2016 ATP Acapulco Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 500 level hard court tournament in the Mexican resort city of Acapulco continues to grow in stature and expand in prominence as a host of ATP stars will battle it out.
Abierto Mexicano Telcel
ATP World Tour 500*
February 22-27, 2016
Prize Money: $1,413,600
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: David Ferrer (6)
2: Kei Nishikori (7)
3: Marin Cilic (12)
4: Dominic Thiem (19)
Acapulco can stake a claim to the strongest field this week, as this 500 level tournament has drawn a deep and varied field.
First round matchups to watch:
Steve Johnson vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
Steve Johnson won a three setter against Dolgopolov last year in Vienna, and he’s eager to take advantage of more hard court tennis after a rough start to 2016. Dolgo withdrew from Rio with a shoulder injury and may not be 100%, with that in mind, Johnson is likely a slight favorite.
(5)Bernard Tomic vs. Rajeev Ram
Rajeev Ram stunned a tanking Bernard Tomic in Delray last week and ended up reaching the ATP final in one of the surprises of last week. Tomic has been in terrible form since the Australian Open swing and appears to be playing careless tennis once again. Ram is likely fatigued though, and thus Tomic has to be the favorite.
(8)Jeremy Chardy vs. (Q)Taylor Fritz
Delray quarterfinalist Jeremy Chardy will be the favorite against the young Memphis finalist Taylor Fritz, but Fritz got through qualifying and he’s an incredibly talented young gun. Chardy’s one dimensional attacking tennis is something Fritz could exploit with his offensive, and defensive game. Fritz is a solid player, but he’s still learning the ropes.
Defending champion David Ferrer hasn’t reached an ATP final this season and went 4-2 on clay after Melbourne. He opens with John Millman, who has lost two straight matches, and should defeat Steve Johnson after that to reach the quarterfinals. Ferrer’s weak section could see him face Ivo Karlovic in the quarterfinals. The veteran Dr. Ivo hasn’t won a match this year, while his first round opponent Aljaz Bedene has also lost four straight since reaching an ATP semi to start the season in Chennai. Karlovic/Bedene will face either wild card Luis Patino, a futures player, or Robin Haase, who is 1-4 in his last five matches. Karlovic’s trusty serve should see him reach the quarters, only to fall to Ferrer.
Marseille finalist Marin Cilic could be dealing with jetlag. Cilic opens with qualifier Ryan Harrison who continues to play on the fringes of ATP caliber tennis. Cilic is 2-0 in the h2h against Harrison and Illya Marchenko or qualifier Tommy Paul will follow in round 2. Paul is a young gun with promise, though Marchenko is a slight favorite. Cilic should dominate this section if he’s not overly fatigued, but Harrison could surprise.
Tomic/Ram is slated to face futures player Tigre Hank or Adrian Mannarino, a quarterfinalist in both Sofia and Delray Beach. Tomic has two three set wins over Mannarino, both came last year on hard courts, and one was in Acapulco. His poor form makes the Frenchman a dark horse to reach the quarterfinals though. Cilic is also 2-0 against Mannarino, but his fatigue should catch up to him, and I have it Ferrer vs. Mannarino in the semis. If Tomic can find form, he should reach the semis.
Kei Nishikori is the favorite to take the title this week, and he’ll open with qualifier Thiemo de Bakker. Delray champion Sam Querrey lost to Nishikori in Memphis, and presuming Querrey beats a struggling Dudi Sela, he’s still likely to lose to Kei once more. Chardy should beat veteran Victor Estrella, or another Mexican local player, Lucas Gomez, to reach the quarters. Nishikori has won his last two hard court meetings against Chardy and is in better form.
Dominic Thiem is 13-4 with an ATP title this season. The Austrian is making a push for the top 15 and beyond and he’s one of the top players of the season thus far. Thiem has shown his skill on both hard courts and clay. His round 1 opponent Damir Dzumhur has nothing to compare to his skillset, with a struggling Sam Groth, or Dmitry Tursunov to follow. Tursunov is returning from a lengthy injury layoff and hasn’t successfully completed an ATP main draw level match since the 2014 US Open. Even if Thiem is fatigued, he should slide into the quarters with this weak draw.
Grigor Dimitrov is a positive 10-4 on the season, but he has been denied a pair of ATP titles he was the favorite to claim in Sydney and Delray Beach. Dimitrov’s mental inconsistency is unlikely to be a problem in round 1 given his groundstrokes are better than a struggling Denis Kudla, but it could be an issue in round 2. The winner of Donald Young/Gilles Muller is in Dimitrov’s seedline, and the big server Muller, who dominated Young in Atlanta last year, has two ATP semifinals this season. Dimitrov beat Muller in Sydney but has lost to him twice before. That is an intriguing round 2 match, with Dimitrov the favorite to advance to the quarters.
The match of the tournament could be Dimitrov vs. Thiem in the quarterfinals, presuming both overcome fatigue, it will be their first meeting. Thiem has been better than Dimitrov this year, but Dimitrov is a good fast surface player, and will likely be somewhat fresher, thus I have him reaching the semis.
Dark Horse: Adrian Mannarino
Mannarino will need to upset Tomic (or Ram), and Cilic, but he has a great chance to reach the semifinals as an unseeded player. His unique game is capable of peaking and posting big wins on fast surfaces.
Ferrer d. Mannarino
Nishikori d. Dimitrov
Ferrer is 2-0 against Mannarino, Nishikori is also 2-0 against Dimitrov, and both have clear paths to the final.
Nishikori d. Ferrer
Ferrer upset Nishikori in the Acapulco final last year, and Nishikori should be eager to get him back in this one. Kei has had a decided edge in their other recent hard court meetings, and he appears ready to rise up in this one.