Late Afternoon/Evening Tennis Best Bets at the BNP Paribas Open
Credit: Matthew Stockman, Getty. Reilly Opelka hits a serve at the BNP Paribas Open.
The later session at the BNP Paribas Open has some fascinating stylistic battles that are in stark contrast to each other.
Some big names are set to feature, including Denis Shapovalov, Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev, but I’ll be focusing on two matches that maintain an element of old vs. new.
Read on to see how I’ll be playing the second part of the day.
Match times are subject to change.
Grigor Dimitrov (-113) vs. Reilly Opelka (-106)
3:30 p.m. ET
When I talk about a fascinating stylistic matchup, this is as interesting as it gets. While many people don’t enjoy the brand of tennis that Reilly Opelka plays — as the American relies on big serving to get himself through matches — Dimitrov is the complete opposite. The Bulgarian emphasizes technical groundstrokes and flair to play an attractive brand of tennis.
But that brand of tennis isn’t necessarily suited to beat a player like Reilly Opelka, who is hitting the ball as well as he ever has in his career. The self-proclaimed “serve-bot” does one thing really well — serve — but he also returns really well. Though he doesn’t thrive in extended rallies, he can get into attacking positions off of vulnerable serves, something that can plague Dimitrov at times.
In his first round match against Daniel Altmaier, the 30-year old hit a lone double fault against 0 aces, but he was able to win 77% of his second serve points. Those numbers will serve a player like Opelka well, however, as he’ll seek to pounce on second serve opportunities. By stringing a winner or 2 together and putting Dimitrov on the back foot, he’ll find chances to break.
The court conditions in Indian Wells are an advantage to Dimitrov, who has been in nice form with wins against Aslan Karatsev and Marton Fucsovics in San Diego, but I don’t think it will be enough for him to generate consistent break opportunities.
On serve, Opelka may opt to use a strategy that he did against a fellow one-handed backhander in Stefanos Tsitsipas. He can make life really difficult for Dimitrov by kicking the ball out wide to his backhand on second serve opportunities, offering Opelka a bail-out if his serve is struggling.
With a slight contextual edge to Opelka, -106 is a price that is worth it.
Pick: Reilly Opelka -106 via FanDuel
Cameron Norrie (-140) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (+116)
9:00 p.m. ET
Bautista Agut secured an underrated win in the first round against the left-handed Guido Pella, and he’ll have to get by another left-hander on Monday in Norrie.
The 33-year old Bautista Agut hasn’t had the best year of his career, but he has been rounding into form recently. Wins against Nick Kyrgios and Emil Ruusuvuori at the US Open were followed up by a 5-set loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime before his arrival in California.
Norrie has also found similar form in recent weeks, beating Rublev to reach the final of the San Diego Open last week and obliterating Shapovalov a match prior. The Brit dropped the second set of his first round match against Tennys Sandgren, but he quickly turned it around from there, bageling Sandgren in the third.
This is a matchup that is going to be much different than the first one in this piece, as extended rallies are going to be frequent. Both players are content showing patience and grinding from the baseline, and neither have a major weapon that will dominate the proceedings.
Bautista Agut and Norrie have met once before, and it was an absolute epic battle at the Davis Cup that featured an enormous comeback upset from Norrie.
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I don’t foresee the same result happening here, however, as an in-form Bautista Agut on a slow court can throw an unlimited amount of balls into play without missing against a player like Norrie. Though the British number 2 is also firing, he is vulnerable in situations where his opponent doesn’t give him free points, and Bautista Agut won’t do that frequently.
Back RBA as a dog.
Pick: Roberto Bautista Agut +116 via FanDuel