2017 ATP Memphis Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A long-time staple on the ATP Tour, Memphis is back again this year with 250 level action on indoor hard courts. Here is your preview, with predictions.
ATP World Tour 250
February 13-19, 2017
Memphis, TN, USA
Surface: Indoor Hard
Prize Money: $642,750
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP Ranking in parentheses)
1: Ivo Karlovic (18)
2: John Isner (23)
3: Sam Querrey (27)
4: Steve Johnson (31)
Just three top 30 players in Memphis, as the once 500 level tournament has struggled to attract top players this decade.
First round matches to watch:
Nikoloz Basilashvili vs. Jordan Thompson
The 24 year old Georgian #1 Basilashvili reached the semifinals in Sofia, showing great groundstrokes and tremendous fight. Thompson is a rising Aussie who had success in Davis Cup, and is now looking to do more damage on the tour level, with an ATP top 50 ranking on his radar. Basilashvili is better than his ranking, but jetlag will play a factor, and Thompson is the favorite, as he will put a lot of balls in play and win long points.
(WC)Reilly Opelka vs. (WC)Jared Donaldson
Donaldson has dropped four straight matches, but the young American is still a talent. Opelka is another rising American talent, he’s started the year better than his 20 year old counterpart, but has less tour level experience. Opelka’s booming serve, but still underdeveloped return game almost guarantees tiebreaks in this one, Opelka should win a tiebreak or two and take this match.
Big server Ivo Karlovic should get past the Thompson/Basilashvili winner and setup a match against the winner of Taylor Fritz/Yen-Hsun Lu in the quarterfinals. Fritz recently made a challenger final, and is defending final points here. The young American will have to contend with Lu’s tiring ball striking, and then a qualifier, either Matt Ebden or more likely Peter Polansky. Karlovic’s serve should be enough to get him to the semifinals unless Fritz really steps up.
American favorite Steve Johnson will battle fellow Yank Frances Tiafoe, or qualifier Tim Smyczek in round 2. Tiafoe is steadily improving and has a h2h edge over Smyczek, but Johnson, who is played Davis Cup after Melbourne, is still likely too solid from the forehand side to drop their round 2 match. Bernard Tomic should be a challenge in the quarters for Johnson, Tomic opens with qualifier Darian King, with Dustin Brown or Mikhail Kukushkin to follow. King is playing in his third ever tour level main draw match, while Tomic needs to find form after a poor set of tournaments in Australia. Brown injured his back in France, thus although Kukushkin is in poor form, I have him as the opponent for Tomic in round 2. Johnson is 3-0 in his career against Tomic and is in better form, the American should reach the semis.
John Isner has struggled to start 2017 but he has a favorable draw in Memphis, and should do some damage. The 2 seed opens with either Yoshihito Nishioka or a slumping Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, with possibly Adrian Mannarino to follow in the quarters, presuming the Frenchman beats Donald Young and the Opelka/Donaldson winner. Mannarino has been great at the challenger level to start the year, and has a h2h edge against Young. The thought of Isner vs. baby Isner (Opelka) is appealing though, and given Mannarino struggled against Isner’s big serve (1-6 h2h), I have him falling to Opelka, and then Isner beating Opelka in the quarters.
We could see a quarterfinal between former Memphis champions if Sam Querrey beats Ryan Harrison/Konstantin Kravchuk, and Steve Darcis beats Radu Albot and Damir Dzumhur/Kevin Anderson. Querrey may not get out of round 2 though, Harrison just won a challenger and has a 1-0 h2h edge. Formerly a solid tour level player, Harrison is on his way to returning to that level of play, and should defeat the journeyman Kravchuk, then Querrey to reach the quarters. The fate of the other former champion, Darcis, is more promising. The Belgian reached the quarters in Sofia after heroics in Davis Cup. Fatigue could play a factor, but Albot is struggling, and Anderson or Dzumhur should be rusty. The big serving Anderson is a shell of the player he once was on fast surfaces after injuries. I have the serve and volleyer Darcis reaching the semifinals with wins over Anderson and Harrison in consecutive fashion.
Dark Horse: Ryan Harrison
It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Harrison continues his great form and battles past Querrey and Darcis to reach the semifinals, then challenges Isner at that stage. Harrison has always had the talent, but at times he lets himself get lulled into baseline rallies and broken down.
Karlovic d. Johnson
Isner d. Darcis
Karlovic beat Johnson twice last year after winning just one of their first four matches. Isner should have too much power for Darcis, and he’ll have home support.
Isner d. Karlovic
Karlovic leads Isner 3-2 in the h2h, that said, in the USA on hard courts Isner tends to be at his best, I’ll go with the top American in the draw to win this tournament.