Viktor Troicki returned to the site of his last ATP title and experienced a healthy version of deja vu as he repeated as Champion in Sydney. Troicki got off to an awful start as the underdog against Grigor Dimitrov, but Dimitrov imploded in the match, Troicki winning by a score of 2-6 6-1 7-6(7). Dimitrov was firing on all cylinders in the rallies early on, but practically broke himself early in the second set, losing control in that set, and then failing to finish off the third set tiebreak as Troicki continued to fight hard, saving a match point in the third.
The result for Dimitrov is yet another disappointment from the former top 10 player, he does start the season with a quarterfinal, and a final however. Prior to the final he had wins over Pablo Cuevas, an in-form Alexandr Dolgopolov in three sets, and Gilles Muller in straights.
Troicki not only avenged his defeat the week prior to Dimitrov, he also beat Tommy Robredo, Nicolas Mahut, and Teymuraz Gabashvili, the latter two players taking three sets to dispatch. Gabashvili was playing in his first ever ATP semifinal, after home favorite Bernard Tomic tanked his quarterfinal match and retired due to lack of interest after losing the first set.
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares defeated Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea in the doubles final, a matchup that pitted two of the top teams in the sport.
Roberto Bautista Agut won his third career ATP title, and he was aided by his opponent Jack Sock suffering from the flu. RBA got off to an easy start, and it wasn’t difficult after that, as he won 6-1 1-0 ret. with Sock unable to continue with how poorly he was feeling. The Spaniard starts the season 6-1 with a quarterfinal, and a title, prior to the Australian Open, as his hard court game looks to be in great form.
Sock had a fantastic week regardless, he upset long-time Auckland stalwart David Ferrer in the semifinals, and also recovered from an opening set breadstick to defeat Kevin Anderson in a three set quarterfinal. Prior to that he defeated Victor Estrella and Vasek Pospisil without dropping a set, as it’s clear the American is trying to make his move for the top 15 this season. He could struggle in Melbourne however if he’s still feeling unwell.
Bautista Agut beat Jiri Vesely and Donald Young without incident, and then, like Sock, defeated players ranked above him, as he worked past John Isner in three sets, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the same fashion. RBA looks to be making his move to return ot the top 20 soon.
Mate Pavic and Kiwi Michael Venus beat Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky in straight sets to capture the doubles final, giving home fans the excitement of a home player capturing a title.
Surprise Success for Sarkissian and Marterer at ATP Sydney Qualifying Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
A series of shocks occurred during the qualifying competition at the Apia International Open in Sydney after only two seeded players managed to reach the main draw.
Top seed and Former French Open semifinalist Ernests Gulbis continued his poor start to the year with a shock first round loss to world No. 198 Alexander Sarkissian. The 25-year-old American clinched his first Challenger title in South Korea last year. Sarkissian dropped his serve only once as he took the match 6-3, 7-5. It is now the second consecutive week that Gulbis has failed to qualify for a main draw of a tournament.
Awaiting Sarkissian in the final round was Poland’s Lukasz Kubot. Kubot, who is currently ranked 29th in the doubles, defeated home player Blade Fong 6-1, 6-2, in his first match. The Polish player was no match for Sarkissian as the world No.198 broke his opponent four times to win 6-3, 6-3, to book his place in the main draw.
Maximilian Marterer recovered from the brink of defeat before stunning Bosnian eighth seed Damir Dzumhur. The German trailed 2-5 in the final set before winning 7-5, 1-6, 7-6(2), after an hour and 58 minutes. The German was on course for a showdown with second seed Sergiy Stakhovsky, however, he was stunned by Australian wildcard Aleksandar Vukic 3-6,6-3,6-4.
In the battle of the underdogs it was Marterer who was triumphant after he edged out Vukic 6-1, 7-6(7). The 20-year-old German is yet to win a main draw match on the ATP World Tour with a win-loss of only 0-2.
The highest seed to reach the main draw was Kazakh third seed Mikhail Kukushkin. The world No.65 endured a tiring opening match against Matt Reid, lasting over two hours, winning 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-6(5). His reward was a clash against Spanish clay court specialist Íñigo Cervantes. Last year Cervantes won three Challenger titles on clay. The final round was another grueling encounter for Kukushkin, who had to save three match points during the final set. After dropping the opening set, Kukushkin produced gutsy play to win 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(6).
Completing the qualifying was French Veteran Nicolas Mahut.The 33-year-old kicked-off his campaign with a 6-1, 6-3, win over Italy’s Marco Cecchinato. Next up for Mahut was sixth seed Dusan Lajovic. Lajovic enjoyed a straight sets win over wildcard Mayez Elrich in his first match. The final clash was a chance for Mahut to get revenge after falling to the Serbian at last year’s Paris Open. The Frenchman grabbed his revenge after clinching the win 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-2.
Mahut has a considerable h2h edge over his first round opponent Adrian Mannarino, Sarkissian faces veteran Simone Bolelli, Marterer faces Pablo Cuevas, and Kukushkin has a tough test against the seeded Jeremy Chardy.
2016 ATP Sydney Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final ATP stop on the Emirates Australian Open Series is in Sydney at the joint ATP/WTA Apia International as many players will look to get their final tune ups in before heading over to Melbourne for the Australian Open.
Apia International Sydney
ATP World Tour 250
January 11-January 17, 2016
Prize Money: $404,780
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Bernard Tomic (18)
2: Dominic Thiem (20)
3: Viktor Troicki (22)
4: Grigor Dimitrov (28)
Sydney lacks a top tier player this year as it’s anybody’s tournament to win.
Klizan is on a four match losing streak dating back to last season while Thompson comes off the semis of the Noumea Challenger. The young Australian still lacks an ATP win, but he’s had some great challenger results and sits at a career high ranking just outside the top 150. On home soil look for Thompson to fight hard and pull off an upset, especially if Klizan fires wildly from the baseline.
Tommy Robredo vs. (WC)John Millman
33 year old Tommy Robredo had a decent fall swing, but last year was a relative disappointment for the Spaniard, and he faces a home Australian who he trails 0-3 in the career h2h. Millman is talented and seems to have Robredo’s number. The Australian won a match in Chennai, and he should be able to do the same here with a quality round 1 win.
Mahut is 5-1 against Mannarino and has won their last four meetings. Mannarino comes in as the champion in the Noumea challenger however, and his form looks to be sharp. The serve and volleying veteran Mahut qualified to snap a four match losing streak, and given the h2h he has a great shot at an upset against a possibly fatigued Mannarino.
Borna Coric vs. Gilles Muller
Muller won a round in Chennai, while Coric reached his first ever ATP final there and is off to a fantastic start at the beginning of the season. The Croatian teenager is talented, but likely tired, and Muller’s serve and volley should do enough damage to earn him the win, and potentially a deep run this week.
Brisbane semifinalist Bernard Tomic captured the title in Sydney in 2013. Tomic is the home favorite and tends to perform well under those conditions. His junkballing game should allow him to get past Thompson/Klizan and then Leonardo Mayer or Sam Groth in the quarterfinals. Groth, and his first round opponent Federico Delbonis, are both on four match losing streaks dating back to last season. The Australian is a big server while FDB prefers clay. Mayer opens with Teymuraz Gabashvili who won a match in Doha, and beat him in Basel last year. The Argentine comes off the quarterfinals in Doha. Groth could catch fire, but I have Tomic over Mayer as the odds on quarterfinal match.
Defending champion Viktor Troicki opens with the Robredo/Millman winner. Troicki won a round in Brisbane and should have enough to beat Robredo or Millman. Mannarino/Mahut or Denis Istomin/Andreas Seppi are quarterfinal options. Seppi is 3-1 against Istomin on hard courts, and he should be able to beat Mannarino or Mahut as well, though it’s a very open section. Seppi has a h2h win on hard courts against Troicki, but the Serbian should be a cut above, and able to reach the semifinals with a chance to defend his title.
Dominic Thiem had a great start to his season, reaching the semifinals. The young Austrian appears primed to perform in Sydney as he should have the inside track against Coric/Muller in a great second round match, and likely Jeremy Chardy in the quarterfinals. Muller could also make a run, and a match against Coric would be a young gun battle. Chardy comes off the quarterfinals in Doha, but trails qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin 0-2 in the h2h. Round 2 for Chardy/Kukushkin will be Julien Benneteau or James Duckworth. Benny reached the quarterfinals of the Noumea challenger in his first match on tour since the spring of last year, while Duckworth took a set off Thiem in Brisbane.
Thiem and Chardy have never met, but I’ll go with Thiem’s form, like Tomic’s, to reach the semifinals.
Brisbane quarterfinalist Grigor Dimitrov should be able to reach the semis, but Hopman Cup finalist Alexandr Dolgopolov (went 3-1 in round robin play), could upset the apple cart. Dimitrov will open with an easy match against qualifier Max Marterer or Pablo Cuevas while Dolgopolov opens with big hitter Thomaz Bellucci and is due to face Alex Sarkissian or Simone Bolelli round 2. Sarkissian qualified as the young American continues to rise. Dolgopolov should get past Bellucci and Bolelli to reach the quarters.
Dimitrov is 2-1 on the hard court h2h against Dolgopolov, Dolgo looks to be razor sharp right now though. He’s one of the most unpredictable talents on tour, but presuming he has it together, I have him reaching the semis.
There are a number of potential dark horses this week with such an open field. Muller would need to beat Coric and Thiem, but if he beats those young guns, he’ll have a great shot at a run to the final or beyond. He has the game for it, it’s just a matter of how well he serves.
Semis Tomic d. Troicki
Thiem d. Dolgopolov
Tomic is 2-1 on hard courts against Troicki, Thiem has a hard court win against Dolgopolov. I wouldn’t put it past the Ukrainian to run to the title, but he’s very hard to predict.
Final Tomic d. Thiem
Both Thiem and Tomic started the season with identical records. Tomic is a former champion in Sydney however, and should have a slight edge to capture another Australian Open series title.