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.
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.
2015 WTA Auckland and Shenzhen Preview and Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Two other events will take place on the WTA tour this week to open the 2015 season, one in Auckland and the other in Shenzhen, China, as players gear up for the Australian Open by making their preparations all across Asia and Australia-Pacific.
2015 WTA Auckland Preview
A regular on the WTA calendar, the ASB classic has been part of the WTA season for the past 30 years, and the season opener for the past 20 years. The formation occurred when a gap in the marketplace was seen by Ari Hallenberg and Global Sports. They pitched the idea of an event in Auckland to Tennis New Zealand, and thus the ASB classic was created.
Previous champions include the likes of: Marion Bartoli, Lindsay Davenport, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Agnieszka Radwanska and the 2014 champion was Ana Ivanovic.
ASB Classic WTA International Series Auckland, New Zealand January 5-January 10, 2015 Prize Money: $250,000
Top 4 seeds (WTA ranking in parentheses) 1: Caroline Wozniacki (8)
2: Sara Errani (14)
3: Venus Williams (18)
4: Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova (25)
A fairly strong field of seeded players with the lowest ranked seed being number 42, Mona Barthel. With two former world number ones, and three young stars we have got an open field that promises excitement.
The home crowd favourite will no doubt be Marina Erakovic. The New Zealander finished a measly number 77 in the world in 2014, but picked up her form towards the end of the season. Her opponent is one of the WTA’s rising stars. 21 year old Puerto Rican, Monica Puig reached her highest ranking in 2014, but a poor end to the season saw her finish as world number 61. This will be one the hotly contested matches of round one, with Erakovic looking to please the home crowd. Puig will look to spoil the party and defeat her opponent and the crowd. Marina will want to keep the points short, and hold her serve, while Monica will want long rallies, and counter Erakovic. Expect a tight encounter here.
(7)Coco Vandeweghe vs. Roberta Vinci
The crafty Italian vs the big serving American will be one of the most intriguing matches in the season opener. The 23 year old New York native, Vandeweghe, had a career best season in 2014 which saw her reach her highest ranking of 38 and finish as the world number 39. She also won her first WTA tournament at the Topshelf Open. Across the court stands experienced Italian Roberta Vinci. The 31 year old finished at number 48 in the rankings last year, but has reached a career high of 11 in the world. Vinci’s slice will be a key shot in this match, and if Coco isn’t on form, it will trouble the American a lot. But if Vandeweghe plays at her full potential, Vinci might not be able to handle the big serve.
(2)Sara Errani vs. Daniela Hantuchova
Vinci’s doubles partner, Sara Errani has a stern test in her opening match in the form of Daniela Hantuchova. Daniela didn’t enjoy the best of seasons in 2014, finishing the year as world number 57. However if the Slovak can show any sign of the form that got her to number five in the world, she could very well upset the number two seed. Sara Errani is one of the steadiest players on tour. The former Roland Garros finalist has great movement and rarely makes an error. However, she lacks the firepower to dictate a match which often leaves the result in her opponent’s hands. If Hantuchova can be aggressive and consistent she can upset Errani, but that is a big if.
Caroline Wozniacki is the number one seed and favourite to win the tournament. The former world number one drew lucky and will face a qualifier in round one. The consistent Dane will likely cruise to a quarter final clash with Svetlana Kuznetsova. Caro will most likely prove to be too good for the former grand slam champion and should advance from this quarter.
The second quarter is an interesting one. Any one of the eight players could realistically make the semi-finals with a good run. The Favourite will be number four seed, Barbora Zahalova-Strycova. The 28 year old should pass her first round test, Chanelle Scheepers and meet either Erakovic or Puig in the second round. Both players could cause big problems for the Czech, but Strycova is coming in off her best season to date. You’d expect the other quarter finalist to be one of: Roberta Vinci, Coco Vandeweghe and Kirsten Flipkens. All three are capable of a good run here, but it’s a question of who can find their form in time. I believe Strycova will advance from this section, but I wouldn’t be shocked at all if it’s somebody else.
Number three seed Venus Williams is one of the favorites to win the tournament. The former world number one should make it through her first two matches without much hassle but if the veteran is off her game, she could easily be upset by Kiki Bertens or Kurumi Nara. The Interesting part of this section is the potential Quarter Final opponents for Venus. Mona Barthel is the seeded player and favourite, but the German has shown lack of mental strength and consistency in the past, despite her enormous talent. The 24 year old is unpredictable, and could blow the competition away or just as easily slump to a first round defeat. The key match will be the second round where Kristina Mladenovic or Elena Vesnina will await the winner. Both currently sit outside the top 50 and will be looking to kick off their season in a positive way. I feel Barthel makes it, but loses to Venus Williams in a tight encounter.
Number two seed Sara Errani would probably be more favoured on clay, but the Italian is so consistent, she won’t give any of her opponents’ free points. Errani should make it through to the quarter finals with her toughest test likely to come in round one against Daniela Hantuchova. Her opponent at this stage will likely be Sloane Stephens. The highly touted American made her breakthrough in 2013, but failed to make any improvements last year. Once touted a future number one, Sloane will be looking to live up to that potential in 2015.
Wozniacki should have no trouble getting past BarboraZahalovaStrycova in the semi-finals. Venus and Sloane will have a tight semi-final, which teases us with the end result multiple times. I am going to predict Stephens in three sets to set up a final clash with Caro.
Final: Wozniacki d. Stephens
The two pre-tournament favourites will contest the final in Auckland.In the final we will see plenty of long rallies, but Wozniacki will do what she does best and wear her opponent down in two tight sets.
2015 WTA Shenzen Preview
Shenzhen Open WTA International Series Shenzen, China January 4-January 10, 2015 Prize Money: $500,000
The Shenzhen Open is one of three events kicking off the 2015 season. It is also one of seven WTA events to be hosted in China this year. The inaugural event took place in 2013, with Li Na doing her home country proud by winning the tournament. The Chinese superstar returned in 2014 to defend her crown in an all Chinese final where she defeated Shuai Peng in straight sets. Unfortunately, Li Na won’t return to this event to defend her title once again as she has now officially retired from the game, meaning we will have a new champion at the Shenzen Open. It promises to be an exciting way to kick off the new season.
Top 4 seeds (WTA ranking in parentheses) 1: Simona Halep (3)
2: Petra Kvitova (4)
3: Shuai Peng (21)
4: Zarina Diyas (33)
First round matchups to watch:
(1)Simona Halep vs. Annika Beck
The world number three will kick off her season against young German Annika Beck in Shenzen. A lot of people will look at this and think it will be an easy win for the Romanian. They could be right, but they may also be in for a surprise. Beck offers a very solid game, and if Halep isn’t on her game right away, the number one seed may just get caught off guard. Look for lengthy rallies in this match between two solid baseliners.
(4)Zarina Diyas vs. Donna Vekic
Zarina Diyas enjoyed her best season to date in 2014, and the talented Kazakh doesn’t want stop right there. The 21 year old will face fellow youngster Donna Vekic in the first round of the Shenzhen open. The 18 year old has reached a career high of 65, so she will look to potentially break the top 50 for first time in 2015. This is a match-up you could very well be seeing more of in the future,so it will be good to familiarise with these two quickly.
The former grand slam finalist will return to face third seed and home country favourite Shuai Peng. This is perhaps the more interesting of the first round matches with the return of Vera Zvonareva being one of the hottest talking points amongst WTA fans watching this tournament. With the retirement of Li Na, Peng is now the Chinese number one and will have the weight of an entire nation on her shoulders in this event. We shall see if she can handle that pressure in Shenzhen.
Number one seed Simona Halep will be big favourite to emerge from the top half of the draw. If the Romanian is off form however, there are a few players that can upset the world number two. Simona will likely face tests from Annika Beck and Klara Koukalova on her way to the semi finals, but if Halep isn’t completely off form, she should get through this section
Number 4 seed Zarina Diyas will be favourite to advance from her quarter, but it won’t be easy. As well as youngster Donna Vekic, Diyas could face tests from the likes of Monica Niculescu. The crafty Romanian is a difficult test for anyone with her variety of shots, and could easily advance to the semi-finals. The potential quarter final between Diyas and Niculescu could be one of the matches to watch in Shenzhen.
The whole of China will be pinning their hopes on last year’s runner-up Shuai Peng to keep the title in the Middle Kingdom. She faces a stern test in the first round in Vera Zvonareva who could upset the number three seed. With the home crowd behind her, Peng should advance to the quarter finals at least here. Who will meet her there is anyone’s guess, with the talented Stefanie Voegele and number eight seed Timea Bascinzky potential adversaries. I expect Peng to make the semi finals here with the home crowd behind her.
Number two seed Petra Kvitova will fancy her chances of winning the title here, but first she must navigate her way through the bottom half of the draw.The Wild Card round one shouldn’t be a problem for the big hitting Czech who should really make the semi finals without much trouble. However, with her known ‘off days’ Petra could very well be upset by the likes of Bojana Jovanovski or Irina-Camelia Begu.
Halep d. Niculescu
Kvitova d. Peng
The top two seeds will make the final here. Niculescu’s spin won’t be a problem for Halep, who wins this one in straight sets. Kvitova has her difficulties with Peng, who takes her the distance, but the big match experience of the Czech will be enough to see her through.
Halep d. Kvitova
The final will be the one the most tennis fans will be anticipating. Haelp vs Kvitova has the potential to be one of the best matches of the year and we have only just begun! A clash of styles that could go either way, so I will solidly predict a three setter. Which player will win is a prediction I keep changing, but I am going to say Halep’s consistency wins her the title.