The ATP 250 in San Diego begins as the hard court season begins to slow. Last year’s champion Casper Ruud is now too highly ranked to compete for a title defense and the field is wide open with Dan Evans holding the No. 1 seed. US Open surprise Brandon Holt takes part in his second ATP tournament; can he swing another surprise or two? We make the following calls; 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 an up-and-coming player, but exactly where his level is is not yet clear. He pulled past three decent qualifiers to play in the US Open main draw, where he upset childhood friend Taylor Fritz and then lost one tight five for Pedro Cachin. Those are good results for a newcomer, but he has no other ATP experience and only a 37% win rate on hard at Challenger level.
Lestienne, on the other hand, has made it to No. 76 in the world with not even a single ATP match this year. He played well at the Challenger level, won three tournaments and reached the finals of two more and has a career win rate of 63% on hard at this level, along with five titles. But I’m not overly impressed with the Frenchman’s recent wins and Holt has had similar wins and my main uncertainty is whether Holt can replicate his US Open even.
Prediction: Holt in 3
Alexei Popyrin vs James Duckworth
Head to head: Duckworth 2-1
This is a matchup struggling player, both with just five wins at the ATP level this year, and each play poorly on hard courts despite that being their preferred surface. I don’t know how much history counts when everyone is playing so poorly this year, but Duckworth has ten titles and a 70% win rate on Challenger-level hard courts, far higher than Popyrin, while her ATP results have continued to grow over her Career lie have been similar. Two of the H2Hs were sub-ATP, with Duckworth winning the only ATP match, and all three were tough. I don’t really want to pick a winner here, but I’ll give it to Duckworth because of its superficial history and because it’s a result of a Challenger finale.
Prediction: Duckworth in 3
Tomas Martin Etcheverry vs Facundo Mena
Head to Head: Mena 2-1
This Argentinian clash must have a winner, but neither man seeks hard courts almost at all. Etcheverry has almost no experience descending to the ITF level, while Mena has won at least two ITF titles on the surface, despite attempting his first ATP match here. The H2H has all taken place in sub-ATP competitions and all on clay. Etcheverry has at least some ATP experience but very little and is 1-12 on an annual basis without a win on hard. Like I said, someone has to win it, and I have to dip back into the ITF level to give Mena the slightest advantage here. Could go either way.
Prediction: Mena in 3
JJ Wolf versus Stefan Kozlov
Head to head: Kozlov 4-3
This is an odd matchup. It’s technically her first H2H, but only if you count the ATP competition. They have met seven times at sub-ATP level and Kozlov has the edge, including three out of four matchups last year. All seven were on hard court. Both have very similar records (and five titles each) on hard court at Challenger level and very limited experience at ATP level. But Wolf has risen and has had some impressive games, while Kozlov is well under .500 for the year and is currently on a nine-game losing streak.
Maybe his familiarity with Wolf and his previous wins will bottom him out, though Wolf has a lot more momentum at the moment and can reach a higher level. But I’m putting it in three because Kozlov Wolf seems to cause problems, which can happen when two players know each other well.
Prediction: Wolf in 3
Main photo by Getty.