US Open Picks: How to Back Paul & Nishioka on Day 1

US Open Picks: How to Back Paul & Nishioka on Day 1 article feature image

Matthew Stockman, Patrick Smith/Getty. Pictured: Yoshi Nishioka and Tommy Paul.

  • The US Open kicks off on Monday in New York.
  • Carmine Carcieri breaks down two of the matches that will take place.
  • Read on for his best bets, including an underdog pick.

Welcome to final major of the tennis season. With Novak Djokovic out of the event, this field is wide open for the taking.

But before we get deeper into the tournament, let's dive into two matches I like as part of the opening round on Monday.

Note: Match times are subject to change. Read here for tips on viewing US Open matches.

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Tommy Paul (-850) vs. Bernabe Zapata Miralles (+500)

11 a.m. ET

Tommy Paul has steadily improved his game since joining forces with coach Brad Stine in 2020, and the American is currently playing the best tennis of his career.

Whether it’s his recent workouts on Instagram or just greater experience and confidence, Paul reached a career-high ranking of 31 this month and is seeded 29th in New York.

The 25-year-old defeated Carlos Alcaraz and Marin Cilic on his way to the quarters in Montreal, and he reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon.

Paul has been especially exceptional when returning, as he owns the 17th-best return rating on the ATP Tour on hard courts. With his groundstrokes cooking – particularly his forehand – Paul will be able to dictate the pace and play of this duel from the baseline.

That is especially true when his opponent for this first-round matchup, Bernabe Zapata Miralles, has won just one ATP main-draw match on hard courts this season. In fact, the Spaniard hasn’t played a hard-court event since early February.

Zapata Miralles defeated Feliciano Lopez in five sets in the first round of the 2021 US Open, but his lack of activity and form points to a quick exit in 2022.

Paul struggled to break through in big moments against Cam Norrie in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon and against Denis Shapovalov in Cincinnati.

However, that shouldn’t be a major issue in this one, as Paul won't have a lot of pressure on him in a match he’s so heavily favored in.

This is a massive tournament for Paul to show that he has taken the next step in his career and that he can continue to rise alongside the rest of the promising American players.

That motivation is another reason why I expect Paul to cruise in the opening round in Queens.

Pick: Tommy Paul to Win 3-0 (-121 via PointsBet) | Play to -130

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (-178) vs. Yoshihito Nishioka (+146)

11 a.m. ET

While Yoshihito Nishioka and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina didn’t necessarily play high-volume schedules this summer, the US Open Series went entirely differently for these two.

The 26-year-old from Japan reached the finals of the Citi Open, defeating five players ranked in the top-40, including Andrey Rublev. Nishioka then went on to lose in the second round of Montreal, but played Felix Auger-Aliassime tight despite battling the Canadian’s home-court advantage.

On the flip side, the 23-year-old Spaniard played just two matches on the North American hard courts, losing the first in Montreal to Diego Schwartzman and the second to Nick Kyrgios in Cincinnati.

It’s not just this summer that Nishioka has out-performed Davidovich Fokina on the hard courts, though.

Nishioka has an Elo Rating that is 26 slots higher on the surface than Davidovich Fokina (44th compared to 70th).

In addition to the 500 event in D.C., Nishioka had strong runs at Acapulco and Miami early in the year. Those courts play differently than these at the US Open, but it’s clear that Nishioka is a better player on the surface than he’s currently being valued at.

Meanwhile, Davidovich Fokina’s game is much more honed in on clay. He grew up playing on the surface, and uses his court coverage and plethora of drop shots to his advantage.

That court coverage won’t strike fear in Nishioka, who has solid stamina himself and has the high tennis IQ to avoid his opponent’s powerful two-handed backhand.

While Nishioka’s last match featured him retiring in a Challenger Tour event, he mentioned in his latest YouTube video that it was only a minor injury. I’m confident he’s had enough time to recover and will be ready to pull off the upset.

Between his better form this summer and his advantage on this particular surface, play Nishioka to +110.

Pick: Yoshihito Nishioka (+146 via FanDuel)

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