2015 ATP Nottingham Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final ATP grass court tune-up before Wimbledon 2015 will take place in Nottingham, rather than Eastbourne this year, as the former challenger was upgraded to an ATP event by the LTA. After two full weeks on grass, many top ATP players are taking advantage of a final chance to get grass court matches and here is a preview.
Aegon Open Nottingham
ATP World Tour 250
June 21-June 27, 2015
Prize Money: €589,160
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses) (top 16 seeds receive first round byes)
1: David Ferrer (7)
2: Gilles Simon (13)
3: Feliciano Lopez (14)
4: Leonardo Mayer (22)
5: Pablo Cuevas (23)
6: Viktor Troicki (25)
7: Dominic Thiem (29)
8: Adrian Mannarino (32)
The top 16 seeds are all top 50 players, and three of the top 20 are here for this solid 250 level event with a larger field than most.
First round matchups to watch:
Hyeon Chung vs. Albert Ramos
Another chance for the young gun Korean Chung to get ATP match experience, and perhaps an upset win, as Ramos is a clay courter, and his high spinning game is not well suited for grass. Chung has struggled mightily on grass this year with two losses to beatable opponents, and he’s currently on a three match losing streak. Ramos is debuting on grass this season, I’d still expect him to win this, but we’ll see what Chung can do with his ball striking oriented game.
Sergiy Stakhovsky vs. Steve Johnson
Johnson notched a win over Stakhovsky this year at Roland Garros, and he’ll try to earn another in Nottingham. Stakhovsky has been struggling, in part due to a back injury, and he’s on a three match losing streak, while Johnson upset Bernard Tomic in Halle, before losing in round 2. I’d give Johnson an edge to advance in this one due to Stakhovsky’s poor form and possibly health.
Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (WC)Taylor Harry Fritz
This is a great opportunity for young American wild card Taylor Harry Fritz to get experience on grass and he’s facing a beatable opponent in Carreno Busta. Fritz, 17, is the current world junior #1, and he was a recent runner-up for the French Open junior title. His ATP main draw debut will take place against a dirtballer, who struggles to find wins on fast surfaces. Though Carreno Busta has more experience, I expect him to at least be in for a challenge.
David Ferrer could be in for a tough opening match, presuming Marcos Baghdatis can dispatch Victor Estrella in round 1. The pair of veterans last met in 2013, and Ferrer has a 4-1 h2h advantage. That said, Baghdatis has played four matches in recent weeks on grass, while Ferrer is making his season debut on grass, a surface he has gone 5-3 on over the past two seasons. Given his superior play on the season, Ferrer, a French Open quarterfinalist, should advance, and regardless I expect the Baghdatis/Ferrer winner to reach the quarters, perhaps by beating seed Thomaz Bellucci. Presuming Bellucci defeats Alex Zverev/Mikhail Kukushkin. Bellucci hasn’t won a match on grass in 5 years, while Zverev has performed decently well thus far on it, thus in my own bracket I have Zverev into the round of 16.
Adrian Mannarino will open with Diego Schwartzman or Aljaz Bedene in round 2, give Mannarino is the better grass courter I’d expect him to win that match, though Simone Bolelli should test him in round 3. Bolelli opens with a qualifier, and then will face the seed Martin Klizan, who has never had much success on grass. Mannarino and Bolelli have never played, nor has AM played Klizan. Given the questionable form of either player, I’d favor Mannarino to reach the quarters, Bolelli was very poor after qualifying in Queens.
Ferrer beat Mannarino last year in four sets at the AO, Mannarino could pull off the upset, but Ferrer seems like a trusty pick to reach the semis in my mind.
Leonardo Mayer will face the Chung/Ramos winner, Chung would have a great shot at scoring two ATP wins if his form wasn’t poor right now. Mayer actually went 3-1 on grass last year, and thus almost by default of being the only decent player on grass, he should reach the third round. Jiri Vesely should challenge him at that stage though, presuming the young Czech can defeat the winner of James Ward/Tim Smyczek. Given Wardy is a good grass court player, he should beat Smyczek, and perhaps upset Vesely. In a weak, and rather open section, I’m going with Vesely to reach the quarters over Mayer, but this section is hard to predict.
Viktor Troicki, currently in the Queens semifinals, and a finalist in Stuttgart, opens with the Stakhovsky/Johnson winner. Presuming he doesn’t withdrawal after playing so many matches in recent weeks, I’m going with Johnson to upset him. Troicki is great on grass, but after so many matches, he should want to rest up so he can do his best at Wimbledon, where he could serve as a dark horse. The third round opponent for Johnson/Troicki could be Nicolas Almagro. Almagro, an aggressive grass court player when he wants to be, opens with a struggling Denis Istomin, and he should be able to beat Juan Monaco in round 2, a player he has beaten on grass before, and faced many times, losing both of their matches this year. It’s hard to predict the outcome of Johnson/Almagro, but I’m going with Johnson to reach the quarterfinals in the leadup to Wimbledon.
Johnson and Vesely have yet to play, tt’d be interesting if they do face off and I’d give Johnson the slightest edge to advance given this is grass. A Ferrer vs. Johnson semi is my pick for the top half.
Gilles Simon, who played well in Queens, will open with the Marcel Granollers/Vasek Pospisil winner. Vashy is 2-2 on grass in 2015, while Simon is 3-1, coming off of a semifinal in Queens. Presuming fatigue doesn’t play a factor, look for Simon to even his h2h to 1-1 against Vasek and reach the third round. Simon could be troubled by a big server at that stage, Sam Groth needing only to beat a qualifier, and ball striker Joao Sousa. Sousa isn’t great on grass, and Groth has already won a challenger on it and reached the quarters in Stuttgart. Groth’s serve and volley can be lethal on a low bouncing, and fast surface, and though servebot matches tend to be notoriously hard to predict, often coming down to tiebreaks, I’m going with Groth to reach the quarters again in Nottingham with three wins.
The #5 seed is Pablo Cuevas, he’s not great on grass, and if the right qualifier is placed here, he could well reach the third round win wins over dirtballers Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Cuevas. Without knowing who that qualifier will be, I’ll hedge and say either Cuevas or the qualifier into the third round, with either Sam Querrey or Santiago Giraldo having a strong edge to reach the quarters. Giraldo will face Andreas Haider-Maurer round 1, and should snap a two match losing streak in that one. Querrey has lost three straight, but his game is well suited for grass, and thus I have him defeating Giraldo and Cuevas/Qualifier for a spot in the quarters.
Groth vs. Querrey would be a great grass court match, Given his better form as of late, I’d go with Groth to advance, perhaps in two tiebreaks, as Querrey isn’t a very clutch player.
Feliciano Lopez is one of the best grass court players, if not the best, in the field this week, and he’ll open with the Fritz/Carreno Busta winner, if Fritz pulls off an upset in round 1, Lopez will be a huge step up for him, and I expect him to be overmatched and overwhelmed by his slicing serve and volely game. Lopez should next face Andreas Seppi, a current Halle finalist, in round 3, presuming Seppi isn’t fatigued, after facing Rendy Lu or a qualifier. Seppi has a 3-1 advantage in the h2h against Lopez, but Lopez is the better grass court player, his 1-2 record on the surface this year not withstanding, as he has lost two third set tiebreaks in those matches. I’d be shocked if Lopez doesn’t reach the quarters out of this section, as he badly needs to do so to keep his ranking up where he wants it to be.
#7 seed Dominic Thiem gets a bye, but I’m not sure if he really wants one after struggling on grass this year. The young Austrian doesn’t seem comfortable on the surface, and wild card Kyle Edmund is a threat to reach the third round, presuming he’s healthy. Edmund was injured at the French Open, and has missed the first two weeks on grass to his chagrin, while Jaziri is 1-2 on the surface. Thiem is the better young gun, but a healthy Edmund would have a great chance against him. I have Thiem into the third round myself, but we’ll have to see what happens. In that third round, the erratic vanquisher of Rafael Nadal from Queens, Alexandr Dolgopolov, is a likely opponent. Dolgo showed his shotmaking prowess as he beat Nadal yet again in Queens, but he lost in the next round, which pretty much explains his career thus far. With Donald Young in awful form round 1, Dolgo should have an easy start, and the same can be said about dirtballer Pablo Andujar in round 2. I don’t trust Thiem on grass, or Edmund’s health, so Dolgopolov is my pick for the quarters.
Lopez vs. Dolgopolov could be the match of the tournament if it takes place, Dolgo can beat anyone at his best, but given this is grass, Lopez is my pick to reach the semis.
Dark Horse: Sam Groth
Dolgoplov, Baghdatis, Johnson, and possibly Pospisil are all dark horse threats this week, but Groth, if his serve is on, could win the title this week, which would be a first for him on the ATP tour. The Aussie has a massive serve and his volleys have certainly improved, but his groundstrokes remain futures level, and his backhand is quite poor. With that in mind their little margin for error, and Gilles Simon, along with most likely Querrey, Lopez could all doom him before he reaches the final. It’s tough to know how things will go, but he has the highest ceiling of any player in this draw.
Ferrer d. Johnson
Lopez d. Groth
Ferrer should find himself to simply be the better, and more complete player against Johnson, in shot selection, defense, movement, and most things except forehand. Lopez and Groth played in Stuttgart, and Groth pulled out a three set win, we could see the same result again, but I’m going with Lopez to reach the final.
Ferrer d. Lopez
Ferrer and Lopez have yet to meet on grass, and that surface would give Lopez a great chance, that said, he hasn’t defeated Ferrer since 2009, and has lost the last five meetings against his countryman. With that being the case, Ferrer should be the favorite to take the title in Nottingham this week, and capture a title in 2015 on every surface.