The five ATP 250 level hard court stops in the run-up to the Australian Open saw five different players claim titles and find form during the first portion of the 2019 season. Here is your look at all of January’s ATP action.
Roberto Bautista Agut claimed a 9th career ATP title defeating Tomas Berdych 6-4 3-6 6-3 in the final, after stunning world #1 Novak Djokovic 3-6 7-6(6) 6-4 in the semifinals, one of the best wins of his career. The Spaniard also claimed wins against Matteo Berrettini, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and Stan Wawrinka.
It was a great comeback tournament for Berdych who beat Philipp Kohlschreiber, Fernando Verdasco, Pierre Hugues Herbert and Marco Cecchinato. David Goffin and Herbert won the doubles title over Haase/Middelkoop.
Kevin Anderson is a dark horse for the Australian Open title and he was the player to beat in India, capturing the Chennai title 7-6 6-7 7-6 over fellow big serving veteran Ivo Karlovic. Gilles Simon, Jaume Munar, and Laslo Djere also fell to Anderson as he didn’t drop a set until the final. Karlovic, the oldest top level player on tour, defeated Felix Auger Aliassime, Evgeny Donskoy, Ernests Gulbis, and Steve Darcis, a veteran on the comeback trail.
Home heroes Bopanna and Sharan defeated Bambridge/O’Mara in the doubles final.
Kei Nishikori came through as the favorite in Brisbane, defeating rising Russian Daniil Medvedev 6-4 3-6 6-2 in the final. Nishikori didn’t drop a set prior to the final, racking up wins against Denis Kudla, Grigor Dimitrov, and Jeremy Chardy. Medvedev’s path to the final was defeating Andy Murray, Milos Raonic, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, three capable and crafty veterans.
Marcus Daniell and Wesley Koolhof beat Ram/Salisbury in the doubles final.
Sydney native Alex De Minaur triumphed at home for his maiden ATP title. The Demon edged tour veteran Andreas Seppi 7-5 7-6 for his 5th straight match win. ADM defeated Dusan Lajovic, Reilly Opelka, Jordan Thompson, and Gilles Simon to reach the final, he didn’t drop a set all week.
The veteran Seppi was happy to find form in what was a challenging tournament for him. Jeremy Chardy, Martin Klizan, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Diego Schwartzman were his victims on the week in some nip and tuck matches.
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares defeated the Colombians Cabal/Farah in the doubles final.
Tennys Sandgren has a lot of points to defend in Melbourne, but he enters the AO in great form after claiming his first career ATP title. Sandgren won Auckland without dropping a set this week. Sandgren blitzed past Cam Norrie who grew up in Auckland. Max Marterer, Marco Cecchinato, Leonardo Mayer, and Philipp Kohlschreiber were all defeated by Sandgren.
Norrie defeated Benoit Paire, Joao Sousa, Taylor Fritz and J.L. Struff to reach the final. Ben McLachlan/ Jan-Lennard Struff defeated Klaasen/Venus in the doubles final.
2019 ATP Brisbane Has Dimitrov, Nishikori, and Raonic Looking To Get On Track Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
ATP Brisbane is the start of the season for a good number of top players as they prepare for the Australian Open under the Australian sun. With the early rounds complete we take a look at the quarterfinals and beyond at this ATP 250 on hard courts.
Operating under a protected ranking, former AO finalist Tsonga has defeated Thanasi Kokkinakis and Taro Daniel to reach this stage. He benefited from Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal due to fatigue before Nadal was due to play his opening match. Home hero ADM, a rising star, represents a far tougher challenge though. ADM plays well at home and hasn’t dropped a set so far. Tsonga has experience but he’s still a bit shaky at times and I’d expect De Minaur to reach the semis.
After a rough 2018 for the formerly top 10 Raonic, he’s in good form so far, defeating Aljaz Bedene and Miomir Kecmanovic in straight sets, with his serve game firing. This is another match where the young gun should have an edge over the legacy name though. The rising Medvedev (age 22) got a bye into round 2 and eased past a still sluggish Andy Murray in straight sets. Medvedev has dark horse potential at the AO and should be favored here.
Chardy upset a spider bit Nick Kyrgios and has once again reached the quarters of an ATP event. He’s not an elite player, but the Frenchman excels at playing at a good (but not great) level. He should have an edge over the less experienced Uchiyama, similarly to how he edged past J.L. Struff in three sets in round 1. The qualifier Uchiyama edged Ugo Humbert in round 1 before stunning Kyle Edmund in straight sets in round 2. It’s been a disappointing start for British tennis in Australia.
These two generational talents have significant history, including a 2017 Brisbane final meeting that saw Dimitrov prevail. Nishikori has won 4 of 5 meetings though and after a routine win against Denis Kudla he should be favored against the inconsistent Dimitrov. Dimitrov is aiming to return to the top 10 after a disappointing 2018, and a win against the top 10 Nishikori would be huge though. I expect a battle with Nishikori taking it.
Medvedev d. De Minaur
Nishikori d. Chardy
A rematch of last year’s Sydney finals in the semis of Brisbane, Medvedev is likely ahead of ADM at this point in their careers but it should be close. Nishikori is expected to lift the title though as he’s the most talented player left in the draw and his form looks solid.
Frenchmen Simon and Monfils Start 2018 With ATP Titles Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Nick Kyrgios claimed ATP title #4 and his first ever in Australia defeating Ryan Harrison 6-4 6-2. Kyrgios overcame questions about the fitness of his leg early in the week, he needed three sets against Matt Ebden, Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Grigor Dimitrov. Despite the shaky start, Kyrhios improved as the week went on and really pressed the gas pedal when he needed it to start the season. Kyrgios continues to be a player of much promise, and now he heads to the Australian Open brimming with confidence, back in the ATP top 20, and hopefully fit.
Harrison continued his resurgence at age 25, he dropped sets against Leo Mayer and Yannick Hanfmann but won the third set with ease in both matches, then he defeated Denis Istomin and surging young Aussie Alex De Minaur, winning that match in three sets by taking a second set tiebreak and a 6-4 3rd set. Harrison reached 2 ATP finals last season and he’s already halfway to that number in the first week of 2018.
Henri Kontinen and Australia’s own John Peers beat Leo Mayer/Horacio Zeballos in the doubles final.
Gael Monfils won his first title since 2016 with a comprehensive 6-2 6-3 victory against young gun Andrey Rublev in the Doha final. Monfils got a walkover in the semis against Dominic Thiem, and despite dropping sets to Paolo Lorenzi and J.L. Struff, he seemed to kick the cobwebs off his game pretty quickly, defeating Peter Gojowczyk in straights in the quarters and then taking it to Rublev, who’s shotmaking was erratic when it mattered most. Monfils only made one final last year so he’s already matched that in 2018.
Rublev reached a second career ATP final and picked up 2018 where he left off in 2017. The young Russian found his range against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, Fernando Verdasco, Borna Coric, and Guido Pella, winning tough matches against both Verdasco and Pella. He’s now a trendy dark horse at the Australian Open.
Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic beat Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares in the doubles final.
33 year old Gilles Simon turned back the clock and had his best week on tour in quite some time, taking home the title in Pune 7-6 6-2 over in-form South African Kevin Anderson. It’s Simon’s first title since 2015 and gives him renewed hope and confidence in his tennis after winning just 16 matches last year. Simon beat Tennys Sandgren, Roberto Bautista Agut, Ricardo Lara, and top seed Marin Cilic, that semifinal win coming in three sets as he was a brick wall against Cilic’s powerful groundstrokes.
Simon isn’t the most exciting player to watch, but he was impenetrable against some big hitters, Anderson being one of them. Kev beat Thiago Monteiro, Mikhail Kukushkin, and Benoit Paire, dropping sets to Kukushkin and Paire but still reaching the final. It’s Anderson’s first final since last year’s US Open.
Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop beat Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Simon in the doubles final, denying Simon a coveted double title result.
2018 ATP Brisbane Preview and Predictions: Dimitrov and Murray Start Season Down Under Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP 250 on hard courts in Brisbane this week has the strongest field of the three ATP tournaments that kick off the 2018 season. Grigor Dimitrov looks to build off a career year in 2017, while Andy Murray and Milos Raonic hope to come back healthy in 2018. Aussie home hero Nick Kyrgios is also in the field and could make a run. Here is your full preview, with predictions of the Brisbane International in sunny Queensland.
Dimitrov, now a top 5 player, looks to build on his 49-19 season last year against either John Millman or a qualifier, Millman is a plucky challenger level player but he only had a handful of ATP level matches last year and Dimitrov should be too much for him. Besides Dimitrov, young guns dominate this section, Kyrgios should face young American Frances Tiafoe, Canada’s next big thing Denis Shapovalov takes on Kyle Edmund in a highlighted round 1 match, and Hyeon Chung takes on big serving veteran Gilles Muller to open his 2018 season. I have Shapovalov making a run and getting past both Edmund and Chung before falling to Dimitrov.
Kyrgios, if engaged, should defeat Tiafoe or local Aussie Matt Ebden before taking on Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman’s path is Alex Dolgopolov and Horacio Zeballos/qualifier. The 25 year old won 38 matches last year, all of them at the tour level, and despite being undersized he showed plenty of big game on hard courts. That said, Kyrgios serve should help him reach the semis to face Dimitrov.
Canada’s top 2 are in Brisbane as Milos Raonic hopes to be fit in his opening match against either Steve Johnson or Alex De Minaur, a talented young wild card. Johnson could surprise, but Raonic is the favorite to reach the quarters and also beat Mischa Zverev/Federico Delbonis or one of two qualifiers.
Andy Murray had limited movement and played flat in an exo match in the Middle East last week, he starts off his ATP season in Brisbane but I have very low expectations. Ryan Harrison had a decent season in 2017 and I have him defeating both Leo Mayer and Murray before falling to Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur, who won a pair of post US Open titles to end 2017. Dzumhur opens with Denis Istomin then he’ll face either 23 year old Jordan Thompson or 21 year old American hope Jared Donaldson, both of whom could be trouble.
Given how he finished 2017 Dimitrov is the tournament favorite until proven otherwise. The bottom half is the weaker part of the draw, and if Raonic plays a decent caliber of hard court tennis he should take it.
Dimitrov d. Raonic
Look for Dimitrov to get off to a winning start in 2018
Djokovic, Dimitrov, and Bautista Agut Start 2017 As Champions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Novak Djokovic claimed his second consecutive, and second overall Doha title in a nip and tuck 6-3 5-7 6-4 victory over world #1 Andy Murray. Djokovic showed he’s going to make a push for the world #1 early this season in his comprehensive victory over Murray. The new knight Murray played well in the match, but faltered late, and proved it’s still difficult for him to defeat Djokovic when the Serbian is at his best.
Djokovic’s path to the title featured routine wins over J.L. Struff, Horacio Zeballos, and Radek Stepanek. Fernando Verdasco was his semifinal opponent and gave the Serbian all he could handle. Djokovic was a set down and faced five match points in the second set tiebreak before capturing it and going on to win the third set. Verdasco’s weaknesses mentally in clutch situations let him down once again.
Murray showed he’s still a cut above the rest of the ATP tour, posting wins over Jeremy Chardy, Gerald Melzer, Nicolas Almagro, and Tomas Berdych without dropping a set. Murray had a few signs of rust, but he looks healthy and focused as his next stop will be Melbourne, where he’s often the bridesmaid, but never the bride.
Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin beat Vasek Pospisil and Radek Stepanek for the doubles trophy.
Grigor Dimitrov won his first ATP title in three years as the 25 year old defeated Kei Nishikori 6-2 2-6 6-3 in a fantastic singles final. Dimitrov played his best tennis in well over a year as he was firing accurately from both wings and pushing the Japanese #1 around for much of the match. Dimitrov returned well to get his breaks when needed, and maintained his high level of play in the clutch moments of the match.
Dimitrov also defeated top 10 players Dominic Thiem and Milos Raonic in his quarterfinal and semifinal matches respectively for his best results in years. He also defeated Steve Johnson and Nicolas Mahut in early round action.
Nishikori for his part got off to a solid start, defeating Jared Donaldson, Jordan Thompson, and Stan Wawrinka before falling in the final. Wawrinka was disappointing in his semifinal match, while Nishikori showed he’ll be a dark horse threat in Melbourne.
For Dimitrov, a renewed push for the ATP top 10 will be in order if he can maintain this high level of play. He’s certainly not an opponent anyone wants to draw at the Australian Open.
Australian young guns Thanasi Kokkinakis and Jordan Thompson eased past Sam Querrey and Gilles Muller in the doubles final, to the delight of the local crowd.
Roberto Bautista Agut earned his fifth career ATP title with a 6-3 6-4 victory over young gun Daniil Medvedev, who at age 20 was taking part in his first ever ATP final. RBA was one of the tournament favorites from the start, and he got off to a hot start, easing past Rogerio Dutra Silva. In round 2 Mikhail Youzhny was in control, a set and a double break ahead, but Youzhny suffered an epic collapse and RBA won in three sets, going on to defeat Benoit Paire in straights in the semifinals.
The young Medvedev made the best of a favorable draw, defeating Thiago Monteiro, Rendy Lu, and Jozef Kovalik without dropping a set. He then came back from a set down to score a close victory over veteran Dudi Sela. After starting 2016 on the futures tour, you’ll certainly be seeing more of this young Russian on the ATP tour in 2017.
Indian pairing Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan defeated Purav Raja and Divij Sharan in an all Indian doubles final at India’s only ATP World Tour tournament.
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.
Semis 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.
Final 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.
Milos Raonic scored his second career win over Roger Federer, as the Canadian upset the Swiss legend 6-4 6-4 in Brisbane. Federer was suffering from the flu this week, and it showed, even though he reached the final. Raonic had that extra edge when needed to hold serve and grab a break in both sets, and he’s continuing to improve his bid for the top 10 with his 8th career ATP title.
Raonic needed three sets over Ivan Dodig, but his straight set wins over Lucas Pouille, and Bernard Tomic prepared him well for the final. Not much is new with Raonic’s game, but when he serves and returns as well as he did this week, he’s hard to stop.
A flu ravaged Federer still played well against Tobias Kamke, slipped past Grigor Dimitrov in three sets, and handled Dominic Thiem in straights. Dimitrov choked under pressure, while a subdued Federer was somewhat more aggressive than usual.
Henri Kontinen and John Peers beat Aussies Chris Guccione and James Duckworth in the doubles final.
Novak Djokovic will head into the Australian Open as a heavy favorite after his blistering warm-up run in Doha. The Serbian superstar and world #1 won his sixth consecutive tournament dating back to last season, and captured his first ever title in Doha with a thumping 6-1 6-2 win over Rafael Nadal. Djokovic has owned Nadal in recent years, and though the Spaniard played well before the final, he could only watch in awe as his game was dismantled from the start, later going on to compliment Djokovic’s performance.
Novak beat Dustin Brown, Fernando Verdasco, Leonardo Mayer, and Tomas Berdych as well this week, all without dropping a set, as he was rarely tested in Qatar.
Nadal lost his third ATP final in a row, but he still clawed his way past Pablo Carreno Busta in three sets, Robin Haase, Andrey Kuznetsov, and first time ATP semifinalist Illya Marchenko in the semifinals. Marchenko had the run of his life this week, scoring wins over David Ferrer, Teymuraz Gabashvili, and Jeremy Chardy with sharp, powerful baseline play. Things appear to be on the upswing for both players, and Nadal appears to be improving on hard courts.
The Lopez brothers, Feliciano and Marc, beat Philipp Petzschener and Alexander Peya in the doubles final.
Stan Wawrinka won his fourth ATP Chennai title (third in a row) with a resounding win over first time ATP finalist Borna Coric 6-3 7-5. We’ll be seeing more from Coric, as the 19 year old won three setters over Marcel Granollers, Roberto Bautista Agut, and improving semifinalist Aljaz Bedene. He also beat Austin Krajicek in round 2 this week.
Wawrinka was simply the toast of the town with routine straight set wins over Andrey Rublev, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and Benoit Paire before the final. He too looks to be a threat heading into the Australian Open as well, and could challenge Djokovic like he has in the past in Melbourne.
Oliver March and Fabrice Martin defeated Krajicek/Paire in the doubles final.
Oliver Anderson produces the win of his life during ATP Brisbane qualifying Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
As the world embarks on the new tennis season, many have spoken about the teenagers that could make a name for themselves on the tour this year. One of these names not on the list is 17-year-old Oliver Anderson who has produced a massive upset at the Brisbane International qualifying draw.
Wildcard entrant Anderson is currently ranked 813th in the world and has only won eight main draw matches so far in his career. Despite having the odds against his, he upset 8th seed Denis Novikov in three sets (3-6, 6-4, 6-4) to set up a meeting with Tim Smyczek. Smyczek defeated Matt Reid in three sets in his first round match. Placed 709 places below the American in the ATP rankings, Anderson played the tennis of his life to stun the fourth seed 6-7(3), 7-6(1), 6-2. The win comes two weeks after the teenager started working with former tennis player Wayne Arthur. The Queenslander player spoke of his shock during his after match press conference.
Top seed Ernests Gulbis kicked-off his 2016 season in disappointment following a straight sets loss to Yoshihito Nishioka (6-3, 6-4). The former French Open semifinalist started qualifying in solid fashion with a 6-4, 6-2, win over Romania’s Marius Copil in the opening round. Facing the Japanese 20-year-old Gulbis had difficulty handling Nishioka’s serve. Throughout the match, the 5th seed faced one break point, which he saved, compared to Gulbis who faced six. Nishioka is currently at a career ranking high of 117th in the world. Last year he ended his season by winning the ATP Toyota Challenger.
Germany’s Tobias Kamke reminded everybody of his talent during his successful qualifying campaign. Kamke has been ranking as high as 64th in the world back in 2011, however, a inconsistent 2015 resulted in him falling down the rankings to 277th in the world. During the off-season, he reportedly spent time working with Sascha Nensel and Dusan Lajovic. The training seemed to have paid off when he defeated 7th seed Norbert Gombos 6-2, 7-5 in the first round. In the final round, he faced unseeded Estonian Jurgen Zopp. Zopp defeated third seed Thiemo de Bakker in his first round match. During the match, which consisted of some lengthy games, Kamke eased himself to a 6-3, 6-2, win after an hour and 12 minutes on the court.
Finally, Ivan Dodig was the highest ranked player to qualify for the main draw. The second seed opened up with a 6-1, 6-3, win over 2014 US Open boys’ champion Omar Jasika. Jasika will play in the upcoming Australian Open after being awarded a wildcard from Tennis Australia. Awaiting him in the last round was talented American 19-year-old Jared Donaldson. Last year Donaldson won his first Challenger title in Maui. The match was a tightly contested match with Dodig breaking the American’s serve in the final game of the match to book his place in the main draw, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
Main draw matches for the qualifiers
(Q) Tobias Kamke vs. (WC) Benjamin Mitchell
(Q) Yoshihito Nishioka vs. Lucas Pouille
(Q) Ivan Dodig vs. (Q) Oliver Anderson
2016 ATP Brisbane Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP season has once more arrived with a flash as three 250 level events on hard courts will kick off the Australian Open warm-up swing. It’s time for previews and predictions of the next editions of ATP starting with Brisbane.
Brisbane International Presented by Suncorp
ATP World Tour 250
January 4-10, 2016
Prize Money: $404, 780
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (3)
2: Kei Nishikori (8)
3: Marin Cilic (13)
4: Milos Raonic (14)
All of the seeds are top 20 players, and two of the world’s top 10 are in sunny Australia to start their ATP seasons off as this is once again a strong 250 level event
First round matchups to watch:
Viktor Troicki vs. Steve Johnson
Troicki had 40 match wins and just 29 losses last season but the second half of his year was relatively disappointing given how good the first half was. He’s still in the top 25 however and needs to get his year off to a good start to keep his ranking up.
Johnson made major strides in 2015, going a comparable 37-29 and getting himself nearly into the top 30. The American has built his game beyond a quality forehand and posted an ATP final and semifinal to end the season last year. This surface and venue suits his game well, and an upset win could lead to a dark horse run to start the season.
(5)Gilles Simon vs. Grigor Dimitrov
Simon went the opposite direction of Dimitrov in 2015, and holds a 4-0 h2h edge against the Bulgarian, making him the favorite in this match. The defensive baseliner went 43-24 in 2015 and snuck himself into the top 15 at 31 years of age. Dimitrov, at 24, still has time to make good on his tremendous talent, but he was one of the biggest disappointments of 2015 going 32-22 and failing to break into the top 10. Now ranked 28 it’s harder for him to get good draws, and an early loss to a player of Simon’s quality could set him back even further given he’s defending a semifinal result last year here.
Hyeon Chung vs. Sam Groth
The teenager Chung is already well on his way to being South Korea’s most accomplished male tennis player, as he’s nearly broken into the top 50 at just 19. After a strong 2015 on the challenger tour, and an even .500 campaign at the ATP level, this will be the first full time ATP year for the Korean, and he’ll need to win matches like this to maintain his ranking.
Groth is the home favorite and his big serves suit the hard court surface, though he plays with such thin margins of error given he lacks an ATP caliber return game to compliment the massive serve he packs. He was below .500 at the ATP level in 2015, and I see Chung having made enough improvements in the off season to win this match.
Roger Federer won last years edition of this tournament and given he’s still the world number 3 who went 63-11 against the world’s best competition last year, he should be able to cruise into, at least, the semifinals with limited stress.
Federer’s first opponent will be either wild card Ben Mitchell, a home Aussie, who has never been ranked higher than 200 or won an ATP match (0-4), or qualifier Tobias Kamke, a former top 70 journeyman who is just 56-95 career at the ATP level. Mitchell likely has a slight edge as the home player but Fed should cruise regardless in his first match. The Simon/Dimitrov and Troicki/Johnson quarter is intriguing, any of the four players could make it through, with Simon being the favorite, and Johnson has a potential dark horse. Federer has won his last five meetings with Simon, and that should be his path to the semis.
Marin Cilic went 35-19 with a shortened season last year and has a relatively easy path to what should be his first semifinal this season. Cilic will open with the Chung/Groth winner and could face the #8 seed Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals, presuming the Austrian avoids being tripped up by wild card James Duckworth in round 1, and either Denis Kudla or wild card J.P. Smith in round 2.
Thiem went 37-27 and broke into the top 20 last year but hard courts don’t suit him like clay does, and I wouldn’t put it past the quality ball striker Kudla to knock him off in round 2. Kudla is in the top 70 now and is looking for more ATP success after strong challenger results last year. Cilic over Thiem is my quarterfinal pick. given the surface.
Kei Nishikori has made three consecutive semifinals in Brisbane and after a 54-16 2015, he looks to improve and get himself back into the top 5 this season. His counterpunching abilities should be more than enough to handle either Denis Istomin or Mikhail Kukushkin in his first match. Istomin is 2-1 against Kukushkin on hard courts and should have the slightest edge to advance in round 1.
Nishikori is nearly certain to meet Bernard Tomic in the quarterfinals, as the Australian has an easy draw consisting of aging serve and volleyer Nicolas Mahut, and the Radek Stepanek/Dusan Lajovic winner. Tomic’s junkballing is likely to face serve and volleyers in his first two matches presuming Stepanek beats Lajovic, who much prefers clay. Stepanek had a rough year last year and was injured for part of it, still the veteran has the desire to compete left in him.
Tomic went 40-27 last year, and tends to play well in Australia, but Nishikori should prove too stiff of a test in the quarters. The Japanese #1 has a 2-0 h2h and beat him in the Brisbane quarters last year.
Milos Raonic went 33-15 in 2015, and had to deal with injuries, including back problems at the end of last season. The Manitoba Missile fell from the top 10, but he still has a powerful serve and a great hard court game when healthy. Raonic won’t be tested until the quarterfinals against most likely David Goffin, as a qualifier will be his first opponent, either veteran Ivan Dodig, or ATP main draw débutante Olivier Anderson, a 17 year old Aussie who beat veteran Tim Smyczek to qualify. Anderson seems to have a bright future ahead.
Goffin had a great 2015, going a career best 38-25 and bursting into the top 20. The undersized ball striker posted consistent results and helped Belgium reach the Davis Cup final as well. To maintain his ranking he’ll need to beat players like his round 1 opponent Thomaz Bellucci, a streaky Brazilian, and the Yoshihito Nishioka/Lucas Pouille winner. Nishioka is on the rise, already earning an Aussie Open wild card, and the 20 year old Japanese was strong in qualifying. Pouille is a French talent who made an ATP breakthrough last year, but the speedy Nishioka should be able to handle his powerful forehand. Nishioka could knock off Goffin but I wouldn’t count on it.
Given it’s the start of a new season there are multiple dark horse shots in this field, but Johnson could beat Troicki and Dimitrov/Simon, two quality wins, to reach the quarterfinals and face off with Federer, a result that would continue his improving results from last season. This surface and venue suits him well, and we’ll see what Stevie J can do.
Federer d. Cilic
Nishikori d. Raonic
Federer is 4-1 on hard courts against Cilic and Nishikori has the same 4-1 mark against Raonic, though he lost to him in Brisbane last year. They should be close and quality semifinals, but the top two seeds are favorites.
Federer d. Nishikori
Federer has won the last three meetings against Nishikori, the gap between them isn’t considerable, but it’s still there, and the Swiss should take the Brisbane title.
Roger Federer survived an onslaught from Milos Raonic to win in 3 sets 6-4 6-7 6-4 and capture the Brisbane title for his 1000th career match victory. Fed saved five break points in the third set, after dropping the second set tiebreak, and broke when he needed for the victory.
Federer recorded wins over John Millman, an Aussie wild card, in 3 sets, along with James Duckworth and Grigor Dimitrov en route to the final. He got better as the tournament went on. Raonic beat Mikhail Kukushkin in straights, Sam Groth in 3 sets, winning a pair of tiebreaks and Kei Nishikori, who he upset by winning two out of three tiebreaks in a nail-biting match.
Jamie Murray and John Peers defeated Nishikori and Alex Dolgopolov in the doubles final.
Stan Wawrinka won Chennai yet again, he defeated Borna Coric, Gilles Muller, David Goffin in straight sets before toppling qualifier Aljaz Bedene in the final. Wawrinka was the top player in the field this week and was barely tested.
Surprise finalist Bedene beat Lukas Lacko and upset Feliciano Lopez before scoring two big wins over Spaniards Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Roberto Bautista Agut. He saved multiple match points against RBA and won in three sets.
Rendy Lu and Jonathan Marray won the doubles title over Raven Klaasen and home favorite Leander Paes.