2014 ATP Dubai, Acapulco, Sao Paulo Previews and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
Dual outdoor hard court 500s in Dubai and Acapulco (which switches from clay to hard courts this year), and the final golden swing event, a clay 250 in Sao Paulo are the offerings this week. All of this beckons as the ATP tour marches towards the next marquee event in Indian Wells.
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
February 24-March 1, 2014
Prize Money: $ 1,928,340
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (2)
2: Juan Martin Del Potro (5)
3: Tomas Berdych (6)
4: Roger Federer (8)
5 of the top 10 are in Dubai in what is a stacked, exciting event.
First Round matchups to watch:
(6)Mikhail Youzhny vs. Michal Przysiezny
There’s not an abundance of great appetizers on offering in the Dubai first round, but this one of two that stick out to me. First, the struggling Youzhny, who is just 1-4 on the season in ATP action, having lost 3 straight matches, faces off with the equally slumping Przysiezny, who is a miserable 1-7 on the year, between ATP and Davis Cup action.
Youzhny had high expectations this year and Przysiezny was an improving player going into the season, but 2 months in, they both need some wins to snap out of their funks. As the more accomplished, higher ranked player, Youzhny should be favored, and he also won their only head to head meeting (played on clay) very easily 4 years ago.
Andreas Seppi vs. Florian Mayer
Seppi leads the h2h 2-1, but Mayer won their only outdoor hard court meeting 6 years ago and he is in great form, having won 7 times in 11 tournament matches on the year. Seppi has just 1 win in 6 ATP and Davis Cup tournament matches and has lost 4 straight matches. Given the massive difference in form, I expect Funky Flo to win this one.
Defending and four time champion Novak Djokovic opens with Denis Istomin, who he has defeated 4 times previously, and then will face Roberto Bautista Agut or qualifier Adrian Ungur in round 2. Novak will most likely see Youzhny in the quarters, as after Przysiezny, the winner gets Delray quarterfinalist Teymuraz Gabashvili or wild card James Ward.
Five time Dubai champion Roger Federer opens with veteran German grinder Benjamin Becker, and will face another veteran in the next round, either Radek Stepanek or Michael Russell. Judging by his play earlier this year, Federer should be safe for the quarterfinals where his opponent will be one of Lukas Rosol/Daniel Brands/Lukas Lacko/Dmitry Tursunov. Lacko is a qualifier. Tursunov is the 8 seed but he’s out of form, and Brands has a h2h win against Federer last year. All in all, a toss-up section, and both Djokovic and Federer should be happy with their draws.
Juan Martin Del Potro, who bounced out much earlier than he would like in his last action in Rotterdam, opens with wild card Somdev Devvarman. I expect JMDP vs. Igor Sijsling in the next round, as the Rotterdam semifinalist, who was bounced out in the opening round of Marseille, opens with wild card Malek Jaziri, who is a hard worker who will battle hard but isn’t the highest ranked of players.
Should Del Potro be healthy and not too rusty, with a fit wrist and other factors, I expect Del Potro vs. 6 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber or Florian Mayer in the quarters. Kohli needs wins against Thiemo De Bakker and Seppi/Mayer to reach the quarters as he did in Rotterdam. Kohli leads the hard court h2h with Mayer, his Davis Cup teammate, 1-0, but Mayer does have a clay court and an indoors win, their last match coming in 2010.
Rotterdam champion Tomas Berdych, who has only lost 2 ATP level matches this year, and sports a 12-2 record going into this tournament, along with being a defending finalist, faces qualifier Marius Copil in the opening round and then Sergiy Stakhovsky or Ivan Dodig in round 2.
Dodig comes off quarterfinals in Marseille, but Berdych should smash his way to the quarterfinals against the 5 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who made the finals in Marseille, and opens with the journeyman veteran Victor Hanescu, followed by Nikolay Davydenko/Andrey Golubev.
Dark Horse: Andrey Golubev
Golubev has an outside shot at the quarterfinals, given the nice draw he has, with Nikolay Davydenko, who for quite some time has been a shell of his former self, up first. He would follow with Hanescu/Tsonga, as Hanescu is a journeyman and Tsonga has not been at his best all year, and should be tired coming off the Marseille final. Golubev won the title at the Astana challenger and thus is in good form.
Djokovic d. Federer
Berdych d. Mayer
Djokovic/Federer is a near lock for the semifinals, and their h2h is rather even, Federer leading it 16-15.
Yet Djokovic has won the last 3 meetings, and the last 10 hard court meetings are 5-5. In Dubai the h2h is 1-1.
I give Djokovic the edge to advance given his better in recent years.
Berdych should make the final regardless of his semifinal opponent and I have Mayer penciled in as his form should propel him past Seppi, Kohlschreiber and Del Potro/Sijsling. I just don’t think JMDP is 100% yet.
Berdych d. Djokovic
Berdych is just 2-15 against Novak, but with his form sizzling, and Novak having not played since the Australian Open, I think he will get his third win in an upset and keep Novak from winning his fifth Dubai title in a close match. This would be a rematch of the Dubai final last year, and Djokovic won that match in straights, but I think revenge is in order and it will be a much closer match this time.
ATP AcapulcoAbierto Mexicano Telcel
ATP World Tour 500
February 24-March 2, 2014
Prize Money: $ 1,309,770
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: David Ferrer (4)
2: Andy Murray (7)
3: John Isner (13)
4: Grigor Dimitrov (20)
Four of the top 20 and a pair of top 10 players are in Acapulco, as the switch to hard court attracted a nice field for this event.
First Round matchups to watch:
Feliciano Lopez vs. Edouard Roger-Vasselin
The first meeting between these two veteran players, ERV comes off quarters in Marseille and Feli comes off quarters in Delray. However, Roger-Vasselin was more impressive in his quarterfinal loss in 3 sets to Tsonga, while Lopez really struggled from the start against Steve Johnson and never found the effort needed to put up a fight. ERV has farther to travel, but I give him the edge in this one, in what looks like a quality, balanced matchup.
(3)John Isner vs. Ivo Karlovic
These two big bomb servers have met 4 times, and in every meeting there has, as would be expected, at least one tiebreak in the match. Overall, the h2h is 2-2, and their only outdoor hard court meeting went to Karlovic.
Karlovic is better on the volley and first serve, and Isner is better with his forehand and second serve. This one should be very close as Karlovic retired in round 2 of Delray after the making the final in Memphis, while Isner scraped his way to the semis in Delray, but he dropped a set in all 3 of his wins and then lost in straights to a tired Marin Cilic.
Hopefully, Big John was shaking off rust and nothing more, and hopefully also Karlovic is fit for this one, as it could very well be 3 tiebreak sets to decide.
(8)Vasek Pospisil vs. Alex Dolgopolov
Pospisil pulled out of Delray as he stated he didn’t feel fully recovered from his back injury and needed an extra week off, thus his first tournament back will be Acapulco. He’s seeded, but his first round opponent is a tough one, as Dolgo found surprising quality to reach the final in Rio. He played some tough matches there and may be tired, but he did very well and depending on the Pospisil form he may be able to grab an upset win.
Joao Sousa vs. Adrian Mannarino
A pair of players who were struggling but found some form in their last tournaments, Sousa made his way to the quarters in Rio on clay, while Mannarino finally beat Jack Sock to reach round 2 in Delray, where he fell to Lopez in 3 sets.
Mannarino has played more hard court tennis as of late, while Sousa will be coming back from a couple of weeks on clay, but he is a good, reasonably accomplished hard court player and this is their first meeting. On paper, Mannarino probably has a slight edge but personally I think Sousa will win this one, probably in 3 sets.
David Ferrer, who was upset in the Rio semifinals and is back on hard courts now after the clay golden swing, faces Mikhail Kukushkin round 1, and then ERV/Lopez in round 2 in what could perhaps be a tricky matchup for him. I think he gets to the quarters to most likely face Delray finalist Kevin Anderson, who opens with a qualifier, and then the severely slumping Sam Querrey, or against all odds Mexican wildcard Tigre Hank.
Anderson may be tired, but Querrey is in horrendous form and he has to be happy with the opponent he drew in round 1. Assuming Ferrer gets past his second round opponent, this is a good draw for him.
Isner/Karlovic will face off with Dudi Sela or a qualifier in round 2. Isner beat Sela in a close 3 set match in Delray, and that would be a rematch just days later. I expect Isner/Karlovic in the quarters against Pospisil/Dolgopolov. The winner of that match gets Jeremy Chardy/Matt Ebden in round 2, with Chardy coming off of playing clay, and Ebden not really at his best right now. This is an interesting section of the draw.
Andy Murray makes his debut south of the border, as he takes on Rio semifinalist Pablo Andujar first and then Sousa/Mannarino. I don’t expect either opponent to trouble him too much, and he has a rather weak quarterfinal section with one of Gilles Simon/qualifier/Jurgen Melzer/Jarkko Nieminen on tap. Melzer, the veteran Austrian lefty, is playing his first tournament of the year coming off of injury. Nieminen took a week off after Rotterdam, and the veteran Finnish lefty is always a dependable competitor. Simon, meanwhile, has lost 2 straight matches and has been struggling all year, as he may be in a bit of a decline at this point in his career.
Grigor Dimitrov will try for success first against Marinko Matosevic, and should he advance, he will face Marcos Baghdatis, who gets another wild card this week, or Mexican wild card Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela. I expect it to be Dimitrov vs. one of Marseille champ Ernests Gulbis/Rendy Lu/Lukasz Kubot/qualifier in the quarters. Gulbis is in some great form, with semis in Rotterdam and a title in Marseille in the past 2 weeks but he’s likely exhausted after so much tennis over a short period and he will be coming in from Europe, making this an open section. Lu is struggling to stay healthy, and Kubot is in poor form.
Perhaps a qualifier will make a run like we saw in Delray.
Dark Horse: Edouard Roger-Vasselin
I thought of putting Rendy Lu or Karlovic in this spot, as they both have dark horse chances, but I’ll go with ERV, who has also been another of my steady DH designations this year. He will need to get past Lopez and Ferrer, neither of whom are easy to beat, but if he does a tired Anderson or a lucky Querrey will be his quarterfinal opponent. He has a great chance at the semis or even a run to the final with Isner/Karlovic/Pospisil/Dolgopolov likely to be the semifinalist from the other section, all beatable on a good day.
Ferrer d. Karlovic
Murray d. Dimitrov
Ferrer leads the h2h with Ivo 2-1 but Ivo won their last meeting in 2011, all on hard courts. I don’t think Isner is in good enough form to reach the semis so I have the good Dr. here. Murray, who didn’t look at his best in Rotterdam, should still be in good enough form to make his way to the semis and expand his h2h from 3-0 to 4-0 against Dimitrov. All of their previous meetings finished in straight sets on hard courts.
Murray d. Ferrer
Both normally-top 5 players haven’t been near their best this year, though probably for different reasons. I still feel confident that they both make the final of this 500 series event, and I have Murray, who leads the outdoor hard court h2h with Ferrer 5-0, as the champion.
ATP Sao Paulo
Brasil Open 2014
ATP World Tour 250
Sao Paulo, Brazil
February 24-March 2, 2014
Prize Money: $ 474,005
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Tommy Haas (12)
2: Nicolas Almagro (18)
3: Marcel Granollers (35)
4: Juan Monaco (42)
A weaker field than rest of the golden swing. Just 2 top 20 players and a huge drop off in quality below that makes this a tournament that gives a great chance for someone new to make a breakthrough or an old veteran to find some hot form and surprise.
First Round matchups to watch:
(7)Leonardo Mayer vs. Guido Pella
A veteran Argentine vs. a young Argentine, Vina Del Mar finalist Leo Mayer is just 1-2 after that showing including a blowout loss to Albert Ramos last in Rio. Mayer will take on Pella, who is 2-2 in Golden swing ATP events and skipped Rio. This match will come down to which Mayer shows up. I’ll go with Pella in a slight upset. The h2h is 1-1 but both of their meetings have come on hard courts.
(8)Santiago Giraldo vs. (WC)Thomaz Bellucci
They just met last week in Rio and Bellucci won in 3 sets. This should be a very good match as Bellucci found some form in Rio with an additional 3 set win against Juan Monaco and a 3 set loss to David Ferrer on his record as he made the quarters on home soil. He will be playing on home soil yet again, but Giraldo will be looking to avenge his defeat and he has a great chance to do so. This match is a hard call.
Top seed Tommy Haas debuts in Sao Paulo, as he has been struggling some, just 2-2 in his last 2 tournaments with losses to Steve Johnson in Delray and Jerzy Janowicz in Rotterdam. He will be adjusting to clay, though he plays very well on the surface. Alejandro Gonzalez or a qualifier are first up, and then one of Mayer/Pella or Pablo Cuevas/Horacio Zeballos in the quarters.
I expect it to be Mayer or Pella but watch out for Cuevas who showed some improvement in Rio.
Juan Monaco finally won a match, beating Zeballos in Rio, but he’s still struggling and I expect him to be knocked out by Albert Ramos, who made the second round in Rio. Ramos has to beat a qualifier first. The quarterfinalist will face Paolo Lorenzi, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or a pair of qualifiers in an open section. GGL has lost 2 straight matches, but he did beat Lorenzi in Vina Del Mar in 3 sets.
A qualifier has a nice chance at a run in this section.
3 time Sao Paulo champ Nicolas Almagro, who was ousted by Alex Dolgoplov earlier than he would have liked in Rio, will face Federico Delbonis or Filippo Volandri in his first match. He should advance to face the 5 seed Robin Haase in the quarters, as the Dutchman needs a win over a struggling Filippo Volandri and Albert Montanes/Aljaz Bedene (neither of whom are in good form). That said, Montanes just beat Haase In round 1 of Rio and that would be an immediate rematch.
Marcel Granollers is another struggling but accomplished player with just a 1-3 Golden Swing record this year. He will face Martin Klizan or Guilherme Clezar in round 2, and the winner will face Giraldo/Bellucci or Julian Reister/Andreas Haider-Maurer. Klizan retired in his last match, Reister is 0-5 on the year, and AHM has lost 2 straight matches. I expect Giraldo or Bellucci to emerge as the best of this section.
Dark Horse: Albert Ramos
It seems pretty easy for the Spaniard Ramos to reach the semis, as he has a struggling Monaco after a qualifier, one of the easiest round 1 bye seed opponents in an ATP tournament in a long time, and then Lorenzi/qualifier/GGL in the quarters. Then, it’s probably Haas or perhaps someone else in the semis. He even has an outside shot at the final.
Haas d. Ramos
Almagro d. Giraldo
Almagro is 5-0 against Santi, including 2 wins on clay, thus he should win, given Sao Paulo is his event anyway. Haas has never met Ramos but I also think he will prevail.
Final:Almagro d. Haas
Haas is 3-0 against Nico with a win on clay, but that was 9 years ago, and Almagro has great history at this event. Besides the Rio round 1 loss, Nico appears to be in ok form with his only golden swing losses to top players Fabio Fognini and David Ferrer. Haas, meanwhile, is adjusting to clay and as previously mentioned hasn’t been up to his usual par this year so far, thus I think Nico will make it 1-3 against him and grab a win.