2018 ATP Rio Preview and Predictions: Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem Lead the Field Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Rio Open is the highlight of the Golden Swing, it’s a 500 level tournament on clay in Brazil. Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem lead the field. Here is your full preview with predictions.
Marin Cilic returns to the ATP Tour after reaching the Australian Open final in his last outing. Cilic will begin against Carlos Berlocq, Gael Monfils/Horacio Zeballos will follow. Monfils has played the full golden swing but has yet to reach a final. Against Cilic he should be an underdog in an engaging round 2 matchup.
Argentines Diego Schwartzman and Federico Delbonis played well on home clay. Delbonis should beat Jiri Vesely, Schwartzman should beat Casper Ruud. Delbonis over Schwartzman is my pick in round 2, with Cilic beating Delbonis in the quarters.
Quito finalist Albert Ramos faces Rogerio Dutra Silva in the opening round. Nicolas Jarry and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez both reached quarters in Buenos Aires, Jarry is my pick in that matchup, with Ramos advancing to the quarters. Guido Pella has had strong start to 2018, reaching quarters or better in both of his ATP outings. He’ll face French young gun Corentin Moutet in round 1. Pablo Cuevas faces Thiago Monteiro in round 1, I’ll go with Monteiro to win in an upset, with Pella reaching the quarters and falling to Ramos at that stage.
Dominic Thiem won Buenos Aires and starts in Rio against Dusan Lajovic. Thiem should defeat Gerald Melzer/Pablo Andujar in the second round. I’ll back Fernando Verdasco to edge past Leonardo Mayer and Victor Estrella/Nicolas Kicker in round 2. Thiem over Verdasco is the smart pick in the quarters.
Fabio Fognini should beat home player Thomaz Bellucci in round 1. Pablo Carreno Busta is struggling and opens with Marco Cecchinato. I’ll back Buenos Aires finalist Aljaz Bedene to beat Andreas Haider-Maurer. PCB should beat a tired Bedene. Roberto Carballes Baena, the Quito champion, is my dark horse pick. RCB should defeat Tennys Sandgren, then Fognini/Bellucci before upsetting PCB in the quarters.
Cilic d. Ramos-Vinolas
Thiem d. Carballes Baena
There is no particular reason why Cilic and Thiem won’t have a great week. Both are in solid form and good on clay. Thiem in his current form should be the favorite to take the title, though fatigue could be a factor.
Qualifier Roberto Carballes Baena defeated Albert Ramos in a three set tilt 6-3 4-6 6-4 to capture his maiden ATP title on the clay of Quito, Ecuador. Carballes Baena defeated Federico Gaio, Paolo Lorenzi, Nicolas Jarry, and Andrej Martin after qualifying, dropping sets in his final three matches but prevailing each time.
His countryman Ramos, the more experienced of the finalists, defeated Roberto Quiroz, Gerald Melzer, and Thiago Monteiro, his win over Monteiro coming in three sets.
Jarry and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo, both hailing from Chile, defeated Austin Krajicek and Jackson Withrow in the doubles final.
Lucas Pouille, who captured a career high three ATP titles in 2017, captured his first of 2018, 7-6 6-4 over countryman Richard Gasquet. Pouille benefited from a retirement in the semifinals when trailing against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, as Tsonga injured his knee up a set and 5-5 in set 2. Carlos Taberner and Benoit Paire both lost to Pouille in straight sets.
Gasquet showed good form yet again on home courts, he beat Daniil Medvedev, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Damir Dzumhur and David Goffin. The wins over Herbert and Goffin coming in three sets.
British brothers Ken and Neal Skupski defeated Hugo Nys and Ben Mclachlan in the doubles final.
Both Mirza Basic and Marius Copil had a shot at their maiden ATP title, and Basic came out ahead. The Bosnian edged Copil 7-6 6-7 6-4 in the final, after upsetting both Philipp Kohlschreiber and Stan Wawrinka to reach the final. Basic, a qualifier, also defeated Florian Mayer and Max Marterer in the main draw. Basic was on the ropes in his opening round qualifying match against local player Alexander Lazov, and dropped a set against Marterer as well, but improved throughout the entirety of the week. He was rock solid on serve against Wawrinka and finally got the upper hand.
Copil defeated Robin Haase, Blaz Kavcic, Gilles Muller, and Jozef Kovalik to reach the final, not dropping a set in those four victories.
2017 ATP Rio de Janeiro Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Golden Swing on South American red clay has its marquee event this week, as it’s time for some tennis Brazilian style in Rio de Janeiro. It’s a 500 level event, and here is your preview, with predictions.
Rio Open Presented by Claro
ATP World Tour 500
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
February 20-26, 2017
Prize Money: $1,461,560
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (5)
2: Dominic Thiem (8)
3: Pablo Cuevas (22)
4: Pablo Carreno Busta (25)
Compared to last week’s Rotterdam 500 Rio isn’t near as strong, but it’s still an improvement on the previous two weeks of 250 level stops on South American clay.
First round matches to watch:
(1)Kei Nishikori vs. Thomaz Bellucci
Nishikori has suffered three losses this season compared to nine wins, but it still seems like he’s underperforming his ranking. Even coming off a run to the final in Buenos Aires, it’s expected Kei will be able to defeat the big hitting home hero Bellucci, but the h2h is 1-1, Bellucci isn’t bad on clay, and he should be fresher. I’ll go with Nishikori to win, but I have Bellucci taking a set.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. (6)David Ferrer
The aging Ferrer leads the h2h 8-3, but Dolgopolov comes off the title in Buenos Aires and has won two of their last three meetings. Ferrer has been in terrible form this season, posting just three wins, compared to three losses. The shotmaker Dolgopolov is erratic in his own way, having struggled for months before winning in Buenos Aires. Dolgo tends to struggle off of long, tiring weeks of tennis though, giving Ferrer an opportunity to kickstart his 2017 with a quality win.
After reaching the final in Buenos Aires, Nishikori will big once more for a title on South American clay. After taking on Bellucci in what should be a rowdy match, another Brazilian, Thiago Monteiro should follow. Monteiro opens with Gastao Elias after reaching the quarterfinals in BA. Nishikori is simply a better player than either Brazilian, his quarterfinal should be against Portugese #1 and BA quarterfinalist Joao Sousa. Sousa opens with qualifier Roberto Carballes Baena (2-1 h2h), with the winner of Casper Ruud and Brazil’s Rogerio Dutra Silva to follow. The young Ruud is talented enough to win in round 1 over the journeyman RDS, but Sousa should reach the quarters before falling to Nishikori just like what happened last week on clay in BA.
I have an all-Spanish quarterfinal in the second part of the draw, Former Rio champion Ferrer will face either Carlos Berlocq or Horacio Zeballos in round 2 after battling Dolgo. Berlocq stunned Ferrer at home in BA, but the fan-favorite journeyman is 34, and after reaching the BA semifinals he should be fatigued. I have Ferrer getting revenge over Berlocq in round 2. Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta should have another good week. PCB opens with Joao Souza and after semifinals in BA, he should reach at least the quarterfinals in Rio with a win over either Gerald Melzer or defending Rio finalist Guido Pella, who is struggling. Now a solid part of the ATP’s top 30, Carreno Busta should reach consecutive semifinals with a win over Ferrer.
45-13 on clay over the last two seasons, Austria’s Dominic Thiem is journeying over from Europe to take part in his first clay court tournament of 2017. Thiem reached the quarters in Rotterdam, but has performed below lofty expectations thus far. He’ll open with struggling veteran Janko Tipsarevic, another Serbian, Dusan Lajovic, should follow for Thiem, presuming Lajovic does away with a struggling Facundo Bagnis. Thiem’s first difficult match should come against Paolo Lorenzi/Federico Delbonis or Diego Schwartzman in the quarters. The Italian veteran Lorenzi opens with Federico Delbonis, Diego Schwartzman or Renzo Olivo will follow. The 35 year old Italian was a finalist in Quito, and although he’s struggled against Delbonis in recent matchups, I have him notching a slight upset and then falling to DSS, who isn’t playing poorly at all, and should beat Olivo in round 1. Thiem should edge Schwartzman in the quarters.
Defending champion Pablo Cuevas isn’t playing his best tennis, but young qualifier Arthur De Greef likely hasn’t developed enough to beat him in round 1. Cuevas should then do away with qualifier Nicolas Kicker (or qualifier Marco Cecchinato). In the quarters Albert Ramos, 4-2 in his last two clay court tournaments, is likely to be on the other side of the net. Ramos opens with Stephane Robert, he’ll then face a veteran, either Fabio Fognini or Tommy Robredo in round 2. Robredo just beat Fognini last week in BA, given he did so in straight sets, I have him winning for the second week in a row before falling to Ramos. Despite Cuevas 4-1 h2h edge over Ramos, Ramos is in better form and I have him reaching the semifinals.
I wouldn’t count an Argentine or Brazilian player to make a run this week, and Schwartzman is my dark horse pick. Lorenzi and Thiem are not easy early round opponents, but both are beatable, and Thiem may be fatigued. Schwartzman has shown he has a well-rounded game and can play his best tennis on clay, if he finds his groove he could make a mark this week like Berlocq and Dolgopolov did last week.
Semis Nishikori d. Carreno Busta
Ramos d. Thiem
Nishikori has lost six straight ATP finals and badly needs to win one for his own confidence, he should edge past PCB. I have Ramos finding more success against a likely tired and vulnerable Thiem. Ramos won their only h2h match (on a hard court), which should give the Spaniard confidence.
Final Nishikori d. Ramos
Nishikori has lost on clay to Ramos before, but he’s won more often than not in this matchup. and as mentioned, badly needs an ATP title.
The ATP quality player heavy Mutua Madrid Open qualifying concluded Sunday with five seeded players, and two unseeded players filling out the qualifying spots, while a lucky loser was also placed in the draw, due to Tommy Robredo pulling out of the tournament with an injury.
Aussie young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis improved to a remarkable 13-0 in qualifying at the ATP level this year as he scored big wins over Matteo Viola and Janko Tipsarevic to qualify. Tipsarevic has been improving his results since returning from injury, and he’s had success in Madrid before, but Kokkinakis was clutch and won a third set tiebeak 7-4 to advance in three sets, after dropping the second set.
Daniel Gimeno-Traver continued his tremendous run of form over the past few weeks on clay, the 29 year old Spanish grinder, who reached the final in Casablanca, the semis in Bucharest, and the quarters in Istanbul, will now have a chance to improve his results at the Masters level. He rolled over Javier Marti and Marsel Ilhan, as neither were a challenge compared to Roger Federer, who he took a set against in Istanbul.
Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia was 1-4 in his last five matches on clay going into the Madrid qualifying, but he scored a pair of quality wins, as he defeated Kenny De Schepper in 3 sets, and then upset Joao Sousa in 3 sets as well. Sousa would later be placed in the draw as a lucky loser though, so his day wasn’t entirely ruined. Gonzalez has struggled this season, but perhaps this run in qualifying can be the spark he needs to carry him into the summer.
Albert Ramos will be another Spanish player in the main draw of Madrid, the 27 year old lefty with his spinning shots beat Ivan Dodig via 3rd set retirement and then rolled over Ricardas Berankis to qualify. He’s actually struggled on clay this year, but historically it’s been his best surface, and he’s looking to make some noise in the main draw. Right now he’s been very unpredictable.
Thomaz Bellucci, is another left handed qualifier, the Brazilian beat Michael Berrer, and then Federico Delbonis (in a nailbiting third set tiebreak), to qualify, he comes off the quarterfinals in Istanbul and he’s a threat on clay as well.
The unseeded qualifiers were Alejandro Falla, a Colombian veteran (and lefty), and Luca Vanni, an Italian veteran having his career best year in pro tennis. Falla, who has been poor on ATP main draw clay over the past three seasons (4-13 since 2012), will have a chance to improve that record. He upset Sergiy Stakhovsky, and then beat Roberto Carballes Baena, a Spaniard, to qualify. Vanni, who had a miracle run to the Sao Paulo final as a qualifier not that long ago, beat Carlos Berlocq and then Nicolas Mahut in three sets to snap a four match losing streak and place himself in his first ever Masters 1000 main draw.
Gimeno-Traver has been drawn against Nick Kyrgios in a highly anticipated round 1 clash of in-form warriors, Bellucci has been given a winnable match against Jeremy Chardy in round 1, Gonzalez will face American Steve Johnson, Vanni will do battle with non-clay courter Bernard Tomic, Falla will face a fatigued Philipp Kohlschreiber, Kokkinakis will have a great chance to beat Sam Querrey, Ramos will face Istanbul finalist Pablo Cuevas, a possibly fatigued opponent, and Sousa will face Jerzy Janowicz as the lucky loser.
2015 ATP Estoril Preview Steen Kirby and Manuel Traquete, Tennis Atlantic
For the second year in a row, Tennis Atlantic will have Manuel Traquete reporting on all the happenings at the Estoril open, which has a new location this year, and has been titled the Millennium Estoril Open with a new ownership and management group. It’s still a 250 on red clay, and Portugal’s only ATP event.
2015 ATP Estoril Preview
Millennium Estoril Open ATP World Tour 250 Estoril, Portugal April 27-May 3, 2015 Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Feliciano Lopez (12)
2: Kevin Anderson (17)
3: Tommy Robredo (20)
4: Leonardo Mayer (25)
The seed cutoff is 45, as the Estoril Open has three top 20 players headlining the field, it may be not be star studded at the top, but it’s a balanced field overall.
A rising young gun, and next gen star, against an experienced, mid-level dirtballer, describes this matchup. Kyrgios doesn’t have a lot of experience on clay, and it’s by far his worst surface, in fact he lost to another next-gen star, Elias Ymer in Barcelona in a third set tiebreak, Ramos comes off a disappointing loss to Pablo Andujar, but he qualified and Monte Carlo, and his form has been relatively good this year, all be it flaky. Kyrgios has more talent, but Ramos’ skill on clay should give him the short term advantage to win this match, as Kyrgios works on developing his clay court abilities.
(6)Jeremy Chardy vs. Borna Coric
Chardy defeated Coric in four sets at the Australian Open this year, but the teenage Croat will look to get his revenge on clay. He comes off a round 2 loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky in Bucharest, and his last two losses have been gut punch three setters (to Ivo Karlovic in Bucharest, and Alex Dolgopolov in Monte Carlo), now he will look to right the ship against Chardy, who reached a quarterfinal in Houston on clay, and lost to Federer in MC. Chardy is decent on clay, and he’s one of those reliable mid-tier players that stays at the ATP level, but doesn’t quite have enough in him to challenge for titles. This is the type of match Coric should win if he is to break through and get himself into the top 40 by the end of the year, and I do have him winning this one.
Top seed Feliciano Lopez, who has not played well on clay the past two weeks, is in grave danger of going out in his opening match, presuming Robin Haase is able to defeat Ricardas Berankis, who is riding a three match losing streak, in round 1. Haase has beaten Lopez twice on clay, and could do so for a third time, though his form is unpredictable, and in fact the form of both players is. Though Lopez has struggled in Houston and Barcelona, Haase is not a trustworthy player, and thus Flopez should be favored for the quarters.
The Kyrgios/Ramos winner will have an inside track to reach the quarters below Lopez, as they will face the winner of Filip Krajinovic/Alejandro Gonzalez. Krajinovic comes off a challenger semi on clay, while Gonzalez has lost two straight matches. I have Ramos beating Krajinovic, and then Lopez to reach the semis. He’s 2-0 against Lopez, and those were hard court wins, on clay, he should actually be the superior player as their seems to be a matchup issue there.
Tommy Robredo will open with a qualifier or Pablo Carreno Busta. Robredo comes off the quarters in Barcelona and is 4-2 in his last two tournaments on clay (Monte Carlo the other), additionally, he’s 3-0 against PCB (who hasn’t won a match since Rio in February (7 straight losses), so look for Robredo in the quarters. In those quarters, he could face Gilles Muller, who hasn’t won an ATP match on clay since 2012, or perhaps faded veteran Albert Montanes, a 34 year old pensioner who was formerly reliable but hasn’t won consecutive matches since Quito. Montanes opens with a qualifier, in a section a qualifier could bust open, while Muller will play wild card Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal (20). I have Muller in the quarters, losing to the more accomplished clay courter Robredo in my own bracket, though Montanes may have something left in the tank.
Kevin Anderson vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is likely to be the most intriguing second round matchup, Garcia-Lopez comes off a his second ATP title of the season in Bucharest, where he found form, and though fatigue may play a factor, I’d still favor him to defeat Anderson on a clay court. GGL opens with a qualifier, and Anderson has two previous hard fought hard court wins against the versatile Spaniard. Anderson last played in Houston where he reached the semis with a pair of solid wins.
The winner of GGL/Anderson will have to deal with the strongest section of the draw, as home favorite Joao Sousa, the Portugese number 1, opens against wild card Rui Machado, a former top 70 player, who has seen his ranking fall outside the top 200 at 31 years of age. Sousa will face the winner of Chardy/Coric, and Coric-Sousa will be another huge second round match, should it take place. That contest looms large, and Sousa is 2-2 on clay in Europe so far. I personally have Coric into the quarters but it’s a difficult pick.
I also have Coric beating Garcia-Lopez (and I feel Sousa would too) simply due to the fatigue factor, if Anderson wins however, he could well reach the semis.
4 seed Leonardo Mayer will get a difficult match against Nicolas Almagro Round 2, presuming Almagro beats washed up journeyman Stephane Robert, who is playing under a protected ranking. Almagro is 2-0 in the h2h against Mayer, and Mayer is struggling, at least to an extent right right now, while Almagro was a semifinalist in Buenos Aires, and a quarterfinalist in Casablanca and Sao Paulo. Look for the veteran former top 20 Spanish fighter to reach the quarters and setup a big match against Richard Gasquet, who is also coming back from injury this week. Gasquet should be able to ease in against Marinko Matosevic, who struggles on clay, and then defeat Gastao Elias, a Portugese wild card, or a qualifier. Almagro has beaten Gasquet twice on clay (3-2 h2h overall) and it should be a close match, however I give the slightest of edges to Nico given Gasquet’s lack of matchplay as of late, and the adjustment to clay.
I have the unseeded Almagro taking the title this week, thus he’s the obvious dark horse pick, he has a h2h edge in most of his possible matchups, and this draw isn’t that imposing. Almagro has been a top player before, and the 29 year old has the ability to impose himself on this field if he plays well. He has 12 previous ATP titles, and has reached 9 additional ATP finals, all of those have come on clay.
Semis: Robredo d. Ramos
Almagro d. Coric
Robredo is 2-1 on clay against Ramos, and likely in better form, Almagro should also have an edge on clay against Coric, though that match could go either way.
Final: Almagro d. Robredo
Robredo is in theory in better form, but Almagro has a remarkable 7-1 h2h record, including two wins this year against his fellow Spanish veteran, with that wide of a h2h gap, Almagro is my pick to win the title in Estoril this week.