The Eastbourne International is a key lead-up event to Wimbledon and the Americans in the field have a solid record.
They are tied with Spain for most wins (two) and two Americans made the final in 2019. Defending champion Taylor Fritz couldn’t make an appearance after undergoing knee surgery, but there are some quality home-grown players in action.
Frances Tiafoe and Reilly Opelka are well worth following and they’re capable of extending the United States’ fine record at this event.
USA Record at Eastbourne
American players aren’t typically suited to grass courts, but they have a good record at Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club.
Since the tournament was opened for men in 2009, two Americans have won. Former world No. 1 Andy Roddick got the ball rolling in 2012 before Fritz won in 2019.
Fritz defeated fellow American Sam Querrey before the tournament was cancelled in 2020, so Tiafoe and Opalka have a chance to win back-to-back Eastbourne Internationald for the U.S.
Online betting markets have Alex De Minaur and Cameron Norrie as favorites, but bettors shouldn’t overlook Opelka and Tiafoe.
They are +750 and +1600, respectively, which is excellent value given the quality of this field.
The 23-year-old Tiafoe hasn’t quite matured into the premier player we thought he would. However, he’s good enough to win this week.
Tiafoe looked good at the Queen’s Club Championship last week when losing in the quarters to Denis Shapovalov. It was a solid tournament result for a player who was desperate for a confidence boost.
The former world number 29 has steadily slipped down the rankings, but the talent is still there. He possesses a powerful forehand and he won the 2021 Viking Open at Nottingham two weeks back.
Frances Tiafoe may have bagged the final singles spot on the U.S. Olympic team with his win at the Nottingham, Challenger Sunday. He moved ahead of Tennys Sandgren with the win in the June 14 ATP rankings (Opelka, Isner and Querrey have indicated they will not play in Tokyo) pic.twitter.com/uYEPVeYxVL
— Randy Walker (@TennisPublisher) June 14, 2021
His 6-1, 6-3 victory came over Denis Kudla and it came at the right time.
“I needed it bad this week and I’m really happy to be here,” Tiafoe told LTA.org. “I wouldn’t be the guy I am today without Denis, I’ve been trying to chase you since I was a kid. It feels good to beat you today but I’ve always looked up to you and I’m happy that we’re still able to keep a good friendship.”
Tennis betting markets have Tiafoe at +1600, which is a value price. He meets a much harder field than the one he defeated at Nottingham, but the young American is more than capable of producing.
He faces Liam Broady in the first round, so he should progress to the second round without much fuss.
Opelka is another 23-year-old who is the junior Wimbledon champion, so he has no problem handling the grass courts.
He made the Round of 32 at Queen’s last week before losing to Australian John Millman in three sets. The big-serving player battled back after losing the first set in a tiebreak, but he would lose the third and final set in a tiebreak.
It was a cruel blow for a player with potential and it backed up from a solid effort at the French Open. He made the third round before losing to Daniil Medvedev, the second-best player in the world.
Reilly Opelka brings modern art on tennis court pic.twitter.com/ICdPHiWMkN
— Oleg S. (@AnnaK_4ever) June 14, 2021
His game resembles that of John Isner, but Opelka covers the court well for a 6-foot-11 man. He will only get better with time and we wouldn’t overlook the +650 odds to win at Eastbourne.
He gets a bye in the first round, so he can sit back and relax before his second round matchup. Our money is on Opelka to make a deep run before doing the same at Wimbledon next week.
John McEnroe believes it’s a tough time for American tennis, which hasn’t produced a Grand Slam winner in the men’s division since Roddick in the U.S. Open in 2012.
“We’ve had guys who are good tennis players, even very good tennis players,” McEnroe said. “But we haven’t had guys who are great athletes. The guys who win majors are very good tennis players and great athletes. You have to be both — especially now when so many great athletes in Europe have become tennis players.”
Opelka is unlikely to be the next big thing, but you don’t have to be to win the Eastbourne International.