2021 U.S. Open Picks: 2 Picks for Friday, Including Roberto Bautista Agut (September 3)
Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Roberto Bautista Agut.
The 2021 edition of the U.S. Open is quickly making the case for being tournament of the year, and we’re only five days into play.
There have been thrilling matches and stunning performances all over the grounds and as we head into the first weekend of the event, it’s clear that things are just getting started.
Let’s get into where our staff sees value on Friday.
Match times are subject to change.
Dan Evans (-125) vs. Alexei Popyrin (+100)
12:30 p.m. ET
Kenny Ducey: We know Dan Evans to be a world-class tennis player. It’s no coincidence that the British No. 1 remains firmly in the top 30 despite a myriad of losses in 2021, racking up huge win after huge win since the start of the 2018 season. His talent is evident, and his run to the Monte Carlo semifinal this year — a tournament held on his worst surface — really accented all the hard work he’s put in.
That’s why it was so stunning when Evans slipped into a horrific slump following a bout with COVID-19. No one seemed to be affected more; Evans had lost five of six entering the U.S. Open, where in years past he’d had so much hope and momentum entering the proceedings.
Evans, in the blink of an eye, has regained his form. His most recent win over Marcos Giron was an impressive one, with the Brit returning incredibly well and hanging around in points. His variety was finally working for him, as was his signature slice backhand. The confidence is growing, the fight and focus was evident on court, and a run to the fourth round — and dare I say the second week — could be in the cards for Evo. That would require a win over Daniil Medvedev, but the Russian has had worse losses, particularly here in Queens.
Back to the match, I love Evans at this price. Alexei Popyrin is also rounding back into form, but his wins lately haven’t convinced me he’s ready to step to a top-25 player. Evans should get a read on his serve and squash him in long rallies, taking this in three or four sets.
Pick: Dan Evans -125 (Caesars)
Roberto Bautista Agut (-115) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (-110)
7:30 p.m. ET
Kenny Ducey: The Randy Orton of the ATP Tour, Felix Auger-Aliassime has gone from heel to face countless times over the past few seasons.
At times, Auger-Aliassime has looked like the wunderkind we were promised he’d be, hitting massive groundstrokes off of both wings and puzzling some of the best players in the world. At others, he’s sprayed forehands into the alley and double-faulted his way into horrible losses.
This summer has been no different. Auger-Aliassime appeared, for a moment, to be turning a corner with new coach Toni Nadal at Wimbledon, only to lose a couple matches in a row and win in shaky fashion against an out-of-form Marton Fucsovics. He’s picked up some quality wins since then but since stepping on the courts at the U.S. Open, he’s been back to that shaky player.
Auger-Aliassime’s most recent match against Bernabe Zapata-Miralles was a good example of where he is, He made 40 unforced errors to 35 winners in a three-set match, nearly falling behind in the proceedings to a guy who works very hard but lacks the skills on a hardcourt to compete with the big guys. FAA was making errors left and right, but was bailed out by unconvincing play by Zapata-Miralles.
Roberto Bautista-Agut, meanwhile, has been on fire this week with massive wins over Nick Kyrgios and Emil Ruusuvuori while painting every line. On top of it all, he’s the model of consistency and rarely makes errors.
This is a horrible matchup for Felix and is priced incorrectly in my book. I’ll take the consistency over the raw talent that’s still very raw.
Pick: Bautista Agut -115 (PointsBet)
Avery Zimmerman: In a matchup that is projected to be highly contested, I love the chance there is to back a much more experienced player.
Of course, experience isn’t the only thing that matters in the sport, but I think it will be one of the defining factors of this match. Bautista Agut has been in this position time and time again, and he knows the grit that it takes to pull out a win in a major tennis match. Auger-Aliassime, on the other hand, is heavily reliant on a single style of tennis. He’s going to try and bludgeon Bautista Agut down with heavy groundstrokes, and if it isn’t working, he’ll try even harder.
Stylistically, that will play right into Bautista Agut’s hands, as Kenny mentioned above, as he’ll be happy to soak up the pressure and take the initiative when he has the opportunities.
Can Auger-Aliassime fire for three quality sets and be consistent enough to win the match? Sure, then Bautista Agut will tip his cap and say too good. But history tells us that is not the most likely outcome.
Pick: Roberto Bautista Agut -115 (PointsBet)