Betting Central

The Pick: Yoshihito Nishioka vs. Jack Sock, Citi Open first round

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The tennis season is full of ups and downs, and right now, Yoshihito Nishioka appears to be in the midst of a mild slump. The primary reason for his recent 1-5 stretch is most likely due to his disdain for grass-court tennis, but if we know one thing about the sport, it’s that winning breeds winning, while losing typically breeds more losing.

Nishioka had a tough draw at the Tokyo Olympics, losing to eventual silver medalist Karen Khachanov in three sets. Now, the world No. 56 will face off against Jack Sock for the second time in three weeks, a rematch of his recent straight-set loss in Newport.

Nishioka has been arguably the ATP Tour’s most active globetrotter recently, going from Wimbledon to Newport, Newport to Tokyo, and then right back to the States. It’s foolish to assume any sort of jet lag (or lack thereof) in players, as that’s a variable you can’t even begin to calculate, but Nishioka has flown nearly 17,000 miles in the past month alone.

According to the oddsmakers, Sock is listed as a slight -140 favorite. The American is on the comeback trail and finally putting together a consistent stretch of tennis. Judging by his 25 aces in his last two matches, his golden-right arm is in pretty good shape. After beating Ricardas Berankis in Atlanta’s first round, Sock lost a close encounter to eventual champion John Isner. Sock handed back two costly mini breaks in the first set tiebreaker, but gave the six-time champion pretty much all he could handle during the match.

The conditions at the Citi Open are always hot and humid, and this week is no exception. Sock’s start time—not before 8:30 PM—is hugely advantageous from a betting perspective given the lingering concerns of his actual match fitness level. Having played three consecutive tournaments, it’s safe to assume his match fitness is headed in the right direction.

While UTR’s predictive analytics tool gives Nishioka a 72 percent chance of winning, I believe that Sock’s current UTR of 14.51 is severely underrated. He appears motivated, and his only ATP losses in the last three weeks came against serve kings Kevin Anderson and John Isner.

It was quite clear in Newport that Sock has a tremendous free-point advantage against Nishioka. That’s huge for a player like Sock, as Nishioka’s lack of firepower on the serve will at least guarantee Sock some rallies. While Nishioka’s lefty-crosscourt forehand seems like it would cause problems for Sock, I’m not sure the Japanese No. 1 gets enough pace on it to actually bother him.

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If Nishioka pulls his forehand crosscourt and misses his target, like he does here, Sock will punish him with his world-class inside-out forehand.

Once again, if Nishioka keeps gifting these softballs (like the one below) in the middle part of the ad court, few players are better suited to win the ensuing rally than Sock.

It’s tough to hit a forehand bigger or better than this massive strike in Newport. 

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Please keep any bets on the smaller side, as the revenge-match angle for Nishioka is definitely a factor worth considering. If Sock is truly on his way back to the games upper-echelon—a place he still belongs—then he’s a great player to target in this year’s US Open Series. Right now, there is certainly some solid value in the American’s odds.

The Pick: Jack Sock