Can Anyone Stop Rafael Nadal’s Paris March?
Staff, Tennis Atlantic
Rafael Nadal hasn’t lost a match on clay since 2017, a 46 consecutive set run that will perhaps never be matched again on the ATP tour. Nadal, a player that many thought was in the twilight of his career after knee problems, has already put together a pair of seasons on clay that are as good, if not better than his younger years, and now he has the Madrid and Rome Masters tournaments to come, followed by Roland Garros.
Given Nadal’s excellent form against even the ATP’s elite on clay, he has a very good chance of winning every match on clay this season, sweeping his way to an 11th Paris title, and perhaps not dropping a set en route. Nadal has only lost a match since the 2016 French Open. However, if an upset happens in Paris, or along the road to Paris, which player is most likely to trip up Nadal? We take a look at a few of the options.
Former world #1 Novak Djokovic is the first name that comes to mind, Djokovic hasn’t been healthy lately and he’s been undergoing major changes with his coaching team, but he’s still Novak Djokovic. The competitive fire and skill that made him world #1 and allowed him to compete with the rest of the big four, and frequently beat them, hasn’t entirely disappeared. Form is a finicky thing in tennis, and if Djokovic can rebuild his belief by stacking some quality wins together prior to facing Nadal, he could very well catch the Spaniard if Rafa is playing at less than 90% of his best. Djokovic’s seven wins on clay against Rafa far surpass any other active player in terms of h2h results.
Dominic Thiem is the last player to beat Nadal on clay, Thiem has a big game that is suited for the surface, but he’s yet to win a slam and hasn’t yet proven the consistent ability to put his talents to use. That said, in a one off match Thiem has a chance against Rafa.
Some sportsbooks list Djokovic and Thiem as having the same odds to win the French Open (+900) but that’s far from Nadal’s odds, which is set at a very favorable (-225). Nadal is basically going into this as the sure win and if you have as much confidence in him as most others do, this list of offshore betting sites will be your best guide to choosing the right site. Each one has been reviewed by experts so that you can trust them, just like how you can trust Nadal to take home the win. Outside of these top three players, the odds for other players are a bit of a stretch.Embed from Getty Images
A big server such as John Isner or Milos Raonic could disrupt Rafa’s rhythm on clay, most big servers are not at their best on the surface, and they would need to massively improve their return of serve to win that matchup, but at least they possess the skillset to do it. Other players with weapons such as Juan Martin Del Potro, Fabio Fognini, and Gael Monfils also have a shot, of that group only Fognini (2 previous h2h wins) has done it.
Day 5 at Madrid Open: Nadal and Djokovic survive scares as Wawrinka Is Ousted
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Wawrinka Sent Home By Paire
Day five ended with one of the biggest shocks of the tournament so far as third seed Stan Wawrinka was knocked out of the tournament by his good friend Benoit Paire.
It was an entertaining affair with two of the tour’s best shotmakers trading blow for blow. Wawrinka got out of the gates quickly with a break and had two opportunities to go a double break up in the first. However Paire started to grow into the match as the set wore on, and the Frenchman was able to break back at 4-2. Wawrinka earned break points in the following game, but Paire saved them before earning a break himself at 5-5. The world number 52 served out the set 7-5 to take the lead in the match.
His momentum was seemingly altered when rain disrupted play and forced the roof to be closed, and Stan took advantage with a break of serve. The Swiss failed to serve the set out though with a loose game, but immediately broke the following game to take the match to a decider.
Paire came alive in the third set, showing what he can do when his mind is in the right place. He hit winners from all areas of the court and dominated the final set with a double break. The Frenchman successfully served out the match to cap off one of his best performances for a long time.
“I am really happy because it is never easy to play against a good friend.” Paire said post match.
“I think it was more difficult for him today because we are very close and to play each other in the second round was not a good role for us, but I am happy because today I won and I played a good match.”
Not only has the week been positive for Paire on the tennis court, he also celebrated his 28th birthday on Tuesday. How did he celebrate?
“I had a good dinner with my girlfriend.” Paire said with a smile
“It was a good thing for me, I wanted just to have rest because I was playing the day after my birthday, so it was the week of my birthday we are going to say and I hope it will be a good week.” Paire moves on to face Pablo Cuevas in the third round after he ousted Nicolas Mahut earlier in the day
Nadal outlasts Fognini to set up Kyrgios clash
In a epic hour battle on Manolo Santana stadium, Rafael Nadal outlasted Fabio Fognini in three sets to book a third round match against Nick Kyrgios.
The Spaniard was largely outplayed by the Italian in the first set, but Fognini failed to take advantage of the many opportunities that came his way. The world number 29 was twice a break up in the set and even served for it at 5-4, but as can often be the case his brilliance was mixed in with madness and Nadal ended up taking the set in a tiebreaker 7-3.
The second set was what the first set should have really been for Fognini. This time when he got the break of serve he was able to hold throughout despite facing two break back points in the fifth game. The Italian served out the set to take us to a decider with the match on a knife’s edge.
The crowd were expectedly Pro-Nadal and cheered every point he won and nervously sat on their hands when he lost one. As the middle of the set approached Nadal pounced and earned a break of serve, but Fognini would not go away. As Nadal served for the match at 5-3, the Fognini that had won the second set started to reappear and the Italian earned two break back points. The First was saved with a thumping forehand, but the second went astray and we were back on serve. Nadal pushed again for the finish, earning match-point on the Fognini serve but the Italian saved it with another big forehand. But his brilliance was swiftly followed by mediocrity, and three errors later Rafa was victorious.
“I think that even though I played really badly, my attitude has been very positive.” Nadal said post match.
“My attitude and the will to win today’s match was there. My level of tennis was not so high today, but I managed to make it through the first round. It was uncomfortable. “Luckily I was able to win, and tomorrow I have another opportunity. Hopefully I’m ready to do much better than today.”
The world number four goes on to face another dangerous opponent in Kyrgios who famously beat Nadal at Wimbledon 2014. The Australian made quick work of Ryan Harrison, defeating him 6-3 6-3 in less than an hour.
It promises to be a blockbuster showdown on Thursday, one Kyrgios is looking forward to.
“I played Rafa last year in Rome, we had a battle there, 6-4 in the third and we obviously had that battle at Wimbledon too.” Kyrgios said post match. “I think every time we play each other, the surface plays a factor, but when playing playing each other and competing against each other we both want to win really bad. It is going to be an exciting match either way”
Djokovic survives Almagro
Novak Djokovic battled from a break down in the final set to overcome an inspired Nico Almagro to make the third round of the Mutua Madrid Open.
The Serb was 3-0 down in the decider but came back to win 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 in a dramatic two hour and … minute match on Manolo Santana stadium.
Djokovic looked wobbly in his opening service game, double faulting and hitting some tight errors. Almagro found himself a break up early, but Djokovic recovered to take the next six games as the Spaniard struggled to find the court.
The second set as a much different story. With nothing to lose and the home crowd behind him, Almagro began to play inspired tennis, hitting winners off both wings and serving big. He eventually got his reward in the final game of set where he broke to take it 6-4.
The form continued into the third where the world number 76 broke again, showing signs of the player that won 13 ATP World Tour titles. But just like many times in the past, nerves began to get the better of the Spaniard. He was broken back at 3-1, then once against a 5-5 as the pressure began to tell. Djokovic would successfully serve out the match to escape a tough opener against an inspired Almagro.
“Well, this was the fourth match on the clay court season for me this year, and all of them went 7-5 or 6-4 in the third set. Every match more or less that I’ve played was quite close, dramatic as well. I guess I’m supposed to be tested in every match on clay.” Djokovic said post match.
“From positive side, from that perspective, is good for psychological aspects and mental strength and getting confidence back. Obviously when you’re not winning too many matches, you have to build the confidence level. So to win the matches like this definitely helps confidence.
“I thought that for almost two sets I’ve played really well. Had 15-40 two times in the second set to finish off the match in straight sets. But, you know, I didn’t use my opportunities. He served well. Then he started to swing through the ball. Four games in a row he played really, really well.
“It’s tough to play Nico on any surface. Especially here where it’s altitude, it played quicker a little bit. He loves playing on clay. He was obviously motivated. He has a lot of strength in his shots, a lot of precision. He can, from both corners, hit equally well. If he doesn’t make many mistakes, he can really beat anyone. I could feel his very high quality, especially the end of the second set and the beginning of the third.
“But I hung in there and I knew that eventually I’m going to get my chances and going to get some looks on the second serves. When they’re presented, you know, I was ready to use them, which I did.” Djokovic faces Feliciano Lopez next after the Spaniard beat Gilles Simon 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(3).
Kerber retires against Bouchard
Top seed Angelique Kerber is out of the Mutua Madrid Open after retiring 6-3, 5-0 down against Eugenie Bouchard.
The German did not hold serve once during the match which was largely dominated by the Canadian, then pulled up with a leg injury that ultimately forced her to retire from the match.
“I don’t know what’s exactly. I know it’s the left hamstring.” Said Kerber post match.
“I just felt it in the last game. I think it was not the last point, but the point, like, before. So yeah.
I think now I will just check it. I will check it maybe tonight or tomorrow. I will see. I hope it’s not too serious. But, yeah, I can feel it a little bit.”
Bouchard faces Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarter finals. The Russian defeated Qiang Wang in straight sets earlier in the day.
Tsonga withdraws from Madrid. Ferrer advances to face Nishikori
Jo Wilfried Tsonga has withdrawn from the Mutua Madrid Open due to a right shoulder injury.
The Frenchman was scheduled to face Spain’s David Ferrer second on Arantxa Sanchez court, but withdrew just hours before his round of 32 match.
“The problem is I stretch a muscle in my shoulders. I don’t want to take any risk.” Tsonga said in a press conference.
“It’s something I did, I think, last week on the practice. I had little bit of pain from the match of Kuznetsov.
“Yeah, like I said, I don’t want to take any risk anymore because there is other tournament in few weeks. I want to play them 100%. So no risk for me.”
The 10th seed is unsure whether or not he will play Rome next week, but this could hinder the Frenchman’s plans to be fully fit for his home grand slam.
“You know, for me, for the moment I will see on the next few days, how it goes. I’ll take, of course, a decision later if I go or not.” Tsonga added.
With a right calf strain earlier in the season followed by the birth of his first child, Tsonga has not played much tennis in 2017, and we are unsure how long he will be out with the shoulder injury. As for Ferrer, the Spaniard goes into the third round to face Kei Nishikori.
The Japanese, who stated pre-tournament that he is not 100%, got off to a slow start against the in-form Diego Schwartzman, but recovered from a set down to win 1-6, 6-0, 6-4 on Arantxa Sanchez court. The sixth seed looked almost dead on his feet in the first set which was dominated by the Argentine, but he recovered to take the second set 6-0. The third was the most competitive set with Nishikori failing to serve it out at 5-3. The Japanese did not let that detour him on his path to victory as he broke the very next game to seal his passage into round three.
“It was a very tough one.” Nishikori said in his post match press conference.
“He obviously playing good, very solid from baseline. He was very aggressive in the first set. But second set I start grinding little more, and playing little smarter, I think. I have to say little bit lucky for me. There was couple net and on the lines. Sometimes I need some luck to win.
“But second and third I’m very happy with my tennis. Play really good tennis.”
This was Nishikori’s first appearance on clay after recent injury woes have kept him out of action for a number of weeks. The sixth seed claimed prior to the tournament that he will not risk anything this week and will see how it goes. But after his win against Schwartzman he feels better physically.
“(I) Felt pretty good. Yeah, that was my first match of the clay. In the beginning I wasn’t playing hundred percent. But second and third I was feeling pretty good on the court, moving well. So I was very happy.” Nishikori added.
Mladenovic eases into quarter finals- speaks Dodin and Sharapova
Kristina Mladenovic’s great year continues after defeating Oceane Dodin 6-2, 6-1 to make the quarter finals of the Madrid Open.
The Frenchwoman had the measure of her compatriot throughout, returning and serving well on her way to an easy victory. Mladenovic had been critical of Dodin’s decision to not play Fed Cup, but felt there was not tension between the two players.
“I always say out loud what I think.” Said Mladenovic.
“No, as I said in my interview before the match, on my side there’s absolutely no tension. I mean, you know, I just speak out what I think.
“I still think this. But I think this girl is playing great tennis. She has a huge qualities. She’s young. I think if she’s working in the right direction, she can play really well. I mean, she proved it this week. She beat such a great players.
“You know, on the court I didn’t feel any tension. I’m there to focus on myself, to win my matches, no matter who is on the other side of the net. I’m just very happy to get there, be in the quarters.
“I’m sure there wasn’t anything negative out there on the court. We both played well, had a great attitude. Overall she’s having a great attitude on the court, even if I’m not talking to her a lot.
“The Fed Cup topic is something else. Hopefully one day she will be on the other side. I mean, the girls that understand this spirit, hopefully she can see good things about it.”
Mladenovic also weighed in on Bouchard’s comments about receiving support for her match against Maria Sharapova.
“I did receive a lot of messages before my match against Maria in Stuttgart and also afterwards. In Stuttgart, it was semifinals, the locker room was quite empty, so I didn’t speak to anyone.
“Here, of course I watched their match. I was finishing mine. I saw the last couple games on TV. I mean, this year, I’m in the beautiful locker room upstairs, in the top 16, Genie’s not. I didn’t see her. No, I didn’t, no.”
Mladenovic moves on to face Sorana Cirstea in the quarter finals after the Romanian dispatched Misaki Doi in three sets.
WTA Round up
Anastasija Sevastova is through to her first WTA Premier quarter final after a straight sets win over Lara Arruabarrena.
The Latvian had to stave off a fight back from the Spaniard is the first set as her 5-2 lead was brought back to 5-5. Sevastova remained cool enough to restore her lead immediately however and served out the set 7-5. The second set was much more plain sailing for the world number 22 who broke twice without facing a single break point to take the set 6-3 and book her quarter final spot against Kiki Bertens.
The Dutchwoman continued her good run of form in Madrid with another straight sets win, this time against Irina Begu. Bertens took the first set 6-1, but was made to work much harder for the second by her Romanian opponent. Bertens eventually took the set 7-5 and sealed her place in the last eight.
Simona Halep was tested by Sam Stosur but pulled through 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to set up a quarter final match against Coco Vandeweghe who defeated Carla Suarez Navarro in three sets.
ATP Round up
Milos Raonic got his Madrid campaign off to a comfortable start with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Gilles Muller. The Canadian broke once in each set and did not face a single break point en route to the third round where he will face David Goffin.
“I have to be happy with it (his performance). I did a lot of good things, created a lot of opportunities.” Raonic said post match.
“I did not really face any break points on my service games and did not get behind, so I am very please with my first match given how different the conditions are here compared to last week.”
Tomas Berdych is also through to the third round after a straight sets win over Robin Haase. The Czech took the first set on a tiebreaker 7-5, but the second was much more comfortable and he sealed it 6-3 to set up a match with Alexander Zverev who beat Istanbul champion Marin Cilic in three sets. Grigor Dimitrov overcame the big serve about Ivo Karlovic in a 6-3, 7-5 victory. The Bulgarian faces Dominic Thiem in the third round.
Day 4 @MadridMutuaOpen: Murray Rolls to Round 3, Halep Survives Vinci Scare
Niall Clarke in Madrid
Embed from Getty Images
Day four of the Mutua Madrid open saw Andy Murray, David Goffin and Dominic Thiem advance to the third round, whilst on the women’s side Simona Halep survived a scare.
Halep survives Vinci scare
Simona Halep came from 5-2 down in the third set to defeat Roberta Vinci and book her place in the third round of the Mutua Madrid Open.
The third seed was put under pressure early and eventually dropped serve at 2-2 in the first set. However, Halep found some rhythm and immediately broke Vinci back. Another break of serve from the Romanian was enough to seal the first set 6-3.
Set two stayed mostly on serve in the early goings, but Vinci took control of the match with a break at 3-2. The Italian’s slice backhand was giving Halep troubles and she was also hitting her forehand very well. Another break followed and Vinci took the set 6-2 to take us to a decider.
The momentum was behind the world number 34 who broke to take the lead in the third set. It looked like another upset was on the cards in the women’s draw, but Halep fought back to level the score when Vinci served for the match. It was a complete momentum shift as a now rejuvenated Halep ran away with the tiebreaker 7-2.
“Her game is not easy to play.” Halep said of Vinci post match.
“Her slices are very difficult to return. She was hitting pretty strong also with the forehand today, serve, everything. She played unbelievable.”
“Yeah, I was close to lose the match. But I stayed strong. I stayed focused. I didn’t give up. That makes this match much more like bigger for me. It means a lot.”
Halep is the defending champion of a tournament that has recently been very kind to the Romanians. Sorana Cirstea defeated Cici Bellis in straight sets earlier in the day whilst Irina Begu needed three sets to get past Johanna Larsson. That makes it three Romanian women into the third round of Madrid. So why is it that Romanians do well here?
“Maybe because Mr. Tiriac is the owner and makes everything like home,” Halep said with a smile.
“In my opinion, the altitude I think helps us. The fact that we are many Romanians here, also boys, coaches, so we are many. We feel relaxed, in my opinion.”
“Here for me is special because I won last year. I played one final before. I feel pretty good on this court. I played my best tennis last year at this tournament. I’m trying just to repeat it. It’s not going to be easy.”
“But I have a lot of support at this tournament. I want to thank to everyone for this.”
Murray marches into the second round
Andy Murray is through to the third round of the Mutua Madrid Open after a straight sets victory over Marius Copil on Manolo Santana stadium.
The world number one was tested by his Romanian opponent in the early stages, but ultimately pulled through 6-4, 6-3 to seal his passage into the round of 16.
It was Murray who carved out the first break point opportunities in Copil’s opening service game, but the Romanian managed to save them and the first set stayed on serve until the very end where Murray finally broke.
Despite recent issues with injury and some early defeats, Murray looked comfortable on serve and did not concede a single break point during the match. The Brit managed to break Copil at 3-2 in the second set and comfortably saw out the match to get his Madrid title quest underway.
“I found it difficult to start” Murray said post match.
“I haven’t practiced out there. Well, we practiced out there for 25 minutes before the match, this morning at like 11:00. That had been it.”
“It was very lively out there. It was probably the hottest it’s been since we’ve been here. Found it a bit difficult at the beginning to adjust to the conditions. Also never played him before. He serves big, comes forward a bit, uses dropshots. It was tricky.”
“But when I started to control the points more towards the end of the first set and second set, you know, I was hitting the ball pretty clean, creating a few chances. I didn’t give him any opportunities.”
“It was good for the first match.”
Embed from Getty Images
Lucas Pouille out
Lucas Pouille became the third seed to be eliminated from the Mutua Madrid Open after a tough three set defeat to Pierre Hughes-Herbert.
Despite suffering with sickness over the weekend that forced the 13th seed to miss doubles, Pouille took to court and contested a tight three set match with his compatriot which he eventually lost 7-6(5), (4)6-7, 6-4.
The first set was a high quality affair with both men serving well. Each player shared one break point opportunity, but neither was converted and the set fittingly went into a tiebreak. Herbert seized the initiative early by earning two mini breaks. Pouille was able to get one back, but the set ended up going to the qualifier 7-5 in he tiebreaker.
Things went from bad to worse for Pouille as he conceded a break in the second set, but the world number 14 fought back to take us into another tiebreaker. This time it was Pouille who seized control and he went on to earn three mini breaks to take it 7-4.
Unfortunately for Pouille, it seemed like all his effort and energy was piled into getting that second set and Herbert was able to take control of the match. The qualifier break in the fourth game of the match and comfortably went on to serve out the match to love for a place in the second round.
“I got sick on Saturday so I was not able to play doubles yesterday” Pouille told us post match.”
“I was too tired and too weak so I decided to withdraw. Today I tried. I was not 100%, but I decided to go on court and try to win.”
“It was not that far, it was pretty close and I think he played a good match.”
Withdrawing rarely seems to be on the mind of Pouille, who has played through injury and illness in the past.”
“If I woke up this morning with a fever then I may have considered withdrawing.” Pouille added.
“But I was feeling ok to play. Not at full energy, but because I was feeling quite ok I decided to play.”
“If I can play, even at 60 or 70 percent, I try to go on court to win. We play a lot of matches during the season when you are not feeling your best, but you have to go on court.”
WTA Round Up
CoCo Vandeweghe is through to the third round after a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Laura Sigemund. The American moves on to face Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro for a spot in the quarter finals.
In the battle of the Chinese qualifiers, Qiang Wang emerged victorious over Saisai Zheng. The world number 64 came through 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 to set up a match with Svetlana Kuzenstova in the next round.
Kiki Bertens improved to 3-0 against Timea Bacsinszky after a comfortable 6-2, 6-2 victory. The Dutchwoman will face Irina Begu in the third round on Wednesday.
ATP Round Up
Benoit Paire put in an impressive performance to beat the in-form Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-4. The Frenchman was the more clinical of the two, converting half of his break point opportunities and saving nine of ten faced on his own serve. Paire moves on to face fourth seed and good friend Stan Wawrinka next.
It was not a good day on the whole for the Spanish men. Roberto Bautista Agut and Ivo Karlovic battled for over thee hours without a single break of serve, but in the end the big serving Croatian got the better of the crowd favourite 7-6(4), (9)6-7, 7-6(7). Albert Ramos followed Bautista Agut out of the tournament as he was surprisingly beaten comfortably by Diego Schwartman 6-1, 6-3. In an all Spanish affair, Nico Almagro defeated Tommy Robredo 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to set up a second round clash with Novak Djokovic. Alex Zverev completed the day of misery with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Fernando Verdasco on Manolo Santana stadium.
David Goffin was the first player to book his place in the third round of the mens draw. Despite a tough first set against Florian Mayer, the Belgian took over proceedings in the second and ran away with the match 7-6, 6-0.
Dominic Thiem is also through to the third round after a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 victory over Jared Donaldson. The Austrian took the first set without facing a single break point, but after breaking in the second he was pegged back by his American opponent. The eight seed immediately broke again however and went on to secure a third round match against either Grigor Dimitrov or Ivo Karlovic.
2017 ATP Brisbane Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A new tennis season is upon us, and once again it kicks off down under in Brisbane. The Australian summer brings warmth, and world class tennis to our tv sets. Here is a look at Queensland’s ATP 250.
ATP World Tour 250
January 1-8, 2017
Prize Money: $437,380
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Milos Raonic (3)
2: Stan Wawrinka (4)
3: Kei Nishikori (5)
4: Dominic Thiem (8)
A super strong field for a 250, Brisbane packs the star power with all their seeds.
First round matches to watch:
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. (5)Rafael Nadal
Nadal started 5-0 in this h2h, but Dolgo has won their last two meetings. Nadal just won the exo in Abu Dhabi, and posted an 18-10 record on hard courts last year. Dolgopolov had a poor season last year, falling out of the top 50, and finishing below .500 on hard courts. The Ukrainian remains a threatening player with the ability to hit some amazing shots, but Nadal should be able to continue his momentum early this season with an opening round win.
Steve Johnson vs. (7)Grigor Dimitrov
Dimitrov leads Johnson 3-2 in their h2h, with all of their matches taking place in the past two seasons. Dimitrov went 30-15 on outdoor hard courts last year, while Johnson went just 17-15 in what was a slightly down season for the American. This should be a close match, but I’d give Dimitrov an edge based on his ability to hit off both wings.
David Ferrer vs. Bernard Tomic
Tomic has won his last two meetings against Ferrer after losing his first three. Bernie tends to play well in Australia and went 20-15 on hard courts last year. Ferrer went just 16-10 in what was his worst season on tour in over a decade. Once a consistent top 10 player, Ferrer is no longer ranked in the top 20. Tomic for his part continues to underperform his talent. At home in Australia, Tomic should have an edge though, as Ferrer has declined.
Lucas Pouille vs. Gilles Simon
The veteran Simon has two wins against the rising Pouille. Born a decade apart, Simon went 15-10 on hard courts last year, while Pouille went 19-12 and reached the top 15 for the first time in his career. Simon’s consistent counterpunching always makes him a challenging opponent, but Pouille has more upside and should sneak out a win in this one.
Defending champion Milos Raonic got his season started in Abu Dhabi after going 27-7 on hard courts last year, and now heads to Brisbane for an opening test against either Sam Querrey or Diego Schwartzman. Querrey is good on his day on hard courts, but Raonic’s serve should be enough to get him into the quarterfinals for a huge early season test against Rafael Nadal. Nadal looks rejuvenated and eager to return to world class tennis in his Brisbane debut. The Spaniard will face a qualifier, or serve and volleying veteran Mischa Zverev in the second round, after playing Dolgopolov. Zverev had a great finish to his season, and Nadal can struggle with the serve and volley style on fast surfaces, but I feel good enough about Rafa to predict him to reach the semis, defeating Raonic in the quarters. Nadal just beat Raonic in Abu Dhabi.
Dominic Thiem looks refreshed, and will hopefully take more care with his scheduling in 2017. The rising Austrian, 19-10 on hard courts in 2016, opens with Aussie Sam Groth or doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert in round 2. He should win that one easily enough to setup a quarterfinal test against Dimitrov, who will face Nicolas Mahut or Stephane Robert in round 2. Thiem has a h2h win against Dimitrov, and when fresh, Thiem is presumably the better player.
Stan Wawrinka, the Swiss #1, should get his year off to a winning start against Viktor Troicki or a qualifier, with Pouille his likely quarterfinal opponent. Pouille just needs to defeat Simon, and Kyle Edmund or a qualifier. Wawrinka went 26-6 on hard courts last year and should be motivated and fit to start the season. I’d expect him to make at least the semifinals in his first tournament.
Kei Nishikori posted a 32-12 hard court record in 2016, and after a tiring finish to the year, he’ll hopefully be in good form, and fitness to start 2017. Nishikori will face big server Gilles Muller or a qualifier in his first match, with Bernard Tomic lurking in the quarters. Tomic faces Elias Ymer or fellow Aussie Jordan Thompson after his first round match against Ferrer. Nishikori should be better from the baseline against Tomic and reach the semifinals.
Dark Horse: Bernard Tomic
The unseeded Tomic has a tough draw with Ferrer first, and Nishikori and Wawrinka his likely quarterfinal and semifinal opponents. At home, Bernie tends to play his best though, and wins against accomplished players such as the ones just mentioned would do wonders for his confidence and focus this young season.
Nadal d. Thiem
Nishikori d. Wawrinka
Nadal is 2-1 against Thiem, the veteran should be troubled by Thiem, but I still predict him to advance. Wawrinka leads the h2h with Nishikori 4-3, but it’s a close matchup, and Nishikori won the most recent one at the tour finals.
Nadal d. Nishikori
Nadal lost to Nishikori in the Olympics, but he leads the overall h2h 9-2, and I have a feeling that Rafa will start his year with an ATP title.
‘Big Bang Theory’ Star Kaley Cuoco To Join Bryan Bros. V-Grid Tennis Fest Once Again
Camarillo, Calif., – Kaley Cuoco, the award-winning actress and childhood friend of the Bryan Brothers, has committed to being part of the popular V-Grid Bryan Bros. Tennis Fest set for Sunday, Sept. 25, at the Spanish Hills Country Club in Camarillo.
Cuoco, star of the of “The Big Bang Theory”, will join the all-time winningest doubles team Mike and Bob Bryan and provide her humorous commentary alongside the twins’ father and event emcee Wayne Bryan. Season 10 of the “The Big Bang Theory” will premiere on CBS in two weeks.
“We are excited and elated to once again welcome Kaley back on the courts with us,” Bob Bryan said. “We’ve known Kaley since we were kids, and we’ve remained close friends with her and her entire family.”
Added Mike Bryan: “We’re so grateful Kaley will be able join us on Sept. 25. She made our event last year, and the crowd loved having her commentate on our doubles match.”
The Bryan Bros., who are nearing 1,000 professional career wins and are considered the greatest all-time doubles team, will take on top American singles players Steve Johnson and John Isner on the jam-packed day to raise funds for the Bryan Bros. Foundation. Johnson, who lost to Roger Federer in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, is from the City of Orange and earlier this summer won his first ATP pro title. Johnson and Isner are currently the No. 1 and 2 ranked American players in singles. Johnson is currently ranked No. 23 in the ATP World Tour rankings, and Isner is No. 25.
Tennis fans can purchase courtside seats for $100 (children under 17 $40) on the event website at www.BryanBrosTennisFest.com. here:http://www.bbtennisfest.com/general-admission/. There are still a few spot remaining in the Pro-Am where players can pair up with Bob, Mike, Isner, Johnson or former ATP star Mardy Fish. The event will once again feature wine and food tasting, a live auction, pro-am, and performance by the Bryan Bros. Band.
The schedule includes:
1:00pm-4:00pm: Pro-Am Tournament & Food and Wine Tastings
4:00pm-5:30pm: Pro Exhibition Matches
5:30pm-6:30pm: Bryan Bros Band Concert
Over the years, the event has raised more than $750,000 to benefit both the Ventura County Junior Tennis Association, as well as the Santa Barbara Tennis Patrons and other local children’s charities.
The V-Grid Tennis Fest is being run by Spanish Hills Director of Tennis Dave McKinney.
Sponsors include: Sponsors include: V-Grid Energy Systems, Alexander Cadillac, K-Swiss, Spanish Hills Country Club, Channel Islands Wealth Management, Fenessco, Progressive Equine, Channel Islands Wealth Management, St. Mary Magdalen School, Michael Phillip-Raymond James, Blois Construction and the SCTA.
For more information on the Bryan Bros. Foundation see the website at: http://www.bryanbros.com/about-the-foundation.html.