Scouting Report: Rublev Leads San Diego Field, Sinner Defending Sofia Title
There will be ATP 250 events on two different continents this week, as Andrey Rublev leads the way at the San Diego Open in California, and Jannik Sinner attempts to retain his title at the Sofia Open in Bulgaria.
ATPTour.com looks at five things you should watch at each event.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN SAN DIEGO
1) Rublev Top Seed: Rublev is playing some of the best tennis of his career, climbing to a career-high No. 5 in the FedEx ATP Rankings after the US Open. The Russian star has claimed six of his eight ATP Tour titles on hard courts, and he will try to add another in San Diego.
Earlier this season, Rublev lifted the Rotterdam trophy and reached his first two ATP Masters 1000 finals in Monte-Carlo and Cincinnati. He will begin his run in California against Italian Fabio Fognini or #NextGenATP American Brandon Nakashima.
2) Ruud Rolling: Casper Ruud recently cracked the world’s Top 10 for the first time. Will he be able to capture his fifth ATP Tour title of the season in California? The Norwegian has never claimed hard-court glory, but he will try to change that in San Diego, where he will play former World No. 1 Andy Murray or former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori in the second round.
3) Murray-Nishikori Blockbuster: This will be the 12th ATP Head2Head clash between Murray and Nishikori, with the Scot leading their rivalry 9-2. This will be their first meeting in the first round of a knockout tournament. Both of Nishikori’s wins have come on hard courts, at the 2014 Nitto ATP Finals and the 2016 US Open.
4) Canadian Stars: Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov are the third and fourth seeds, respectively. Auger-Aliassime is fresh off his first major semi-final at the US Open, and he is pursuing his first tour-level crown. The 21-year-old will face 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov or Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in the second round.
Shapovalov, who also reached his first major semi-final earlier this year (at Wimbledon), will attempt to lift his second ATP Tour trophy this week. The lefty will open against American Taylor Fritz or a qualifier.
5) #NextGenATP Americans: Two #NextGenATP Americans are in the draw: 21-year-old Sebastian Korda and 20-year-old Nakashima. Korda has already earned his spot at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, and Nakashima is trying to join him.
Korda, who earned his maiden ATP Tour crown earlier this year in Parma, will begin his tournament against countryman Tommy Paul. Korda leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head series 2-0. Nakashima will try to defeat former World No. 9 Fognini.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN SOFIA
1) Sinner Defending Champ: Sinner has happy memories in Bulgaria, as he won his first ATP Tour trophy at last year’s Sofia Open, and he is back to defend his title. The 20-year-old could play Vasek Pospisil in the second round. That would be a rematch of last year’s final at this event.
Hard courts have been Sinner’s best surface, having won more than 66 per cent of his tour-level matches on it. The Italian won the biggest title of his young career at the Citi Open, an ATP 500 event in Washington, less than two months ago.
Watch Sinner's Mic'd Up Practice:
2) Monfils Gaining Steam: Gael Monfils made his first semi-final of the season last week in Metz. Will he advance even further in Sofia? Two years ago, the Frenchman advanced to the last four at this ATP 250 event, including a victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Monfils is the second seed this week and will begin his run against Winston-Salem titlist Ilya Ivashka or Spaniard Pablo Andujar.
3) Aussies Going For The Title: There are three Australians in the draw, led by third seed Alex de Minaur, who made the Sofia quarter-finals last year. De Minaur has won titles in Antalya and Eastbourne this year, and he can claim three tour-level trophies in a season for the second time if he triumphs this week in Bulgaria. He opens against American Marcos Giron or Spaniard Jaume Munar.
The other Aussies in the field are eighth seed John Millman and James Duckworth. Duckworth made the best run of his career last week in Nur-Sultan, where he advanced to the final before losing against Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea.
4) Musetti On The Move: Lorenzo Musetti is trying to qualify for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, and he can make progress towards that goal with a big run in Sofia. The 19-year-old was No. 126 in the FedEx ATP Rankings when this event was played last November, and now he is closing on the Top 50. Musetti will play Bulgarian wild card Dimitar Kuzmanov, an ATP Cup veteran, in the first round.
5) Kontinen/McLachlan Top Seeds: The top seeds in the doubles draw are Henri Kontinen and Ben McLachlan, who are pursuing their first ATP Tour trophy as a team. The second seeds are Buenos Aires champions Tomislav Brkic and Nikola Cacic, and the third seeds are Austrians Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald.