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Tennis best bets for July 21

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We are through to the second round in Los Cabos, and the action is heating up to match the weather. I’ve had my eye on a favorite that’s too short, and an underdog that’s too tall, and I’ll explain why I like them both now.

Denis Kudla (-152) vs. Ernesto Escobedo (+119)

It was nice to see World Number 182 Ernesto Escobedo, an American of Mexican descent, break through with his first win in three attempts at Monday night’s Los Cabos event. It’s never easy to knock out Mackenzie McDonald, who has tremendous talent, but this surface didn’t quite fit the McDonald’s style.

Things are slower here in Los Cabos, making its flat foundations a little ineffective. While that also hurts Escobedo, who has a huge serve, the combination of a slightly slower surface than the grass McDonald played on, combined with poor form made it a little easier on Escobedo.

For those reasons, I don’t rate that loss as high as at other points during the season. On the other hand, I was super, super impressed with how Denis Kudla fought back from a set-down against Thanasi Kokkinakis, especially with the way the Aussie served. He hit some huge shots and seems to be picking up where he left off after a successful grass court season. All that work Kudla has done abroad is turning him into a dangerous tennis player, and a run to at least the quarters here should be on the cards.

Kudla has a 64.1% chance of winning based on his hardcourt Elo rating at Tennis Abstract, and I agree that the cost of backing him here against a Challenger-level player should be a bit more expensive.

Edge: Kudla -152

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Brandon Nakashima (-179) vs. Sam Querrey (+139)

It pains me to say, but Brandon Nakashima, one of the fastest rising Americans of the past two years, seems to have hit a wall. The 19-year-old worked his way up to the top 140 last year with a boatload of race wins, but he’s only gone 22-15 this season with some mind-bending losses. Even in his wins, he didn’t look convincing. He messed up the second set to JJ Wolf on the first lap at Los Cabos, and struggled to gain a foothold on the grass with disappointing results in the Challengers.

Before that was a disappointing hard court swing. After winning the Quimper Challenger, Nakashima bounced back from Acapulco on lap one and started spinning downhill from there. He has yet to really recover, and with the youngster seemingly stalling in his growth, I have no choice but to beat him against a highly experienced veteran like Sam Querrey.

The former world No. 11 had a decent grass court season with a trip to the final in Mallorca and a win over Roberto Bautista-Agut en route there before suffering a somewhat surprising second-round loss to James Duckworth at Wimbledon. He rolled over for Max Cressy in Newport, but there was nothing for the gray Querrey to really play for.

Here in Cabos, Querrey can get into shape as he prepares for the final slam of the year, the US Open. The big man must be committed and highly motivated, making it difficult to trust his result in Newport. I can’t trust Nakashima in this place either, given the amount of heavy losses we’ve seen from him. He shouldn’t be a favorite of this magnitude.

Edge: Querrey +139

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