2016 ATP Sao Paulo Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The last call on the golden swing on South American clay is Sao Paulo, Brazil, as a host of dirtballers descend to do battle.
ATP World Tour 250
Sao Paulo, Brazil
February 22-28, 2016
Prize Money: $436,220
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Benoit Paire (22)
2: Thomaz Bellucci (32)
3: Pablo Cuevas (45)
4: Federico Delbonis (46)
First round matchups to watch:
(7)Nicolas Almagro vs. (WC)Thiago Monteiro
The three time Sao Paulo champion Almagro is nearly back into the top 50, and he’ll open finish his golden swing campaign with an opening match against the wild card Monteiro. The 21 year old Brazilian stunned Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a top 10 win in Rio in his ATP debut, and also has some good challenger results this year. Almagro is a heavy favorite, but opponents will be wary of Monteiro on clay for a while after his performance against Tsonga.
(5)Albert Ramos vs. Pablo Carreno Busta
The first meeting between these Spanish dirtballers. The spin maestro Ramos should be the favorite since Carreno Busta has lost three straight, but this should be a high quality clay court contest.
Top seed Benoit Paire went 19-9 on clay last season, and is playing on the surface for the first time this season after a run to the semifinals in Marseille on home soil. Paire will face Dusan Lajovic or Luca Vanni as the Buenos Aires quarterfinalist Lajovic seeks to avenge his loss last year to Vanni in Sao Paulo. Paire could take his check and lose early, but skill wise he should be able to reach the quarterfinals.
Qualifier Gastao Elias of Portugal has a good chance to pull a round one upset over Pablo Andujar. The #8 seed hasn’t won a match in 2016, while Elias has had success in qualifying and on the challenger circuit. Santiago Giraldo has the inside track to beat Marco Cecchinato, and then slip past Andujar or Elias in this open section to reach the quarters himself.
Giraldo has a h2h win on clay over Paire, who could be jet lagged, given Benoit’s inconsistency, I have the Colombian veteran reaching a surprising semifinal.
Rio champ and Buenos Aires quarterfinalist Pablo Cuevas is the defending champion, and he’ll open with either Facundo Bagnis or Paul-Henri Mathieu. The qualifier likely has a slight edge over the French veteran on clay, and if Cuevas isn’t too exhausted, he should continue his good form and reach another quarterfinal.
Almagro/Monteiro will face Daniel Munoz-De La Nava or qualifier Maximo Gonzalez in round 2. Almagro should be able to ease past either player to reach the quarterfinals. Both have struggling as of late.
Cuevas is 4-0 against Almagro in the h2h, and has been in far better form as of late. Almagro will have a great shot at a semi given the fatigue factor, but look for Paire or Giraldo vs. Cuevas/Almagro semi in Sao Paulo.
Quito finalist Thomaz Bellucci rarely plays well on home soil, and struggled in Rio, but he still is a better player on clay than either Taro Daniel or Roberto Carballes Baena, and thus he should advance into the quarters. Carballes Baena has a clear h2h edge over Daniel, though he’s a lucky loser.
Ramos/Carreno-Busta are Bellucci’s likely quarterfinal opponent. Ramos/Carreno-Busta will face Brazilian wild card Guilherme Clezar, who has a challenger final this year on clay, or Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who reached the Rio quarters as a qualifier. I have Ramos over Clezar, and them Ramos over Bellucci for a spot in the semis. Bellucci beat Ramos on clay last year, but the home soil factor gives the Spaniard an edge in this case.
Federico Delbonis was the 2014 champion in Sao Paulo, and he has a great draw if he can repeat that performance this year. He’ll open with a fellow Argentine, either Diego Schwartzman or Horacio Zeballos (2-0 in the h2h against Schwartzman), and the Rio quarterfinalist then will most likely face Paolo Lorenzi. The Italian veteran is 6-3 on clay in recent ATP tournaments, and opens with qualifier Blaz Rola, with Marcel Granollers or Inigo Cervantes to follow. Cervantes could upset the veteran Granollers, but Lorenzi should prove too much.
Delbonis has won his previous three meetings against Lorenzi, including one last week in Rio, giving him an edge for the semis.
Dark Horse: Santiago Giraldo
Giraldo isn’t in the best of form, even with his attacking game and strong forehand, but he is a benefit of a rather open top half of the draw. His first three matches are winnable, and a match against either a tired Cuevas, or a somewhat shaky Almagro could result in a win as well, giving him a dark horse shot at an ATP final.
Cuevas d. Giraldo
Delbonis d. Ramos
Cuevas has a h2h edge over Giraldo, Ramos and Delbonis are split on clay 2-2, but Delbonis has been in better recent form, and he’s a former champion.
Delbonis d. Cuevas
Cuevas has won his last two meetings on clay against Delbonis and just beat him in Rio, but I have that result reversing itself, because if Cuevas reaches the final, he’s likely to be out of gas.