Betting Central

The Pick: Mackenzie McDonald vs. Ernesto Escobedo, ATP Los Cabos

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Of the many irrelevant and misleading statistics in tennis, head-to-head records are among the worst.

Throughout an 11-month season, a player's form ebbs and flows for a myriad of reasons—some of which include health, confidence, and surface. No two matches are the same, so unless there is a glaring matchup advantage for one player—like Novak Djokovic against Gaël Monfils, or Rafael Nadal against Richard Gasquet—it’s best to treat each match as a completely new and individual occurrence.

Despite being the more talented and accomplished player, Mackenzie McDonald has never beaten friend and fellow Californian Ernesto Escobedo. They’ve played twice, with Escobedo earning two hard-fought wins in 2018, first at the New York Open and later in Acapulco qualifying. Both matches could have gone either way, but Escobedo’s raw power and spin production proved too much for McDonald’s quickness and relatively flatter groundstrokes.

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When given a clean look at a forehand, few players hit it bigger than Escobedo.

According to the oddsmakers, McDonald is nonetheless listed as a -178 favorite, projected to win by 3 total games. While the gritty, high-bouncing courts in Los Cabos definitely provide Escobedo with an advantage, I would be shocked to see McDonald go winless in three attempts.

Despite no significant results to boast this year, the former UCLA standout has actually been playing some solid tennis. McDonald qualified for both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and was a point away from upsetting Cristian Garin in the second round of the former. At Wimbledon, he fell to Karen Khachanov—one of the better performers of the fortnight—in four close sets.

McDonald will need to play aggressive; Escobedo is extremely dangerous with his feet set up, but less so when hitting on the run.

McDonald likes to use his speed to turn defense into offense, but in this matchup, he’ll be better served trying to control the points from start to finish.

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Perhaps Escobedo simply has McDonald’s number, but I will be backing the 26-year-old to win by three total games. If he can push an in-form Garin to the brink on clay and trouble a red-hot Khachanov on grass, he should be able to outclass the world No. 182.

The Pick: Mackenzie McDonald -3