2016 ATP Tokyo Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Asian swing is in full swing with the ATP 500 level stop in Tokyo. Japanese tennis fans will turn out in droves for their only ATP tournament of the year. Here is a preview with predictions.
Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
October 3-October 9, 2016
Prize Money: $1,368,605
Top 4 seeds (ATP Rankings in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (5)
2: Gael Monfils (8)
3: Tomas Berdych (9)
4: Marin Cilic (11)
Tokyo has three top 10 players and should offer some good matches this week.
First round matchups to watch:
Jiri Vesely vs. Kevin Anderson
Both players posted ATP quarterfinals last week, and they have split their h2h meetings this year. Anderson needs to string some wins together to boost his ranking back inside the top 40, while Vesely is looking to make the top 50. Anderson upset Nick Kyrgios last week, and if he serves well he should prevail.
(6)Nick Kyrgios vs. (Q)Ryan Harrison
Kyrgios has struggled as of late and seems to be ready to wind down his season while Harrison is on the rise and has won 10 of his past 12 competitive matches. Harrison again came through ATP qualies, and he should test Kyrgios. Kyrgios will have to put effort to win, but if he does he’s still the favorite.
Gilles Muller vs. (3)Tomas Berdych
Despite both players being ATP veterans, they haven’t met since 2004. Muller made the quarters in Metz and plays his best on fast surfaces. Berdych was the champion in Shenzen, so fatigue could be a factor. This isn’t the easiest of first round matches for a player like Berdych, but he should prevail.
2-time Champion and home hero Kei Nishikori has lost to Nicolas Almagro in Tokyo before, but the Japanese #1 should be safe to win his first couple of matches against a struggling Almagro, and Martin Klizan or Joao Sousa, neither of whom are playing great right now. Nishikori vs. Kevin Anderson is my pick for the quarters as I have Anderson beating Vesely, and then upsetting David Goffin, who opens with wild card Yoshihito Nishioka. Goffin has lost two straight matches, and Anderson’s serve is tough to break. Nishikori should out return Anderson in the quarters though.
Marin Cilic faces a struggling Benoit Paire, with Fernando Verdasco or Go Soeda to follow, and most likely #8 seed Feliciano Lopez due up in the quarters. Lopez will look to serve and volley past qualifier James Duckworth, and either Juan Monaco or Taylor Fritz, neither of whom are in good form. Cilic has been playing well and I trust him to navigate into the semifinals, Verdasco has been playing poorly as of late.
Gael Monfils will look to continue his strong summer season into the Fall. Monfils opens with wild card Yuichi Sugita, with the winner of Gilles Simon/Philipp Kohlschreiber to follow. Kohlschreiber hasn’t been healthy in recent weeks, so Simon should win that match, with Monfils the favorite in round 2.
Veterans Ivo Karlovic and Janko Tipsarevic could matchup in round 2, Karlovic will be the favorite against Federico Delbonis, Tipsarevic comes off an ATP semifinal and faces wild card Taro Daniel. I’m going with Daniel in an upset because Tipsarevic retired in his last match and may not be healthy. I have Monfils slipping past Karlovic in the quarters.
Tomas Berdych will face Marcos Baghdatis or Marcel Granollers after his match with Muller, Nick Kyrgios gets the winner of Radek Stepanek/Stephane Robert in round 2, with Berdych likely to follow. Stepanek has been great in ATP qualifying this year and could trouble Kyrgios, Baghdatis isn’t likely to defeat Berdych in round 2. I have Berdych defeating Kyrgios because the Czech has been more consistent lately.
Dark Horse: Ivo Karlovic
The top 4 seeds are likely to reach the semifinals, if Karlovic’s serve can click on these fast Tokyo courts he could mess that up by upsetting Monfils in the quarterfinals, and perhaps Berdych in the semis. I don’t count Karlovic out, even at his age, to make a run in tournaments like this.
Monfils d. Berdych
Nishikori d. Cilic
Berdych should be out of gas, and Nishikori is playing in his home tournament, even though Cilic clearly has the game to beat him.
Nishikori d. Monfils
I can’t pick against Nishikori in his home tournament, even though Monfils has been playing really well lately.