Opting to play on home clay in Geneva worked out well for defending French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. Wawrinka had been mired in a bad slump for quite some time, but his game woke up quite nicely with routine wins over Albert Ramos, Pablo Carreno Busta and Lukas Rosol, leading to a final victory over top 15 player Marin Cilic 6-4 7-6(11). Rosol and Cilic, power hitters, gave Wawrinka more difficult challenges, taking a set off of him in Rosol’s case, and forcing a pair of tight sets in Cilic’s case. Still, the Swiss #2 has his third title of 2016 in hand as he heads to Paris and reached his first semifinal or better since Dubai, which takes place in the early hard court season. The Swiss fans were quite pleased with their stars performance.
Marin Cilic reached his second ATP final of the season, but was once again foiled in his bid to capture his first title of the season. The Croatian still didn’t drop a set before the final, defeating Ernests Gulbis, Federico Delbonis, and David Ferrer, a trio of quality wins that will build confidence and form as he prepares for Paris.
Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey were the surprising doubles champions as they defeated Rajeev Ram and Raven Klaasen in the doubles final. The American pairing rarely play well on clay, but they found form this week.
Dominic Thiem won his third ATP title of 2016, as he continues to make a push for the top 10. The Austrian defeated fellow young gun Alexander Zverev for the second time this year on clay, 6-4 3-6 6-0, as Zverev challenged him hard, but faded late, handing Thiem a routine third set win, and a second consecutive title in the French coastal city.
As the top seed and defending champion Thiem the favorite for the title, and he didn’t disappoint, defeating Leonardo Mayer, Andreas Seppi, and Adrian Mannarino, not losing more than 3 games in any set in advance of the final. It was simply a dominant week for Thiem, who is a potential French Open dark horse.
Zverev was playing in his maiden ATP final, it fittingly came on clay after wins over Kyle Edmund (who injured his ankle and retired), Marcel Granollers, Gilles Simon, and Joao Sousa. The path for the German was much tougher, and he suffered from fatigue by the end of the week, as all of his matches went three sets after the first round, including a third set tiebreak contest against Simon. This young gun has a bright future ahead, but he hasn’t developed quite as quickly as Thiem has.
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah won their third title as a team this season in doubles, all of their trophies this year have come on clay. They defeated Mate Pavic and Michael Venus in the final.
Vesely and Mayer have split h2h meetings on clay and the Czech comes off a quarterfinal in Istanbul, and a semifinal in the Rome challenger. Mayer has lost three straight matches himself, and though he’s the bookmakers favorite, I have Vesely notching this upset win. Mayer has been poor this year, and Vesely famously beat Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo.
(5)Joao Sousa vs. (WC)Quentin Halys
Sousa reached the quarterfinals in Madrid before going out round 2 in Rome. The Portugese #1 has shaken off a run of poor form it seems and the young Frenchman Halys is going to have a tough task ahead if he’s going to excite the home fans and win this match. Halys has earned a main draw wild card for the French Open, and he won a challenger in the USA on clay a few weeks ago. He has a bright future ahead, and he’s a talent on clay, but Sousa should be the favorite.
The defending champion Dominic Thiem is 16-5 on clay this season, and comes off the quarterfinals in Rome. Thiem should beat Vesely/Mayer with either Paul-Henri Mathieu or Andreas Seppi likely to be his quarterfinal opponent. The French veteran PHM opens with a struggling Hyeon Chung, though he’s done little himself since reaching the quarterfinals in Casablanca. Seppi should be able to hand Daniel Munoz De La Nava his seventh straight loss. The Italian veteran hasn’t been great this season either, but on clay I favor Seppi over PHM, and then Thiem over Seppi. PHM is 4-1 over Seppi in the h2h.
Frenchman Benoit Paire has a couple of clay semis this year, he’s not elite on clay, but he should be more than good enough to defeat Robin Haase/Adrian Mannarino and setup a quarterfinal against either Fabio Fognini or Guido Pella. Mannarino is on a long losing streak, that Haase should add to. Fognini and Pella both open with qualifiers, they should be favored in those matches. Pella is 6-7 on clay this year, with a recent quarterfinal, Fognini is 7-7 and has both a quarterfinal and a semifinal as of late on clay. Fognini should beat Pella, and I also have him slipping past Paire for another semifinal result in a 250. Paire is 2-1 in the clay h2h, but I have a feeling he’ll lose his focus.
Gilles Simon‘s 6-3 record on clay should improve to 7-3 with a win over Taylor Fritz or Illya Marchenko, as the French veteran will be a home favorite in Nice. In the quarterfinals, Alexander Zverev is his likely opponent. Monte Carlo and Istanbul quarterfinalist Marcel Granollers will take on former finalist Brian Baker, the American veteran is coming back yet again from injuries and bidding to recapture ATP form, though he’s unlikely to beat an accomplished clay courter like Granollers. Zverev was a semifinalist in Munich, and won a match in Rome, he should beat Granollers, and I also have him beating Simon, as Simon is likely looking ahead to Paris, an even bigger stage. Zverev has previously beaten Simon this year.
Fernando Verdasco should benefit from the seeded Kevin Anderson being poor on clay. The Bucharest champion opens with a qualifier, presuming he wins that, Anderson should fall to him on this surface, even though he did win a match in Rome, for just his second win of the season. Sousa/Halys will face Victor Estrella or Denis Kudla in round 2. Kudla isn’t great on clay, but with Estrella struggling, he should prevail, he’s had some success qualifying on clay this year. Sousa over Kudla to setup a Verdasco vs. Sousa quarterfinal is the way I have my bracket setting up. Verdasco and Sousa have never played each other, and that should be a great match for fans of quality ball striking. The veteran Verdasco is my pick to advance as he’s eager to earn ranking points, even in 250s.
Outside of the favorite Dominic Thiem, a lot of the lower ranked players in this draw could rise up and have solid weeks. An experienced veteran like Verdasco, who has both talent, and skill, on clay, and can rise to the occasion and make deep runs in ATP tournaments should be set to have a good week. Verdasco will have a shot to win the tournament, and he can at least make the quarterfinals, and the semifinals.
Semis Thiem d. Fognini
Zverev d. Verdasco
If Thiem wants to win this tournament, it should be his, he’s been far and above the rest of this field in terms of recent play, and overall talent. I have the young gun Zverev also reaching the final, as he should be hungry for success.
Final Thiem d. Zverev
At this point in their careers, Thiem, who beat Zverev in Munich, should be the better player on this surface. If he wins the final, he’ll repeat as champion.
The ATP World Tour welcomed yet another first time winner to the fold in 2015, as Austrian young gun Dominic Thiem won a well deserved victory in the final over Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-7 7-5 7-6. The 21 year old, who is at his best on clay, could smell victory late in the third set, and he pounced on his opportunity, leaving Mayer frustrated down the stretch. Thiem improves to 1-1 in ATP finals as he lost in Kitzhbuhel last year, and it will be interesting to see how his over 2 hour triumph factors into his result at Roland Garros, where the attention will shift now.
Thiem lost just that one set to Mayer this week as he beat Victor Estrella in straights, got a retirement against Nick Kyrgios, and then routined Ernests Gulbis, one of his best pals on tour, and John Isner, as he dealt with the American’s big serve with great class. It’s pretty clear to me we will be talking about Thiem as a top 20 player in the near future.
Mayer, who was solid on serve this week, reached the final with quality wins over Lucas Pouille, Juan Monaco, and Borna Coric, all without dropping a set. He has struggled in 2015 thus far, but perhaps this result will signal a turnaround to his season.
Mate Pavic and Michael Venus won the doubles title over Horia Tecau and Jean-Julien Rojer
Thomaz Bellucci has a knack for performing well in Switzerland, as the powerful Brazilian won his third ATP title in the country, and also the maiden Geneva Open title. Bellucci defeated Portguese #1 Joao Sousa in the final 7-6 6-4, Sousa was up a minibreak in the opening set tiebreak, and a break in the second set, but twice he failed to shut the door on Thomaz, and he stormed back to take the match without dropping a set.
This week the in-form Brazilian defeated Marcos Baghdatis in three sets, Denis Istomin in straights, Albert Ramos in 3 sets, and Santiago Giraldo in straights, as his last three wins came against solid clay court players. Sousa, who has a habit of making streaky runs and then struggling for weeks on end beat Joao Souza and Jurgen Melzer in straights, then battled past Pablo Andujar, and Federico Delbonis in tight three set encounters. Delbonis upset Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals.
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah defeated Raven Klaasen and Yen-Hsun Lu for the doubles title.
2015 ATP Draw Challenge Week 18 (Nice and Geneva) Staff, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP Tour makes pit stops on clay in France and Switzerland with a pair of 250s before Roland Garros, and here are our expert picks.
Open de Nice Cote d’Azur Predictions
Steen Kirby’s picks
Round 2 matches: Simon vs, Kokkinakis, Coric vs. Tomic, Mayer vs. Pouille, Bemelmans vs. Monaco, Kyrgios vs. Thiem, Dolgopolov vs. Gulbis, Sock vs. Carreno Busta, Johnson vs. Isner
Quarterfinals: Simon vs. Coric, Pouille vs. Monaco, Thiem vs. Dolgopolov, Sock vs. Isner Semifinals: Coric vs. Monaco, Thiem vs. Isner Final: Monaco vs. Isner Champion: Isner
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round 2 matches: Simon vs, Kokkinakis, Coric vs. Tomic, Mayer vs. Pouille, Querrey vs. Paire, Kukushkin vs. Estrella, Dolgopolov vs. Gulbis, Sock vs. Carreno Busta, Johnson vs. Isner Quarterfinals: Simon vs. Coric, Mayer vs. Paire, Estrela vs. Dolgopolov, Sock vs. Isner Semifinals: Simon vs. Paire, Dolgopolov vs. Isner Final: Simon vs. Isner Champion: Isner
Chris de Waard’s picks
Round 2 matches: Simon vs, Kokkinakis, Coric vs. Tomic, Mayer vs. Pouille, Querrey vs. Paire, Kyrgios vs. Thiem, Dolgopolov vs. Gulbis, Sock vs. Carreno Busta, Johnson vs. Isner Quarterfinals: Simon vs. Coric, Pouille vs. Paire, Kyrgios vs. Dolgopolov, Sock vs. Isner Semifinals: Coric vs. Paire, Dolgopolov vs. Sock Final: Coric vs. Dolgopolov Champion: Dolgopolov
Opinions are very mixed on this tournament, though John Isner is presumed to do well. Benoit Paire already lost to Juan Monaco, who could have a good week, and Borna Coric and Gilles Simon should also challenge if healthy.
Round 2 matches: Wawrinka vs. Rosol, Gabashvili vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Dzumhur vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Tipsarevic, Ramos vs. Becker, Struff vs. Giraldo, Rublev vs. Cilic Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Ramos, Giraldo vs. Cilic Semifinals: Wawrinka vs. Andujar, Bellucci vs. Cilic Final: Wawrinka vs. Bellucci Champion: Wawrinka
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round 2 matches: Wawrinka vs. Lu, Delbonis vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Dzumhur vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Tipsarevic, Ramos vs. Becker, Youzhny vs. Giraldo, Rublev vs. Cilic Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Bellucci vs. Ramos, Giraldo vs. Cilic Semifinals: Wawrinka vs. Berlocq, Bellucci vs. Giraldo Final: Berlocq vs. Bellucci Champion: Bellucci
Jeff McMillan’s picks
Round 2 matches: Wawrinka vs. Rosol, Gabashvili vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Dzumhur vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Tipsarevic, Ramos vs. Becker, Youzhny vs Giraldo, Rublev vs. Cilic Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Gabashvili, Andujar vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Ramos, Giraldo vs. Cilic Semifinals: Wawrinka vs. Andujar, Bellucci vs. Giraldo Final: Andujar vs. Giraldo Champion: Giraldo
Chris de Waard’s picks
Round 2 matches: Wawrinka vs. Rosol, Delbonis vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Dzumhur vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Tipsarevic, Ramos vs. Becker, Struff vs. Berankis, Rublev vs. Cilic Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Sousa, Tipsarevic vs. Ramos, Struff vs. Cilic Semifinals: Haider-Maurer vs. Andujar, Tipsarevic vs. Cilic Final: Haider-Maurer vs. Cilic Champion: Cilic
Surprisingly, four different champions were picked this week by our analysts, and the top seed Stan Wawrinka was only picked by Steen. It really seems to be a toss-up in Switzerland this week as to who will claim the inaugural title at this tournament.
Week 17 Standings
Rome 1: Steen (270 points) (+1000 overall)
2: Chris (269 points) (+600 overall)
3: Niall (262 points) (+360 overall)
4: Joe (247 points) (+360 overall)
5: Jeff (244) (+180 overall)
In our narrowest margin of the season, Steen edged Chris by just a single point, and everyone did well this week given Djokovic was a consensus pick for champion, and took the title.
Rosol, Dzumhur, and Groth Pencil Themselves in as ATP Qualifiers This Week in Geneva and Nice Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
Following its 24-year absence from the ATP Tour, the Geneva Open in Switzerland will finally return to the main stage of the ATP Calendar this week. Headlined by one of their national sporting stars, Stan Wawrinka, the tournament will feature five top 50 players (Stan Wawrinka, Marin Čilić, Pablo Andújar, Benjamin Becker and Andreas Haider-Maurer).
During the qualifying rounds of the event, 7 out of the 8 seeded players reached the final round of competition. The only exception to the solid run by the seeded players was 20-year-old Pedro Cachín (7) who was knocked out in round two by Swiss player Yann Marti. The world No:313 also produced a solid win over Filip Krajinovic (No:101) in the first round of the Aix en Provence Challenger in France earlier this month. In the final round the Swiss player faced second seed Lukas Rosol. Rosol’s route to the final consisted of a surprisingly tough three sets win over world No:465 Laurent Rochette and then a straight sets win over Gleb Alekseenko from Ukraine. In the final round the Czech player experienced little trouble against Marti as he eased his way to a 6-3, 6-2, win. So far during the clay court season this year Rosol has produced back to back ATP World Tour quarter-final appearances in Bucharest, Romania and Munich, Germany.
Adrian Mannarino enjoyed a straightforward run during his qualifying bid. After receiving a first round bye, the Frenchman produced a straight sets win over Miki Janković to face Somdev Devvarman in the final round. Mannarino, who has won at least one match at the last seven Grand Slams, encountered a tricky first set before he cruised to a 7-5, 6-1, win. During the first Set the world No:29 opened up a 4-2 lead before Devvarman battled back to level it up. The spirited fight back by the Indian was however short lived as he was broken once more as Mannarino took the first set. Then Into the second set the Frenchman was too strong as he won four consecutive games on his way to booking his place into the main draw.
2009 Wimbledon boys champion Andrey Kuznetsov produced an impressive performance throughout the entire qualifying competition as he dropped only 14 games in three matches. After beating Tobias Simon and Philip Oswald in the first two matches, the Russian set up a final showdown against third seed Donald Young. Young has recently been experiencing back issues and was forced to retire during his first round match against Grigor Dimitrov in the Madrid Masters last week. The American beat two unseeded Swiss players on the way to his meeting against Kuznetsov. Unfortunately for American tennis fans Young suffered an annihilation as the Russian stormed to a 6-2, 6-0, victory in only 50 minutes. This is Young’s most lopsided defeat on clay since the 2012 Monte Carlo Masters. On that occasion he lost 6-1, 6-1, to Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round.
Grabbing the fourth and last spot in the main draw is Bosnia’s Damir Džumhur. Recently the 22-year-old has experienced back to back losses to players ranked outside the top 200 (Antonio Veic and Andrey Rublev). Fortunately, he has now managed to regain some of his form back with a 7-6 (6), 6-3, win against Italy’s Matteo Donati. Dzumhur already has one clay court title this year. He won the ATP Santo Domingo Challenger in February without dropping a set during the tournament.
Lukas Rosol vs. Rendy Lu (Head to head of 1-1)
Andrey Kuznetsov vs. Andreas Haider-Maurer (Head to head of 1-1)
Adrian Mannarino vs Carlos Berlocq (first meeting)
Damir Dzumhur vs. Jurgen Melzer (first meeting)
All of the qualifiers have winnable matches to start their main draw journey, and Rosol and Dzumhur should both be favored to advance.
As the build up to Roland Garros nears, the competition has already begun in France but at a different tournament. The main draw of the 31st Open de Nice Côte d’Azur will commence today with six out of the world’s top 30 players taking part. After a 13-year absence from the ATP Calendar, the tournament returned in 2010. Since then the winners of the tournament have included players such as Richard Gasquet (2010) and Ernests Gulbis (2014).
Action at the tournament has already got underway with the qualifying rounds featuring 24 men battling it out for four main draw spots. Leading them into the main draw is top seed Sam Groth. Like the seven other seeded players, Groth received a bye in the first round. During the second round the Australian overcame a challenging first set to beat Maxime Teixeira 7-6 (3), 6-2 after an hour and 21 minutes. Then in the final round of qualifying, Groth was only on the court for three points before his opponent, Quentin Halys, retired due to illness. There wasn’t any clarification of what the Frenchman was suffering with however the on court doctor took his blood pressure before he left the court.
The most anticipated final round match was between 17-year-old Frances Tiafoe and second seed Ruben Bemelmans. Tiafoe, a former world No:2 in the juniors, grabbed the American Wildcard into the French Open following his win at the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge. The player dubbed as ‘the future of American tennis’ eased his way into the final round with a straight sets win over world No:477 Daniil Medvedev whilst Bemelmans endured a marathon three sets battle against fellow countryman Yannik Reuter. The build up to the match unfortunately didn’t materialized into a competitive match on court as the Belgian raced to a 6-3, 6-3, win against Tiafoe.
Home joy for the French crowd came with Gianni Mina. The Frenchman is currently ranked 271st in the world and has won 5 Future titles. So far in his career, Mina has played at the French Open once which was in 2010 where he lost in the first round to the formidable Rafael Nadal. During the qualifying rounds the third seed came from a set down to beat Mate Pavić. In the final round, he faced Philipp Davydenko, the nephew of former world No:3 Nikolay Davydenko. Going into the draw the Russian has suffered five consecutive first round losses before he finally ended his losing streak against Wang Chieh-fu. The Russian continued his sudden burst of form at the start of his match against Mina by taking the first set. Despite the first set lead by Davydenko, he failed to maintain it as Mina battled back to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, in front of his home crowd. This is the first time that Mina has qualified for the main draw of a main ATP event since Gstaad in July last year.
The final man to make the main draw was New Zeland’s Michael Venus, who played his college tennis at LSU, after a shock three sets win over 4th seed Ante Pavić. Venus also produced wins over Gianluca Mager and Fabrice Martin during the qualifying tournament. The win is a big boost Venus and his camp as he has so far only achieved a main draw win-loss of 3-1 in 2015. He is currently ranked 514 in the world, but has been as high as 274 back in 2011. Nice will be the second time that Venus has played in the main draw of an ATP 250 event in 2015 after Auckland back in January. At that tournament he played one of the matches of the year against Alejandro Gonzalez, triumphing.
2015 ATP Nice and Geneva Previews, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final week on the ATP tour before the 2015 French Open in Paris will feature a pair of clay 250 level tournaments. Nice in France is back yet again with its intimate venue, and Geneva is making it’s debut on tour this year as well. The Swiss city previously hosted a quality, and successful challenger tournament, and with the success of Swiss tennis over the last decade, it’s a well deserved promotion as it takes the place of Dusseldorf, Germany on the calendar. Dusseldorf met it’s demise soon after the World Team Cup format came to an end.
2015 ATP Nice Preview
Open de Nice Cote d’Azur
ATP World Tour 250
May 17-May 23, 2015
Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP Rankings in parentheses)
1: Gilles Simon (12)
2: John Isner (17)
3: Ernests Gulbis (22)
4: Leonardo Mayer (25)
With a seed cutoff of 36 Nice has a pretty good field for a pre-slam tournament, that said, the top 4 seeds are either poor on clay or slumping, so unseeded players will have a great chance this week to excel.
First round matchups to watch:
(8)Juan Monaco vs. Benoit Paire
Both of these guys are streaky players who were formerly near the top of the ATP tour, but have slid down to being fringe to mid-tier ATP players who rarely threaten for titles, even in 250 level events. Monaco, the veteran has encountered some tough draws in the spring clay court season and thus his record stands at an even 4-4. Paire is 3-3 in main draws this spring on clay, and has bounced around qualifying as well. They have an even 1-1 h2h on clay with both matches going three sets, and any way you slice it, this is a tough match to predict. That said, Monaco seems to be the superior player in form and focus over Paire as of late, and thus he’s the favorite. Paire is likely to produce more highlights, but Monaco has the steadier groundstroke game.
Victor Estrella vs. Dominic Thiem
Estrella rolled past Thiem in straights when they met in Barcelona not too long ago, and now we will see if he can repeat that result in Nice. Thiem has been improving over his past two tournaments going 4-2 in Rome and Munich, after consecutive losses to start the European spring clay court season. The Austrian has had a streaky and unpredictable year, and it’s still a question as to what type of form he will show up to this tournament in. The remarkable veteran Estrella has far less upside than Thiem but he’s maximized the talent he does have as he’s also 4-2 over his last six on clay with a win over Marin Cilic his most notable in that span. Once again, this is a 50/50 proposition, but I’d give Thiem the slightest of edges to advance if he continues to play as he did in Rome.
Gilles Simon, the top seed, and a home favorite, is likely to get his tournament started against Thanasi Kokkinakis, as the young Aussie should dispatch his countryman James Duckworth, an opponent who struggles on clay. Kokkinakis has been on a relative roll on clay this Spring, with strong under the radar performances. The teenager is currently in the final of the Bordeaux Challenger and he qualified in both Istanbul and Madrid, all of those tournaments on clay of course. That said, he should be too fatigued to give Simon much of a problem, and thus expect the Frenchman to at least reach the quarters presuming his health has returned to him after retiring in Rome.
Bernard Tomic and Borna Coric will vie for supremacy in the section below Simon, with the Croat the likely quarterfinalist. Both will open with qualifiers as Tomic looks to snap a four match losing streak. The Aussie has cooled off after a strong start to the season, though that had to be expected given he’s not at his best on clay, while Coric continues to build up results as a young gun, and he should reach his second clay quarterfinal of the season (also did so in Estoril), with wins over a qualifier and Tomic. Presuming he faces and defeats Tomic, that would avenge his loss to him in Indian Wells on hard court this year.
I’m picking Coric over Simon to reach the semis, Simon retired in his last match in Rome, and Coric took a set off of him on indoor hard in Marseille this year. Clay should give Borna a slight edge and Simon may not be fit after a so-so spring clay season.
The partisan French crowd should be rooting for young gun Lucas Pouille, a potential dark horse in the draw, to give the 4 seed Leonardo Mayer a whipping in the second round. Pouille will open with American Tim Smyczek, who is not comfortable on clay, and should he upset Mayer, he would be grabbing the spotlight after last making waves in January where he reached his first ATP semi in Auckland. The Frenchman has put together a solid clay court record this spring on a mix of challenger and ATP events, and he notably defeated Dominic Thiem in Monte Carlo. Mayer is just 3-4 on clay this Spring, and I have Pouille notching the upset to reach the quarterfinals.
The winner of Paire/Monaco is the likely quarterfinalist in the last section on the top half, Sam Querrey/qualifier are not an imposing second round opponent, and I’d also favor Monaco over Pouille to reach the semis. Juan dispatched Pouille at the French last year without dropping a set.
John Isner may well face Steve Johnson again, if the American can beat a qualifier. Isner beat Johnson 4 and 4 in Monte Carlo this year and given he’s 7-4 on clay this year and Johnson is just 2-4, he has the decided edge to reach the quarters. He could well face American Jack Sock in that quarterfinal, if Jack continues to compete hard and impress. He’ll need a revenge win over Dusan Lajovic, who he lost to at the French last year, in the opening round, but the Houston champ, who has lost a pair of tough matches in a row to solid clay court players Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Simon, should be the favorite to do that given Lajovic, though he qualified in Rome, hasn’t done much on clay this year. The winner of Maxime Hamou, a French wild card, vs. Pablo Carreno Busta will decide who the winner of Sock/Lajovic will face. The 19 year old Hamou recently reached a challenger semi, and he’s also scored himself a Roland Garros main draw wild card while PCB was a semifinalist in Estoril, but has been abysmal most of this season. I’d give Hamou a chance, but Sock should beat Lajovic and PCB to reach the quarters.
Isner has beaten Sock twice on clay, including in Nice last year, and given the 4-1 h2h I’m pretty comfortable picking the higher ranked American to reach the semis, even though a Sock win wouldn’t come as shock.
It’s more than likely the defending champion Ernests Gulbis will see his hopes continue to be dashed, this time Gulbis is likely to lose to Alex Dolgopolov in the second round, presuming Dolgo beats his countryman Sergiy Stakhovsky. They have a split 2-2 h2h and Dolgo qualified and won a round in Rome, while Stako has been struggling. Gulbis is 2-1 in the h2h, with all of their matches on clay against Dolgopolov, and both are unpredictable but Gulbis has been having one of the worst seasons for a top 20 player in recent memory as he’s on another 5 match losing streak and is just 1-11 this year. Going back to the challenger tour still seems like the wisest option for the Latvian.
The section above Dolgopolov/Gulbis is the strongest in the draw as it features title contenders Estrella/Thiem, and also Nick Kyrgios, who will open with Mikhail Kukushkin. Kyrgios has had an extremely impressive clay court season with an ATP final, success in doubles in Rome, and a win over Federer in Madrid. That said I see a Thiem-Dolgopolov quarterfinal, as I’m unsure Kyrgios can sustain his success against the Thiem/Estrella winner. I’m going with a Thiem-Isner semifinal, simply because I trust an in-form Dom on clay more than anyone else in this section Should he fail to perform however, Estrella, Kyrgios, or Dolgo should pick up the slack and reach the semis.
He’s in the weaker top half of the draw with a questionable Simon, and a struggling Tomic thus he can very well reach the semis, and his semifinal opponent is unlikely to be that daunting of a challenge whether it’s Mayer/Pouille or Monaco/Paire. He has a solid shot at winning his first ATP title this week, and the young gun clearly has the game to do it presuming he can put it all together this week.
Monaco d. Coric
Isner d. Thiem
I’m picking Monaco simply because I feel he’s played slightly better on clay as of late, and the same goes for Isner. A reverse result wouldn’t surprise me at all, but Isner, has shockingly put together the best clay court season of anyone in this tournament.
Isner and Monaco have met twice on clay before with a split h2h, and going back to what I said previously, Isner has actually been best on clay of anyone in this tournament, thus I shockingly have an American winning a title on clay in Europe this week.
2015 ATP Geneva Preview
ATP World Tour 250
May 17-May 23, 2015
Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP Rankings in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (9)
2: Marin Cilic (10)
3: Pablo Andujar (43)
4: Benjamin Becker (44)
Geneva is strongly tilted towards the top 2 seeds as the seed cutoff is 61, and the rest of the field is pedestrian at best for this maiden tournament.
First round matchups to watch:
Federico Delbonis vs. Teymuraz Gabashvili
On paper this is not a marquee matchup, and it may even be pushed to the secondary court but these two grinders have a split 1-1 h2h on clay and both have won challenger tournaments on the surface recently. Delbonis won Sarasota, though he has failed to qualify for both Madrid and Rome. Gabashvili has been on a tear on the challenger tour as he has won 10 straight matches, and consecutive challenger titles on two surfaces. The competition hasn’t been harsh, but he’s still showing some of his best tennis, as he also reached the quarters in Houston (upset Isner) and qualified for Istanbul. Fatigue should be a factor, and that’s the main reason as to why Delbonis would have the edge, but I’m going with Gabashvili to continue the positive momentum myself.
Jarkko Nieminen vs. (WC)Andrey Rublev
Another fantastic opportunity for the young gun Russian to grab another ATP main draw win, the multi tool Rublev who has 4 ATP maindraw wins at just 17 has been given a wildcard and matched up against the veteran Nieminen, who doesn’t like clay that much. The Fin hasn’t won consecutive matches since January and he’s in the twilight of his career, thus I’m going with an upset and picking Rublev over the lefty. He’s played well under pressure this year and he’s proven he can compete at this level.
Rome semifinalist Stan Wawrinka is the shining star on home soil at this tournament and he’s unlikely to have any trouble against Rendy Lu/qualifier in his first match. Lu has been playing hard court tennis in Asia, and thus should be jetlagged and unprepared, giving the qualifier a decided edge to advance. Wawrinka has struggled at times this year, but his form picked up in Rome and he should also be favored over Gabashvili/Delbonis, or perhaps Andreas Haider-Maurer who has put together a solid 2015 campaign thus far. AHM has a h2h win over Gabashvili and he has a semi a quarterfinal on clay this year. In my own bracket I have Wawrinka defeating AHM for a spot in the semis.
Pablo Andujar will open with Carlos Berlocq or a qualifier, Berlocq is 2-1 against Andujar on clay, but he has lost three consecutive matches, Andujar made that shock run to the Barcelona final, but has done little else of note this season. I have Andujar into the quarters in a toss up match, and he’s likely to get an easy quarterfinal opponent as well, given all of the potential options are struggling right now. Joao Sousa should defeat his nearly named doppleganger Joao Souza, Souza has lost 6 straight matches while Sousa is a poor 4-6 on clay himself this spring. Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer could suffer another bad loss to a qualifier in the other match in this section, Melzer has been in abysmal form, and thus I have Andujar reaching the semis over Sousa, though a qualifier has great odds at success in this poor quality section.
Marin Cilic will open with the Nieminen/Rublev winner, the Croat is just 1-3 since reaching the Monte Carlo quarters, and Rublev could pull off a shocking result, still Cilic is the odds on favorite to reach the quarterfinals at least. Above the Cilic section is one of the weakest ATP quarters you will see on tour this year featuring Mikhail Youzhny as the seed, J.L Struff, Ricardas Berankis, and Santiago Giraldo. Youzhny is practically retired and is just 2-4 on European spring clay, Struff comes off one of his best results of a poor season with a semi in a clay challenger in Germany, Berankis is just 1-5 on spring Euro clay and Giraldo has lost three straight and continues to struggle this year. Nobody really deserves to reach a quarterfinal form this section, but I’m picking Struff to do so simply because he played well in Heilbronn. Giraldo should beat Berankis, and Struff should beat Youzhny, and then Struff should beat Giraldo, though Santi may have more upside. Even a rusty Cilic should dispatch Struff in the quarters.
Albert Ramos is the favorite for the quarterfinals in the section above that, Ramos will face Marinko Matosevic first, and then the seed Benjamin Becker, both of whom are very poor on clay, and both of whom have lost more than 5 matches in a row. Ramos qualified in both Madrid and Monte Carlo, and he’s an actual dirtballer who hits with high spin. Thomaz Bellucci is the probable favorite to be the final quarterfinalist, though Janko Tipsarevic could sneak in on his comeback tour. The Serb will open with a struggling Denis Istomin and his .500 record since returning to tour after an absence of a year and a half is admirable. Presuming he’s getting better each tournament, we’ll see what happens in Geneva. Bellucci will open with Marcos Baghdatis who is poor on clay and he’s a tremendous 9-3 over his last three tournaments. Look for Bellucci to defeat Tipsarevic, and then Ramos and reach the semis. Ramos and Bellu has never played, and Tipsy and Bellu split meetings on clay in their previous h2h. A semifinal for Bellucci would be well deserved after his great efforts over the past month, he even took a set off of Novak Djokovic in Rome.
Given Bellucci is probably the third favorite to win the tournament, if not the second, he’s the obvious choice for dark horse in Geneva. With a weak draw, that should feature a beatable semifinal opponent, be it Cilic or someone else the Brazilian could reach his sixth ATP final, and his first since 2012. He qualified in both Madrid and Rome, along with reaching the quarters in Istanbul as of late, and he took a set off Djokovic as mentioned, along with scoring a top 20 win over Roberto Bautista Agut in Rome. Wawrinka will be a tough opponent in the final, but I do have him getting that far this week.
Wawrinka d. Andujar
Bellucci d. Cilic
Wawrinka is 3-0 in the h2h against Andujar, with all of those wins coming on clay, and given his form perked up in Rome, there are fewer question marks about him going into this lower tier 250 event on home soil. The local hero should make the tournament, the fans, and his sponsors happy by reaching the final.
Bellucci has been in better recent form than Cilic, and that’s why I’m picking him to reach the final.
Wawrinka d. Bellucci
Wawrinka has previously lost to Bellucci on clay, and the prospect of losing again to him isn’t out of the question, that said, Stan was impressive in Rome, and he should be motivated to be the first champion of this tournament. He’s far from a lock, but still the above board favorite to capture this title going into Roland Garros.