David Ferrer moved closer to clinching one of the final World Tour Finals slots with his 5th title of the season in Vienna. The Spanish veteran did one better than his final in the Austrian capital last year and slipped past maiden ATP finalist Steve Johnson 4-6 6-4 7-5 to take the title. The American Johnson played hard and continues his career best season but Ferrer survived in the clutch.
The final was the toughest match for Ferrer since a three set victory over countryman Albert Ramos in round 1, and from there he went on to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Fabio Fognini, and Gael Monfils in routine straight set affairs. Ferrer has now captured three ATP 500 level titles this season.
Johnson found form after escaping his first two matches with three set victories over Alex Dolgopolov and Jerzy Janowicz. In the quarterfinals he upset Kevin Anderson in three sets, and Ernests Gulbis in straight sets, as Gulbis was denied a spot in his first ATP final of the season. Stevie J, a former NCAA standout, continues to improve and has now cemented himself as a solid player on the ATP tour, having matured his game beyond simply a powerful forehand.
Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo beat Jamie Murray/John Peers to win the doubles final in a battle of doubles specialists.
Americans fell to 0-2 in ATP finals this weekend when Tomas Berdych demolished Jack Sock 7-6 6-2 for his third career ATP Stockholm title. The in-form Berdych has now equaled his number of trophies from last year with a late run of form this Fall. He won Shenzen, and now has Stockholm to go with it.
The powerful Czech didn’t drop a set in all four of his matches this week and faced few challenges against Alex Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov, and an injured Marcos Baghdatis en route to the final. Sock needed three sets against both Pablo Carreno Busta and Fernando Verdasco, but like his buddy Johnson in Vienna, he got hot in the quarterfinals and semifinals and upset Gilles Simon and Richard Gasquet to reach the final. The 23 year old American is in the midst of a career year and now has two ATP finals (with 1 title) on his resume.
Sock did one better in doubles, teaming with Nick Monroe to take the title over Mate Pavic/Michael Venus. Sock has three ATP doubles titles this season.
In one more note, Finland’s best ever tennis player Jarkko Nieminen finished up his ATP career with a hard fought third set defeat in Stockholm.
Top seed Marin Cilic won his first title of the season as he repeated as champion in Moscow 6-4 6-4 in an hour and a half over Roberto Bautista Agut. The title will aid Cilic as he seeks to return to the top 10, and make sure he finishes in the top 15 by the end of the year.
The Croatian was only troubled by Denis Istomin in his first match, prevailing in three sets, and he beat Russian hopes Andrey Kuznetsov and surprise semifinalist Evgeny Donskoy to reach the final. Bautista Agut found form and beat Marsel Ilhan, Lucas Pouille, and Philipp Kohlschreiber over the same span without dropping a set. This final is his best result of the season after multiple ATP semifinal appearances.
The wild card pairing of young gun Andrey Rublev and Russian veteran Dmitry Tursunov took home the doubles title over Radu Albot/Frantisek Cermak. The 32 year old Tursunov has been out with injuries for a year and his run in doubles comes as a shock given the rust factor.
2015 ATP Vienna, Stockholm, and Moscow Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A trio of European indoor hard court tournaments take place this week on the ATP tour as the season enters its final weeks.
Erste Bank Open
ATP World Tour 500
October 19-October 25, 2015
Prize Money: €1,745,040
8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: David Ferrer (8)
2: Kevin Anderson (10)
3: John Isner (13)
4: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (15)
5: Dominic Thiem (18)
6: Gael Monfils (19)
7: Ivo Karlovic (21)
8: Fabio Fognini (26)
Two top 10, and six top 20 players are in Vienna for its first edition as a 500 level tournament.
First round matchups to watch:
(1)David Ferrer vs. Albert Ramos
Ferrer has a 4-0 h2h record against his countryman and should be a solid favorite after posting a 7-2 record over his last 9 matches. Ramos is in great form though, he qualified in Shanghai and shocked Roger Federer for the biggest win of his career, going on to push eventual finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to three sets in the round of 16. Ferrer is a better player, and far better indoors, but Ramos may be able to notch another top 10 win in this one if Ferrer plays as poorly as he did in Shanghai.
(8)Fabio Fognini vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu
Fognini leads the h2h 2-1 with Mathieu but they haven’t played since 2009. The French veteran isn’t a clutch player but he has a solid ballstriking game indoors and could trouble Fognini if the Italian loses his cool. Fabio reached the semis in Beijing and his form has been good since the US Open though, so I have him avoiding the upset and winning this one.
Janowicz has a h2h win over Thiem and recently reached a challenger final on indoor hard. JJ has a great game for this venue, though he’s struggled to maintain ATP level tennis this season, and Thiem faces the pressure of being the home favorite. Both player are about equal in talent level, but Thiem’s consistency should help him prevail.
The defending finalist David Ferrer should draw another Spaniard, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, in the second round after facing Ramos. GGL has lost three straight matches, and his round 1 opponent Santiago Giraldo is struggling mightily as well. Though GGL is good indoors, Ferrer leads the h2h 7-1 and he should reach the quarterfinals.
Fabio Fognini should be able to reach the quarterfinals as well, as he’ll face either Austrian journeyman Dennis Novak or Radek Stepanek in round 2, after his match with PHM. Stepanek hasn’t played well in quite some time and I don’t expect him to challenge Fognini. Ferrer leads the h2h with Fognini 8-0 and with the World Tour Finals on the line, look for Ferrer to make the semifinals in Austria.
Shanghai finalist, and former Vienna champion, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga may be exhausted from his exploits at the Masters level but his round 1 opponent Tommy Haas, a loser of four straight matches, isn’t likely to defeat him. After Haas I also give Lukas Rosol or qualifier Yuichi Sugita a limited chance to upset Tsonga. Rosol has a big enough game to pull it off, but Tsonga is an excellent indoors player and the Czech has been out of tune for some time.
Gael Monfils is the biggest threat to Tsonga reaching the semifinals, The high flying Frenchman will look to extend his h2h over a struggling Thomaz Bellucci to 3-0 in his first match since the US Open. Monfils has struggled to stay healthy, but Bellucci, and likely Rajeev Ram in round 2 are both opponents he should be favored against. Ram opens with dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi in round 1.
Monfils beat Tsonga in Miami this year, but Tsonga has an edge in the overall h2h, and I look for Jo to bite him back if they meet in the quarterfinals. Fatigue is a factor, but so is rust with Monfils.
Kevin Anderson should cruise to the quarterfinals past Austria’s Andreas Haider-Maurer, and Jiri Vesely, presuming Vesely beats Austrian wild card Gerald Melzer in round 1. Vesely reached the quarterfinals in Shenzen and he’s a streaky player. The h2h between Kev and Jiri is 1-1, with Vesely beating him early this season in Auckland. Indoors with Anderson’s serve the result should swing to his favor. Anderson comes off the quarterfinals in Shanghai and solid wins over Fognini and Kei Nishikori.
I look for Dominic Thiem to beat Janowicz and then the winner of Alex Dolgopolov/Steve Johnson to reach the quarterfinals in front of the home fans. Dolgo has lost five straight matches, but he was solid enough in Shanghai and he has a higher peak than Johnson who won a round in Shanghai and went out in round 2. Thiem and Dolgo is a tough matchup, but consistency and venue should give Thiem the advantage.
Anderson is 3-0 in the h2h against Thiem and beat him at the US Open this year, it could be close, but big Kev should gain some ranking points and reach the semis.
The final semifinal spot should come down to a battle of big servers in the quarterfinals. Ivo Karlovic faces the all-courter Andreas Seppi in round 1 and he should be able to find consistency and serve past him, and Jan-Lennard Struff or Sergiy Stakhovsky in his first two matches. Struff qualified and has two challenger titles and a semifinal as of late, so his form has been excellent at a lower level. JL has always been a good challenger tour player but hasn’t quite made the jump to ATP tennis on a regular basis, the Karlovic serve should prove to be too much.
Look for John Isner to join Karlovic in the quarters by ousting the in-form Kenny De Schepper and then the struggling Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis should get his first match win in months by defeating ATP main draw débutante Lucas Miedler, a 19 year old Austrian who hasn’t even reached the challenger tour level yet, but came through qualifying.
Isner is 7-3 in his last 10 matches, and those three losses all came at the hands of top 10 players. The match with Karlovic should come down to just a few points, but I give him the edge to reach the semis.
Struff is just 4-17 at the main tour level this year but he’s 16-2 since the US Open and in fantastic form at the Challenger Tour level. JL reached the quarterfinals in Vienna last year and posted two ATP semifinals indoors as well (Marseille and Metz). He’s got all the shotmaking ability needed to excel, but his mental game is rather weak. Should Ivo Karlovic and Isner slip up, Struff could find his way to the semifinals of an ATP tournament for the third time in his career.
semis Ferrer d. Tsonga
Isner d. Anderson
Ferrer leads the h2h with Tsonga 3-1 and should be fresher than his rival in this semifinal. Ferru already took the title indoors in Kuala Lumpur, and he should reach another final this Fall in Vienna, reprising his result last year.
Isner tends to have the matchup edge with Anderson and his form has been good.
final Ferrer d. Isner
Ferrer is 5-1 in the h2h against Isner and should be highly motivated to capture another ATP title.
IF Stockholm Open
ATP World Tour 250
October 19-October 25, 2015
Prize Money: €537,050
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Tomas Berdych (5)
2: Richard Gasquet (11)
3: Gilles Simon (14)
4: Bernard Tomic (20)
Stockholm boasts a quality field for an ATP 250 tournament with four top 20 names.
First round matchups to watch:
Benjamin Becker vs. John Millman
Becker has caught fire this Fall on indoor hard, the offensive baseliner reached the final of the Mons challenger and the semifinals in Kuala Lumpur for an overall 9-3 record since the US Open. Previously in a cold slump, he’s back playing crafty tennis and could be a threat in Stockholm. John Millman qualified for Beijing and upset Tommy Robredo, the Australian has the talent to be an ATP level player but he’s still seeking a breakthrough, and winning this match would help. Look for Becker to advance and maintain his hot streak.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Denis Kudla
Fernando Verdasco has lost three straight and could be in for an upset defeat at the hands of the dynamic ball striker Denis Kudla. Kudla went 7-2 on the USTA Pro Circuit after the US Open and is now returning to the ATP main draw level in Stockholm. It’s been a career year for Kudla, and look for him to add to that with a win over the declining Verdasco.
(6)Jeremy Chardy vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis
The talented young gun Kokkinakis is seeking his 12th ATP tour level win this season and could break out of a cold slump with a win over Chardy, a big hitter who is capable of playing well indoors. Chardy lost to Kokkinakis on grass earlier this season and has lost two straight matches himself. I have Kokkinakis pulling off the upset.
The defending and two-time Stockholm champion Tomas Berdych will open with the Alex Zverev/Mikael Ymer winner. Ymer is the younger brother of the better known Elias Ymer and gets a main draw wild card. His ATP debut will take place against a fellow young gun who is seeking to snap a four match losing streak. Zverev should fall to the Shenzen champion and Shanghai quarterfinalist Berdych in round 2.
Look for Berdych to face another former Stockholm champion, Grigor Dimitrov, in the quarterfinals. A struggling Dimitrov opens with a qualifier, and then is likely to face the retiring Jarkko Nieminen. Nieminen gets a wild card and is ending his ATP career in Stockholm after a solid career as Finland’s #1 tennis player. The speedy defensively minded veteran opens with Daniel Munoz-De La Nava, who has been on fire on the clay court challenger tour. Nemo has lost four straight, and Dimitrov is far better at this point in their careers.
Berdych beat Dimitrov in the Stockholm final last year and given Dimitrov’s poor form this season the Czech has the edge to reach the semifinals.
Shanghai quarterfinalist Bernard Tomic will open with either Sam Querrey or Marcos Baghdatis. Querrey leads the h2h 3-0 over Baghdatis, and Tomic should have the edge in his section to reach another ATP quarterfinal. Trouble should await at that stage though, as Becker/Millman or Gilles Muller/qualifier are the options. Muller has an ATP quarterfinal and a semifinal this Fall and is a solid indoor player, as is Becker. The pair of veterans have met just once before and Becker came out on top. I have that result repeating itself and a Tomic vs. Becker quarterfinal, in which Tomic should have the edge.
Richard Gasquet should cruise through his section of the draw and power his way to the semifinals. Neither Steve Darcis, or a struggling Adrian Mannarino, look to be threatening in his first match and he’ll have a decided edge over the Chardy/Kokkinakis winner in the quarters. The other option in this section is the winner of Federico Delbonis/qualifier, and Delbonis much prefers clay.
Gilles Simon could make it an all-French semifinal against Gasquet if he can beat Leo Mayer/qualifier and likely the winner of Jack Sock vs. Denis Kudla in the quarterfinals. Sock faces dirtballer Pablo Carreno Busta first up, and then the Verdasco/Kudla winner. On Simon’s end, Mayer is struggling, and Kudla beat Sock the last time they played. Simon is 7-3 in his last 10 matches and should beat Kudla in the quarters.
Either Becker or Gilles Muller could get through to the semifinals over Tomic and possibly give Berdych/Dimitrov problems as well in the semifinals. Becker, even at his age, still has a quality serve and plays smart, aggressive tennis indoors. His back injury seems to have sorted itself out and he’s back cranking on the ball from both wings.
semis Berdych d. Tomic
Gasquet d. Simon
Berdych is 4-0 in the h2h against Tomic and has beaten him twice this season. Given his good record in Stockholm, he should prevail once more. Gasquet is 6-1 in the h2h against Simon and won a pair of matches in Shanghai to show form.
final Berdych d. Gasquet
Berdych is 2-1 against Gasquet this year, and was 1-1 against him last season. It’s a close h2h and a difficult match to predict, but Berdych’s better form gives him the advantage.
Kremlin Cup by Bank of Moscow
ATP World Tour 250
October 19-October 25, 2015
Prize Money: $698,325
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Marin Cilic (12)
2: Roberto Bautista Agut (23)
3: Viktor Troicki (24)
4: Philipp Kohlschreiber (31)
With just one top 20 player, Moscow has the weakest field of the tournaments this week.
Kukushkin has had success in Moscow before and he posted a quarterfinal in Kuala Lumpur. Rublev by contrast has lost three straight, but the teenager is the great white hope for Russian men’s tennis and will have all eyes on him at a home tournament. Rublev is plenty talented, but with his recent run of poor form, I have Kukushkin winning this match and schooling the youngster.
Simone Bolelli vs. Lucas Pouille
Bolelli leads the h2h against the young gun Pouille 3-0 and he’s 8-4 since the US Open. Pouille by contrast has lost three straight matches since reaching the quarterfinals in St. Petersburg. Pouille has a great forehand and the ability to notch a win in this one, but a wiser Bolelli should defeat him.
Defending champion Marin Cilic should blaze through to the semifinals. Cilic opens with the winner of Aljaz Bedene/Denis Istomin, and then should face Rublev/Kukushkin in the quarters, as Radu Albot/Andrey Kuznetsov is the only player that stands in their way. Istomin just won a challenger title and should beat Bedene, but Cilic is 6-3 since the US Open and should move that to 8-3 with wins over Istomin and Kukushkin. He’s by far the best player in his section and just beat Kukushkin at the US Open.
Former champion Viktor Troicki is just 2-3 since the US Open, but wild card Cem Ilkel, or a struggling Teymuraz Gabashvili are unlikely to oust him in the opening round. Gabashvili is a streaky player with talent, but like Troicki he seems to have lost his way right now. I have Troicki going out to Borna Coric in the quarterfinals, after Coric defeats Evgeny Donskoy and Ricardas Berankis (Berankis opens with Malek Jaziri). Coric has the most talent in this section and has been battling at the ATP level while Donkoy, Berankis, and Jaziri have all been on the challenger tour (and done well at that level). Berankis is a potential dark horse in this section if his solid ball striking pays off.
St. Petersburg semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut plays well in Russia, and he should use his forehand to once more excel indoors and defeat Marsel Ilhan/qualifier, and then setup a meeting with either Joao Sousa or the Bolelli/Pouille winner in the quarters. Sousa is one of the better indoor specialists in the game and after Daniel Gimeno-Traver he’ll face Bolelli/Pouille. I have the St. Petersburg finalist Sousa snapping a losing streak and beating Bolelli (who he beat in St. Petersburg), and Bautista Agut for a spot in the semifinals. His game is well suited for this venue.
Philipp Kohlschreiber opens with Mikhail Youzhny/qualifier. Youzhny is a horrific 9-23 at the ATP level this year while Kohlschreiber was a semifinalist in Metz and should at least make a quarterfinal in this one. A qualifier has a fantastic chance to make the quarterfinals opposite Kohli. Pablo Cuevas opens with a qualifier, as does Robin Haase, and they both prefer a surface other than indoor hard. I have the qualifiers winning those round 1 matches, and then Kohlschreiber beating a qualifier for a spot in the semis.
Berankis has the talented needed to get through Coric and his weak early section, and then give Cilic a test in the semifinals. The former top junior is undersized for the ATP game but he’s a solid ball striker, and still has a lot of intangible talent, even though his pro career has been a disappointment thus far.
semis Cilic d. Coric
Kohlschreiber d. Sousa
Cilic and Kohlschreiber should be strong favorites to meet each other in the final.
final Cilic d. Kohlschreiber
Kohli leads the h2h with Cilic 5-3, but I feel Cilic is the better player right now and will find a way to win and repeat as champion.