2015 ATP Montreal Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
August 10-August 16, 2015
Prize Money: $3,587,490
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Andy Murray (3)
3: Stan Wawrinka (5)
4: Kei Nishikori (4)
5: Tomas Berdych (6)
6: Marin Cilic (8)
7: Rafael Nadal (9)
8: Milos Raonic (10)
Roger Federer is skipping Montreal this year, while David Ferrer is out with an elbow injury. Otherwise the rest of the ATP top 25 is taking part.
First round matchups to watch:
Jack Sock vs. Adrian Mannarino
Sock has a solid track record on hard courts this year and has played both of the North American stops this Summer in Atlanta and Washington, reaching the quarters in Washington. The young American continues to rise up the rankings and this match represents a good opportunity for him. Mannarino, a finalist in Bogota, has also had a good record on hard courts this year and took a week off after an early exit in Atlanta. His solid play all season has earned him a career high ranking and this should be a competitive match. Presuming Sock is fit, he should have the edge, though Mannarino is streaky. Sock has a 2-1 h2h edge on hard courts.
(14)Grigor Dimitrov vs. (Q)Alexandr Dolgopolov
Dimitrov has a h2h edge on Dolgopolov but his poor form since splitting with coach Roger Rasheed is evident, as the Bulgarian has failed to progress his game in any manner this season. Grigor had a poor week in Washington, losing round 2, and now he’ll have to face a dangerous shotmaker as he hopes to avoid a round 1 exit in Montreal. Dolgopolov qualified and is 4-1 in his last five matches, thus his form seems better than it was when he plunged down the rankings. This matchup should feature some great ball striking and winner creation, and I not only give Dolgo a chance to advance, I have him winning this one in an upset, as Dimitrov seems lost at the moment.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Nick Kyrgios
The veteran Spanish lefty has had some tough draws in recent tournaments and he returns to hard court tennis with a 7-5 record in 2015. Kyrgios is returning from a poor showing in Davis Cup duty and his consistency and focus has been lacking at times this year outside of Grand Slams. This matchup should feature big hitting and big forehands, and it’s hard to tell the form of ether player, that said I give Kyrgios, if focused, the edge to advance in what should be an exciting match.
(13)David Goffin vs. Steve Johnson
Goffin, who is just 6-5 on hard courts in 2015, is ranked higher than Johnson, but the hard court surface should balance this matchup, and the h2h is split 1-1. Johnson comes into Montreal with a 15-9 hard court record this year, and a semifinal in Washington where he played excellent tennis, as the American continues to improve. This is another matchup where the seed could suffer an early exit, Goffin’s form was good on clay (reached Gstaad final), but Johnson won’t have to switch surfaces and he’s playing great right now, I have Stevie pulling of the upset.
(10)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Borna Coric
Tsonga is the defending champion of the Rogers Cup, but he could well bow out in round 1 the next year as the young gun Coric is a dangerous opponent. The teenager is 9-8 on outdoor hard in 2015, and upset Andy Murray in Dubai this year. Tsonga struggled in Davis Cup and has barely played on hard courts this year, I still have Jo winning this but it should be close, and he is another seed who could bow out early.
Three time Rogers Cup champion and undisputed world #1 Novak Djokovic will look to improve on his 25-2 outdoor hard court record in 2015, and he should have a clear path to the quarterfinals. Thomaz Bellucci is likely his first opponent, presuming Bellucci gets past dirtballer Pablo Cuevas like he did in Miami this year, Bellucci took a set off of Novak in Rome on clay this year, but I don’t see that repeating himself. After Bellucci it will be Dolgopolov/Dimitrov or Sock/Mannarino, in an interesting section. I have Dolgopolov beating Dimitrov and Sock before falling to Djokovic like he did in a great Miami match this year (lost in 3 sets).
Tomas Berdych could have a tough time, with Denis Kudla likely to be his first opponent. Kudla, a semifinalist in Atlanta, faces fellow qualifier Donald Young in round 1, and has been in fantastic form over the past couple of months. Dynamite Denis is playing the tennis of his life right now and I wouldn’t put an upset of Berdych past him, that said Berdych is 19-5 on outdoor hard this year and is still the favorite. In round 3 we should see Berdych/Kudla against Kevin Anderson, as Anderson and Berdych tend to find each other in draws.
Anderson suffered a shock loss in Washington early on, but given this is a surface he likes he should recover and beat Lukas Rosol, who simply isn’t as good as him on hard courts, and then the winner of Dominic Thiem/Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis qualified after seeing his ranking drop, and Thiem is one of his best friends on tour, coming off a fantastic run on clay. Thiem is 3-0 against Gulbis since their first meeting, though he may struggle to adjust surface after great results on clay, and I have Gulbis pulling a minor upset before falling to Anderson. Berdych dominates Anderson in the h2h, and thus look for Tomas in the quarters.
Stan the man Wawrinka could bow out to Kyrgios/Verdasco right off the bat, though he handled Kyrgios well on grass when they met earlier this year. Wawrinka struggles with consistency compared to the other top 5 players, but so do Kyrgios and Verdasco and it’s a hard section to predict. That said Wawrinka is 10-3 on hard this year and I don’t trust Kyrgios to keep his cool thus I have it Wawrinka vs. John Isner round 3.
Isner, the champion in Atlanta and a finalist in Washington, may be fatigued but he’s playing fantastic on the US Open series and his booming serve should push him bast Benjamin Becker, who hasn’t been healthy recently, and the winner of Rendy Lu/Vasek Pospisil. Big John is now 16-5 on hard courts in 2015 and he just beat Pospisil, his likely round 2 opponent, at the Citi Open. A fresher Wawrinka likely has the edge on Isner in round 3, but with the American serving so well right now, he could be a dark horse. I have Wawrinka in the quarters myself. Isner is 2-1 against Wawrinka in the h2h but they haven’t played in multiple seasons.
Milos Raonic, the home hero, has a tough opening match ahead against either Jerzy Janowicz or Ivo Karlovic, likely Karlovic who has been in great form in recent tournaments. Big servers will collide, and this is another matchup where the seed could go out. I have Karlovic reaching round 3 where he is likely to face Richard Gasquet. Gasquet opens with Jeremy Chardy, his countryman (2-0 h2h) and then will face the Hyeon Chung/Leo Mayer winner. Gasquet, who lost round 2 in Washington, is a better hard court player than Mayer, and the qualifier Chung is still an inexperienced young gun. Chung is in good form so I have him upsetting Mayer before falling to Gasquet. Gasquet has won his last three meetings against Karlovic, and I also see him beating Raonic if Raonic blazes the same path, so I have Gasquet reaching the quarters. Both Raonic and Gasquet are former finalists at the Rogers Cup.
Washington champ Kei Nishikori is in excellent form and has an easy early draw that should allow him to conserve his energy a bit. He should roll past Pablo Andujar/Frank Dancevic and do the same to Goffin/Johnson unless he’s fatigued, as I don’t feel either player is up to his caliber, though both are quality ballstrikers and could trouble him. The winner of Goffin/Johnson faces Martin Klizan/Sam Querrey round 2, both of whom are inconsistent big hitters. I have Johnson beating Querrey before falling to Nishikori. Nishikori beat Johnson this year in Brisbane.
Three time Rogers Cup champion Rafael Nadal is also in this section, but he’s a rather pedestrian 8-4 on hard courts in 2015, he last played on clay where he took the title in Hamburg. Rafa should be able to defeat Sergiy Stakhovsky or young Canadian Filip Peliwo, a wild card, but Gilles Simon could prove trouble in the third round. Simon has been competitive on hard courts this year and he faces a possibly injured Andreas Seppi round 1, and then likely Viktor Troicki, who he dominates the h2h with in round 2. Troicki will face qualifier Mikhail Youzhny, who found some form this weekend after a bad slump, in round 1. Nadal would have the edge against Troicki, and also should beat Simon who he is 7-1 against in the h2h. As long as Rafa has himself healthy and together look for him in the quarterfinals.
Andy Murray suffered a shock loss to journeyman Teymuraz Gabashvili in Washington but he’s still won the Rogers Cup title twice and had an excellent season, hard courts included. In his first Montreal match he’ll face either Feliciano Lopez or Tommy Robredo, Robredo has barely played on hard courts this year, but Lopez isn’t in great form and has a poor h2h record. I have Murray beating Lopez in round 2 and pushing his h2h to 11-0 before beating either Gilles Muller or Gael Monfils in round 3. Tbe big serving Atlanta semifinalist Muller is in good form and should defeat Canadian wild card Philip Bester to setup a meeting with Monfils. Monfils faces Fabio Fognini, who hasn’t won a hard court match this year, round 1, before Muller. It’s tough to predict a winner there, but I have Muller pulling it out, before falling to Murray, who beat him on hard courts and grass this year. Murray vs. Monfils, if it were to happen, would be highly entertaining though with speed on showcase. It has to be mentioned Monfils and Fognini are both entertainers on court, and it should be a fun, though possibly clownish round 1 match.
Look for Washington semifinalist Marin Cilic to continue his good form as he preps to defend the US Open title, and defeat either Bernard Tomic, who is inconsistent and lost right now on court, or Joao Sousa in his first match. After that it should be Cilic against Tsonga/Coric unless Roberto Bautista Agut interrupts proceedings in round 2. RBA has a poor hard court record this year, but should build confidence with a win over the struggling Janko Tipsarevic round 1. I see Cilic over Tsonga in the third round after Tsonga beats RBA. Cilic is in better form and has won his last three meetings against the Frenchman.
Dark Horses: Denis Kudla, Ivo Karlovic, Steve Johnson, Gilles Muller
A crop of hard court players should serve as dark horses for the Rogers Cup. Kudla is in the form of his life and if he can upset Berdych he could reach the quarters. Karlovic with his tricky and powerful serve could upset Raonic and Gasquet to reach the quarters, and perhaps Wawrinka as well to the reach the semis.
Kudla’s fellow American Johnson would need to get past Goffin and Nishikori, but if Kei is fatigued he could also reach the quarters. The same goes for Gilles Muller, who would need to upset Monfils and Murray. He’s a big server like Ivo and when he’s on, tiebreaks tend to decide matches, a those are always risky propositions, even for top players.
Djokovic d. Berdych
Gasquet d. Wawrinka
Nadal d. Nishikori
Murray d. Cilic
Novak dominates the h2h with Berdych, including this season, Gasquet vs. Wawrinka is probably the most competitive quarterfinal if it takes place, and it should feature fantastic backhands. I have Gasquet pulling off an upset because Wawrinka may be a bit rusty and Gasquet won their Wimbledon meeting not long ago.
Nadal is 7-0 against Nishikori, and Kei is likely fatigued, Nadal is great at returning and chasing balls around, thus I give him the edge in what could be a good hard court tournament for him. Murray has the h2h edge pretty consistently over Cilic, and I don’t feel the poor match in D.C. was a genuine concern for him, so I have him sorting things out and reaching the semis.
Djokovic d. Gasquet
Murray d. Nadal
Djokovic could avenge his loss to Wawrinka in the Roland Garros final, but I have him beating Gasquet instead, as he’s simply the better player and it’s shown in their meetings. Murray should be superior to Nadal on hard courts.
Djokovic d. Murray
Djokovic is the clear favorite for this title, especially with Federer absent. Murray fights hard against Novak and could win, but he’s a heavy underdog if this is the final, and I have Novak taking the 2015 Rogers Cup.