Arrivederci Umag! Tuesday Report from @CroatiaOpenUmag Stefano Berlincioni, Tennis Atlantic
My fourth day at Croatia Open in Umag started with a short press conference with Gael Monfils.
He told press he didn’t feel very well in the last weeks but after he arrived here everything feels OK. He was asked about his absence in the Davis Cup tie and he replied that he talked with the team captain, and as Gael doesn’t feel comfortable on grass, they agreed to let others play: “It’s just not my surface”.
He said his favourite sport out of tennis is basketball and his favourite non-tennis athlete is Carmelo Anthony.
He had very kind words for the local young idol Borna Coric and said he will be surely one of the top players in the next years.
He was asked about his second round opponent, Mikhail Youzhny (as Misha did not have to play the first round against Trinker!) and he replied the usual stuff like, “great opponent, great matches with him in past, will be tough”, etc. By the way, a couple of hours later, Trinker beat Youzhny.
Last question was about his attitude about tennis. The Croatian press compared him to Ivanisevic as a sort of underachiever because of the mental issues. He said he will try to be more focused about tennis and he aims to attain top 5 status within two years.
Lorenzi def. Trevisan 1-6 6-2 7-5
Trevisan showed good tennis during qualies but in the first set he was really stunning. He completely outplayed Lorenzi who could only stay 3 meters behind the baseline and hope for Matteo’s errors. It is really incredible that a player with Trevisan’s talent is stuck playing ITF tournaments. After the first set, Lorenzi became more solid and Trevisan looked more and more tired exactly as he did against Bagnis on Monday.
But again, after a half tanked set he managed to regroup and take the lead in third set. The last set level was not so good as Trevisan was less effective and Lorenzi kept making stupid errors. Trevisan had two chances to break Lorenzi to go *5-2 up but Lorenzi played well on both points. That would have been a great achievement for Trevisan, but in the end, he had no more energy. Before match point told his box that at dinner he would eat his racquet and his own wrist. That’s how unhappy for how he played last games. I hope this tournament will give him enough self-confidence because he clearly has at least 200 potential.
Coric def. Granollers 63 63
I watched only a few games and Coric played really well, being in control of the rallies and looking for winners. He obviously has great support here and it looks like he really likes to be on the stage.
Haider Maurer def. Fabbiano 63 64
Quick notes also from this match as Haider Maurer outpowered Fabbiano and he never looked really in danger. Fabbiano is a very solid player from the baseline but when he has to face players with big power, it’s very tough for him.
Dzumhur def. Rosol 63 60
The Bosnian has great support here and was very pumped, while Rosol didn’t care that much for the whole match. Rosol didn’t tank in the second set but he didn’t look so interested. It was a good match for Dzumhur who now has to face Fognini, so I guess his tournament should be over if Fabio shows up with the 1st round attitude.
Rosol/Junaid def. Mamata/Monfils 62 62
I arrived just to watch the second set and it has to be said that the Frenchman played a sort of exhibition match. Gael never cares too much about doubles and Mamata can play tennis, but this level is too much for him.
Klizan def. Carreno Busta 76 67 61
This match was quite even with Klizan looking for winners and Carreno trying to outback as many balls as possible. Klizan also looked very motivated when I watched him training at 4 pm under the sun, so it was not a surprise to see him fighting in the third set after wasting chances to close the match in straights. He also had great support from his team.
2015 ATP Umag, Bogota, and Bastad Previews and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Three 250 level events will take place on the ATP World Tour this week, two on clay in Umag and Bastad, both in Europe, and the other on hard courts in South America. Tennis Atlantic is pleased to provide on-site coverage of Umag this week, and here is a preview of all the ATP tennis action.
2015 ATP Umag Preview
Konzum Croatia Open Umag
ATP World Tour 250
July 20-July 26, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Gael Monfils (17)
2: Roberto Bautista Agut (23)
3: Andreas Seppi (26)
4: Dominic Thiem (28)
An interesting and diverse group of seeds in Umag should make for an interesting week.
First round matchups to watch:
(6)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Santiago Giraldo
Giraldo, who is surprisingly playing here instead of at home in Colombia this week after Davis Cup, has the h2h advantage in this match, but Kohlschreiber has had the superior season and should be the slight favorite to advance on clay. After a great year last year it’s been a rough go of things for Santi this year. The style matchup will be interested as the Peppo backhand goes up against the Giraldo forehand. The fact Kohli is fresher will also help.
(5)Fabio Fognini vs. Jiri Vesely
Fognini beat Vesely this year in a crazy match in Rio on clay, and now Vesely is seeking revenge. Fognini wasn’t particularly great on clay back in the spring when he wasn’t playing Rafael Nadal, but the party atmosphere in Umag will either suit him, or distract the mercurial Italian. The match should be on Fogna’s racquet, and I have him advancing.
(7)Borna Coric vs. Marcel Granollers
The Croatian young gun Coric is now seeded at his home nation tournament and he could well make some noise if he maintains his clay court form from the Spring. Granollers is a relatively pedestrian singles player these days, though clay is his best surface, and hopefully Coric will be focused enough to grab an opening round win.
Gael Monfils, the top seed, will open with either nearly retired Mikhail Youzhny or a qualifier, the Frenchman is 10-4 on clay this season and thus should smoothly reach the quarterfinals to face Giraldo/Kohlschreiber. The winner of that match will take on Paolo Lorenzi or a qualifier, and I expect a Monfils vs. Kohlschreiber quarterfinal. Monfils dominates the h2h and has a 2-0 record this year against Peppo, and thus I have him reaching the semis.
Dominic Thiem, one of the young guns in this years Umag field, comes off of two bad losses in Davis Cup play on clay against the Dutch. Thiem’s poor form appears to be mental, more than physical, but he still could be troubled by Dusan Lajovic or a qualifier in round 2. Thiem should benefit from a weak section, as his quarterfinal opponent if he beats Lajovic will be one of Pablo Carreno Busta/Martin Klizan/Andreas Haider-Maurer/qualifier. Klizan has been struggling, though he played well in Davis Cup, and Carreno Busta just took a title on the challenger tour, so I have it as a PCB vs. AHM 2nd round match (due to Klizan’s DC hangover) and then I have AHM, who did win a Davis Cup match on clay this weekend, getting through that. He’s had a deceptively good season as a dirtballer and tends to have streaky form.
For the AHM vs. Thiem All-Austrian quarterfinal, I have Haider-Maurer advancing by virtue of Thiem’s likely fatigue and poor form as the veteran should outclass the young gun.
Roberto Bautista Agut, who is 10-7 on clay in 2015, should be able to defeat the winner of Andrey Rublev/Blaz Kavcic in round 2. Rublev comes off of winning a 5th rubber to send Russia into the World Group playoffs ahead of mighty Spain but the young gun wild card could be fatigued against Kavcic, who isn’t at his best on clay. I have Rublev beating Kavcic due to surface, as he should recover quickly given his youth, but RBA should avenge the Spain defeat to reach the quarterfinals. There I’d expect him to face the home young gun Coric, who has to beat Granollers, and then Mate Delic/Aljaz Bedene in round 2. Bedene is in good form, but Coric should be the superior player.
Given it’s in Croatia, I have the young gun Coric scoring a minor upset ranking wise over RBA, who has been down this year, and reaching the semifinals.
Andreas Seppi, who has had consistent success in Umag before, will open with Joao Sousa or wild card Toni Androic, Sousa, who had a succesful Davis Cup weekend, reached a clay final before RG, and should defeat Androic, but Seppi will be a tougher opponent. That said he’s a poor 0-2 on clay this year while Sousa is 8-7, and I have the Portugese scoring an upset to reach the quarterfinals. Fognini/Vesely will face Damir Dzumhur/Lukas Rosol round 2, Rosol is probably a slight favorite to reach round 2, but I’d figure Fognini would be in the quarters if he doesn’t implode.
Fognini has a clay court h2h win over Sousa, and he’s the better clay courter, but once again it depends on his head as to whether he will reach the semifinals and beyond.
Joao Sousa, and Jiri Vesely could both make runs this week, but AHM is actually a small favorite to reach the quarters in my book. The 28 year old has semifinal and a quarterfinal on clay this year, and Umag should be another place he takes advantage of a weak draw and bursts through to the semis as long as Thiem struggles as expected.
Monfils d. Haider-Maurer
Coric d. Fognini
Monfils beat AHM in Stuttgart this year on grass and he’s the better player all around, thus I expect him, or Kohlschreiber, to reach the final. Last year in Umag Fognini beat Coric, but given their recent form I have that result reversing itself and Coric reaching an ATP final on home soil.
Monfils d. Coric
Monfils and Coric have never met, but if the Frenchman reaches the final he should be the favorite given his abilities.
Claro Open Colombia
ATP World Tour 250
July 20-July 26, 2015
Prize Money: $683,515
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Ivo Karlovic (24)
2: Bernard Tomic (25)
3: Adrian Mannarino (35)
4: Victor Estrella (43)
Once again Bogota lacks a big name, or even a top 20 player, making it one of the weaker 250 level events on tour.
First round matchups to watch:
Alejandro Falla vs. Rajeev Ram
There are a host of weak, and disinteresting R1 matchups in Bogota, but this one has the potential to be worth a watch. Ram, normally a doubles specialist these days, and a journeyman in singles, once again found his serve and volley form on grass in Newport and took the title. Falla is playing on home soil and tends to do well with the altitude. His form isn’t great, but he does well in Bogota, and with that in mind he probably will defeat a tired Ram, unless his serve and volley works again.
Ivo Karlovic has a title in Bogota and is 8-1 at the tournament, his big serve consistently seems to find success in the quick conditions, and he should serve past the winner of Pere Riba/Daniel Elahi Galan, a wild card, to setup a quarterfinal meeting with Sam Groth. Groth, another big server who volleys to go along with that, helped Australia reach the Davis Cup semis, and like Karlovic comes off of grass, though jetlag and fatigue may be an issue. His round 1 match against dirtballer Guido Pella looks easy on paper, and if he wins that, he should beat serve and volleyer Radek Stepanek, or Edouard Roger-Vasselin round 2. Stepanek really seems to be struggling at his advanced age, so I have Groth over ERV in round 2.
Karlovic should beat Groth do the fact his similar playstyle is slightly superior, and he should be less fatigued. Expect two or three tiebreaks honestly. Karlovic was the finalist in Newport and lost in a final round tiebreak.
Adrian Mannarino will face the Ram/Falla winner in round 2, the Newport quarterfinalist is a solid 13-6 on hard courts this year while Falla is just 4-4, it’s hard to pick against Falla in Bogota given the unique conditions, but Mannarino with his loopy game should have enough to get through that match and reach the quarters. There he will face one of Malek Jaziri/Austin Krajicek/John Millman/Qualifier, as a qualifier could well reach the quarters. Jaziri struggles to stay in shape, Krajicek is struggling in general, and Millman has always had talent but has failed to live up to expectations. I have Millman beating Jaziri in round 2 to reach the quarters, and then Mannarino beating Millman to reach the semis.
Bernard Tomic, who crashed out of Newport, then was arrested in Miami, got bailed out, and is now playing in Bogota, will face Adrian Menendez-Maceiras/Alejandro Gonzalez round 2. Tomic is the defending champion, and a talented tennis player, but with all of the turmoil in his personal life, I’m not sure he’ll do much more than collect a check here. AMM is better than the home Colombian Gonzalez on hard courts (and AG has DC fatigue), and I have him beating Tomic as well because of the personal issues.
If healthy and fit, Marcos Baghdatis should benefit, the 5 seed opens with a qualifier, then Tatsuma Ito, a journeyman, or a qualifier, in round 2. Baghdatis has the talent and the game to reach the semis and he’s 11-7 on hard courts this year, thus I have him beating a qualifier, and Ito, then Menendez or Tomic to reach the semis.
Victor Estrella, who tends to play well in South America, and isn’t a bad hard court player, though he prefers clay, will open with Nico Barrientos, a wild card, or Yuichi Sugita. Estrella should be able to reach the semis, presuming a successful Davis Cup weekend didn’t fatigue him, and improve on his 0-4 hard court record this year. After his opening match, he’ll face either James Ward/Michael Berrer or hard courter Illya Marchenko. Berrer should beat tired Davis Cupper Ward with his serve and volley game, and I also have him slipping past Marchenko before falling to Estrella.
Any number of players could break through this week, but you can’t count Falla out on home soil in the unique high altitude conditions of Bogota. Even when his form has been poor and he’s been a run of the mill player, he tends to find success here and if he beats Mannarino anything could happen.
Karlovic d. Mannarino
Baghdatis d. Estrella
Karlovic beat Mannarino in Bogota in 2013, and this year in Delray Beach, both on hard courts. Baghdatis should win the battle of the veterans in the semis, and benefit from Tomic’s personal problems to reach the final.
Baghdatis is 2-0 against Karlovic this year, but in these quick and hot conditions Dr. Ivo should take advantage and serve up another Bogota title after his disappointment of dropping the final in Newport.
2015 ATP Bastad Preview
Skistar Swedish Open
ATP World Tour 250
July 20-July 26, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: David Goffin (14)
2: Tommy Robredo (21)
3: Pablo Cuevas (27)
4: Juan Monaco (30)
Bastad draws a top 20 player and has a solid 250 level field for clay.
First round matchups to watch:
(5)Fernando Verdasco vs. Nicolas Almagro
A battle of Spanish veterans, the big hitters have met plenty of times, and last year they split meetings, with Verdasco having an overall h2h advantage. Verdasco also won their 2013 Bastad quarterfinal meeting and given Almagro’s relatively poor recent form, I’d tip him as having the edge to win this match too to extend his h2h record.
(6)Thomaz Bellucci vs. (WC)Elias Ymer
Geneva champ Thomaz Bellucci will look to continue his clay court 250 level success in Bastad, and he’ll be facing off with young Swede Elias Ymer. Ymer has won a challenger title on clay this year and he’s a relatively solid all-courter but he’s still learning and adapting to the ATP level, and thus Bellucci is the favorite.
Luca Vanni vs. Albert Ramos
A struggling Luca Vanni will face an in-form Albert Ramos in a battle of clay courters. Vanni has broken through to the ATP level this year with serve and slice game, while Ramos’s top spin game has been doing damage on the challenger tour on clay. Presuming he’s fit enough, Ramos should advance from this interesting match.
David Goffin will face off with Benoit Paire or wild card Markus Eriksson in round 2, presuming Paire prevails, he has a 1-1 h2h with Goffin and given Goffin’s excellent form as of late, including in Davis Cup, he should at least reach the quarterfinals. There he could face Almagro/Verdasco unless the young Argentine Diego Schwartzman spoils the party. Schwartzman opens with Denis Istomin, and though he should win that given it’s clay, his poor loss in Davis Cup over the weekend suggest to me Verdasco has the inside track for the quarters. Verdasco has two h2h wins over Goffin, but the Belgian is in better form, and thus I have him ousting the 2013 finalist to reach the semis.
Defending champion Pablo Cuevas is solid on clay and should defeat Federico Delbonis/qualifier, and then Daniel Gimeno-Traver in the quarterfinals. DGT has had a solid season, but he’s not in the best of form right now, while Darcis comes off of Davis Cup duty but normally doesn’t favor clay. Cuevas’s likely round 2 opponent Delbonis normally doesn’t perform strongly at the ATP level though he likes clay, while Jerzy Janowicz, who DGT could face round 2, presuming he beats a qualifier, is in poor spirits right now and doesn’t prefer clay with a 1-4 record this year on the surface. He also comes off a fatigue inducing Davis Cup weekend.
Cuevas is 2-0 against DGT in the h2h and overall superior in ranking, talent, and on this surface, thus I have him in the semis. Both Cuevas and Delbonis played Davis Cup this weekend, and fatigue could be what limits the Cuevas result.
Two-time Champion Tommy Robredo comes off of Davis Cup duty and could be slayed by the Ramos/Vanni winner right off the bat. Ramos beat Robredo in Bastad in 2013, and I think he will repeat that showing given the veteran’s poor form as of late. In the quarters, it should be Ramos vs. Jeremy Chardy, who opens with a qualifier, unless Ernests Gulbis somehow catches fire. The Latvian who has now slumped outside the top 80, opens with Turk Marsel Ilhan, and then should face Chardy round 2. Chardy beat Gulbis this year in Marseille (2-3 h2h) and his clay court abilities should be enough to reach the quarters.
Ramos has a h2h win over Chardy, and with his better form I have the Spaniard in the semis.
Pico Monaco will face a qualifier or Alex Zverev in round 2 and his 13-8 clay court record this year should be enough to defeat Zverev. After that Bellucci is the favorite for the quarters presuming Ymer doesn’t trip him up. Neither wild card Christian Lindell or Joao Souza appear to be a difficult round 2 opponent. Monaco and Bellucci have a split 2-2 h2h, and I have Bellucci advancing by a small margin for the semis.
Dark Horse: Albert Ramos
The unseeded Ramos could catch fire and take this clay court title presuming he can beat Robredo and use that to power himself through to the semis. Bellucci/Monaco will be beatable in the semis, and from there anything could happen.
Goffin d. Cuevas
Bellucci d. Ramos
Goffin is in better form than what would be a tired Cuevas and Bellucci beat Ramos this year in Geneva on clay.
2015 ATP Istanbul Preview Steen Kirby and Ahmet Fevzi Guclu, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic is pleased to have credentialed media coverage of the inaugural ATP Istanbul tournament, held in the suburbs of diverse, and modern city of Istanbul, Turkey. For years, Turkey has done the tennis world a service by having a variety of futures and challenger tour events, and now they have the ATP event they deserve, and this one of course is on clay, part of the European spring clay court season. We will have daily reports and interviews from the tournament all week long.
2015 ATP Istanbul Preview
TEB BNP Paribas Open
ATP World Tour 250
April 27-May 3, 2015
Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (2)
2: Grigor Dimitrov (11)
3: Pablo Cuevas (23)
4: Santiago Giraldo (31)
Istanbul has two top players, and the seed cutoff is 61, not bad for a maiden ATP event.
Ilhan, the top Turkish ATP player, who reached a career high ranking this year inside the top 80, has a chance to score a win against Nieminen, an accomplished but struggling veteran at the moment. Ilhan reached a clay court final at a challenger in Turkey, and also won a round in Barcelona before losing to Feliciano Lopez in a third set tiebreak. He has a positive record on clay at a lower level than ATP, and also reached the quarters in Dubai this year on hard court. Nieminen has lost two straight, and has yet to win consecutive matches since the AO. Given his experience, Nieminen is a slight favorite, but he’s not at his best on clay, and Ilhan should have home support that should be a boost to him.
Damir Dzumhur vs. (WC)Andrey Rublev
A battle of young guns, the 22 year old Dzumhur was a semifinalist in Casablanca, and also has a challenger title on clay this year. Rublev shocked Fernando Verdasco as a qualifier in Barcelona and is in good form, he also pushed Fabio Fognini to 3 sets in the next round. This year, the 17 year old already has 3 ATP main draw wins, and he’s rising up the ranks. Dzumhur has more experience, but Rublev has a higher ceiling, and I see him advancing from this matchup.
AHM just beat Dodig in 3 sets in Bucharest (6-4 in the third), and they will get a rematch a few days later. As expected, their matchup in Bucharest was quite the battle, and both guys should be itching to go at it again. AHM has seen some of the best results of his career this season, while Dodig continues to struggle, though he’s foguth hard in most of his matches this season. AHM should be the fave but I again expect it to be close.
Roger Federer is a strong favorite here, even though he lost in Monte Carlo to Monfils, and he will open with the Ilhan/Nieminen winner. If Ilhan wins, our on-site reporter Ahmet Fevzi Guclu expects the crowd to be split between the home favorite Turk and the fan favorite Federer, that said, Federer should ease into the quarters, and also dispatch most likely Daniel Gimeno-Traver to reach the semis.
DGT opens with 19 year old Turkish wild card Cem Ilkel, and similar to the journeyman Haider-Maurer, he’s had a surprise career year, late in his career. He reached the final in Casablanca, and the semis in Bucharest, and has wins over Jiri Vesely, Viktor Troicki, and Gilles Simon in the past few weeks. After Ilkel, his opponent will be either Mikhail Kukushkin, or a qualifier, and Thanasi Kokkinakis is lurking in the qualifying draw. Kukushkin is just 2-3 in his last five matches on clay, so he’s vulnerable to a defeat, DGT has won their last two meetings on clay, and hence he’s the favorite for the quarters, in this weak section.
4 seed Santiago Giraldo will be vulnerable to defeat against the Dzumhur/Rublev winner, after a career year last year, he’s been average at best this season, even on clay. I still have him going through in my own bracket, but that round 2 match should be competitive. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman will open with a qualifier, and then the Steve Darcis/Jurgen Melzer winner. Neither Melzer nor Darcis are in good form, Darcis may have the slightest of edges though as Melzer has struggled for quite a while. Schwartzman qualified in Monte Carlo but has been forgettable on clay this year, with just 1 main draw win on the surface (1-6), again he may be vulnerable to being upset by a qualifier. Giraldo may well make the semis if he can survive his round 2 match, simply because the section below is so unreliable, thus I have him in the semis over Darcis.
2 seed Grigor Dimitrov has not had a good season in 2015, but he still should be good enough to beat Nikoloz Basilashvili or Andrey Golubev in his opening match. Golubev is on a three match losing streak, and Basilashvili, who won his first ATP match earlier this year, has lost two straight, he’s primarily a challenger player though he’s been rising onto the fringe of the ATP level. Golubev is a slight fave to win that match, but should have little chance against Dimitrov. Look for Andreas Haider-Maurer to reach the quarters, with wins over Dodig and Dusan Lajovic/qualifier. Lajovic is 5-5 on clay this season, but he’s just 1-2 in his last three matches on the surface. AHM and Dimitrov have never played before, but the Monte Carlo quarterfinalist Dimitrov should advance to the semis given the talent discrepancy.
Pablo Cuevas will face Andrey Kuznetsov or a qualifier in round 2, he lost in round 2 of Barcelona, as did Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov, who qualified in Monte Carlo as well, should beat the qualifier, but Cuevas will be the favorite in their first head-to-head meaning, again given the difference in ranking and ability. In the quarters, Cuevas could face a difficult opponent, either Thomaz Bellucci or Benoit Paire. Bellucci will open with Mikhail Youzhny, who won a match in Bucharest before falling in round 2. Bellucci has won their last two meetings, and given how poor Youzhny has been this season, I expect him to do so for a third consecutive time. The Brazilian also won a round in Barcelona. Benoit Paire, who qualified in Monte Carlo, won a round, and then won two matches in Barcelona as well, will open against the struggling Denis Istomin. Bellucci and Paire have never met, but given current form, I have Paire winning to reach the quarters, and then upsetting Cuevas to reach the semis. They have never met before.
Dark Horse: Benoit Paire
Paire has always had the talent, and he’s reached two previous ATP finals (former top 30), however his mental side has been what is unreliable, along with a poor forehand. He’s rounding back into form this year and is nearly back in the top 70, with recent improvement in results, this 250 level event is where he can finally shine and announce his return to the main tour spotlight. Istomin, Bellucci, and Cuevas are all beatable in order, and Dimitrov is a weaker seed than Federer, in the bottom half. That would be a monumental upset ranking wise, but Paire has beaten Dimitrov twice before (2-1 h2h), giving him a dark horse shot at an ATP final.
Semis: Federer d. Giraldo
Dimitrov d. Paire
Federer is 2-0 against Giraldo, though they have never met on clay, and as mentioned, Dimitrov has a negative h2h against Paire, but still has to be the favorite to prevail, as he’s developed better in the past couple of years.
Final: Federer d. Dimitrov
Fed routined Dimitrov in Brisbane this year, and is 3-0 against him, Dimitrov has never taken a set against a more accomplished player of a similar style, and thus he should take this 250 title.
2015 ATP Barcelona and Bucharest Preview/Prediction Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The European spring journey continues for the players of the ATP world tour with clay court events in both Barcelona, Spain, and Bucharest, Romania, with Barca a 500 series event, and Bucharest, one of the few ATP events in Eastern Europe, a 250.
2015 ATP Barcelona Preview
Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell
ATP World Tour 500
April 20-April 26, 2015
Prize Money: €1,993,230
Top 8 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (4)
2: Rafael Nadal (5)
3: David Ferrer (7)
4: Marin Cilic (10)
5: Feliciano Lopez (12)
6: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14)
7: Roberto Bautista Agut (16)
8: Ernests Gulbis (18)
Four of the top 10 will be playing in Barcelona, and the top 8 seeds are all top 20 players for a strong 500 level field.
First round matchups to watch:
Alex Dolgopolov vs. Joao Sousa
Dolgopolov has played relatively well in the past few weeks, but he remains a streaky highlight reel generator, he’s the favorite against the streaky Portuguese player Joao Sousa, who can struggle for weeks, but puts together a great tournament from time to time. Both these players hit the ball relatively hard from the ground, and they are solid movers, thus creating an interesting matchup, I have Dolgo winning in straights but upset potential is there.
Thiem is the favorite without a doubt, but don’t count the veteran Estrella out, as he’s known for the ability to put up the occasional heroic performance. He’s a great mover, while Thiem, though he rounded into form in Miami, lost his opening match in Monte Carlo on clay, and has been unpredictably poor this year. Estrella retired in his last match in Monte Carlo against David Ferrer, so his physical condition is in question. As I said, I expect Thiem to prevail, but it’s still an interesting matchup.
Benoit Paire vs. (Q)Jaume Munar
Benoit Paire, who used to be considered a young gun, will take on one of the unheralded young guns coming onto the tour slowly but surely, 17 year old Spaniard Jaume Munar, who qualified to reach the main draw. Munar just recently turned pro, and was a former top 5 junior who reached the French Open Junior final in 2014, I’m interested to see what he can do against the technically talented but mentally weak Paire, who has a world class backhand, but a futures level forehand. It’s a winnable matchup for sure, though Paire has played well on the challenger tour in 2015.
Fernando Verdasco vs. (Q)Andrey Rublev
Former Barcelona champion Fernando Verdasco will take on the player Munar lost to in that RG junior final in 2014, Andrey Rublev, a more recognizable young gun who won ATP matches in both Delray Beach and Miami, and then qualified to reach the main draw here. At 17, the combustible Rublev may be less mentally stable than even Verdasco, but he has all the weapons to make this a match, and he could at least take a set. Verdasco of course has the world class forehand and he reached the semis in Houston, along with a round 1 loss to Grigor Dimitrov in Monte Carlo. Once again, look for the favorite to win but the challenger to put up a more competitive contest than expected.
Kei Nishikori snapped Rafael Nadal’s chokehold on this tournament last year, as the defending champion, who is also ranked higher than the king of clay, will begin his clay court season in Barcelona and work on keeping his ranking trending upwards. It should be a relatively easy start for Nishikori, who went 10-2 on clay last year, as he will open with Pablo Carreno Busta or Teymuraz Gabashvili, both of whom have struggled in 2015. After that, Nishikori could get a shotmakers match with Alex Dolgopolov in the round of 16.
Dolgo will need to beat Sousa, and then defending finalist Santiago Giraldo, who has struggled in 2015 to set that up. Giraldo has their lone clay h2h win, but is 1-3 in the overall h2h, and he comes off quarterfinals in Houston, while Dolgopolov won a round in Monte Carlo before losing to the in-form Gael Monfils in a close contest. Regardless, Nishikori beat Giraldo in the final here last year, and he is a perfect 3-0 with no sets dropped against Dolgopolov, including a win this year in Acapulco against the man from Ukraine.
In the quarters the road is unlikely to get easier for Nishikori to defend his title, as Pablo Cuevas and Roberto Bautista Agut are the primary contenders in the section below. Cuevas won an ATP title on clay in Sao Paulo earlier in the year, and is making his European debut this year, he should be able to ease past either the struggling JL Struff or the struggling Roberto Carballes Baena, a wild card in the second round. RBA won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo, and appears to be playing a bit better than he was earlier this year, where deficiencies in his game were evident. He will open with most likely Thomaz Bellucci, one of the dangerous non-seeds in this draw who beat RBA on clay in Davis Cup last year.
Bellucci will need to beat qualifier Yuichi Sugita in round 1, and is a poor 3-6 on clay in 2015, that said, hes a streaky player who can catch form, so though I picked RBA to face off with Cuevas, Bellucci has a chance here. In that match between Cuevas-RBA, I’m going with an upset and have Cuevas into the quarters, he makes his living on clay and his game has steadily been improving over the past few months.
As for the match between Cuevas-Nishikori, Nishikori has a h2h win on clay, and he’s the better player, nothing indicates to me he will struggle presently, even though he hasn’t been red hot, and I don’t think Cuevas will have the weapons and skill needed to win that matchup, thus putting Kei into the semis.
4 seed Marin Cilic, who reached the quarters in a Monte Carlo surprise, will open with the Estrella/Thiem winner, if he struggles, Thiem could very well pull an upset and give him trouble, however his solid play in Monte Carlo gives me the confidence to say he will win that, given Thiem has likewise been erratic this season, and one would have to think Cilic, who is coming off of injury, can only improve as he gets more matches under his belt.
Casablanca champ Martin Klizan could stop Cilic in his tracks in the third round though, Klizan will need to beat Juan Monaco, who cooled down in Monte Carlo, and lost in the second round after previously showing good form. Monaco should defeat the struggling Alejandro Gonzalez however in round 1. What bodes well for Cilic’s chances is he’s 3-0 against Klizan, but they have never met on clay, and that’s a swing matchup to me, but I’m picking Cilic to go into the quarters.
Cilic/Klizan/Monaco/Thiem are almost certain to face either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Tommy Robredo in the quarters, as the section below Cilic is a weaker one. Robredo will face either Joao Souza or Mikhail Kukushkin, neither of whom are in good form, in round 2, while Tsonga has Marinko Matosevic or Marcel Granollers, two more out of form players. Tsonga is 3-2 this year, while Robredo won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo but has overall not played that great this year, it’s a hard match to pick, but Tsonga has more upside potential, and thus I’m going with him to reach the quarters and face Cilic in a rematch of their Monte Carlo match that Cilic won, given that result, a Nishikori vs. Cilic semifinal seems most likely in the top half.
Rafa Nadal is the undisputed king of Barcelona with a 42-2 record at the tournament, and 8 titles, but he lost here last year and right off the bat he has a chance to get revenge against the player he lost to, Nicolas Almagro, who opens with journeyman Paolo Lorenzi in round 1. Nadal comes off the semis in Monte Carlo, where he did well against all of his opponents except the world number 1 Djokovic, while Almagro was last a quarterfinalist in Casablanca. Nadal beat Almagro in Miami 4 and 2, and as I said should be hungry for revenge, so I really don’t expect that to be much of a match, given that the performance Almagro turned in 2014 was once in a lifetime.
Look for Nadal against Verdasco/Rublev in round 3, the seed is Fabio Fognini, but his singles game is challenger level right now (1-6 since reaching the Rio final), and Verdasco is solid enough to win especially given the 3-1 h2h. Verdasco of course shocked Nadal in Miami, and he will do his best to try do it again, however, on clay the advantage should swing further towards Nadal, and thus he should be able to reach the quarters at one of his best events.
Feliciano Lopez will player either qualifier James Ward or Marsel Ilhan, though he’s not elite on clay, he still should be good enough to win that round 2 match and setup a match with either Leo Mayer or Albert Ramos/Pablo Andujar. Ramos has been in good form in the past few tournaments, while Mayer has been struggling. Ramos leads the h2h with Mayer 3-2, but Mayer beat him in Sao Paulo this year.
Andujar has beaten Ramos before as well and they are similar ball spinning dirtballers as an aside and Ramos has been in better form, giving him the edge. I have Ramos beting Mayer, and then Lopez to reach the quarters, Ramos has a 2-0 h2h edge with Lopez, and he is a better clay court player, so given the surface, the lower ranked Spaniard has to be the favorite. Nadal has beaten Ramos twice before in Barcelona, and he should do so again to reach the semis.
David Ferrer will face wild card Albert Montanes, a journeyman veteran, or Ricardas Berankis, a former top junior turned journeyman, in the opening round. He has never won in Barcelona but he’s reached the final four previous times, and he comes off a quarterfinal loss to Nadal in Monte Carlo. Ferru has been peak this season and I expect him to blow past Montanes/Berankis and also Nick Kyrgios, the 16 seed, to reach the round of 16. Kyrgios is returning to tour from a back injury, and has limited experience on clay. In fact, the young gun may well lose to qualifier Thiemo De Bakker, or fellow young gun wild card Elias Ymer in round 2, De Bakker has been reliable in ATP qualifying this season an seems breakthrough ready. I have Ferrer beating Montanes, and De Bakker to reach the round of 16.
12 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber is the favorite for the quarterfinals in the weakest section of the draw. The wheels have come off for the 8 seed Ernests Gulbis, who badly needs to be back gaining confidence and form with his new coaching team on the challenger tour, rather than continuing to self-destruct at the ATP level. He was a cacophony of errors in a blowout loss in Monte Carlo, and I don’t see the bleeding stopping against the Munar/Paire winner, though it could. The 17 year old Munar actually has a realistic path to the third round, but I have it Paire vs. Kohlschreiber, after Kohli beats Andrey Kuznetsov, who will face Marton Fucsovics, a qualifier, in round 1. Kuznetsov qualified in Monte Carlo, while Kohli is 2-2 in his last four matches, and won a round in Monte Carlo.
Paire and Kohli have a 2-2 h2h, though Paire won the last two meetings, and Paire has a dark horse chance to reach the quarters if his game is on, he qualified in Monte Carlo and has played well at the challenger level, as mentioned. No matter if it’s Kohlschreiber or Paire in the quarters, Ferrer should reach the semis, he’s 2-0 against Kohli on clay (8-2 overall), and 3-0 overall against Paire.
Dark Horse: Benoit Paire
Albert Ramos, who I have reaching the quarters, is another dark horse candidate, but Paire gets the official designation because his run would be less likely, but more interesting. He has all the talent and the tools, but with his weak mental approach to the game, he slipped down the rankings, and now newly focused he seems to be working his way back, a run to the quarters in a weak section would be a great way to announce to the rest of the tennis world that he’s back in the game.
Cilic famously won the US Open final over Nishikori, but Kei won their clay court meeting in Barcelona, and he’s an overall 5-3 h2h leader, given the fact Nishikori is stroking the ball, while Cilic is just returning from injury, Kei is the fave.
Nadal just beat Ferrer in Monte Carlo, and almost always has, so again he’s the pick.
Nadal d. Nishikori
This is the matchup just about everyone wants this week, and I have a feeling they will get it, Nadal has a 7-0 h2h on his side, though their only clay court meeting was basically a draw as Nishikori took the first set and then hurt himself and had to retire midway through the third set in Madrid. He also has all the positive history in Barca on his side, and home fans, but Nishikori has been rising while Nadal has been in decline over the past 18 months, and Nishikori is now ranked higher than the Spanish veteran. Both players are pure ball strikers, while Nadal hits with tons more spin of course, and both fly movement wise, it’s a more even matchup than the h2h would suggest, but I feel like Nadal, who showed signs of improvement in Monte Carlo, will find a way to get it done and take the title this week.
Troicki is more accomplished than Gimeno-Traver, who just reached his first ATP final in Casablanca and he has a 5-0 head to head edge (3-0 on clay including 2-0 last year), but still DGT playe some surprisingly good tennis to reach that Casablanca final, and should have some positive momentum. Troicki is an even 2-2 in his last four, and that pretty much sums up his 2015 season thus far, some good results with losses mixed in, and he’s still looking to do better. He should win, but an upset is possible.
Borna Coric vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky
Stako crushed a listless Coric in Zagreb 2 and 4 earlier this season, but Coric has been improving since that loss, and he comes off a tough loss to Alex Dolgopolov in 3 sets in Monte Carlo. Stako lost to Tomas Berdych and is 1-3 in his last four, though he was playing some of the best tennis of his career earlier in the year. Given this is clay, Coric should win, but who knows if that h2h will hang over his head.
(7)Jiri Vesely vs. Diego Schwartzman
Vesely and Schwartzman, two young guns, have never met, and both can play their best tennis on clay. Vesely snapped an atrocious losing streak an reached the semis in Casablanca, but he promptly lost in Monte Carlo to Juan Monaco, while Schwartzman qualified and lost to Jeremy Chardy in the opening round. Vesely is favord, and more accomplished, but DSS has a great chance and I have him winning this matchup personally.
Ivan Dodig vs Andreas Haider-Maurer
AHM is nearly a top 50 player now, as the Austrian journeyman has been outdoing himself, primarily on clay, this year. Dodig, who has won twice, and lost twice to the Austrian, is still languishing just inside the top 100, though he has the skill to be much better than that. AHM is 4-2 in his last six, while Dodig is playing his first tournament since a gut wrenching loss to David Ferrer in an Indian Wells thriller. Dodig showed flashes of renewed top 50 ability in that match, and it will be intriguing to see if that shows up in Bucharest,even with AHM the favorite.
Three time champ Gilles Simon is likely to get an interesting opening match with Janko Tipsarevic, who gets a wild card for this tournament, his second since returning to the tour after a lengthy injury layoff. Tipsarevic will need to beat a qualifier, but if the reaches the second round, just as he did in Houston, he’ll have a shot at upsetting Simon for just the third time in what would be their eleventh meeting. The clay h2h is 1-1, but Simon leads 8-2 in the overall h2h, and given form, Simon will be a strong favorite. Simon is 6-3 in his last three tournaments, and has only lost to top 10 players (Ferrer x2 including Monte Carlo, and Nadal) in that span. Look for Simon to beat another Serb, Viktor Troicki, who he has a 5-0 h2h with, in the quarters. Troicki will need to beat DGT and the struggling Denis Istomin or a qualifier.
3 seed Ivo Karlovic isn’t the favorite to reach the semis in his section, that would be Borna Coric most likely, presuming he can beat Stakhovsky. While he isn’t going to be used to the Karlovic serve, as one would expect, clay slows it down to some extent, and thus it’s Dr. Ivo’s worst surface, and the one Coric is most likely to beat him on. Below Coric/Stakhovsky/Karlovic is Vesely/Schwartzman, along with former champ Florian Mayer, and Malek Jaziri. Mayer won his comeback match against Mikhail Youzhny in Monte Carlo before losing to Marin Cilic in 3 sets, and given he played pretty well, I have him beating both Jaziri an Schwartzman to setup a quarterfinal with Coric. It will be youth and form against experience, and wit, as funky flo is a difficult player to deal with given his wonky, tactically smart gamestyle. I’m going with the youth and talent of Coric to shine through at this 250, and have him reaching the semis.
Monte Carlo semifinalist Gael Monfils, who beat both Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov in the rich man’s paradise will start his Bucharest campaign against a player in terrible form, either the should be retired Mikhail Youzhny, or the challenger player Marius Copil awaits. Even if he’s fatigued, as it seems he was in his Monte Carlo semi, I still expect him to win that. Either AHM/Dodig or Simone Bolelli/Andrey Golubev await in the quarters. Given this is clay, Bolelli should prevail over Golubev. Bolelli and AHM have a 1-1 h2h, but Bolelli lost to Victor Estrella in Monte Carlo and is playing poorer than AHM at the moment, so I have a Haider-Maurer vs. Monfils quarter, with Monfils advancing unless he injures himself or is too tired to stand.
Former champ Lukas Rosol will open against Dusan Lajovic or a qualifier, with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez likely in the quarters. Rosol beat GGL in the 2013 final and he comes off a round 1 loss in Monte Carlo. GGL was shocked by Lamine Ouahab in Casablanca and is on a two match losing streak, in fact hes just 2-5 since winning the Zagreb title. GGL will need to snap that losing streak an beat a qualifier, then Steve Darcis/Marcos Baghdatis to reach the quarters. In an interesting stats note, Baghdatis hasn’t won a clay match since 2012, and Darcis, though he’s a serve and volleyer, is actually relatively solid on the surface. GGL is 3-1 against Darcis, and thus he’s still the fave even with his struggles. Rosol is streaky and very unreliable, but I’m going with the h2h and have him beating GGL for a spot in the semis.
Coric could take the title this week, Stakhovsky, a serve and volleyer, Karlovic, a big server, and possibly Mayer, a funky finesse technician all present unique matchup challenges, but Coric has a well rounded game, and the youthful energy to confront ech challenge and at least reach the semis. The reliability, yet blandness of Simon, is its own frustrating challenge, and he’s had such success at the tournament before, but you never know with Gillou, and likewise, Monfils, or anyone else on the bottom half is beatable if Borna plays well and his opponents do not, we could well see a teenage ATP champion this week.
Simon d. Coric
Monfils d. Rosol
As mentioned, Coric will need to be patient against Simon, and I’m not sure he can manage that quite yet, in their Marseille h2h meeting, Coric struggled at the start, took the second, but then lost in three, plus he should be more fatigued, thus I give Simon the edge.
Monfils won a Davis Cup match against Rosol, and this tournament is on his racquet given how well he played in Monte Carlo, if he shows interest, he should be a near lock to reach the final, as nobody is near his level on the bottom half.
Simon d. Monfils
Simon beat Monfils in Marseille this year, and also won their clay court meeting (5-1 h2h), they play what is one of the highest average rally length matchups in tennis, and though Monfils should win Bucharest this week given his level, I don’t trust him enough, and I’m going with the more reliable Simon, especially given the h2h, and the win this year.
2015 ATP Monte Carlo Preview, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The spring European clay court season begins in earnest with the third masters event of the season, the Monte-Carlo Masters in the wealthy seaside playground of Monte-Carlo, Monaco. It’s not a mandatory masters, but all the same most of the top players are participating.
2015 ATP Monte Carlo Preview
Monte Carlo Rolex Masters ATP World Tour Masters 1000
April 12-April 19, 2014
Prize Money: €3,288,530
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Rafael Nadal (5)
4: Milos Raonic (6)
5: David Ferrer (7)
6: Tomas Berdych (8)
7: Stan Wawrinka (9)
8: Marin Cilic (10)
15 of the top 20 are in the MC field, with notable exceptions Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Feliciano Lopez.
AHM and Gulbis have a split h2h record, but shockingly AHM beat Gulbis on hard court, which is not his surface, and Gulbis has the win on clay, both matches being competitive. Gulbis is higher ranked and the seed here, but this is not as much of a mismatch as it seems on paper. AHM has had a relatively good season on clay, as he comes off a quarterfinal showing in Casablanca and also reached the semis in Rio. Gulbis has only won 1 match this year, hasn’t played on clay, and though he posted a remarkable 17-5 record on the surface last year, he’s not playing anywhere near that level at the moment, with his game entirely lacking confidence and belief at the moment. In theory a return to clay could help Gulbis post resurgent results, but I’m picking Haider-Maurer to continue Ernests misery this season and advance into round 2.
Dominic Thiem vs. (WC)Lucas Pouille
Thiem is the favorite and should win this, but both players are 21 year old young guns with great promise and it’s an intriguing matchup. Thiem started the season off slow but still has two quarterfinals, including one in Miami, and he went 16-7 in clay court tournaments last year (12-7 at the ATP level) after going 46-12 on clay in 2013 at all levels. Pouille went 23-14 on clay last year, primarily at the challenger level and has an ATP semi (Auckland) and a challenger semi from last week on his 2015 resume. He’s an intriguing talent who can hit a wide variety of shots, especially on his forehand side, and he gave Gael Monfils quite the match in Australia. Thiem likely wins in straights, but enjoy it if it goes three sets, presently he’s the more well rounded and accomplished player, and his form in Miami bodes well for his clay court season.
Viktor Troicki vs. Martin Klizan
ATP Casablanca champion Martin Klizan will take on Troicki, a player four years his senior but similar in ranking and ability. Troicki beat Klizan in Sydney this year (2-2 h2h) and they have never met on clay. Troicki went just 1-2 on the hard court masters swing in the US but he has two quarterfinals and an ATP title (Sydney) on his record this year. Klizan just posted his best tournament of the season with the title in Monte Carlo. Last year Klizan went 23-6 on clay while Troicki went 25-4, though that was almost exclusively at the challenger level. Both are accomplished and talented, and given fatigue factor, I give Troicki a slight edge to advance.
These two ATP level American men have played twice before, with a split 1-1 h2h. This will be their first meeting on clay. Johnson comes off a loss to Sam Querrey in the second round of Houston and has slowed down a bit after a strong start to his season that featured three ATP quarterfinals and a third round showing at the AO. Isner by contrast caught fire after a terrible start to his season and went 6-2 between Indian Wells and Miami, only losing to Novak Djokovic twice. He suffered a shocking hangover loss to Teymuraz Gabashvili in Houston, but still he’s been able to maintain a positive clay court record over the past two years (8-5 in 2013 6-5 in 2014). Johnson comparably is still learning the surface, and thus Isner is the favorite but I could see this match going either way.
(16)Tommy Robredo vs. Andreas Seppi
Robredo is the higher ranked seed but he has not had a particularly strong season and he comes off two match losing streak coming into Monte Carlo, after previously going just 2-3 on the clay court golden swing. That said he’s still an accomplished veteran with great acumens on clay. Seppi has slowed down after a hot start to his season where he reached the final in Zagreb and also the round of 16 at the AO with a win over Federer. He’s just 3-4 since Zagreb and hasn’t had a positive tournament record on clay since 2012. h2h wise though Seppi is 2-1 on clay with a long h2h history (Robredo has won the last three meetings, one on clay, and two on hard courts both of which were last season). Given Robredo’s relative dearth of form this season, I’m going with Seppi in an upset.
(9)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Fernando Verdasco
Dimitrov is higher ranked but he’s struggled all season long, while Verdasco has been hot as of late. The Spanish veteran lefty reached the semis in Houston and is 6-3 over his last three tournaments with a win over Nadal in Miami. The h2h is 1-1 with Verdasco havng the clay court win, and both of their prior matches went 3 sets. Verdasco went 13-7 in 2014 on clay and 14-9 in 2013, while Dimitrov went 12-4 and 11-6, as this is a hard matchup to parse.That said, with the jetlag factor from Houston, I give Dimitrov the slightest of edges to advance and find some form on the red dirt after a poor winter/spring hard court season.
Borna Coric vs. Alex Dolgopolov
The 18 year old Coric is a dangerous talent and is likely to do damage on clay this year, that said he did not get the best of draw luck when he drew the in-form Dolgopolov in the opening round. Coric went 8-8 on clay in 2014 after going 14-4 in 2013 while Dolgopolov went 9-9 and 4-8 over the past two seasons on the surface, as fast surfaces likely favor his aggressive approach to tennis. That said Dolgo is 9-4 in his last four tournaments with three of those losses coming at the hands of top 10 players Nishikori, Raonic and Djokovic. He has two ATP quarterfinals in that span and a round of 16 in Miami, where he nearly beat Djokovic. Given his gilbert’s syndrome, Dolgopolov is always unpredictable, but I give him a slight edge to advance over Coric in this must see matchup that will feature big hitting.
Novak Djokovic, one of two Monte Carlo champions not named Rafael Nadal since 2005, and the world number 1 will start off against Denis Istomin or Albert Ramos. Ramos is a qualifier, and should be favored to beat the lucky loser Istomin. He suffered a shock loss in Casablanca round 1 but qualified with relative ease in MC, and he also gave Djokovic a good match on hard court in Indian Wells. Clay is his better surface, but still its Novak Djokovic, so at minimum Novak should get a decent test before the later rounds but a miracle can’t be expected from Ramos. Similarly I expect Djokovic to roll past either the Gulbis/AHM winner or Bernard Tomic. Tomic got past Lukas Rosol in 3 sets in one of the three Sunday main draw matches. He’s had a great season but he’s not a clay courter by any means, so should he beat AHM/Gulbis (AHM actually has a good chance at the third round) I still don’t expect him to get a set off of Novak.
Marin Cilic will open with Florian Mayer, as both of these players are on the comeback from injury path. Mayer had been out for 13 months, while Cilic was out for about 4, and did not play well in his comeback match against Juan Monaco in Indian Wells. Funky Flo just beat Mikhail Youzhny, who is in a terrible slump, on Sunday and the 31 year old is an accomplished clay court player who went 18-10 on clay in 2013, after missing the 2014 clay court season. That said Cilic went 11-6 on the surface last year, and he’s a more talented player all-around, so he should advance and find his form on the dirt.
However, the winner of this section is less likely to be Cilic, compared to the action at the top of it, with 11 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a one time semifinalist in MC, and David Goffin. Goffin went a remarkable 28-5 on clay last year (mostly at the challenger level) while Tsonga went 10-5, and just played his comeback tournament in Miami where he won a round and lost to Gael Monfils. Presuming Tsonga beats current Houston finalist Sam Querrey, and Goffin beats qualifier Norbert Gombos, it will setup a marquee second round matchup. Their h2h is 2-1 in favor of Tsonga but they have never met on clay, Goffin is 3-1 in his last four matches after a slow start to his year and with Tsonga still working into things, I’m going with Goffin in an upset, as I have him beating Tsonga, and then Cilic to reach the quarterfinals. Goffin and Cilic have never met.
Rafael Nadal will open with the Thiem/Pouille winner, the 8 time MC champion hasn’t won the title since 2012, and he’s not near the player he once was as of late. No matter, he has only lost on clay since 2013 to Nicolas Almagro, David Ferrer, Novak Djokovic, Fabio Fognini (this year in Rio), and randomly, Horacio Zeballos. Though he isn’t the player he was, he’s still the king of clay, and he destroyed Thiem at the French Open last year, conceding just 7 games over three sets. Thiem is almost certain to outdo that performance, and I don’t write him off entirely, but Nadal still should be able to get the opening round win, if he doesn’t, the decline is real and worsening. After Thiem/Pouille, Nadal is likely to face Troicki/Klizan. though Isner/Johnson are also in this section. Klizan beat Nadal last year on a hard court, so this section of the draw contains danger for Nadal, but Troicki is most likely to be his opponent, and Nadal is 4-0 against him (though they haven’t met since 2010 and all the matches were on hard courts). As an aside Troicki is 3-1 against Isner and has a clay court h2h win, which is part of the reason why he should advance. Look for Nadal to beat Thiem and Troicki to reach the quarters.
David Ferrer, a one time finalist in Monte-Carlo, who has had a great season with three ATP titles, including one on clay in Rio, will open with the veteran Victor Estrella, who beat Simone Bolelli in an upset on Sunday. Ferrer should have little trouble defeating him, and also 10 seed Gilles Simon to setup a matchup with Nadal that should prove to be quite interesting. Look for Simon, a former semifinalist, to demolish wild card Benjamin Ballaret, and then get past a qualifier, either Denis Kudla or Benoit Paire. Paire, who qualified with ease, has been improving his results and working his way back up the rankings from the challenger tour, after previously losing focus and seeing his career go to ruins, but Simon is still a step up in level. Paire is actually 3-1 against Simon and will certainly have his chance, but they have never met on clay. Simon is 5-3 in his last 8 matches, and lost to Ferrer in routine fashion in Miami.
Roger Federer will open with Jeremy Chardy/Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in the opening round. Chardy comes off a quarterfinal showing on clay in Houston, while DSS qualified comfortably after a shock loss in Casablanca in the opening round. I favor the young Argentine to upset Chardy, but Federer should demolish him, like he did in Indian Wells a month ago. The four-time finalist and world number 2 should be in for a test against 14 seed Gael Monfils in the third round, presuming Monfils beats qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov and the Coric/Dolgopolov winner. Monfils against either Coric or Dolgopolov, is a must-watch match, and he’s 2-0 against Dolgopolov with both matches coming on hard court. He’s never played well in MC (4-8 career record), but he’s still in a good form and has yet to suffer an opening round loss this season, with 1 quarterfinal, a semifinal, a final and a round of 16 in Miami on his record. Monfils upset Federer in Davis Cup play last winter but Federer is 4-1 against him on clay in his career, and thus should have the advantage in what is an exciting matchup.
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka looms in the section above Federer, Wawrinka is in atrocious form at the moment with losses to non-top 20 players Robin Haase, Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Adrian Mannarino on his record in his past three tournaments. He hasn’t played a straight set match since Marseille, and was the walking dead in the spring hard court Masters tournaments.Thus, though he is 30-10 over the past two seasons on clay, and he’s the defending champion, I have him losing to Juan Monaco in a second round upset. Monaco, who is in great form, and has had a career resurgence as of late, after being left for dead rankings wise, opens with Jiri Vesely, who broke a losing streak and reached the semifinals in Casablanca. That match will be a good warm up for Wawrinka, and though he is 0-3 (0-2) on clay against the Swiss, he’s a tremendous 10-3 over his last three tournaments with a quarterfinal in Miami, a final in Buenos Aires on clay, and also before that a quarterfinal in Rio on clay. It’s one of the bolder upsets I’ve picked in a while, but Wawrinka doesn’t appear to be fixing what is wrong with his game at the moment and Monaco is an in-form player and a clean ball striker who is in the right place at the right time and should frustrate Wawrinka.
The Wawrinka/Monaco winner is due to face either Dimitrov/Verdasco or Fabio Fognini/Jerzy Janowicz in round 3. This is a stacked and interesting section, as either Dimitrov over Verdasco could make a run, as could Monaco of course. Fognini is only competent on clay these days, as the headcase hasn’t won a match on hard courts this year, but did reach the final in Rio on clay and beat Nadal. Nobody knows how he will play, and likewise Janowicz is an emotional player, who was very much struggling but did win a couple of rounds in Miami. Clay doesn’t suit his power game as well though, so Fognini should win but I have him losing to Dimitrov in the next round (and I feel Verdasco would beat him as well). Dimi and Fogna have a 1-1 h2h. Monaco and Dimitrov have a 3-1 h2h in favor of Monaco, though Dimitrov won their last meeting on clay in 2013. It’s a difficult match to pick, but again I’m going with form and picking Monaco as a quarterfinalist.
4 seed Milos Raonic, who is better on clay than he gets credit for (11-5 last year and 18-10 over the past two seasons), will face Joao Sousa or qualifier Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the second round. ERV is in great form after qualifying, as he’s 8-2 in his last 10 matches, while Sousa has lost three straight. The Portugese number one, being European, is perceived to be better on clay than he actually is (just 7-13 in 2014 on the surface), and I have ERV winning in an upset. Raonic is 2-1 against ERV and beat him on clay so thus Milos should be safe to reach the third round. After that it will be Seppi/Robredo or Adrian Mannarino/Marcel Granollers. Presuming my prediction holds, Seppi should beat Robredo, and then have an easier time against Mannarino/Granollers. Mannarino is in great form and has an ATP final, a semi, and two round of 16s in the srping hard court Masters on his resume with wins over Wawrinka, Gulbis, Fognini and Bautista-Agut this season, while Granollers is slumping and retired in his last match in Casablanca, however Granollers is far and above better on clay, and he may have enough of a surface edge to prevail. Raonic has a lone hard court h2h win over Seppi, and all the same, even though it could be close, look for the Canadian to prevail and reach the quarters, he’s proven to be able to avoid losses against all but the top players with how reliable his serve+forehand power game is, even on clay.
8 seed Tomas Berdych will open with Sergiy Stakhovsky/Pablo Carreno Busta, both players are struggling and PCB has just 1 win since the AO, though he’s a clay courter, while Stako, who prefers fast surfaces is 2-3 in his last five and went just 3-6 on clay last year. I see PCB breaking his losing streak to win that match but Berdych should crush him. Both Benjamin Becker and Roberto Bautista Agut are struggling as well, RBA has lost three straight including a loss in Houston, but still he went 13-6 on clay last year, and Becker is a fast surface player so he should win that match. Philipp Kohlschreiber has had an awful season and has yet to string together consecutive match wins, but he is still the favorite to reach the third round. His opening round opponent Mikhail Kukushkin went just 5-10 on clay last year and retired in his last match in Casablanca (though he upset Albert Ramos in the previous round), and he has a 1-0 h2h with the similarly struggling RBA. He’s an accomplished clay courter who compiled a 29-17 record on the surface over the past two seasons, still Berdych should dispatch him to reach the quarters (8-1 h2h on top of everything else). Berdych went 11-6 last year and 9-6 in 2013 on clay. The Czech has had a great season with two ATP finals (Doha and Rotterdam), the AO semis, quarters in Miami, and two semis in Dubai and Indian Wells.
Dark Horses: David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, Andreas Seppi, Juan Monaco
As mentioned if Goffin beats Tsonga he becomes a small favorite to reach the quarters over Cilic or perhaps Mayer, Djokovic should prove too much for him that but that would still be a great result. Thiem would have to stun Nadal, but I don’t count him out, and I figure he has as good of a chance as Benoit Paire does of beating Simon and Ferrer consecutively, should Thiem upset Nadal he very well could, and likely should reach his second straight Masters quarterfinal.
Seppi has to upset Robredo to get the wheels in motion, but if he does, he should reach the round of 16, and you never now with Raonic if the Italian can hang in there with his serve. Monaco has to get past Wawrinka, but I think he does that, and then also upsets the 9 seed Dimitrov to setup a match with Federer in the quarters.
Djokovic d. Goffin
Nadal d. Ferrer
Berdych d. Raonic
Federer d. Monaco
Djokovic beat Goffin in straights at the French in 2013, Ferrer upset Nadal at this same stage in Monte Carlo last year, and he very well could do so again, I want to pick that upset but I can’t bring myself to do so given Nadal has won all of their numerous other clay court meetings, given this is perhaps his best tournament, one has to think Nadal will find a way no matter the circumstance.
Berdych is better than Raonic on clay even with the 1-3 h2h (all hard court meetings), given his consistent play this season he has to be the favorite to reach another semi, and Federer should deal with Monaco (or Wawrinka/Dimitrov/Verdasco) without too much trouble.
Semis Djokovic d. Nadal
Federer d. Berdych
Nadal may be the king of clay, but he’s not the same player he was and the last four clay court matches between Djokovic and Nadal are a 2-2 split, including the 2013 final where Djokovic beat Nadal. Novak is the undisputed best player in the world right now, while Rafa has slipped from the top three and even with this being Monte Carlo, I don’t see it being an unreasonable pick to take Djokovic over Nadal at this stage in their careers, given the 2 out of 3 set format, Djokovic should be able to conjure a victory.
Federer-Berdych is another interesting matchup, and Federer is 3-0 in the clay court h2h. Berdych’s power can bother the maestro at times, but on clay, the advantage swings to the Swiss and thus he should prevail.
Final: Djokovic d. Federer
Once again Federer should fall short in the Monte Carlo final, what would be a fifth time. Djokovic just beat him in IW, and though Federer beat him in the MC semis last year, Djokovic won the previous two meetings before that on clay and their clay court h2h is just 4-3 in favor of Federer since 2006. Unless their are verifiable reasons to believe otherwise, going against the world number 1 to win a title seems like a mistake right now.
2015 ATP Houston and Casablanca Preview/Prediction Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
After a pair of Masters level events, the ATP will return to regularly scheduled programming with a pair of 250s, as the clay court season kicks off with the event in Houston, where we will have onsite midweek coverage from our staff writer Jeff McMillan, and in Casablanca, the lone stop for the ATP World Tour on the African continent.
2015 ATP Houston Preview
Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship
ATP World Tour 250
Houston, TX, USA
April 6-April 12, 2015
Prize Money: $488,225
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Feliciano Lopez (12)
2: Roberto Bautista Agut (15)
3: Kevin Anderson (16)
4: John Isner (19)
Houston has four top 20 players, and the seed cutoff is the top 45, making it a solid 250 level event, as many players are delaying traveling across the pond and opting to stay in the states for an extra week.
First round matchups to watch:
Steve Johnson vs. Donald Young
Many consider this match to be a battle for the second slot on the US Davis Cup team, as Johnson has steadily been on the rise, and for that matter Young has had a good season himself. Their h2h is split 1-1, but they have never met on clay before. Young earned 3 wins in the two hard court masters events, and only lost to top 5 players Nadal and Murray, while Johnson won two matches in Indian Wells, but was ousted by Mikhail Kukushkin in Miami. On clay, this match is very much a toss-up, and I give the slightest edge to Young, though I would give Stevie J the edge on a hard court right now, Young has played relatively well all season against all but the top tier of players, while Johnson has been a bit more up and down.
Joao Souza vs. Jack Sock
In-form American Jack Sock will have an interesting test with Brazilian dirtballer Joao Souza. He’s higher ranked, and has greater raw talent than Souza, but as with almost every American male tennis player, he’s far more comfortable and better on hard courts and fast surfaces, compared to clay, a surface he only plays minimally on. Since turning pro, Sock is 7-5 on clay on the main tour level, which of course most notably points out he’s only played 12 ATP matches on clay in the past two seasons, for contrast, Souza has already played 8 matches on clay at the ATP level just this year, and if you include the challenger tour his total is 12.
In 2013 he went 35-24 on clay between ATP and challengers, and in 2014 he went 45-24 as the world number 70 is much more comfortable moving on the dirt. Sock is 5-2 since returning from hip surgery as he played quite well in the Masters events but his loss to Dominic Thiem in Miami exposed problems with his game, and given Souza already has an ATP semi and a quarterfinal on clay, I have him pulling off an upset ranking wise.
Feliciano Lopez reached a clay final earlier this year in Quito, but for a Spaniard, he’s never come close to being a clay court master like some of his peers. That said, Feli has cemented himself as a top 15 player these days and his game is overall dangerous with his slice serve and ability to cause his opponents trouble at the net. Lopez was upset in his opening match in Miami, but he didn’t play poorly in that one per say, and he also reached the quarterfinals in Indian Wells. Right off the bat, Lopez is likely to get a rematch of his opponent in the Quito final, Victor Estrella. The speedy Dominican will need to defeat big server Sam Groth, who is playing on his worst surface, in the opening round. The veteran Estrella is an inspiring story, and he outlasted Lopez in 3 sets in that Quito final, but he’s currently riding a three match losing streak, and all of his losses came to players ranked outside the top 40, thus I have Lopez through to the quarters in a match that should be easier than in Quito where history was on the line for Estrella.
Sam Querrey, who has reached a final here before, opens with Marinko Matosevic, a relatively poor clay court player. Matosevic has been awful all year (3-9 with four straight losses), so Querrey, who has continued to struggle with his mental toughness this season, should be safe for round 2 where Young/Johnson will present a challenge. I have the winner of Young/Johnson getting into the quarters from that match, so thus in my own bracket it’s Donald Young to face Lopez in the quarters. Young actually upset Lopez at the French last year (overall the h2h is 3-2 Young), but Feli seems to be the safer pick regardless to reach the semis.
4 seed John Isner comes off playing one of the best tournaments of his life in Miami, very much out of the blue, and the former champion is likely to be a threat in the lone star state. Since Davis Cup play, Isner is 6-2 with his only losses coming to the world number 1 Djokovic, and in Miami he beat top 15 players Dimitrov, Raonic and Nishkori in consecutive matches to reach the semis, a remarkable streak of wins. Isner played one of the best ATP matches of his career against Nishikori, and it seemed the disaster that was Davis Cup lit a fire under him and recommitted him to tennis. Isner should have little trouble with either Tim Smyczek or Temyuraz Gabashvili in round 2 (Gabashvili recently snapped a losing streak, while Smyczek is struggling but seems to play well in Texas), but Fernando Verdasco, the defending champ, and a streakily dangerous player, is going to be a tough opponent in the quarters. Dasco will need to defeat Paolo Lorenzi and an unnamed qualifier to get that far.
Verdasco and Isner have a 1-1 h2h on hard courts, and have never met on clay, Verdasco of course upset Nadal for a huge win in Miami, but then meekly bowed out to Juan Monaco in the next round, and his consistency is all over the place, with that in mind, Isner actually seems like the more reliable pick right now, and thus I have him into the semis, both players have big weapons to bring to the table, as Verdasco has his world class forehand and Isner continues to have one of the best serves in the game, that said I see Isner frustrating Verdasco with said serve, and Verdasco is known to have slip ups on his own serve that Isner can capitalize on.
Should Sock beat Souza, Roberto Bautista Agut will be his opponent, an opponent he just beat in Indian Wells in a three setter. RBA is just 2-3 in his last five and is struggling at the moment, thusly he seems to be the top seed most likely to be upset, by either Sock or Souza. RBA went 12-5 on clay last year at the ATP level, after going 8-7 in 2013, seemingly improving on the surface. With a limited sample to size to gather from, I’m picking Souza in an upset myself and have him into the quarters.
The section above RBA/Souza/Sock is most interesting, the seed is Santiago Giraldo, who has been unreliable this year after a career year in 2014, and the other spots are taken by a pair of unnamed qualifiers, and Janko Tipsarevic, who after making his doubles debut in Miami with Djokovic last week, is now returning to the ATP World Tour on the singles side. Tipsarevic has been out for over a year due to a tumor on his foot that was removed, and though he’s sure to be rusty and has aged, he still has the talent deep down of a top 10 player, as he used to play remarkable tennis against the best players in the world across surfaces. Giraldo, who had his best result of 2015 in Sao Paulo on clay (semifinalist) is the odds on fave to reach the quarters from here, though a qualifier or Tipsarevic could make a run, and in such a wide open section, it’s hard to pick who will reach the semis, but I have Giraldo over Souza myself (Giraldo 3-1 h2h edge, all matches on clay).
Kevin Anderson, another big server in this draw, will open with Federico Delbonis or Ricardas Berankis in his opening match, most likely Delbonis. Anderson is 2-0 against Delbo and beat him on clay in 2012 (along with a close win in Indian Wells a couple of weeks ago). That said, Delbonis is at his best on clay and will have a punchers chance. Delbonis has two clay court quarterfinals already on his resume this year while Anderson has played well this year, but has, as to be expected, never been a top tier clay court player. Similar to the Souza/RBA situation, given the sample size, I’m going with Delbonis in another upset over a seed as the Argentinian will be aiming for his third quarterfinal of the season.
Above Anderson/Delbonis is the section featuring Jeremy Chardy as the seed, and also Lleyton Hewitt, a former champion in Houston, as a wild card. Hewitt continues to struggle in his final season on tour, as the magic, and more seriously the reliability, appears to finally be fading for the former world number 1. Still, he should beat Go Soeda, a hard court player, in the opening round. I see Chardy going out to another unseeded player, Dusan Lajovic. The Serb has two clay court quarterfinals this year on his resume at the ATP level, and though he has lost three straight and retired in Miami, he again, much prefers clay. Chardy has not had a good season as he’s just 2-3 in his last five matches. Though he’s French, Chardy has never been better than a 50/50 proposition on clay. Look for Lajovic to beat Hewitt to reach the quarters and face Delbonis. Lajovic beat Delbonis at the French last year, but Delbonis is 3-1 overall in the h2h (the other three meetings on hard court) and I trust his tennis more at the moment, thus I have Delbonis in the semis.
I have Delbonis reaching the final as an unseeded player this week, and thus he gets the dark horse designation. He played well against Anderson at IW, and if he gets through that Lajovic/Hewitt/Chardy are all beatable, likewise in the semis, any of RBA/Souza/Giraldo/Tipsarevic are beatable. Given this is clay, he’d also have a shot to take the title in any hypothetical final that could be drummed up. The Argentina is unlikely to be a world beater, but at events like this he is perfectly talented enough to do well if he can keep his error count down and stay aggressive.
Isner d. Lopez
Delbonis d. Giraldo
Isner has been so impressive in IW and Miami that I have to pick him to beat Flopez if they meet, he scored a h2h win in their lone match on clay here in 2012 in three sets, and though Lopez has a 3-2 overall h2h lead, the matches have been relatively close. Given form, and the fact Isner plays his best on clay in Houston, this tournament setups up nicely for him.
Delbonis and Giraldo have never played before, Giraldo has tons of talent but something has been off with him this year and his game doesn’t seem reliable enough to reach an ATP final right now.
Isner d. Delbonis
Delbonis will get a test run for facing Isner with a match against Anderson in round 2, and that should help prepare him, should he reach the final and face the American #1, that said, Isner is playing great right now and thus I have him winning this match. Delbonis won a 3 setter against Isner on clay in France in their lone meeting last year but Houston clay is very different from European clay.
2015 ATP Casablanca Preview
Grand Prix Hassan II
ATP World Tour 250
April 6-April 12, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (24)
2: Martin Klizan (41)
3: Jiri Vesely (49)
4: Marcel Granollers (50)
With only 1 top 40 player, Casablanca is almost certain to be one of the weakest ATP tour events this season, which is quite a shame given African, and Arab tennis in general could use a boost.
First round matchups to watch:
(WC)Lamine Ouahab vs. Robin Haase
This is quite an interesting round 1 matchup, Ouahab, who, no offense intended, is known to be one of the most physically out of shape players on tour (career high ranking 114 in 2009), but has plenty of skills with a racquet, will take on Haase who is the favorite. Haase had a terrible start to his season (0-7) but the Dutchman who is relatively adept on clay is 5-2 in his last 7 matches and seems to have turned the corner as he beat Stan Wawrinka in Indian Wells. Ouahab is also in good form, in fact he’s on a 15 match winning streak as he won three consecutive futures titles on clay in Morocco (F1, F2, F3). Though he failed to face any player to the level of Haase, that still bodes well for him, and of course the home fans will be behind the wild card, it’s worth watching no matter what happens, though I have Haase advancing.
(6)Andreas Haider-Maurer vs. Jan-Lennard Struff
Two unpredictable players will meet in this round 1 match, AHM, who lost to Struff on clay last year in Gstaad, has lost three straight but he was a surprise semifinalist on clay in Rio. and it’s by far his best surface. Struff is more versatile but has failed to catch fire at any tournament this season and is looking to break a pedestrian run of results. Both have enough clay court prowess to make this a quality match, and I give AHM a slight edge to advance.
PCB beat Berlocq in Rio this year, but overall the Spanish seed is very much struggling in 2015. He is reeling from four straight losses presently, including 2 on clay. Berlocq reached the semis on clay in Buenos Aires, and has had an up and down season. In theory, this is a great chance for PCB to kickstart his season, but I’m not sure that will happen, and Berlocq has at least even odds to advance into round 2.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the defending champion, will face off with the Haase/Ouahab winner. GGL is struggling with just two wins in his six matches, and this presents an opportunity for Haase to reach the quarters, I’m not picking it myself, but Haase vs. GGL strikes me as a 50/50 match. Albert Ramos is the main threat in the quarters, Ramos will need to beat Mikhail Kukushkin in the opening round, and then Daniel Gimeno-Traver/Malek Jaziri. Ramos is 4-3 in his last seven matches and is playing relatively well at the moment, given he’s a clay courter, he should be happy to return to his surface of choice. Kukushkin is inconsistent, thus I have him as unlikely to advance from that one. Jaziri is a local favorite from neighboring Tunisia but he prefers fast surfaces to clay, and the veteran DGT is favored, though he’s not playing that well either.
I have Ramos beating GGL in the quarters. He has a lone clay h2h win and he’s in better form at the moment.
3 seed Jiri Vesely is another player in poor form, but luck has shone on him, as he is likely to face a player in even worse form, Mikhail Youzhny, in his opening match. The declined Youzhny, who is nearing retirement, will face wild card Yassine Idmbarek, who is 28 and has never been ranked in the top 600. Honestly, if Youzhny loses that match, he should be announcing his retirement that very night, because that would be rock bottom. Even with Vesely on a seven match losing streak, I see clay treating him better than Youzhny, the streak has to end at some point, and Youzhny is the type of player to end it against. That said, it’s a great chance for a qualifier or Diego Schwartzman to reach the semifinals under the radar. DSS opens with a qualifier, and then Maximo Gonzalez or a qualifier. Though the young Argentine went just 1-3 on clay during the Golden Swing, I see him having a nice run, pending the qualifier, and reaching said semis, as Vesely is playing so poorly at the moment (Youzhny as well). DSS is a young gun and he’s due for a big result.
Martin Klizan will open with Andrey Kuznetsov or Dustin Brown, Kuznetsov has turned into a disappointment with his career thus far after showing signs of promise in years prior. Look for Klizan to reach the quarters, he’s had an up and down year and has failed to get much of a rhythm going, but even still he should be able to earn a win, he hasn’t lost an opening match a tournament since Sydney at the start of the season, but he’s never won consecutive matches in 2015. The Berlocq/PCB winner will play a big part in what happens with this section, but wild card Nicolas Almagro also lurks. Almagro is by far the most talented non-seeded player in the draw and it’s bad news for Klizan and also PCB/Berlocq he’s buried in this section, after opening with a qualifier. Almagro, a semifinalist in Buenos Aires and a quarterfinalist in Sao Paulo on clay, is 2-0 against Berlocq on clay and he beat Klizan in Barcelona last year on the surface. Thusly, Almagro should be one of the semifinalists this week if he plays up to par.
Marcel Granollers will open with Damir Dzumhur or a qualifier, even though he’s not playing well (5 straight losses), Granollers should still be able to win that and setup a possible meeting with Pablo Andujar, his countryman, in the quarters. Andujar, a two time champ here, opens with veteran journeyman Tobias Kamke of Germany, and then will have to face the Struff/AHM winner. Both of those players are threats, but given his previous Casablanca success Andujar is the favorite. Andujar retired in his last match at a challenger however and he has a six match losing streak ongoing (two of those losses coming on clay), thusly I have Haider-Maurer into the quarters myself, and I also have him defeating Granollers for a spot in the semis.
It’s quite strange to see Almagro as an unseeded wild card at a 250 level event, and I don’t see that situation lasting long. He should be the favorite to take the title this week quite honestly, as he is the most talented player in this field on clay, and the most accomplished, at a minimum he should reach the final out of the bottom section.
Semis: Ramos d. Schwartzman
Almagro d. Haider-Maurer
The two more accomplished players, in better form, should make the final, and Ramos-GGL in the quarters may well be the best match of the tournament.