2016 ATP St. Petersburg Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP World Tour heads back to Europe for indoor hard court action post US Open, and the ATP 250 stop in St. Petersburg, Russia is next on the calendar. Here is a look at the field, with predictions.
St. Petersburg Open
ATP World Tour 250
St. Petersburg, Russia
September 19-25, 2016
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize Money: $923,550
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: Stan Wawrinka (3)
2: Milos Raonic (6)
3: Tomas Berdych (9)
4: Roberto Bautista Agut (16)
The US Open champ Wawrinka, and two more ATP top 10 players are playing in St. Petersburg, making it a strong ATP 250.
First round matchups to watch:
(WC)Andrey Rublev vs. Mikhail Kukushkin
Russia and Kazakhstan just played in Davis Cup action, and Rublev and Kukushkin represented their nations, although they didn’t play each other in a match. The young Rublev should be boosted by team Russia’s victory in that tie, and playing on home courts. Kukushkin is a steady ATP veteran, the rising young gun Rublev could use this quality win.
(5)Alexander Zverev vs. Karen Khachanov
Despite playing well in Washington, Zverev was disappointing this summer and needs to a reset for the Fall season. Khachanov is still an intriguing talent in his own right, and comes off qualifying for the US Open. Zverev is the favorite for a reason, but an upset wouldn’t surprise me.
The US Open champion Stan Wawrinka, presuming he’s fit and serious about playing hard in St. Petersburg, should dispatch Lukas Rosol or Diego Schwartzman, then either Viktor Troicki or Fernando Verdasco in the quarters. Verdasco opens with Dusan Lajovic, while Troicki will face Gastao Elias. Verdasco has a recent h2h win over Lajovic, while Troicki should beat Elias. I have him defeating Verdasco given the Spaniard hasn’t been in great form all year. Troicki reached the semis in Winston-Salem, and he should fall to Wawrinka in the St. Petersburg quarters.
Roberto Bautista Agut and Joao Sousa look set to face off in the quarters, RBA is 27-10 on hard courts this year, and with the only player standing in his way either the out of form Adrian Mannarino or the struggling Ricardas Berankis, he should make the quarters. Sousa opens with a qualifier, and then will face the Rublev/Kukushkin winner. Rublev is a young gun, and Sousa has been poor this year, but he won a pair of matches in New York, and that makes him the favorite. RBA over Sousa is my pick in the quarters.
Milos Raonic will face either fan favorite Mikhail Youzhny or the rejuvenated Janko Tisparevic in his first match. Raonic was poor at the US Open, but on a quick indoor hard court there is no reason to believe his serve won’t allow him to get past most likely Tipsarevic, as Youzhny hasn’t been healthy, and then beat either Zverev or Khachanov. The winner of that match faces Alexander Bublik or a qualifier in round 2. The 19 year old Bublik is a promising Russian talent making his ATP debut. I don’t think Zverev will be able to handle Raonic’s serve.
The weakest section of the draw belongs to Tomas Berdych, who is recovering from appendix removal, and missed the US Open. The Czech is 19-9 on hard courts this year and will probably face home favorite Andrey Kuznetsov, presuming Kuznetsov beats his Davis Cup teammate Evgeny Donskoy in round 1. The other seed here is Albert Ramos, who prefers clay and is just 5-9 on hard courts this year. Ramos opens with a qualifier, and then will face fellow clay courter Paolo Lorenzi or a qualifier in round 2. Lorenzi has had a career best season, but Ramos should fall to Berdych in the quarters.
Dark Horse: Andrey Kuznetsov
Kuznetsov is 25, so he’s matured beyond the prospect stage, and as a result doesn’t get near as much fanfare as Rublev in terms of Russian players. However, Kuznetsov is the best Russian player right now, at #47 in the world, and has gone 26-17 this year. His massive improvements this year are clear, and he could upset Berdych and make a run in a home tournament.
Wawrinka d. Bautista Agut
Raonic d. Berdych
There is no reason to believe the top two seeds won’t make the final unless Wawrinka isn’t focused, or Raonic isn’t healthy.
Raonic d. Wawrinka
I’m calling an upset in the final, Wawrinka has less to play for than Raonic, who wants to secure a spot in the year end World Tour finals. The Canadian badly needs the boost of a top 5 win, and I’m not sure Wawrinka will be 100% committed this tournament.