- 2016 ATP Barcelona Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The European spring clay court season continues with the first ATP World Tour stop in Spain. The Barcelona Open is a 500 level tournament, and a lot of intriguing talents are taking part.
Barcelona Open BancSabadell
ATP World Tour 500
April 18-24, 2016
Prize Money: €2,152,690
Top 8 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (5)
2: Kei Nishikori (6)
3: David Ferrer (8)
4: Richard Gasquet (10)
5: Roberto Bautista Agut (17)
6: Benoit Paire (22)
7: Feliciano Lopez (23)
8: Viktor Troicki (24)
Barcelona has nearly half of the ATP top 10, and a good variety of well known players, making this a solid 500 level stop. Most of the first rounders are not likely to be competitive, or interesting.
Recent Monte Carlo champion, and x8 Barcelona champion Rafael Nadal should breeze through his first few rounds. The seed in his section is Joao Sousa, who is average at best on clay. Rafa should open with Monte Carlo quarterfinalist Marcel Granollers, presuming Granollers can dispatch Daniel Munoz De La Nava. After that, it could be Sousa, or Casablanca semifinalist Albert Montanes, another fading Spanish veteran. Montanes opens with Roberto Carballes Baena, who is primarily a challenger player. I have Montanes slipping past Sousa, before falling to Nadal for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Fabio Fognini and Viktor Troicki are the seeds below Rafa, Fognini was poor in Monte Carlo after a few weeks off of the tour, but he’s still a talented, and accomplished clay courter. Fognini should dispatch either Rajeev Ram, or veteran Mikhail Youzhny in his first match. Both are poor on clay, and don’t have games suited for the surface. Viktor Troicki also suffered an opening round loss in Monte Carlo, but he’s had some success on clay, and that should continue against either Ernests Gulbis, or Marton Fuscovics in round 2. Gulbis is on a three match losing streak, while Fuscovics is playing his first ATP match of the season, after going 0-2 last year on the main tour. This section features many underachievers in recent months. I have Troicki defeating Fognini for a quarterfinal spot. They have a split 2-2 h2h.
David Ferrer has multiple finals in Barcelona, but has never won a title at this tournament. The Spaniard pulled out of Monte Carlo with an injury, but he should be fit enough to slip past either Santiago Giraldo, or qualifier Radek Stepanek in his opening match. Giraldo is slightly better on clay than Stepanek, but Ferrer outclasses both players. Andrey Kuznetsov lost his opening Monte Carlo contest, but he’s had a career year thus far, and should get past either Franko Skugor, or Inigo Cervantes to setup a meeting with Ferrer in round 3. Skugor, a doubles specialist, has qualified for three ATP singles main draws already this year. Kuznetsov upsetting Ferrer would not surprise me at all, given David has been in decline as of late, but I have to go with Ferrer to reach the quarterfinals. Kuznetsov upset Ferrer at Wimbledon.Embed from Getty Images
Both Feliciano Lopez, and Philipp Kohlschreiber are capable of having a good run in their section. Lopez will face qualifier Pedro Cachin, or Ivan Dodig, while Kohlschreiber is likely to face Pablo Carreno Busta, unless Denis Istomin spoils that interesting matchup. The Casablanca quarterfinalist is a possible dark horse, but Kohli should be good enough on clay to advance. Cachin is playing his first ATP match of the season, and Lopez should face Kohlschreiber in round 3. He recently made the semifinals in Houston. Kohli and Lopez have split h2h meetings on clay, I have Kohlschreiber reaching the quarterfinals given the surface.
Kei Nishikori has won back to back Barcelona Open titles, and he’s in a section that should result in a good start to his quest for at third Barcelona title. After a 15-3 record on clay last year, Nishikori recently reached the final in Miami as well. Neither Thiemo De Bakker, or recent challenger champion Elias Ymer are capable of challenging him in round 2. Both Mikhail Kukushkin and Victor Estrella have been dire as of late, and that means power hitter Jeremy Chardy should advance to face Nishikori in round 3. Chardy is 2-0 against Nishikori on clay, but I have to pick Kei to reach the quarters.Embed from Getty Images
Roberto Bautista Agut continued his good season with a pair of wins in Monte Carlo. RBA will face either Aljaz Bedene, or the rising Karen Khachanov, a qualifier, in round 2. After that, he should face the dangerous, but inconsistent, Alexandr Dolgopolov in round 3. Dolgo will face either Facundo Bagnis or Evgeny Donskoy in round 2. Bagnis, a solid clay courter, upsetting Dolgopolov would not surprise me. The Ukrainian is known to be shaky on the surface. RBA should prevail against either Dolgo or Bagnis to reach the quarters.
Richard Gasquet would like to have a strong showing, and given his section, he should be able to get some momentum going on clay. The #4 seed exited in his second match in Monte Carlo, but should find more success against Malek Jaziri, or Hyeon Chung. The young Korean recently reached the quarterfinals in Houston. Thomaz Bellucci, a loser of five straight, is the other seed in this section, but all eyes will be on the young gun Alexander Zverev. Zverev should defeat fellow German J.L. Struff, a strong qualifier, in round 1, and then force Bellucci to crumble once more for a third round spot. Zverev is a serious threat to Gasquet, but assuming the Frenchman is healthy, I have him in the quarterfinals.
Benoit Paire snapped a losing skid and won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo, where he also posed a threat to Andy Murray. His showing on the clay there was the first signs of life from the scattered Frenchman in weeks. With Nicolas Almagro, his likely round 2 opponent, struggling, Paire should reach round 3. Almagro opens with Teymuraz Gabashvili, who is in total freefall right now. Defending finalist Albert Ramos will face off with Spanish young gun Jaume Munar in round 1. Ramos has lost three straight, but he should defeat Munar, before falling to Pablo Cuevas, the best player in this section on clay. Cuevas 12-2 clay court record should move to at least 14-2 on the season when he reaches the quarterfinals.Embed from Getty Images
Dark Horse: Alexander ZverevEmbed from Getty Images
Zverev has the skill, and the draw, to at least reach the third round, and if he upsets Gasquet, he could go as far as the semifinals. This young German prospect has come into his own on all surfaces, and he’s the player to watch at the Barcelona Open.
Nadal d. Troicki
Ferrer d. Kohlschreiber
Cuevas d. Gasquet
Nishikori d. Bautista Agut
Nadal and Ferrer have dominated their respective h2h records in the possible quarterfinal matchups. Cuevas should be slightly better than Gasquet, and Nishikori has a stronger skillset than RBA, that has lead to a 4-0 h2h.
Nadal d. Ferrer
Nishikori d. Cuevas
Nishikori likely proves too fast, and too skilled for Cuevas, Nadal has won three straight vs. Ferrer, and is simply a much better player than he is right now.
Nadal d. Nishikori
On a hard court, I’d be more tempted to pick Nisihkori, but after Rafa’s strong showing on clay in Monte Carlo, I have to think he’ll get back in the winners circle in Barcelona. This would be a great final, and would move Nadal to 3-0 on clay against Nishikori.
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