2014 ATP Vina Del Mar Preview, Picks
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Fabio Fognini (15)
2: Tommy Robredo (16)
3: Nicolas Almagro (17)
4: Marcel Granollers (35)
The dirtball troupe are the main participants in the field of the first tournament of the Golden Swing.
First Round matchups to watch:
Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Filippo Volandri
PCB will try to follow up an amazing 2013 at primarily the futures and challenger level, where he went from being a futures player to an ATP main draw regular by the end of the season, with a strong 2014 on his favorite surface of clay. The Spaniard lost to the veteran Italian dirtballer Volandri, who has always made his living on red clay, at a challenger last year. He is 10 years younger than the Italian, meaning this should be an interesting and perhaps feisty match.
I make PCB a slight favorite, but it is a tossup. Volandri never wins on hard courts, and PCB was 0-3 in January, all on hard courts, so form is in question.
(5)Jeremy Chardy vs. (WC)Christian Garin
The 17 year old Garin, a rising young Chilean who leads their contingent of future mainstream tennis professionals, played Chardy at this event last year, falling in 3 sets to the veteran Frenchman. He will have a chance for revenge here, as he comes off tasting defeat in Chile’s Davis Cup tie with Barbados, which was played on outdoor hard courts, meaning he will have to quickly adjust to clay. Garin still is ranked outside the top 300, and he doesn’t have tons of experience, but he qualified at a clay challenger in Colombia in his only regular tour tournament of this year and he has talent.
Chardy was in pretty good form in January on the hard courts and will be switching surfaces with some momentum. He will be a big favorite and he’s seeded, so I don’t expect an upset, but it’s worth watching a talented young player testing his mettle against a steady veteran ATP regular.
(8)Federico Delbonis vs. (PR)Pablo Cuevas
The Argentine dirtballer Delbonis will seek to solidify his top 60 ranking during this Golden Swing, and his first match is an interesting one against the former top 50 Uruguayan Cuevas. After numerous injury issues, he is using a protected ranking to directly enter the field at this event and he is currently ranked 223 in the world. He hasn’t played a tournament match in 2014 as of yet, but he finished last year out very strong at clay court challengers, while Delbonis struggled mightily on the hard courts, as is to be expected, losing his 2 January tournament matches in the first round. In their only h2h meeting, Cuevas beat Delbonis 4 years ago, but I think the Argentine is set to get revenge here and prevail into the next round.
Fabio Fognini, who comes straight off leading Italy to a Davis Cup victory on clay against Argentina, will play Aljaz Bedene or Stephane Robert in round 2 in what shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for him. After that, it will be Chardy/Garin or Carreno Busta/Volandri in the quarters, as one of those 4 has a great chance to earn some ATP points with an easy section. Meanwhile, I don’t see Fognini being challenged at all in his first 2 matches.
Nicolas Almagro returns to the ATP tour coming off injury problems and faces Albert Ramos, his fellow Spaniard, or a qualifier in round 2. Almagro vs. a pair of qualifiers or Cuevas/Delbonis will be the likely quarterfinal matchup. If Nico Is healthy and in some sort of form, he should have no trouble, but the qualifiers or Cuevas/Del Bonis have a nice dark horse chance here.
Former Vina Del Mar champ Tommy Robredo, who seems to be in good form, will play Andreas Haider Maurer or Leo Mayer in round 2, with one of Alex Dolgopolov/Daniel Gimeno-Traver/Horacio Zeballos/Gonzalo Lama on deck in the quarters. Dolgopolov played pretty well on hard courts and it will be interesting to see what he can do on clay as he seeks to rebuild his ranking.
Zeballos is, in fact, the defending champion, but has been struggling for a long while. He has to hope a return to the red stuff will help renew the quality of his tennis.
Marcel Granollers, the veteran Spaniard, will be another happy to return to clay. He opens with Santiago Giraldo, who can be a dangerous player or a qualifier. The winner will get one of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez/Julian Reister/Paolo Lorenzi/Alejandro Gonzalez in the quarterfinals. This is a very weak open section with points to be swiped and prize money to be earned.
Perhaps the up and coming Gonzalez can outwit some veterans and make a nice run.
Dark Horse: Alejandro Gonzalez
A semifinalist at a clay court challenger this year already, Gonzalez is now a top 80 ATP regular out of Colombia and can do some damage, even without much ATP experience. He went a tremendous 41-18 on clay at the challenger and ATP qualifying level last year and made many a deep run, beating some quality and veteran players. Alejandro put up a decent showing against David Ferrer at the AO and he opens with a rematch against Paolo Lorenzi, who he lost to the Bucarmanga challenger in Colombia recently. If he can get revenge, the match against GGL/Reister in round 2 is winnable and Granollers/Giraldo are tough customers in the quarters, but also beatable.
Fognini d. Almagro
Robredo d. Giraldo
The clay h2h between Fogna and Nico is split at 2-2, but Fognini won their last meeting in 2013. Given his quality form and current fitness, he has to be favored to reach the final. I went with Santi Giraldo as the quarterfinalist from that section, but no matter who it is, Robredo should dispatch them with relative ease and make the final. Robredo beat Giraldo on clay 3 years ago.
Fognini d. Robredo
Robredo is 4-0 on clay against Fognini, but with the way Fabio played in the Davis Cup tie over the weekend, I think he will make that 1-4. Assuming this final holds to form, it could go either way and both players are co-favorites to win this event. The match should be excellent if it occurs.