2018 ATP Pune Preview and Predictions: In-Form Kevin Anderson Highlights Field Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Fresh off an exhibition victory in Abu Dhabi South Africa’s #1 Kevin Anderson is the star of the ATP Pune field. Formerly held in Chennai, India’s only ATP Tournament has 250 points up for grabs on hard courts to start the season. Here is your full preview with predictions.
Marin Cilic should be happy to be able to start the season in good shape. He should ease past either Roberto Carballes Baena or local wild card Ramkumar Ramanthan before running into Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Yuki Bhambri in the quarters. PHH will serve it up against Marco Cecchinato followed by either Bhambri or wild card Arjun Kadhe. Bhambri has been a player of promise for a wild and he posted a solid season, mostly below the ATP level, last year.Look for Cilic over Bhambri in the quarters.
Abu Dhabi finalist Roberto Bautista Agut is as steady of a contender as they come, the Spaniard will get either veteran Gilles Simon or Tennys Sandgren in round 2. Simon had a miserable 2017, while Sandgren broke out last year, starting the year off right is big for both players. RBA looks likely to face Jiri Vesely in the quarters, Spaniard Ricardo Lara is Vesely’s round 1 opponent and making his ATP main draw debut. Ilya Ivashka takes on Sumit Nagal in a battle of qualifiers in the other match in this section. Bautista Agut should put away Vesely in the quarters unless Vesely has really improved in the offseason.
The bottom half should be dominated by Anderson, who served masterfully in Abu Dhabi, he’ll face either Ruben Bemelmans or Thiago Monteiro round 2, with Mikhail Kukushkin seemingly the best choice to sneak into the quarterfinals opposite the South Afircan. Kukushkin faces Radu Albot, challenger level players Laslo Djere and Marius Copil will face off for the right to face Kukushkin/Albot round 2. Anderson should cruise into the semis.
Enigmatic shotmakers Benoit Paire and Robin Haase could be set for a quarterfinal meeting, Haase faces the grinder Blaz Kavcic in round 1, while Paire will face Nicolas Kicker or Marton Fucsovics. Hungary’s Fucsovics is the dark horse here, he showed improvement last year and could make a run, especially since Paire struggled to end 2017. Haase needs to keep building his ranking after some good performances in 2017. Haase should beat Kavcic and either Jarry or Andujar, Andujar hasn’t played a match since 2016 and is returning from injury. Haase over Fucsovics is my pick in the quarters.
It would be a rematch of the Abu Dhabi final, but a sensible one, RBA and Anderson should ride a wave of good form into the final, with Anderson the favorite. Cilic leads the h2h with RBA 4-1 and won both matches last year but I’m not sure he’ll be at his best.
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
The inaugural ATP tournament in Hungary’s capital, Budapest, is underway this week, it’s a 250 on clay as French Open preparations continue across Europe.
Gazprom Hungarian Open
ATP World Tour 250
April 24-30, 2017
Prize Money: €482,060
Monte Carlo semifinalist Lucas Pouille begins his campaign against Jiri Vesely, who knocked off Borna Coric round one and has won five of his last seven. Pouille on clay looks solid enough to reach the quarters opposite Martin Klizan. The draw opened up for Klizan, who has been struggling, after qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo stunned a jaded Gilles Simon in straight sets in round 1. Fratangelo could follow that up with another win, but Pouille over Klizan seems like a sensible prediction.
Fabio Fognini is usually competitive on clay and could use a boost against Andrey Kuznetsov, who is seeking a breakthrough of his own. Kuznetsov is a dangerous dark horse, but I have Fognini through to face dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi. Lorenzi will face Sergiy Stakhovsky in round 2, and is the favorite to reach the semifinals in my book. He’s more consistent than his counterpart Fognini.
The big serving Ivo Karlovic has struggled this season and is not great on clay, thus Damir Dzumhur, who beat Steve Darcis round 1, looks set to go through to the quarterfinals against in-form qualifier Aljaz Bedene. Bedene is red hot, with a 21-0 record below the tour level right now. His second round opponent Robin Haase did upset Diego Schwartzman in round 1, but Bedene’s form indicates he’s due for a great week and I have him winning in round 2 then beating Dzumhur to make the semifinals.
Viktor Troicki won his opening match and looks set to defeat Laslo Djere, a qualifier, in round 2. Houston quaterfinalist Fernando Verdasco is the favorite in this section, Marton Fuscovics is a local favorite but unlikely to beat the veteran Spaniard in round 2. Verdasco on clay is the favorite to reach the semifinals.
Bedene has lurked on the cusp of being a solid ATP player and after great results below the tour level he looks set to step up to the big stage and cement his place among the players who compete week to week on the ATP Tour.
Semis Pouille d. Lorenzi
Verdasco d. Bedene
Final Pouille vs. Verdasco
Pouille and Verdasco look set to make the final of this somewhat weak 250, any outcome is possible but their form seems good enough to prevail, with Pouille as the favorite.
2017 ATP Auckland Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
It’s time to preview and predict New Zealand’s only ATP tournament, the ASB Classic. The Women’s version of this ran all last week.
ATP World Tour 250
Auckland, New Zealand
January 9-14, 2017
Prize Money: $450,110
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: Roberto Bautista Agut (14)
2: John Isner (19)
3: David Ferrer (21)
4: Jack Sock (23)
For a pre-slam 250, Auckland has one of the better fields it’s had in recent years.
First round matches to watch:
(8)Marcos Baghdatis vs. Adrian Mannarino
Mannarino just took a challenger title to start the year while Baghdatis was injured in his first match in Doha. Both players prefer to attack rather than defend with their tennis, Mannarino continues to alternate between challengers and the tour level with success. He’ll be the favorite in this match presuming he’s still fresh enough.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez vs. (Q)Ryan Harrison
Harrison qualified and is 2-1 to start his season. He’s never lost to Garcia-Lopez (3-0 in the h2h), and the Spaniard is on a seven match ATP losing streak dating back to last season. Harrison spent most of his time at the challenger level last year, going 11-11 in ATP matches. He’s just inside the top 100, and could use a good run in a 250 like this to get back to tour level.
Chennai champion Roberto Bautista Agut has won Auckland before, and although Jiri Vesely isn’t the easiest round 2 opponent, presuming the Czech ousts Horacio Zeballos, RBA should still be fresh enough with the first round bye to prevail and reach the quarters. Mannarino should be opposite him, after Baghdatis, Dustin Brown or qualifier Michael Mmoh. Mannarino has lost twice at the tour level against RBA, so the Spaniard should be the favorite to reach the semifinals. Brown could also serve and volley his way to surprise success.
David Ferrer struggled in Brisbane as his decline has continued thus far in 2017. Ferrer will face qualifier Finn Tearney, a local favorite, or Robin Haase. He should win that to reach the quarterfinals opposite Albert Ramos/Joao Sousa. Facundo Bagnis and qualifier Brydan Klein are also in this section. Sousa had a down season last year (25-33 record) and is making his 2017 debut, the h2h favors Ramos beating Sousa and Klein, then falling to Ferrer in the quarters. Ramos also made the quarters in Chennai.
John Isner will kick off his 2017 season against Malek Jaziri or Diego Schwartzman. Isner posted a down 35-21 record in 2016, and will be looking to get off to a better start, most likely against Schwartzman. Fellow Yank Steve Johnson looms in the quarters, Johnson will face Stephane Robert, then most likely another veteran, Yen-Hsun Lu in round 2. Lu first has to face Karen Khachanov, another player who won a match to open his season. Johnson is good enough to beat Robert and Lu/Khachanov, but I don’t think he’ll get past Isner’s serve this time, and I have Isner reaching the semis and moving his 4-2 h2h edge against Johnson to 5-2.
Hopman Cup finalist Jack Sock went 3-1 in singles matches at the exhibition, and presuming he’s fresh and focused, he should do well in Auckland. Sock showed off his great hard court game, and his powerful forehand in Perth. He should ease past Harrison/GGL, and then win against Feliciano Lopez, who he beat in the Hopman Cup. Lopez faces Kiwi Michael Venus in round 1, with Jeremy Chardy or Artem Sitak to follow. The veteran Spaniard went 30-24 last year, while Sock went 37-22 over the same span. It should be a good week for Americans in New Zealand.
It wouldn’t shock me at all if the unseeded Mannarino got past Bautista Agut in the quarters and went as far as winning the tournament. Strange results tend to happen in tournaments held before slams, and Mannarino could use the ranking points.
Semis Ferrer d. Bautista Agut
Sock d. Isner
Ferrer has beaten RBA twice, and I think he wants and needs to make this final more than his countryman. Ferrer has had success in Auckland, and I see him fighting harder than most players in this field to get back on top. Sock has beaten Isner twice in three attempts since 2015. Isner had a clear edge in the years prior, but Jack is improving, while John has declined just a bit.
Final Sock d. Ferrer
If Sock plays like he did in the Hopman Cup he’ll be a worthy recipient of his second career ATP title. This pairing have a split h2h, but Sock won in the Auckland semis last season to reach the final.
2017 ATP Sydney Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Australian Open Series rolls on with a stop in Australia’s biggest city for the Apia International, a joint ATP/WTA tournament.
Apia International Sydney
ATP World Tour 250
January 8-14, 2017
Prize Money: $437,380
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Dominic Thiem (8)
2: Pablo Cuevas (22)
3: Viktor Troicki (29)
4: Pablo Carreno Busta (30)
Just one top 20 player means Sydney is open for the taking, giving an opportunity for lower ranked players to step up.
First round matches to watch:
(5)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Fabio Fognini
Kohlschreiber leads the h2h 4-2 but Fognini won their last meeting. The Italian went a respectable 26-23 in 2016 and is making his season debut. Kohli lost in the second round of Doha, and as the favorite in this match, he should make at least the second round in Sydney.
(WC)Thanasi Kokkinakis vs. (WC)Jordan Thompson
These good friends are in the doubles final together in Brisbane, and will face each other in singles a few hours away in Sydney. Kokkinakis missed all of 2016 with injuries, but prior to that he was a rising ATP talent, and in the doubles in Brisbane he showed he still has tremendous promise. Thompson reached the quarterfinals in Brisbane and is likely the favorite in this one given he should have less rust. Both of these Aussies are likely to feature on the ATP tour in the years to come.
(6)Gilles Muller vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
A matchup that features a clear contrast in styles. The serve and volleyer Muller got off to a slow start in Brisbane, while Dolgopolov drew a tough opening round opponent in Rafael Nadal and also lost his first match of the season. These two have split h2h meetings, despite Muller’s seeding, if Dolgo is in form he should fire enough winners to notch a victory.
Brisbane quarterfinalist Dominic Thiem will face a qualifier to start, with Doha semifinalist Fernando Verdasco likely in the quarterfinals. Verdasco got off to a great start to his 2017 season as his blistering forehand paced him out to three straight wins, and he took a set off world #2 Novak Djokovic. The Spaniard will open with countryman Marcel Granollers, with Dan Evans or a qualifier to follow. Evans struggled in the Hopman Cup exo, so Thiem over Verdasco is my pick in the quarters.
Pablo Carreno Busta will make his 2017 debut after a career best 40-26 record in 2016, that included a first ever positive record on hard courts. PCB may lose his first outing though, as Doha quarterfinalist Nicolas Almagro will face him, after he does battle with serve and volleyer Mischa Zverev, who won a match in Brisbane. I have Almagro facing Benoit Paire in the quarterfinals. Paire was a semifinalist in Chennai, he opens with Alex De Minaur, a wild card who made his ATP debut as a qualifier last week in Brisbane. Andrey Kuznetsov or Martin Klizan will follow, both players look to be struggling early in the season. Paire over Almagro is my pick to reach the semifinals.
Pablo Cuevas makes his season debut after a solid 34-23 record in 2016, his best ever on tour. Cuevas much prefers clay though, creating an opportunity for Thomaz Bellucci or Nicolas Mahut to reach the quarterfinals. I have Bellucci, who has never lost to Mahut (2-0), squeaking past Cuevas in round 2. The Brazilian has beaten Cuevas in their last two matches. Kyle Edmund is my pick to reach the semifinals. Edmund opens with a qualifier, then the Dolgopolov/Muller winner. Edmund played great in Brisbane, reaching the quarterfinals and has a great shot at his second career ATP semifinal. Edmund should be favored against Bellucci on a hard court.
Neither Florian Mayer or fellow veteran Paolo Lorenzi started the year in good form, should Viktor Troicki should find his way to the quarterfinals, opposite Kohlschreiber or Thompson. On home soil I’m backing Thompson to reach the semifinals with upsets over Kohlschreiber and Troicki.
Australian fans would love to see a local boy win his first ATP title at home, and Thompson will have a real shot at pulling off that feat. The Sydney native is in the weaker bottom half of the draw, and there isn’t anyone in the bottom of half that is significantly better than his peak abilities. Thompson is playing well in doubles, and upset David Ferrer in Brisbane last week. Look for him to reach the final in Sydney.
Semis Thiem d. Paire
Thompson d. Edmund
I have to go with the safe pick in the top half and predict Thiem will go through to the final. The Austrian seems to care less about being fresh for slams than other players on tour, so I don’t think he’ll pull a strategic tank in Sydney. As mentioned above, Thompson is my other pick for the final, he has a split 1-1 h2h with Edmund.
Final Thiem d. Thompson
Thiem is the better player, and has seven career ATP titles. He should grab his eight career title while prepping for the Aussie Open.
2017 ATP Chennai Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Despite not featuring as good of a field as Brisbane and Doha, Chennai is still an opportunity for the ATP’s best to prepare for the first slam of the season, and it remains India’s only ATP event. Here is a preview, with predictions of this 250.
Aircel Chennai Open
ATP World Tour 250
Prize Money: $447,480
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: Marin Cilic (6)
2: Roberto Bautista Agut (14)
3: Albert Ramos (27)
4: Martin Klizan (35)
Just two of the ATP top 20 start their year in Chennai.
First round matches to watch
(6)Borna Coric vs. (Q)Hyeon Chung
The qualifier Chung, age 20, posted a 27-18 record in 2016 with a majority of his wins coming at the challenger tour level. Coric went 23-25, and at age 20 still has much room for improvement. Both of these players are talented young guns likely to feature in ATP main draws for years to come. Coric wasn’t fit at the end of last year, and thus Chung is probably a slight favorite, presuming Coric is rusty.
(WC)Ramkumar Ramanathan vs. (Q)Yuki Bhambri
Both of these young Indian players are ranked outside of the top 200, but have proven they have the talent to be much better than their current rankings. Bhambri should be the favorite after ripping through qualifying and going 17-13 in 2016. Ramanathan for his part went 40-33 overall in 2016 and should continue to improve in 2017. Bhambri is the more talented player, he’s just had bad luck with injuries in recent years.
Marin Cilic went 50-25 in 2016, an improvement on his 2015 season, as he returned to the top 10, and can now make a push for the top 5. The Croatian #1 will open with Gastao Elias or qualifier Jozef Kovalik, Kovalik is lower ranked but still probably the favorite in his round 1 match on hard courts. Cilic’s path to the semis is relatively clear, as the seed, Rendy Lu, lacks the firepower to beat him in the quarters. Lu opens with Radu Albot after going just 7-9 at the ATP level in 2016. Watch out for 20 year old Russian Daniil Medvedev in this section. Medvedev opens with young Brazilian Thiago Monteiro, who much prefers clay. The Russian reached the top 100 in 2016 after posing a 69-27 record, and looks set for more accomplishments in 2017. Cilic over Medvedev is my pick for the quarters as Lu doesn’t impress me.
Chung/Coric will face Damir Dzumhur or journeyman veteran Dudi Sela in round 2. On hard courts Sela is probably a slight favorite, despite his poor ATP record last season. Chung should reach the quarters to face off with veteran serve and volleyer Steve Darcis. Darcis opens with challenger level qualifier Nikola Mektic, with Ramos to follow. The Belgian went 42-12 in 2016, though only three of those wins came at the tour level. Ramos went 34-31, on hard courts I have Darcis losing to Chung in the quarters though.
Roberto Bautista Agut will face Rogerio Dutra Silva or Dusan Lajovic and is a heavy favorite to reach the semis from his section. RBA went 46-23 in 2016, an improvement on his 2015 record, and should have no problems against Lajovic, or veteran Mikhail Youzhny in the quarters. Youzhny split his time between ATP and Challenger tennis in 2016 going 40-23 overall at age 34. 29 year old Indian Saketh Myneni made his ATP debut in 2016, after going 29-18 at the challenger level. Myneni is a great story, but should fall to Youzhny in round 1. Wild card Casper Ruud is just 18 years of age, and has great odds at being Norway’s best ever ATP player. Ruud went 54-17 in 2016, making his ATP main draw debut in the process. He’ll be the favorite against dirtballer Renzo Olivo, even though he prefers clay as well, and then he should fall to Youzhny in round 2. RBA over Youzhny is my pick in the quarters.
Martin Klizan, 19-17 in 2016, is seeking consistency in 2017, as is Benoit Paire, who went 26-33 in 2016. Presuming Klzian beats Guillermo Garcia-Lopez/Aljaz Bedene, and Paire defeats Konstantin Kravchuk and the Bhambri/Ramanathan winner, they will meet in the quarterfinals. On hard courts Bedene is the slight favorite over the veteran GGL, while Paire should beat Kravchuk, who had a great year on the challenger tour going 45-22 in 2016. Paire over Klizan is my pick for the semifinals, in a section featuring streaky players.
Dark Horse: Hyeon Chung
The qualifier Chung is perhaps the favorite to reach the semifinals from a weak section, and if he does that much he’ll have a punchers chance against the elite Cilic, where he will likely come up short.
Semis Cilic d. Chung
Bautista Agut d. Paire
Cilic and RBA are clear favorites to reach their first ATP finals this season.
Final Cilic d. Bautista Agut
Cilic is the best player in the Chennai field, and on hard courts he should take home the title.
2017 ATP Doha Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The other top tier 250 this week takes place in Doha, Qatar, where three top 10 players make their Aussie Open preparations. Here is a preview, with predictions.
Qatar ExxonMobil Open
ATP World Tour 250
January 2-7, 2017
Prize Money: $1,237,190
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Andy Murray (1)
2: Novak Djokovic (2)
3: Tomas Berdych (10)
4: David Goffin (11)
The world’s top two have decided to start their 2017 seasons in Qatar, as this is once again a lucrative and strong 250.
First round matches to watch:
Malek Jaziri vs. (7)Philipp Kohlschreiber
A match between a pair of veterans. Kohli is 3-0 in his career against the local favorite Jaziri but the German had a disappointing year on hard courts going just 9-8 on the surface in 2016. Jaziri reached the top 60, in large part due to his strong results at the challenger level. The Tunisian went 27-15 on hard courts and would love an upset win to start his year. Kohli is the clear favorite though.
Andrey Kuznetsov vs. (5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Kuznetsov posted a career best 29-21 record in 2016 and reached the ATP top 50. The now 31 year old Tsonga went 38-17, including a solid 19-9 hard court record. Tsonga should be in good enough form and fitness heading into this matchup to defeat the Russian with aggressive play, but this still not an easy first round matchup.
World #1 Andy Murray, newly knighted, started his season in Abu Dhabi at an exhibition, and will open with veteran Jeremy Chardy, who he has a great h2h with, in round 1, with the Kohlschreiber/Jaziri winner likely in the quarters. dirtballer Gerald Melzer opens with veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu, while two more veterans, Nicolas Almagro and Paolo Lorenzi are also in this section. Almagro is 4-0 in the h2h against Lorenzi, but the Italian had a career year in 2016, making huge strides on hard courts. This isn’t a difficult section for Murray, who likely slides past Kohlschreiber to reach the semifinals.
The Tsonga/Kuznetsov winner will get Facundo Bagnis or shotmaker Dustin Brown in round 2, Tsonga should be safe to advance until he runs into Tomas Berdych in the quarters. Berdych opens with qualifier Alessandro Giannessi, a 26 year old with limited ATP experience. His Czech counterpart Jiri Vesely should follow in round 2, as wild card Anil Yuksel is making his ATP main draw debut. The 23 year old Vesely remains a talent but he was a rather pedestrian 21-20 at the tour level last year. Berdych went 40-21, with 22 of those wins coming on outdoor hard courts in 2016. Berdych leads Tsonga 8-2 in the h2h, and should be the favorite to reach the semifinals.
Novak Djokovic went 67-9 in 2016, despite his great successes on the season, he surrendered the world #1 ranking at the end of the season, and now has something to fight for in 2017. Djokovic’s early path is routine as Jan-Lennard Struff, and Horacio Zeballos/Florian Mayer aren’t likely to be more than hitting partners for the Serbian. Marcos Baghdatis has a 2-1 h2h against fellow veteran Radek Stepanek. Stepanek came through qualifying and their match should be fun to watch if you’re a fan of attacking tennis. Baghdatis went 26-23 in 2016, while Stepanek, now 38, went 33-15 overall, with a majority of his wins coming on the challenger tour level. Baghdatis is favored to win in round 1, with qualifier Mohamed Safwat or wild card Arthur De Greef to follow. The 26 year old Safwat has limited ATP experience while De Greef is playing just his third career ATP match at age 24. De Greef prefers clay, so Safwat should fall to Baghdatis in round 2, with Djokovic winning his quarterfinal against Baghdatis.
David Goffin looks hungry to renew his success in 2017 after a 51-25 record in 2016. Goffin should ease past Robin Haase in round 1, with either Fernando Verdasco or qualifier Vasek Pospisil to follow. Pospisil had a terrible 2016, going just 9-22 at the tour level, and thus his ranking his dropped outside of the top 100. Verdasco went just 29-26 for his part in 2016, but should be slightly better than Pospisil to start the season. Goffin over Verdasco is my pick to reach the quarters. Veteran Ivo Karlovic, now 37, went 32-24 in 2016, while his first round opponent Illya Marchenko broke through at the ATP level in 2016 posting a 26-28 record overall. Karlovic’s serve should be enough to get him past his round 1 match, and into the quarters after he defeats 20 year old Karen Khachanov, who opens with local wild card Mubarak Shannan Zayid. Khachanov reached the ATP level in 2016 with a 50-27 record overall. Goffin over Karlovic is my pick for the quarters.
Dark Horse: Karen Khachanov
Goffin, Djokovic, Murray, and Berdych/Tsonga look safe to reach the semifinals, but of those four spots, Goffin is the most vulnerable to an upset. Khachanov made big strides in 2016 and Karlovic is beatable if his first serve percentage is off. Getting past Karlovic and Goffin won’t be an easy path, but perhaps the Russian can make some headlines to start the season.
Semis Murray d. Berdych
Djokovic d. Goffin
It’d be an unlikely result if the world #1 and #2 fail to reach an ATP final to start the season, as they prepare for the Aussie Open.
Final Murray d. Djokovic
Murray triumphed over Djokovic late in 2016, and for now I have to predict that momentum will continue in this tough to predict matchup.
2016 ATP Chengdu Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A new ATP 250 event in Chengdu, China takes place this week, here is a look at the players taking part and their path forward as the ATP Asian swing kicks off.
ATP World Tour 250
September 26-October 2, 2016
Prize Money: $840,915
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: Dominic Thiem (10)
2: Nick Kyrgios (15)
3: Grigor Dimitrov (21)
4: Feliciano Lopez (26)
Chengdu boasts a strong field featuring some popular second tier stars for the first ever run of this tournament.
First round matchups to watch:
(Q)Radek Stepanek vs. Yen-Hsun Lu
Stepanek hasn’t faced Lu in 8 years, but he’s 2-0 in their h2h matches and has been on a great run of form in recent months. The Czech has qualified for three consecutive ATP events, and he also had a good showing at the US Open, although he’s played sparingly this season due to health concerns and age.
Lu, as usual, has performed well on the challenger tour, and is a steady hard court ball striker, though he lacks the weapons to do further damage. Stepanek’s attacking game should foil him a bit and I give the qualifier an edge.
Millman, who reached the semis in Winston-Salem, should defeat the dirtballer Lorenzi, but the veteran journeyman has had a career year and is 4-2 on hard courts in his last six matches. Lorenzi has never been a good hard court player, but he’s suddenly found form on the surface, and Millman should be careful to avoid being tripped up.
(6)Viktor Troicki vs. (WC)Casper Ruud
The 17 year old Ruud hopes to be the player to put Norway on the tennis map. Ruud is a full fledged pro now and won his first challenger in Seville, Spain on clay as a qualifier. He’s 4-2 on outdoor hard courts this year and peaked as the #2 junior in the world. He’ll make his ATP main draw debut against the experienced battler Troicki, who is a favorite in this matchup.
Troicki reached the semis in Winston-Salem and the quarterfinals in St. Petersburg, his good form should see him through to round 2. It will be a learning experience for Ruud, who is worth watching.
Both players are just inside the ATP’s top 40. Baghdatis is an accomplished hard court player who has put in his years on the ATP tour, while PCB is rapidly improving on the surface. Baghdatis reached the second week of the US Open while PCB took home a hard court title in Winston-Salem. Baghdatis is a slight favorite but I’m going with PCB because he’s been hot since the summer and should continue to rise.
Dominic Thiem reached the final in Metz but fatigue is a real concern for the Austrian, who continues to play a brutal schedule. He’s young, but he’s not super human and he’s already suffered fatigue induced injuries this year. Thiem opens with Konstantin Kravchuk or Di Wu, with the Lu/Stepanek winner likely in the quarters. I have Stepanek surging through to knock off Thiem after he beats Michael Berrer or Albert Ramos. Stepanek is a solid competitor with nothing to lose at this point in his career, and Thiem should be jetlagged. Kravchuk is usually on the challenger tour, and neither Ramos or Berrer are that great right now. Ramos was upset in St. Petersburg.
Grigor Dimitrov will be the favorite in the top half, the Bulgarian faces Dusan Lajovic or a struggling Federico Delbonis first up with Millman likely to follow in the quarters, presuming the Aussie battler defeats Lorenzi and Diego Schwartzman. With this type of draw Dimitrov should reach the semis after making the second week of the US Open in his last outing.
Nick Kyrgios faces Kevin Anderson or his countryman Jordan Thompson. Kyrgios is dangerous when healthy and focused, and he’s 34-13 on the season, having surpassed his 24 wins last season with a few tournaments yet to come. Anderson will be a tough opening match opponent, but Kyrgios is a big server like Anderson, and his superior return game should see him through. Troicki looks to be his likely quarterfinal opponent, after Ruud he’ll face Pablo Carreno Busta or Marcos Baghdatis. Both have shown good recent form, and with Carreno Busta having found a hard court game it won’t be easy for Troicki, but I still see it Kyrgios over Troicki in the quarters.
Feliciano Lopez opens with Juan Monaco in round 2. The Spaniard hasn’t had a great season but I still have him ousting Joao Sousa in the quarters, after Sousa bests Karen Khachanov and Adrian Mannarino or Denis Kudla. This seems like the type of 250 where Mannarino could get hot and reel off some wins, but his form is poor right now and thus Sousa should beat him in round 2.
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A fatigued Thiem in the top portion of the draw sets Stepanek up to make at least the semifinals, and perhaps knock off Dimitrov to reach the finals. His serve and volley game is a true throwback you don’t see much on tour these days and his good recent form means he’ll be the favorite to make at least the quarterfinals.
Dimitrov d. Stepanek
Kyrgios d. Lopez
Dimitrov and Kyrgios seem somewhat destined to reach the final here and that’d be great for the tournament organizers.
Kokkinakis has been injured most of the year but he played his first match of the season at the Rio Olympics, and now will face Youzhny, a veteran who has been playing well lately. Youzhny should prevail, but this is a great form check for Kokkinakis, as he looks to finish the season strong and head into next year with good form.
Taylor Fritz vs. (WC)Frances Tiafoe
Fritz reached the quarterfinals in Atlanta, but otherwise he’s shown signs be’s been struggling to adapt to ATP level competition on a weekly basis. His fellow young gun Tiafoe has had a great run of form in challengers lately, and although Fritz is more advanced in terms of development and ranking, I could see Tiafoe notching an upset in this one.
Donald Young vs. Pierre–Hugues Herbert
Young has had a few decent showings this summer, including a quarterfinal in Atlanta and he should be the favorite in this match. Herbert is a doubles specialist and a serve and volleyer who last played singles at Wimbledon. This is a good test for Young, who has a great chance to do well this tournament.
Richard Gasquet struggled in Cincy, while his potential first round opponent Dan Evans is in great form, having just won a challenger. Evans will open with Gastao Elias, and will have a shot against Gasquet, but the Frenchman should prevail and also defeat his countryman Paul-Henri Mathieu, who opens with Stephane Robert, and then will face the seed Federico Delbonis in round 2. Both Delbonis and Robert are in terrible form, thus PHM should reach the third round.
Wild card Bjorn Fratangelo has a great shot at reaching the quarterfinals in a weak section. Fratangelo has been steadily improving and moving into ATP caliber tennis up from the challenger level. He’ll open with Evgeny Donskoy, a tough opponent, Paolo Lorenzi, a clay courter, will follow, with one of a qualifier, Albert Ramos or John Millman up in round 3. Millman played well in Cincy, and if he can beat a qualifier, and a struggling Ramos, I give him a slight edge over Fratangelo in the third round. Gasquet should defeat Millman in the quarterfinals.
Pablo Cuevas will face Malek Jaziri or a qualifier, Jaziri can play well at times, and Cuevas isn’t a pro on hard courts but I do have him prevailing in his match and reaching the third round to face Pablo Carreno Busta, a semifinalist in Cabo. PCB will face the winner of Andreas Seppi vs. J.L. Struff, and with both players struggling, he’s favored to advance. I also have him upsetting Cuevas to reach the quarterfinals.
Kevin Anderson has played well in both hard court Masters tournaments this summer, despite having a poor season he has a great chance to win this tournament. Anderson will face Jiri Vesely or a qualifier first off, with Andrey Kuznetsov or the Kokkinakis/Youzhny winner in round 3. I have Youzhny beating Kokkinakis, and Kuznetsov, who was injured in Rio, to setup a third round match with Anderson. Anderson should defeat Vesely and Youzhny, then Carreno Busta in the quarterfinals to reach the semis.
Roberto Bautista Agut reached the quarterfinals of Rio. and looks set to make a deep run in this tournament as well. RBA will face Aljaz Bedene or a qualifier, with Marcos Baghdatis likely in the third round. Baghdatis should defeat Young or Herbert before falling to RBA in round 3.
Gilles Simon will face Mikhail Kukushkin or Diego Schwartzman in round 2, neither player is in good form, which means Simon should go through to the third round. His third round opponent should be Joao Sousa, Sousa will face Illya Marchenko or Yen-Hsun Lu in the second round. Both players are struggling, and thus Simon over Sousa is my pick in round 3. RBA should then defeat Simon to reach the semifinals.
Steve Johnson is the new American #1, Johnson has been in great form all year and should roll past Lukas Rosol or Victor Estrella, then defeat Fernando Verdasco who faces Tiafoe/Fritz in round 2. Expect an all American battle between Johnson and Sam Querrey in quarterfinals. Querrey will face Damir Dzumhur or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in his first match. Neither player is playing well, so although Querrey has struggled, he’s set to end up facing Viktor Troicki or Kyle Edmund/Rajeev Ram in round 3. Troicki has been in miserable form, so I have Edmund getting past the Olympic doubles medalist Ram, and then Troicki before falling to Querrey. Johnson should dispatch Querrey given his better recent form.
The Australian has always had the talent to be an ATP contender, but he’s struggled to be consistent over the years and has never quite lived up to his potential. Millman looks set to make the quarterfinals here, and if he can upset Gasquet he’d been for a long desired ATP breakthrough.
Semis Anderson d. Gasquet
Bautista Agut d. Johnson
Anderson just dominated Gasquet in Cincy, RBA is 4-0 against Johnson and the American should want to preserve himself for the US Open.
Final Anderson d. Bautista Agut
Anderson badly needs an ATP title right now, and he has a great chance to get one here.
2016 ATP Barcelona Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The European spring clay court season continues with the first ATP World Tour stop in Spain. The Barcelona Open is a 500 level tournament, and a lot of intriguing talents are taking part.
Barcelona Open BancSabadell
ATP World Tour 500
April 18-24, 2016
Prize Money: €2,152,690
Top 8 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (5)
2: Kei Nishikori (6)
3: David Ferrer (8)
4: Richard Gasquet (10)
5: Roberto Bautista Agut (17)
6: Benoit Paire (22)
7: Feliciano Lopez (23)
8: Viktor Troicki (24)
Barcelona has nearly half of the ATP top 10, and a good variety of well known players, making this a solid 500 level stop. Most of the first rounders are not likely to be competitive, or interesting.
Recent Monte Carlo champion, and x8 Barcelona champion Rafael Nadal should breeze through his first few rounds. The seed in his section is Joao Sousa, who is average at best on clay. Rafa should open with Monte Carlo quarterfinalist Marcel Granollers, presuming Granollers can dispatch Daniel Munoz De La Nava. After that, it could be Sousa, or Casablanca semifinalist Albert Montanes, another fading Spanish veteran. Montanes opens with Roberto Carballes Baena, who is primarily a challenger player. I have Montanes slipping past Sousa, before falling to Nadal for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Fabio Fognini and Viktor Troicki are the seeds below Rafa, Fognini was poor in Monte Carlo after a few weeks off of the tour, but he’s still a talented, and accomplished clay courter. Fognini should dispatch either Rajeev Ram, or veteran Mikhail Youzhny in his first match. Both are poor on clay, and don’t have games suited for the surface. Viktor Troicki also suffered an opening round loss in Monte Carlo, but he’s had some success on clay, and that should continue against either Ernests Gulbis, or Marton Fuscovics in round 2. Gulbis is on a three match losing streak, while Fuscovics is playing his first ATP match of the season, after going 0-2 last year on the main tour. This section features many underachievers in recent months. I have Troicki defeating Fognini for a quarterfinal spot. They have a split 2-2 h2h.
David Ferrer has multiple finals in Barcelona, but has never won a title at this tournament. The Spaniard pulled out of Monte Carlo with an injury, but he should be fit enough to slip past either Santiago Giraldo, or qualifier Radek Stepanek in his opening match. Giraldo is slightly better on clay than Stepanek, but Ferrer outclasses both players. Andrey Kuznetsov lost his opening Monte Carlo contest, but he’s had a career year thus far, and should get past either Franko Skugor, or Inigo Cervantes to setup a meeting with Ferrer in round 3. Skugor, a doubles specialist, has qualified for three ATP singles main draws already this year. Kuznetsov upsetting Ferrer would not surprise me at all, given David has been in decline as of late, but I have to go with Ferrer to reach the quarterfinals. Kuznetsov upset Ferrer at Wimbledon.
Both Feliciano Lopez, and Philipp Kohlschreiber are capable of having a good run in their section. Lopez will face qualifier Pedro Cachin, or Ivan Dodig, while Kohlschreiber is likely to face Pablo Carreno Busta, unless Denis Istomin spoils that interesting matchup. The Casablanca quarterfinalist is a possible dark horse, but Kohli should be good enough on clay to advance. Cachin is playing his first ATP match of the season, and Lopez should face Kohlschreiber in round 3. He recently made the semifinals in Houston. Kohli and Lopez have split h2h meetings on clay, I have Kohlschreiber reaching the quarterfinals given the surface.
Kei Nishikori has won back to back Barcelona Open titles, and he’s in a section that should result in a good start to his quest for at third Barcelona title. After a 15-3 record on clay last year, Nishikori recently reached the final in Miami as well. Neither Thiemo De Bakker, or recent challenger champion Elias Ymer are capable of challenging him in round 2. Both Mikhail Kukushkin and Victor Estrella have been dire as of late, and that means power hitter Jeremy Chardy should advance to face Nishikori in round 3. Chardy is 2-0 against Nishikori on clay, but I have to pick Kei to reach the quarters.
Roberto Bautista Agut continued his good season with a pair of wins in Monte Carlo. RBA will face either Aljaz Bedene, or the rising Karen Khachanov, a qualifier, in round 2. After that, he should face the dangerous, but inconsistent, Alexandr Dolgopolov in round 3. Dolgo will face either Facundo Bagnis or Evgeny Donskoy in round 2. Bagnis, a solid clay courter, upsetting Dolgopolov would not surprise me. The Ukrainian is known to be shaky on the surface. RBA should prevail against either Dolgo or Bagnis to reach the quarters.
Richard Gasquet would like to have a strong showing, and given his section, he should be able to get some momentum going on clay. The #4 seed exited in his second match in Monte Carlo, but should find more success against Malek Jaziri, or Hyeon Chung. The young Korean recently reached the quarterfinals in Houston. Thomaz Bellucci, a loser of five straight, is the other seed in this section, but all eyes will be on the young gun Alexander Zverev. Zverev should defeat fellow German J.L. Struff, a strong qualifier, in round 1, and then force Bellucci to crumble once more for a third round spot. Zverev is a serious threat to Gasquet, but assuming the Frenchman is healthy, I have him in the quarterfinals.
Benoit Paire snapped a losing skid and won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo, where he also posed a threat to Andy Murray. His showing on the clay there was the first signs of life from the scattered Frenchman in weeks. With Nicolas Almagro, his likely round 2 opponent, struggling, Paire should reach round 3. Almagro opens with Teymuraz Gabashvili, who is in total freefall right now. Defending finalist Albert Ramos will face off with Spanish young gun Jaume Munar in round 1. Ramos has lost three straight, but he should defeat Munar, before falling to Pablo Cuevas, the best player in this section on clay. Cuevas 12-2 clay court record should move to at least 14-2 on the season when he reaches the quarterfinals.
Zverev has the skill, and the draw, to at least reach the third round, and if he upsets Gasquet, he could go as far as the semifinals. This young German prospect has come into his own on all surfaces, and he’s the player to watch at the Barcelona Open.
Nadal d. Troicki
Ferrer d. Kohlschreiber
Cuevas d. Gasquet
Nishikori d. Bautista Agut
Nadal and Ferrer have dominated their respective h2h records in the possible quarterfinal matchups. Cuevas should be slightly better than Gasquet, and Nishikori has a stronger skillset than RBA, that has lead to a 4-0 h2h.
Nadal d. Ferrer
Nishikori d. Cuevas
Nishikori likely proves too fast, and too skilled for Cuevas, Nadal has won three straight vs. Ferrer, and is simply a much better player than he is right now.
Nadal d. Nishikori
On a hard court, I’d be more tempted to pick Nisihkori, but after Rafa’s strong showing on clay in Monte Carlo, I have to think he’ll get back in the winners circle in Barcelona. This would be a great final, and would move Nadal to 3-0 on clay against Nishikori.