2015 ATP Istanbul Preview
Steen Kirby and Ahmet Fevzi Guclu, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic is pleased to have credentialed media coverage of the inaugural ATP Istanbul tournament, held in the suburbs of diverse, and modern city of Istanbul, Turkey. For years, Turkey has done the tennis world a service by having a variety of futures and challenger tour events, and now they have the ATP event they deserve, and this one of course is on clay, part of the European spring clay court season. We will have daily reports and interviews from the tournament all week long.
TEB BNP Paribas Open
ATP World Tour 250
April 27-May 3, 2015
Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (2)
2: Grigor Dimitrov (11)
3: Pablo Cuevas (23)
4: Santiago Giraldo (31)
Istanbul has two top players, and the seed cutoff is 61, not bad for a maiden ATP event.
First round matchups to watch:
Marsel Ilhan vs. Jarkko Nieminen
Ilhan, the top Turkish ATP player, who reached a career high ranking this year inside the top 80, has a chance to score a win against Nieminen, an accomplished but struggling veteran at the moment. Ilhan reached a clay court final at a challenger in Turkey, and also won a round in Barcelona before losing to Feliciano Lopez in a third set tiebreak. He has a positive record on clay at a lower level than ATP, and also reached the quarters in Dubai this year on hard court. Nieminen has lost two straight, and has yet to win consecutive matches since the AO. Given his experience, Nieminen is a slight favorite, but he’s not at his best on clay, and Ilhan should have home support that should be a boost to him.
Damir Dzumhur vs. (WC)Andrey Rublev
A battle of young guns, the 22 year old Dzumhur was a semifinalist in Casablanca, and also has a challenger title on clay this year. Rublev shocked Fernando Verdasco as a qualifier in Barcelona and is in good form, he also pushed Fabio Fognini to 3 sets in the next round. This year, the 17 year old already has 3 ATP main draw wins, and he’s rising up the ranks. Dzumhur has more experience, but Rublev has a higher ceiling, and I see him advancing from this matchup.
(5)Andreas Haider-Maurer vs. Ivan Dodig
AHM just beat Dodig in 3 sets in Bucharest (6-4 in the third), and they will get a rematch a few days later. As expected, their matchup in Bucharest was quite the battle, and both guys should be itching to go at it again. AHM has seen some of the best results of his career this season, while Dodig continues to struggle, though he’s foguth hard in most of his matches this season. AHM should be the fave but I again expect it to be close.
Roger Federer is a strong favorite here, even though he lost in Monte Carlo to Monfils, and he will open with the Ilhan/Nieminen winner. If Ilhan wins, our on-site reporter Ahmet Fevzi Guclu expects the crowd to be split between the home favorite Turk and the fan favorite Federer, that said, Federer should ease into the quarters, and also dispatch most likely Daniel Gimeno-Traver to reach the semis.
DGT opens with 19 year old Turkish wild card Cem Ilkel, and similar to the journeyman Haider-Maurer, he’s had a surprise career year, late in his career. He reached the final in Casablanca, and the semis in Bucharest, and has wins over Jiri Vesely, Viktor Troicki, and Gilles Simon in the past few weeks. After Ilkel, his opponent will be either Mikhail Kukushkin, or a qualifier, and Thanasi Kokkinakis is lurking in the qualifying draw. Kukushkin is just 2-3 in his last five matches on clay, so he’s vulnerable to a defeat, DGT has won their last two meetings on clay, and hence he’s the favorite for the quarters, in this weak section.
4 seed Santiago Giraldo will be vulnerable to defeat against the Dzumhur/Rublev winner, after a career year last year, he’s been average at best this season, even on clay. I still have him going through in my own bracket, but that round 2 match should be competitive. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman will open with a qualifier, and then the Steve Darcis/Jurgen Melzer winner. Neither Melzer nor Darcis are in good form, Darcis may have the slightest of edges though as Melzer has struggled for quite a while. Schwartzman qualified in Monte Carlo but has been forgettable on clay this year, with just 1 main draw win on the surface (1-6), again he may be vulnerable to being upset by a qualifier. Giraldo may well make the semis if he can survive his round 2 match, simply because the section below is so unreliable, thus I have him in the semis over Darcis.
2 seed Grigor Dimitrov has not had a good season in 2015, but he still should be good enough to beat Nikoloz Basilashvili or Andrey Golubev in his opening match. Golubev is on a three match losing streak, and Basilashvili, who won his first ATP match earlier this year, has lost two straight, he’s primarily a challenger player though he’s been rising onto the fringe of the ATP level. Golubev is a slight fave to win that match, but should have little chance against Dimitrov. Look for Andreas Haider-Maurer to reach the quarters, with wins over Dodig and Dusan Lajovic/qualifier. Lajovic is 5-5 on clay this season, but he’s just 1-2 in his last three matches on the surface. AHM and Dimitrov have never played before, but the Monte Carlo quarterfinalist Dimitrov should advance to the semis given the talent discrepancy.
Pablo Cuevas will face Andrey Kuznetsov or a qualifier in round 2, he lost in round 2 of Barcelona, as did Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov, who qualified in Monte Carlo as well, should beat the qualifier, but Cuevas will be the favorite in their first head-to-head meaning, again given the difference in ranking and ability. In the quarters, Cuevas could face a difficult opponent, either Thomaz Bellucci or Benoit Paire. Bellucci will open with Mikhail Youzhny, who won a match in Bucharest before falling in round 2. Bellucci has won their last two meetings, and given how poor Youzhny has been this season, I expect him to do so for a third consecutive time. The Brazilian also won a round in Barcelona. Benoit Paire, who qualified in Monte Carlo, won a round, and then won two matches in Barcelona as well, will open against the struggling Denis Istomin. Bellucci and Paire have never met, but given current form, I have Paire winning to reach the quarters, and then upsetting Cuevas to reach the semis. They have never met before.
Dark Horse: Benoit Paire
Paire has always had the talent, and he’s reached two previous ATP finals (former top 30), however his mental side has been what is unreliable, along with a poor forehand. He’s rounding back into form this year and is nearly back in the top 70, with recent improvement in results, this 250 level event is where he can finally shine and announce his return to the main tour spotlight. Istomin, Bellucci, and Cuevas are all beatable in order, and Dimitrov is a weaker seed than Federer, in the bottom half. That would be a monumental upset ranking wise, but Paire has beaten Dimitrov twice before (2-1 h2h), giving him a dark horse shot at an ATP final.
Federer d. Giraldo
Dimitrov d. Paire
Federer is 2-0 against Giraldo, though they have never met on clay, and as mentioned, Dimitrov has a negative h2h against Paire, but still has to be the favorite to prevail, as he’s developed better in the past couple of years.
Federer d. Dimitrov
Fed routined Dimitrov in Brisbane this year, and is 3-0 against him, Dimitrov has never taken a set against a more accomplished player of a similar style, and thus he should take this 250 title.