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Reilly Opelka
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Odds and Ends

Ducey's Tennis Best Bets for Jan. 12

by Kenny Ducey
Updated On: January 12, 2022, 2:21 pm ET

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The 2022 ATP season has arrived. As a gift to us all, there are two tournaments going on at once on the men's side, with some of the top names in the sport doing battle. With that in mind, it's hard to whittle things down to just two bets, but I've done that below and picked out my favorites.

Brandon Nakashima (-139) vs. Reilly Opelka (+111)

It's really a shame that someone has to lose this match. Nakashima and Opelka are both exciting young American tennis talents, but one is clearly head and shoulders above the other one in my eyes.

That man is Reilly Opelka. The big server hasn't been a popular man to back ever since his run to the final of a Masters 1000 last year in Toronto because the losses have really piled up. Entering this tournament, he'd lost seven of his last 10. Checking out the competition — Casper Ruud, Grigor Dimitrov, Jenson Brooksby, Jannik Sinner, Cam Norrie and Lorenzo Sonego — it's easy to see why he had a hard time winning. Even in defeat last week, he lost to a red-hot Maxime Cressy and generated 10 break points. He simply was unlucky in that one.

He finally broke through with his first win of the season against Jordan Thompson on Tuesday night in what was one of the most impressive performances I've seen from the big man in years. He actually serve awfully and wound up winning that match from the baseline, killing Thompson with some ridiculously-huge forehands and getting aggressive when the moment was right.

Nakashima is a special talent, but he thrives in matches like his win Tuesday over Fabio Foginini. He likes to get comfortable in rallies and construct points. Opelka's crazy pace likely won't let him do that, and while Nakashima should still win a healthy dose of baseline points, I'm just not sure it's going to be enough here with how crisp Opelka is looking. 

Edge: Opelka +111

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Aslan Karatsev (-136) vs. Lorenzo Sonego (+108)

I can hear the sirens in the distance. The bias police are after me.

As you may know, I am a big fan of betting on Aslan Karatsev, but the reason is simple — he is good at playing tennis, and he was very good at winning bettors money last year. After he shook off the rust Tuesday, going down a break in the first to Miomir Kecmanovic and breaking twice to take the set 7-5, he looked like the Australia Aslan we all fell in love with last season. That was the guy who was playing relentlessly, crushing forehands, rocketing back returns and staying on top of the biggest names in tennis.

Maybe it's his new sponsor or his new haircut, but Karatsev looks different this year. He's fresh and focused, and his serve is noticeably better. The Russian established himself as one of the five best returners on tour last year, but it was on his own serve that he sometimes struggled. That didn't appear to be the case against Kecmanovic.

Sonego won a ton of points behind his serve against Sebastian Baez and wasn't all that convincing otherwise. Those numbers will come down against a player like Karatsev, who is simply the better player on this surface and who appears to be new and improved. I'm excited to see what the 2021 Australian Open qualifier has in store for us this go around down under — it could be special. 

Edge: Karatsev -136

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Kenny Ducey

Kenny Ducey is a former member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, writing and editing for Sports Illustrated and Baseball Prospectus. His work also appears at DraftKings and The Action Network. Follow him on Twitter @KennyDucey.