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Ricky’s Tennis Preview and Picks for this week’s ATP 250 Events in Antwerp and Moscow

Lloyd Harris is Ricky’s pick to rule Antwerp. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE.

By Ricky Dimon

This is the time of year when the ATP Tour is normally heading back from Asia and moving to Europe for its final stops. Well, the action is—in fact—moving to the indoor hard courts of Europe. But it is coming not from Asia, from…Indian Wells! That’s right; a brief California swing replaced Asia on a calendar that had to be revamped because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now the home stretch begins in Antwerp and Moscow. Both tournaments are missing a couple of hometown heroes. An injured David Goffin won’t be able to play in front of the home fans in Antwerp, while would-be top seed Danill Medvedev withdrew from Moscow to rest up for his 2021 finale in Paris and Turin (Nitto ATP Finals). The list of players who are playing this week, however, still includes Andrey Rublev, Jannik Sinner, Diego Schwartzman, Aslan Karatsev, Karen Khachanov, and Andy Murray.

European Open

Where: Antwerp, Belgium
Prize money
: 508,600 Euros
Top seed: Jannik Sinner
2020 champion: Ugo Humbert (not playing)

Having been passed by Cameron Norrie in the race to the Nitto ATP Finals, Sinner needs all the help he can get as he bids for one of the last remaining spots. Based on his draw in Antwerp, the 20-year-old should have little trouble advancing to the semifinals. At that point, however, Sinner could run into either Roberto Bautista Agut or Lloyd Harris. In all likelihood it will be Harris, as the South African has been on fire of late.

As a whole, the bottom half of the bracket is more entertaining from start to finish. It is home to Schwartzman, Murray, Frances Tiafoe, Reilly Opelka, Alex de Minaur, Jenson Brooksby, Brandon Nakashima, Benoit Paire, and Botic Van de Zandschulp. Murray and Tiafoe have to go head-to-head right off the bat in the marquee matchup of round one. The winner will meet Schwartzman, who is seeded second behind Sinner. Good luck in that section of the draw!

Semifinal picks: Lloyd Harris over Jannik Sinner and Alex de Minaur over Jenson Brooksby

Final: Harris over de Minaur

Ilya Ivashka will continue his breakthrough season in Moscow, says Ricky.

VTB Kremlin Cup

Where: Moscow, Russia
Prize money
: $697,125
Top seed: Andrey Rublev
Defending champion: Andrey Rublev

Medvedev’s late withdrawal was a bit of a hit for the tournament, but the host nation still has a great chance of producing the champion. In fact, the top three seeds all hail from Russia: Rublev, Karatsev, and Khachanov. Karatsev and Khachanov are on a collision course for the semifinals in the bottom half of the bracket, but they may be hard-pressed to advance that far. Mackenzie McDonald is a possible quarterfinal foe for Karatsev, while Khachanov opens against an in-form James Duckworth and could meet Alexander Bublik in the last eight.

Rublev’s half isn’t quite as deep, but the big problem for him is that Ilya Ivashka looms as a likely quarterfinal opponent. Ivashka has been playing the best tennis of his life dating back to Wimbledon. As for Rublev, motivation may be an issue (even playing at home) at a fall-swing 250 tournament when he has already clinched—for all intents and purposes—a spot in the year-end championship.

Semifinal picks: Ilya Ivashka over Marin Cilic and Mackenzie McDonald over Alexander Bublik

Final: Ivashka over McDonald

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.