Cilic Puts Himself Into World Tour Finals, Murray Continues Push for World #1 Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Marin Cilic won his second title of the season and put himself into the final spot avaliable in the Race for London with a 6-1 7-6(5) victory over his rival Kei Nishikori. The Croatian was strong all week in Basel as he posted wins over Mikhail Youzhny, Pablo Carreno Busta, Marcel Granollers, and resurgent veteran Mischa Zverev en route to the final. Zverev took a set off of Cilic and continues to boost his ATP ranking after years in the challenger wilderness. He stunned home favorite Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals.
Nishikori dropped to 1-4 in ATP finals this season, but he did beat Dusan Lajovic, Paolo Lorenzi, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Gilles Muller to make the final. The win over Del Potro was a big one for Nishikori’s confidence, and he looks healthy and ready to challenge the ATP’s elite next season.
Marcel Granollers and Jack Sock beat Robert Lindstedt and Michael Venus in the doubles final.
Andy Murray had no trouble in the final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as the world #2 continued his bid for the year end world #1. Murray took home a third straight title, as he’s unbeaten in ATP play since the US Open and showed at 29 years of age there is still room for improvement in his world class game. Murray beat Tsonga 6-3 7-6 for a seventh title this season, and his 69th win, compared to just 9 losses.
Murray dropped sets against Martin Klizan and Gilles Simon earlier in the week, but John Isner provided little resistance in the quarters, and David Ferrer withdrew to give Murray a walkover into the finals and a much needed breather.
Tsonga beat German’s Benjamin Becker and Philipp Kohlschreiber, then eased past Albert Ramos, and battled past Ivo Karlovic in a third set tiebreak to reach the final. The Frenchman only made one ATP final this season but he has now posted more wins in 2016 than he did last season, so there are signs of improvement.
Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo beat Oliver Marach and Fabrice Martin to capture the doubles title.
2016 ATP Basel Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final ATP 500 level tournaments of the season take place this week in Basel and Vienna as the ATP World Tour Season continues to wind down. Four players, all in action this week, are competing for two ATP World Tour finals slots. Two of them, David Goffin, and Marin Cilic, are competing in Basel. Here is a preview with predictions.
Swiss Indoors Basel
ATP World Tour 500
October 24-30, 2016
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize Money: €1,701,320
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (3)
2: Milos Raonic (4)
3: Kei Nishikori (5)
4: Marin Cilic (11)
Three top 10 players will contest Basel, despite Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer being absent.
First round matchups to watch:
Taylor Fritz vs. (Q)Mischa Zverev
Fritz scored a narrow h2h win over Zverev at the start of the year. The German veteran has come on strong since then, and has qualified ten times for ATP tournaments this year. Zverev has two ATP quarterfinals in recent weeks and his serve and volley game is clicking. Fritz hasn’t been quite as sharp, and although he has more potential as a young gun, Zverev should be the favorite in this match.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Pablo Carreno Busta
Verdasco has lost three straight while his Spanish countryman just took home the title in Moscow and has proven himself as a tough competitor on hard courts. Verdasco’s decline as he ages has continued this season, and if PCB is fresh enough he should win this match.
(6)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Gilles Muller
Dimitrov and Muller have split meetings 2-2, Dimitrov has been in better form as he’s posted two semifinals and a final post US Open. Muller has a pair of quarterfinals, but indoors with his powerful serve and crisp volleys he can do a lot a damage. Presuming fatigue doesn’t weight down Dimitrov, he should break the deadlock and win this match.
US Open champion and Swiss hero Stan Wawrinka should have no problems with countryman Marco Chiudinelli, then Donald Young or Illya Marchenko in the next round. Wawrinka looks set to face Antwerp champion Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals as a struggling Guido Pella is his first opponent, followed by the Zverev/Fritz winner. At home in Basel, Wawrinka should be the favorite over Gasquet in a backhand battle.
Marin Cilic is 11th in the race for London, and the farthest out from qualifying. The Croatian #1 will be a clear favorite against veteran Mikhail Youzhny, and should also beat Verdasco or PCB in round 2. Jack Sock lies in Cilic’s path to the semifinals, the Stockholm finalist is 7-2 in his last two tournaments and opens with Adrian Mannarino. Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen could follow if he can upset veteran Marcel Granollers. Sock beat Cilic at the US Open this year, but fatigue could play a factor, and Cilic has more to play for so I’m picking him to reach the semifinals.
Milos Raonic hasn’t been healthy and he’s been struggling lately, but he should defeat qualifier Ricardas Berankis in round 1. Andrey Kuznetsov should dispatch a struggling Federico Delbonis, and he’ll have his shot at upsetting Raonic. It’s a touch match to predict, but I’m going with Kuznetsov in an upset. Dimitrov should beat Muller and Florian Mayer or Benoit Paire before beating Kuznetsov/Raonic for a spot in the semifinals. Both Paire and Mayer are struggling.
David Goffin and Kei Nishikori are in a section with Stockholm champion Juan Martin Del Potro, and as that would indicate, this is the strongest section of the draw. Goffin is 10th in the race for London, and in reality he’s just one spot out, as Rafael Nadal, currently in 7th, has already withdrawn from all tournaments this season to help heal his wrist. The Antwerp semifinalist Goffin has struggled against his first round opponent Marcos Baghdatis historically, but he’s outplaying Baghdatis right now and still is likely to get the win. I have Del Potro beating Robin Haase, and then Goffin. Del Potro played so well in Stockholm he’s the favorite to reach the semifinals.
Nishikori is coming back from injury and should defeat Dusan Lajovic, and Nicolas Mahut or Paolo Lorenzi before falling to Del Potro.
Dark Horse: Mischa Zverev
The usual suspects, Wawrinka, Del Potro, Goffin, Nishikori, Sock, and Gasquet are the favorites for the title. Zverev could cause some trouble as a qualifier though. Gasquet and Wawrinka should be wary of his place in the draw if he continues to serve and volley well. The veteran was once a promising talent, and although he’s normally made his living on the challenger tour, he still has plenty of talent.
Semis Wawrinka d. Cilic
Del Potro d. Dimitrov
Del Potro beat Dimitrov in Stockholm, Wawrinka has dominated Cilic in the h2h, and playing at home in Basel he’s the favorite for the title.
Final Wawrinka d. Del Potro
Wawrinka beat Del Potro at the US Open this year, and I’d favor him to do so again if they meet in the final.