Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2021 San Diego Open.

Somehow, the 2021 San Diego Open has become quite the blockbuster September stop on the tennis calendar.

Seriously, one glance at said calendar would show you that the California event is sandwiched between the Laver Cup and the cancelled Chengdu Open. (Or between the Laver Cup and the Sofia Open if you look further down.) The San Diego Open is a mere Masters 250 event in a month full of them, a prelude to the actual big Californian prize in October that is the BNP Paribas Open.

What’s the San Diego Open?

Ha! Good one. If you dig deeper, you’ll see this San Diego Open is far from the typical Masters 250 event. In short, this singles draw is absolutely loaded. It’s proof that while a few players have taken time off that there are still plenty of things to keep an eye on and to play for. This is undeniably a good thing.

Because of that, we figured that we would write a little draw preview and analysis despite this event not being one of the, quote-unquote, bigger ones of the season. Because regardless of what it looks like on paper, this event has become a big deal.

Again, these are our mere predictions and we in no way, shape or form know anything about anything. Rely on these as you see fit.

Singles draw

With merely 32 players in the main draw, you only need to win twice to make the quarterfinals…and only once if you’re one of the four top seeds. That’s the beauty of these “smaller” events: a great surprise on a Cinderella run is only a couple of matches away from breaking through and making things really interesting.

Andrey Rublev is the top seed this week. He may have plenty of faults and isn’t a perfect player, but he’s built quite the resume at such similar events. In short, this San Diego Open, even one with a draw this stacked, is precisely the kind that he would win and that he has won. Joining him in the quarterfinals in our prediction is Lloyd Harris based more on hope than anything: we’d love to see if he can match his US Open run.

What goes on in the middle?

In the middle two sections, all eyes will be on Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, each of whom will move from the pomp of the Laver Cup in Boston to California. There’s a possibility of an all-Canadian final staring us in the face, but we don’t believe it happens sadly. Mostly because we’re still a sucker for Aslan Karatsev.

In the fourth and final section of this draw, Casper Ruud lordes over as the second seed but all eyes will be on a first round match between two wild card benefittors. That’s right, Kei Nishikori and Andy Murray will face off for the right to battle Ruud in the second round, and the only reason why we’re not that ecstatic about it is it’s happening in 2021 and not 2014. According to bookmakers, the game should be quite balanced, although Nishikori is the slight favourite. Unibet, one of the most popular legal betting sites in Canada, offers odds 1.70 for Nishikori and 2.18 for Andy Murray.

Who do you got?

Quarterfinals: Andrey Rublev over Lloyd Harris; Denis Shapovalov over Cameron Norrie; Aslan Karatsev over Felix Auger-Aliassime; Casper Ruud over Sebastian Korda

Semifinals: Andrey Rublev over Denis Shapovalov; Casper Ruud over Aslan Karatsev

Final: Andrey Rublev over Casper Ruud

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG


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