2015 ATP Winston-Salem Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Winston-Salem, the final stop for the ATP tour on the 2015 Emirates Airlines US Open Series is also the final 2015 US Open tune up for the men’s players opting to participate this week and get in matches just before the final slam of the year, the US Open. Here is a preview of ATP tennis, Carolina style.
ATP World Tour 250
August 23-August 30, 2015
Prize Money: $616,210
Top 8 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Gilles Simon (11)
2: Kevin Anderson (15)
3: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (19)
4: Viktor Troicki (20)
5: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (29)
6: Thomaz Bellucci (33)
7: Sam Querrey (34)
8: Borna Coric (38)
Four top 20 players in the field this week, as Winston-Salem has a relatively strong field for a 250.
First round matchups to watch:
Sam Groth vs. (WC)Jared Donaldson
The big serving Groth has missed two weeks this summer, after reaching the quarterfinals in Washington, and thus his form should be in question. Donaldson,a rising American, has yet to suffer a first round defeat this summer, and the teenager has a chance to continue that streak in this one. Dealing with Groth’s serve is always a challenge, but Donaldson competes well and tends to play clutch tennis, that should suit him in match that is likely to feature tiebreaks, and I have JD pulling off an upset and reaching round 2 with a win over the Australian.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis
Dolgopolov had another random hot streak of run that showcased his inconsistent talent as he reached the semifinals in Cincinnati, his best result this season. After pushing Novak Djokovic to three sets in that semifinal, he should be full of confidence, and he also helped boost his ranking back up. That said, the human highlight reel is likely fatigue after a long week in Ohio, and may not transition well here. Kokkinakis continues to improve his standing on tour and qualified for Cincy, reaching round 2. This should be a showcase first round match, and I have Kokkinakis getting through because I see Dolgopolov as being fatigued.
Lukas Rosol vs. Ernests Gulbis
Gulbis just beat Rosol in three sets in Montreal, and now the defending champion of Winston-Salem will have to try to get past him, as he seeks to defend his ranking points. Gulbis had his best result of the season in Montreal, reaching the quarterfinals, but he struggled in the Vancouver challenger, and he’s been horrid overall this year. With a strange travel schedule, I’m not sure he’ll acclimate well to the matches here, and I see Rosol getting revenge and snapping a two match losing streak to reach round 2. This match should feature a lot of ball bashing as both of these guys are power baseliners.
Gilles Simon, who is a pedestrian 1-2 this summer, will start his Winston-Salem campaign against either a qualifier or Aljaz Bedene, who hasn’t played a hard court match since the spring. Bedene was in good for, this summer, but the qualifier will likely have an edge given the surface, and Simon should be able to get a win and push himself into the round of 16. There, he could face trouble, as Marcos Baghdatis, a finalist in Atlanta, is his likely opponent. Baghdatis will need to beat Sergiy Stakhovsky or a qualifier to get that far. Stako is in poor form, and presuming he’s healthy, I’d give a fit and aggressive Baghdatis an edge over his round 2 opponent. Baghdatis is 2-0 on outdoor hard against Simon, and if healthy, I see him scoring an upset over the out of form Frenchman, in what could be a great week for the ball striking veteran. Baghdatis should reach the quarters from the first section.
Sam Querrey will face either Simone Bolelli or Federico Delbonis first up, Bolelli is 10-9 on a hard court this year but hasn’t played much recently, Delbonis is a dirtballer, so the Italian should win that one, but Querrey is likely to win against Bolelli. The American comes off an upset win over John Isner in Cincy, and his form appears improved, home soil should suit him well. In the third round look for Querrey against Tommy Haas or Joao Sousa. Haas is just 1-3 on US soil this season, but he’s still a veteran talent and should defeat dirtballer Pablo Carreno Busta. Sousa upset Philipp Kohlschreiber in Cincy to improve his hard court record to 4-7 outdoors this season, and that should be good enough for the Portugese #1 to earn a win and face Querrey in the third round, presuming his opponent is a rusty Haas. Given Querrey is normally a superior hard court player, I’d give him the edge over Sousa to reach the quarters.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will collide against either Donald Young or Denis Istomin in his first match. Young hasn’t had a good season but he qualified in Montreal and Istomin has a poor outdoor hard court record this year, thus I have him winning in round 1 but losing to the superior Tsonga in round 2. The Montreal quarterfinalist could get a difficult third round match against American Steve Johnson, presuming Johnson dispatches the Groth/Donaldson winner in round 2. Groth and Donaldson are also possible dark horses. Johnson reached the semis in Washington but has struggled since then, and Tsonga has the most talent here, so he should be able to put some wins together and reach the quarters.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is returning from injury and playing for the first time on hard courts this summer. The Spaniard is 6-6 outdoors this year on hard courts but he still may struggle against either Rendy Lu or Robin Haase. Lu qualified for Montreal and Cincy, and given he’s at his best on this surface and his form appears good for his limited skillset, he could well have a great tournament this week. I see Taiwan’s #1 scoring a win over Haase and an upset over an out of form GGL to reach the third round, where he should face the in-form Benoit Paire. The talented but underachieving Paire won an ATP title on clay not long ago and qualified in Cincy, he’s playing some of his best tennis in years. Presuming he’s dialed in, the Frenchman should have limited difficulties against either James Ward, or more likely young gun Hyeon Chung in round 2, and then I see him getting past Lu with his talented backhand and shotmaking to reach a hard court ATP quarterfinal. Paire is all flair, and Lu is all business in a style contrast.
Presuming he’s healthy, Kevin Anderson has a venue and conditions that could create a great week for him, but he’ll have to find his form before the US Open to do that. Big Kev snapped a summer losing streak and won a pair of matches in Cincy, that bodes well for him, and I see him getting a win over Mikhail Kukushkin/Nicolas Mahut in his first match. In the third round he could well have to battle against Rosol/Gulbis, though Jerzy Janowicz is also an option. Janowicz also won a pair of matches in Cincy, and I see him winning a ball bashers battle if he can focus in against Gulbis/Rosol, though it’s a hard section to predict. Anderson with his big serve and strong forehand is the best player in this section for the surface, and thus I see him reaching the quarters, but another player could take his place, as his form has been inconsistent this summer. This section features some big hitters.
Borna Coric has played solid tennis this summer on the US Open Series, though he’s had some tough draws, as he dropped closed matches to Tsonga and Stan Wawrinka in Montreal and Cincy. With that in mind, the young Croatian should defeat either Santiago Giraldo or Steve Darcis in round 2, given how pedestrian both of those veterans have been as of late. He’ll also be a strong favorite in round 3, as one of Pablo Andujar/Diego Schwartzman/Daniel Gimeno-Traver will reach the third round in one of the weakest hard court sections possible at the ATP level. All of those players prefer clay, and Coric has a great opportunity to excel on hard courts right before the US Open, reaching at least the quarterfinals (over Andujar in my bracket).
Viktor Troicki doesn’t have a difficult first match against Malek Jaziri/Joao Souza, but the Serbian #2 is in horrible form and is playing well below his top 20 ranking at the moment. I see Jaziri, who reached the quarterfinals in a pro circuit challenger last week, getting revenge on the dirtballer Souza for his loss in Doha earlier in the season, and then extending Troicki’s losing streak to six matches. With Troicki not much of a threat, and Jaziri a journeyman, the section opens up for Thanasi Kokkinakis most likely. Teymuraz Gabashvili is slated to face the winner of Kokkinakis/Dolgopolov, but besides the fact he beat Andy Murray in Washington, the underachieving Russian has a poor record on ATP level hard courts this year. The young gun Kokkinakis should join his fellow young gun Coric in the quarterfinals this week.
Thomaz Bellucci will face off with either James Duckworth or a qualifier in his first match. Both Bellucci and Duckworth are 2-3 this summer on hard courts, though Bellucci has had tougher draws. The big hitting Brazilian should win his first match before a likely face off with Jiri Vesely, who won an ATP title on hard courts at the start of the season in Auckland. Vesely is 8-6 on outdoor hard this year and has to beat Marsel Ilhan or a qualifier first, Bellucci just beat Vesely last week in Cincy, and thus he should reach the quarterfinals with a weak draw.
Dark Horse: Marcos Baghdatis
I have Thanasi Kokkinakis as a semifinalist, but Baghdatis has a chance to walk away with the title this week as a veteran, though he’ll need to beat Simon, Sam Querrey, and possibly Tsonga/Anderson to do so. Marcos showed renewed vigor, stamina, and passion in his run to the Atlanta final, a similar surface and venue, and he showed his aggressive ball striking was well-suited for hot conditions. An abductor injury is a concern, but if he’s healthy don’t count Baghdatis out to have another remarkable week on the US Open Series.
Querrey d. Baghdatis
Tsonga d. Paire
Kokkinakis d. Bellucci
Anderson d. Coric
Querrey on home soil should have an edge over Baghdatis, who may not be 100%, though I don’t count Marcos out to even win the title. Tsonga is 2-0 against Paire and better on a hard court, Anderson should also have a surface edge in his match, as Coric may struggle with his big serve, and Kokkinakis is also likely superior on hard court to Bellucci in a difficult match to predict.
Tsonga d. Querrey
Anderson d. Kokkinakis
Tsonga has a win over the mentally weak Querrey this year,and Anderson has a h2h win over Kokkinakis from Toronto last year, They are the best two players in terms of talent and form in this draw for the surface, and thus should meet in the final.
Anderson d. Tsonga
A great chance for either player to get an ATP title this week, they have only met once on clay and Tsonga prevailed, but on hard court I feel the advantage shifts to Anderson, who is hoping to walk away with at least one title on the US Open Series this summer.