ATP Estoril Midweek Update
Manuel Traquete, Tennis Atlantic
The 2016 edition of the Portugal Open has been relatively upset free so far. 4 quarterfinalists are already know and they were all seeded: #3 seed Benoit Paire, fresh off a Barcelona semifinal showing, will take on 3-time Estoril semifinalist and #5 seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez for a place in the final weekend of the tournament, while the 2015 finalist and #2 seed Nick Kyrgios will take on the #6 seed Borna Coric, in an eagerly anticipated duel between the two young guns which is expected to be only the first of a long future rivalry. In fact, Kyrgios turned 21yo in the day of his round 2 match against Inigo Cervantes and was surprised with a cake and a video prepared by the tournament with several players and even his parents wishing him a happy birthday.
The #1 seed Gilles Simon (plays Mathieu), the #8 seed Carreno Busta (plays Taro Daniel), the #7 seed Leonardo Mayer (plays Lorenzi) and the #4 seed João Sousa (plays Almagro) will be looking to make it an all-seed quarter final lineup and all are solid favorites to do so except Sousa, whose opponent Almagro has scooped 12 clay titles during his illustrious career and has to be considered a favorite despite his decline.
Sousa will be under a lot of pressure, not only because, despite being clearly the best Portuguese player of all-time, he has underperformed in this tournament (R1 losses to Leonardo Mayer in 2014 and countryman Rui Machado last year) but because he’s the last Portuguese player alive in this year’s tournament. His brother Pedro Sousa was predictably routine by Mayer in the first round, the same having happened to the youngster Frederico Silva against Sousa’s R16 opponent Almagro. Gastão Elias got to Estoril fresh off winning the Turin Challenger and fulfilling his career ambition of reaching the top 100 in the rankings and he admitted to be physically and emotionally spent after his R1 loss to Paul-Henri Mathieu. Only Sousa is left to represent Portugal in the country’s only ATP tournament and it’s very probable that after tomorrow even he will be headed to Madrid.
Speaking of players coming off great weeks, Verdasco won the 6th title of his career in Bucharest winning a rain-delayed final on Monday. The organization did their best to give their last wildcard the maximum rest possible but even with a Wednesday start Verdasco clearly didn’t have much left in the tank and lost 1 and 3 to the two time Estoril semifinalist Carreno Busta.
With no top player featuring in the tournament (#18 Simon is the first seed) one could think we’d be in store for a very unpredictable tournament, but that has not been the case so far. Bizarrely, not a single round 1 match went into a decider and all the 4 round of 16 matches played so far were won by the seeds, with the only two deciding sets played having been very one-sided. Still, even with the predictability that has been dominating so far, it’s hard to predict who will be hoisting the trophy on Sunday afternoon as pretty much every player still left in the draw has reason to fancy their chances.