Jannik Sinner pumps his fist during the 2021 US Open
The ATP tour travels to Sofia, Bulgaria this week as the European indoor hardcourt swing continues. The Sofia Open, which begins on 27 September, will be headlined by Italian prodigy Jannik Sinner and a resurgent Gael Monfils.
The Sofia Open is an ATP 250 indoor hardcourt event with a field of 28 players. The last edition of the tournament was won by none other than Sinner, who clinched his maiden ATP tour title in epic fashion. In the process, the Italian became the youngest male player to win an ATP title since Kei Nishikori in 2008.
With main draw action set to kick off on Monday, here’s a look at how the event could pan out:
Top half: Defending champion Jannik Sinner has a tough route to the title
Jannik Sinner is going for his third ATP title of the year in Sofia
Seeded players:  Jannik Sinner,  Alexander Bublik,  Filip Krajinovic,  Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Expected semifinal: Jannik Sinner vs Alexander Bublik
Dark horse: James Duckworth
Analysis: Jannik Sinner has had a quiet time on the ATP Tour ever since winning his third title in Washington. The Italian reached the second week at the US Open, but put on a meek display in his last-16 loss to eventual semifinalist Alexander Zverev.
Sinner will be looking to bounce back strongly in Sofia. The defending champion, however, has been given a tough draw. Having received a first-round bye, Sinner could open his campaign against big-serving Vasek Pospisil in a rematch of the title decider last year.
The young Italian could then face one of seventh-seeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Benoit Paire, Emil Ruusuvuori or James Duckworth in the last eight, provided he navigates the Pospisil challenge.
Also present in this section are fourth seed Alexander Bublik and fifth seed Filip Krajinovic, who are projected to face each other in the quarterfinals. But both players have struggled for form of late and might be defeated early on.
Bublik will open his campaign against either local wildcard Dimitar Kuzmanov or talented Italian Lorenzo Musetti. Krajinovic, meanwhile, faces Alexander Lazarov in his first match.
Bottom half: Gael Monfils looks to continue hot streak
Gael Monfils roars during his third-round match at the 2021 US Open
Seeded players:  Gael Monfils,  Alex de Minaur,  Adrian Mannarino,  John Millman
Expected semifinal: Gael Monfils vs Alex de Minaur
Dark horse: Ilya Ivashka
Analysis: Former World No. 6 Gael Monfils found himself in the midst of a major slump after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Frenchman dropped 15 of his 18 matches between his semifinal run in Dubai and his first-round exit at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.
Monfils has managed to turn his fortunes around over the past few weeks. The Frenchman, ranked No. 20, reached the third round in Canada, Cincinnati and US Open, and is currently in the semifinals of the Moselle Open in Metz.
Monfils will be hoping to carry the momentum into the indoor hardcourt event in Sofia. Having received a first-round bye, Monfils could face a stern opening test in the shape of either Pablo Andujar or Ilya Ivashka.
If he finds a way to win that match, the going will get much easier for the Frenchman. He is likely to face compatriot Adrian Mannarino in the last eight.
Australia’s Alex de Minaur headlines the opposite side of Monfils’ half. De Minaur has a tricky opener against either Jaume Munar or Marcos Giron, following which he could face fellow countryman John Millman for a place in the last four.
Predictions for the semifinal
Jannik Sinner def. Filip Krajinovic
Ilya Ivashka def. Alex de Minaur