Rafael Nadal Brings Starpower to ATP Acapulco 500 in Mexico Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP 500 level hard court tournament in Acapulco has a solid field lead by Rafael Nadal. It’s the tournament of the week for fans of the ATP. Here is your full preview with predictions.
Rafael Nadal is the main attraction and will begin against his good friend Feliciano Lopez. Thanasi Kokkinakis or Alexander Bublik will follow. He should face New York finalist Sam Querrey in the quarters. Querrey needs to defeat Matt Ebden and either Nikoloz Basilashvili or Jared Donaldson in round 2. With everyone but Querrey struggling, he should get that far before falling to Nadal.
Jack Sock badly needs to find form. He opens with Ernesto Escobedo, then Hyeon Chung or Donald Young in round 2. I’ll back Chung to upset Sock given he’s been the better player in 2018. Kevin Anderson plays great on this surface. Anderson should defeat Radu Albot and Adrian Mannarino/Ricardas Berankis. I’ll back Anderson over Chung in the quarters.
Alexander Zverev opens with Steve Johnson in an interesting opening round match. Johnson made semis in Delray and could upset Zverev but I’ll back Zverev to beat Johnson and his countryman Peter Gojowczyk to reach the quarters. Gojowczyk faces local player Lucas Gomez in round 1, he’s coming off a run to the finals in Delray. Two struggling American’s, John Isner and Ryan Harrison will face off. Fernando Verdasco lost to Diego Schwartzman in the Rio final. On hard courts I’ll give Verdasco the edge to get revenge, and upset a struggling Isner to reach the quarters. Zverev over Verdasco is my pick at that stage.
The third section of the draw is star packed. Juan Martin Del Potro should defeat Mischa Zverev to setup a big second round match against either Andrey Rublev or David Ferrer. Rublev is playing well enough that I’ll back him to get past Ferrer and upset Del Potro to reach the quarters. Kei Nishikori and Denis Shapovalov will face off in a massive round 1 matchup. Nishikori should be fresher than the Delray semifinalist Shapovalov. I’ll go with Dominic Thiem to defeat Cam Norrie, then Nishikori and Rublev to reach the semifinals.
I’m not entirely confident picking Nadal but he’s the most accomplished player in the field. Presuming fitness he should win the title. Thiem isn’t the favorite to reach the final but I’ll back him in a tough field.
2017 ATP Acapulco Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The top ATP Tour event this week is down in Mexico, as some of the tour’s best will battle it out at this 500 level tournament.
Abierto Mexicano Telcel
ATP World Tour 500*
February 27-March 4, 2017
Prize Money: $1,491,310
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (2)
2: Rafael Nadal (6)
3: Marin Cilic (8)
4: Dominic Thiem (9)
First round matches to watch:
Bernard Tomic vs. Donald Young
Young leads the h2h 2-1 and has made two straight semifinals in back to back weeks. Tomic has lost three straight matches and badly needs to bounce back down in Mexico. The Aussie has struggled with his fitness this year, and despite the fatigue factor, I have Young slipping past Tomic.
(4)Dominic Thiem vs. Gilles Simon
Thiem has won his last three matches against Simon, including one recently in Rotterdam. The Austrian is the defending champion and has won seven of his last eight matches. Simon is steady and will put a lot of balls back in play, but unless fatigue dooms Thiem, he should win this match.
(8)John Isner vs. Steve Johnson
Johnson has made two straight quarterfinals and has won his last two meetings against Isner. The 31 year old American big server has struggled this season and badly needs to find form. Despite being favored, I have Isner dropping this opening round match to Johnson.
(3)Marin Cilic vs. (WC)Alexandr Dolgopolov
These players have split h2h meetings, and Dolgopolov is coming off a seven match win streak. Cilic has struggled this year, but reached the quarterfinals in Rotterdam, and should be fitter than Dolgopolov. Despite his talented shotmaking, Dolgopolov should fall short against Cilic’s power.
(2)Rafael Nadal vs. Mischa Zverev
Nadal pummeled Zverev in Brisbane and is a heavy favorite in this one. The German has struggled since a run in Australia, but Nadal hasn’t played since then, and could be rusty. It will be interesting to see whether Zverev’s serve and volley bothers Rafa at all.
Novak Djokovic will open his title bid against Martin Klizan, big man Juan Martin Del Potro looms in round 2, presuming JMDP puts away qualifier Frances Tiafoe. This is a tough section for Djokovic, he should still defeat Del Potro, but then Marseille semifinalist Nick Kyrgios should await him in the quarters. Kyrgios opens with a struggling Dudi Sela, then the Young/Tomic winner. Kyrgios and Del Po both have the weapons to beat Novak, but I still can’t go against the multiple slam winner and world #2 to reach the semifinals.
David Goffin looks set to face Dominic Thiem in the the quarters. Goffin opens with a struggling Stephane Robert, his round 2 opponent is a Delray quarterfinalist, either Sam Querrey or Kyle Edmund. Goffin has been in great form, reaching consecutive ATP finals recently, he should beat Thiem after Thiem defeats Simon and Fritz/Mannarino.
The winner of Nadal/Zverev will face Rendy Lu/Paolo Lorenzi next, with Jack Sock the most likely quarterfinal opponent. Sock faces qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka, with either Feliciano Lopez or Jordan Thompson to follow. Given both Lopez and Thompson are struggling, the Delray champion Sock should be prepared for a battle with Nadal. Two of the best forehands in men’s tennis will go head-to-head, with Nadal likely to come out on top given his experience, and a better all-around game.
The winner of Johnson/Isner will face an American, either Ernesto Escobedo, or qualifier Stefan Kozlov. I have Johnson opposite Cilic in the quarters, after Dolgopolov, Cilic should defeat his countryman Borna Coric, who opens with local wild card Lucas Gomez.
Dark Horse: Juan Martin Del Potro
If Del Potro can find his range against Novak Djokovic, he could pull off a big upset, then defeat Nick Kyrgios to reach the semifinals. Del Potro has the power and ability, but he’s still likely too rusty to pull off that feat.
Semis Djokovic d. Goffin
Nadal d. Cilic
Djokovic leads Goffin 5-0 in the h2h, while Nadal leads Cilic 3-1, the top two players at this tournament should meet in the final.
Final Djokovic d. Nadal
Djokovic has won seven straight against Rafa, the Serbian is a favorite to take the title despite a difficult draw.
Dominic Thiem continued his MEGA season with his second ATP title this month in Acapulco. The 500 level tournament is his biggest career result thus far and the 22 year old Austrian is making a push for the top 10. Thiem scored a comeback win in the final 7-6(6) 4-6 6-3 over Bernard Tomic after Tomic was up 4-1 and 5-2 in the first set. Tomic had a good tournament and showed his own flashes of greatness but the 23 year old Aussie could maintain a consistent high level compared to Thiem’s newly aggressive tennis this year.
Thiem is 18-4 on the season with room to grow as he has two titles, and two semifinals already this year. He beat Damir Dzumhur, Grigor Dimitrov, and Sam Querrey in resounding fashion without dropping a set, and also came back from a set down against Dmitry Tursunov in his second match. The former top 15 player Dimitrov was plainly outclassed by Thiem who is two years his junior.
Tomic moved to 12-6 on the season and posted his best result after a post Australian slump. He got revenge against Rajeev Ram for a loss earlier this month, and then beat Adrian Mannarino, Illya Marchenko and Alexandr Dolgopolov to reach the final. Dolgo was on fire in the opening set, and had his chances in sets 2 and 3, but somehow Tomic dealt with his shotmaking to advance. Dolgopolov upset David Ferrer early in the tournament, and the other favorite Kei Nishikori lost to Querrey.
Veteran Max Mirnyi teamed up with Treat Huey to defeat Alexander Peya and Philipp Petzschner in the doubles final. Mirnyi needs a couple more wins to make it 700 in his doubles career.
The 500 level stop in Dubai saw world #4 Stan Wawrinka capture his second ATP title of the season. Wawrinka had a surprisingly easy path to the title after world #1 Novak Djokovic withdrew with an eye infection. Against unseeded veteran Marcos Baghdatis, he dazzled with his backhand in a great display of offense against offense from the baseline for a 6-4 7-6(13) victory.
Wawrinka had to fight back from a set and a break down, and work through a tough third set to beat serve and volleyer Sergiy Stakhovsky for the second week in a row, he was looking shaky early on, but wins over Franko Skugor and Philipp Kohlschreiber gave him momentum. Nick Kyrgios met him in the semifinals, as he had another good week on tour, but a back injury forced him to retire in set 2.
The Cypriot Baghdatis reached his first tour final since Atlanta last year, and he did so with surprising wins over Viktor Troicki, Vasek Pospisil, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Feliciano Lopez, dropping just the first set to Lopez en route. Troicki and RBA had been in good form as of late, but both looked exhausted in sloppy second sets against the 30 year old.
Italians Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi won 14-12 in a third set super tiebreak against the Spanish Lopez brothers Feliciano and Marc to capture the doubles title. Lopez still had a great week overall with a semifinal in singles and a final in doubles after a slow start to 2016.
Pablo Cuevas defended his Sao Paulo title and won his second tournament in a row to move to 12-3 on the season, and cement his status as one of the best clay courters on tour. Cuevas is 10-1 on clay this year and dominated the Golden Swing with a quarterfinal in Buenos Aires, and titles in Rio and Sao Paulo.
His Sao Paulo triumph came with little signs of fatigue in a 7-6(4) 6-3 victory over Pablo Carreno Busta. He also beat Facundo Bagnis, the young upstart Thiago Monteiro, and Dusan Lajovic this week, dropping just a set to a promising Monteiro in some rather quick matches. Monteiro is 3-2 on tour this year after making his ATP main draw debut in Rio.
Carreno Busta was bageled in his opening set of the tournament against Albert Ramos but survived a third set tiebreak, and then went on to beat Daniel Gimeno-Traver in three sets, Roberto Carballes Baena, and Inigo Cervantes, in quarter and semifinal blowouts. It was the first ever ATP final for Carreno Busta, but victory was not to be had as Cuevas proved too strong. Pablo should be a threat on European clay in the spring as well.
Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos won the doubles title over Carreno Busta/David Marrero.
2016 ATP Acapulco Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 500 level hard court tournament in the Mexican resort city of Acapulco continues to grow in stature and expand in prominence as a host of ATP stars will battle it out.
Abierto Mexicano Telcel
ATP World Tour 500*
February 22-27, 2016
Prize Money: $1,413,600
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: David Ferrer (6)
2: Kei Nishikori (7)
3: Marin Cilic (12)
4: Dominic Thiem (19)
Acapulco can stake a claim to the strongest field this week, as this 500 level tournament has drawn a deep and varied field.
First round matchups to watch:
Steve Johnson vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
Steve Johnson won a three setter against Dolgopolov last year in Vienna, and he’s eager to take advantage of more hard court tennis after a rough start to 2016. Dolgo withdrew from Rio with a shoulder injury and may not be 100%, with that in mind, Johnson is likely a slight favorite.
Rajeev Ram stunned a tanking Bernard Tomic in Delray last week and ended up reaching the ATP final in one of the surprises of last week. Tomic has been in terrible form since the Australian Open swing and appears to be playing careless tennis once again. Ram is likely fatigued though, and thus Tomic has to be the favorite.
(8)Jeremy Chardy vs. (Q)Taylor Fritz
Delray quarterfinalist Jeremy Chardy will be the favorite against the young Memphis finalist Taylor Fritz, but Fritz got through qualifying and he’s an incredibly talented young gun. Chardy’s one dimensional attacking tennis is something Fritz could exploit with his offensive, and defensive game. Fritz is a solid player, but he’s still learning the ropes.
Defending champion David Ferrer hasn’t reached an ATP final this season and went 4-2 on clay after Melbourne. He opens with John Millman, who has lost two straight matches, and should defeat Steve Johnson after that to reach the quarterfinals. Ferrer’s weak section could see him face Ivo Karlovic in the quarterfinals. The veteran Dr. Ivo hasn’t won a match this year, while his first round opponent Aljaz Bedene has also lost four straight since reaching an ATP semi to start the season in Chennai. Karlovic/Bedene will face either wild card Luis Patino, a futures player, or Robin Haase, who is 1-4 in his last five matches. Karlovic’s trusty serve should see him reach the quarters, only to fall to Ferrer.
Marseille finalist Marin Cilic could be dealing with jetlag. Cilic opens with qualifier Ryan Harrison who continues to play on the fringes of ATP caliber tennis. Cilic is 2-0 in the h2h against Harrison and Illya Marchenko or qualifier Tommy Paul will follow in round 2. Paul is a young gun with promise, though Marchenko is a slight favorite. Cilic should dominate this section if he’s not overly fatigued, but Harrison could surprise.
Tomic/Ram is slated to face futures player Tigre Hank or Adrian Mannarino, a quarterfinalist in both Sofia and Delray Beach. Tomic has two three set wins over Mannarino, both came last year on hard courts, and one was in Acapulco. His poor form makes the Frenchman a dark horse to reach the quarterfinals though. Cilic is also 2-0 against Mannarino, but his fatigue should catch up to him, and I have it Ferrer vs. Mannarino in the semis. If Tomic can find form, he should reach the semis.
Kei Nishikori is the favorite to take the title this week, and he’ll open with qualifier Thiemo de Bakker. Delray champion Sam Querrey lost to Nishikori in Memphis, and presuming Querrey beats a struggling Dudi Sela, he’s still likely to lose to Kei once more. Chardy should beat veteran Victor Estrella, or another Mexican local player, Lucas Gomez, to reach the quarters. Nishikori has won his last two hard court meetings against Chardy and is in better form.
Dominic Thiem is 13-4 with an ATP title this season. The Austrian is making a push for the top 15 and beyond and he’s one of the top players of the season thus far. Thiem has shown his skill on both hard courts and clay. His round 1 opponent Damir Dzumhur has nothing to compare to his skillset, with a struggling Sam Groth, or Dmitry Tursunov to follow. Tursunov is returning from a lengthy injury layoff and hasn’t successfully completed an ATP main draw level match since the 2014 US Open. Even if Thiem is fatigued, he should slide into the quarters with this weak draw.
Grigor Dimitrov is a positive 10-4 on the season, but he has been denied a pair of ATP titles he was the favorite to claim in Sydney and Delray Beach. Dimitrov’s mental inconsistency is unlikely to be a problem in round 1 given his groundstrokes are better than a struggling Denis Kudla, but it could be an issue in round 2. The winner of Donald Young/Gilles Muller is in Dimitrov’s seedline, and the big server Muller, who dominated Young in Atlanta last year, has two ATP semifinals this season. Dimitrov beat Muller in Sydney but has lost to him twice before. That is an intriguing round 2 match, with Dimitrov the favorite to advance to the quarters.
The match of the tournament could be Dimitrov vs. Thiem in the quarterfinals, presuming both overcome fatigue, it will be their first meeting. Thiem has been better than Dimitrov this year, but Dimitrov is a good fast surface player, and will likely be somewhat fresher, thus I have him reaching the semis.
Mannarino will need to upset Tomic (or Ram), and Cilic, but he has a great chance to reach the semifinals as an unseeded player. His unique game is capable of peaking and posting big wins on fast surfaces.
Semis Ferrer d. Mannarino
Nishikori d. Dimitrov
Ferrer is 2-0 against Mannarino, Nishikori is also 2-0 against Dimitrov, and both have clear paths to the final.
Final Nishikori d. Ferrer
Ferrer upset Nishikori in the Acapulco final last year, and Nishikori should be eager to get him back in this one. Kei has had a decided edge in their other recent hard court meetings, and he appears ready to rise up in this one.
David Ferrer extended his dominance of the Abierto Mexicano in Acapulco, as the multi surface champion claimed his fourth title at the tournament with a surprisingly easy 6-3 7-5 win over Kei Nishikori.
Ferrer improves to 18-1 on the season after the tournament, and he hasn’t lost a match since losing to Nishikori in Melbourne, with titles in Doha and Rio previously this year, giving him three titles on the season. Ferrer is an early leader out of the gate most ATP titles.
Nishikori played poorly compared to their meeting in Melbourne, spraying too many errors as he got off to a slow start and never truly recovered, while Ferrer was much more reliable, making for an opponent that was too formidable for the newly top 5 Nishikori.
Ferrer had some tough matches this week,he beat Igor Sijsling in straights with one set that was competitive, then got past Marinko Matosevic in straights and Bernard Tomic in 3 sets, 6-1 in the third. In the semis, he dropped the opening set to qualifier Ryan Harrison, who shockingly reached the semis, beating Grigor Dimitrov en route, along with Ivo Karlovic, but Harrison ran out of gas after that and Ferrer won the next 12 games for a three set win.
Nishikori performed better in his other matches this week than he did in the final, the Japanese number one extended his winning streak from his title in Memphis with wins over Alejandro Gonzalez, Rendy Lu, and Alex Dolgopolov without dropping a set, and then he beat Kevin Anderson once again in 3 sets.
Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo won the doubles title over Santiago Gonzalez and Mariusz Frystenberg, as the Mexican doubles specialist Gonzalez was denied a title on home soil.
Roger Federer claimed an untouchable seventh title in Dubai, as he and Novak Djokovic treated fans to another thrilling duel in their long running rivalry. Djokovic had his chances all match but Federer was remarkably clutch, saving all 7 break points faced, while breaking Djokovic on his only chance in each set for the title. Federer was dominant behind his first serve with 12 aces, while the rallying and aggressive play by both players was sublime and graceful. With the win, Federer proves that he remains a forced to be reckoned with against any opponent on tour, including the world number 1.
Federer faced little in the way of opposition all week as he dominated Mikhail Youzhny, Fernando Verdasco, Richard Gasquet, and the teenager Borna Coric, who reached the semifinals as a lucky loser. In the process, Coric shockingly dominated a listless Andy Murray in straights, and also took out Marcos Baghdatis and Malek Jaziri in 3 sets. Coric had a lot of luck this week in general, notably Baghdatis retired before a third set tiebreak with cramps. The 33 year old world number 2 now has two ATP titles on the season.
Djokovic improved to 13-2 on the year with straight set wins over Vasek Pospisil, Andrey Golubev,and surprise quarterfinalist Marsel Ilhan. He played a strange semifinal against Tomas Berdych, where he posted a first set bagel, then shockingly lost the second set, after breaking back no less,finally finishing of the match 6-4 in the third as Berdych came up just short of a quality comeback.
The veteran pairing of Rohan Bopanna and Daniel Nestor defeated fellow veterans Nenad Zimonjic and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi in the doubles final.
Rafael Nadal refused to be denied a title on the Golden Swing on South American clay, as he got over the hump and took out Juan Monaco, his good friend and frequent doubles partner, 6-4 6-1. Monaco didn’t play poorly but he had little chance going into the final against an opponent he knows so well, and he seemed to be resigned to defeat at the start.
Rafa didn’t drop a set this week, not letting the letdown of a semifinal loss in Rio get to him, the Spanish number one and King of Clay beat all Argentine opponents this week, breaking local hearts in BA. His first win came against Facundo Arguello, then he scored wins over Federico Delbonis and Carlos Berlocq to reach the final, all without dropping a set, as Berlocq was perhaps his toughest opponent of the tournament.
Pico Monaco beat Maximo Gonzalez in round 1, then upset the highest ranked Argentine player, Leonardo Mayer 6-4 6-4. In the quarters he snuck past an in-form Pablo Cuevas in 3 sets, 6-4 in the third, and in the semis he ground his way past Nicolas Almagro 6-4 in the third set. That match was one he had every reason to take in straights but was forced to the distance in. By virtue of reaching the final, Monaco extends his streak of reaching at least one ATP final every year since 2008. He also drops to 1-2 in Argentina Open finals.
Jarkko Nieminen and Andre Sa beat Pablo Andujar and Oliver Marach in the doubles final.
From Dubai to Doha, and from Rio to Acapulco, the WTA tour of the world continued this week with a Premier and International event, featuring some the of biggest names on tour. However, it would be two outsiders that would walk away with titles this weekend.
Lucie Safarova has won her biggest title to date, as she ended Victoria Azarenka’s 14 match winning streak at the Qatar Total Open, with a straight sets victory.
The Czech got off to the best possible start; breaking in the opening game, but Azarenka remained head strong to break back at *3-2. The match stayed on serve until 4-4, where Safarova re-established her lead. The world number 15 then served out the set, taking her second set point with a big serve out wide. That set the tone for the rest of the match, as Safarova started walking away with it. The Czech served well in the second set, not being broken once, and saving multiple break points. She established a set 2 lead, breaking Azarenka at 1-1. The former world number one found herself facing three match points whilst serving to stay in the match, but she saved the first two. Third time would be a charm for Safarova though, even if it needed hawk-eye to seal it. Azarenka appeared to hit a forehand wide, but the line judge called it in. Safarova proceeded to challenge the call, and hawk-eye showed that the ball was way wide thus granting the Czech her first Premier level title.
The world number 15 found herself going through a host of seeded opponents before even making the final. The Czech disposed of number 5 seed Ekaterina Makarova, number 6 seed Andrea Petkovic and number 9 seed Carla Suarez Navarro en route to the final stage of the tournament, and even though she out-ranked Azarenka, don’t let that lull you into believing that it would have been easy for Safarova. Azarenka is a former two time Grand Slam champion, a former world number one and had won all six of their previous meetings. Not like it mattered to Lucie.
“I felt really good all week here and my performances were better and better, and I just wanted to use the opportunity to really go for it and take the title,” Safarova said post match. “I think I just really enjoyed it out there tonight, the atmosphere, the crowd and just really went for every point.”
This was Lucie’s sixth WTA title, but the Doha crown is the biggest of her career thus far. The achievement has been crowned by a new career high ranking of 11 next week as she edges closer to the top 10.
“I’m really excited and happy about this because it took me quite a few years to get to this point,” Safarova said. “I hope it’s not a finish point and I can still improve. My game improved a lot the last couple of years. I think me and my coach, Rob Steckley, have been doing a great job together. It’s just hard work and also maturing a little bit. I think it’s just everything coming together right now.”
Azarenka had previously won this tournament in 2012, and 2013, but unfortunately missed the event last year due to a foot injury. The former world number one had a great week however, as she continues her climb back up the rankings after an injury plagued 2014. This was her first WTA final since last January.
“It’s been a long week for me. It’s been a while since I had that many matches in a row,” Azarenka said post match. “Sometimes the body needs to get back into that rhythm. It wasn’t my best today, but I tried my best.”
The Belarusian still remained positive about her progress despite the loss.
“And there’s been a lot of progress this week. A lot of good things happened, a lot of great matches. There are a lot of things I can take with me and can keep working on. I’m still really motivated. I’m obviously disappointed for losing the final today, but I just have to move on from this quickly.” She added.
In the doubles, unseeded pair Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears defeated top seeds Su-Wei Hsieh and Sania Mirza 6-4, 6-4 to claim to win the title.
Timea Bacsinszky’s incredible comeback hit its highest point yet, as she defeated Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-0 to win the 2015 Abierto Mexicano Telcel Open title.
The Swiss may have been a little fortunate that Maria Sharapova withdrew from the tournament before her semi final match with eventual runner-up Caroline Garcia, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the fifth seed.
Facing third seed Garcia in the final was never expected to be easy, but Bacsinszky didn’t get the memo. It was Garcia that appeared to be in the better form, judging by the first two games, as she held easily and had numerous break point opportunities in the second game. The French Woman would rue her missed chances however, as her opponent would soon find her game. At 1-1, Bacsinszky would earn the first break of the match, and that would only set the tone of what was to come. After Garcia held at 2-4, Bacsinszky didn’t lose another game in the match. A quick hold was followed by a break to wrap up the first set 6-3. The dominance continued in the second set with The Swiss in fine form as Garcia faded. The world number 30 failed to win a single game in the second set, which was wrapped up by The Swiss in less than 30 minutes.
Once one of the rising stars on tour, Bacsinszky found herself winning her first title in Luxembourg 6 years a go. Unfortunately, her career was then plagued by injuries that saw her fall outside the top 500 in 2012. Her climb back up the rankings started last year where she rose from 237 to 48 in the world. And now her comeback as hit its highest point, with her second career title in Acapulco.
“Maybe I’m like a good wine – with time, I’m better!” Bacsinszky joked to the press afterwards.
“But seriously, I almost stopped playing in 2013. When I decided to play again, at the French Open in 2013, I got a new team around me – new coach, new fitness coach, I’ve been working a lot with Swiss tennis. The road was long, and it’ll still be long, but I’ve been working hard. I wasn’t just expecting the results to come right away, I was patient. I knew I needed time to build everything up.”
She added. “I’m really proud. And knowing what I’ve been through, I’m even prouder.”
Despite the crushing final loss, Caroline Garcia had a good week as she still bids for her second WTA crown. The 21 year old will be around for a while yet, so if you are not yet familiar with her talents, you will be soon enough. With her final appearance in Acapulco, Garcia has strengthened her bid to claim a seeding position at the French Open.
The doubles title went to second-seeded Spaniards Lara Arruabarrena and Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, as they beat number one seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, 7-6(2), 5-7, 13-11.
Only one seed qualifies at ATP Acapulco Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
The final round of qualifying at the ATP Abierto Mexicano Telcel Open commenced today with only one seed managing to reach the main draw.
Third seed and world number 92 Alejandro González booked his place in the main draw following a 6-4 7-6(7-3) win over Jimmy Wang. The first set consisted of numerous breaks of serves with Gonzalez dropping his serve twice as Wang dropped three of his first four service games.
After losing the first set, Wang did have the opportunity to make a comeback as he opened up a 3-0 lead in the second set, however, it soon disappeared as the third seed battled back to even things up as the set went into a tie-break. In the tie-break Wang furthermore faltered four times on his serve as the Colombian took full advantage to secure his place in the main draw.
Ryan Harrison qualified for the main draw of an ATP event for the second consecutive time as he eased past Michael Russell. Harrison, who entered the draw as an alternate, enjoyed an impressive win over Alejandro Falla in the first round before today. This is now the fifth time that Harrison has beaten his fellow countryman since 2009. The 22-year-old is currently ranked 169 in the world which is over 100 places below is career ranking high of 43 which was achieved back in 2012.
One of Australia’s biggest future hopes, Thanasi Kokkinakis, had to come from a set down before squeezing his way past the experienced Alejandro Falla. During the two hour and 43 minute match the Aussie battled to a 4-6 6-3 7-6(7-3) win. It’s the second event in a row Kokkinakis has qualified for (qualifed in Delray Beach) and he is edging closer towards the top 100 mark, he is currently at a career ranking high of 138 in the world. Following his win, Kokkinakis wrote about his win on Twitter.
Finally, rounding off the qualifiers was Austin Krajicek. Krajicek, a distant cousin of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, came in the draw with a good amount of confidence. During the Memphis Open at the start of the Month, the American qualified for the main draw and the produced surprise victories over Mikhail Kukushkin and Ivo Karlovic. In the final round today he produced a straight sets win over fourth seed Aljaz Bedene.
Pumped to qualify in my first ATP 500 in Acapulco 2 battles in the heat look to keep it going tomorrow or Tuesday #FightCarson
2015 WTA Acapulco Preview & Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
After a week full of surprises, the WTA reaches Mexico, and Qatar for the tournaments held in Acapulco and Doha.
The Abierto Mexicano TELCEL first started as an ATP event in 1993, but in 2001 it welcomed the WTA tour and has since become a regular on the calendar. It is hugely popular among the players, as they have voted it the WTA’s International Tournament of the Year seven times and the WTA’s Tournament of The Year/Americas in 2014.
Four players have won the title two times in their careers: Amanda Coetzer, Sara Errani, Flavia Pennetta and Venus Williams. Dominika Cibulkova is the defending champion.
Abierto Mexicano TELCEL
Location: Acapulco, Mexico
Prize Money: $250,000
Date: February 23rd- February 28th 2015
The eight seeded players (Ranking)
1. Maria Sharapova (2)
2. Sara Errani (12)
3. Caroline Garcia (30)
4. Irina Begu (33)
5. Timea Bacsinszky (37)
6. Roberta Vinci (38)
7. Sloane Stephens (41)
8. Madison Brengle (44)
One name stands out from the rest, and that is Maria Sharapova. We also have Rio winner Sara Errani as the number two seed. The rest of the field is filled with top 50 players.
First round matches to watch:
Daniela Hantuchova vs Lauren Davis
Hantuchova only missed out of a seeding by one ranking position, whilst Lauren Davis is only ranked 10 places behind the Slovak, so naturally it may end up being one of the tightest round one matches. Hantuchova is having a good year thus far after winning the Pattaya title two weeks ago, and despite the hammering she received from Simona Halep last week, the 31 year old will be in fine spirits heading into this tournament. Lauren Davis started the year well in Auckland, but she has only won one match since. Then again, she hasn’t played since Melbourne. The American has one thing in her favour, and that’s the head to head. Davis leads 1-0 after defeating Hantuchova in Eastbourne last year. Hantuchova is in much better form this time around though, and Davis’ form is unknown with her not playing a match since the Australian Open. I expect a much tighter match this time around.
Tereza Smitkova vs Monica Puig
This is a match to watch simply because we could be seeing a lot more of these two in the future. Puig is just shy of the top 50 at the moment, sitting at number 51 in the world rankings. Smitkova is 10 places behind the Puerto Rican, and holds a decent 3-3 record this year including an impressive win over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in Melbourne. These two young guns met at the US Open last year, and it went the distance with Puig coming out the victor. The world number 51 will be favourite, but I sense that this has potential to be a close three setter than could go either way.
One name stands out In the top half, and that is Maria Sharapova. The world number two is a surprise inclusion in this tournament, with it only being an International tier event. Maybe she is here because Grigor Dimitrov is too? Either way it’s hard seeing Sharapova losing to anyone in the draw, let alone anyone in this half. The most interesting story of the first quarter is who will face Sharapova in the quarter finals. I believe it will be the winner of Daniela Hantuchova vs Timea Bacsinszky in the second round. The Swiss has been in fine form this year with her only losses coming against Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep, but she hasn’t played a tour match since the loss to Muguruza in Melbourne. If Timea shows the form from the Australian swing, then she should make the quarter finals here, but she’ll likely lose to Sharapova at this stage.
Sharapova’s semi final opponent will be decided by the eight players in the second quarter of the draw. The top seed in this section is France’s Caroline Garcia. The third seed has the talent to make a successful career, but she has often shown a lack of effort during her matches. If she bothers to show up however, she should find herself in the semi finals, despite some stiff competition from the likes of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Madison Brengle.
Number two seed Sara Errani will be heading into Acapulco full of confidence after winning her 1st title of the season in Rio last week. The Italian will be looking to continue her climb back towards the top 10 here, but she will have to get through some dangerous outsiders if she is to do so. Puig or Smitkova will await the world number 12 in round two, and with the tournament not being on clay anymore, she could find herself in a bit of trouble. However, form and confidence will no doubt do her wonders to I expect Errani to make the quarter finals to face her doubles partner Roberta Vinci. They have dominated the womens doubles scene for years, but they must put their friendship aside if they are to meet here. Errani however leads the head to head 6-3, and is currently the better player, so she should defeat her doubles partner to make the semi finals here.
Despite being the seventh seed here, Sloane Stephens is perhaps the biggest name in the final quarter of the draw. Once touted as a future star, Stephens has failed to kick on after a breakthrough tournament at the Australian Open 2013. The American now finds herself down at number 41 in the world with no sign of getting back to her late 2012/early 2013 form. Despite that Stephens should get through her first round match to meet Anna Schmeidlova in the second round. Schmeidlova made her first WTA final last week in Rio so she’ll be in good form this week, and I expect her to take out the 7th seed to make the quarter finals. Irina Begu will likely await the Slovak at this stage. Schmeidlova got the better of the Romanian last week, but that was on clay. It’s a difficult match to predict, but I will go with Begu in three sets.
Sharapova def. Garcia in 2
Errani def. Begu in 2
Sharapova def. Errani in 2
Yeah, I have been boring and gone with the seeding here. Sharapova should win this without any trouble.
2015 ATP Acapulco, Dubai, and Buenos Aires Preview/Prediction Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A pair of 500 series events on hard courts this week are the highlight of the ATP calendar, as most stars will take to the courts in Mexico or Dubai, meanwhile, the ATP Golden Swing on clay concludes in Buenos Aires, with those who prefer the dirt taking their talents to Argentina for the 250 level event.
2015 ATP Acapulco Preview
Abierto Mexicano Telcel
ATP World Tour 500*
February 23-February 28, 2015
Prize Money: $1,414,550
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (5)
2: David Ferrer (9)
3: Grigor Dimitrov (11)
4: Kevin Anderson (15)
The seed cutoff is 40 (Benjamin Becker), and 4 of the top 20 are participating in this 500 level event this week.
Estrella is in tremendous form at the moment, he won the Morelos challenger on hard courts in Mexico, after winning his maiden ATP title in Quito. Lu, the steady veteran baseliner, reached the quarters in Delray, with an upset win over Kevin Anderson. I have Estrella winning this matchup given how well the veteran is playing right now, but it could go either way.
Bernard Tomic vs. Adrian Mannarino
Both players come off semifinals in Delray, Tomic beat Viktor Troicki en route later losing to Donald Young, while Mannarino beat Lu, and also Denis Kudla, before falling to eventual champion Ivo Karlovic. Tomic should be favored as he’s in better recent form and has won consecutive matches in every tournament he’s played this season (12-5 ATP record in 2015), expect a quality contest all the same though.
Kei Nishikori opens with a qualifier, and then the Estrella/Lu winner, Estrella is a dangerous opponent right now, but the top 5, and normally consistent Nishikori, should reach the quarterfinals with Sam Groth/Alex Dolgopolov his most likely opponent. The winner of Groth/Dolgopolov, will face Robin Haase or Rio semifinalist Andreas Haider-Maurer in round 2. Dolgo was a quarterfinalist in Delray, and I give him a slight edge to beat Groth, and then Haase to reach the quarters here. Nishikori, who won the title in Memphis, and has made quarterfinals or better at every tournament this season (10-2 ATP record), is 2-0 in the h2h against Dolgo, with both wins coming on hard court, so I favor Asia’s top player over the unpredictable Dolgopolov for a spot in the semifinals.
Kevin Anderson, a finalist last year, will open with fellow big server Dustin Brown. Though Anderson lost early in Delray, he was a finalist in Memphis, and I have him getting through Brown, and Steve Johnson to reach the quarters. Johnson hasn’t lost in the opening round of any tournament this year (9-5 ATP record including consecutive quarterfinals in Delray and Memphis). Johnson will open with Ivan Dodig, who has been thus far unable to return to his previous top 40 form this year. Anderson already has 2 wins against Johnson this year without dropping a set in Memphis and Auckland, and that’s why he’s the quarterfinal favorite.
Viktor Troicki, who lost to Tomic in Delray, has a reasonable chance at another quarterfinal showing, he opens with Mexican wild card Daniel Garza, who has some of the worst physical conditioning I’ve ever seen in a professional tennis player. After that, Troicki is likely to face Santiago Giraldo. Giraldo is 2-0 against Troicki, including a hard court win, but he retired in his last match in Rio, and given the surface, with Troicki already having an ATP title, and a quarterfinal on his resume this year, the Serbian should be favored. Troicki beat Anderson once three and a half years ago in Washington, and that match could go either way but with Anderson having previous success here, I have him into the semifinals over Troicki.
Rio champion David Ferrer opens with Igor Sijsling, who continues to struggle having lost three straight, even if Ferrer is a bit worn down, he only has one loss on the season, with two ATP titles (Doha and Rio), and with that in mind he should roll past Sijsling and then Marinko Matosevic or Marcel Granollers to reach the quarters. Matosevic has struggled this year (2-5 ATP record), while Granollers has a lone good showing this year in Zagreb (semifinals) I have Ferrer over Granollers in my bracket. Ferrer is 3-1 on hard courts against him, though Granollers won their last meeting in Tokyo.
The Tomic/Mannarino winner is a possible quarterfinal opponent for Ferrer, but watch out for 8 seed Benjamin Becker as well. Becker, who comes off a round 1 loss in Memphis, and is 2-4 on the year, opens with Tobias Kamke, a fellow German. Becker is 3-0 against Tomic, though they have never met on a hard court surface, I personally have Tomic into the quarters against Ferrer in my own bracket. Ferrer is 2-0 against Tomic, with both meetings on hard courts, and he has never dropped a set against the Aussie, still fatigue may be a factor, giving Tomic a shot at the semis.. In my own bracket I’m going with Ferrer, who has had an under the radar solid season already and isn’t presently showing signs of decline. Ferrer was only pushed to 3 sets once last week in Rio.
Defending champ Grigor Dimitrov has failed to impress this year, the Bulgarian number one opens with Filip Krajinovic in round 1, he should get through that, but Donald Young should give him a round 2 test, unless fatigue is a factor. Young, a finalist in Delray, and semifinalist in Memphis, opens with a qualifier, and he has two previous hard court wins against Dimitrov, but Dimitrov has also won twice on hard courts, with three of their four hard court meetings going 3 sets. Dimitrov hasn’t played like a top 10 player thus far but given his previous success here, and Young’s fatigue, I have Dimitrov into the quarterfinals.
Ivo Karlovic, the Delray champion, has an interesting draw, in theory he should comfortably reach the quarterfinals, given his opponents, Teymuraz Gabashvili and Dusan Lajovic or a qualifier, are not exactly hard court superstars, but at his age, one has to wonder if he will be fatigued, creating an opening for a qualifier, or one of those other two players to reach the quarterfinals. I don’t trust Karlovic’s fitness and thus I have Gabashvili through, and also I have him over Lajovic, who may fall to a qualifier, to reach the quarterfinals. Gabashvili has lost three straight, while Lajovic has lost two straight and he’s normally poor on hard courts. All the same Dimitrov has a relatively easy draw for a 500 level event, and should ease his way into the semifinals.
Viktor Troicki is a possible semifinalist this week, but I give Tomic the official designation because he’s been consistent this year, which is a surprising thing to say, given he used to not be, and if Ferrer is fatigued, he has a shot to score a top 10 win and get himself to the semis, where Dimitrov, a beatable opponent, is most likely to await. Dimitrov is 2-0 against Tomic in the h2h, but Tomic has had a good season and he seems due to reach a final, though I’m not predicting it, the possibility is there.
Semis: Nishikori d. Anderson
Dimitrov d. Ferrer
Nishikori just beat Anderson in Memphis, and should do so again, meanwhile, Dimitrov is 0-2 against Ferrer on an outdoor hard court but given the fatigue factor, I have Dimitrov regaining form and reaching the final this week thanks to a lucky draw.
Final: Nishikori d. Dimitrov
Nishikori is 2-0, with both wins coming on hard courts, against Dimitrov, given his solid season, he should win his second ATP title of the year in Acapulco as the top seed.
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
February 23-February 28, 2015
Prize Money: $2,082,605
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (4)
4: Tomas Berdych (8)
The seed cutoff is 20 (David Goffin), as Dubai has a very top heavy field, with 4 of the top 10, and 8 of the top 20 participating.
First round matchups to watch:
(1)Novak Djokovic vs. Vasek Pospisil
Djokovic beat Pospisil in their only meeting, a competitive contest last year in Beijing, and the Australian Open champion should once again advance to round 2 at a tournament he has won four times prior, however the young Canadian has game and this isn’t the easiest of round 1 matchups for the world number 1, Pospisil is 2-2 over his last four, and may be able to at least push the sets deep here.
Simone Bolelli vs. (Q)Lucas Pouille
One of the numerous matchups this week slated between in-form players, Bolelli has two ATP quarterfinals on his resume this year, most recently he reached the quarters in Marseille by upsetting top 10 player Milos Raonic in 3 sets. Pouille has risen to the occasion this year as well, the young Frenchman qualified with a pair of wins, and he was also a semifinalist in Auckland this year. Bolelli should be favored given his experience, and good recent form, but look for Pouille to test him, in a match that could go either way.
Baghdatis is 2-0 against Goffin, and most recently crushed him at the Australian Open, in a poor showing for the Belgian. Baghdatis has gotten his 2015 off to a strong start with a challenger final, a a third round showing in Melbourne, and a semifinal in Zagreb. Goffin meanwhile has not played as well this season, compared to last, he hasn’t posted better than a quarterfinal, and he’s just 2-4 over his last six matches, most recently he retired in Marseille against Dominic Thiem. With that in mind, though Goffin is much higher ranked, look for Baghdatis to move to 3-0 in the h2h and notch an upset to reach round 2.
Andreas Seppi vs. Richard Gasquet
Two players who have started the season in good form, Seppi has an ATP final (Zagreb), an ATP semifinal (Doha), and a second week appearance at the Australian Open on his resume thus far, resulting in an overall 11-5 ATP record this year, while Gasquet is 7-2 with a title in Montpellier on his resume. The shotmaking, tactically agile veterans have met five times previously, most recently back in 2012, and Gasquet is 4-1 in those meetings, with his lone loss coming on clay. Gasquet should be favored here but Seppi cannot be counted out, he’s improved his game considerably it seems this season, compared to previous seasons, and this match should at minimum not be a routine affair.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
This should be quite a high quality contest, Verdasco, who won the last hard court meeting between these Spaniards in 2012 is a slight favorite. He’s had a somewhat average season thus far with a 6-4 ATP record. Dasco took his talents to the golden swing for a couple of tournaments and is now back on hard courts while GGL has been off to a hot start in 2015 sticking to the hard courts. Garcia-Lopez won Zagreb, and already has 10 wins on the season (contrasted with 4 losses, two of which came at the racquet of top 10 player Stan Wawrinka in competitive contests). I personally have GGL winning this one, his play has been quite impressive thus far, and he is outperforming Verdasco right now.
Djokovic should be able to roll to the semifinals here, after Pospisil, Andrey Golubev or qualifier Fabrice Martin await, and then it should be Feliciano Lopez in the quarters. Lopez has generally lived up to his high ranking thus far this season (6-3 on the year), and he should defeat James Ward and Marsel Ilhan or Alex Zverev, but I give him little chance against Novak who he is 0-5 in his career against. The only time he took a set was in their Dubai 2011 meeting. On an interesting note about Martin-Golubev, Martin broke a seven match losing streak dating back to last season to qualify and he beat Borna Coric notably in those qualies, while Golubev is just 1-5 this season with four straight losses. Perhaps the recent boost to Martin’s confidence will get him through to round 2. Zverev should be the one to face Lopez, as he just beat Ilhan in Marseille qualifying a week prior.
Tomas Berdych, who has been solid this season with two ATP finals (Doha and Rotterdam), and of course that semifinal at the Australian Open on his resume already, opens with Jeremy Chardy, a quarterfinalist in Marseille. Berdych is 2-0 against Chardy, and does what the Frenchman is best at, better than he does, so I have little doubt it will be Berdych, who has made two consecutive finals here into round 2 against the Bolelli/Pouille winner. That should be a quality contest, and if Bolelli his Berdych’s round 2 opponent, the Italian has beaten the Czech twice before (2-3 h2h), so he may be able to do some damage, but once again the confidence pick should be Berdych as a quarterfinalist at least in Dubai.
Look for Berdych to face Sergiy Stakhovsky in that quarterfinal, the Ukrainian is playing some of the best tennis of his career at the moment, he opens with Lukas Rosol, who he just dispatched in Marseille (the Czech is just 1-7 over his last 8 matches dating back to last season), and then will face Denis Istomin or Ernests Gulbis. Both players are in awful form, Istomin is just 2-6 on the year, with three straight losses, while Gulbis is yet to win a match this season (0-4), with no sets won in his previous two losses against Dominic Thiem and Jeremy Chardy. Given Gulbis is the moodier player compared to Istomin, I have Istomin through, and then Stako to take him out comfortably. Stako has just one opening round loss this year, and he made the quarters in Rotterdam and the semis in Marseille consecutively, notably knocking off Stan Wawrinka in Marseille. Stako is 2-2 on a hard court against Istomin, but form favors him strongly. Given Berdych has a higher ranking, more accomplishments, a 3-0 h2h, and a better skillset than Stako, look for a Djokovic vs. Berdych semifinal this week.
Since 2009, only Djokovic, and Roger Federer, a six time Dubai champion, and the defending champion, have won the title here in the UAE. Federer will open his quest to repeat as champion against struggling veteran Mikhail Youzhny, who is a shell of his old self. Federer is an incredible 16-0 against the Russian over his career, and Youzhny is just 2-5 over his last seven matches dating back to last year. Federer could be tested a bit more against the Garcia-Lopez/Verdasco winner. If it’s GGL, as I have in my bracket, Federer is 3-0 against him, and should be able to make it 4-0 in reaching the quarterfinals. Federer is 5-0 against Verdasco if that is his opponent, and would make it 6-0.
Look for Seppi/Gasquet in the quarters for Federer, Roberto Bautista Agut is also an option here. RBA opens with Dominic Thiem, who he has already beaten twice this season, including last week in Marseille where he reached the semis. This is a difficult section to predict, RBA is 1-0 against both Seppi and Gasquet, but I feel like both of those players are outperforming the Spaniard right now and thusly I have Gasquet in the quarterfinals of my own bracket, with any of those 3 players having a case to make it that far. Gasquet has never beaten Federer on a hard court (0-7 including a Dubai loss) so Fed should reach the semis. If Seppi is his quarterfinal opponent, that would of course be a reprisal of the Italian’s shocking victory in Melbourne, but even still I would pick Federer to get his revenge and reach the semis.
Andy Murray, a one time finalist in Dubai who has played well thus far this season, opens with Gilles Muller, another in-form unseeded player to watch. Murray is 1-0 against Muller who reached the second week in Melbourne, and has an ATP semi and two ATP quarterfinals already on his resume this year. Murray, the AO finalist, most recently made the quarters in Rotterdam where he was upset by Gilles Simon. After Muller tests Murray, expect him to also take out Joao Sousa, who faces wild card James McGee in the first round. The journeyman McGee is an odd wild card selection, but all the same Murray is 4-0 against Sousa including a win this year at the Australian Open. Sousa has lost three straight matches though he has an ATP semifinal on his resume this year (Montpellier).
Murray could face Marcos Baghdatis in the quarters, after Goffin, it would be Malek Jaziri or Philipp Kohlschreiber for him in round 2. Jaziri tends to peak for these events in the Arab world but after a good showing at the Australian Open he’s in terrible form with three straight losses, most recently in Delray at the hands of Bernard Tomic. Kohlschreiber has lost two straight and is just 2-5 on the season, but even still I favor him over Jaziri. That said Baghdatis is playing much better than Kohli right now and has a 2-0 h2h record on hard courts, pointing to the Cypriot to reach the quarters.The aggressive Baghdatis has two previous hard court wins against Murray, who has won their last two hard court meetings for a 2-2 overall hard court h2h, and they almost always tend to play competitive contests, especially on fast surfaces, but Murray is likely to have more left in the tank these days and thus I have him into the semifinals.
The Cypriot appears to be motivated, fitter, and striking the ball much better in 2015, having experienced a bit of a career resurgence as of late when many thought he was near retirement. In my mind he’s the favorite to at minimum reach the quarterfinals, and Murray is beatable, as he’s proven before, so semis are a possible outcome for him this week, which would be remarkable given he entered this top heavy, 500 level event as a wild card.
Semis: Djokovic d. Berdych
Federer d. Murray
Djokovic has never lost to Berdych on a hard court, in a ton of meetings, including the 2013 Dubai final, and with that in mind, I don’t see any reason to pick against a Djokovic vs. Federer Dubai final this week given prior history and present form.
Federer has won three straight hard court meetings against Murray and he tends to play exceptionally well in Dubai, giving him the slight edge to reach the final this week.
Final: Djokovic d. Federer
Federer won their last hard court meeting in Shanghai, and their last Dubai meeting in 3 sets last year, but Djokovic played tremendous in Melbourne, and I still have to pick him on an outdoor hard court almost every time. This matchup could go either way, both players know each other well, and know how to beat the other, so it’s a really difficult prediction all the same, with my gut favoring the world number 1.
Argentina Open presented by Buenos Aires Ciudad
ATP World Tour 250
Buenos Aires, Argentina
February 23-March 1, 2015
Prize Money: $500,550
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (3)
2: Tommy Robredo (18)
3: Pablo Cuevas (23)
4: Fabio Fognini (28)
For a 250 event, with a pair of 500s also on the calendar the same week, Buenos Aires is actually quite solid, with Nadal headlining and a host of clay courters joining him on the undercard. Everyone in the field this week has taken part in one or more previous Golden Swing events (Quito, Sao Paulo or Rio)
First round matchups to watch:
(7)Pablo Andujar vs. Nicolas Almagro
Andujar is a seed, but Almagro is 3-0 in the h2h, including 2-0 on clay. Almagro has gone 2-2 on the Golden swing thus far with both of his losses coming in three setters against Pablo Cuevas. Andujar is 1-2, and isn’t playing that well right now, with that in mind the 2011 BA champ Almagro should advance to round 2 with a win in this all-Spanish encounter.
Rafael Nadal, a semifinalist in Rio, will face Albert Montanes or a qualifier in round 1. Nadal is 5-0 against Montanes with all meetings coming on clay, and his veteran Spanish counterpart has never taken a set against him. Next for Nadal is likely to be the winner of Federico Delbonis vs. Thomaz Bellucci. Bellucci, who just lost to Nadal in Rio, will face Paolo Lorenzi in round 1. The h2h is 1-1 and both players have lost three straight matches, but I give Bellucci, the more skilled player, the slighest of edges in that one. Delbonis has Pablo Carreno Busta in round 1, he lost an incredible quarterfinal match against Fabio Fognini in Rio, saving more than a half dozen match points before falling in a third set tiebreak. Before that, Delbonis was struggling, and likewise PCB has been up and down, he beat Carlos Berlocq, before losing to Nadal in Rio. I have Delbonis as a quarterfinalist yet again this week, given the home soil advantage, and then Nadal should take him out to reach the semis. The h2h between Delbonis and Bellucci is 3-2 in favor of Delbonis with all meetings coming on clay, and all of them being close encounters. Nadal is 1-0 against Delbonis with that win coming on clay in 2013.
Rio finalist Fabio Fognini, who found some of his best form in months to reach the final there, notably upsetting Nadal, will open with Diego Sebastian Schwartzman or Carlos Berlocq. I have Fognini beating Berlocq in round 2, after Berlocq wins the all Argentina round 1 battle. Fognini had started the season just 1-3, but as mentioned he put much more effort into his tennis in Rio, and though unpredictable, has be favored to reach the quarterfinals, though fatigue may factor in.
Jiri Vesely, the 6 seed, has a nice chance at a run this week, he opens with Blaz Rola, who has just two wins on the season (though on of them came in an upset of Leo Mayer last week in Rio), and then would face a qualifier in round 2. Vesely is 0-3 since winning the Auckland title, but he pushed Fognini to 3 sets in Rio, and his other golden swing loss was to Pablo Cuevas, who ended up taking the title in Sao Paulo, both of those losses coming in 3 sets. Vesely, though mentally fragile, is playing better than recent results would suggest, and presuming his fitness is ok, I actually have him winning that rematch with Fognini in the quarters. It was a low quality, and up and down encounter when they played last week in Rio, and by this point, Fognini should be fatigued from all the tennis he’s had to play over the past week and a half, with that in mind, the advantage swings to Vesely to reach the semis. Don’t count a qualifier out here either.
Tommy Robredo, the 2009 champion, will face Jarkko Nieminen or Renzo Olivo, a wild card, in round 2. The veteran Nieminen isn’t that impressive on clay right now, while Olivo is actually 8-2 over his last 10 matches, a mix of Quito qualies, and the Santo Domingo challenger. With a retirement, and a loss to eventual champ Victor Estrella, the only two losses Olivo has had in weeks, I have him notching an upset on home soil to setup a meeting with Robredo. Olivo shockingly upset Robredo in Bastad last year on clay, and Robredo has been in poor form all season, with just a 1-2 record on the year, with a retirement, and a loss to the much lower ranked Andreas Haider-Maurer in Rio. With that in mind, I’m backing Olivo to reach the quarterfinals with a pair of upsets over ATP veterans, on home soil in BA.
Olivo/Robredo are most likely to meet the Andujar/Almagro winner in the quarters, I presume Almagro will be able to defeat wild card Horacio Zeballos or Albert Ramos in round 2. Ramos should beat Zeballos, he’s 1-2 on the Golden Swing thus far, but Almagro is the most talented player of the bunch and should beat Olivo in the quarters to reach the semis in what would be a good week for him.
Pablo Cuevas opens with Guido Andreozzi or a qualifier, Andreozzi, a wild card, has been plying his trade on hard courts, rather than clay this year, and the qualifier will have a good chance, all the same Cuevas, the Sao Paulo champ, and a quarterfinalist in Rio who pushed Nadal to 3 sets, should have no trouble reaching the quarters given his good form. In another all-Argentine battle, Juan Monaco (2-1 clay court h2h) should have enough ability to take out Maximo Gonzalez, who hasn’t won an ATP main draw match in a while. Monaco, a Rio quarterfinalist should face the top ranked Argentine Leo Mayer in round 2. Mayer retired in his last match and is just 1-2 on the Golden Swing, but I still see him beating the veteran French journeyman Stephane Robert, who hasn’t played on clay since the French Open last year. Monaco and Mayer have never met on clay, but with Monaco in slightly better form, I have Pico into the quarters, and then Cuevas beating him for a spot in the semis. Monaco is 5-0 on clay against Cuevas, but they haven’t played since 2011, and Cuevas has been a far superior player as of late.
The unseeded Nicolas Almagro is also a dark horse, but the home player Olivo could have the most eye catching week in Buenos Aires. As mentioned if the in-form wild card can score upset wins over Nieminen, and Robredo, he would be in the quarters, and should be find a way to beat Almagro or another player, he would find himself in his first ever ATP semifinal this week, which I’m sure the home crowd would appreciate.
Semis: Nadal d. Vesely
Cuevas d. Almagro
Even with Nadal not playing top 5 quality tennis right now, I don’t see anyone in the field being able to take him out before the final, meanwhile Cuevas has dominated Almagro as of late, and should also be able to battle his way to the final this week
Final: Nadal d. Cuevas
He didn’t win Rio, but you still have to pick Nadal as the champion for almost every clay court tournament in which he is a participant. The king of clay has struggled thus far this season, but you have to feel failure to reach a final yet this year, will further motivate him to cap off the Golden Swing with good vibes, and an ATP title. Nadal just beat my favored finalist Cuevas last week in Rio in 3 sets, and his level should be good enough to take this 250 title as the top seed.