2015 Irving Challenger Preview and Predictions
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
It’s almost an insult to call this tournament a Challenger, as it rivals some 250 events quality wise. The highest and lowest seed are ranked #34 and #63, so look forward to a very interesting week of tennis.
ATP Challenger Tour
17-22 March 2015
Prize Money: $125,000
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Jeremy Chardy (34)
2: Gilles Muller (36)
3: Benjamin Becker (40)
4: Dominic Thiem (46)
5: Sergiy takhovsky (50)
6: Jerzy Janowicz (51)
7: Marcos Baghdatis (61)
8: Diego Schwartzman (63)
The last direct acceptance is Rajeev Ram, ranked 141st.
First round match-ups to watch
(4) Dominic Thiem – Dudi Sela
Thiem desperately needs the extra match play here, as he didn’t start the year in good fashion. Only in Marseille he won back to back matches, thanks to David Goffin retiring during their second round encounter. At Indian Wells he painfully lost to James Duckworth in the first round, getting breadsticked in the second set. Perhaps things will improve for the better now that he doesn’t have to share his coach Gunther Bresnik any longer, as Ernests Gulbis split with him. A loss to Sela is sure to be a big blow to his already crumbling confidence.
(7) Marcos Baghdatis – Dustin Brown
This is a mouth-watering match-up that a lot of people would prefer to watch over some of the third and fourth round matches at Indian Wells, I’m sure. Brown has had a tough deal in deciding sets this year, going 0-4 in them so far, including his first round loss against Andrey Golubev at Indian Wells. Baghdatis on the other hand has had a fantastic start to the year, reaching the third round of the Australian Open and a semi-final in Zagreb. At Indian Wells he had a tough draw, facing Novak Djokovic in the second round.
(6) Jerzy Janowicz – Edouard Roger-Vasselin
Janowicz suffered a painful defeat against Diego Schwartzman in the first round of Indian Wells, but he can redeem himself here against an opponent he leads the head to head 4-0 against. However, three of those were very tight three set matches, with two ending 8-6 in the third set tiebreak. On top of that, Roger-Vasselin comes off a good showing at Indian Wells, reaching the second round as a qualifier and barely losing to Feliciano Lopez there, so things could get tricky for the Pole.
Top seed Jeremy Chardy starts off his campaign against a qualifier, after which he would face James Ward or Steve Darcis. Darcis’ craftiness could be useful against Chardy, but the Belgian comes off a very bad loss in Davis Cup, where he lost to world #344 Henri Laaksonen in five sets. Under normal circumstances Chardy should be able to survive this section and reach the semi-final, as #8 seed Diego Schwartzman is a considerable underdog against him as well. In the bottom section a showdown between Dominic Thiem and Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinal is most likely, with Baghdatis getting the slight edge because of his recent form. Unfortunately for Baghdatis, Chardy historically does well against him and leads their head to head 3-1, so should it come down to that match-up, Chardy is the favorite.
#5 seed Sergiy Stakhovsky has the best shot to reach the semi-final in the top section. Since hiring Fabrice Santoro as his coach it has been evident that his consistency has grown significantly, which is supported by his results. He is 8-4 in his last four tournaments, beating Sam Querrey in the first round of Indian Wells before falling to Tomas Berdych. The other semi-finalist is likely to be either second seed Gilles Muller or sixth seed Jerzy Janowicz. Janowicz should be the favorite if he can reach his top level, but the problem is that doesn’t happen a lot. The Pole is highly erratic and putting your money on the more solid Muller is probably the best bet here. In a match-up against Stakhovsky I would put both down as the underdog.
Chardy d. Baghdatis
Stakhovsky d. Muller
Chardy d. Stakhovsky