2015 ATP Newport Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
One final grass court tournament remains on the year, as the classic 250 in picturesque Newport, Rhode Island in the USA is next up for the ATP World Tour. Those looking for a final chance at points on grass have headed to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and Tennis Atlantic once again has on-site coverage this week of the tournament.
Hall of Fame Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 250
Newport, RI, USA
July 13-July 19, 2015
Prize Money: $488,225
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: John Isner (17)
2: Ivo Karlovic (25)
3: Bernard Tomic (26)
4: Jack Sock (31)
One top 20 player is in the field for the final grass court tournament of 2015. The seed cutoff is #77, which is quite high, even for a 250 in what should be a wide open week in Newport.
First round matchups to watch:
(5)Adrian Mannarino vs. (WC)Tommy Haas
Haas is 10 years older than the top 40 Mannarino and this match could be a great grass court classic, with a lot of smooth hitting and graceful play from both players. Haas is of course a skillful veteran with a one handed backhand a good grass court record. Since returning from injury he’s 2-3, and lost in the second round of Wimbledon to Milos Raonic. Mannarino has gone 4-4 on grass this year with a quarterfinal in Den Bosch as his best result. Haas has more talent, but Mannarino has a tricky game for an opponent lacking rhythm, and thus I give him a slight edge over the still rusty Haas.
Jared Donaldson vs. Austin Krajicek
An all-American battle, the 18 year old Donaldson can cement himself as the rise if he has a good showing here. 25 year old former Texas A&M player Austin Krajicek stands in his way round 1, and he’s beatable on grass as he went 0-4 on the surface this year, much preferring clay and slow hard courts. Donaldson is an aggressive American baseliner and he qualified at ATP Queens on grass already. This year he won an ATP main draw match in Memphis, and reached the semis of the Tallahassee challenger, along with taking the title in Maui at the challenger out there. With a versatile game, look for Jared to slip past his countryman and into round 2.
(4)Jack Sock vs. Radek Stepanek
Sock should be the favorite with his powerful and aggressive game that is built around his forehand, but the serve and volleying 36 year old Stepanek can’t be counted out. Stepanek has been struggling this season since returning from injury though, and while grass suits his game, Sock isn’t poor on it either, excluding his round 1 loss at Wimbledon. Stepanek could snatch a set if Sock struggles like he did there, but look for Jack to pull this match out.
John Isner will face off with 2009 champion Rajeev Ram round 1, in what will be a battle of former champions (Isner won the title here in 2011 and 2012). Ram is a lighting in the bottle serve and volleyer who normally does better in doubles than singles at this stage in his career, but can catch fire on grass at any time. That said, Isner reached round 3 at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at Queens so he should be able to continue his relatively good form and get into round 2 where I’d expect him to beat either Ryan Harrison or Yuichi Sugita. Harrison comes off the semis in the Winnetka challenger, while Sugita is solid on grass and qualified at Wimbledon. Given Harrison’s mental errors at times, Sugita will have a shot, and I have him advancing before falling to Isner.
Haas/Mannarino is almost certain to be Isner’s quarterfinal opponent, the winner of that should get past Edouard Roger-Vasselin or Blaz Kavcic, both of whom have struggled this season. ERV has a slight edge to get out of round 1 before falling to Haas/Mannarino, and I have an Isner vs. Mannarino quarterfinal lined up. Isner beat Mannarino at Newport in 2013, and I give him an edge to do so again and reach the semis on home soil.
Bernard Tomic opens with his countryman J.P. Smith in round 1, Tomic, despite his frustrations with Tennis Australia, reached the third round at Wimbledon and the quarters in Stuttgart on grass, and has put together one of his most consistent seasons on tour thus far in 2015. Smith qualified for Wimbledon but he’s far less accomplished than Tomic at this level, and on grass, and thus Bernie is the favorite to win that one, and beat the Donaldson/Krajicek winner round 2. In the quarters, Steve Johnson is his likely opponent. Stevie J will face serve and volleyer Michael Berrer round 1, and then the winner of Noah Rubin/Tatsuma Ito round 2. Berrer has had a great season in his final season on tour thus far, qualifing for the French Open, Wimbledon and Stuttgart , but Johnson is on the rise overall and won matches at both Halle and Wimbledon.
Rubin is a young American, and at 19 has limited experience at this level, but he’ll have a chance against Ito, who qualified in Den Bosch and won a round, but otherwise has done little on grass. Look for Johnson to beat Berrer and Ito, and test Tomic, who he beat in Halle. I have a feeling that poor result from Tomic was more mental than anything else, and he’ll be able to recover and reach the semifinals with a win over Johnson.
Another veteran in this draw, the 36 year old Ivo Karlovic, continues to find success on grass regardless of his age, and he’s a favorite against his round 1 opponent Illya Marchenko, though the Ukrainian did reach the quarters in Den Bosch, a grass court event. Karlovic has had an excellent grass court season, reaching the quarters in Den Bosch, the semis in Halle (upset Tomas Berdych), and the fourth round at Wimbledon (upset Jo-Wilfried Tsonga). His massive and reliable serve, along with his experienced volleys should allow him to blitz past Marchenko, and a qualifier or Malek Jaziri, before facing Sam Querrey or Dustin Brown in the quarters.
the 6 seed Querrey played a decent match against Federer at Wimbledon, and can compete on grass. He opens with a qualifier, as does Brown, who upset Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in the performance of his career. Brown, a fan favorite, is my favorite to reach the quarters, as his game is best on grass, and Querrey tends to mentally struggle under relentless pressure, the type of pressure Brown can provide by net rushing and holding serve. Karlovic-Brown has historically been a close match, Karlovic won their Delray Beach meeting this year, while Brown won the two prior meetings, and each match has featured at least one tiebreak. Karlovic may be more fatigued, and thus I have Brown into the semifinals as a dark horse.
The Sock/Stepanek winner will become a semifinal favorite in a weak section of the draw. Sock should beat Stepanek, and then Lukas Lacko, a talented player whose achievements have been well, lacking, over his career. His round 1 opponent Niels Desein isn’t a great fan of grass. Sock beat Lacko in Atlanta last year, and he should be able to do so again, which would result in him reaching the quarters.
In those quarters, I’d consider Alejandro Falla his most likely opponent, Falla will face Adrian Menendez-Maceiras round 1. AMM isn’t a fan of grass, and Falla qualified for both Halle and Wimbledon this year, he’s also a previous finalist on grass in Halle. After AMM, Tim Smyczek or a qualifier will be his opponent. Smyczek doesn’t do great on grass, and thus should have a hard time this week.
Falla-Sock is an interesting quarterfinal, they have never met before, and both have had up and down results. Sock has more talent, and they both have huge forehands, while Falla will be able to hit from a left handed angle. It’s a tough call, but on US soil I favor Sock to reach the semis.
Dark Horse: Dustin Brown
The unseeded Brown already showed his skillset off in the shocking upset of Nadal, and with a batch of less talented and well-known players in the draw this week, he could romp if he finds his groove on grass. Dreddy will need to get past Querrey, Karlovic in the quarters, and Sock/Falla in the semis but all of those opponents are beatable if he keeps the pressure on and sticks his volleys with pinpoint accuracy. In the final his opponent is likely to be Isner or Tomic, who are tough, but beatable opponents, as he could walk away with his first ATP title this week, on the heels of the win of his career at Wimbledon. His problem has always been consistency, not talent, and thus we’ll have to see what happens.
Isner d. Tomic
Brown d. Sock
Isner has beaten Tomic once previously, and he appears more focused at the moment. On grass I’d consider Tomic vulnerable to big servers with his less powerful game. As mentioned, I have the dark horse Brown reaching the final this week.
Isner d. Brown
Brown beat Isner on clay in Houston last year, but I’d consider Isner the more consistent big server who is less likely to mix in a poor game, and with that in mind, I have him as the favorite to win a third Newport title. He has previous success here, and his form seems good another to win another American 250 level tournament.