Laver Cup Day 1 Tennis Picks: Back Berrettini and Opelka to Earn Points

Laver Cup Day 1 Tennis Picks: Back Berrettini and Opelka to Earn Points article feature image
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Credit: Elsa, Getty. Matteo Berrettini celebrates after a point at the 2021 US Open.

After two years of waiting, the Laver Cup is back. The 2021 edition of the event is being played at the TD Garden in Boston, with Team Europe a -400 favorite against Team World at +300.

You can read more about the event here, but let’s get into picks for the first day of tennis.

Reilly Opelka (-116) vs. Casper Ruud (-104)

1:00 p.m. ET

First things first, I have to address the concept of competitiveness.

Theoretically, this is an exhibition, but rest assured the competition level and intensity in these matches will be much like what you see on the ATP Tour.

Not only is each member of the winning team compensated handsomely with $250,000 checks, there’s a significant level of pride on the line, as the Big 3 of tennis want this to become the Ryder Cup of the sport. The event has the backing of the biggest names in tennis and the tour, so players aren’t going to mess around on the court.

In the first matchup of the day, Team Europe’s Casper Ruud takes on Team World’s Reilly Opelka. The two have met three times prior and twice on a hard court. Ruud most recently won in a third set tiebreaker in Cincinnati, while Opelka took the first match in straight sets at Australian Open qualifiers in 2017.

Ruud also beat Opelka on his preferred surface of clay in three sets in 2019. There isn’t much that separates both of them when they meet, but Friday’s matchup on an indoor hard court surface will give the edge to the American.

The Norwegian comes into this match a respectable 14-10 on indoor courts with a 12-5 season record on hard courts in general, while Opelka is 13-9 on the surface. Though this record on its own isn’t a big difference, Opelka is in some of the best form of his life heading into the Laver Cup.

With an 11-6 record in the summer hard-court swing and a career-best performance reaching the Toronto Open final, he’s going to love the conditions against Ruud. We’ll have to see how fast the court at the TD Garden plays, but the big-serving Opelka will be able to find his spots and be really tough to break no matter the surface’s speed.

Ruud is far more prone to a loose service game that could be the difference in each set, and if the duo reach a third set deciding tiebreaker (the third set of the Laver Cup is a 10-point tiebreaker), the balance shifts heavily towards Opelka.

Pick: Reilly Opelka -116 via FanDuel

Matteo Berrettini (-110) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (-115)

2:30 p.m. ET

Matteo Berrettini and Felix Auger-Aliassime have met on three occasions prior, with the most recent being in Cincinnati, where the Canadian took out Berrettini in straight sets.

Their relationship extends off the court, however, as Auger-Aliassime dates Berrettini’s girlfriend’s cousin. While the Italian dates fellow tennis professional Ajla Tomljanovic, Auger-Aliassime is in a relationship with her cousin Nina Ghaibi. They are two of the closest friends on tour away from tennis, which makes the matchup even more fascinating.

In terms of pure tennis ability, both players are primed to reach new heights on tour in the coming years, though Berrettini has found some bigger results thus far in comparison to the younger Auger-Aliassime. Berrettini took the prior two meetings, though each matchup has been tight.

This time, I favor Berrettini to get the job done. Both players hover around 50% for their career win rate on indoor hard courts, which is a bit of a surprise given the style of their games. Each likes to be aggressive with the first serve and forehand, ending points early.

Auger-Aliassime can struggle with errors at times, as he displayed in his semifinal matchup at the US Open with Daniil Medvedev. Berrettini will be more than happy to supply his opponent with a steady diet of slice backhands when he doesn’t have the ball on his forehand, and that patience will be key in the match.

If Auger-Aliassime isn’t firing off of both wings, Berrettini will look to remain solid and allow the 21-year-old to beat himself. If Auger-Aliassime is firing and consistent, it becomes a true pick ’em matchup. With the odds already opening at a pick ’em, however, this is a great chance to get Berrettini when he should be closer to -150.

Pick: Matteo Berrettini -110 via PointsBet

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