Tomas Berdych secured his first ATP title of 2015, and practically secured himself a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-3 7-6(7) victory over Spanish veteran Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in a rain delayed Monday final in Shenzen. The loss denies GGL his third title this season.
Berdych demonstrated he was a worthy #1 seed as he didn’t drop a set against Austin Krajicek, Jiri Vesely, and Tommy Robredo en route to the final. GGL beat Lukas Rosol in straights, got a walkover against Adrian Mannarino, and then upset Marin Cilic in three sets to reach the final.
The doubles title went to Jonathan Erlich/Colin Fleming over Chris Guccione/Andre Sa.
The Spanish Armada also proved its depth in Malaysia this week as David Ferrer took his fourth ATP title of 2015 and helped his quest to qualify for the World Tour Finals with a 7-5 7-5 victory over Feliciano Lopez. Ferrer rolled past Radek Stepanek and Mikhail Kukushkin in unblemished fashion before recovering from a dropped first set to defeat the pesky ball striker Benjamin Becker in a three set semifinal.
Lopez served well and played some clutch tiebreak tennis to defeat Mischa Zverev in straights, Vasek Pospisil in three sets, and Malaysia’s own Nick Kyrgios in a pair of tiebreaks to reach the final. Both veterans are in good form though they approach tennis quite differently.
Treat Huey and Henri Kontinen beat Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram to take home the doubles trophy.
Double Delight for Japanese Tennis in Kuala Lumpur Qualifying Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
There was double Japanese joy as Yuichi Sugita and Yasutaka Uchiyama qualified for the main draw of the 7th ATP Malaysian Open. The tournament is in its seventh edition and is headlined this year by David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez.
Top seed Sugita didn’t drop a set during three qualifying matches to qualify for the main draw. After beating Thailand’s Congsup Congcar in the first round 6-2, 6-2 he faced German doubles specialist Andre Begemann. The 31-year-old is currently ranked 55thin the doubles and was playing in his first singles qualifying draw since Geneva last May. The lack of singles play was a factor as Sugita eased past the German, dropping just three games. His biggest test was in the final against Italy’s Matteo Donati. Since reaching the semifinals at the Granby Challenger in July, Donati has suffered a series of early tournament exits. Serving for the first set at 5-4, Sugita endured a marathon game, which consisted of five set points and four break points, before taking the opening set. The Japanese player also had to recover from a 0-2 deficit in the second set to fight his way into the main draw, winning 6-4, 7-6 (2). Sugita’s successful qualifying campaign followed his triumph in Thailand at the start of September. He defeated Argentina’s Marco Trungelliti to claim his fourth challenger title.
Uchiyama was two points from going out in the final round of qualifying before edging his way past 2nd seed Luca Vanni. The 7th seed defeated Malaysian wild card Christian Oliver Lee and compatriot Takao Suzuki before his encounter with Vanni. During the lengthy encounter, which lasted two hours and nineteen minutes, the world No. 226 came back from a set down to win 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5. Uchiyama will play in the main draw of an ATP tournament for the first time in his career. The 23-year-old has claimed three Future titles in 2015 and reached the final of the Lexington Challenger in August.
Besides the duo of wins for Japan, Mischa Zverev continued his recent upsurge in form by producing three straight set victories in his qualifying campaign. Prior to Malaysia, the world No.248 qualified for the main draw of the Moselle Open in Metz. He upset Spanish world No.60 Pablo Carreno Busta in the first round before losing to eventual champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. During qualifying in Kuala Lumpur, the German got a boost when third seed Yoshihito Nishioka crashed out in the first round of his quarter. The shock result meant that he faced fellow German Philipp Petzschner in the second round. During the closely contested match, Zverev edged his way into the last round 7-6 (6), 6-4. In the final round, he faced New Zealand’s Artem Sitak, who upset Italian sixth seed Thomas Fabbiano. Russian-born Sitak hasn’t won a singles title since 2012 and concentrates on the doubles circuit where he is currently ranked inside the top 50. Zverev endured another close match before winning in an almost identical score-line to his second round triumph – 6-4, 7-6 (5).
Competing the four qualifiers is Polish world No. 159 Michał Przysiężny. The 31-year-old encountered his toughest match at the start of the draw against Indonesia’s Christopher Rungkat. Rungkat reached the final of the US Open boys doubles competition in 2008. Battling against a player ranked almost 300 places below him, Przysiezny took the match 6-4, 7-6 (2). After his testing first round match, the Pole charged into the main draw by dropping 3 games in his last two matches of qualifying. In the second round, he beat Wild card Ahmed Deedat Abdul Razak 6-1,6-1, followed by another emphatic win against 8th seed Daniel Nguyen (6-0,6-1).
2015 ATP Shenzen and Kuala Lumpur Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2015 ATP Asian Swing starts with a pair of 250 tournaments, an indoor hard court tournament in Malaysia, and an outdoor hard court tournament in China.
ATP World Tour 250
September 28-October 4, 2015
Prize Money: $607,940
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: Tomas Berdych (5)
2: Marin Cilic (14)
3: Tommy Robredo (30)
4: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (29)
Shenzen four top 30 players in the field as the opening ATP tournament in China has a solid field.
First round matchups to watch:
(5)Adrian Mannarino vs. Lucas Pouille
Mannarino beat Pouille at the start of the season in Auckland in what turned out to be a sign of things to come or both players. They battled for three sets, and Mannarino went on to capture the title and post a solid season overall, while Pouille has dabbled with the ATP level and shown signs of a breakthrough. The younger Frenchman Pouille with his fantastic forehand comes off of the St. Petersburg quarterfinals and I have him upsetting Mannarino, as Adrian is just 2-5 since reaching the Bogota final this summer.
Tomas Berdych, the #1 seed, is struggling but he’ll have a winnable opening match with Austin Krajicek, after Krajicek beat James Duckworth in the opening round. Berdych has lost two straight and struggled over the Summer compared to his ranking but I’d still expect him to oust Krajicek and Jiri Vesely to reach the semifinals. Vesely faces Chinese wild card Ze Zhang in his opening match and then most likely Go Soeda, presuming Soeda defeats Zhizhen Zhang, an 18 year old Chinese wild card. The Czech has been in good form with a recent challenger semifinal, but his big hitting Davis Cup teammate Berdych is a superior player.
Tommy Robredo put together a great run in Shenzen last year and he comes off of the quarterfinals in St. Petersburg. The veteran Spaniard could be troubled and perhaps fall to Ricardas Berankis in round 2, but Berankis is just 1-3 in his last four matches. The Lithuanian opens with Hiroki Moriya in his opening match. Robredo was poor in his St. Petersburg semifinal match but I still give him an edge over Berankis, who is talented but streaky. Simone Bolelli should await Robredo/Berankis in the quarterfinals. The Italian upset Berdych to make the St. Petersburg quarterfinals and he’s in a weak section with Andreas Haider-Maurer, and Matt Ebden/Victor Estrella. Ebden, who plays well in Asia, has a shot at upsetting Estrella, but I have Bolelli getting through regardless.
Robredo is 2-0 on hard courts against Bolelli and his recent form has been slightly better, that should be a close and entertaining match, but look for Tommy to continue his success at this tournament and reach the semifinals.
US Open semifinalist Marin Cilic will open with John Millman after Ernests Gulbis retired against Millman in round 1. Cilic should be the favorite for this tournament and I expect him to dominate Millman, and then Aljaz Bedene or Hyeon Chung to reach the semifinals in a very weak section. Bedene opens with Mikhail Youzhny, while Chung opens with Di Wu, another of the Chinese locals. None of those players except for Chung have been in good form but Youzhny has been horrible most of this season. Chung comes off of a challenger title and may be fatigued. With that said, I have him defeating Wu and Bedene before falling to Cilic. Cilic beat Chung in Washington this year in straight sets.
Metz quarterfinalist Guillermo Garcia-Lopez could go out in his first match against Denis Istomin, presuming the St. Petersburg quarterfinalist Istomin defeats a struggling Lukas Rosol in round 1. Istomin and GGL are both good shotmakers and I have Istomin notching a solid win before going up against the Mannarino/Pouille winner. First Mannarino or Pouille will need to be Yan Bai or qualifier Takuto Niki, both of whom are lowly ranked. I have Pouille over Istomin in a breakthrough showing to reach the semifinals and face Cilic.
The talented Pouille already made a run in Auckland this year and in a weak section, presuming he knocks off Mannarino, he should take advantage once more in an ATP 250 hard court event and reach the semifinals. He’s talented, though he’s disappointed at times, and this is a great chance for him to make a run.
Semis Berdych d. Robredo
Cilic d. Pouille
Berdych should simply outplay Robredo on this surface, Cilic is by far the strongest player in the bottom section.
Final Cilic d. Berdych
Cilic is in better form than Berdych, and thus I have him taking the title in Shenzen.
ATP Kuala Lumpur
Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur
ATP World Tour 250
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
September 28-October 4, 2015
Prize Money: $937,835
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: David Ferrer (8)
2: Feliciano Lopez (17)
3: Ivo Karlovic (18)
4: Grigor Dimitrov (19)
The top 4 seeds are all top 20 players as KL has a strong field for a 250 event.
The young Zverev has lost two straight while Chardy is playing his first match since reaching the second week of the US Open. This is an interesting style contrast as Chardy hits with power on the forehand side while Zverev prefers to rally. On indoor hard Chardy should be a slight favorite, but Zverev is seeking an ATP breakthrough to get into the top 50 and it could come this Fall.
Joao Sousa vs. (Q)Michal Przysiezny
Sousa comes off the St. Petersburg final and the former champion could be fatigued for this one, Przysiezny is a former top 100 player who is 4-1 in his last five matches. Sousa will be favored but Przysiezny has an upset chance.
Almagro is 8-1 on the challenger tour level since the US Open, but he’s struggled at returning his game up to an ATP main draw caliber this season, not to mention he’s done better on clay than hard courts. Baghdatis, a fellow big hitting veteran, is just 1-3 since reaching the Atlanta final, and could use a win to help boost his form. This match could also go either way but I favor Baghdatis who seems to be more consistent.
David Ferrer should have a relatively free and clear path to the semifinals as the top seed. Ferrer is 38-10 this season and I’d expect him to ease past either Yuichi Sugita or Radek Stepanek in his first match, then beat Viktor Troicki in the quarterfinals, presuming Troicki defeats Radu Albot and the winner of Ramkumar Ramanathan/Mikhail Kukushkin. Kukushkin can find form in tournaments like this but he lost in the openig round of St. Petersburg. Troicki is 4-1 in the h2h against Kukushkin and beat him in the Sydney final this year. Ferrer is 3-1 against Troicki though he lost to him last year on hard courts in Shenzen. This 250 is a great chance for Ferrer to capture a title after an elbow injury limited him at the US Open.
Grigor Dimitrov is 26-17 on the year and has had his share of struggles, that said his indoor record historically is solid enough and he should have the edge over the Sousa/Przysiezny winner. Chardy/Zverev or Benjamin Becker (who dumped Sam Groth in round 1) could pose trouble in the quarterfinals, as Chardy/Becker are both relatively big servers and clean ballstrikers. Dimitrov is 2-1 against Chardy in the h2h and he should be motivated enough to try to finish the season strong with at least a semifinal showing in KL.
Feliciano Lopez was in fantastic form over his final two events of the North American hard court summer, the Cincy and US Open quarterfinalist opens his fall campaign against the winner of Mischa Zverev/Rajeev Ram. The elder Zverev is in good form and should defeat Ram, but the superior serve and volleyer Lopez (compared to Ram), should rech the quarterfinals. Almagro/Baghdatis is almost certain to play big server Vasek Pospisil in round 2, as Vasek opens with Yasutaka Uchiyama. Baghdatis could well beat Pospisil, but I have it Lopez over Pospisil in the quarterfinals.
Ivo Karlovic has served his way to a 31-19 record on the year and on this fast surface he should be lethal against Nikoloz Basilashvili or a struggling Aleksandr Nedovyesov. In the quarters he should face Nick Kyrgios, who has a Malaysian mother and is somewhat of a home player in this one. Kyrgios beat Santiago Giraldo with ease in the opening round and the talented young gun should be motivated and focused enough to reach the semifinals over Karlovic. He’ll face Tatsuma Ito or the retiring Jarkko Nieminen in round 2.
Becker is just 8-18 at the ATP main draw level this year, and the veteran has struggled to stay healthy, but he’s a big server with a solid forehand and he moves well indoors, along with being a crafty shotmaker at his best. He’s 2-1 in his last three matches and the seeds Chardy and Dimitrov in his section are beatable.
Semis Ferrer d. Dimitrov
Lopez d. Kyrgios
Ferrer has lost indoors to Dimitrov but he leads the h2h otherwise and he’s had a far better season. Lopez is 1-0 in the h2h over Kyrgios, and he’s in better form, so he should serve his way to the final.
Final Lopez d. Ferrer
Lopez leads the hard court h2h 5-4 and his fantastic form at the US Open bodes well for him to win this title. Ferrer still should have some rust on his game.