The end of the ATP Challenger Tour season is close, but it’s not here yet by any means! Players will be in Houston to fight for ranking points and prize money before the end of the year. Who will win and who will fall? Read on to find out!
ATP Challenger Day 1 Predictions
Gonzalo Escobar vs Evan Zhu
Head to Head: never played
Escobar’s lefty game is very strong, as the Ecuadorian has a very heavy forehand. Zhu has a pretty good forehand, but not on the level of Escobar’s. This match will come down to whether the Zhu backhand can withstand the crosscourt exchanges between his forehand and the Escobar forehand. At the end of the day, Escobar will be able to push Zhu around the court and force him to play more defense than he would like. Escobar advances.
Prediction: Escobar in 2
Edan Leshem vs Christopher Heyman
Head to Head: 1-0 Heyman
Leshem is a very solid player, doing everything decently, but not having a huge weapon to put opponents away. Heyman likes to play power tennis and will try to overpower Leshem. However, Leshem’s consistent game will make it very tempting for Heyman to overhit. These two have played once before, in a Futures tournament, where Heyman won in straight sets. However, Heyman has barely played on outdoor hard since February (mainly playing on indoor hard and clay), whereas Leshem has played a lot more on outdoor hard. Expect Leshem will frustrate Heyman with his consistency and advance to the second round.
Prediction: Leshem in 3
Alexander Ritschard vs Peter Heller
Head to Head: never played
Both Alexander Ritschard and Peter Heller are solid players. Ritschard has the slightly bigger game and can put Heller on the defensive. Ritschard has had solid results on United States hard courts, whereas Heller has not played much on hard courts at all. Heller, instead, has played most recent matches on clay. However, last week at an ITF in Malibu, Heller did play on a hard court, but lost his first match in straight sets to Felix Corwin. Expect Ritschard to win this match comfortably and advance to the second round of the Houston Challenger.
Prediction: Ritschard in 2
Evan King vs Raymond Sarmiento
Head to Head: never played (professionally)
Evan King has a nice lefty game and can effectively hit his crosscourt forehand. Sarmiento is a very clean ball striker and I don’t think will be too phased by King’s forehand nor his fairly big serve, and will be able to exploit the weaker King backhand. Interestingly, these two have split their junior meetings, but never have played professionally before. The way I see this one is that since King’s game is built around his forehand and serve, and since Sarmiento has the game to not be super fazed with King’s weapons, that leads me to think that Sarmiento wins this one. King will be able to control the court with his serve and forehand for small spurts of the match, but expect Sarmiento to move on to the second round.
Prediction: Sarmiento in 3
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