Novak Djokovic continued his momentum from the US Open, winning ATP Shanghai without dropping a set to claim his second ATP Masters title of the season. Djokovic eased past Borna Coric 6-3 6-4 in the final after dispatching Jeremy Chardy, Marco Cecchinato, Kevin Anderson, and Alexander Zverev with ease. Djokovic didn’t face a weak field, but he wasn’t bothered through five matches. Djokovic has now won 18 straight tour level matches as he’s won three tournaments in a row.
Coric reached his second final for 2018 and his first ever Masters final, after dropping a set against Stan Wawrinka, he defeated Bradley Klahn, an exhausted Juan Martin Del Potro, Matt Ebden, and Roger Federer to reach the final. The win against Federer one of the most notable of his rapidly rising career.
Kubot/Melo won their second consecutive doubles final, this time against Murray/Soares in straight sets.
Qualifier Daniil Medvedev took the ATP 500 title in Tokyo, it’s the third title for the young Russian in 2018 and this time he upset home hero Kei Nishikori 6-2 6-4 in the final. Medvedev dropped a set in qualifying but in the main draw he couldn’t be touched. He defeated Diego Schwartzman, Martin Klizan, Milos Raonic, and Denis Shapovalov to reach the final without dropping a set, crushing Canadian hopes in consecutive matches.
Nishikori didn’t drop a set prior to the final, Yuichi Sugita, Benoit Paire, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Richard Gasquet all lost to him in routine fashion. It’s Nishikori’s second ATP final loss in 2018 as he is still without a title this season.
Mclachlan/Struff defeated Klaasen/Venus in the doubles final.
Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili won his second ATP title of 2018 6-4 6-4 against Juan Martin Del Potro in the ATP Beijing 500 final. Basilashvili has had a career year as he came back from a set down against Jack Sock to win in three sets, then defeated Fernando Verdasco, Malek Jaziri, and Kyle Edmund in straight sets.
The favored Del Potro reached his 6th tour level fina lof the season, getting a walkover in the semis against Fabio Fognini after previously defeating Albert Ramos, Karen Khachanov, and Filip Krajinovic without dropping a set.
Kubot/Melo defeated Marach/Pavic in the doubles final.
Japanese Favorites Kei Nishikori, Taro Daniel, and Yoshihito Nishioka Target 2018 ATP Tokyo Title Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Both home and international talent feature at the ATP 500 Japan Open in Tokyo. Here is your look at all the upcoming action from Japan’s only ATP World Tour tournament.
Marin Cilic had a strong hard court summer, but he’ll get a tough start to the Asian swing as his section begins with J.L. Struff, and is then set to feature Jeremy Chardy/Damir Dzumhur in round 2, and a tough quarterfinal opponent, between Stan Wawrinka/Taylor Fritz or Denis Shapovalov/Hyeon Chung. Wawrinka has come back into form and I’ll back him against Fritz, a semifinalist in China last week, and Shapovalov/Chung, with Cilic still favored to advance from his section.
Milos Raonic will be favored in section 2, the big serving Canadian faces a struggling Adrian Mannarino first, with either Robin Haase or qualifier Yosuke Watanuki up in round 2. I’ll back qualifiers Daniil Medvedev and Martin Klizan to win their first round matches, with Klizan, a finalist in St. Petersburg, defeating Steve Johnson, and Medvedev edging #4 seed Diego Schwartzman. Raonic over Medvedev is my pick for the section.
Kevin Anderson will be favored in his first two matches against Matt Ebden and Frances Tiafoe/Max Marterer. Ebden has played well enough to suggest he has a shot against Anderson but he’s still the underdog. Nick Kyrgios should be favored against Shenzhen champ and home favorite Yoshihito Nishioka, and I’ll give him the edge, if focused and fit, against Richard Gasquet. Gasquet opens with Denis Kudla and he’s not in great form, Anderson over Kyrgios is my quarterfinal pick.
Kei Nishikori‘s section has him starting out against countryman Yuichi Sugita, he should win that and also defeat Benoit Paire/Nicolas Jarry in round 2. Metz champ Gilles Simon has a tough match with Alex De Minaur, a semifinalist last week, first up. Simon should win that and also upset Stefanos Tsitsipas (or Taro Daniel), as his form is better than the young Greek. Nishikori over fellow veteran Simon should be the outcome of section 3.
I’ll back Kei at home against a host of bigger hitters, while Cilic or Raonic should be equally favored to emerge from the top half. This is a tough tournament to predict but Nishikori has the most at stake and should fight the hardest to win.
Goffin Takes 2 ATP titles in as many weeks, Nadal and Istomin Add to Trophy Case Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
David Goffin has made a great run of things after the US Open, he’s finishing the season out strong as he defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov in three sets in the Shenzhen final, after winning a three setter over Henri Laaksonen in the semis, and also earning wins over Evgeny Donskoy and Donald Young. Dolgopolov reached his third final of hte season with wins over Lloyd Harris, Sergiy Stakhovsky, Dudi Sela, and Damir Dzumhur. He beat Sela because Sela had to retire in the third set of their quarterfinal match due to religious reasons, as he was observing the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
The doubles title was won by Alex Peya and Rajeev Ram over Mektic/Monroe.
In Chengdu, Denis Istomin turned back the clock and won his second career ATP title via a retirement victory over Marcos Baghdatis. Istomin scored wins over Jan-Lennard Struff, Karen Khachanov, Jared Donaldson, and Yuichi Sugita as the Chengdu field was decimated by upsets. The veteran Baghdatis beat Vasek Pospisil, Peter Gojowczyk, Yen-Hsun Lu, and Guido Pella to reach the final. Erlich/Qureshi beat Daniell/Demoliner in the doubles final.
Goffin beat Adrian Mannarino in straight sets in the Tokyo final, he continued his winning streak from Shenzhen with wins over Feliciano Lopez, Matthew Ebden, Richard Gasquet, and Diego Schwartzman to reach the final, He won over Schwartzman narrowly, and came back from a set down against Ebden.
Mannarino reached his second final of the season scoring wins over Go Soeda, Jiri Vesely, Yuichi Sugita, and Marin Cilic to reach the final, the Frenchman isn’t done yet this season and has already had a career best year on tour at 29.
Mclachlan/Uchiyama beat Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares in a shocking doubles final upset, they beat both of the tournament’s top doubles seeds as wild cards.
Rafael Nadal improved to 61-9 on the season by taking the final in Beijing, his 6th of the year. Nadal saved match points against Lucas Pouille in the opening round and then blitzed past Karen Khachanov, John Isner, and Grigor Dimitrov before dominating Nick Kyrgios in the final.
Kyrgios, playing in his second final of 2017, didn’t seem comfortable, but played much better against Nikoloz Basilashvili, Mischa Zverev, Steve Darcis, and Alexander Zverev, all of whom he beat to reach the final.
Kontinen/Peers beat Isner/Sock in the doubles final.
World #2 Andy Murray is making his push for a year end World number 1 ranking and he took a bed step towards that quest with a 6-4 7-6 victory over Grigor Dimitrov in the Beijing 500 level final. Murray dictated play, getting a needed break in the first set, and easing his way through in a second set tiebreak, despite Dimitrov’s best efforts, showing the difference in class and level between the two players. Murray has now claimed 40 titles in his career, and he’s clearly hungry for more.
Murray didn’t drop a set against Andreas Seppi, Andrey Kuznetsov, Kyle Edmund, and David Ferrer as he was the king of China for the week, and will look to continue that momentum in Shanghai.
Dimitrov moved to 35-22 on the season with wins over Steve Johnson, Lucas Pouille, and Rafael Nadal, who he dominated in straight sets after dropping sets in his first two matches. His semifinal opponent Milos Raonic went down with an injured ankle so he got a walkover into the final. Unfortunately for the Bulgarian, he is now 0-3 in ATP finals this season.
Pablo Carreno Busta and Rafael Nadal won the doubles title over Jack Sock and Bernard Tomic. Nadal now has 11 ATP doubles titles in his career plus an Olympic gold medal in doubles.
Nick Kyrgios found himself down a set, and in deep trouble late in the third set as well, but the Australian showed surprising poise and a sense of calm as he slipped past David Goffin 4-6 6-3 7-5 and kept himself alive in the race for London. It was the biggest title of Kyrgios young career, worth 500 points, and despite throwing in some errors in the final match, he served well, while Goffin spewed errors when it mattered and got tight himself.
Kyrgios beat Ryan Harrison, Gilles Muller, and Gael Monfils without dropping a set in what was a big week for him. Goffin beat Yoshihito Nishioka, Jiri Vesely, Joao Sousa, and Marin Cilic, dropping just a set to Sousa prior to the final. He’s not the biggest guy on tour but his steady ball striking again yielded a great result.
In the ATP Race for London’s World Tour Finals, Monfils, Cilic, and Nadal boosted their standing, while Goffin and Kyrgios are on the edge of the race at 11th and 12th place respectively. Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori both struggled this week, but Nishikori still looks safe to qualify if he’s fit.
Marcel Granollers and Marcin Matkowski beat Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram in the doubles final.
Both players posted ATP quarterfinals last week, and they have split their h2h meetings this year. Anderson needs to string some wins together to boost his ranking back inside the top 40, while Vesely is looking to make the top 50. Anderson upset Nick Kyrgios last week, and if he serves well he should prevail.
(6)Nick Kyrgios vs. (Q)Ryan Harrison
Kyrgios has struggled as of late and seems to be ready to wind down his season while Harrison is on the rise and has won 10 of his past 12 competitive matches. Harrison again came through ATP qualies, and he should test Kyrgios. Kyrgios will have to put effort to win, but if he does he’s still the favorite.
Gilles Muller vs. (3)Tomas Berdych
Despite both players being ATP veterans, they haven’t met since 2004. Muller made the quarters in Metz and plays his best on fast surfaces. Berdych was the champion in Shenzen, so fatigue could be a factor. This isn’t the easiest of first round matches for a player like Berdych, but he should prevail.
2-time Champion and home hero Kei Nishikori has lost to Nicolas Almagro in Tokyo before, but the Japanese #1 should be safe to win his first couple of matches against a struggling Almagro, and Martin Klizan or Joao Sousa, neither of whom are playing great right now. Nishikori vs. Kevin Anderson is my pick for the quarters as I have Anderson beating Vesely, and then upsetting David Goffin, who opens with wild card Yoshihito Nishioka. Goffin has lost two straight matches, and Anderson’s serve is tough to break. Nishikori should out return Anderson in the quarters though.
Marin Cilic faces a struggling Benoit Paire, with Fernando Verdasco or Go Soeda to follow, and most likely #8 seed Feliciano Lopez due up in the quarters. Lopez will look to serve and volley past qualifier James Duckworth, and either Juan Monaco or Taylor Fritz, neither of whom are in good form. Cilic has been playing well and I trust him to navigate into the semifinals, Verdasco has been playing poorly as of late.
Gael Monfils will look to continue his strong summer season into the Fall. Monfils opens with wild card Yuichi Sugita, with the winner of Gilles Simon/Philipp Kohlschreiber to follow. Kohlschreiber hasn’t been healthy in recent weeks, so Simon should win that match, with Monfils the favorite in round 2.
Veterans Ivo Karlovic and Janko Tipsarevic could matchup in round 2, Karlovic will be the favorite against Federico Delbonis, Tipsarevic comes off an ATP semifinal and faces wild card Taro Daniel. I’m going with Daniel in an upset because Tipsarevic retired in his last match and may not be healthy. I have Monfils slipping past Karlovic in the quarters.
Tomas Berdych will face Marcos Baghdatis or Marcel Granollers after his match with Muller, Nick Kyrgios gets the winner of Radek Stepanek/Stephane Robert in round 2, with Berdych likely to follow. Stepanek has been great in ATP qualifying this year and could trouble Kyrgios, Baghdatis isn’t likely to defeat Berdych in round 2. I have Berdych defeating Kyrgios because the Czech has been more consistent lately.
The top 4 seeds are likely to reach the semifinals, if Karlovic’s serve can click on these fast Tokyo courts he could mess that up by upsetting Monfils in the quarterfinals, and perhaps Berdych in the semis. I don’t count Karlovic out, even at his age, to make a run in tournaments like this.
Monfils d. Berdych
Nishikori d. Cilic
Berdych should be out of gas, and Nishikori is playing in his home tournament, even though Cilic clearly has the game to beat him.
Nishikori d. Monfils
I can’t pick against Nishikori in his home tournament, even though Monfils has been playing really well lately.
2016 WTA Toray Pan Pacific Open Preview, Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Toray Pan Pacific Open
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Prize money: $885,500
Date: September 19-25
Top four seeds who receive a first round Bye
Carla Suarez Navarro
A fairly strong line up for a Premier 470 event.
First round matches to watch
Belinda Bencic vs Caroline Wozniacki: Bencic continues her comeback from injury by entering the Toray Pan Pacific Open. The Swiss lost a lot of points over the summer and is unseeded for this event, but despite that she has still been drawn against another unseeded player in former world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane has looked like a shadow of her former self this year, but she hit form in a semi final run at the US Open.
These two players previously met here last year with Bencic prevailing in straight sets. As a matter of fact, the 19-year-old has proven to be quite the match-up issue as she has won their past four meetings.
Neither player possesses the greatest firepower, so expect long rallies. Wozniacki will retrieve and retrieve as usual, but there will be question marks on Bencic’s fitness and form.
(6) Dominika Cibulkova vs Lucie Safarova: Cibulkova has the misfortune of drawing one of the more dangerous unseeded players in the draw with Safarova being her opening round opponent.
The head to head reads 4-2 in the Czech’s favour, but this is a match-up that can go either way. Both can hit with a fair amount of power and it will likely come down to form on the day.
Top Half: Muguruza heads into Tokyo as the top seed in a desperate search of finding form. The Spaniard has struggled since winning the French Open and has lots of points to defend in the fall. She may open up in the second round against the woman who put her out of the US open, Anastasija Sevastova. The Latvian is full of confidence in her career resurgence and will give Muguruza a tough test again. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the other seed in this section, and as always she will be a dangerous player. The Russian struggles with her consistency, but when on form she can go deep in any tournament. She will face Andrea Petkovic in the opening round, a player that has struggled to find form this year. Elina Svitolina or CoCo Vandeweghe will await in the second round. Both players are fairly hyped youngsters who have yet to live up to their potential and possess different styles. On a quicker court you would favour the American, but Svitolina is the more consistent of the two. The winner of that second round match may fancy their chances to make the final four with Muguruza’s lack of form.
A player most certainly full of confidence is Pliskova. The Czech won Cincinnati and then went all the way to the final of the US Open. With them results behind her, Pliskova may be the title favourite here. Yanina Wickmayer or a qualifier will entertain her in round two, then it could possibly be Cibulkova or Safarova in the quarter finals. The winner of that match will face a Japanese player in round two in the form of Naomi Osaka or Misaki Doi. Pliskova will be favourite to make it out of this quarter, but Cibulkova and Safarova are very dangerous players capable of causing an upset.
Bottom half: Suarez Navarro, still the ever-present, headlines the third quarter as the fourth seed, but the Spaniard has a very tough draw ahead. Bencic or Wozniacki will await in round two and then it is possibly Madison Keys in the quarter finals- don’t be shocked to see an early exit for Suarez Navarro. The American faces Yulia Putintseva in round one, which is no easy task. Keys, despite being the lesser seed, will be favourite to make it out of this quarter, but you never know which Keys will show up.
Radwanska is back to defend the title she won last year by defeating Bencic in the final. The Pole is looking to seal her spot in the season ending championships in the upcoming weeks, starting by defending her Tokyo crown. It won’t be easy with the crafty and feisty Barbora Strycova a possible round two opponent. Petra Kvitova, who has slumped out of the top 10 this season, took a wildcard into this event and is the projected quarter-final opponent. The Czech’s lack of form means she could be upended by Monica Puig in the second round.
Svitolina def. Sevastova
Pliskova def. Safarova
Keys def. Suarez Navarro
Radwanska def. Puig
Pliskova def. Svitolina
Radwanska def. Keys
Radwanska def. Pliskova
The reigning champion will likely defend her title here. Pliskova’s good form will carry her to the final, but Radwanska’s craft might be too much in the final.
Novak Djokovic dominated the China Open once more, as the world #1 didn’t drop more than 3 games in a set and thumped his rival Rafael Nadal 6-2 6-2 in the final. The Serbian superstar was simply untouchable on the week in the Chinese capital as he handled Simone Bolelli, Ze Zhang, John Isner, David Ferrer, never surrendering more than 5 games total in any match. Going into the final tournaments of the season, Djokovic will be a clear favorite everywhere he participates.
Rafael Nadal also has to be pleased with his week in Beijing, it wasn’t as smooth as Djokovic, but he posted a solid hard court effort with straight sets wins over Di Wu and Vasek Pospisil, a three set win over Jack Sock, and a straight set win over rival Fabio Fognini, as Fognini’s winning streak against Rafa was snapped. It’s been a rough season for the popular Spanish lefty, but perhaps he can stay in-form for the rest of his Fall tournaments.
Pospisil and Sock won the doubles title together over the veteran pairing of Daniel Nestor and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Stan Wawrinka was the top seed, and took advantage of that in Tokyo, as the draw opened up, and the Yonex sponsored Swiss posted a far better result than last seasons early round exit. Wawrinka beat his best friend Benoit Paire 6-2 6-4, as the Frenchman with a magical backhand continues his career year with yet another ATP final.
Stan was the man against Radek Stepanek in round 1, then he avenged his loss last year in Tokyo to Tatsuma Ito in three sets, sent American Austin Krajicek home 6-3 6-4, and scraped past Gilles Muller in two sets and a tiebreak to reach the final, surviving inconsistent play at times, as he was clutch when it mattered.
Paire upset the seeded Grigor Dimitrov with a third set breadstick, then got past Marcos Baghdatis and Nick Kyrgios in three with his trademark effortless style. In the semifinals he stunned home hero Kei Nishikori, coming back from an opening set breadstick, and winning in three, after three previous third set wins. The win over Nishikori, with an injured ankle no less, is perhaps the biggest of Paire’s career, and if he can keep this up mentally, he certainly has the talent to reach the top 15 and be a threat in the bigger tournaments.
Raven Klaasen and Marcelo Melo beat Colombian’s Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal to go home with the doubles trophy.
2015 ATP Beijing and Tokyo Previews and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
ATP World Tour 500*
October 5-October 11, 2015
Prize Money: $2,700,510
*denotes joint ATP/WTA tournament
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Tomas Berdych (5)
3: Rafael Nadal (7)
4: David Ferrer (8)
5: Milos Raonic (9)
6: John Isner (13)
7: David Goffin (15)
8: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (16)
Half of the top 10 and a good portion of the top 20 are in Beijing, in what is one of the strongest China Open fields ever.
Millman beat Robredo this year at Wimbledon, and the qualifier leads the h2h 2-0 against the Spaniard, including a hard court win in Sydney back in 2013. Robredo is in good form though as he reached the semifinals in Shenzen, and prior to that, the quarterfinals in St. Petersburg. Robredo looks to continue his good Fall season thus far with a win in this one, but Millman found form in qualifying and will have a chance in this one if Tommy ends up being fatigued.
(6)John Isner vs. Dominic Thiem
The big serving Isner lost to the ball striker Thiem on clay this year in Nice, and has a solid shot at avenging that loss on a much faster surface in Beijing, that should favor his aggressive style of play. Thiem is 4-2 in his last six matches and reached the semis in St. Petersburg though, while Isner has been known to struggle after the US Open historically. I’d expect Isner to win this, but it should be an entertaining encounter.
(7)David Goffin vs. Andreas Seppi
Two of the best ball strikers in the game will face off as Goffin continues to try to make a push for the top 10 before the year is out. The Belgian didn’t lose an opening round hard court match all Summer and he should be favored against Seppi, who is playing for the first time since winning a pair of US Open matches. Goffin is a heavy favorite, but Seppi will try to spoil his hopes.
Fognini is 3-2 in the h2h against Klizan and both players look to be in good form as Klizan’s power matches up against Fognini’s ball striking and shotmaking. The Italian is 5-1 in his last 6 matches and will try to stay focused, while Klizan is 10-3 in his last few tournaments and comes off of the semifinals in Metz. Given this is a hard court surface and Klizan is notably more consistent, I’ll go with the Slovak to pull of a minor upset in this one.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez vs. Ivo Karlovic
GGL is 3-1 in the h2h over Karlovic and has a shot at taking the title in Shenzen after reaching the final with a win over Marin Cilic. The Spanish veteran is 5-2 in his last seven matches, while Karlovic comes off of a quarterfinal loss in Malaysia to Nick Kyrgios. The big server is always dangerous on this surface and could take advantage of a fatigued GGL to pull off the upset.
Five time Beijing Champion Novak Djokovic, the world #1, will begin his quest for a fourth straight China Open title against qualifier Simone Bolelli. Bolelli is in good form but should lack the consistency to test Novak, from there look for Djokovic to crush qualifier Denis Istomin, who opens with Chinese wild card Ze Zhang, and then beat John Isner in the quarterfinals, presuming Isner beats Thiem and Robredo/Millman. Isner beat Robredo in Beijing last year at the same round of 16 stage. Djokovic should buzzsaw himself to the semis.
Kuala Lumpur champion David Ferrer continues his quest to secure a World Tour Finals top 8 berth, and opens with Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci in round 1. Ferrer improved as he went along in Malaysia and should win that one and a match against the winner of Aljaz Bedene/Lukas Rosol to reach the quarterfinals. Bedene is in relatively good form and leads Rosol 2-0 in the h2h. The Czech is struggling to some extent. Ferrer is almost certain to meet Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals, Raonic opens with a struggling Viktor Troicki, and then will serve it up against Rendy Lu/Adrian Mannarino. Mannarino retired in his last match, while Lu has also struggled to stay healthy. Ferrer is 4-0 against the St. Petersburg champion Raonic and thus I have him finding a way to reach the semifinals.
Shenzen finalist and possible champion Tomas Berdych should continue his winning streak and defeat dirtballer Pablo Cuevas in round 1, after that, he’ll also be a favorite against Garcia-Lopez/Karlovic in what could be a rematch of the Shenzen final. In he quarters, Goffin vs. Berdych is an intriguing matchup. Goffin has a difficult draw with Seppi and Fognini/Klizan in his first two matches. Berdych is 1-0 in the h2h against Goffin, but I’m bullish on the Belgian’s form right now, and I have him upsetting an inconsistent Berdych to reach the semifinals. Of note, Karlovic has a good record against Berdych, so if he gets through that could spell trouble.
Rafael Nadal should win his first couple of matches, even on a hard court surface in a down year for the Spanish lefty. Di Wu, a local wild card, is his first opponent, and then he’ll face Vasek Pospisil most likely in round 2, presuming Vasek defeats Victor Estrella. Pospisil comes off of the quarterfinals in Kuala Lumpur. Nadal should have a difficult quarterfinal against most likely Metz champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Tsonga opens with Andreas Haider-Maurer). After AHM, Tsonga should face off with young American Jack Sock in round 2. Sock, who opens with Teymuraz Gabashvili, is in good form but Tsonga has been in vintage form as of late and I’d favor him over both Sock and Nadal to reach the semifinals.
Klizan has to beat Fognini, and then would need to upset Goffin and Berdych, but he beat Nadal in Beijing last year and he has the talent to post those kind of results. The seeds should excel here, but Klizan is most likely to spoil the party.
Semis Djokovic d. Ferrer
Tsonga d. Goffin
Djokovic should cruise his way into the final no matter who he faces in the semis, Tsonga is 3-2 against Goffin and I feel his form is slightly better at the moment, giving him an edge.
Final Djokovic d. Tsonga
I’d be shocked if Novak didn’t win this title, he has an unblemished record in Beijing and no one is strong enough to stop him right now.
The Kuala Lumpur finalist Lopez is 2-0 in the h2h against Sousa and has been in excellent form over his last few tournaments. The serve and volleyer should be a favorite in this one, but the St. Petersburg finalist Sousa would love to spoil his good form. Sousa is a quality ball striker and will try to push Flopez back, I have Lopez winning this but it’s an interesting style contrast.
(5)Kevin Anderson vs. Gilles Muller
Anderson is 2-1 in the h2h against Muller, both big servers tend to play a large number of tiebreaks and this match is unlikely to be any different. Muller reached the quarterfinals in Metz and he’s had a solid season, but Anderson has stepped up big this year and the US Open quarterfinalist has a great chance to make a run in Tokyo. Muller is good, but Anderson is better, and the South African should demonstrate his superior abilities in this one.
(8)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Benoit Paire
Paire leads the h2h 2-1 against a struggling Dimitrov (2-2 in his last four matches), and if the Frenchman can find form and consistency, he could notch a quality upset in this one. He wasn’t healthy in St. Petersburg, and retired in his first match, but he reached the second week of the US Open and he certainly has all the shots to win this one. I still make Dimitrov a slight favorite, but this matchup has an upset written all over it.
(4)Richard Gasquet vs. Roberto Bautista Agut
Gasquet and RBA have a 1-1 h2h record, and RBA is 5-2 in his last tow tournaments. It hasn’t been a great season for the Spaniard, but he appears to be rounding into solid form. Gasquet, a US Open quarterfinalist, had a solid summer overall and looks to continue that in the Fall. He’s a better all around shotmaker than RBA and I’d consider him the favorite in this intriguing matchup.
A battle of unseeded players with talent on hard courts. Johnson has beaten Tomic twice this year, but both those matches were close and Bernie hasn’t lost an opening round match since his loss to Johnson in Washington. Stevie J is on a three match losing streak and this win would be a huge confidence boost for the American. Regardless of the h2h, I have Tomic as the favorite.
(2)Kei Nisihkori vs. Borna Coric
Coric acquired a seven match winning streak on clay after his opening round US Open loss, but now he’s going into the lions den that is Tokyo to face home favorite Kei Nishikori in front of what should be a sold out, and rowdy Japanese crowd. The young talent is in good form, but Nisihkori played well in Davis Cup play for team Japan and has his sights set on the title here in Tokyo. It’s not the easiest opening match to start with, but Nisihkori should get through.
Stan Wawrinka was injured in Metz, and his first round opponent Radek Stepanek leads the h2h against him 5-1. With that said, Wawrinka is a better player at this point in their careers and with Stepanek not in great form, Stan the man should still get out of the first round. Last year, Wawrinka fell to Tatsuma Ito in Tokyo, and he could get a rematch in round 2, if Ito defeats Yoshi Nishioka, another of the local Japanese wild cards. Nishioka is more talented than Ito and has a brighter future ahead, but their round 1 match is a bit of a tossup. A healthy Wawrinka should reach the quaterfinals, but Lopez could trouble him there. After Sousa, he’ll face Matt Ebden/Austin Krajicek in round 2, both of those players are qualifiers and Ebden plays well in Asia. Wawrinka leads the h2h with Lopez 4-2, but I favor Lopez form at the moment and thus I have him upsetting the #1 seed.
Metz finalist Gilles Simon opens with qualifier Mikhail Youzhny, and then should advance from that to face Jiri Vesely, presuming the Czech defeats Yasutaka Uchiyama. Vesely, a quarterfinalist in Shenzen, is in good form, but Simon’s consistency should likely help him reach the quarterfinals. Muller/Anderson has the edge to reach the semis though, in round 2 it should be Anderson vs Jeremy Chardy/Sam Groth. Groth lost in Kuala Lumpur round 1, and all four players in this section are big hitters. I have Anderson over Simon for a semifinal spot. Anderson leads the h2h with Simon 2-0.
Nishikori didn’t have much luck with his draw, even as the home favorite. After Coric, the two-time Tokyo champion has to face either Alex Dolgopolov or Sam Querrey, and then Shenzen semifinalist Marin Cilic most likely in the quarterfinals. Dolgopolov hasn’t been healthy recently, and Querrey is struggling, both are dangerous, and Cilic has a rivalry with Nishikori, along with bidding to reach the World Tour Finals. Cilic opens with qualifier Donald Young, then will face Tomic/Johnson in round 2. Young is in good form since the US Open. Given Nishikori leads the h2h with Cilic 6-3, and 4-1 since 2013, along with being at home, I still expect Kei to go into playstation mode and reach the semifinals at least.
Gasquet/RBA will face Albert Ramos or Nick Kyrgios in round 2, most likely the dangerous floater Kyrgios. The Kuala Lumpur semifinalist has already played Gasquet five times, and he trails the h2h 1-4, thus Gasquet should beat him for the fourth time this year to reach the quarterfinals. Dimitrov/Paire faces Marcos Baghdatis or Fernando Verdasco in round 2, Dimitrov is vulnerable and that makes his round 2 match intriguing, but I still see him getting past Baghdatis to reach the quarterfinals. Gasquet should then stomp him for a spot in the semis.
You can’t count the volatile but talented Australian to catch fire and serve and smash his way through Gasquet and potentially Dimitrov to reach the semifinals. There are other dark horses like Paire, Sousa, and Baghdatis/Verdasco but he has the highest peak potential right now.
Semis Anderson d. Lopez
Nishikori d. Gasquet
Anderson leads the h2h with a likely tired Lopez 3-0, Nishikori should roll at home.
Final Nishikori d. Anderson
Kev will have a chance, but Tokyo is Nishikori’s to lose, he peaks here as playing in Japan is like another slam for him.
Donald Young, Mikhail Youzhny Ease Into Japan Open Main Draw Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
Donald Young (Photo: Chris Levy @Tennis_Shots for TennisEastCoast.com)
16 players battled against each other for four spots into the main draw of the 42nd Japan Open. This year’s main draw is headlined by French Open champion Stan Wawrinka and defending champion Kei Nishikori.
Top seed Donald Young continued his recent spat of impressive form by producing two straight sets wins during the qualifying competition. The world No. 50 is playing in his first tournament since the US Open where he stunned Viktor Troicki to reach the last sixteen of the tournament for the first time since 2011. In the first round, he beat Poland’s Michał Przysiężny 6-1, 7-6 (1). The Pole hasn’t played in the main draw of an ATP tournament since last year’s Japan Open. In the second round Young played Japan’s Hiroki Moriya, who knocked out 8th seed Yūichi Sugita in the first round. Young eased his way to the 6-1, 6-4, win after seventy-two minutes on the court.
In the main draw Young will play sixth seed Marin Cilic. It will be the first time that they have played each other since 2011. Their first meeting was in the quarterfinal of the 2005 Australian Open boys competition.
Young wasn’t the only American triumph during the competition. 7th seed Austin Krajicek stunned second seed Nicolas Mahut. The distant cousin of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek breezed past wild card Shuichi Sekiguchi in the first round to set up a showdown with the Frenchman. The American was in impressive form, dropping just one point on his serve during the first set. Two breaks during the early-mid stages of both sets was enough to enable Krajicek to take the match 6-4, 6-4.
In the main draw Krajicek will play another qualifier, Matthew Ebden. Ebden’s route to the final was the most impressive performance with the Australian defeating the fourth and sixth seed. In the first round, he beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-6 (5), 6-0. In the final round, he had a tough test against Japan’s Go Soeda. During the match, which lasted over two hours, Ebden recovered from a 0-3 deficit in the final set to win 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. It is the second time that Ebden has beaten Soeda on Japanese soil. The first was at the 2013 Yokohama Challenger.
The final qualifier was former world No.8 Mikhail Youzhny. In the first round he played veteran Finnish player Jarkko Nieminen, who is retiring at the end of the season. After a close first set, the Russian took the match 7-6 (3), 6-3. In the final round, he endured another close match against US Open doubles champion Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Youzhny saved a set point in the first break before taking the tie-breaker 9-7. The second set was also on course for another tie-break until Youzhny broke Herbert’s serve for the third time of the match to win 7-6 (7), 6-4.
The reward for Youzhny’s efforts will be a first round clash with France’s Gilles Simon. Youzhny currently boasts a head-to-head lead of 8-3 against the Frenchman. Their last meeting was at the Canadian Open earlier this year where Youzhny won the match 6-1, 6-4.
Radwanska, Jankovic, Begu Capture WTA Titles Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
A busy week in the WTA concluded with Agnieszka Radwanska capturing the Tokyo title, Jelena Jankovic winning the Guangzhou title, and Irina Begu becoming the Queen of Seoul.
WTA Tokyo: Radwanska Runs Bencic Ragged
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Radwanska is proving to be quite the force in Tokyo. The Pole did not drop a set on the way to the final where she met teenage sensation Belinda Bencic.
The Swiss was coming in off the back of back to back top 10 wins over Garbine Muguruza and Caroline Wozniacki in her quest for a third Premier title this year. However, Radwanska would put in a nearly flawless performance to see of the 18 year old 6-2, 6-2.
The performance was summed up by the stats. The former world number two hit 28 winners to 15 unforced errors, to Bencic’s 21-23.
“I ran a lot!” Radwanska said post-match. “Belinda really pushed me to play 200%, and the pressure was always in the back of my head. I knew I was playing one of the best players in the world, but this is the final and you just want to win, so you do whatever it takes to win every point.”
The 15th career victory seals Aga’s place back inside the top 10 and gives her a significant boost in the race for the Year End Championships.
“I’m just so happy to be back in that Top 10. It’s very, very tight now. There are a lot of young players coming up, so many players who deserve to be Top 10, so I’m just happy I can be No.8 now.
“The Asia tour is key for me to go to Singapore, so I think this week I did a great job to give myself a better chance to go back there again.”
The doubles title was won by the Spanish pairing Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro. They defeated the Chan sisters 7-5, 6-1 to strengthen their bid for Singapore.
WTA Guangzhou: Jankovic Captures Guangzhou Crown
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Jankovic has ended her two year title draught by capturing the Guangzhou title over Denisa Allertova 6-2, 6-0.
The Czech was looking to add another name to her upset list this week after defeating Simona Halep and Sara Errani en route to her first WTA final.
She started brightly with a break and a 2-1 lead, but from that point on it was all Jankovic. The Serb raced away by winning the next 11 games to seal a comfortable straight sets victory.
“Denisa, you had such a great run here in Guangzhou, beating such great players,” Jankovic said. “And you played so well in the final – it was definitely closer than the result says. You’ll have many more finals and many more titles in the future, so just keep going, just keep doing what you’re doing.”
Allertova still remained positive despite the heavy defeat.
“It was an amazing time for me here,” she said.
“I’m so happy I could beat so many good players here and play my first final. Jelena was too good, but I’m happy with my week.”
This was Jankovic’s first WTA main tour title since claiming the Bogota crown two years ago, she won a challenger in China earlier in the year. This was also the Serbian’s 14th career title.
The doubles went to the number one team of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza. The top seeds breezed Shilin Xu and Xiaodi You 6-3, 6-1 to claim their 6th title of the year.
WTA Seoul: Begu claims Second Career Title
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Begu ended the run of qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich with a 6-3, 6-1 victory to capture the Seoul title.
After an even start that split the first six games, Begu raised her game to soar to a 6-3, 5-0 lead. Sasnovich managed to hold to avoid the bagel, but no comeback was on the cards as Begu served it out to seal an easy victory.
“I think the key today was to stay calm and make my opponent run more, and I think I was successful in those. I was also hitting the balls deep and close to the lines,” Begu said.
“I also think I was better on the important points – I wasn’t dominating every game, but I did better on the big points.”
This was her second WTA title after winning Tashkent back in 2012.
“I’m so happy to win my first WTA title in three years – it’s been a long time, and I’ve improved a lot, I think,” Begu said.
“I’ve learned a lot from many matches and many experiences, and most of all I think I’ve become much more consistent when I’m playing. I feel totally different from three years ago.”
The doubles final was played later in the day and saw top seeds Lara Arruabarrena and Andrea Klepac rally from a set down to take out second seeds Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson, 2-6, 6-3, 10-6.