2014 ATP Zagreb Preview, Picks
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
PBZ Zagreb Indoors
ATP World Tour 250
February 3-February 9, 2014
Prize Money: € 426,605
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Tommy Haas (12)
2: Mikhail Youzhny (14)
3: Philipp Kohlschreiber (27)
4: Ivan Dodig (34)
A nice mix of players competing in Zagreb, but not exactly a star studded field by any measure.
First Round matchups to watch:
(8)Igor Sijsling vs. Blaz Kavcic
Sijsling made the finals of the indoors Heilbronn challenger in January after an 0-3 start to his season, but he struggled mightily on indoor hard in the Davis Cup tie against the Czech Republic over the weekend. His poor form puts him on upset alert against Blaz Kavcic, who helped Slovenia in the Davis Cup. He is 9-4 on the season thus far and is playing well, with all of his matches coming on hard surfaces. Sijsling is the more accomplished player but not much separates them and form favors Blaz, who I think pulls off the upset against the Dutchman.
Daniel Brands vs. Ivo Karlovic
A 1-1 h2h between these big servers, Brands beat Karlovic in Zagreb in 2011 in their last meaning and the Croatian will try to get some home revenge. Neither are playing their best right now, but with those fiery serves, they can catch fire and make deep runs fast and indoor hard is the surface to do that.
This is a toss-up, but I’ll go with the Brandswagon to get by. Expect tiebreaks.
Tommy Haas helped Germany defeat Spain in Davis Cup and will be playing Zagreb for the first time as the veteran German, who struggled mightily at the start of the season, faces his countryman Benjamin Becker, or Jesse Huta Galung in round 2.
The quarterfinalist will face Sijsling/Kavcic or Sergiy Stakhovsky/Qualifier, as Stako is in good form with an ATP semifinal on his record and a good showing in the Davis Cup for Ukraine for early 2014.
Philipp Kohlschreiber was another who stepped up big for team Germany in the Davis Cup. He took a walkover in the dead 4th rubber to get a rest so he can be fresh for Andrey Golubev. Golubev is in form and played well in Davis Cup for Kazakhstan this weekend. Another possibility is Victor Hanescu, who couldn’t help Romania prevail in the Davis Cup weekend action.
Kohli against one of Radek Stepanek/Jan Hajek/Qualifier/Borna Coric will be the quarterfinal matchup. The young Coric is the future of Croatian tennis and got a wild card, but I don’t think he is ripe quite yet for a run. This section is open though. Stepanek is probably the favorite coming off Davis Cup success.
Former champion Mikhail Youzhny will face a qualifier or Ante Pavic, then one of Lukas Rosol/Dudi Sela/Lukas Lacko/JL Struff in the quarterfinals. Rosol could make a run, and Struff is continually improving. Youzhny should advance to the semis, though.
Ivan Dodig, another former champion, struggled mightily in January and he is under pressure this season to keep his ranking up after a great 2013. The Croatian gets a very tough test of Brands/Karlovic in round 2 that he may well not pass, and the winner of that section will most likely face 3 time and defending champion Marin Cilic.
Cilic needs to beat Mate Delic and Dusan Lajovic/Qualifier to reach the quarters.
Dark Horse: Sergiy Stakhovsky
The in-form Ukrainian, who has not been known for his consistency, but can play top 50 tennis at least for flashes at a time, has a great chance this week in Zagreb.
Kavcic/Sijsling are beatable round 2 opponents, after facing a qualifier, and Haas, if he plays like he did in early January, will fall before the might of Stakhovsky in an upset in the quarterfinals. Then, it’s a likely meeting with Kohlschreiber, who has dealt with some injury issues and is talented and consistent but beatable on a good day.
Kohlschreiber d. Stakhovsky
Youzhny d. Cilic
Stakhovsky actually beat Kohli in 2011 in Montreal, but that result may well have been a bit of a fluke, as Peppo has to be the favorite if he is healthy and playing ok.
In a semifinal that would be a rematch of the 2013 Zagreb final, Cilic beat Youzhny and has a 3-1 overall indoor h2h record against the Russian, but Cilic hasn’t had as much match play back since his suspension for half of last year, and I think he is still working his way back in terms of his conditioning in tournaments for deep runs.
If Youzhny is in decent form, he always seems to find some spark in Zagreb and plays well there, giving him a slight edge to prevail.
Youzhny d. Kohlschreiber
Youzhny scored a win over Kohli last year indoors, but the overall indoor hard h2h favors Peppo 2-1.
This is another final that could go either way, and would be a quality title for either veteran player, but I’ll go with Mikhail to do one step better than last year and win it all.