2016 ATP Buenos Aires Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Golden swing in South America rolls on with Argentina’s only ATP tournament, the 250 level Argentina Open.
ATP World Tour 250
February 8-14, 2016
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Prize Money: $523,470
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (5)
2: David Ferrer (6)
3: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (9)
4: John Isner (12)
The Argentina Open has one of its strongest fields with three top 10 players, and a seed cutoff at #35.
First round matchups to watch:
Juan Monaco vs. (Q)Marco Cecchinato
The 2007 champion Juan Monaco is playing his first match back from a serious wrist injury last summer, and he’ll open with the Italian qualifier Marco Cecchinato. Cecchinato is trying to move to the ATP level, and they both have a history of success on clay. Depending on his level of rust, Monaco could rally with the home crowd and earn a win.
Paolo Lorenzi vs. Pablo Andujar
Lorenzi and Andujar have played eight times on clay, and the h2h is deadlocked at 4-4. Lorenzi is 7-2 over his past two clay court tournaments, while the spin maestro Andujar has to be happy to return to clay. Lorenzi could be fatigued, and thus Andujar is likely a slight favorite.
(5)Dominic Thiem vs. Pablo Carreno Busta
Thiem won a three setter over PCB last year, and this should be a good tournament for him. He continues to rise up the rankings, and he’ll also be pleased to be on clay. PCB comes off the semis in Quito, and this one could also go three sets.
(6)Fabio Fognini vs. Federico Delbonis
Fognini won a third set tiebreaker in a clay court match against Delbonis last year that was an absolute thriller in Rio. Both are capable of great clay court tennis, and Delbonis will have home support. Fognini is higher ranked, and could well make a run in this tournament, though the outcome is up in the air.
Rafael Nadal’s six losses on clay last season were his most since 2003, and he’ll look to get back into form as the king of clay in Buenos Aires. Nadal will open with Cecchinato, or his good friend Monaco, in round 2, with most likely Alexandr Dolgopolov to follow in the quarterfinals. Dolgo opens with 23 year old Diego Schwartzman, with Lorenzi/Andujar to follow. He’s a bit streaky on clay, but he has the talent to get into the quarters. Nadal should have a relatively smooth path to the semifinals, though an upset is possible given his decline these days.
John Isner opted to play in South America on clay, and he’ll have a tough opening match with Fernando Verdasco most likely, though Verdasco first has to defeat Dusan Lajovic. Lajovic has a h2h win on clay over Verdasco, who lost his first match in Quito. Verdasco’s inconsistency this season could be Isner’s gain, he’s had a positive record on clay over the last few seasons.
Thiem/Carreno Busta are likely to meet Isner/Verdasco in the quarters. Qualifier Gastao Elias, or Daniel Munoz De La Nava are the alternative, Elias has been in good form as of late with a couple of challenger quarterfinals, though Thiem likely gets through, and then defeats Isner to reach the semis. Thiem beat Isner on clay in Nice last season.
David Ferrer was 19-5 on clay last season, and has three previous Buenos Aires titles on his resume. Ferrer will open with an Argentine, either Renzo Olivo or Facundo Bagnis. Bagnis has two challenger titles and a semifinal on clay already this season, Olivo reached the quarters in Quito and also has been in good form. Bagnis h2h edge makes him a slight favorite, but I’m going with Olivo vs. Ferrer, and then Ferrer into the quarterfinals.
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#8 seed Pablo Cuevas is the favorite to reach the quarters and face Ferrer from his section. Cuevas has a h2h loss to his round 1 opponent Albert Ramos, a Quito semifinalist, but he should be fresher than his opponent and advance to face Santiago Giraldo. Giraldo had a negative record on clay last year, and needs improvement this season. Ferrer is 2-0 against Cuevas, and 5-0 against Ramos, making him a clear favorite for the semifinals.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is 5-2 in 2016, and posted a 10-5 record on clay last season. Like Ferrer, he has an Argentine in his opening match, either the veteran Leonardo Mayer, or Guido Pella. Mayer can be a troublesome opponent, but Tsonga is likely to reach the quarterfinals. Fognini/Delbonis will face Nicolas Almagro in round 2, Almagro has been struggling in 2016. Tsonga vs. Fognini should be a cracking match, Tsonga has a 4-0 h2h edge, and thus Ferrer vs. Tsonga in the semis is a possible outcome.
Dark Horse: Federico Delbonis
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Delbonis has to get past Fognini, but if he does, he could make a run that will ignite the home crowd, potentially reaching the quarterfinals and beyond. Delbonis has a fantastic career record on clay, and continues to improve his ATP game. He also has an ATP title on clay (Sao Paulo 2014).
Nadal d. Thiem
Ferrer d. Tsonga
Nadal beat Thiem a couple of years ago on clay, this match should be a much closer encounter, but Nadal’s experience and skill on the surface still make him a tournament favorite. Ferrer has beaten Tsonga twice on clay, and in South America he should have an edge.
Nadal d. Ferrer
Nadal has won his last three meetings against Ferrer, and though it could be a close contest, Rafa is the favorite.