2017 ATP Sofia Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Bulgaria’s only ATP World Tour event is back for it’s second edition, as a host of European talents will battle it out in this ATP 250 tournament. Here is your preview, with predictions.
Garanti Koza Sofia Open
ATP World Tour 250
February 6-12, 2017
Surface: Indoor Hard
Prize Money: €482,060
Top 4 Seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Dominic Thiem (8)
2: David Goffin (11)
3: Grigor Dimitrov (13)
4: Roberto Bautista Agut (16)
A much stronger tournament than last year, Sofia brings four top 20 players, including home hero Grigor Dimitrov. Only one of the main draw players isn’t from Europe.
First round matches to watch:
(8)Martin Klizan vs. Andrey Kuznetsov
Both Klizan and Kuznetsov are coming off of Davis Cup play, neither were successful, but Klizan put in more roadwork, playing two singles rubbers. These players are streaky big hitters and anything could happen, but Kuznetsov is in better form and should have an advantage in this one.
Dominic Thiem is 5-3 to start the season, and could run into trouble against the in-form Adrian Mannarino in round 2, presuming Mannarino puts away Nikolosz Basilashvili. Mannarino has two challenger titles already in 2017, and could knock off Thiem, but the Austrian is the favorite to reach the quarterfinals. The winner of Kuznetsov/Klizan should be tipped to reach the quarters as well, with Marco Chiudinelli or qualifier Daniel Brands the only other option. Thiem over Kuznetsov is my pick in the quarters, as the Austrian should be fit and finally gathering some momentum for a good tournament run.
Bulgaria’s #1 Grigor Dimitrov is a red hot 10-1 to start the season, and with home support he should ease past Jerzy Janowicz/Dudi Sela, and then defeat Serbian #2 Viktor Troicki in the quarterfinals. Davis Cup success should boost Troicki and help him earn wins against wild card Cem Ilkel, and either Robin Haase or local wild card Dimitar Kuzmanov. Dimitrov has been playing like a top 10 player recently, and is a clear favorite to reach the semifinals.
David Goffin is 5-2 to start the season and should earn his seventh win against most likely his countryman Steve Darcis in the quarterfinals, after defeating Radu Albot or local wild card Alexandar Lazarov in round 2. Goffin’s pure ball striking would go up against Andreas Seppi perhaps in the quarters, but Seppi, if he stays in the draw, will be coming off a long Davis Cup weekend of work for Italy. There are some talented players in this section, but Goffin is highest ranked among them for a reason. Darcis was a hero for his nation over the Davis Cup weekend and opens with qualifier Max Marterer.
Defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut found success in Davis Cup over the weekend, and looks set to defeat a qualifier, and big server Gilles Muller to reach the semifinals. Muller opens with a qualifier, Mathias Bourgue, while Mikhail Youzhny does the same against Marko Tepavac. Muller’s quick serve can be dangerous on a fast court, but RBA has been playing great tennis in 2017 and already has an ATP title to show for it.
Dark Horse: Adrian Mannarino
Of the top 4 seeds, Thiem should be the player at the most risk of being ousted early. He hasn’t been fit to start the season and has endured some shaky performances. On top of that, Mannarino, despite being up and down, has played some great tennis already this season, and excels on indoor hard courts. If Mannarino can absorb Thiem’s power, he could reach the quarterfinals, and perhaps the semis or better.
Dimitrov d. Thiem
Bautista Agut d. Goffin
Dimitrov and Thiem have split meetings, but given the difference in form and Dimitrov’s win in Brisbane, Dimitrov is a clear favorite. RBA is 3-0 against Goffin, making him the favorite to reach a second straight final in Sofia as well.
Dimitrov d. Bautista Agut
Despite a split 2-2 h2h, Dimitrov should have the form advantage in this one, both players are playing well, but Dimitrov’s level has been above even RBA’s in this young season.