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Tennis Balls | 10sBalls • Ricky’s preview and picks for this week’s ATP tournaments in Hamburg and Gstaad

Carlos Alcaraz is the favorite to win Hamburg this week. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

By Ricky Dimon

Summertime is generally a safe haven for hard-court lovers, but this coming week is reserved strictly for clay-courters. It is a somewhat random stretch of dirt-balling in between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, but at the same time it offers plenty of intrigue with respectable fields in Hamburg and Gstaad. Among the competitors in action are Carlos Alcaraz, Andrey Rublev, Casper Ruud, Matteo Berrettini, and Dominic Thiem.

Hamburg European Open

Where: Hamburg, Germany
Points: 500
Top seed: Carlos Alcaraz
Defending champion: Pablo Carreno Busta

Alcaraz and Rublev are without question the cream of the crop in Hamburg, but neither one will have it easy. Things could get especially difficult for Alcaraz starting in the second round. That’s where the 19-year-old Spaniard is expected to face Sebastian Baez, who is looking like one of the best clay-courters in the world this season and currently finds himself in the Bastad title match. Alcaraz probably would not run into anyone tougher than Baez prior to the Hamburg final even though Karen Khachanov, Pablo Carreno Busta, and Holger Rune are also in the top half of the draw.

The bottom half is much deeper with a strong contingent of unseeded threats. It would come as no shock whatsoever if all four quarterfinalists on that side of the bracket are unseeded, the most likely of which are Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Emil Ruusuvuori, Federico Coria, and whoever wins an opening-round showdown between Dusan Lajovic and Lorenzo Musetti. Rublev is a two-time Hamburg finalist (one-time champion) and could certainly make it that far once again, but the Russian isn’t in his best form right now and Cerundolo could be a tough second-round test.

Quarterfinal picks: Carlos Alcaraz over Karen Khachanov, Alex Molcan over Laslo Djere, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina over Dusan Lajovic, and Andrey Rublev over Federico Coria

Semifinals: Alcaraz over Molcan and Davidovich Fokina over Rublev

Final: Alcaraz over Davidovich Fokina

Roland Garros runner-up Casper Ruud will try to defend his Gstaad title.

EFG Swiss Open

Where: Gstaad, Switzerland
Points: 250
Top seed: Casper Ruud
Defending champion: Casper Ruud

Thiem finally has some momentum behind him following his quarterfinal performance in Bastad, where he defeated Ruusuvuori and Roberto Bautista Agut. The 27-year-old Austrian will kick off his Gstaad campaign against a solid clay-courter in Hugo Gaston before potentially meeting Bautista Agut again in the quarters. Berrettini is a likely semifinal opponent for either Thiem or Bautista Agut in what is not a particularly deep bottom half of the bracket. That being said, unseeded players Lorenzo Sonego and Richard Gasquet can’t be entirely discounted.

Ruud’s title defense should get off to a routine start. The fifth-ranked Norwegian is in an otherwise weak quarter of the draw, so he has absolutely no reason to lose prior to the semis. At that stage either Albert Ramos-Vinolas or Cristian Garin could pose a threat. Garin is coming off a quarterfinal run at Wimbledon and is obviously much more dangerous on clay than he is on grass.

Quarterfinal picks: Casper Ruud over Bernabe Zapata Miralles, Cristian Garin over Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Dominic Thiem over Roberto Bautista Agut, and Matteo Berrettini over Pedro Martinez

Semifinals: Ruud over Garin and Berrettini over Thiem

Final: Ruud over Berrettini

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