2018 ATP Sydney Preview and Predictions: Simon and De Minaur Look to Continue Momentum Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Sydney International, a 250 on hard courts, is one of the final two ATP tournaments before the 2018 Australian Open. it doesn’t have an elite field by any measure but it is wide open for a new ATP champion to emerge.
It’s a great draw for wild card Jordan Thompson, Thompson faces dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi, who hasn’t won a match since the US Open last year, then he should go up against top seed Albert Ramos, who isn’t the most comfortable on hard courts either. Gilles Simon was an effective brick wall in Pune, he took home the title and presuming fitness he should defeat Jared Donaldson. Given the fatigue factor I have him falling to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarters. Kohlschreiber had a solid year on hard court last season and he should be fresher than Simon and also better than Thompson.
Alexandr Dolgopolov played very well in Brisbane, winning a pair of matches and reaching the quarters. His first round opponent Viktor Troicki is struggling so he should win that and also defeat Italy’s Fabio Fognini, another streaky player on hard courts. Adrian Mannarino had a career year in 2017 winning 33 matches at the ATP level and he should build on that in 2018. I have Mannarino making a run, beating a qualifier, Alex Bolt/qualifier, and Dolgopolov to reach the semis.
Wild card John Millman has a solid draw to look forward to, Gilles Muller continues to struggle and he’s the #2 seed. Millman should beat a qualifier and then Muller to slide into the quarters opposite Benoit Paire. I back Paire to defeat Aljaz Bedene and Mischa Zverev/Leo Mayer to reach the quarters. Paire played well in Pune reaching the semis. I’ll pick Paire to reach the semis, he certainly has the ability.
Diego Schwartzman didn’t win a match in Brisbane, but Feliciano Lopez was disappointing on hard courts last year and didn’t start the year great either. I’ll back Schwartzman to reach the quarters opposite Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco has a tough opening match against Brisbane semifinalist Alex De Minaur who will have the fans fully in his corner. Fatigue should play a factor though, and Verdasco finished 2017 strong and played solid in Doha. Look for Verdasco to defeat J.L. Struff or Damir Dzumhur in round 2, and then Schwartzman in the quarters.
Semis Mannarino d. Kohlschreiber
Verdasco d. Paire
Mannarino’s steadily improving and tricky game should earn him an ATP title this week in a wide open field. Verdasco has a great forehand against Paire’s amazing backhand and that match could go either way.
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.
2016 ATP Sydney Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final ATP stop on the Emirates Australian Open Series is in Sydney at the joint ATP/WTA Apia International as many players will look to get their final tune ups in before heading over to Melbourne for the Australian Open.
Apia International Sydney
ATP World Tour 250
January 11-January 17, 2016
Prize Money: $404,780
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Bernard Tomic (18)
2: Dominic Thiem (20)
3: Viktor Troicki (22)
4: Grigor Dimitrov (28)
Sydney lacks a top tier player this year as it’s anybody’s tournament to win.
Klizan is on a four match losing streak dating back to last season while Thompson comes off the semis of the Noumea Challenger. The young Australian still lacks an ATP win, but he’s had some great challenger results and sits at a career high ranking just outside the top 150. On home soil look for Thompson to fight hard and pull off an upset, especially if Klizan fires wildly from the baseline.
Tommy Robredo vs. (WC)John Millman
33 year old Tommy Robredo had a decent fall swing, but last year was a relative disappointment for the Spaniard, and he faces a home Australian who he trails 0-3 in the career h2h. Millman is talented and seems to have Robredo’s number. The Australian won a match in Chennai, and he should be able to do the same here with a quality round 1 win.
Mahut is 5-1 against Mannarino and has won their last four meetings. Mannarino comes in as the champion in the Noumea challenger however, and his form looks to be sharp. The serve and volleying veteran Mahut qualified to snap a four match losing streak, and given the h2h he has a great shot at an upset against a possibly fatigued Mannarino.
Borna Coric vs. Gilles Muller
Muller won a round in Chennai, while Coric reached his first ever ATP final there and is off to a fantastic start at the beginning of the season. The Croatian teenager is talented, but likely tired, and Muller’s serve and volley should do enough damage to earn him the win, and potentially a deep run this week.
Brisbane semifinalist Bernard Tomic captured the title in Sydney in 2013. Tomic is the home favorite and tends to perform well under those conditions. His junkballing game should allow him to get past Thompson/Klizan and then Leonardo Mayer or Sam Groth in the quarterfinals. Groth, and his first round opponent Federico Delbonis, are both on four match losing streaks dating back to last season. The Australian is a big server while FDB prefers clay. Mayer opens with Teymuraz Gabashvili who won a match in Doha, and beat him in Basel last year. The Argentine comes off the quarterfinals in Doha. Groth could catch fire, but I have Tomic over Mayer as the odds on quarterfinal match.
Defending champion Viktor Troicki opens with the Robredo/Millman winner. Troicki won a round in Brisbane and should have enough to beat Robredo or Millman. Mannarino/Mahut or Denis Istomin/Andreas Seppi are quarterfinal options. Seppi is 3-1 against Istomin on hard courts, and he should be able to beat Mannarino or Mahut as well, though it’s a very open section. Seppi has a h2h win on hard courts against Troicki, but the Serbian should be a cut above, and able to reach the semifinals with a chance to defend his title.
Dominic Thiem had a great start to his season, reaching the semifinals. The young Austrian appears primed to perform in Sydney as he should have the inside track against Coric/Muller in a great second round match, and likely Jeremy Chardy in the quarterfinals. Muller could also make a run, and a match against Coric would be a young gun battle. Chardy comes off the quarterfinals in Doha, but trails qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin 0-2 in the h2h. Round 2 for Chardy/Kukushkin will be Julien Benneteau or James Duckworth. Benny reached the quarterfinals of the Noumea challenger in his first match on tour since the spring of last year, while Duckworth took a set off Thiem in Brisbane.
Thiem and Chardy have never met, but I’ll go with Thiem’s form, like Tomic’s, to reach the semifinals.
Brisbane quarterfinalist Grigor Dimitrov should be able to reach the semis, but Hopman Cup finalist Alexandr Dolgopolov (went 3-1 in round robin play), could upset the apple cart. Dimitrov will open with an easy match against qualifier Max Marterer or Pablo Cuevas while Dolgopolov opens with big hitter Thomaz Bellucci and is due to face Alex Sarkissian or Simone Bolelli round 2. Sarkissian qualified as the young American continues to rise. Dolgopolov should get past Bellucci and Bolelli to reach the quarters.
Dimitrov is 2-1 on the hard court h2h against Dolgopolov, Dolgo looks to be razor sharp right now though. He’s one of the most unpredictable talents on tour, but presuming he has it together, I have him reaching the semis.
There are a number of potential dark horses this week with such an open field. Muller would need to beat Coric and Thiem, but if he beats those young guns, he’ll have a great shot at a run to the final or beyond. He has the game for it, it’s just a matter of how well he serves.
Semis Tomic d. Troicki
Thiem d. Dolgopolov
Tomic is 2-1 on hard courts against Troicki, Thiem has a hard court win against Dolgopolov. I wouldn’t put it past the Ukrainian to run to the title, but he’s very hard to predict.
Final Tomic d. Thiem
Both Thiem and Tomic started the season with identical records. Tomic is a former champion in Sydney however, and should have a slight edge to capture another Australian Open series title.
2015 ATP Sydney and Auckland Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The week before the Aussie Open, the final ATP tuneups will take place at 250 level events in Sydney and Auckland, and both hard court tournaments are up for grabs with a lot of rising players and second tier names gunning for ATP ranking points and a coveted ATP title, additionally, Nick Kyrgios, Juan Martin Del Potro, Nicolas Almagro, Ernests Gulbis, and more are making their 2015 debuts.
2015 ATP Sydney Preview
Apia International Sydney
ATP World Tour 250*
January 12-January 17, 2015
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses) 1: Fabio Fognini (19)
2: David Goffin (22)
3: Philipp Kohlschreiber (24)
4: Julien Benneteau (25)
A very balanced field in Sydney this week, none of the seeds are super formidable, so the unseeded players have great chances at putting up good results.
Juan Martin Del Potro is making (yet another) long awaited return in Sydney, hoping that his wrists and all his over physical ailments are sorted out as he begins his effort to return to the top 10 and become a force on the ATP tour again. The tennis world has missed the tower of Tandil, and he has a winnable opening match against Sergiy Stakhovsky, Stako was crushed by Novak Djokovic after beating a no name wild card in Doha, and though he has had flashes of playing above his ranking, he’s a journeyman. It’s also worth noting JMDP is the defending champion, not that that really means much right now. This is an incredibly difficult match to predict but I have Del Po winning on a coin flip.
(6)Pablo Cuevas vs. Nicolas Almagro
Nicolas Almagro is another top player making his return from injury this week, he hasn’t played since the clay court season last year and he opens with dirtballer Pablo Cuevas, who is currently on a nine match win streak, though all those wins came on clay. Almagro got a couple of matches in at the Abu Dhabi exo, so he won’t be entirely rusty, and given this is hard courts, I have him advancing after shaking off some rust.
Andreas Seppi vs. Vasek Pospisil
Seppi found form and snuck into the semis in Doha, though he didn’t face any highly ranked opponents there while Pospisil is making his 2015 debut in Sydney. He went 19-23 in 2014 with an ATP semi and an ATP final as his best results. That said he spent part of the season hampered by a back injury, and his form picked up late in the year, he’s clearly a capable talent, and I feel Seppi may be somewhat fatigued going into this match, with that in mind, I have Pospisil evening up the h2h at 2-2 and winning this match. The hard courts in Sydney should suit the Canadian.
Nick Kyrgios vs. Jerzy Janowicz
Breakthrough star Nick Kyrgios will be making his home soil debut in Sydney against Hopman cup champion Jerzy Janowicz in a highly anticipated contest. Kyrgios has been hampered by a lingering shoulder injury that forced him to skip the Hopman cup, and his physical condition has question marks here, but that said the crowd will be behind him, and he always seems to play his best tennis when the bright lights are on. Kyrgios is favored and the Wimbledon quarterfinalist will have every chance of getting a win. That said, Janowicz is trying to reboot his results in 2015, after a relatively poor 2014, and he won’t roll over lightly, this is a hard match to pick, but I’m favoring the experienced Janowicz, as Kyrgios will likely need more time to adjust than he will.
Top seed Fabio Fognini is in awful form, he clowned around yet again in the Hopman Cup, and he finished 2014 in a slump as well. I have Fognini crashing out against Stakhovsky/Del Potro in his first match, and potentially we could see a Del Potro vs. Almagro quarterfinal in a battle of players returning to the tour. Standing in Almagro’s way, assuming he beats Cuevas, is a qualifier or Denis Istomin, Istomin didn’t do anything special in Doha as he was crushed by Tomas Berdych, but he is 3-0 in his career against Almagro, and that with the rust factor perhaps makes him a slight favorite to reach the quarters and meet Del Potro/Stakhovsky/Fognini. Given the rust factor I have Istomin through to the semis over Del Potro, but it’s anyone guess who will make the semis quite honestly.
Julian Benneteau fell to Thanasi Kokkinakis in the opening round of Brisbane, his poor showing means it appears he is likely to go against the Seppi/Pospisil winner, and that’s the result I have as well. Kyrgios/Janowicz are likely to await Pospisil/Seppi in the quarterfinals, Benjamin Becker, a grinder who fell to Simone Bolelli in Doha, is also in this section and opens with Leo Mayer, who much prefers clay. I have Pospisil over Janowicz in the quarterfinals in this section, JJ may be somewhat fatigued from the Hopman and they have never met before, but again this a very hard section to predict this early in the season with so few matches to judge players by.
Chennai semifinalist David Goffin has a great chance this week to do well, but he’ll need to defeat the dangerous shotmaker Simone Bolelli in round 2, assuming Bolelli defeats the struggling Marinko Matosevic in round 1. If Goffin beats Bolelli/Matosevic, Martin Klizan is likely to await in the quarters. Goffin has one h2h victory against Klizan at a challenger and the Slovak made the quarters in Brisbane, with wins over Alex Dolgopolov and Jurgen Melzer before losing to Grigor Dimitrov. Klizan-Goffin should be a great match as long as Klizan beats a qualifier and Pablo Andujar/Qualifier. It’s hard to predict but I have a hunch Klizan will overpower Goffin and reach the semis.
Philipp Kohlschreiber, who lost his opening match in Doha, will open with former Sydney champ Bernard Tomic or a qualifier, Tomic beat Sam Querrey and Thanasi Kokkinakis in Brisbane and made the quarterfinals, and with Kohli out of form, while Tomic will be motivated on home soil, the Aussie should advance to the quarters. He’s likely to face a big server at that stage, Gilles Muller, a Chennai quarterfinalist, faces Sam Groth, a Brisbane quarterfinalist, in the opening round, expect a lot of aces in that one and I have Muller facing Sam Querrey in round 2. Querrey is 3-1 in his career against his first round opponent Jeremy Chardy and is looking to bounce back from an early loss in Brisbane. Chardy lost to Grigor Dimitrov in round 2 of Brisbane. I have Muller over Querrey for a spot in the quarters, and then Tomic reaching the semis by defeating Muller.
Dark Horse: Vasek Pospisil
I have the Canadian number two taking the title this week, given how up in the air this tournament is. He has basically no points to defend after the Australian Open, until the Fall, given he struggled at that point last season, and will be looking to pad his ranking at events like this. I feel he’s due for his maiden ATP title.
Semis: Pospisil d. Istomin
Klizan d. Tomic
Istomin has a h2h win against Vashy but I feel the Canadian is a better player right now, Klizan beat Tomic last year on clay, and again I feel like his form is better than the Aussie.
ATP World Tour 250
Auckland, New Zealand
January 12-January 17, 2015
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
*1: David Ferrer (10) 2: Ernests Gulbis (13) 3: Roberto Bautista Agut (15) 4: Kevin Anderson (16)
*5: Tommy Robredo (17)
*Ferrer withdrew and Robredo takes over his seedline as the technical five but the proper number 1 seed.
Auckland had a strong field lined up but Doha champ Ferrer, along with defending champ John Isner, and the exciting Gael Monfils all pulled out before the start of the tournament, making this week a rather slim week on the ATP tour in terms of big names. Still, Auckland has plenty of second tier talent in the tournament field.
A pair of rising players will duel under the Auckland sun in this one. Thiem is opening his 2015 season, which will be his first as a regular top 40 ATP player, in New Zealand, while Struff comes off recording a solid victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber in Doha. He fell to Dustin Brown in the next round, which to some extent shows his inconsistency but the talent is there for both players in this matchup they just need to put it all together to be successful. Thiem is favored but Struff will have his chance, and this matchup is harder to predict than many expect, that said I favor Thiem in 3 sets.
Tommy Robredo now headlines the top of the draw, the Spaniard should face limited opposition in route to the quarterfinals, as his draw features a qualifier or Kiwi wildcard Michael Venus in round 2, and then most likely Rendy Lu, a quarterfinalist in Chennai, in the quarters. Lu opens with Juan Monaco, who won the doubles title in Doha with Nadal but has struggled mightily in singles for quite a while, and then is slated to face the winner of Albert Ramos/Paolo Lorenzi, who would both prefer to be playing on clay. Ramos can occasionally put together a decent showing but Lu should get through to the quarters as well, as he looks to defend his final points from last year. Robredo is 3-1 against Lu in his career and beat him last year but I’m going with Lu to make the semis in an upset, he has played well in Auckland before, he will clearly be motivated, and he has form going in, unlike Robredo who made three ATP finals last year, but failed to win one.
Roberto Bautista Agut, a semifinalist in Chennai, opens with Adrian Mannarino or Federico Delbonis in round 2, given Mannarino is the more comfortable hard court player and comes off a challenger semifinal showing on hard courts, he should get to round 2, but RBA is superior in that matchup and the Spaniard is on track for the quarterfinals. In the quarters, Santiago Giraldo is his most likely opponent, Santi had a great season by his normal standards in 2014 as he compiled a 32-27 overall record with an ATP final, three semis and a Masters quarterfinal as his best results. The shotmaking Colombian will face a qualifier, then a qualifier or Kiwi wild card Jose Statham in round 2. RBA beat Giraldo twice last year in straight sets, and he most likely will do so again, but if this matchup comes to fruition it will still be worth watching given the talented shotmaking and aggressive approaches of both players.
Ernests Gulbis opens his 2015 season in Auckland, the charismatic Latvian was 41-21 in 2014 with two ATP titles and a grand slam semi at the French as his best results, he performed well across surfaces, and that is why he’s now a regular top 15 player. Gulbis shouldn’t drop a set before the quarterfinals given his opposition is a qualifier or Thomaz Bellucci, a formerly top player who much prefers clay and similar to Monaco hasn’t put up a big result for quite some time now. His opposition in the quarters is most likely to be Donald Young or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, GGL beat Young twice last year, and he comes off a decent run of form as he won a pair of matches and reached the quarters in Chennai. Garcia-Lopez will need to beat young Argentine dirtballer Diego Sebastian Schwartzman, and Young has a qualifier as his round one opposition. Young was 18-21 at the ATP level last year with one ATP semi as his best result. I see a Gulbis vs. Garcia-Lopez quarterfinal with Gulbis advancing. The h2h favors Ernie 2-1 but they haven’t met since 2013.
Kevin Anderson appears to be struggling as he was dumped by qualifier Lukasz Kubot in his opening match in Brisbane. He will face the Struff/Thiem winner, and if it is Thiem, he does have a 2-0 h2h with both matches taking place last season working in his favor. As a result, even though I don’t feel particularly confident I have Anderson through the quarters, with Thiem/Struff also having a great shot at posting the same result. The section above this one is the best in the draw, wild card Borna Coric, who beat Robin Haase in Chennai, will face Pablo Carreno Busta in round 1, and I have the youngster earning another ATP win given PCB much prefers clay. Steve Johnson, who played Kei Nishikori tough in Brisbane and also won a match there, will face off with Portugese number one Joao Sousa, the American should advance and face off with Coric in a battle of rising young players. Coric should test Johnson, but I feel he’s more battle tested, and his experience at the ATP level will win him the day, even if Coric has more natural talent and potential. This is a tough section with a lot of rising talent (Thiem/Struff/Johnson/Coric), and in my own bracket I have Johnson over Anderson (1-1 h2h in 2014) to reach the semifinals.
Anyone from that section full of rising talent I previewed above can be a dark horse this week, with the non-seeded Thiem, similar to the non-seeded Coric, getting the actual designation this week. I’m going with Thiem because he has more experience than Coric and he’s done well in ATP tournaments before (finalist in Kitzbuhel). If he can get past Struff, and reverse his poor h2h record against Anderson, which is entirely doable, he will have a winnable quarterfinal with Johnson or Coric, and a potential semifinal with his former mentor Gulbis. Ernie and Dominic know each other well and share coaching teams, so it would almost be a battle of brotherly love, and given Gulbis can be inconsistent, that’s also a winnable match in a very open Auckland draw.
Semis: Bautista Agut d. Lu
Johnson d. Gulbis
RBA just beat Lu in a quality quarterfinal contest in Chennai, and the result should be the same (I also favor him against Robredo). Gulbis would still likely be favored to make the final, but Johnson is 2-0 in his career against him with both wins coming on hard court. The American seems very motivated and has a great chance to at least reach his first ATP final, and potentially win his first ATP title this week in Auckland.
Final: Bautista Agut d. Johnson
RBA beat Johnson three times last year, and that’s why I have him down as the winner this week, there are at least six different players who could take the title this week depending on form and motivation and Bautista is my selection.