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Ricky’s ATP Tennis Preview and Picks for This Week’s Tournaments in Metz and Nur-Sultan

Ugo Humbert of France hits a forehand during his final against Andrey Rublev of Russia at the ATP Tennis Tournament Noventi Open in Halle (Westphalia), Germany, 20 June 2021. EPA-EFE/SASCHA STEINBACH.

By Ricky Dimon

A most unusual fall swing will begin this week on the indoor hard courts of Metz and Nur-Sultan. The Asia portion of both the ATP and WTA calendars has been cancelled—again—because of the coronavirus pandemic, while the rescheduled Indian Wells Masters will fill the void in October. For now, a pair of 250-point titles will be up for grabs as the top players in the world are resting up for the Laver Cup followed by much bigger tournaments later in the fall.

Moselle Open

Where: Metz, France
Surface: Indoor hard
Top seed: Hubert Hurkacz
2019 champion: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (not playing)

You know it’s a strong 250 event when guys like Jan-Lennard Struff, Marton Fucsovics, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, and Andy Murray are not even seeded. Hubert Hurkacz leads the way as the No. 1 seed, but the Pole has not been in great form since Wimbledon and he finds himself in a relatively tough top half of the bracket. In the quarterfinals Hurkacz could face the winner of an opening-round showdown between Murray and Humbert. Karen Khachanov is a potential semifinal opponent.

Pablo Carreno Busta and Gael Monfils are the bye recipients in the bottom half. Both guys are dangerous but neither is reliable. Carreno Busta has been unable to build on momentum from his bronze medal at the Olympics, while Monfils is starting to play much better but remains wildly inconsistent. Lorenzo Sonego, Nikoloz Basilashvili, and Alexei Popyrin are among those who could capitalize.

Semifinal picks: Ugo Humbert over Karen Khachanov and Lorenzo Sonego over Gael Monfils

Final: Humbert over Sonego

Astana Open

Where: Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Surface: Indoor hard
Top seed: Aslan Karatsev
Defending champion: John Millman

The Nur-Sultan field is nowhere near as impressive, which leaves one man clearly above the rest in terms of current form. Ilya Ivashka captured his first-ever ATP title in Winston-Salem and he reached the fourth round at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The Belarusian has still struggled to pass people in the rankings mainly because of the Covid-related points restructuring, so he just barely got seeded at this tournament. Still, he has to be considered the favorite. Ivashka is on a collision course for the quarterfinals with No. 1 seed Aslan Karatsev, although Karatsev’s opener may be a difficult one against Emil Russuvuori. Defending champion John Millman is also in the top half of the bracket.

On the other side there is not much to write home about, although a potential quarterfinal contest between Alexander Bublik and Benoit Paire would be exciting. Fernando Verdasco is also making a rare appearance on tour. The veteran Spaniard could run into Bublik in the last 16, but he certainly isn’t expected to beat Miomir Kecmanovic in round one.

Semifinal picks: Ilya Ivashka over James Duckworth and Alexander Bublik over Soonwoo Kwon

Ilya Ivashka

Final: Ivashka over Bublik

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.