After eight months on the sidelines due to abdominal surgery—two words a tennis player never wants to hear—J.J. Wolf and his Andre Agassi-inspired mullet are back in action this week in Los Cabos. The former Ohio State standout was putting together a phenomenal run before going under the knife, very nearly cracking the ATP Top 100 when injury struck. Finally healthy, Wolf will make his 2021 debut against fellow rising star Brandon Nakashima.


According to the oddsmakers, Nakashima is listed as a -360 favorite and projected to win by 4.5 games. The over/under game total is set at 21.5. Under any other circumstance, Wolf would be a great bet, but nothing is more difficult for tennis players than returning to the court after a lengthy injury break. In addition to lack of rhythm, match fitness is something that cannot be trained. The only way to regain that fitness and confidence is by playing legitimate, high-stakes matches—something Wolf has been unable to do since November 2020.

That said, he’s still a dangerous player. According to USTA Pro Circuit commentator Mike Cation—who's had a front row seat for dozens of the Cincinnati, Oh. native’s matches, "“J.J. hits as big as anyone I’ve seen coming out of college in a long, long time. To use a golf reference from another era, he is John Daly, grip it and rip it, except with a fitness level that is off the charts.”

While Wolf is a beast in the gym and on the track, his true fitness level remains unknown. An abdominal injury is a nightmare for tennis players, as every single shot requires a great degree of core rotation and explosion.

At his best, Wolf’s power can be unplayable. He regularly clocks 130+MPH on his serve, and hits both his forehand and backhand like a frozen rope.


His greatest weapon is probably his phenomenal athleticism. Up until his 16th birthday, Wolf also excelled in baseball, basketball and soccer.

Wolf combines raw power with extreme speed.

Though Wolf and Nakashima have never played at the pro level, they are extremely familiar with each other’s games, and know exactly what each one will try to accomplish during the match. Nakashima will remain solid, while Wolf will finish points with either a clean winner or an error.

With Nakashima favored by 4.5 games, and the over/under set at 21.5, I would recommend taking the under, as a 6-4, 6-4 victory for Nakashima would not cover the spread, but would win the under bet. Long story short, Nakashima is not a desirable opponent for Wolf's long-anticipated return to the tour.

The Pick: Brandon Nakashima, Under 21.5 games