2016 ATP Atlanta Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The only ATP tournament this week is the final stop before Rio, the 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open. Tennis Atlantic will have live coverage all week once again this year.
BB&T Atlanta Open
ATP World Tour 250
Atlanta, GA, USA
August 1-7, 2016
Prize Money: $618,030
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: John Isner (16)
2: Nick Kyrgios (19)
3: Kevin Anderson (34)
4: Alexandr Dolgopolov (38)
A pair of top 20 players highlight the field in Atlanta, and rankings drop much lower from there.
First round matchups to watch:
(Q)Chris Eubanks vs. (WC)Reilly Opelka
Both these young Americans have promise, and Eubanks will have home support and momentum after qualifying. Still, the tall Opelka is continuing to develop nicely and looks to have a future perhaps on par with top seed John Isner, who shares the big frame of Opelka.
Sergiy Stakhovsky vs. Ivan Dodig
Stako has a h2h win over Dodig, who has lost four straight matches and is in terrible form. Stakhovsky has just two hard court wins this year at the ATP level, but Dodig has the same poor record, and thus Stako should have an edge in this match between serve and volleyers.
Sam Groth vs. (WC)Jared Donaldson
Groth has two wins against Donaldson, but he’s had an awful season and has lost three straight matches. The massive server has done little to develop the rest of his game, and has just two hard court wins at the ATP level this year. Donaldson qualified in both Washington and Toronto, and he’s six of his last eight matches, including a round of 16 result in Toronto. With Donaldson playing this well, it’s time he got his first win against Groth and continued his strong run of recent results.
Three-time defending champion John Isner is one of the favorites to take home a record fourth title in Atlanta. The American #1 will open with either Adrian Mannarino or qualifier Mischa Zverev as he looks to improve on his pedestrian play as of late. Isner is just 9-6 on hard courts this year, a poor record for him, but Mannarino isn’t in great form, and thus Isner should advance to the quarters like he did in Washington.
Memphis finalist Taylor Fritz hasn’t been playing well lately and has just two ATP wins since the end of the clay court season. Regardless, he’ll be the favorite against UGA’s top player Austin Smith, a wild card making his ATP debut, and he also should defeat either Bjorn Fratangelo, or Igor Sijsling, both of whom are challenger level players. Isner over Fritz is a safe pick in the quarters given Fritz struggles with consistently big servers like Isner.
Kevin Anderson has had a poor season, but he played surprisingly well in Toronto, reaching the quarterfinals, and should be able to continue that positive momentum if he can stay healthy. Anderson should get young gun winner of Eubanks/Opelka, then defeat Donald Young/Austin Krajicek or Tim Smyczek/Thiago Monteiro, probably Young, to reach the semifinals. Smyczek qualified in Toronto, and has an outside shot at the quarters. Young rarely plays well at home in Atlanta, but he’s been in decent form recently, and Krajicek came through qualifying.
Nick Kyrgios is playing just his third ATP 250 of the season, and making his debut in Atlanta. The young Aussie is 26-11 on the year, but he comes off an abysmal loss to teenager Denis Shapovalov in Toronto where he showed a complete lack of effort, and was poor on serve. If Kyrgios plays up to the level he’s capable of, he should cruise past Donaldson or Groth, and then most likely Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals, but he could be headed for another early exit if his head isn’t in the right place.
Verdasco is playing for the first time since Wimbledon and he wasn’t in great form the last time he played. Still he’s 18-14 on the season and his experience and ability outweights Serbian Dusan Lajovic, who is poor on hard courts, and his round 2 opponent, either Julien Benneteau, or qualifier J.P. Smith. Benneteau has been terrible this year as the French veteran has struggled to return from injury. Kyrgios should be able to power past Verdasco given a previous h2h win last year on hard courts.
Alexandr Dolgopolov will have to deal with hot conditions, and he’s won just one of his last three matches, but the inconsistent shotmaker is still the favorite to reach the quarterfinals out of his section. Dan Evans showed promise at Wimbledon and Washington, but he comes off a challenger match loss, and faces off with Japanese speed demon Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round. Nishioka could knock off Evans, as he showed good form in recent challengers. Evans is a bit of a dark horse, but Dolgopolov over Evans is my bracket pick.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez hasn’t had a great season, but Horacio Zeballos is a dirtballer who doesn’t play well on hard courts, and his round 2 opponent would be either Stakhovsky or Dodig, both of whom have been awful this season. Although Stakhovsky is another possible dark horse, Garcia-Lopez should reach the quarterfinals, before most likely falling to Dolgopolov’s shotmaking. He’s 3-1 against Dolgo, but those wins did not come on hard courts, Dolgopolov’s best surface.
Dark Horse: Dan Evans
Evans showed tremendous promise in a comprehensive upset of Grigor Dimitrov in Washington. With an open field, and an open section of the draw, a big win over Dolgopolov would give Evans a shot to go as far as the semifinals without facing either of the top two seeds who are the real threats this tournament.
Isner d. Anderson
Kyrgios d. Dolgopolov
Isner hasn’t been playing well, but he always gets rejuvenated playing in front of friends and family in Atlanta, along with the raucous crowd. Anderson could knock him off given his recent form, but I can’t expect it. Kyrgios is a strong favorite to make the final if he doesn’t lose his focus.
Isner d. Kyrgios
It’s hard to pick against Isner in Atlanta if he’s healthy. Isner having a h2h win last year on hard court also works in his favor.