2016 ATP Rio Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The South American golden clay court swing continues on with a 500 level stop in Rio, Brazil, the highlight tournament of this swing.
Rio Open Presented by Claro
ATP World Tour 500
February 15-21, 2016
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Prize Money: $1,333,085
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (5)
2: David Ferrer (6)
3: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (9)
4: John Isner (12)
Three top 10 players in Rio in the third year of this tournament.
First round matchups to watch:
(8)Thomaz Bellucci vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
Dolgopolov has two previous hard court wins over Bellucci, and the Brazilian will look to bite him back on home clay. Bellucci was a finalist on clay in Quito, and he should be the favorite, though the Ukrainian is a talented shotmaker and a previous finalist (2014).
(6)Jack Sock vs. Federico Delbonis
Jack Sock oped to play South American clay, like John Isner, this season, rather than early North American hard courts, and he’ll open with a tough match against Federico Delbonis. Sock has an ATP final already this season while Delbonis upset Fabio Fognini in Buenos Aires last week. Delbonis is a challenging clay court opponent, but Sock is good enough on the surface to advance.
Rafael Nadal, a former champion, suffered another surprising loss, this time in Buenos Aires to Dominic Thiem in the semifinals. Nadal remains a great clay court player, but he’s losing his elite status and shine slowly but surely. His opening match will be against Pablo Carreno Busta, a Quito quarterfinalist, and then he’s likely to face Buenos Aires finalist Nicolas Almagro in round 2. Almagro posted his best result in months in Argentina, and opens with Daniel Munoz-De La Nava, a journeyman. Nadal should advance into the quarters given Almagro’s fatigue, though he has beaten Rafa on clay before.
Bellucci/Dolgopolov will face Inigo Cervantes or qualifier Taro Daniel in round 2. Daniel is likely to win his opening match, but Bellucci is the quarterfinal favorite. Nadal is 5-0 against Bellucci an is the favorite to reach the semifinals unless his struggles continue.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lost in the Buenos Aires quarters, and will face wild card Thiago Montero, a recent challenger semifinalist, in his first match. Fellow BA quarterfinalist Pablo Cuevas faces qualifier Facundo Bagnis. Cuevas has a clay court h2h win over Tsonga, and could earn another one, but Tsonga is the quarterfinal favorite. Sock/Delbonis will face Marco Cecchinato or Paolo Lorenzi in round 2. Lorenzi is in the form of his career, and is 9-3 in his last 12 matches. I have him upsetting Sock to reach the quarterfinals and face off with Tsonga, who he could also defeat as a dark horse.
Buenos Aires semifinalist, and defending champion David Ferrer opens with a struggling Nicolas Jarry. BA quarterfinalist Dusan Lajovic, or Quito semifinalist Albert Ramos await him in round 2. Ferrer should be able to defeat Ramos and reach the quarters given his 5-0 h2h.
BA champion Dominic Thiem is on a hot streak, and he’ll open with Pablo Andujar. Andujar has lost four straight matches, and Thiem is likely to go up against Diego Schwartzman in round 2. Schwartzman opens with Joao Souza. Even with the fatigue factor, Thiem is a favorite to reach the quarterfinals. Ferrer should have an edge against Thiem at that stage given that fatigue factor. Both Ferrer and Thiem are in great form to start the season.
John Isner lost his opening clay court match of the season, but he’s a favorite against a struggling Guido Pella in round 1. Santiago Giraldo or Gastao Elias will be his round 2 opponent, Elias has been rising as of late, but Isner has a great shot at the quarterfinals. Both Fabio Fognini and his round 1 opponent Aljaz Bedene are on losing streaks, Fognini leads the h2h 5-0 though, and either Juan Monaco, or qualifier Daniel Gimeno-Traver await in round 2, Monaco won his first back from injury in Buenos Aires. Fognini vs. Isner would be an interesting quarterfinal and it’s a tough pick between them. On clay Fognini is probably a slight favorite.
Dark Horse: Paolo Lorenzi
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is the top seed most likely to lose early, and Lorenzi could benefit. His strong recent play on clay gives him an upset shot against Sock, and likewise against Tsonga/Cuevas. Another ATP semifinal would further extend the best few weeks of the Italian veteran’s ATP career.
Nadal d. Tsonga
Ferrer d. Fognini
Ferrer is 9-0 in the h2h against Fognini, Nadal lost to Tsonga last year on hard courts, but he’s 2-0 on clay in the h2h, and 8-4 overall. It’s hard to predict Nadal these days, but he’s still the favorite to capture the title.
Nadal d. Ferrer
Nadal’s 24-6 h2h against Ferrer speaks for itself, though Ferrer has his best shot in years to knock off Rafa.