2017 ATP Auckland Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
It’s time to preview and predict New Zealand’s only ATP tournament, the ASB Classic. The Women’s version of this ran all last week.
ATP World Tour 250
Auckland, New Zealand
January 9-14, 2017
Prize Money: $450,110
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: Roberto Bautista Agut (14)
2: John Isner (19)
3: David Ferrer (21)
4: Jack Sock (23)
For a pre-slam 250, Auckland has one of the better fields it’s had in recent years.
First round matches to watch:
(8)Marcos Baghdatis vs. Adrian Mannarino
Mannarino just took a challenger title to start the year while Baghdatis was injured in his first match in Doha. Both players prefer to attack rather than defend with their tennis, Mannarino continues to alternate between challengers and the tour level with success. He’ll be the favorite in this match presuming he’s still fresh enough.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez vs. (Q)Ryan Harrison
Harrison qualified and is 2-1 to start his season. He’s never lost to Garcia-Lopez (3-0 in the h2h), and the Spaniard is on a seven match ATP losing streak dating back to last season. Harrison spent most of his time at the challenger level last year, going 11-11 in ATP matches. He’s just inside the top 100, and could use a good run in a 250 like this to get back to tour level.
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Chennai champion Roberto Bautista Agut has won Auckland before, and although Jiri Vesely isn’t the easiest round 2 opponent, presuming the Czech ousts Horacio Zeballos, RBA should still be fresh enough with the first round bye to prevail and reach the quarters. Mannarino should be opposite him, after Baghdatis, Dustin Brown or qualifier Michael Mmoh. Mannarino has lost twice at the tour level against RBA, so the Spaniard should be the favorite to reach the semifinals. Brown could also serve and volley his way to surprise success.
David Ferrer struggled in Brisbane as his decline has continued thus far in 2017. Ferrer will face qualifier Finn Tearney, a local favorite, or Robin Haase. He should win that to reach the quarterfinals opposite Albert Ramos/Joao Sousa. Facundo Bagnis and qualifier Brydan Klein are also in this section. Sousa had a down season last year (25-33 record) and is making his 2017 debut, the h2h favors Ramos beating Sousa and Klein, then falling to Ferrer in the quarters. Ramos also made the quarters in Chennai.
John Isner will kick off his 2017 season against Malek Jaziri or Diego Schwartzman. Isner posted a down 35-21 record in 2016, and will be looking to get off to a better start, most likely against Schwartzman. Fellow Yank Steve Johnson looms in the quarters, Johnson will face Stephane Robert, then most likely another veteran, Yen-Hsun Lu in round 2. Lu first has to face Karen Khachanov, another player who won a match to open his season. Johnson is good enough to beat Robert and Lu/Khachanov, but I don’t think he’ll get past Isner’s serve this time, and I have Isner reaching the semis and moving his 4-2 h2h edge against Johnson to 5-2.
Hopman Cup finalist Jack Sock went 3-1 in singles matches at the exhibition, and presuming he’s fresh and focused, he should do well in Auckland. Sock showed off his great hard court game, and his powerful forehand in Perth. He should ease past Harrison/GGL, and then win against Feliciano Lopez, who he beat in the Hopman Cup. Lopez faces Kiwi Michael Venus in round 1, with Jeremy Chardy or Artem Sitak to follow. The veteran Spaniard went 30-24 last year, while Sock went 37-22 over the same span. It should be a good week for Americans in New Zealand.
Dark Horse: Adrian Mannarino
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It wouldn’t shock me at all if the unseeded Mannarino got past Bautista Agut in the quarters and went as far as winning the tournament. Strange results tend to happen in tournaments held before slams, and Mannarino could use the ranking points.
Ferrer d. Bautista Agut
Sock d. Isner
Ferrer has beaten RBA twice, and I think he wants and needs to make this final more than his countryman. Ferrer has had success in Auckland, and I see him fighting harder than most players in this field to get back on top. Sock has beaten Isner twice in three attempts since 2015. Isner had a clear edge in the years prior, but Jack is improving, while John has declined just a bit.
Sock d. Ferrer
If Sock plays like he did in the Hopman Cup he’ll be a worthy recipient of his second career ATP title. This pairing have a split h2h, but Sock won in the Auckland semis last season to reach the final.