2017 ATP Kitzbuhel Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
ATP Kitzbuhel is on the calendar once again, and it’s a 250 level opportunity for some of the best dirtballers in tennis.
ATP World Tour 250
July 31-August 5, 2017
Prize Money: €482,060
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: Pablo Cuevas (26)
2: Fabio Fognini (31)
3: Paolo Lorenzi (36)
4: Gilles Simon (39)
Kitzbuhel attracts a solid group of dirtballers this year.
Pablo Cuevas, 14-9 on clay this year, is on a three match losing streak that he should break against either Nikoloz Basilashvili or Sebastian Ofner. With Basilashvili playing poorly, I have Ofner pulling an upset at home before falling to Cuevas. Hamburg semifinalist Federico Delbonis should defeat Renzo Olivo. Horacio Zeballos or Rogerio Dutra Silva will follow, presuming Delbonis isn’t fatigued, he should reach the quarters before falling to Cuevas.
Paolo Lorenzi reached the final in Umag, he should beat Joao Sousa or Mikhail Youzhny in round 2. Sousa found a bit of form last week in Gstaad, but Lorenzi is the best player on clay in his section. Wild card Gerald Melzer should defeat a struggling Carlos Berlocq. Melzer comes off a challenger final, Gstaad semifinalist Robin Haase has never beaten qualifier Santiago Giraldo, but he should reach the quarterfinal with wins over Giraldo and Melzer, before falling to Lorenzi.
Gstaad champion Fabio Fognini should beat either Andrey Kuznetsov or Milijan Zekic. Kuznetsov is a dark horse, but I’ll back Fognini’s form. Jan-Lennard Struff faces a struggling Tommy Haas, Alexandr Dolgopolov could catch fire and beat him round 2, after defeating a struggling Thomaz Bellucci, but I have Struff falling to Fognini in the quarterfinals.
Gilles Simon is struggling, but he’s the favorite against Dusan Lajovic or the steadily improving Max Marterer. Jiri Vesely has reached consecutive ATP quarterfinals. Vesely opens with Gstaad finalist Yannick Hanfmann, who should be out of gas. Philipp Kohlschreiber or Facundo Bagnis await in round 2, Kohlschreiber’s health is in question, thus Vesely is my favorite to go as far as the semifinals, upsetting Simon in the quarters.
Dark Horse: Andrey Kuznetsov
Kuznetsov is talented enough to upset a tired Fognini and make a run all the way to the final, I don’t predict it, but he’s the most dangerous non-seeded player in the draw this week.
Semis Lorenzi d. Cuevas
Vesely d. Fognini
It’s anyone’s title in Kitzbuhel this week, but I favor the Italian dirtballer Lorenzi to grab a key title.
2017 ATP Hamburg Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Hamburg is on the calendar again this year, it’s a 500 level stop, meaning making a deep run can meet quite the rankings boost.
German Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
July 24-30, 2017
Prize Money: €1,499,940
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Albert Ramos (24)
2: Pablo Cuevas (26)
3: Karen Khachanov (32)
4: Gilles Simon (39)
Spain’s Albert Ramos should get past Leonardo Mayer, a lucky loser, and either J.L. Struff or Evgeny Donskoy, Fernando Verdasco is the favorite in the top section though. He reached the semis in Bastad and presuming he can get past a tough opening round match with Jiri Vesely, he should ease past Horacio Zeballos or wild card Daniel Altmaier.
David Ferrer just won his first title in two years, he should continue his form on clay and defeat Nikoloz Basilashvili, Federico Delbonis, presuming Delbonis defeats Carlos Berlocq, should pose trouble in round 2, but I’ll tip Ferrer. and he should also beat Karen Khachanov, who is having a great season. The Russian opens with Rudolf Molleker, making his ATP debut, then should face Aljaz Bedene, presuming Bedene defeats Rogerio Dutra Silva.
Pablo Cuevas will face Andrey Kuznetsov to start off, and I’ll back the in-form Kuznetsov to get the upset. Marco Cecchinato should be next up for Kuznetsov, Florian Mayer is also a possibility. Diego Schwartzman is the favorite for the quarters above, he opens with Andreas Haider-Maurer, a qualifier, either Cedrik-Marcel Stebe or Damir Dzumhur will follow. I’ll back Kuznetsov to reach the semis.
Everyone but Umag champion Andrey Rublev has struggled in the third quarter of the draw, Gilles Simon and Philipp Kohlschreiber have plenty of elite experience, but are not playing well, Max Marterer is a wild card, Tommy Haas and Dmitry Tursunov are aging veterans in poor form, Benoit Paire lost in the opening match of his last tournament, and Nicolas Kicker has yet to make real inroads on the ATP tour. I’ll back Kohlschreiber over Paire at home in the quarters, as Rublev should be gassed.
Dark Horse: Andrey Kuznetsov
Kuznetsov should score the early upset against Cuevas, and go as far as the final from that point.
Semis Verdasco d. Ferrer
Kuznetsov d. Kohlschreiber
I can’t predict Ferrer to go back to back in consecutive weeks given his age, Kuznetsov is playing well enough to make the final, but Verdasco should be a slight favorite in Hamburg.
2016 ATP Moscow Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
There are three 250 level stops on the ATP World Tour this week, it’s one of the final chances for the players of the ATP World Tour to earn points at the end of the 2016 season. The indoor hard court tournament in Moscow is the second of two ATP stops in Russia.
VTB Kremlin Cup
ATP World Tour 250
October 17-23, 2016
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize Money: $717,250
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP Rankings in parentheses)
1: Roberto Bautista Agut (19)
2: Albert Ramos (27)
3: Philipp Kohlschreiber (30)
4: Viktor Troicki (31)
Moscow doesn’t have a strong field but that does give a chance for lower ranked players to get a good result.
Shanghai finalist Roberto Bautista Agut gets a much needed first round bye, Wild card Konstantin Kravchuk is his likely round 2 opponent. Kravchuk faces qualifier Alexander Bublik in round 1. Presuming RBA isn’t exhausted, the Spaniard should slip into the quarterfinals to face another Spaniard, Pablo Carreno Busta. PCB opens with qualifier Jurgen Melzer, with Karen Khachanov or Damir Dzumhur to follow. Melzer is returning from injury, while PCB has been improving on hard courts this year. Khachanov is a home player to watch, he won Chengdu, but I still think PCB will knock him off in round 2. RBA over PCB is my pick for the quarters.
Viktor Troicki is 7-3 indoors this year and looks set to defeat either Daniil Medvedev or Mikhail Kukushkin in round 2. Medvedev, a young gun 20 year old, is in good form, but the experienced Troicki should reach the semifinals, after defeating a quarterfinal opponent, either Marcel Granollers/Stephane Robert, or Lukas Rosol/Gerald Melzer. Rosol over Granollers is my pick for round 2, Troicki should beat Rosol in the quarters.
Albert Ramos isn’t a great hard court player, but he still has a shot at defeating either Aslan Karatsev or Evgeny Donskoy. Ramos is just 9-13 on hard courts this year, Donskoy is struggling, but I have Ramos over Karatsev for a spot in the quarters. I have Paolo Lorenzi, who has had a career year, upsetting Fabio Fognini in round 2 before falling to Ramos in the quarters. Fognini faces Ricardas Berankis, while Lorenzi faces lucky loser Federico Gaio. This is an incredibly weak section for a hard court tournament.
A struggling Philipp Kohlschreiber just lost to Janko Tipsarevic, he will face Tipsarevic again if Tipsarevic faces Dusan Lajovic in round 1 . Russia’s own Andrey Kuznetsov looks set to make the semis, he opens with dirtballer Guido Pella, with Cem Ilkel or Thomaz Bellucci to follow. The big hitting Bellucci should fall to the more consistent Kuznetsov, and then Kuznetsov should beat Tipsarevic in the quarters.
Argentina and Croatia to Face off in 2016 Davis Cup Final Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2016 Davis Cup World Group semifinals saw two upsets, as Argentina and Croatia are set to do battle in the DC final after knocking off Great Britain and France in upsets. The World Group playoffs also saw a few upsets. Here is a recap of all of this weekend’s action.
Argentina got a huge boost on Friday from Juan Martin Del Potro, who stunned Andy Murray in a five set war, coming back from 2 sets to 1 down, to get off Argentina to a 1-0 start. Del Potro’s win was essential for Argentina to triumph, and he fended off Murray, and the Glasgow crowd in a thrilling opening rubber.
Guido Pella then followed up Del Potro’s win with a spirited performance to shock the favored Kyle Edmund in four sets. Edmund took the first set, but tailed off from there, and although Pella had a limited track record on hard courts, he didn’t appear fazed by the crowd, or Edmund’s game.
Team GB was on the ropes, but the tie would last into Sunday thanks to the Murray brothers beating Del Potro and Leonardo Mayer in doubles. After a grueling match on Friday, both Murray and Del Po returned to court, which was a bit of a surprise.
Murray got the job done vs. Pella in the 4th rubber, setting up Dan Evans vs. Mayer in the key 5th rubber, as Del Potro was skipped in favor of the fresh veteran Mayer. Evans fought mightily, but once again team GB saw their hopes slip away after taking a 1 set lead. Mayer battled back from a set down, and sent Argentina into the DC final with a spirited performance.
Croatia and France split rubbers on Friday, as was predicted, with Richard Gasquet cruising past Borna Coric, and Marin Cilic defeating the young gun Lucas Pouille in 4 sets.
From there the tie swung in favor of the underdog Croatians. Ivan Dodig and Cilic stunned doubles specialists Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in 4 sets, setting up Cilic to finish the tie off and send his nation into an unexpected DC final on Sunday. Cilic faced Richard Gasquet, who struggled, and the former Grand Slam champion won in straight sets, setting him up for a chance to add Davis Cup champion to his resume.
Lucas Pouille won the dead rubber against Marin Draganja, regardless, Cilic was the hero of the weekend, and will be likely to face off with fellow big hitter and former US Open champion Del Potro in the DC final.
World Group Playoffs
Switzerland d. Uzbekistan 3-2
An undermanned Swiss team pulled off an amazing road upset against Uzbekistan to remain in the world group. Denis Istomin won his pair of rubbers against Antoine Bellier and Henri Laaksonen, but Laaksonen and Bellier won both of their other singles rubbers against Sanjar Fayziev, and Jurabek Karimov respectively. The deciding point turned out to be the doubles, as Laaksonen, the most experienced member of the Swiss team, teamed with Adrian Bossel to beat Farrukh Dustov and Denis Istomin, both of whom have ATP experience. Bellier won a live fifth rubber to send France through, as the unknown Swiss player made a splash this weekend.
David Goffin and Steve Darcis were all team Belgium needed, as they dominated Brazil, dropping just one set in their first two rubbers. Ruben Bemelmans and the unknown Joris De Loore combined to win the deciding doubles point, as they stunned Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares to clinch the tie. Both Thiago Monteiro and Thomaz Bellucci struggled for Brazil as well. Bellucci lost twice, as he fell to De Loore in a dead 4th rubber.
Australia d. Slovakia 3-0
Traveling to Sydney to face a solid Australian team turned into a nightmare for Slovakia, as Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic dominated Andrej Martin, and Jozef Kovalik on Friday. The Slovak team conceded the tie meekly to Sam Groth and John Peers, as they won the doubles point over Martin and Igor Zelenay. The Green and Gold are back in the world group, and look ready to do damage next year.
Canada dominated a weaker Chile team to maintain their spot in the world group. Frank Dancevic and Vasek Pospisil both dropped sets against Christian Garin and Nicolas Jarry in Friday rubbers, but won anyway, and Pospisil teamed with Adil Shamasdin to beat Jarry and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo in a tie clinching doubles match.
Denis Shapovalov made his DC debut as a teenager in a dead 4th rubber, he dispatched Garin, while Dancevic beat Gonzalo Lama in straights to complete the sweep.
Rain delayed the start of Russia vs. Kazakhstan, but it turned into home joy for the Russian fans as Andrey Kuznetsov came up big with a pair of critical wins over Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Mikhail Kukushkin respectively to take the tie. Kukushkin beat Evgeny Donskoy in the second rubber, but Andrey Golubev and Nedovyesov disappointed as they lost to Andrey Rublev and Konstantin Kravchuk in the doubles. The Kazakh’s veterans proved to not be enough.
The Lopez brothers carried Spain as Feliciano Lopez beat Ramkumar Ramanathan, and Marc Lopez teamed with Rafael Nadal to beat Saketh Myneni and Leander Paes in a tie clinching doubles rubber. David Ferrer snuck in an expected 2nd rubber win over Saketh Myneni, and he also beat Ramanathan, while Marc Lopez beat Sumit Nagal in dead rubbers. India put on a good showing, but they had no chance against an ATP quality Spanish team.
Jan-Lennard Struff was the hero for Germany, as his five set win over Kamil Majchrzak, and his three set win over Hubert Hurkacz carried the day for the German team over their Polish neighbors. Florian Mayer also beat Hurkacz, but wins by Majchrzak over Mayer on Sunday, and Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski over Daniel Brands and Daniel Masur in Saturday doubles kept Poland alive. It fell on Struff’s shoulders to get the critical fifth win, and he came through.
Japan d. Ukraine 5-0
Taro Daniel and Yoshihito Nishioka beat Sergiy Stakhovsky and Illya Marchenko right off the bat to put Japan 2-0 up before Kei Nishikori even took the court. Japan saved their #1 to clinch the tie, and with Yuichi Sugita they won the doubles and the tie over Artem Smirnov and Stakhovsky, who continues to struggle.
Daniel and Nisihoka finished out the sweep with dead rubber wins over Smirnov and Danylo Kalenichenko.
2016 ATP St. Petersburg Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP World Tour heads back to Europe for indoor hard court action post US Open, and the ATP 250 stop in St. Petersburg, Russia is next on the calendar. Here is a look at the field, with predictions.
St. Petersburg Open
ATP World Tour 250
St. Petersburg, Russia
September 19-25, 2016
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize Money: $923,550
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: Stan Wawrinka (3)
2: Milos Raonic (6)
3: Tomas Berdych (9)
4: Roberto Bautista Agut (16)
The US Open champ Wawrinka, and two more ATP top 10 players are playing in St. Petersburg, making it a strong ATP 250.
Russia and Kazakhstan just played in Davis Cup action, and Rublev and Kukushkin represented their nations, although they didn’t play each other in a match. The young Rublev should be boosted by team Russia’s victory in that tie, and playing on home courts. Kukushkin is a steady ATP veteran, the rising young gun Rublev could use this quality win.
(5)Alexander Zverev vs. Karen Khachanov
Despite playing well in Washington, Zverev was disappointing this summer and needs to a reset for the Fall season. Khachanov is still an intriguing talent in his own right, and comes off qualifying for the US Open. Zverev is the favorite for a reason, but an upset wouldn’t surprise me.
The US Open champion Stan Wawrinka, presuming he’s fit and serious about playing hard in St. Petersburg, should dispatch Lukas Rosol or Diego Schwartzman, then either Viktor Troicki or Fernando Verdasco in the quarters. Verdasco opens with Dusan Lajovic, while Troicki will face Gastao Elias. Verdasco has a recent h2h win over Lajovic, while Troicki should beat Elias. I have him defeating Verdasco given the Spaniard hasn’t been in great form all year. Troicki reached the semis in Winston-Salem, and he should fall to Wawrinka in the St. Petersburg quarters.
Roberto Bautista Agut and Joao Sousa look set to face off in the quarters, RBA is 27-10 on hard courts this year, and with the only player standing in his way either the out of form Adrian Mannarino or the struggling Ricardas Berankis, he should make the quarters. Sousa opens with a qualifier, and then will face the Rublev/Kukushkin winner. Rublev is a young gun, and Sousa has been poor this year, but he won a pair of matches in New York, and that makes him the favorite. RBA over Sousa is my pick in the quarters.
Milos Raonic will face either fan favorite Mikhail Youzhny or the rejuvenated Janko Tisparevic in his first match. Raonic was poor at the US Open, but on a quick indoor hard court there is no reason to believe his serve won’t allow him to get past most likely Tipsarevic, as Youzhny hasn’t been healthy, and then beat either Zverev or Khachanov. The winner of that match faces Alexander Bublik or a qualifier in round 2. The 19 year old Bublik is a promising Russian talent making his ATP debut. I don’t think Zverev will be able to handle Raonic’s serve.
The weakest section of the draw belongs to Tomas Berdych, who is recovering from appendix removal, and missed the US Open. The Czech is 19-9 on hard courts this year and will probably face home favorite Andrey Kuznetsov, presuming Kuznetsov beats his Davis Cup teammate Evgeny Donskoy in round 1. The other seed here is Albert Ramos, who prefers clay and is just 5-9 on hard courts this year. Ramos opens with a qualifier, and then will face fellow clay courter Paolo Lorenzi or a qualifier in round 2. Lorenzi has had a career best season, but Ramos should fall to Berdych in the quarters.
Kuznetsov is 25, so he’s matured beyond the prospect stage, and as a result doesn’t get near as much fanfare as Rublev in terms of Russian players. However, Kuznetsov is the best Russian player right now, at #47 in the world, and has gone 26-17 this year. His massive improvements this year are clear, and he could upset Berdych and make a run in a home tournament.
Wawrinka d. Bautista Agut
Raonic d. Berdych
There is no reason to believe the top two seeds won’t make the final unless Wawrinka isn’t focused, or Raonic isn’t healthy.
Raonic d. Wawrinka
I’m calling an upset in the final, Wawrinka has less to play for than Raonic, who wants to secure a spot in the year end World Tour finals. The Canadian badly needs the boost of a top 5 win, and I’m not sure Wawrinka will be 100% committed this tournament.
Former top 10 player Janko Tipsarevic is playing just his third tournament of the season after a limited 2015 season where he struggled mightily. Tipsarevic hasn’t had a full season on tour since 2013 and he’d love to just gain some confidence in this match against the solid clay courter Delbonis. The Argentine has reached the semifinals in his last two clay court tournaments, and also has a title on clay this season, so he should advance rather easily into the next round.
(8)Sam Querrey vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
Querrey has never lost to Garcia-Lopez (5-0, all matches on hard court). On clay, GGL is likely a slight favorite, but he’s underperformed thus far on the dirt, posting a semifinal, and a pair of quarterfinals as his best showings, all of those results coming in 250 level tournaments. Querrey reached the quarterfinals in Houston, and the third round in Madrid, showing he’s clearly improved his game on clay. The American could pull off a minor upset in this one and advance into the next round.
A struggling Stan Wawrinka badly needs to find form, and confidence, as he takes to the courts in Geneva just a week away from defending his French Open title at Roland Garros. Wawrinka is just 1-2 in his last three matches on clay, and 3-3 overall on the surface this year, a miserable showing for a top 5 player. The Swiss favorite is likely to contend with the Spanish top spinner Albert Ramos in his first match, presuming Ramos dumps out Teymuraz Gabashvili for his fifth loss in a row. Ramos hasn’t been fantastic by any standard this season, and thus Wawrinka likely advances, but he could tumble out early if his poor play continues.
Philipp Kohlschreiber is who I have toppling Wawrinka in the quarterfinals, the German opens with Inigo Cervantes, with either Pablo Carreno Busta or a qualifier to follow. Cervantes qualified in Rome, then promptly lost to Kohlschreiber, who went on to run into Rafael Nadal in his next match. Kohlschreiber was a semifinalist in Barcelona, and won Munich. He’s a steady veteran who will give it his best in this tune up tournament. PCB was a finalist in Estoril and can’t be counted out as well, the Spaniard is aiming to climb into the top 40, but I have Kohlschreiber winning, and then getting his first win over Wawrinka (0-4 h2h) in the quarterfinals. Wawrinka slipped past Kohlschreiber in Monte Carlo this year on clay in a close two set match.
Americans John Isner and Steve Johnson are the surprising seeds at a clay court tournament in Europe. Isner will face Lukas Rosol or a qualifier, while Johnson opens with the veteran Mikhail Youzhny, and Andrey Kuznetsov/Dudi Sela on deck. Isner is playing for the first time on European clay this season. He was a semifinalist in Houston and I do have him defeating a struggling Rosol/qualifier to reach the quarterfinals. Rosol is ranked outside the top 70 and has been losing even challenger matches on clay as of late.
Johnson is unlikely to make it that far, as Kuznetsov is the favorite in this section. Johnson’s first opponent Youzhny is 3-4 on clay as of late , while Johnson is 0-3. Kuznetsov, a quarterfinalist in Barcelona, should defeat Sela, who much prefers hard courts, and in fact comes off a challenger hard court final. I have Kuznetsov over Youzhny, and then Kuznetsov over Isner for a spot in the semifinals. The Russian should have the highest motivation for points, and a better clay court game than others in this section.
David Ferrer is just 8-4 on clay this year, and is almost certain to end up with more losses this season than last on the surface. The Spaniard is still a top 10 player though, and at 34 he’s still going to fight to hold onto his now precarious ranking. Ferrer lost in the round of 16 at both of the clay court Masters this year but he should dispatch a struggling Denis Istomin/qualifier, and Querrey/Garcia-Lopez in the quarters. The Querrey/GGL winner gets a qualifier or Rajeev Ram, who is poor on clay, in round 2. I have Ferrer over Garcia-Lopez for a spot in the semis.
Marin Cilic and Federico Delbonis are likely to compete for the remaining semifinal spot, unless defending champion Thomaz Bellucci can recapture the form of last season and defeat both Mikhail Kukushkin, and Delbonis (or Tipsarevic) for a spot in the quarterfinals. Bellucci did snap a poor run of form to reach the third round in Rome, and he’ll be the favorite over Rome qualifier Kukushkin, who went on to reach the second round there. Delbonis should beat them both though, while Cilic, playing on clay for the first time this year, is still the favorite against either Ernests Gulbis or Ricardas Berankis. The erratic Gulbis qualified in Rome, but he’s still far from his best. I have Delbonis over Cilic simply because the Croatian lacks the body of work on clay this season.
I have the Russian, who has had a breakthrough season in 2016, reaching the semifinals, and he could even walk away with his first ever ATP title if he plays some of his best tennis of the season. This young gun should continue his rise up the rankings this week.
Semis Kohlschreiber d. Kuznetsov
Ferrer d. Delbonis
Kohlschreiber is 3-0 on clay against Kuznetsov, Ferrer is 2-0 against Delbonis, and thus they should be favorites for the final.
Final Kohlschreiber d. Ferrer
Ferrer has never lost to Kohlschreiber on clay, but with his game slumping a bit, I have Peppo capitalizing and winning the title.
2016 ATP Rotterdam Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The first ATP 500 event of the season takes place indoors in Rotterdam as the winter European indoors swing rolls on.
ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament
ATP World Tour 500
February 8-14, 2016
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Surface: indoor hard
Prize Money: €1,597,155
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Richard Gasquet (10)
2: Marin Cilic (13)
3: Gilles Simon (15)
4: David Goffin (16)
The lack of top players is rare for Rotterdam, as this is one of the weaker tournament fields they have had in recent years.
First round matchups to watch:
(8)Viktor Troicki vs. (Q)Andrey Kuznetsov
The Sofia finalist Troicki is 10-3 to start his season, and he’ll run into an in-form Kuznetsov in a tough opening match. Kuznetsov reached the second week of the Australian Open, and also had a quarterfinal in Doha, though his low ranking means he still had to qualify for this 500. Presuming he’s not too fatigued, Troicki is a favorite, but Kuznetsov winning would not be a surprise.
(4)David Goffin vs. Marcos Baghdatis
Goffin is a potential tournament champion, but he’s never beaten Baghdatis on hard courts (0-3), and Marcos comes off the quarterfinals in Montpellier, suggesting he’s in decent form. The Belgian #1 is playing his first tournament since reaching the second week of the Australian Open, and a win here would swell his confidence.
(6)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Joao Sousa
Sousa beat RBA in the Valencia indoors final last season, but RBA is in the form his life early in 2016, and looks to be tough to derail. Sousa is just 2-3 to start the season, and needs to get some wins going, while RBA has two ATP titles, and a second week in Melbourne on his resume. The Spaniard’s clean ball striking is a competitive match for Sousa’s game, and if rested suitably, the Spaniard likely prevails.
(5)Gael Monfils vs. (Q)Ernests Gulbis
Two talented but unpredictable players. Gulbis has sunk so low once again that he had to qualify, while Monfils lost in his opening Montpellier match. Monfils talent and skill set will likely overcome Gulbis power, but Gael could lay an egg in this one and let the Latvian earn a key ATP match win.
Vasek Pospisil vs. (WC)Alexander Zverev
Fresh off a fantastic run to the Montpellier semifinals, Zverev opens with the big serving Pospisil. Vasek is just 1-3 to start the year, while Zverev demonstrated a skillset beyond his years over his last few matches. Training and preparation could cause Zverev some headaches, but if he’s ready he’s the favorite.
Top seed and Montpellier champion Richard Gasquet appears to be in good form after a back injury. Gasquet was a somewhat surprising champion in his first tournament back on tour, and he has a draw that could see him make a good run in consecutive weeks on European indoors. Serve and volleyer Nicolas Mahut, or Teymuraz Gabashvili will be his opponent after countryman Jeremy Chardy in round 1 (3-0 h2h). Troicki/Kuznetsov, or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez/Hyeon Chung await in the quarterfinals. Chung’s struggles to start the year aid GGL’s quest at the quarters, while Kuznetsov is a possible dark horse, and Troicki is somewhat of a wild card given his possible fatigue from Sofia.
A Gasquet vs. Troicki ATP titleist quarterfinal is a clear possibility. Troicki has a 2-1 hard court h2h over Garcia-Lopez, Gasquet vs. Troicki is split 2-2, with Gasquet a slight semifinals favorite.
Goffin/Baghdatis will most likely decide the quarter below, with Tommy Robredo vs. Martin Klizan the other option for quarterfinalist. Klizan comes off the semis in Sofia, but should be fatigued, while Robredo is looking to kickstart his season here. Goffin’s rise up the rankings, and improved all court game, should allow him to deal with Klizan’s power or Robredo’s spin.
RBA/Sousa decide Lukas Rosol vs. Jiri Vesely. Rosol’s form isn’t great, but Vesely has to win a match this season. RBA should ease past a potentially big bomber in Rosol. RBA has a career h2h of 2-0 vs. Goffin, but with fatigue likely to play a factor, a Gasquet vs. Goffin semifinal is the likely top half outcome, delighting local fans.
Marin Cilic should whip up on Denis Istomin. Istomin hasn’t won in 2016, and Cilic has a 6-1 h2h record against him. Gilles Muller should setup a matchup between big servers in round 2, unless Andreas Seppi shocks him. Muller reached the semis in Sofia, while Seppi is another player in need of a win. Cilic should outplay Muller.
#7 seed Benoit Paire, and tour veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, likely decide the quarter above Cilic. Both one-handed backhanders. Paire opens with potentially tricky qualifier Ivan Dodig, while Kohlschreiber, a quarterfinalist in Sofia, should drub a rusty Julien Benneteau. Paire and Kohli have split meetings on hard courts 2-2, Kohlschreiber’s better recent results give him an edge. A Kohli vs. Cilic semi probably favors a motivated Cilic to power his way into the semis.
Monfils vs. Gulbis is also in this section, and the winner will face Borna Coric or Thiemo De Bakker. Coric has lost four straight since reaching the final in Chennai, and could be dealing with nerves or poor health, while De Bakker is playing at home after time abroad. Presuming Monfils avoids an implosion he is most likely to reach the quarterfinals.
Gilles Simon bookends the draw with Monfils, he was an early loser in Montpellier, and looks to be smarting for a better start to his season. Zverev vs. Simon is a veteran vs. young gun battle, but Zverev’s fatigue likely favors a Simon vs. Monfils quarterfinal. Simon’s 4-1 h2h record over Monfils gives him an edge to advance.
Both Kuznetsov, and Zverev, have struggled to play engaging, consistent tennis in their young careers, but a lot of what they have learned appears to finally be taking hold in match play. Kuznetsov’s proven himself already this season, while Zverev appears primed for a first ATP final soon. Zverev has to get past Simon, while Kuznetsov has seeds Troicki, Garcia-Lopez, and Gasquet.
Goffin d. Gasquet
Simon d. Cilic
Gasquet and Goffin have never met, but form and fitness should favor Goffin, in what could be the most intriguing match this month, a possible battle for #10. Simon has a clear edge over Cilic in the head to head, and Marin has struggled to excel and close when it mattered this season.
Gilles Simon won their grass court meeting, and he could well walk home with the title. Goffin appears to have finished a cut above the top 15 at times this season though, and the undersized ball striker needs to take advantage of weaker ATP fields like this.
Veteran Slate Qualifies for 2015 ATP Shanghai Main Draw Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
six of eight players from qualifying in the 2015 ATP Shanghai Rolex Masters Main Draw are veterans with plenty of ATP tour experience, as they will look to use that tour experience to help them pull off main draw upsets.
A pair of Asian players, Go Soeda of Japan, and Yen-Hsun Lu, a regular on ATP tour from Taiwan, made it through tough draws to qualify. Lu beat young Japanese speedster Yoshi Nishioka, and then Nicolas Mahut in three sets, while Soeda beat Fajing Sun, and then South Korea’s young gun Hyeon Chung in three sets.
Eastern Europeans also did well, Nikoloz Basilashvili will play, at least, his twelfth tour level match of the season after beating Shuichi Sekiguchi and the in-form Austin Krajicek, a Tokyo quarterfinalist, to qualify without dropping a set. Andrey Kuznetsov found success after coming up short in Beijing qualies. Kuznetsov beat Yecong He in three sets, and then dispatched Donald Young, though Young would go on to make the main draw as a lucky loser. Lastly, 33 year old Lukasz Kubot will play just his third ATP main draw level match this year after getting past a pair of Frenchman, Lucas Pouille and Pierre-Hugues Herbert to qualify. Herbert retired in his match, while the win over Pouille was an upset.
Potentially dangerous tour veterans Simone Bolelli and Albert Ramos complete the list of qualifiers. Bolelli, who also qualified in Beijing, beat Matteo Donati, his countryman, and Michal Przysiezny in a three setter to advance. Ramos defeated Zhizhen Zhang and Michael Berrer without dropping a set.
In the main draw, Lu will have a winnable match against Dominic Thiem, Kuznetsov draws Feliciano Lopez, Bolelli will face Vasek Pospisil in an even contest, Soeda has a tough match against David Goffin, Basilashvili will face an equally difficult tilt against Simon, Kubot faces American Jack Sock, Ramos takes on Sam Querrey, and Young should be favored against Victor Estrella.
Rosol, Dzumhur, and Groth Pencil Themselves in as ATP Qualifiers This Week in Geneva and Nice Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
Following its 24-year absence from the ATP Tour, the Geneva Open in Switzerland will finally return to the main stage of the ATP Calendar this week. Headlined by one of their national sporting stars, Stan Wawrinka, the tournament will feature five top 50 players (Stan Wawrinka, Marin Čilić, Pablo Andújar, Benjamin Becker and Andreas Haider-Maurer).
During the qualifying rounds of the event, 7 out of the 8 seeded players reached the final round of competition. The only exception to the solid run by the seeded players was 20-year-old Pedro Cachín (7) who was knocked out in round two by Swiss player Yann Marti. The world No:313 also produced a solid win over Filip Krajinovic (No:101) in the first round of the Aix en Provence Challenger in France earlier this month. In the final round the Swiss player faced second seed Lukas Rosol. Rosol’s route to the final consisted of a surprisingly tough three sets win over world No:465 Laurent Rochette and then a straight sets win over Gleb Alekseenko from Ukraine. In the final round the Czech player experienced little trouble against Marti as he eased his way to a 6-3, 6-2, win. So far during the clay court season this year Rosol has produced back to back ATP World Tour quarter-final appearances in Bucharest, Romania and Munich, Germany.
Adrian Mannarino enjoyed a straightforward run during his qualifying bid. After receiving a first round bye, the Frenchman produced a straight sets win over Miki Janković to face Somdev Devvarman in the final round. Mannarino, who has won at least one match at the last seven Grand Slams, encountered a tricky first set before he cruised to a 7-5, 6-1, win. During the first Set the world No:29 opened up a 4-2 lead before Devvarman battled back to level it up. The spirited fight back by the Indian was however short lived as he was broken once more as Mannarino took the first set. Then Into the second set the Frenchman was too strong as he won four consecutive games on his way to booking his place into the main draw.
2009 Wimbledon boys champion Andrey Kuznetsov produced an impressive performance throughout the entire qualifying competition as he dropped only 14 games in three matches. After beating Tobias Simon and Philip Oswald in the first two matches, the Russian set up a final showdown against third seed Donald Young. Young has recently been experiencing back issues and was forced to retire during his first round match against Grigor Dimitrov in the Madrid Masters last week. The American beat two unseeded Swiss players on the way to his meeting against Kuznetsov. Unfortunately for American tennis fans Young suffered an annihilation as the Russian stormed to a 6-2, 6-0, victory in only 50 minutes. This is Young’s most lopsided defeat on clay since the 2012 Monte Carlo Masters. On that occasion he lost 6-1, 6-1, to Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round.
Grabbing the fourth and last spot in the main draw is Bosnia’s Damir Džumhur. Recently the 22-year-old has experienced back to back losses to players ranked outside the top 200 (Antonio Veic and Andrey Rublev). Fortunately, he has now managed to regain some of his form back with a 7-6 (6), 6-3, win against Italy’s Matteo Donati. Dzumhur already has one clay court title this year. He won the ATP Santo Domingo Challenger in February without dropping a set during the tournament.
Lukas Rosol vs. Rendy Lu (Head to head of 1-1)
Andrey Kuznetsov vs. Andreas Haider-Maurer (Head to head of 1-1)
Adrian Mannarino vs Carlos Berlocq (first meeting)
Damir Dzumhur vs. Jurgen Melzer (first meeting)
All of the qualifiers have winnable matches to start their main draw journey, and Rosol and Dzumhur should both be favored to advance.
As the build up to Roland Garros nears, the competition has already begun in France but at a different tournament. The main draw of the 31st Open de Nice Côte d’Azur will commence today with six out of the world’s top 30 players taking part. After a 13-year absence from the ATP Calendar, the tournament returned in 2010. Since then the winners of the tournament have included players such as Richard Gasquet (2010) and Ernests Gulbis (2014).
Action at the tournament has already got underway with the qualifying rounds featuring 24 men battling it out for four main draw spots. Leading them into the main draw is top seed Sam Groth. Like the seven other seeded players, Groth received a bye in the first round. During the second round the Australian overcame a challenging first set to beat Maxime Teixeira 7-6 (3), 6-2 after an hour and 21 minutes. Then in the final round of qualifying, Groth was only on the court for three points before his opponent, Quentin Halys, retired due to illness. There wasn’t any clarification of what the Frenchman was suffering with however the on court doctor took his blood pressure before he left the court.
The most anticipated final round match was between 17-year-old Frances Tiafoe and second seed Ruben Bemelmans. Tiafoe, a former world No:2 in the juniors, grabbed the American Wildcard into the French Open following his win at the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge. The player dubbed as ‘the future of American tennis’ eased his way into the final round with a straight sets win over world No:477 Daniil Medvedev whilst Bemelmans endured a marathon three sets battle against fellow countryman Yannik Reuter. The build up to the match unfortunately didn’t materialized into a competitive match on court as the Belgian raced to a 6-3, 6-3, win against Tiafoe.
Home joy for the French crowd came with Gianni Mina. The Frenchman is currently ranked 271st in the world and has won 5 Future titles. So far in his career, Mina has played at the French Open once which was in 2010 where he lost in the first round to the formidable Rafael Nadal. During the qualifying rounds the third seed came from a set down to beat Mate Pavić. In the final round, he faced Philipp Davydenko, the nephew of former world No:3 Nikolay Davydenko. Going into the draw the Russian has suffered five consecutive first round losses before he finally ended his losing streak against Wang Chieh-fu. The Russian continued his sudden burst of form at the start of his match against Mina by taking the first set. Despite the first set lead by Davydenko, he failed to maintain it as Mina battled back to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, in front of his home crowd. This is the first time that Mina has qualified for the main draw of a main ATP event since Gstaad in July last year.
The final man to make the main draw was New Zeland’s Michael Venus, who played his college tennis at LSU, after a shock three sets win over 4th seed Ante Pavić. Venus also produced wins over Gianluca Mager and Fabrice Martin during the qualifying tournament. The win is a big boost Venus and his camp as he has so far only achieved a main draw win-loss of 3-1 in 2015. He is currently ranked 514 in the world, but has been as high as 274 back in 2011. Nice will be the second time that Venus has played in the main draw of an ATP 250 event in 2015 after Auckland back in January. At that tournament he played one of the matches of the year against Alejandro Gonzalez, triumphing.
Diego Schwartzman, Benoit Paire lead the list of qualifiers into the Monte-Carlo mainstage Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
This week the worlds best players on the ATP Tour will get their first test on the clay courts in the prestigious Monte-Carlo Masters. The tournament started back in 1897 when Reginald Doherty took the title in three straight sets. Since then the event has transformed into a multi million dollar event with a prize money value of €2,750,000. Over the weekend 28 players have battled against each other to grab a segment of the prize money as well as vital ranking points during the two qualifying rounds.
Heading the field was clay court specialist Diego Schwartzman. Last year the Argentine won four clay court Challenger titles within three months. So far in 2015 world number 62 has failed to progress past the second round of any tournament and will be desperate to pick up some more solid form as the clay court season begins. After dismissing world number 606 Romain Arneodo from Monaco in the first round, he also produced a final round 6-4, 6-4, win against Albert Montanes. After taking the first set, Schwartzman was forced to recover from a break twice in the second set before booking his place into the main draw.
Elias Ymer’s hopes of playing in his first Masters main draw were halted today following a straight sets loss to American Denis Kudla. In the first round Ymer trailed 4-6, 2-3, to second seed Carlos Berlocq before he retired due to an adductor injury while Kudla came from a set down to beat Andrey Golubev. After a close first set, Kudla cruised to a 6-4, 6-0 victory to play in his first ever clay court Masters main draw.
Slovakia’s Norbert Gombos qualified after Denis Istomin retired after only seven games. Gombos knocked out 9th seed Malek Jaziri in the first round. It is unclear in regards to the reason why Istomin retired, however the Uzbek has had some luck on his side as he received a lucky loser spot into the main draw due to Nicolas Almagro pulling out.
Albert Ramos-Vinolas continued his recent consistent form on the tour with a 6-4, 7-5, victory over Robin Haase in a match which lasted nearly two hours. In the first set Haase have 9 separate chances to breaks Romas-Vinolas but failed to do so every time in a match filled of misses opportunities for the Dutchman.
Andrey Kuznetsov overcame a close first set to beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6(4), 6-1. The 24-year-old has only played four Masters main draw matches in his career in which he has only won one of them (Rome 2013). The Russian is currently ranked 91st in the world with his best performance being a quarterfinal appearance at the ATP Happy Valley Challenger in Australia at the start of the year.
In the longest match of the day, French sixth seed Edouard Roger-Vasselin required almost three hours to beat Jan-Lennard Struff. Roger-Vasselin had two opportunities to take the final set 6-4, before the German clawed his way back to force the match into a deciding tie-break. In the tie-break nerves played a key part with seven breaks of serves before Struff edged his way to take the tie-break 8-6. The final score in the Frenchman’s favor was 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(6).
Completing the list of qualifiers is Benoit Paire after he stormed to a 6-1, 6-2, win against Thiemo De Bakker. Despite being ranked 84th in the world Paire has competed in a variety of tournaments which includes Futures, Challenger and ATP Pro events. So far this year he has one Futures and two Challenger titles to his name. Paire was formerly considered a top young gun, and is seeking to climb his way back into the conversation.
Who’s next for the qualifiers:
Albert Ramos-Vinolas (Q) – Denis Istomin (LL)
Norbert Gombos (Q) – David Goffin
Benoit Paire (Q) – Denis Kudla (Q)
Kudla had beaten Paire once before at the 2013 Aegon Championships at the Queen’s club in London.
Edouard Roger-Vasselin (Q) – Joao Sousa
Andrey Kuznetsov (Q) – Gael Monfils
Monfils beat Kuznetsov in straight sets earlier this year in the second round of the Marseille Open
Jeremy Chardy – Diego Schwartzman (Q)