The big tournament of the week takes place in Washington DC at the ATP 500 Citi Open, where it’s set to be steaming hot and humid once again.
It’s an event that usually sees an average amount of underdog winners (30% over the last six years and 44% of it’s matches have featured at least one tie break in that time.
In Los Cabos in its three years on the ATP World Tour it’s had the same amount of tie break matches as Washington (44%) and more or less the same frequency of underdog winners (31%).
On the clay at altitude in Kitzbuhel there are a lot of underdog winners usually (41% in the last six years) and a fair few tie breaks for a clay event (largely due to the altitude) at 37% of its matches featuring at least one between 2013 and 2018.
On Monday at the Citi Open they have 10 matches on the card for day one of the main draw and it’ll be a hot day, as usual, but not as bad as it can be here, with 35C heat and 40% humidity – it can get tougher than that here when it gets up to 60-70% humidity.
The ones I like the look of from an underdog perspective on Monday in Washington are Denis Kudla, Tim Smyczek and Malek Jaziri.
Denis Kudla vs Tommy Paul
I watched Kudla last week in Atlanta against Alexei Popyrin and he wasn’t very good, quite honestly, but I expect to see a much-improved effort level on Monday from Kudla.
This is the hometown event for Kudla, who grew up in this part of the world, and prior to last year he’d always struggled at the Citi Open, with a 0-4 record here until he snapped that streak in 2018.
Kudla beat Lacko, Khachanov and Pouille to make the quarter finals and I don’t think we’ll see the sort of half interested level we saw from Kudla last week this time around.
Motivated to play well at home he also faces a man he’s beaten four times from four meetings, so the confidence will be there as well in the match-up.
I expected Kudla to be favourite for this, but as slight underdog I’m more than happy to give Kudla a chance versus an opponent who has also gone well here in Washington DC, but for whom injuries have been a problem.
Paul made the last eight in 2017 in Washington, beating Pouille and Muller and having match points against Kei Nishikori for a straight sets win in the quarter finals.
Not much has gone right for Paul since, with only three main draw wins at main level in the two years following that Nishikori match, with injury setting him back.
I’d certainly want his current form (hasn’t won three straight matches since April at any level) to be much better than it is to back him as favourite in Kudla’s home event.
Malek Jaziri doesn’t mind the heat and he beat Anderson and Opelka before losing to Alexander Zverev in three sets and his underdog status against qualifier Marc Polmans (0-3 all-time at main level) is of interest.
Jaziri’s scheduling can be baffling (as can his lack of fitness on occasion) as he’s coming from clay at altitude in Gstaad, but he’s definitely an interesting underdog on his better form.
Tim Smyczek, similarly to Kudla, may well prove to be just too motivated for his opponent today, with Smyczek taking on a Matt Ebden that’s appeared as if he’s just going through the motions lately.
Ebden was poor again last week in Atlanta and on home turf Smyczek should prove to be the one that wants it that much more than Ebden.
They met twice on Ebden’s favoured grass last season and it was 1-1 there, but here on hard courts with Ebden looking less than enthused with being on tour right now Smyczek is a lively underdog, having come through qualies to get here.
Bjorn Fratangelo is another tempting one against Ivo Karlovic, who was very disappointing in Newport, but it looks like the layers agree, making the American slight favourite.
Over in Los Cabos the one that I quite like the look of as underdog is Damir Dzumhur, who made the semi finals of this tournament on his only appearance here in 2017.
He also has a strong record against Mikhail Kukushkin for whom getting the ball past Dzumhur has been a big problem in their match-up.
Dzumhur usually gets too many balls back and Kuku lacks the raw power to finish the Bosnian off in many of their rallies, but after we backed Dzumhur and he was awful in Bastad I’m a little put off.
Dzumhur looked like he’d found a bit of form again after a tough spell with injury, but he just hasn’t looked his old self for some time now and I can’t be sure that the effort level will be there today – and with his game style he needs to put it all in.
So, a few options today, but at the prices Kudla and Smyczek for me.