ATP World Tour Continues Tour of China With 500 Stop in Beijing Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP 500 in Beijing is the third of four ATP stops in China this year, and features a stronger field than the previous two events combined. Here is your look at the action this week.
While he faces credible opposition, under no circumstances should Juan Martin Del Potro not be favored to reach the semifinals as his path of Albert Ramos, Sam Querrey/Karen Khachanov, and likely Borna Coric in the quarters is not incredibly burdensome. Coric opens with Feliciano Lopez, Filip Krajinovic or Mischa Zverev are set to follow. Del Potro is the best form player in this section and the most talented, so he should take it.
Section 2 is weak and unpredictable, #4 seed Fabio Fognini is in good form but will likely be fatigued, meaning that qualifier Radu Albot has a genuine shot at an upset. Joao Sousa made a semifinal last week and should be favored against a struggling Andrey Rublev. I’ll back Sousa in this section defeating Albot in round 2. Marton Fucsovics should edge Andreas Seppi in round 1, while Marcos Baghdatis is better on hard courts than #8 seed Marco Cecchinato. Sousa over Fucsovics is my pick for the section after Fucsovics defeats Baghdatis.
Section 4 of the draw should see some upsets as I’ll back Roberto Bautista Agut to upset Alexander Zverev in round 1, and Gael Monfils to upset Fernando Verdasco. Monfils should go on to beat Nikoloz Basilashvili/Jack Sock, while RBA will be favored against Malek Jaziri/Yibing Wu. RBA is better than his current unseeded ranking and Monfils has to make a run at some point. RBA over Monfils is my pick in this section.
I’ll back Kyle Edmund to rebound from a recent slump and have a good tournament, Edmund has a path of Peter Gojowczyk, Matteo Berrettini/Leonardo Mayer, and probably Ryan Harrison/Grigor Dimitrov to reach the semis. I’m not sold on Dimitrov right now, and I’ll take Harrison in an upset. Dusan Lajovic faces fellow qualifier Vasek Pospisil in this section, with Edmund over Harrison my pick.
Millman is the best of the players who came through qualifying and could trouble the St. Petersburg semifinalist Bautista Agut. RBA is a solid baseliner though, and I’d expect him to advance.
(4)Dominic Thiem vs. Alexander Zverev
Thiem has won 3 times against Zverev this year and has won at least one match in his last four tournaments. Zverev won the St. Petersburg title, his greatest triumph thus far on tour, and will be ready for this battle. I’m going with Thiem if he’s not too exhausted given the h2h.
(8)Richard Gasquet vs. Sam Querrey
Querrey has looked terrible since he knocked off Djokovic at Wimbledon, and he badly needs to get a boost of confidence. A win over the seeded Gasquet, who comes off the Shenzen final,, would give him the boost he needs. Gasquet is the favorite but if he’s not 100% Querrey will have a chance.
Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Bernard Tomic
Neither PCB nor Tomic have played well in their most recent outings. PCB continues to improve on hard courts, while Tomic will be the favorite and needs to get used to winning regular ATP matches like this if he’s going to get back to getting himself seeded in 500 level tournaments.
Dimitrov comess of the semis in Chengdu and has split meetings with Johnson this year. Johnson is a more traditional baseliner, while Dimitrov has more flair. The American is playing for the first time since an early exit at the US Open and may be rusty. I’m going with Dimitrov to break their h2h deadlock.
Despite dropping a Davis Cup rubber and losing in the US Open quarters, top seed Andy Murray should still dispatch Andreas Seppi, and the winner of Konstantin Kravchuk/Andrey Kuznetsov to reach the quarters. Murray is simply better than his competition, and RBA looks set for the quarters, presuming the Spaniard beats Millman and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Kyle Edmund. Murray over RBA is my pick in the quarters.
I have Dominic Thiem beating Zverev, Jack Sock, and an in-form Viktor Troicki to reach the semis. It’s a very tough path for the Austrian. Sock is playing for the first time since the US Open and opens with wild card Ze Zhang. Troicki faces a struggling Fabio Fognini, and David Ferrer opens with Pablo Cuevas in this section. Ferrer has been a disappointment this year, and the in-form Troicki is my upset pick over the #5 seed.
Rafael Nadal opens with Paolo Lorenzi, who is playing the best he ever has, but is still nowhere near Rafa’s level. Nadal could rematch with Lucas Pouille, who stunned him in New York, if Pouille can beat wild card Rendy Lu, and the Dimitrov/Johnson winner. Pouille has been playing well enough that I think he’ll defeat Dimitrov before falling to Nadal in their rematch. Nadal will face qualifier Adrian Mannarino or Albert Ramos in round 2, Ramos was an ATP finalist last week in a surprise.
Milos Raonic opens with Florian Mayer, an in-form Malek Jaziri or Guido Pella will follow, with Gasquet/Querrey or Tomic/Carreno Busta next up. Raonic needs wins in his quest to qualify for London and even though he may not be 100% I have him serving his way into the quarters, then beating a tired Gasquet.
In a section featuring Thiem, Zverev, Sock, and Ferrer, the unheralded name of Viktor Troicki could be the one to survive. He’s been playing well lately and is solid on this surface.
Semis Murray d. Thiem
Nadal d. Raonic
The top 2 seeds have their own reason to make a push for the title here, Murray needs to find form again before the Shanghai Masters, while Nadal would love an ATP title to boost his confidence after wrist problems.
Final Nadal d. Murray
Nadal should really want this title and I’m going with him in an upset.
2015 ATP Beijing and Tokyo Previews and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
ATP World Tour 500*
October 5-October 11, 2015
Prize Money: $2,700,510
*denotes joint ATP/WTA tournament
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Tomas Berdych (5)
3: Rafael Nadal (7)
4: David Ferrer (8)
5: Milos Raonic (9)
6: John Isner (13)
7: David Goffin (15)
8: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (16)
Half of the top 10 and a good portion of the top 20 are in Beijing, in what is one of the strongest China Open fields ever.
Millman beat Robredo this year at Wimbledon, and the qualifier leads the h2h 2-0 against the Spaniard, including a hard court win in Sydney back in 2013. Robredo is in good form though as he reached the semifinals in Shenzen, and prior to that, the quarterfinals in St. Petersburg. Robredo looks to continue his good Fall season thus far with a win in this one, but Millman found form in qualifying and will have a chance in this one if Tommy ends up being fatigued.
(6)John Isner vs. Dominic Thiem
The big serving Isner lost to the ball striker Thiem on clay this year in Nice, and has a solid shot at avenging that loss on a much faster surface in Beijing, that should favor his aggressive style of play. Thiem is 4-2 in his last six matches and reached the semis in St. Petersburg though, while Isner has been known to struggle after the US Open historically. I’d expect Isner to win this, but it should be an entertaining encounter.
(7)David Goffin vs. Andreas Seppi
Two of the best ball strikers in the game will face off as Goffin continues to try to make a push for the top 10 before the year is out. The Belgian didn’t lose an opening round hard court match all Summer and he should be favored against Seppi, who is playing for the first time since winning a pair of US Open matches. Goffin is a heavy favorite, but Seppi will try to spoil his hopes.
Fognini is 3-2 in the h2h against Klizan and both players look to be in good form as Klizan’s power matches up against Fognini’s ball striking and shotmaking. The Italian is 5-1 in his last 6 matches and will try to stay focused, while Klizan is 10-3 in his last few tournaments and comes off of the semifinals in Metz. Given this is a hard court surface and Klizan is notably more consistent, I’ll go with the Slovak to pull of a minor upset in this one.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez vs. Ivo Karlovic
GGL is 3-1 in the h2h over Karlovic and has a shot at taking the title in Shenzen after reaching the final with a win over Marin Cilic. The Spanish veteran is 5-2 in his last seven matches, while Karlovic comes off of a quarterfinal loss in Malaysia to Nick Kyrgios. The big server is always dangerous on this surface and could take advantage of a fatigued GGL to pull off the upset.
Five time Beijing Champion Novak Djokovic, the world #1, will begin his quest for a fourth straight China Open title against qualifier Simone Bolelli. Bolelli is in good form but should lack the consistency to test Novak, from there look for Djokovic to crush qualifier Denis Istomin, who opens with Chinese wild card Ze Zhang, and then beat John Isner in the quarterfinals, presuming Isner beats Thiem and Robredo/Millman. Isner beat Robredo in Beijing last year at the same round of 16 stage. Djokovic should buzzsaw himself to the semis.
Kuala Lumpur champion David Ferrer continues his quest to secure a World Tour Finals top 8 berth, and opens with Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci in round 1. Ferrer improved as he went along in Malaysia and should win that one and a match against the winner of Aljaz Bedene/Lukas Rosol to reach the quarterfinals. Bedene is in relatively good form and leads Rosol 2-0 in the h2h. The Czech is struggling to some extent. Ferrer is almost certain to meet Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals, Raonic opens with a struggling Viktor Troicki, and then will serve it up against Rendy Lu/Adrian Mannarino. Mannarino retired in his last match, while Lu has also struggled to stay healthy. Ferrer is 4-0 against the St. Petersburg champion Raonic and thus I have him finding a way to reach the semifinals.
Shenzen finalist and possible champion Tomas Berdych should continue his winning streak and defeat dirtballer Pablo Cuevas in round 1, after that, he’ll also be a favorite against Garcia-Lopez/Karlovic in what could be a rematch of the Shenzen final. In he quarters, Goffin vs. Berdych is an intriguing matchup. Goffin has a difficult draw with Seppi and Fognini/Klizan in his first two matches. Berdych is 1-0 in the h2h against Goffin, but I’m bullish on the Belgian’s form right now, and I have him upsetting an inconsistent Berdych to reach the semifinals. Of note, Karlovic has a good record against Berdych, so if he gets through that could spell trouble.
Rafael Nadal should win his first couple of matches, even on a hard court surface in a down year for the Spanish lefty. Di Wu, a local wild card, is his first opponent, and then he’ll face Vasek Pospisil most likely in round 2, presuming Vasek defeats Victor Estrella. Pospisil comes off of the quarterfinals in Kuala Lumpur. Nadal should have a difficult quarterfinal against most likely Metz champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Tsonga opens with Andreas Haider-Maurer). After AHM, Tsonga should face off with young American Jack Sock in round 2. Sock, who opens with Teymuraz Gabashvili, is in good form but Tsonga has been in vintage form as of late and I’d favor him over both Sock and Nadal to reach the semifinals.
Klizan has to beat Fognini, and then would need to upset Goffin and Berdych, but he beat Nadal in Beijing last year and he has the talent to post those kind of results. The seeds should excel here, but Klizan is most likely to spoil the party.
Semis Djokovic d. Ferrer
Tsonga d. Goffin
Djokovic should cruise his way into the final no matter who he faces in the semis, Tsonga is 3-2 against Goffin and I feel his form is slightly better at the moment, giving him an edge.
Final Djokovic d. Tsonga
I’d be shocked if Novak didn’t win this title, he has an unblemished record in Beijing and no one is strong enough to stop him right now.
The Kuala Lumpur finalist Lopez is 2-0 in the h2h against Sousa and has been in excellent form over his last few tournaments. The serve and volleyer should be a favorite in this one, but the St. Petersburg finalist Sousa would love to spoil his good form. Sousa is a quality ball striker and will try to push Flopez back, I have Lopez winning this but it’s an interesting style contrast.
(5)Kevin Anderson vs. Gilles Muller
Anderson is 2-1 in the h2h against Muller, both big servers tend to play a large number of tiebreaks and this match is unlikely to be any different. Muller reached the quarterfinals in Metz and he’s had a solid season, but Anderson has stepped up big this year and the US Open quarterfinalist has a great chance to make a run in Tokyo. Muller is good, but Anderson is better, and the South African should demonstrate his superior abilities in this one.
(8)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Benoit Paire
Paire leads the h2h 2-1 against a struggling Dimitrov (2-2 in his last four matches), and if the Frenchman can find form and consistency, he could notch a quality upset in this one. He wasn’t healthy in St. Petersburg, and retired in his first match, but he reached the second week of the US Open and he certainly has all the shots to win this one. I still make Dimitrov a slight favorite, but this matchup has an upset written all over it.
(4)Richard Gasquet vs. Roberto Bautista Agut
Gasquet and RBA have a 1-1 h2h record, and RBA is 5-2 in his last tow tournaments. It hasn’t been a great season for the Spaniard, but he appears to be rounding into solid form. Gasquet, a US Open quarterfinalist, had a solid summer overall and looks to continue that in the Fall. He’s a better all around shotmaker than RBA and I’d consider him the favorite in this intriguing matchup.
A battle of unseeded players with talent on hard courts. Johnson has beaten Tomic twice this year, but both those matches were close and Bernie hasn’t lost an opening round match since his loss to Johnson in Washington. Stevie J is on a three match losing streak and this win would be a huge confidence boost for the American. Regardless of the h2h, I have Tomic as the favorite.
(2)Kei Nisihkori vs. Borna Coric
Coric acquired a seven match winning streak on clay after his opening round US Open loss, but now he’s going into the lions den that is Tokyo to face home favorite Kei Nishikori in front of what should be a sold out, and rowdy Japanese crowd. The young talent is in good form, but Nisihkori played well in Davis Cup play for team Japan and has his sights set on the title here in Tokyo. It’s not the easiest opening match to start with, but Nisihkori should get through.
Stan Wawrinka was injured in Metz, and his first round opponent Radek Stepanek leads the h2h against him 5-1. With that said, Wawrinka is a better player at this point in their careers and with Stepanek not in great form, Stan the man should still get out of the first round. Last year, Wawrinka fell to Tatsuma Ito in Tokyo, and he could get a rematch in round 2, if Ito defeats Yoshi Nishioka, another of the local Japanese wild cards. Nishioka is more talented than Ito and has a brighter future ahead, but their round 1 match is a bit of a tossup. A healthy Wawrinka should reach the quaterfinals, but Lopez could trouble him there. After Sousa, he’ll face Matt Ebden/Austin Krajicek in round 2, both of those players are qualifiers and Ebden plays well in Asia. Wawrinka leads the h2h with Lopez 4-2, but I favor Lopez form at the moment and thus I have him upsetting the #1 seed.
Metz finalist Gilles Simon opens with qualifier Mikhail Youzhny, and then should advance from that to face Jiri Vesely, presuming the Czech defeats Yasutaka Uchiyama. Vesely, a quarterfinalist in Shenzen, is in good form, but Simon’s consistency should likely help him reach the quarterfinals. Muller/Anderson has the edge to reach the semis though, in round 2 it should be Anderson vs Jeremy Chardy/Sam Groth. Groth lost in Kuala Lumpur round 1, and all four players in this section are big hitters. I have Anderson over Simon for a semifinal spot. Anderson leads the h2h with Simon 2-0.
Nishikori didn’t have much luck with his draw, even as the home favorite. After Coric, the two-time Tokyo champion has to face either Alex Dolgopolov or Sam Querrey, and then Shenzen semifinalist Marin Cilic most likely in the quarterfinals. Dolgopolov hasn’t been healthy recently, and Querrey is struggling, both are dangerous, and Cilic has a rivalry with Nishikori, along with bidding to reach the World Tour Finals. Cilic opens with qualifier Donald Young, then will face Tomic/Johnson in round 2. Young is in good form since the US Open. Given Nishikori leads the h2h with Cilic 6-3, and 4-1 since 2013, along with being at home, I still expect Kei to go into playstation mode and reach the semifinals at least.
Gasquet/RBA will face Albert Ramos or Nick Kyrgios in round 2, most likely the dangerous floater Kyrgios. The Kuala Lumpur semifinalist has already played Gasquet five times, and he trails the h2h 1-4, thus Gasquet should beat him for the fourth time this year to reach the quarterfinals. Dimitrov/Paire faces Marcos Baghdatis or Fernando Verdasco in round 2, Dimitrov is vulnerable and that makes his round 2 match intriguing, but I still see him getting past Baghdatis to reach the quarterfinals. Gasquet should then stomp him for a spot in the semis.
You can’t count the volatile but talented Australian to catch fire and serve and smash his way through Gasquet and potentially Dimitrov to reach the semifinals. There are other dark horses like Paire, Sousa, and Baghdatis/Verdasco but he has the highest peak potential right now.
Semis Anderson d. Lopez
Nishikori d. Gasquet
Anderson leads the h2h with a likely tired Lopez 3-0, Nishikori should roll at home.
Final Nishikori d. Anderson
Kev will have a chance, but Tokyo is Nishikori’s to lose, he peaks here as playing in Japan is like another slam for him.