia at the ATP Cup. 13 of the top 15 players in the world, along with plenty of others in the top 50, will be competing for both their countries and ranking points.

With Covid all but under control in the land down under, fans will be packing stadiums and players should be feeding off the crazy atmosphere that us tennis fans are used to seeing.

Below are a few things that I’m looking out for in this tournament, along with some Day 1 betting picks:

  1. The ATP’s Next-Gen is no longer scared of the top guys

From 2003 through 2020, Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic took home 57 of the 68 Major titles. Given that Murray and Wawrinka have 3 each in that time span (and haven’t exactly been in contention the past couple years), and Thiem’s 2020 USOpen win took place without any of the Big 3 in the field (sore spot for Novak), it’s safe to say there hasn’t exactly been much parity in Men’s Tennis.

Thankfully, we’ve seen the shift start to take place over the past 18 months, and I believe that this will be the year where the young guys finally start to break all the way through.

We saw it firsthand in November’s Nitto ATP Finals. Thiem and Medvedev each beat Nadal and Djokovic in route to a classic Final, narrowly won by Medvedev. While the top guys have always been a bit more beatable in best of 3 matches, the level needed to beat both players in the world in the same week (both in good form) is incredibly high. 

As we know, tennis is as mental of a sport as any, if not more so. The Next-Gen group of players has had the talent to take down the top 3 for the past couple years, but the belief hasn’t quite been there. We know the belief is there now for Medvedev and Thiem, and I expect their Next-Gen peers to feed off this energy and bridge the gap between them and the Big 3 closer than it’s ever been.

I’m looking at one of Zverev, Tsitsipas and Rublev to be the next to take down Nadal/Djokovic at a major.

2) How will players respond after a 2 week quarantine?

I’m not expecting the highest level of tennis over the first few days of matches. Australia has much stricter Covid regulations than the U.S., and even professional tennis players had to quarantine for 14 days once they entered the country. While most players were still able to practice, routines and workout habits were most definitely throw off. Tennis is a sport of rhythm and consistency, and I expect it to take some time for players to find their groove given the weird circumstances. 

Because of this, there should be some value in underdogs during the first couple weeks of the season. I also like the idea of playing overs, with inconsistency among players plus the intensity of guys playing for their country leading to a bunch of 3 set matches.

3) Can we expect anything good/great from male American tennis players this year?

Sadly, no. Despite all of the success we’ve had with incredible young American women complimenting Serena’s dominance on the tennis court, the men just haven’t followed suit. 

John Isner remains the highest ranked American on the ATP Tour heading into 2021, but there is just nothing fun about watching him play. Sure, he has the greatest serve in Men’s tennis history, but he has the ground game of a player ranked outside the top 100, and therefore looks to end points as quickly as possible. Boring!

I’m hoping we can see a breakthrough this year from good friends Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka, both 23 years of age. Both have massive games and are definitely the United States’ best chance of short term success in the tennis world, but their lack of elite movement skills will likely continue to hamper them. Unless either player made significant progress during the offseason, I expect their rankings to remain in the 20-40 range.

Frances Tiafoe and Sebastian Korda are two other players worth mentioning. Tiafoe, also 23, has shown flashes in recent years, making the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, but hasn’t been able to back it up with consistent results. 20 year old Korda seems to have talent, making the finals in Delray this month. We’ll have to wait and see how he continues to grow and develop.

Let’s get to my first set of picks for the 2021 ATP season!

PICKS: 2/1

Thiem/Berretini Over 23 -110

Expecting at LEAST 2 tight sets, likely a three setter. These guys have a 2-2 head to head, and each hit the ball huge. Berretini should be healthy after finishing 2020 a bit banged up, and I’d think he’d be eager to come out and remind the world that he’s a top 8 player when at his best. While Thiem is the superior player, he tends to lose a bit of focus over the course of matches, and one two minute lull is all it would take to drop a set vs Matteo.

Medvedev – 5 vs Schwartzman -115

I fucking love Diego, but he sadly doesn’t have the firepower to hit through Medvedev, especially in the chilly weather. 

Millman +250 vs Bautista Agut (half unit)

Lastly, I want to take a stab at Millman as a dog in his home country playing in front of his own fans. Millman is one of the biggest grinders on tour. He will come into this match as fit as possible. And while RBA is no slouch in terms of fitness, his game relies on much more rhythm than Millman does. Hoping he hasn’t found it just yet coming out of quarantine. I’m going with the dog here in what I think is a good spot to catch Vegas in a tough position.

YTD: 

0-0, +/- 0 units

Check us out on Facebook and Twitter!

And follow me!

vendettasportsmedia.com