2017 ATP Sydney Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Australian Open Series rolls on with a stop in Australia’s biggest city for the Apia International, a joint ATP/WTA tournament.
Apia International Sydney
ATP World Tour 250
January 8-14, 2017
Prize Money: $437,380
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Dominic Thiem (8)
2: Pablo Cuevas (22)
3: Viktor Troicki (29)
4: Pablo Carreno Busta (30)
Just one top 20 player means Sydney is open for the taking, giving an opportunity for lower ranked players to step up.
First round matches to watch:
(5)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Fabio Fognini
Kohlschreiber leads the h2h 4-2 but Fognini won their last meeting. The Italian went a respectable 26-23 in 2016 and is making his season debut. Kohli lost in the second round of Doha, and as the favorite in this match, he should make at least the second round in Sydney.
(WC)Thanasi Kokkinakis vs. (WC)Jordan Thompson
These good friends are in the doubles final together in Brisbane, and will face each other in singles a few hours away in Sydney. Kokkinakis missed all of 2016 with injuries, but prior to that he was a rising ATP talent, and in the doubles in Brisbane he showed he still has tremendous promise. Thompson reached the quarterfinals in Brisbane and is likely the favorite in this one given he should have less rust. Both of these Aussies are likely to feature on the ATP tour in the years to come.
(6)Gilles Muller vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
A matchup that features a clear contrast in styles. The serve and volleyer Muller got off to a slow start in Brisbane, while Dolgopolov drew a tough opening round opponent in Rafael Nadal and also lost his first match of the season. These two have split h2h meetings, despite Muller’s seeding, if Dolgo is in form he should fire enough winners to notch a victory.
Brisbane quarterfinalist Dominic Thiem will face a qualifier to start, with Doha semifinalist Fernando Verdasco likely in the quarterfinals. Verdasco got off to a great start to his 2017 season as his blistering forehand paced him out to three straight wins, and he took a set off world #2 Novak Djokovic. The Spaniard will open with countryman Marcel Granollers, with Dan Evans or a qualifier to follow. Evans struggled in the Hopman Cup exo, so Thiem over Verdasco is my pick in the quarters.
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Pablo Carreno Busta will make his 2017 debut after a career best 40-26 record in 2016, that included a first ever positive record on hard courts. PCB may lose his first outing though, as Doha quarterfinalist Nicolas Almagro will face him, after he does battle with serve and volleyer Mischa Zverev, who won a match in Brisbane. I have Almagro facing Benoit Paire in the quarterfinals. Paire was a semifinalist in Chennai, he opens with Alex De Minaur, a wild card who made his ATP debut as a qualifier last week in Brisbane. Andrey Kuznetsov or Martin Klizan will follow, both players look to be struggling early in the season. Paire over Almagro is my pick to reach the semifinals.
Pablo Cuevas makes his season debut after a solid 34-23 record in 2016, his best ever on tour. Cuevas much prefers clay though, creating an opportunity for Thomaz Bellucci or Nicolas Mahut to reach the quarterfinals. I have Bellucci, who has never lost to Mahut (2-0), squeaking past Cuevas in round 2. The Brazilian has beaten Cuevas in their last two matches. Kyle Edmund is my pick to reach the semifinals. Edmund opens with a qualifier, then the Dolgopolov/Muller winner. Edmund played great in Brisbane, reaching the quarterfinals and has a great shot at his second career ATP semifinal. Edmund should be favored against Bellucci on a hard court.
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Neither Florian Mayer or fellow veteran Paolo Lorenzi started the year in good form, should Viktor Troicki should find his way to the quarterfinals, opposite Kohlschreiber or Thompson. On home soil I’m backing Thompson to reach the semifinals with upsets over Kohlschreiber and Troicki.
Dark Horse: Jordan Thompson
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Australian fans would love to see a local boy win his first ATP title at home, and Thompson will have a real shot at pulling off that feat. The Sydney native is in the weaker bottom half of the draw, and there isn’t anyone in the bottom of half that is significantly better than his peak abilities. Thompson is playing well in doubles, and upset David Ferrer in Brisbane last week. Look for him to reach the final in Sydney.
Thiem d. Paire
Thompson d. Edmund
I have to go with the safe pick in the top half and predict Thiem will go through to the final. The Austrian seems to care less about being fresh for slams than other players on tour, so I don’t think he’ll pull a strategic tank in Sydney. As mentioned above, Thompson is my other pick for the final, he has a split 1-1 h2h with Edmund.
Thiem d. Thompson
Thiem is the better player, and has seven career ATP titles. He should grab his eight career title while prepping for the Aussie Open.