2016 Rio Olympics Men’s Tennis Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Despite the withdrawal of many top players, including Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, John Isner, and Dominic Thiem from the 2016 Rio Olympic games, it’s still one of the top events on the 2016 tennis calendar, as a host of the top players in the men’s game don their national colors for hard court action in Rio. Hard courts of course were a surprising choice given South American is traditionally a clay court continent.
2016 Rio Olympic Games
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
August 6-14, 2016
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Andy Murray (2)
3: Rafael Nadal (5)
4: Kei Nishikori (6)
5: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (9)
6: Gael Monfils (11)
7: David Ferrer (12)
8: David Goffin (13)
Tomas Berdych, Alexander Zverev, and Richard Gasquet are also notably missing, in addition to the names missing up top. After the great event that was London 2012 at Wimbledon, Rio 2016 feels decidedly less exciting for men’s tennis.
First round matchups to watch:
(1)Novak Djokovic vs. Juan Martin Del Potro
The most anticipated match of the opening round. Djokovic has won his last three meetings against Del Potro and leads the h2h 11-3, still, Del Potro was the one who defeated Djokovic at London 2012, and Novak wants his revenge as he’s the strong favorite for the Gold medal. Del Potro has been improving rapidly since returning from injury, and he will still bother Djokovic, but Djokovic played so well in Toronto it’s hard to see him losing this match, and he’ll probably win in straight sets.
(15)Gilles Simon vs. Borna Coric
Both players are steady baseliners, and when they met last year Simon won in three sets. Neither has been in great form recently, and the experienced Simon probably has the edge in this match. Coric has the ability to win it though, and this would be a nice scalp for the young gun as he represents his country in Rio. I’m going with Coric in an upset.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Grigor Dimitrov
Cilic has split meetings against Dimitrov, who comes off of the quarterfinals in Toronto. Cilic lost his opening match in Toronto, though he’s had a better season, and is the better player in this matchup. It’s hard to predict, and I expect it to go three sets, with Dimitrov having a great shot an upset given his recent form.
Djokovic should roll past either Joao Sousa or the in-form, but likely fatigued, Robin Haase, and then dispatch Jack Sock in the third round, presuming Sock takes care of business against Taro Daniel and Jordan Thompson or Kyle Edmund, both of whom are poorer on hard courts compared to Sock.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is the favorite to reach the quarterfinals from the bottom half of the Djokovic section, Tsonga opens with Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri, who is always proud to represent his country, and then a difficult meeting with Gilles Muller is likely to follow, presuming Muller dispatches Jerzy Janowicz. Roberto Bautista Agut could be upset by Andrey Kuznetsov in round 1, but he’s the favorite to reach round 3, unless Rendy Lu gets past Paolo Lorenzi and then upsets him. Tsonga has won his last two meetings against Muller, but he’s lost twice this year to RBA. Still, given his better recent form, Tsonga over RBA is my pick to reach the quarters.
Rafael Nadal hasn’t been healthy and he wishes this tournament was on clay. Despite that, Federico Delbonis, and Andreas Seppi/Illya Marchenko are likely not strong enough to defeat him before the third round. Marchenko’s recently strong challenger form gives him an interesting chance against Nadal, if the wrist pain continues for Rafa. Despite that, I have it as Nadal vs. Coric in the third round, with Coric earning a second career win against Rafa to reach the quarterfinals. Simon would also be my pick over Nadal given the situation with his health, I can’t expect that much from the Spaniard. Coric has to beat Brian Baker or Yuichi Sugita in round 2.
David Goffin should dominate proceedings and reach the quarterfinals from the bottom of the Nadal section. Sam Groth has been in miserable form, in round 2 neither Damir Dzumhur nor Dudi Sela are strong enough players, and Pablo Cuevas, a clay courter, is the seed in Goffin’s section The in-form Niko Basilashivili could upset Cuevas round 1, while Brazil’s top singles entrant, Thomaz Bellucci, should ride home support to a win over Dustin Brown, and perhaps a third round showing with a win over Basilashvili/Cuevas. Bellucci’s strong recent form has come in clay challengers, but it’s a confidence boost none the less, and I have him falling to Goffin in round 3. Goffin beat Bellucci in Brisbane this year and has been solid in most big events.
A healthy Kei Nishikori should race to the quarterfinals with wins over Albert Ramos, John Millman or Ricardas Berankis, and most likely Philipp Kohlschreiber, presuming Kohli beats Guido Pella, and the winner of Denis Kudla/Andrej Martin. This is a weak section, and Kohlschreiber is declined to the point he can’t challenge Kei from the baseline. Health is also a concern for Kohlschreiber.
Gael Monfils has been amazing on hard courts in recent weeks, and he’s a dark horse to medal in the Olympics. Presuming the Frenchman can stay healthy and focused, he should roll past Vasek Pospisil, Thomas Fabbiano or Rogerio Dutra Silva, and the winner of Dimitrov/Cilic (or Radu Albot/Teymuraz Gabashvili) to reach the quarterfinals.
The defending Gold medalist is this year’s favorite for the Silver medal. Andy Murray has been a consistent #2 to Djokovic’s #1 this year, and the Wimbledon champion should have no problems against Viktor Troicki, Mirza Basic/Juan Monaco, and most likely the winner of Benoit Paire/Lukas Rosol in round 3, although Fabio Fognini could surprise if he defeats Victor Estrella, and Paire or Rosol. I have Fognini over Rosol, before falling to Murray.
David Ferrer hasn’t had a great season, but he’s far and above the favorite to reach the third round from his section. Denis Istomin, and Evgeny Donskoy/JL Struff are his opponents to do that, and he’s much better than all of them. American Steve Johnson should be good enough to dispatch Darian King, and Thanasi Kokkinakis or Gastao Elias to reach round 3. Kokkinakis is a talent but he’s making his return from injury. Johnson’s strong season suggests to me he’s ready to make his move, and thus I have him facing Murray in the quarterfinals.
Djokovic d. Tsonga
Goffin d. Coric
Monfils d. Nishikori
Murray d. Johnson
Djokovic and Goffin are heavy favorites to reach the semifinals and compete for a medal, as much as Nadal, and Tsonga would like to be there, I don’t see either as being in the form to get that far. Monfils vs. Nishikori could be teh match of the tournament, Monfils has looked so good recently though, that he should be able to serve past Kei. Murray is a strong favorite in his section and has an easier path than Djokovic to the medal round.
Djokovic d. Goffin
Murray d. Monfils
Monfils will have a dark horse chance at reaching the gold medal match, but it should be Djokovic vs. Murray.
Gold Medal Match
Djokovic d. Murray
On a hard court it’s hard to pick against Djokovic after how he played in the Rogers Cup. Murray may take a set, but taking three sets against Djokovic is too much to ask.
Bronze Medal Match
Monfils d. Goffin
Monfils is my pick for the bronze, if not, Nishikori may snatch it. Monfils beat Goffin in a three setter in Toronto recently.