2016 ATP Dubai Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP World Tour will stop in the middle east once again for the 500 level hard court tournament in Dubai.
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
February 22-27, 2016
Prize Money: $2,249,215
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Stan Wawrinka (4)
3: Tomas Berdych (8)
4: Roberto Bautista Agut (18)
The Dubai field has a big drop off outside of the marquee names, but it’s still a quality 500 level tournament.
First round matchups to watch:
(6)Feliciano Lopez vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
A battle of veteran Spaniards who have split their career hard court meetings. The serve and volleyer Lopez and the all-courter Garcia-Lopez have both gotten off to poor starts this season, and badly need to get in rhythm. Lopez should have a slight edge to snap his two match losing streak and reach round 2 on this fast surface. Lopez is a two-time former finalist in Dubai.
Vasek Pospisil vs. (Q)Lucas Pouille
Pospisil has lost four straight, while the qualifier Pouille has an ATP quarterfinal already this season. Pospisil should serve well, but Pouille’s forehand gives him an edge to notch an upset and reach round 2.
(5)Viktor Troicki vs. Marcos Baghdatis
The veteran Baghdatis has 3 ATP wins this season, and a 4-1 record on hard courts against Troicki. The Serbian has been off the charts recently with a 12-4 record to start the season. With Troicki in fantastic form, he should edge Baghdatis, and perhaps post another deep run at this tournament.
(7)Martin Klizan vs. Nick Kyrgios
The Rotterdam champion Klizan is 8-1 over his last nine matches, Kyrgios comes off his first ever ATP title in Marseille, as both are in fantastic form, and unfortunately one of these players has to suffer an early exit. Kyrgios is the stronger player if he can continue his momentum.
Novak Djokovic suffered a hard court loss in 2014 to Tommy Robredo, but he hasn’t lost a match in 2016 and he’s far and above the #1 player in the world right now, especially on a fast hard court. He should beat Robredo and ease past either qualifier Mikhail Youzhny or wild card Malek Jaziri for a spot in the quarterfinals. Youzhny is on an incredible 17 match winning streak, mostly at the challenger level, and the Russian veteran has fought his way back into tour level form after previously being a top 10 player. Expect to see more from him this year. Jaziri by contrast is off to a dreadful start to the season.
Lopez/Garcia-Lopez will face wild card Yuki Bhambri or Lukas Rosol for a spot in the quarterfinals. Bhambri hasn’t won a match this season, while Rosol is on a two match losing streak. I give Rosol a slight edge over Lopez to reach the quarters, though Djokovic is unlikely to drop a set en route to the semis.
4 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, and 5 seed Viktor Troicki are two of the most in-form players thus far in 2016. They are on track for a quarterfinal meeting, presuming RBA can handle Italian veteran Simone Bolelli, and then Hyeon Chung/Andreas Seppi, and Troicki can beat Baghdatis and the Pouille/Pospisil winner. Chung could use a win over Seppi to get his season going, RBA beat Troicki in the Sofia final, and thus has the edge to reach the semis. RBA has two ATP titles, and just three losses this season.
Stan Wawrinka suffered an early exit to his friend Benoit Paire in Marseille, and he is in shaky form right now. A struggling Sergiy Stakhovsky isn’t likely to oust him in round 1 though, Wawrinka beat Stako in a third set tiebreak in Marseille last week 10-8 in the 3rd. Wawrinka’s round 2 opponent will be either Teymuraz Gabashvili or qualifier Franko Skugor. The veteran Gabashvili can peak and win big matches, but Wawrinka is a clear favorite for the quarters.
Philipp Kohlschreiber is 5-2 in recent tournaments, he’ll open with struggling wild card Marsel Ilhan (1-4 in 2016). Kohli has a clear path to the quarters if he’s not upended by young gun Borna Coric in round 2. Coric opens with Jiri Vesely. Vesely has struggled in 2016 (1-4 record), while Coric has been poor since reaching the Chennai final to start the season. Kohlschreiber’s form should allow him to reach the quarters.
Wawrinka has never played Kohlschreiber on hard courts, and he should be on upset alert in the quarters. Both players have nifty one handed backhands, and I still give Wawrinka the edge to reach the semis.
Former Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych is also a favorite for the semis. Berdych opens with Joao Sousa, who is struggling mightily as of late, and then will face Thomas Fabbiano or Leonardo Mayer, both of whom have limited weapons compared to his power hitting game. Berdych could face Nick Kyrgios, who beat him in Marseille, in the quarters, if Kyrgios beats Klizan and Mikhail Kukushkin/Denis Istomin. Istomin hasn’t won a match in 2016, while Kukushkin retired in his last match. Given the fatigue factor, I have Berdych avenging his loss to Kyrgios and reaching the semis. Berdych also beat NK this year at the AO.
Dark Horse: Nick Kyrgios
The unseeded young guns Kyrgios and Coric could reach the quarterfinals or better in Dubai. Kyrgios demonstrated his full range of attacking tennis in Marseille, and clearly has the talent to compete with the best in the game on a week to week basis. Backing up that Marseille win with another big semifinal would be a huge result for him, and we’ll see if it it comes to fruition.
Djokovic d. Bautista Agut
Berdych d. Wawrinka
Djokovic has two previous wins in Dubai over RBA (3-0 h2h), even with RBA in the form of his career, the Serbian will have to beat himself to lose.
Berdych has had little success in recent years against Wawrinka, but Stan seemed off in Marseille, and I think the Czech will take advantage on a fast surface and reach the final.
Djokovic d. Berdych
Djokovic hasn’t lost to Berdych in the last three seasons, and given he beat Tomas in Doha, this result is unlikely to be different. Novak is the clear favorite to continue his winning streak this week in Dubai.