2016 ATP Rotterdam Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The first ATP 500 event of the season takes place indoors in Rotterdam as the winter European indoors swing rolls on.
ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament
ATP World Tour 500
February 8-14, 2016
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Surface: indoor hard
Prize Money: €1,597,155
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Richard Gasquet (10)
2: Marin Cilic (13)
3: Gilles Simon (15)
4: David Goffin (16)
The lack of top players is rare for Rotterdam, as this is one of the weaker tournament fields they have had in recent years.
First round matchups to watch:
(8)Viktor Troicki vs. (Q)Andrey Kuznetsov
The Sofia finalist Troicki is 10-3 to start his season, and he’ll run into an in-form Kuznetsov in a tough opening match. Kuznetsov reached the second week of the Australian Open, and also had a quarterfinal in Doha, though his low ranking means he still had to qualify for this 500. Presuming he’s not too fatigued, Troicki is a favorite, but Kuznetsov winning would not be a surprise.
(4)David Goffin vs. Marcos Baghdatis
Goffin is a potential tournament champion, but he’s never beaten Baghdatis on hard courts (0-3), and Marcos comes off the quarterfinals in Montpellier, suggesting he’s in decent form. The Belgian #1 is playing his first tournament since reaching the second week of the Australian Open, and a win here would swell his confidence.
(6)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Joao Sousa
Sousa beat RBA in the Valencia indoors final last season, but RBA is in the form his life early in 2016, and looks to be tough to derail. Sousa is just 2-3 to start the season, and needs to get some wins going, while RBA has two ATP titles, and a second week in Melbourne on his resume. The Spaniard’s clean ball striking is a competitive match for Sousa’s game, and if rested suitably, the Spaniard likely prevails.
(5)Gael Monfils vs. (Q)Ernests Gulbis
Two talented but unpredictable players. Gulbis has sunk so low once again that he had to qualify, while Monfils lost in his opening Montpellier match. Monfils talent and skill set will likely overcome Gulbis power, but Gael could lay an egg in this one and let the Latvian earn a key ATP match win.
Vasek Pospisil vs. (WC)Alexander Zverev
Fresh off a fantastic run to the Montpellier semifinals, Zverev opens with the big serving Pospisil. Vasek is just 1-3 to start the year, while Zverev demonstrated a skillset beyond his years over his last few matches. Training and preparation could cause Zverev some headaches, but if he’s ready he’s the favorite.
Top seed and Montpellier champion Richard Gasquet appears to be in good form after a back injury. Gasquet was a somewhat surprising champion in his first tournament back on tour, and he has a draw that could see him make a good run in consecutive weeks on European indoors. Serve and volleyer Nicolas Mahut, or Teymuraz Gabashvili will be his opponent after countryman Jeremy Chardy in round 1 (3-0 h2h). Troicki/Kuznetsov, or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez/Hyeon Chung await in the quarterfinals. Chung’s struggles to start the year aid GGL’s quest at the quarters, while Kuznetsov is a possible dark horse, and Troicki is somewhat of a wild card given his possible fatigue from Sofia.
A Gasquet vs. Troicki ATP titleist quarterfinal is a clear possibility. Troicki has a 2-1 hard court h2h over Garcia-Lopez, Gasquet vs. Troicki is split 2-2, with Gasquet a slight semifinals favorite.
Goffin/Baghdatis will most likely decide the quarter below, with Tommy Robredo vs. Martin Klizan the other option for quarterfinalist. Klizan comes off the semis in Sofia, but should be fatigued, while Robredo is looking to kickstart his season here. Goffin’s rise up the rankings, and improved all court game, should allow him to deal with Klizan’s power or Robredo’s spin.
RBA/Sousa decide Lukas Rosol vs. Jiri Vesely. Rosol’s form isn’t great, but Vesely has to win a match this season. RBA should ease past a potentially big bomber in Rosol. RBA has a career h2h of 2-0 vs. Goffin, but with fatigue likely to play a factor, a Gasquet vs. Goffin semifinal is the likely top half outcome, delighting local fans.
Marin Cilic should whip up on Denis Istomin. Istomin hasn’t won in 2016, and Cilic has a 6-1 h2h record against him. Gilles Muller should setup a matchup between big servers in round 2, unless Andreas Seppi shocks him. Muller reached the semis in Sofia, while Seppi is another player in need of a win. Cilic should outplay Muller.
#7 seed Benoit Paire, and tour veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, likely decide the quarter above Cilic. Both one-handed backhanders. Paire opens with potentially tricky qualifier Ivan Dodig, while Kohlschreiber, a quarterfinalist in Sofia, should drub a rusty Julien Benneteau. Paire and Kohli have split meetings on hard courts 2-2, Kohlschreiber’s better recent results give him an edge. A Kohli vs. Cilic semi probably favors a motivated Cilic to power his way into the semis.
Monfils vs. Gulbis is also in this section, and the winner will face Borna Coric or Thiemo De Bakker. Coric has lost four straight since reaching the final in Chennai, and could be dealing with nerves or poor health, while De Bakker is playing at home after time abroad. Presuming Monfils avoids an implosion he is most likely to reach the quarterfinals.
Gilles Simon bookends the draw with Monfils, he was an early loser in Montpellier, and looks to be smarting for a better start to his season. Zverev vs. Simon is a veteran vs. young gun battle, but Zverev’s fatigue likely favors a Simon vs. Monfils quarterfinal. Simon’s 4-1 h2h record over Monfils gives him an edge to advance.
Dark Horse: Andrey Kuznetsov
Both Kuznetsov, and Zverev, have struggled to play engaging, consistent tennis in their young careers, but a lot of what they have learned appears to finally be taking hold in match play. Kuznetsov’s proven himself already this season, while Zverev appears primed for a first ATP final soon. Zverev has to get past Simon, while Kuznetsov has seeds Troicki, Garcia-Lopez, and Gasquet.
Goffin d. Gasquet
Simon d. Cilic
Gasquet and Goffin have never met, but form and fitness should favor Goffin, in what could be the most intriguing match this month, a possible battle for #10. Simon has a clear edge over Cilic in the head to head, and Marin has struggled to excel and close when it mattered this season.
Goffin d. Simon
Gilles Simon won their grass court meeting, and he could well walk home with the title. Goffin appears to have finished a cut above the top 15 at times this season though, and the undersized ball striker needs to take advantage of weaker ATP fields like this.