Day 1 Preview at the Portugal Open
Manuel Traquete, Tennis East Coast
The beginning of the 25th edition of the Portugal Open is upon us. In the first day, none of the tournament’s top seeds will be in action, but there will still some notable main draw play, with two men’s and four women’s first round matches.
The rest of the day is dedicated to the conclusion of the qualifying tournament. All top 8 seeds have made it to the final round. #1 seed Leonardo Mayer, this year’s Vina del Mar finalist, will face recent Casablanca semifinalist Carballes Baena for a place in the main draw in what seems to be the best match of the lot.
Gimeno Traver is a solid favorite to make it past Desein, as is Albot in the all-Romanian clash against Crivoi.
Finally, the rising Japanese youngster Taro Daniel will face Jordi Samper-Montana in his quest for another ATP main draw appearance after an excellent quarterfinal run in Vina del Mar, where he only lost to Almagro.
In the men’s side of the main draw, Adrian Mannarino and Andrey Golubev will kick off the proceedings. The Frenchman has struggled all year and clay is his weakest surface, so the relatively in-form Golubev is easily the favorite to proceed after a good run last week in Barcelona. That run was only halted by eventual champion Kei Nishikori. They have never played in the ATP tour, but logic suggests a relatively straightforward win for Golubev.
The winner will face Portuguese #1 João Sousa in round 2.
The other men’s match of the day will pit last year’s semifinalist, Pablo Carreno Busta, against another Kazakh player, Mikhail Kukushkin. This is also another first-time matchup at the ATP level. The Spaniard is more comfortable on the surface and has the slight edge going into this match, but Kukushkin has the bigger weapons and on a good day he can easily win this match, as Andrey Kuznetsov did last year in Barcelona against the same Carreno Busta. On paper, this seems the most interesting of the two men’s matches of the day, with Kukushkin power going up against Carreno Busta’s consistency.
On the women’s side, the day will start with Yanina Wickmayer and Monica Puig facing each other, also for the first time. Although the two players are ranked very close to each other, Puig emerges as a considerable favorite since her game translates better to clay courts. Next on Centralito, Portuguese wildcard Maria João Koehler will face Ons Jabeur, also for the first time. Despite being younger, Jabeur is clearly the better player at this point in their respective careers as the rankings show. Home-court advantage could help the Portuguese cause an upset if she’s on a good day.
On court 1, Yaroslava Shevdova will face Karin Knapp for the third time. Knapp won their two previous meetings on hardcourt, but on clay Shevdova should have the edge, although her extreme inconsistency makes this match pretty much a toss-up.
Finally, on Center Court, the best paper match of the women’s opener will pit Lucie Safarova against Magdalena Rybarikova. Safarova appears to be the favorite, but she has lost two of their three career meetings, including the only one they played on clay. She might very well be upset early in Portugal.