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Ricky’s Preview and Picks for this Week’s ATP Tennis 250 Tournaments in San Diego and Sofia

Andrey Rublev of Russia is the top seed of the inaugural San Diego Open. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

By Ricky Dimon

A rare United States swing during the fall season is getting underway this week in San Diego. The new event has received a one-year license from the ATP Tour as a way to give players prep time for rescheduled Indian Wells Masters—which will take place in the following weeks. Meanwhile, the European indoor swing continues in Sofia, Bulgaria.

San Diego Open

Where: San Diego, California
Surface: Hard
Top seed: Andrey Rublev
Defending champion: Inaugural event

How good is this 250 tournament? Well, look at some of the players who are unseeded: Aslan Karatsev, Fabio Fognini, Lloyd Harris, Taylor Fritz, Cameron Norrie, Grigor Dimitrov, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Kei Nishikori, and Andy Murray. Nishikori and Murray are going head-to-head right off the bat in the marquee matchup of the first round. The winner has to face No. 2 Casper Ruud; a brutal draw for everyone involved. Also in the bottom half are seeds Felix Auger-Aliassime, Hubert Hurkacz, and Lorenzo Sonego. Hurkacz just captured both the singles and doubles titles on Sunday in Metz.

Rublev doesn’t have it any easier at the top of the bracket. The fifth-ranked Russian awaits either Fabio Fognini or Brandon Nakashima and could meet fellow Laver Cup participant Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals. Denis Shapovalov is a possible semifinal foe for Rublev, although the Canadian hasn’t played well since Wimbledon and his first match in San Diego is likely to come against California native Taylor Fritz.

Quarterfinal picks: Andrey Rublev over Lloyd Harris, Taylor Fritz over Dan Evans, Felix Auger-Aliassime over Aslan Karatsev, and Casper Ruud over Tommy Paul

Semifinals: Rublev over Fritz and Auger-Aliassime over Ruud

Final: Rublev over Auger-Aliassime

Sofia Open

Where: Sofia, Bulgaria
Surface: Indoor hard
Top seed: Jannik Sinner
Defending champion: Jannik Sinner

Sofia pales in comparison to San Diego, but it still boasts a solid field—especially by 250 standards. Jannik Sinner and Gael Monfils lead the way as the top two seeds, while Alexander Bublik and Ilya Ivashka are both in fine form and have to be considered legitimate title contenders. It’s a rough road through the bottom part of the draw for Monfils and Ivashka, who will go head-to-head in the second round if the Belarusian takes care of his opener against Pablo Andujar. The rest of that side of the bracket is unspectacular at best, so the Monfils-Ivashka winner will be favored to reach the final.

Up top is Sinner, the defending champion. The 20-year-old Italian could run into trouble in the quarterfinals against the winner of a first-round showdown between Emil Ruusuvuori and James Duckworth. Ruusuvuori has been playing well since the start of the hard-court summer and Duckworth is 9-1 through two weeks of the indoor season (Challenger title followed by Nur-Sultan final). Bublik finds himself in a soft second quarter of the draw, so the Kazakh has every reason to reach the semis and face either Sinner, Ruusuvuori, or Duckworth.

Quarterfinal picks: Jannik Sinner over Emil Ruusuvuori, Alexander Bublik over Filip Krajinovic, Mikael Ymer over Alex de Minaur, and Ilya Ivashka over Adrian Mannarino

Semifinals: Sinner over Bublik and Ivashka over Ymer

Final: Sinner over Ivashka

Jannik Sinner of Italy celebrates his victory against Vasek Pospisil of Canada at the Sofia Open ATP 250 tennis tournament final match in Sofia, Bulgaria, 14 November 2020. EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV

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