Busy Month on ATP Tour Sees Federer Claim Title #100, Monfils Return to Form Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
After Novak Djokovic claimed the Australian Open title, the ATP season roared into February with multiple 500 level events and a number of 250s on clay and hard courts across the globe. Here is your look at all the action for the month that was.
Veteran Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won an all French final in this indoor 250 6-4 6-2 against Pierre-Hugues Herbert. The veteran beat Gilles Simon, Jeremy Chardy and Radu Albot in consecutive matches to reach the final, overall he defeated four French players to win the tournament. PHH upset Denis Shapovalov and Tomas Berdych to reach the final.
Bulgaria’s only ATP event was won by the in-form Daniil Medvedev 6-4 6-3 against Marton Fucsovics. Fucsovics had a breakthrough after upsetting Andreas Sepi and getting a walkover against Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarters (then edging Matteo Berrettini in the semis). Medvedev got past Gael Monfils in the semis and prior to that he scored wins against Robin Haase and Martin Klizan in consecutive matches. Medvedev’s win helped him reach the top 15, he’s now 1-1 in ATP finals this year.
On clay in Argentina home hero and wild card Juan Ignacio Londero won his first ever ATP title prevailing against Guido Pella 3-6 7-5 6-1 in a huge moment for him. Londero’s breakthrough pushed him to a new career high in the top 70 and he beat clay courters Nicolas Jarry and Federico Delbonis most notably to make the final. Pella had a good month edging Paolo Lorenzi, Diego Schwartzman, Albert Ramos, and Pablo Cuevas to reach the final in what was a tough path for a 250.
ATP New York
The first ATP 250 in the States this year saw Reilly Opelka lift his first title in three sets 6-1 6-7 7-6 against maiden finalist Brayden Schnur, a Canadian. Opelka also upset top American John Isner, while Schnur edged Sam Querrey in the semis. Opelka’s powerful serve was a difference maker and he should be a factor in Indian Wells and Miami coming up.
ATP Buenos Aires
The 250 on clay in Buenos Aires resulted in Marco Cecchinato’s third career ATP title 6-1 6-2 against home player Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman upset Dominic Thiem and also beat Aljaz Bedene and Albert Ramos to reach the final. Cecchinato beat Christian Garin, Roberto Carballes Baena, and Guido Pella to reach the final, three accomplished clay courters. This was a great result for Cecchinato outside of Europe.
Gael Monfils returned to form winning his 8th career title 6-3 1-6 6-2 against fellow veteran Stan Wawrinka. It was a thrilling moment played in good spirits and filled with joy for both players who have overcome injuries and adversity to return to the top of the game. Monfils 500 level title included wins against Daniil Medvedev, and David Goffin. Wawrinka upset Milos Raonic, Denis Shapovalov, and Kei Nishikori before falling short in the final. Both players would love to contend at the slam level again.
The Rio 500 on clay was the top event on the Golden Swing and Serbia’s Laslo Djere claimed his first title 6-3 7-5 against young gun Felix Auger-Aliassime. FAA played well but Djere was the player of the week, as he upset Dominic Thiem and also claimed wins against clay courters Casper Ruud and Aljaz Bedene to reach the final. FAA defeated Fabio Fognini, Christian Garin, Jaume Munar, and Pablo Cuevas to reach the final, showing his all court talent that is set to make him a top 20 player in the near future. Djere broke into the top 40 with the win, the tournament was filled with upsets.
Young gun Stefanos Tsitsipas found form and got past Mikhail Kukushkin 7-5 7-6 in the final after defeating David Goffin, and Sergiy Stakhovsky in the late rounds to reach the final. Kukushkin upset Denis Shapovalov and Andrey Rublev before getting a winnable semi against Ugo Humbert. This indoor hard court 250 saw some early round upsets but in the end the #1 seed Tsitsipas won his second career title.
Radu Albot made history, winning his first career title and breaking into the top 60 with a 3-6 6-3 7-6 win against Dan Evans in a battle of journeymen in the Delray 250 hard court final. Evans edged John Isner in the semis and upset Frances Tiafoe in round 1 while Albot got past big servers Ivo Karlovic and Nick Kyrgios before nipping Americans Steve Johnson and McKenzie McDonald to reach the final.
Roger Federer won his 100th career title at the Dubai 500 6-4 6-4 on hard courts against the in-form Stefanos Tsitsipas. Federer found form late in the tournament after dropping sets against Philipp Kohlschreiber and Fernando Verdasco in the first two matches. Marton Fucsovics and Borna Coric were his quarterfinal and semifinal opposition, while Tsitsipas had a relatively easy path until Gael Monfils was his semifinal opponent and he prevailed in that match in a third set tiebreak. The young Greek played well but Federer was just too good.
The Acapulco 500 was won by the struggling big server Nick Kyrgios 6-3 6-4, as he defeated Alexander Zverev in a battle of talented finalists. Kyrgios was focused on the week, edging John Isner in the semis, Rafael Nadal in the second round, and Stan Wawrinka in the quarters while Zverev had a smooth path that included Alex De Minaur in the quarters and Cam Norrie in the semis. Kyrgios has always had the talent to be an elite player, if he can keep this form he will contend in both upcoming Masters tournaments, but that can’t be predicted.
ATP Sao Paulo
Argentina’s Guido Pella won his first ATP title, winning the 250 on clay to close the Golden Swing 7-5 6-3 against Christian Garin. Pella edged Laslo Djere in the semis, while Garin upset Ruud. Pella didn’t have the toughest draw (Roberto Carballes Baena and Marco Trungelliti) but it was still a massive accomplishment to win his first title.
Roger Federer Reclaims #1 with Rotterdam Title, Dominic Thiem Takes Buenos Aires Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Kevin Anderson took the title in New York, he’s joined this week in the ATP winner’s circle by Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem. Both tournament favorites took care of business in Rotterdam and Buenos Aires respectively.
Roger Federer improved to 12-0 on the season and reclaimed world #1 in Rotterdam. Federer becomes the oldest player to ever hold the #1 ranking, that result coming after beating home player Robin Haase in three sets in the quarterfinals.
Federer dominated Grigor Dimitrov 6-2 6-2 in a forgettable final. He was tested more by both Phillip Kohlschreiber and Andreas Seppi earlier in the tournament. Federer eased past Ruben Bemelmans in the opening round. The result in Rotterdam is Federer’s third championship at the venue.
Dimitrov defeated Yuichi Sugita, Filip Krajinovic, Andrey Rublev, and David Goffin en route to the final. Goffin had to retire after being hit in the eye with a tennis ball that deflected off of his racquet. Despite Dimitrov having a good tournament overall, his complete inability to compete with Federer in the final is likely to linger in his mind in the weeks to come.
Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut beat Olivier Marach and Mate Pavic in the doubles final.
Dominic Thiem won a second career title in Buenos Aires. Thiem came through unscathed against Aljaz Bedene in the final, winning 6-2 6-4. Horacio Zeballos, Guido Pella, and Gael Monfils also fell at the hands of Thiem’s racquet as the Austrian didn’t drop a set this week.
Bedene has backed up his great 2017 with a run to the final. Bedene defeated Jiri Vesely, Albert Ramos, Diego Schwartzman, and Federico Delbonis. He dropped sets against Ramos and Delbonis but cemented himself as a dangerous player on clay in the tournaments to come.
Argentines Andres Molteni and Horacio Zeballos defeated Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah to give home fans joy in the doubles final.
2018 ATP Buenos Aires Preview and Predictions: Dominic Thiem and Fabio Fognini Among the Favorites Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Golden Swing continues with a 250 level clay court stop in Buenos Aires. Dominic Thiem and Fabio Fognini are among the favorites as some of the ATP’s best descend on Argentina. Here is your full preview, with predictions.
Austria’s Dominic Thiem is a heavy favorite to take the title as the #1 seed. He’ll face either home favorite Horacio Zeballos or qualifier Marco Cecchinato. I have Thiem against Argentina’s Guido Pella in the quarters, Pella’s path is Nicolas Kicker, followed by Fernando Verdasco or Quito semifinalist Thiago Monteiro. Thiem over Pella is my choice at that stage.
Italian Fabio Fognini should be good enough to defeat Leonardo Mayer or Rogerio Dutra Silva before facing fellow veteran Gael Monfils in the quarters. Monfils needs to defeat the seeded Pablo Cuevas, then Dusan Lajovic or qualifier Facundo Bagnis. Monfils wasn’t lights out in Quito, but Cuevas is struggling, thus it should be Fognini over Monfils in the quarters.
Pablo Carreno Busta struggled in Quito and will look to get back on track here. PCB will face Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Carlos Berlocq in the second round and I have him as the favorite. Kyle Edmund had his breakthrough at the Australian Open, but he’s historically been poor on clay. Edmund faces Quito champion Roberto Carballes Baena in round 1, Federico Delbonis/Florian Mayer will follow. I have Delbonis falling to Carreno Busta in the quarterfinals.
Diego Schwartzman, a home hero, faces Andreas Haider-Maurer, he’ll get Pedro Cachin or qualifier Thomaz Bellucci in round 2. Quito finalist Albert Ramos will face Jiri Vesely or Aljaz Bedene. Bedene has some great potential this tournament and I have him beating Vesely and the tired Ramos to reach the quarters. Schwartzman is my pick to reach the semis.
Harrison wins First ATP Title in Memphis, Dolgopolov Breaks Slump with Buenos Aires Triumph Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won his biggest tour title since the 2014 Canadian Masters with a 4-6 6-4 6-1 victory against David Goffin in the final of Rotterdam. The Frenchman moved well and played attacking tennis after early struggles against Goffin. Besides the final, he didn’t drop a set all week as he beat young gun Stefanos Tsitispas, Gilles Muller, Marin Cilic, and Tomas Berdych, three big hitters in a row to reach the final. Tsonga was much more agile than his opponents, and also more aggressive when it counted this week.
Goffin did not have an easy week, but remarkably made his second straight ATP final with wins over Andrey Kuznetsov, Robin Haase, Grigor Dimitrov, and Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Haase and Dimitrov both took a set against him, the win over Dimitrov was impressive given that the tired Bulgarian had defeated him in the Sofia final just a few days prior. Herbert, normally at his best in doubles, surprisingly reached the semfinals, emerging from a strong field to once again demonstrate he has plenty of talent for singles, but hasn’t always put it together.
Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers defeated Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop in the doubles final, preventing the home fans from enjoying the Dutch pairing winning the doubles title at home in Holland.
It’s been a long road for the former ATP young gun Ryan Harrison. After years in the challenger wilderness, he has broken through once again at the ATP level, and he did so in a memorable way, defeating Nikoloz Basilashvili for his first ever ATP title 6-1 6-4. Harrison has improved his control of his emotions, is playing more aggressively, much more tactically, and mashing his forehand well. It showed against Basilashvili, and all week in Memphis.
Harrison hasn’t dropped a set in 10 matches, he entered Memphis with a challenger title under his belt, and quickly blazed past Konstantin Kravchuk, Sam Querrey, Damir Dzumhur, and Donald Young to reach the final, having improved his game even from a solid 2016, and added new quirks since emerging on tour years ago as a teenager.
Georgia’s #1 Basilashvili has now made two career ATP finals, he also didn’t drop a set on Memphis slow hard courts. He’s now 7-2 in his last two tournaments after wins against Jordan Thompson, Ivo Karlovic, Matt Ebden, and Mikhail Kukushkin. This week in Memphis we were treated to great performances by a pair of rising players.
Brian Baker and Nikola Mektic prevented Harrison from pulling off a brace, as the American/Croatian pair defeated Harrison and fellow Yank Steve Johnson in the doubles final.
ATP Buenos Aires
A loser of five straight finals heading into his match against Alexandr Dolgopolov, Kei Nishikori presumed he’d end the day as an ATP champion for the first time in a year. The human highlight reel Dolgopolov came to play though, his shotmaking pressured a passive Nishikori, and ended in an upset 7-6 6-4 victory for Ukraine’s #1. Nishikori played not to lose against a player ranked outside of the top 50, and in the process dropped his sixth straight ATP final. Dolgopolov had won just one match in months, but now leaves Argentina in great form that could allow him to return being a regular ATP top 30 player.
Dolgopolov played his best tennis in at least a year and now has three ATP titles in his career. Dolgo defeated Janko Tipsarevic, Pablo Cuevas, Gerald Melzer, and Pablo Carreno Busta without dropping a set. His results were extra impressive given he usually prefers fast surfaces over clay given he’s a flat hitter. Nishikori dropped sets against Diego Schwartzman and Carlos Berlocq, with a routine win over Joao Sousa inbetween, he did make the final, but he never seemed that comfortable on court in Buenos Aires.
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah beat Santiago Gonzalez/David Marrero to win the doubles final.
2017 ATP Buenos Aires Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP Golden Swing rolls on with a 250 level stop in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The South American nation has contributed a lot to the rich landscape of men’s tennis, and now its time to celebrate Argentinian tennis for a week in its capital. Here is your preview, with predictions.
ATP World Tour 250
February 13-19, 2017
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Prize Money: $546,680
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (5)
2: Pablo Cuevas (20)
3: David Ferrer (25)
4: Pablo Carreno Busta (26)
The Argentina Open has one top tier star competing against a host of the ATP World Tour’s best dirtballers.
First round matches to watch:
Victor Estrella vs. Thiago Monteiro
36 year old Victor Estrella comes off a third straight Quito title and has started the season in good form, while young Brazilian Thiago Monteiro has lost three straight. The 22 year old is fresher, and no slouch on clay, but Estrella’s grinding should give him an edge in this matchup, as long as he can recover.
Tommy Robredo vs. (7)Fabio Fognini
The h2h between these veterans is split 4-4, but Fognini, a hero in Davis Cup for Italy, is likely the better player in this matchup. Robredo is returning to tour from injury, at Age 34 he’s making his 2017 debut, after focusing on the Challenger tour to recover his ranking and form in 2016. Robredo was once a top clay court player, and he could upset Fognini, but if the Italian hones in he should be able to slap forehand winners on the way to victory.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. (WC)Janko Tipsarevic
This pair have never met on clay, and split hard court meetings 1-1. Dolgopolov has continued his miserable form, he dropped a match to serve and volleyer Rajeev Ram on Quito’s clay. Tipsarevic lost in round 2 of Quito, but still looks to be playing better, and has a great shot at a quality tour win in this one.
Kei Nishikori is 28-7 on clay over the last two seasons, and as the top seed a lot of pressure is on him to perform well in Buenos Aires, where he is playing for the second time in his career. His first match will be against an Argentine, either Diego Schwartzman or Facundo Bagnis. DSS leads Bagnis 3-1 in the h2h, so Nishikori over Schwartzman is the likely path to the quarters for Kei, who has started the season 6-2. Federico Delbonis was 16-8 on clay last year, and has a clear advantage to reach the quarterfinals with wins over a struggling Stephane Robert, and Horacio Zeballos or Joao Sousa. Sousa isn’t quite as good on clay as Delbonis, but Nishikori represents a much stronger challenge. Presuming the Japanese #1 is motivated, Nishikori is the semifinal favorite.
The Fognini/Robredo winner should be favored over a tired Estrella or Monteiro in round 2. In the quarterfinals I have it Fabio Fognini vs. David Ferrer. Ferrer, despite having a poor season last year, and struggling to start this year by his usual standards, was still 15-7 on clay in 2016, is a 3-time champion in BA, and is simply better than Carlos Berlocq or a qualifier. Ferrer is 11-0 against Fognini, with that kind of h2h in his favor, Ferrer should be the semifinalist opposite Nishikori/Delbonis.
Pablo Cuevas and Paolo Lorenzi, the two seeds at the bottom of the draw, are clear favorites to face off in the quarterfinals. Cuevas was 21-8 on clay last year and is better on the surface than the Dolgopolov/Tipsarevic winner he opens with. Lorenzi faces off with Gerald Melzer, Melzer isn’t bad on clay, while Lorenzi just lost a hard fought Quito final. Fatigue could be a factor, but the grinding Italian veteran should reach round 2 to face Renzo Olivo or a qualifier. Olivo is solid on clay as well, and playing on home dirt, but I still think Lorenzi is the better ATP player (3-0 h2h) and will prevail. Cuevas leads Lorenzi 5-0 in the h2h, and should be fresher, making him the semifinal favorite.
Pablo Carreno Busta and Albert Ramos look set to create an all-Spanish quarterfinal between sometime doubles partners, presuming PCB defeats a qualifier, and Ramos defeats Guido Pella and the winner of Leonardo Mayer/Gastao Elias. Pella is struggling, while Ramos comes off semis in Quito. Mayer hasn’t played as much on tour recently, but he’ll have home court advantage against Elias, a journeyman Portugese player who has hung around the fringes of ATP main draws for a bit now. PCB picked up a win over Ramos last year, he’s starting his season on clay after going 20-12 last season on the surface. I have PCB facing Cuevas in the semifinals.
Of the non-seeded players, the streaky Delbonis may be the most dangerous on clay. He’ll have home fans behind him, and Nishikori could falter if he’s not focused in this 250. If Delbonis can slay Nishikori, he has a shot at taking this title at home.
Semis Nishikori d. Ferrer
Carreno Busta d. Cuevas
Nishikori has won six of his last seven matches against Ferrer and has only gotten better since they last met. PCB vs. Cuevas is hard to call, Cuevas leads the h2h 3-2, but PCB may be in slightly better form, I’ll go with the Spaniard, either way we would see a Pablo in the final.
Final Nishikori d. Carreno Busta
This pair have never met, Nishikori is an elite player though, and although he’s not an elite clay courter, he’s still great on the surface and with his movement and steady groundstrokes, not easy to defeat on this surface. He should outmuscle allcomers and take this 250 title.
Martin Klizan won his fourth career ATP title in a surprise over Gael Monfils 6-7(1) 6-3 6-1. Monfils was in control of play until the wheels came off, and his mental weakness once again reared its ugly head in an ATP final.
The hard hitting Slovak won all but one of his matches in three sets this week and an unexpected champion at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. He beat Tommy Robredo in three sets, Marcos Baghdatis in straights, and then both Roberto Bautista Agut and Nicolas Mahut after dropping the first set in a tiebreak. Grit and fight was the story of the week for him.
Monfils beat Ernests Gulbis, slipped past Borna Coric in three sets, and then defeated Alex Zverev and Philipp Kohlschreiber to reach the final.
Mahut and Vasek Pospisil defeated Philipp Petzschner and Alexander Peya in the doubles final as it was a strong week for Nico Mahut.
Dominic Thiem won his fourth career ATP title and continued his rise up the ATP rankings with a surprise result in Buenos Aires. Thiem won a nip and tuck three set match over Nicolas Almagro 7-6(2) 3-6 7-6(4). The young Austrian #1 stunned Rafael Nadal in a third set tiebreak in the semifinals as he went toe to toe with the king of clay and came out on top in the pressure points.
Thiem also beat Pablo Carreno Busta, Gastao Elias, and Dusan Lajovic in BA this past week. Nicolas Almagro reached his first ATP title since early 2014 with wins over Albert Montanes, Federico Delbonis in 3 sets, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and David Ferrer, the latter two were upset wins.
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah beat Inigo Cervantes and an in form Paolo Lorenzi to win the doubles title.
Kei Nishikori dropped just one set this week as he won his fourth career title in Memphis. The Japanese #1 has dominated the southern tournament, and he took out teenage finalist Taylor Fritz 6-4 6-4. Fritz reached an ATP final in just his third career ATP tournament as an 18 year old. The American has a well rounded game, both defensively and offensively, and he got off to a 3-0 lead against Nishikori, only to surrender the first set, and then get broken in the second set and lose the match in straights.
Nishikori beat Ryan Harrison, Mikhail Kukushkin, and Sam Querrey this week, dropping that lone set to Querrey. Fritz beat young gun Michael Mmoh, Steve Johnson, Benjamin Becker in a third set tiebreak, and Ricardas Berankis in three sets as well to reach the final. Fritz is the first American to reach an ATP final after just three career events and has a bright future ahead. He’s nearly into the top 100, with barely any ranking points to defend.
Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Santiago Gonzalez beat Johnson/Querrey to retain the doubles final.
2016 ATP Buenos Aires Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Golden swing in South America rolls on with Argentina’s only ATP tournament, the 250 level Argentina Open.
ATP World Tour 250
February 8-14, 2016
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Prize Money: $523,470
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (5)
2: David Ferrer (6)
3: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (9)
4: John Isner (12)
The Argentina Open has one of its strongest fields with three top 10 players, and a seed cutoff at #35.
First round matchups to watch:
Juan Monaco vs. (Q)Marco Cecchinato
The 2007 champion Juan Monaco is playing his first match back from a serious wrist injury last summer, and he’ll open with the Italian qualifier Marco Cecchinato. Cecchinato is trying to move to the ATP level, and they both have a history of success on clay. Depending on his level of rust, Monaco could rally with the home crowd and earn a win.
Paolo Lorenzi vs. Pablo Andujar
Lorenzi and Andujar have played eight times on clay, and the h2h is deadlocked at 4-4. Lorenzi is 7-2 over his past two clay court tournaments, while the spin maestro Andujar has to be happy to return to clay. Lorenzi could be fatigued, and thus Andujar is likely a slight favorite.
(5)Dominic Thiem vs. Pablo Carreno Busta
Thiem won a three setter over PCB last year, and this should be a good tournament for him. He continues to rise up the rankings, and he’ll also be pleased to be on clay. PCB comes off the semis in Quito, and this one could also go three sets.
Fognini won a third set tiebreaker in a clay court match against Delbonis last year that was an absolute thriller in Rio. Both are capable of great clay court tennis, and Delbonis will have home support. Fognini is higher ranked, and could well make a run in this tournament, though the outcome is up in the air.
Rafael Nadal’s six losses on clay last season were his most since 2003, and he’ll look to get back into form as the king of clay in Buenos Aires. Nadal will open with Cecchinato, or his good friend Monaco, in round 2, with most likely Alexandr Dolgopolov to follow in the quarterfinals. Dolgo opens with 23 year old Diego Schwartzman, with Lorenzi/Andujar to follow. He’s a bit streaky on clay, but he has the talent to get into the quarters. Nadal should have a relatively smooth path to the semifinals, though an upset is possible given his decline these days.
John Isner opted to play in South America on clay, and he’ll have a tough opening match with Fernando Verdasco most likely, though Verdasco first has to defeat Dusan Lajovic. Lajovic has a h2h win on clay over Verdasco, who lost his first match in Quito. Verdasco’s inconsistency this season could be Isner’s gain, he’s had a positive record on clay over the last few seasons.
Thiem/Carreno Busta are likely to meet Isner/Verdasco in the quarters. Qualifier Gastao Elias, or Daniel Munoz De La Nava are the alternative, Elias has been in good form as of late with a couple of challenger quarterfinals, though Thiem likely gets through, and then defeats Isner to reach the semis. Thiem beat Isner on clay in Nice last season.
David Ferrer was 19-5 on clay last season, and has three previous Buenos Aires titles on his resume. Ferrer will open with an Argentine, either Renzo Olivo or Facundo Bagnis. Bagnis has two challenger titles and a semifinal on clay already this season, Olivo reached the quarters in Quito and also has been in good form. Bagnis h2h edge makes him a slight favorite, but I’m going with Olivo vs. Ferrer, and then Ferrer into the quarterfinals.
#8 seed Pablo Cuevas is the favorite to reach the quarters and face Ferrer from his section. Cuevas has a h2h loss to his round 1 opponent Albert Ramos, a Quito semifinalist, but he should be fresher than his opponent and advance to face Santiago Giraldo. Giraldo had a negative record on clay last year, and needs improvement this season. Ferrer is 2-0 against Cuevas, and 5-0 against Ramos, making him a clear favorite for the semifinals.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is 5-2 in 2016, and posted a 10-5 record on clay last season. Like Ferrer, he has an Argentine in his opening match, either the veteran Leonardo Mayer, or Guido Pella. Mayer can be a troublesome opponent, but Tsonga is likely to reach the quarterfinals. Fognini/Delbonis will face Nicolas Almagro in round 2, Almagro has been struggling in 2016. Tsonga vs. Fognini should be a cracking match, Tsonga has a 4-0 h2h edge, and thus Ferrer vs. Tsonga in the semis is a possible outcome.
Delbonis has to get past Fognini, but if he does, he could make a run that will ignite the home crowd, potentially reaching the quarterfinals and beyond. Delbonis has a fantastic career record on clay, and continues to improve his ATP game. He also has an ATP title on clay (Sao Paulo 2014).
Semis: Nadal d. Thiem
Ferrer d. Tsonga
Nadal beat Thiem a couple of years ago on clay, this match should be a much closer encounter, but Nadal’s experience and skill on the surface still make him a tournament favorite. Ferrer has beaten Tsonga twice on clay, and in South America he should have an edge.
Final: Nadal d. Ferrer
Nadal has won his last three meetings against Ferrer, and though it could be a close contest, Rafa is the favorite.
David Ferrer extended his dominance of the Abierto Mexicano in Acapulco, as the multi surface champion claimed his fourth title at the tournament with a surprisingly easy 6-3 7-5 win over Kei Nishikori.
Ferrer improves to 18-1 on the season after the tournament, and he hasn’t lost a match since losing to Nishikori in Melbourne, with titles in Doha and Rio previously this year, giving him three titles on the season. Ferrer is an early leader out of the gate most ATP titles.
Nishikori played poorly compared to their meeting in Melbourne, spraying too many errors as he got off to a slow start and never truly recovered, while Ferrer was much more reliable, making for an opponent that was too formidable for the newly top 5 Nishikori.
Ferrer had some tough matches this week,he beat Igor Sijsling in straights with one set that was competitive, then got past Marinko Matosevic in straights and Bernard Tomic in 3 sets, 6-1 in the third. In the semis, he dropped the opening set to qualifier Ryan Harrison, who shockingly reached the semis, beating Grigor Dimitrov en route, along with Ivo Karlovic, but Harrison ran out of gas after that and Ferrer won the next 12 games for a three set win.
Nishikori performed better in his other matches this week than he did in the final, the Japanese number one extended his winning streak from his title in Memphis with wins over Alejandro Gonzalez, Rendy Lu, and Alex Dolgopolov without dropping a set, and then he beat Kevin Anderson once again in 3 sets.
Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo won the doubles title over Santiago Gonzalez and Mariusz Frystenberg, as the Mexican doubles specialist Gonzalez was denied a title on home soil.
Roger Federer claimed an untouchable seventh title in Dubai, as he and Novak Djokovic treated fans to another thrilling duel in their long running rivalry. Djokovic had his chances all match but Federer was remarkably clutch, saving all 7 break points faced, while breaking Djokovic on his only chance in each set for the title. Federer was dominant behind his first serve with 12 aces, while the rallying and aggressive play by both players was sublime and graceful. With the win, Federer proves that he remains a forced to be reckoned with against any opponent on tour, including the world number 1.
Federer faced little in the way of opposition all week as he dominated Mikhail Youzhny, Fernando Verdasco, Richard Gasquet, and the teenager Borna Coric, who reached the semifinals as a lucky loser. In the process, Coric shockingly dominated a listless Andy Murray in straights, and also took out Marcos Baghdatis and Malek Jaziri in 3 sets. Coric had a lot of luck this week in general, notably Baghdatis retired before a third set tiebreak with cramps. The 33 year old world number 2 now has two ATP titles on the season.
Djokovic improved to 13-2 on the year with straight set wins over Vasek Pospisil, Andrey Golubev,and surprise quarterfinalist Marsel Ilhan. He played a strange semifinal against Tomas Berdych, where he posted a first set bagel, then shockingly lost the second set, after breaking back no less,finally finishing of the match 6-4 in the third as Berdych came up just short of a quality comeback.
The veteran pairing of Rohan Bopanna and Daniel Nestor defeated fellow veterans Nenad Zimonjic and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi in the doubles final.
Rafael Nadal refused to be denied a title on the Golden Swing on South American clay, as he got over the hump and took out Juan Monaco, his good friend and frequent doubles partner, 6-4 6-1. Monaco didn’t play poorly but he had little chance going into the final against an opponent he knows so well, and he seemed to be resigned to defeat at the start.
Rafa didn’t drop a set this week, not letting the letdown of a semifinal loss in Rio get to him, the Spanish number one and King of Clay beat all Argentine opponents this week, breaking local hearts in BA. His first win came against Facundo Arguello, then he scored wins over Federico Delbonis and Carlos Berlocq to reach the final, all without dropping a set, as Berlocq was perhaps his toughest opponent of the tournament.
Pico Monaco beat Maximo Gonzalez in round 1, then upset the highest ranked Argentine player, Leonardo Mayer 6-4 6-4. In the quarters he snuck past an in-form Pablo Cuevas in 3 sets, 6-4 in the third, and in the semis he ground his way past Nicolas Almagro 6-4 in the third set. That match was one he had every reason to take in straights but was forced to the distance in. By virtue of reaching the final, Monaco extends his streak of reaching at least one ATP final every year since 2008. He also drops to 1-2 in Argentina Open finals.
Jarkko Nieminen and Andre Sa beat Pablo Andujar and Oliver Marach in the doubles final.
Tennis Atlantic 2015 ATP Draw Challenge Week 8 (Acapulco, Dubai, Buenos Aires) Staff, Tennis Atlantic
Two 500 pointers are at stake with Acapulco and Dubai, while 250 points can be gained from the clay court tournament in Buenos Aires, as a vast majority of the ATP World Tour’s stars are in action this week.
Round 2 Matches: Nishikori vs. Estrella, Haase vs. Dolgopolov, Anderson vs. Johnson, Troicki vs. Giraldo, Gabashvili vs. Kokkinakis, Young vs. Dimitrov, Becker vs. Tomic, Granollers vs. Ferrer Quarterfinals: Nishikori vs. Dolgopolov, Anderson vs. Troicki, Kokkinakis vs. Dimitrov, Tomic vs. Ferrer Semifinals: Nishikori vs. Anderson, Dimitrov vs. Ferrer Final: Nishikori vs. Dimitrov Champion: Nishikori
Courtney Massey’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Nishikori vs. Estrella, Haider-Maurer vs. Dolgopolov, Anderson vs. Johnson, Troicki vs. Qualifier, Karlovic vs. Kokkinakis, Young vs. Dimitrov, Becker vs. Tomic, Matosevic vs. Ferrer Quarterfinals: Nishikori vs. Haider-Maurer, Anderson vs. Troicki, Karlovic vs. Dimitrov, Becker vs. Ferrer Semifinals: Haider-Maurer vs. Troicki, Dimitrov vs. Ferrer Final: Haider-Maurer vs. Ferrer Champion: Ferrer
Chris de Waard’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Nishikori vs. Lu, Haider-Maurer vs. Dolgopolov, Anderson vs. Johnson, Troicki vs. Giraldo, Karlovic vs. Kokkinakis, Young vs. Dimitrov, Kamke vs. Tomic, Granollers vs. Ferrer Quarterfinals: Nishikori vs. Dolgopolov, Anderson vs. Troicki, Karlovic vs. Dimitrov, Tomic vs. Ferrer Semifinals: Nishikori vs. Troicki, Dimitrov vs. Ferrer Final: Nishikori vs. Ferrer Champion: Nishikori
Jeff McMillan’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Nishikori vs. Lu, Haider-Maurer vs. Dolgopolov, Anderson vs. Johnson, Troicki vs. Giraldo, Karlovic vs. Kokkinakis, Young vs. Dimitrov, Kamke vs. Tomic, Matosevic vs. Ferrer Quarterfinals: Nishikori vs. Dolgopolov, Johnson vs. Troicki, Karlovic vs. Dimitrov, Tomic vs. Ferrer Semifinals: Nishikori vs. Johnson, Dimitrov vs. Ferrer Final: Nishikori vs. Dimitrov Champion: Nishikori
Niall Clarke’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Nishikori vs. Lu, Haider-Maurer vs. Dolgopolov, Anderson vs. Johnson, Troicki vs. Giraldo, Karlovic vs. Kokkinakis, Young vs. Dimitrov, Becker vs. Mannarino, Granollers vs. Ferrer Quarterfinals: Nishikori vs. Dolgopolov, Anderson vs. Troicki, Karlovic vs. Dimitrov, Mannarino vs. Ferrer Semifinals: Nishikori vs. Anderson, Karlovic vs. Ferrer Final: Nishikori vs. Ferrer Champion: Nishikori
Opinions are mixed on how David Ferrer will fare coming off his Rio title, but Kei Nishikori is the consensus pick to win his second ATP title of the year, while defending champ Grigor Dimitrov is predicted to come up just short by most of our analysts.
Round 2 Matches: Djokovic vs. Golubev, Zverev vs. Lopez, Berdych vs. Bolelli, Stakhovsky vs. Istomin, Baghdatis vs. Kohlschreiber, Sousa vs. Murray, Bautista Agut vs. Gasquet, Garcia-Lopez vs. Federer
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Lopez, Berdych vs. Stakhovsky, Baghdatis vs. Murray, Gasquet vs. Federer Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Berdych, Murray vs. Federer Final: Djokovic vs. Federer Champion: Djokovic
Courtney Massey’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Djokovic vs. Martin, Ilhan vs. Lopez, Berdych vs. Bolelli, Stakhovsky vs. Gulbis, Baghdatis vs. Kohlschreiber, McGee vs. Murray, Bautista Agut vs. Seppi, Verdasco vs. Federer
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Lopez, Berdych vs. Stakhovsky, Baghdatis vs. Murray, Seppi vs. Federer Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Berdych, Murray vs. Federer Final: Djokovic vs. Federer Champion: Federer
Chris de Waard’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Djokovic vs. Martin, Ilhan vs. Lopez, Berdych vs. Bolelli, Stakhovsky vs. Gulbis, Goffin vs. Kohlschreiber, Sousa vs. Murray, Bautista Agut vs. Gasquet, Garcia-Lopez vs. Federer
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Lopez, Berdych vs. Stakhovsky, Goffin vs. Murray, Gasquet vs. Federer Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Berdych, Murray vs. Federer Final: Djokovic vs. Murray Champion: Djokovic
Jeff McMillan’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Djokovic vs. Golubev, Ilhan vs. Lopez, Berdych vs. Bolelli, Rosol vs. Gulbis, Goffin vs. Kohlschreiber, Sousa vs. Murray, Bautista Agut vs. Seppi, Verdasco vs. Federer
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Lopez, Berdych vs. Gulbis, Goffin vs. Murray, Seppi vs. Federer Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Berdych, Murray vs. Federer Final: Djokovic vs. Murray Champion: Murray
Niall Clarke’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Djokovic vs. Golubev, Zverev vs. Lopez, Berdych vs. Bolelli, Stakhovsky vs. Istomin, Goffin vs. Kohlschreiber, Sousa vs. Murray, Bautista Agut vs. Gasquet, Garcia-Lopez vs. Federer
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Lopez, Berdych vs. Istomin, Goffin vs. Murray, Gasquet vs. Federer Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Berdych, Murray vs. Federer Final: Djokovic vs. Federer Champion: Federer
2 people have Fed as champ, 2 people have Novak as champ, and everyone has the same semifinal pairings this week, in a draw that is expected to remain true to form late into the tournament.
Round 2 Matches: Nadal vs. Montanes, Bellucci vs. Delbonis, Fognini vs. Berlocq, Qualifier vs. Vesely, Mayer vs. Monaco, Qualifier vs. Cuevas, Almagro vs. Ramos, Olivo vs. Robredo Quarterfinals: Nadal vs. Delbonis, Fognini vs. Vesely, Monaco vs. Cuevas, Almagro vs. Olivo Semifinals: Nadal vs. Vesely, Cuevas vs. Almagro Final: Nadal vs. Cuevas Champion: Nadal
Courtney Massey’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Nadal vs. Qualifier, Lorenzi vs. Delbonis, Fognini vs. Schwartzman, Qualifier vs. Vesely, Mayer vs. Monaco, Qualifier vs. Cuevas, Andujar vs. Zeballos, Nieminen vs. Robredo Quarterfinals: Nadal vs. Lorenzi, Fognini vs. Vesely, Mayer vs. Qualifier, Andujar vs. Nieminen Semifinals: Nadal vs. Fognini, Mayer vs. Nieminen Final: Nadal vs. Mayer Champion: Nadal
Chris de Waard’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Nadal vs. Qualifier, Bellucci vs. Carreno-Busta, Fognini vs. Schwartzman, Qualifier vs. Vesely, Mayer vs. Monaco, Andreozzi vs. Cuevas, Almagro vs. Ramos, Olivo vs. Robredo Quarterfinals: Nadal vs. Carreno Busta, Fognini vs. Vesely, Monaco vs. Cuevas, Almagro vs. Olivo Semifinals: Nadal vs. Fognini, Cuevas vs. Almagro Final: Nadal vs. Cuevas Champion: Nadal
Jeff McMillan’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Nadal vs. Qualifier, Bellucci vs. Delbonis, Fognini vs. Berlocq, Qualifier vs. Rola, Mayer vs. Gonzalez, Qualifier vs. Cuevas, Almagro vs. Zeballos, Nieminen vs. Robredo Quarterfinals: Nadal vs. Bellucci, Fognini vs. Qualifier, Mayer vs. Cuevas, Almagro vs. Robredo Semifinals: Nadal vs. Fognini, Cuevas vs. Robredo Final: Nadal vs. Cuevas Champion: Nadal
Niall Clarke’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Nadal vs. Montanes, Bellucci vs. Delbonis, Fognini vs. Berlocq, Qualifier vs. Vesely, Mayer vs. Monaco, Qualifier vs. Cuevas, Almagro vs. Zeballos, Nieminen vs. Robredo Quarterfinals: Nadal vs. Delbonis, Berlocq vs. Vesely, Monaco vs. Cuevas, Almagro vs. Robredo Semifinals: Nadal vs. Berlocq, Monaco vs. Almagro Final: Nadal vs. Monaco Champion: Nadal
Nobody appears to be comfortable picking against Nadal on clay, with Pablo Cuevas a favorite for the final.
Courtney blew the rest of the field out of the water this week in Delray, taking the title as her favorite Ernests Gulbis has before, she was the only one to correctly predict Ivo Karlovic as champion.
2015 ATP Acapulco, Dubai, and Buenos Aires Preview/Prediction Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A pair of 500 series events on hard courts this week are the highlight of the ATP calendar, as most stars will take to the courts in Mexico or Dubai, meanwhile, the ATP Golden Swing on clay concludes in Buenos Aires, with those who prefer the dirt taking their talents to Argentina for the 250 level event.
2015 ATP Acapulco Preview
Abierto Mexicano Telcel
ATP World Tour 500*
February 23-February 28, 2015
Prize Money: $1,414,550
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (5)
2: David Ferrer (9)
3: Grigor Dimitrov (11)
4: Kevin Anderson (15)
The seed cutoff is 40 (Benjamin Becker), and 4 of the top 20 are participating in this 500 level event this week.
Estrella is in tremendous form at the moment, he won the Morelos challenger on hard courts in Mexico, after winning his maiden ATP title in Quito. Lu, the steady veteran baseliner, reached the quarters in Delray, with an upset win over Kevin Anderson. I have Estrella winning this matchup given how well the veteran is playing right now, but it could go either way.
Bernard Tomic vs. Adrian Mannarino
Both players come off semifinals in Delray, Tomic beat Viktor Troicki en route later losing to Donald Young, while Mannarino beat Lu, and also Denis Kudla, before falling to eventual champion Ivo Karlovic. Tomic should be favored as he’s in better recent form and has won consecutive matches in every tournament he’s played this season (12-5 ATP record in 2015), expect a quality contest all the same though.
Kei Nishikori opens with a qualifier, and then the Estrella/Lu winner, Estrella is a dangerous opponent right now, but the top 5, and normally consistent Nishikori, should reach the quarterfinals with Sam Groth/Alex Dolgopolov his most likely opponent. The winner of Groth/Dolgopolov, will face Robin Haase or Rio semifinalist Andreas Haider-Maurer in round 2. Dolgo was a quarterfinalist in Delray, and I give him a slight edge to beat Groth, and then Haase to reach the quarters here. Nishikori, who won the title in Memphis, and has made quarterfinals or better at every tournament this season (10-2 ATP record), is 2-0 in the h2h against Dolgo, with both wins coming on hard court, so I favor Asia’s top player over the unpredictable Dolgopolov for a spot in the semifinals.
Kevin Anderson, a finalist last year, will open with fellow big server Dustin Brown. Though Anderson lost early in Delray, he was a finalist in Memphis, and I have him getting through Brown, and Steve Johnson to reach the quarters. Johnson hasn’t lost in the opening round of any tournament this year (9-5 ATP record including consecutive quarterfinals in Delray and Memphis). Johnson will open with Ivan Dodig, who has been thus far unable to return to his previous top 40 form this year. Anderson already has 2 wins against Johnson this year without dropping a set in Memphis and Auckland, and that’s why he’s the quarterfinal favorite.
Viktor Troicki, who lost to Tomic in Delray, has a reasonable chance at another quarterfinal showing, he opens with Mexican wild card Daniel Garza, who has some of the worst physical conditioning I’ve ever seen in a professional tennis player. After that, Troicki is likely to face Santiago Giraldo. Giraldo is 2-0 against Troicki, including a hard court win, but he retired in his last match in Rio, and given the surface, with Troicki already having an ATP title, and a quarterfinal on his resume this year, the Serbian should be favored. Troicki beat Anderson once three and a half years ago in Washington, and that match could go either way but with Anderson having previous success here, I have him into the semifinals over Troicki.
Rio champion David Ferrer opens with Igor Sijsling, who continues to struggle having lost three straight, even if Ferrer is a bit worn down, he only has one loss on the season, with two ATP titles (Doha and Rio), and with that in mind he should roll past Sijsling and then Marinko Matosevic or Marcel Granollers to reach the quarters. Matosevic has struggled this year (2-5 ATP record), while Granollers has a lone good showing this year in Zagreb (semifinals) I have Ferrer over Granollers in my bracket. Ferrer is 3-1 on hard courts against him, though Granollers won their last meeting in Tokyo.
The Tomic/Mannarino winner is a possible quarterfinal opponent for Ferrer, but watch out for 8 seed Benjamin Becker as well. Becker, who comes off a round 1 loss in Memphis, and is 2-4 on the year, opens with Tobias Kamke, a fellow German. Becker is 3-0 against Tomic, though they have never met on a hard court surface, I personally have Tomic into the quarters against Ferrer in my own bracket. Ferrer is 2-0 against Tomic, with both meetings on hard courts, and he has never dropped a set against the Aussie, still fatigue may be a factor, giving Tomic a shot at the semis.. In my own bracket I’m going with Ferrer, who has had an under the radar solid season already and isn’t presently showing signs of decline. Ferrer was only pushed to 3 sets once last week in Rio.
Defending champ Grigor Dimitrov has failed to impress this year, the Bulgarian number one opens with Filip Krajinovic in round 1, he should get through that, but Donald Young should give him a round 2 test, unless fatigue is a factor. Young, a finalist in Delray, and semifinalist in Memphis, opens with a qualifier, and he has two previous hard court wins against Dimitrov, but Dimitrov has also won twice on hard courts, with three of their four hard court meetings going 3 sets. Dimitrov hasn’t played like a top 10 player thus far but given his previous success here, and Young’s fatigue, I have Dimitrov into the quarterfinals.
Ivo Karlovic, the Delray champion, has an interesting draw, in theory he should comfortably reach the quarterfinals, given his opponents, Teymuraz Gabashvili and Dusan Lajovic or a qualifier, are not exactly hard court superstars, but at his age, one has to wonder if he will be fatigued, creating an opening for a qualifier, or one of those other two players to reach the quarterfinals. I don’t trust Karlovic’s fitness and thus I have Gabashvili through, and also I have him over Lajovic, who may fall to a qualifier, to reach the quarterfinals. Gabashvili has lost three straight, while Lajovic has lost two straight and he’s normally poor on hard courts. All the same Dimitrov has a relatively easy draw for a 500 level event, and should ease his way into the semifinals.
Viktor Troicki is a possible semifinalist this week, but I give Tomic the official designation because he’s been consistent this year, which is a surprising thing to say, given he used to not be, and if Ferrer is fatigued, he has a shot to score a top 10 win and get himself to the semis, where Dimitrov, a beatable opponent, is most likely to await. Dimitrov is 2-0 against Tomic in the h2h, but Tomic has had a good season and he seems due to reach a final, though I’m not predicting it, the possibility is there.
Semis: Nishikori d. Anderson
Dimitrov d. Ferrer
Nishikori just beat Anderson in Memphis, and should do so again, meanwhile, Dimitrov is 0-2 against Ferrer on an outdoor hard court but given the fatigue factor, I have Dimitrov regaining form and reaching the final this week thanks to a lucky draw.
Final: Nishikori d. Dimitrov
Nishikori is 2-0, with both wins coming on hard courts, against Dimitrov, given his solid season, he should win his second ATP title of the year in Acapulco as the top seed.
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
February 23-February 28, 2015
Prize Money: $2,082,605
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (4)
4: Tomas Berdych (8)
The seed cutoff is 20 (David Goffin), as Dubai has a very top heavy field, with 4 of the top 10, and 8 of the top 20 participating.
First round matchups to watch:
(1)Novak Djokovic vs. Vasek Pospisil
Djokovic beat Pospisil in their only meeting, a competitive contest last year in Beijing, and the Australian Open champion should once again advance to round 2 at a tournament he has won four times prior, however the young Canadian has game and this isn’t the easiest of round 1 matchups for the world number 1, Pospisil is 2-2 over his last four, and may be able to at least push the sets deep here.
Simone Bolelli vs. (Q)Lucas Pouille
One of the numerous matchups this week slated between in-form players, Bolelli has two ATP quarterfinals on his resume this year, most recently he reached the quarters in Marseille by upsetting top 10 player Milos Raonic in 3 sets. Pouille has risen to the occasion this year as well, the young Frenchman qualified with a pair of wins, and he was also a semifinalist in Auckland this year. Bolelli should be favored given his experience, and good recent form, but look for Pouille to test him, in a match that could go either way.
Baghdatis is 2-0 against Goffin, and most recently crushed him at the Australian Open, in a poor showing for the Belgian. Baghdatis has gotten his 2015 off to a strong start with a challenger final, a a third round showing in Melbourne, and a semifinal in Zagreb. Goffin meanwhile has not played as well this season, compared to last, he hasn’t posted better than a quarterfinal, and he’s just 2-4 over his last six matches, most recently he retired in Marseille against Dominic Thiem. With that in mind, though Goffin is much higher ranked, look for Baghdatis to move to 3-0 in the h2h and notch an upset to reach round 2.
Andreas Seppi vs. Richard Gasquet
Two players who have started the season in good form, Seppi has an ATP final (Zagreb), an ATP semifinal (Doha), and a second week appearance at the Australian Open on his resume thus far, resulting in an overall 11-5 ATP record this year, while Gasquet is 7-2 with a title in Montpellier on his resume. The shotmaking, tactically agile veterans have met five times previously, most recently back in 2012, and Gasquet is 4-1 in those meetings, with his lone loss coming on clay. Gasquet should be favored here but Seppi cannot be counted out, he’s improved his game considerably it seems this season, compared to previous seasons, and this match should at minimum not be a routine affair.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
This should be quite a high quality contest, Verdasco, who won the last hard court meeting between these Spaniards in 2012 is a slight favorite. He’s had a somewhat average season thus far with a 6-4 ATP record. Dasco took his talents to the golden swing for a couple of tournaments and is now back on hard courts while GGL has been off to a hot start in 2015 sticking to the hard courts. Garcia-Lopez won Zagreb, and already has 10 wins on the season (contrasted with 4 losses, two of which came at the racquet of top 10 player Stan Wawrinka in competitive contests). I personally have GGL winning this one, his play has been quite impressive thus far, and he is outperforming Verdasco right now.
Djokovic should be able to roll to the semifinals here, after Pospisil, Andrey Golubev or qualifier Fabrice Martin await, and then it should be Feliciano Lopez in the quarters. Lopez has generally lived up to his high ranking thus far this season (6-3 on the year), and he should defeat James Ward and Marsel Ilhan or Alex Zverev, but I give him little chance against Novak who he is 0-5 in his career against. The only time he took a set was in their Dubai 2011 meeting. On an interesting note about Martin-Golubev, Martin broke a seven match losing streak dating back to last season to qualify and he beat Borna Coric notably in those qualies, while Golubev is just 1-5 this season with four straight losses. Perhaps the recent boost to Martin’s confidence will get him through to round 2. Zverev should be the one to face Lopez, as he just beat Ilhan in Marseille qualifying a week prior.
Tomas Berdych, who has been solid this season with two ATP finals (Doha and Rotterdam), and of course that semifinal at the Australian Open on his resume already, opens with Jeremy Chardy, a quarterfinalist in Marseille. Berdych is 2-0 against Chardy, and does what the Frenchman is best at, better than he does, so I have little doubt it will be Berdych, who has made two consecutive finals here into round 2 against the Bolelli/Pouille winner. That should be a quality contest, and if Bolelli his Berdych’s round 2 opponent, the Italian has beaten the Czech twice before (2-3 h2h), so he may be able to do some damage, but once again the confidence pick should be Berdych as a quarterfinalist at least in Dubai.
Look for Berdych to face Sergiy Stakhovsky in that quarterfinal, the Ukrainian is playing some of the best tennis of his career at the moment, he opens with Lukas Rosol, who he just dispatched in Marseille (the Czech is just 1-7 over his last 8 matches dating back to last season), and then will face Denis Istomin or Ernests Gulbis. Both players are in awful form, Istomin is just 2-6 on the year, with three straight losses, while Gulbis is yet to win a match this season (0-4), with no sets won in his previous two losses against Dominic Thiem and Jeremy Chardy. Given Gulbis is the moodier player compared to Istomin, I have Istomin through, and then Stako to take him out comfortably. Stako has just one opening round loss this year, and he made the quarters in Rotterdam and the semis in Marseille consecutively, notably knocking off Stan Wawrinka in Marseille. Stako is 2-2 on a hard court against Istomin, but form favors him strongly. Given Berdych has a higher ranking, more accomplishments, a 3-0 h2h, and a better skillset than Stako, look for a Djokovic vs. Berdych semifinal this week.
Since 2009, only Djokovic, and Roger Federer, a six time Dubai champion, and the defending champion, have won the title here in the UAE. Federer will open his quest to repeat as champion against struggling veteran Mikhail Youzhny, who is a shell of his old self. Federer is an incredible 16-0 against the Russian over his career, and Youzhny is just 2-5 over his last seven matches dating back to last year. Federer could be tested a bit more against the Garcia-Lopez/Verdasco winner. If it’s GGL, as I have in my bracket, Federer is 3-0 against him, and should be able to make it 4-0 in reaching the quarterfinals. Federer is 5-0 against Verdasco if that is his opponent, and would make it 6-0.
Look for Seppi/Gasquet in the quarters for Federer, Roberto Bautista Agut is also an option here. RBA opens with Dominic Thiem, who he has already beaten twice this season, including last week in Marseille where he reached the semis. This is a difficult section to predict, RBA is 1-0 against both Seppi and Gasquet, but I feel like both of those players are outperforming the Spaniard right now and thusly I have Gasquet in the quarterfinals of my own bracket, with any of those 3 players having a case to make it that far. Gasquet has never beaten Federer on a hard court (0-7 including a Dubai loss) so Fed should reach the semis. If Seppi is his quarterfinal opponent, that would of course be a reprisal of the Italian’s shocking victory in Melbourne, but even still I would pick Federer to get his revenge and reach the semis.
Andy Murray, a one time finalist in Dubai who has played well thus far this season, opens with Gilles Muller, another in-form unseeded player to watch. Murray is 1-0 against Muller who reached the second week in Melbourne, and has an ATP semi and two ATP quarterfinals already on his resume this year. Murray, the AO finalist, most recently made the quarters in Rotterdam where he was upset by Gilles Simon. After Muller tests Murray, expect him to also take out Joao Sousa, who faces wild card James McGee in the first round. The journeyman McGee is an odd wild card selection, but all the same Murray is 4-0 against Sousa including a win this year at the Australian Open. Sousa has lost three straight matches though he has an ATP semifinal on his resume this year (Montpellier).
Murray could face Marcos Baghdatis in the quarters, after Goffin, it would be Malek Jaziri or Philipp Kohlschreiber for him in round 2. Jaziri tends to peak for these events in the Arab world but after a good showing at the Australian Open he’s in terrible form with three straight losses, most recently in Delray at the hands of Bernard Tomic. Kohlschreiber has lost two straight and is just 2-5 on the season, but even still I favor him over Jaziri. That said Baghdatis is playing much better than Kohli right now and has a 2-0 h2h record on hard courts, pointing to the Cypriot to reach the quarters.The aggressive Baghdatis has two previous hard court wins against Murray, who has won their last two hard court meetings for a 2-2 overall hard court h2h, and they almost always tend to play competitive contests, especially on fast surfaces, but Murray is likely to have more left in the tank these days and thus I have him into the semifinals.
The Cypriot appears to be motivated, fitter, and striking the ball much better in 2015, having experienced a bit of a career resurgence as of late when many thought he was near retirement. In my mind he’s the favorite to at minimum reach the quarterfinals, and Murray is beatable, as he’s proven before, so semis are a possible outcome for him this week, which would be remarkable given he entered this top heavy, 500 level event as a wild card.
Semis: Djokovic d. Berdych
Federer d. Murray
Djokovic has never lost to Berdych on a hard court, in a ton of meetings, including the 2013 Dubai final, and with that in mind, I don’t see any reason to pick against a Djokovic vs. Federer Dubai final this week given prior history and present form.
Federer has won three straight hard court meetings against Murray and he tends to play exceptionally well in Dubai, giving him the slight edge to reach the final this week.
Final: Djokovic d. Federer
Federer won their last hard court meeting in Shanghai, and their last Dubai meeting in 3 sets last year, but Djokovic played tremendous in Melbourne, and I still have to pick him on an outdoor hard court almost every time. This matchup could go either way, both players know each other well, and know how to beat the other, so it’s a really difficult prediction all the same, with my gut favoring the world number 1.
Argentina Open presented by Buenos Aires Ciudad
ATP World Tour 250
Buenos Aires, Argentina
February 23-March 1, 2015
Prize Money: $500,550
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (3)
2: Tommy Robredo (18)
3: Pablo Cuevas (23)
4: Fabio Fognini (28)
For a 250 event, with a pair of 500s also on the calendar the same week, Buenos Aires is actually quite solid, with Nadal headlining and a host of clay courters joining him on the undercard. Everyone in the field this week has taken part in one or more previous Golden Swing events (Quito, Sao Paulo or Rio)
First round matchups to watch:
(7)Pablo Andujar vs. Nicolas Almagro
Andujar is a seed, but Almagro is 3-0 in the h2h, including 2-0 on clay. Almagro has gone 2-2 on the Golden swing thus far with both of his losses coming in three setters against Pablo Cuevas. Andujar is 1-2, and isn’t playing that well right now, with that in mind the 2011 BA champ Almagro should advance to round 2 with a win in this all-Spanish encounter.
Rafael Nadal, a semifinalist in Rio, will face Albert Montanes or a qualifier in round 1. Nadal is 5-0 against Montanes with all meetings coming on clay, and his veteran Spanish counterpart has never taken a set against him. Next for Nadal is likely to be the winner of Federico Delbonis vs. Thomaz Bellucci. Bellucci, who just lost to Nadal in Rio, will face Paolo Lorenzi in round 1. The h2h is 1-1 and both players have lost three straight matches, but I give Bellucci, the more skilled player, the slighest of edges in that one. Delbonis has Pablo Carreno Busta in round 1, he lost an incredible quarterfinal match against Fabio Fognini in Rio, saving more than a half dozen match points before falling in a third set tiebreak. Before that, Delbonis was struggling, and likewise PCB has been up and down, he beat Carlos Berlocq, before losing to Nadal in Rio. I have Delbonis as a quarterfinalist yet again this week, given the home soil advantage, and then Nadal should take him out to reach the semis. The h2h between Delbonis and Bellucci is 3-2 in favor of Delbonis with all meetings coming on clay, and all of them being close encounters. Nadal is 1-0 against Delbonis with that win coming on clay in 2013.
Rio finalist Fabio Fognini, who found some of his best form in months to reach the final there, notably upsetting Nadal, will open with Diego Sebastian Schwartzman or Carlos Berlocq. I have Fognini beating Berlocq in round 2, after Berlocq wins the all Argentina round 1 battle. Fognini had started the season just 1-3, but as mentioned he put much more effort into his tennis in Rio, and though unpredictable, has be favored to reach the quarterfinals, though fatigue may factor in.
Jiri Vesely, the 6 seed, has a nice chance at a run this week, he opens with Blaz Rola, who has just two wins on the season (though on of them came in an upset of Leo Mayer last week in Rio), and then would face a qualifier in round 2. Vesely is 0-3 since winning the Auckland title, but he pushed Fognini to 3 sets in Rio, and his other golden swing loss was to Pablo Cuevas, who ended up taking the title in Sao Paulo, both of those losses coming in 3 sets. Vesely, though mentally fragile, is playing better than recent results would suggest, and presuming his fitness is ok, I actually have him winning that rematch with Fognini in the quarters. It was a low quality, and up and down encounter when they played last week in Rio, and by this point, Fognini should be fatigued from all the tennis he’s had to play over the past week and a half, with that in mind, the advantage swings to Vesely to reach the semis. Don’t count a qualifier out here either.
Tommy Robredo, the 2009 champion, will face Jarkko Nieminen or Renzo Olivo, a wild card, in round 2. The veteran Nieminen isn’t that impressive on clay right now, while Olivo is actually 8-2 over his last 10 matches, a mix of Quito qualies, and the Santo Domingo challenger. With a retirement, and a loss to eventual champ Victor Estrella, the only two losses Olivo has had in weeks, I have him notching an upset on home soil to setup a meeting with Robredo. Olivo shockingly upset Robredo in Bastad last year on clay, and Robredo has been in poor form all season, with just a 1-2 record on the year, with a retirement, and a loss to the much lower ranked Andreas Haider-Maurer in Rio. With that in mind, I’m backing Olivo to reach the quarterfinals with a pair of upsets over ATP veterans, on home soil in BA.
Olivo/Robredo are most likely to meet the Andujar/Almagro winner in the quarters, I presume Almagro will be able to defeat wild card Horacio Zeballos or Albert Ramos in round 2. Ramos should beat Zeballos, he’s 1-2 on the Golden Swing thus far, but Almagro is the most talented player of the bunch and should beat Olivo in the quarters to reach the semis in what would be a good week for him.
Pablo Cuevas opens with Guido Andreozzi or a qualifier, Andreozzi, a wild card, has been plying his trade on hard courts, rather than clay this year, and the qualifier will have a good chance, all the same Cuevas, the Sao Paulo champ, and a quarterfinalist in Rio who pushed Nadal to 3 sets, should have no trouble reaching the quarters given his good form. In another all-Argentine battle, Juan Monaco (2-1 clay court h2h) should have enough ability to take out Maximo Gonzalez, who hasn’t won an ATP main draw match in a while. Monaco, a Rio quarterfinalist should face the top ranked Argentine Leo Mayer in round 2. Mayer retired in his last match and is just 1-2 on the Golden Swing, but I still see him beating the veteran French journeyman Stephane Robert, who hasn’t played on clay since the French Open last year. Monaco and Mayer have never met on clay, but with Monaco in slightly better form, I have Pico into the quarters, and then Cuevas beating him for a spot in the semis. Monaco is 5-0 on clay against Cuevas, but they haven’t played since 2011, and Cuevas has been a far superior player as of late.
The unseeded Nicolas Almagro is also a dark horse, but the home player Olivo could have the most eye catching week in Buenos Aires. As mentioned if the in-form wild card can score upset wins over Nieminen, and Robredo, he would be in the quarters, and should be find a way to beat Almagro or another player, he would find himself in his first ever ATP semifinal this week, which I’m sure the home crowd would appreciate.
Semis: Nadal d. Vesely
Cuevas d. Almagro
Even with Nadal not playing top 5 quality tennis right now, I don’t see anyone in the field being able to take him out before the final, meanwhile Cuevas has dominated Almagro as of late, and should also be able to battle his way to the final this week
Final: Nadal d. Cuevas
He didn’t win Rio, but you still have to pick Nadal as the champion for almost every clay court tournament in which he is a participant. The king of clay has struggled thus far this season, but you have to feel failure to reach a final yet this year, will further motivate him to cap off the Golden Swing with good vibes, and an ATP title. Nadal just beat my favored finalist Cuevas last week in Rio in 3 sets, and his level should be good enough to take this 250 title as the top seed.