Ivo Karlovic and Kevin Anderson Smashing Aces at ATP Pune 2019 Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The lesser watched ATP 250 this week is India’s only ATP tournament on hard courts in Pune. Big servers are finding success so far with Kevin Anderson and Ivo Karlovic into the quarterfinals. What does the rest of the week hold?
Tournament favorite Kevin Anderson continued his good form in exhibition play defeating Laslo Djere in straights in his opening match. Jaume Munar has impressed with wins against Radu Albot and Simone Bolelli but Anderson is the heavy favorite here and should dominate Munar.
Defending champion Simon will be favored against his countryman Paire, despite dropping a set against Ilya Ivashka in his first match. Paire already has wins against Thiago Monteiro and Jiri Vesely. The h2h favors Simon 5-3 and he has points to defend here. Simon should grind past Paire.
Veterans Darcis and Jaziri will be happy to have quarterfinal appearances here. Darcis missed the 2018 season with a long term elbow injury, while Jaziri is playing some of the best tennis of his career at 34. Neither player has that many years on tour left and will cherish every opportunity to compete at a high level that they have left. Jaziri battled past Ramkumar Ramanathan, while Darcis has wins against Roberto Carballes Baena and Michael Mmoh. This should be a close match and Jaziri should be favored.
Ivo Karlovic vs Ernests Gulbis
Two players that are fun to watch, the big server Karlovic is 39 and has never defeated Gulbis. However, he upset Felix Auger Aliassime and also defeated Evgeny Donskoy to reach this stage. Gulbis upset Hyeon Chung in round 2 after defeating Pedro Sousa in round 1. A perennial underachiever, when Gulbis finds form he’s a threat at any tournament. Karlovic has lost all but his serve at this point and Gulbis should find a way to win
Anderson d. Simon
Gulbis d. Jaziri
This is Kevin Anderson’s tournament to lose, but keep an eye out for Gulbis and Simon. Jaziri is also seeking his first ATP title.
2018 ATP Moscow features Home Heroes Daniil Medevev, Karen Khachanov, and Andrey Rublev Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2018 Kremlin Cup ATP 250 primarily features a strong contingent of home Russian players vying for late season ATP success.
Top seed Marco Cecchinato isn’t near his best on hard courts but he did find a bit of form in recent weeks, enough to make him a favorite against either Adrian Mannarino or Evgeny Karlovskiy. Mannarino is in awful form. Benoit Paire looks set to have a good week, his first opponent Mischa Zverev is in a form slump, Egor Gerasimov/Damir Dzumhur aren’t the most difficult round 2 opponents, and Cecchinato in the quarters is a very winnable match.
Filip Krajinovic could find form and put together a good tournament, but I have Mikhail Kukushkin pulling an upset, defeating the Serbian after defeating Evgeny Donskoy in round 1. Pierre-Hugues Herbert is in tremendous form as well, PHH opens with Alexander Bublik, Martin Klizan/Andreas Seppi will follow. I’ll back Kukushkin against Herbert as I feel the Frenchman will run out of gas by the quarterfinals.
Tokyo champion Daniil Medvedev has the inside track to reach the quarters with a win against Dusan Lajovic or Filip Horansky. Jeremy Chardy has a tough match against Denis Istomin first up, and then he’ll face the in-form Aljaz Bedene (or Laslo Djere) in round 2. I’ll take Medvedev over Chardy or Bedene in the quarters.
Andrey Rublev will be hoping that home cooking will help him find form. The young Russian has struggled for large parts of this season, but he gets an out of sorts Nick Kyrgios round 1, and then Malek Jaziri/Mirza Basic await in round 2. I’ll take Jaziri over Rublev, with Karen Khachanov reaching the semifinals with a win against Lukas Rosol/Matteo Berrettini before defeating Jaziri in the quarters.
Top seed Albert Ramos should be skilled enough on clay to defeat Amine Ahouda and J.L. Struff/qualifier to reach the quarters. At that point he should meet either his countryman Pablo Andujar, who comes off a challenger title, or Alexandr Dolgopolov. Both Dolgo and Andjuar are returning from injuries, and they open with qualifiers. I’ll go with Ramos over Andujar in the quarters.
Philipp Kohlschreiber is in good form as he takes on out of shape shotmaker Lamine Ouahab. Nikoloz Basilashvili takes on Matteo Berrettini in the other contest in this section. Kohlschreiber, presuming he’s fresh enough, should win it over Berrettini to reach the quarters. Robin Haase and Joao Sousa are options in the quarters, I’ll back Sousa over a qualifier and Haase/Mirza Basic before falling to Kohli.
Kyle Edmund has struggled in his return from injury thus I have him losing to Jiri Vesely in the opening round. I’ll back Andreas Seppi over Radu Albot and Vesely to reach the quarters coming off of Davis Cup. Paolo Lorenzi is my dark horse this week, he feasts on 250’s on clay like this and his path of Mischa Zverev, and Marton Fucsovics/Malek Jaziri is not overly imposing. Lorenzi over Seppi is my pick in the quarters.
The strongest section of the draw features Benoit Paire vs. Gilles Simon, with Paire as my choice. Roberto Carballes Baena vs. Max Marterer, Thomas Fabbiano vs. Richard Gasquet, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez vs. a qualifier. Gasquet has struggled badly as of late but I’ll stick with him against Fabbiano and Garcia-Lopez. Paire should beat Marterer and Gasquet to reach the semis.
Semis Ramos d. Kohlschreiber
Paire d. Lorenzi
I’ll go with Paire this week in a really open field. Kohlschreiber should be facing fatigue, while Ramos and Lorenzi may not be sharp enough.
Deep French Field Including Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Feature at ATP Montpellier Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The first of the numerous ATP tournaments in France, Montpellier is a 250 on indoor hard courts. Here is your full preview, with predictions.
David Goffin comes off success in Davis Cup and will face Gilles Simon in the opening round, presuming Simon beats a qualifier. I’ll go with Simon in an upset, given home court advantage, Goffin’s likely fatigue, and Simon’s good form to start the year. David Ferrer is another veteran in good form, he’ll face Karen Khachanov, Ricardas Berankis/Julien Benneteau will follow. Simon over Ferrer is my pick in the quarters.
Richard Gasquet played well in Davis Cup, he has a tough opening match against Daniil Medvedev, with Pierre-Hugues Herbert/qualifier to follow. Gasquet is still my pick ot reach the quarters, opposite Damir Dzumhur. Dzumhur will face Calvin Hemery/Ruben Bemelmans in the second round.
Lucas Pouille struggled to start the season, he should beat a qualifier, but his countryman Benoit Paire should be tricky in the quarters. Paire opens with Mischa Zverev, John Millman/Yuichi Sugita will follow. Paire is my pick over Pouille in the quarters given the current form of both players.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has a great shot in his section of the draw, Nicolas Mahut/Dustin Brown will be his first opponent, Andrey Rublev should be his quarterfinal opponent. Rublev opens with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Stefanos Tsitsipas/Jeremy Chardy will follow. Tsitsipas could make a run, but Rublev seems to be better at this point in time. Tsonga is my pick to reach the semis.
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.
Maiden ATP Titles for Gojowczyk and Dzumhur in Metz and St. Petersburg Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Qualifier Peter Gojowczyk came back from a set down in his opening match, and went on to win his maiden ATP title 7-5 6-2 over home favorite Benoit Paire in Metz. Gojowczyk beat Norbert Gombos, Gilles Simon, Marius Copil, and Mischa Zverev to reach the final, showcasing career best form. Paire beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, Marcel Granollers, David Goffin, and Nikoloz Basilashvili to reach the final, it was his first final since 2015. Frenchmen Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin defeated Koolhof/Sitak in the doubles final.
ATP St. Petersburg
Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur has been rapidly rising up the ATP rankings this season, and in his second ATP final of the season, he came away a victor over Fabio Fognini 3-6 6-4 6-2 to claim his maiden ATP title. Dzumhur dropped a set against Liam Broady in St. Petersburg, but eased past Paolo Lorenzi, Marcos Baghdatis, and Jan-Lennard Struff. Dzumhur is an undersized ball striker who seems to be getting closer to maximizing his potential.
Fognini reached his second final of the season by defeating Mikhail Youzhny, Ricardas Berankis, and Roberto Bautista Agut, two of those wins coming in three sets. Jebavy and Middelkoop won the doubles title over Peralta/Zeballos.
2017 ATP Marseille Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The second of five ATP Tour stops in France is the 250 in Marseille, where a host of Frenchmen, and a crop of talented young guns will take to the indoor hard courts looking to make their mark on a still young season.
Open 13 Marseille
ATP World Tour 250
February 20-26, 2017
Surface: Indoor Hard
Prize Money: €620,660
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Gael Monfils (10)
2: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14)
3: Nick Kyrgios (15)
4: Lucas Pouille (17)
Despite being a 250, Marseille boasts the strongest and most intriguing field on the ATP Tour this week.
Having lost four straight, Greek teen Tsitsipas could be suffering from a crisis of confidence in his still young career. That said, Youzhny doesn’t seem fit, and this is a tremendous opportunity for the Greek to get his first ever ATP win. Tsitispas is a solid young gun, he had his chances against Tsonga in Rotterdam but failed to take them due to a lack of aggression. Youzhny may still win this unless Tsitsipas plays with confidence.
Daniil Medvedev vs. (8)Benoit Paire
Medvedev has a quarterfinal and an ATP final already this year, Paire has reached two semis and almost scored a big win against Marin Cilic in Rotterdam. Medvedev when healthy is a threat to Paire, but in addition to playing at home, Paire should be fitter and in better form, giving him an edge.
(7)Gilles Simon vs. Karen Khachanov
Twice a former champion, the 32 year old Simon badly needs to find some form in Marseille. Khachanov is a talented young gun but has struggled under the weight of expectations thus far in 2017, and is also looking to get back on track. Simon is likely to grind his way to a round 1 win.
Playing at home, the veteran Benneteau is a clear favorite. Benneteau has flirted with returning to the ATP level after injuries, and has mostly played on the challenger tour. Shapovalov is still lacking in ATP experience, and became infamous after sending a chair umpire to the hospital due to an errant ball he hit in frustration during the Davis Cup. Shapovalov is talented, and it will be interesting to see where his head is against a crafty veteran in Benneteau.
Gael Monfils has played just one tournament in 2017, and it’s hard to predict what form the French flyer will show up in. He should defeat a pedestrian Jiri Vesely or a qualifier in round 2 though, to setup a match with his countryman Richard Gasquet. Gasquet will look to stave off an upset bid by Robin Haase, then teach the young Tsitsipas a lesson, presuming the Greek defeats Youzhny. Monfils leads the h2h with Gasquet 7-5, but Gasquet won their last meeting. Gasquet has been playing more this season and reached the final in Montpellier, I have him finding continued success in France and defeating Monfils in the quarters.
Lucas Pouille has been struggling mightily, and thus I have him falling to his experienced countryman Paul-Henri Mathieu in round 2, after PHM puts away Aljaz Bedene. Paire will face Jeremy Chardy (or J.L. Struff) in round 2 meanwhile, look for Paire over Mathieu in the quarterfinals to break a 1-1 h2h, as long as Paire is focused.
I have a third all French quarterfinal in my bracket, as Rotterdam champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, twice a champion in Marseille, should ease past Illya Marchenko/Qualifier, while Gilles Simon should defeat Khachanov and Benneteau/Shapovalov to reach the quarterfinals. Tsonga leads Simon 8-3 in the h2h, and with the bye giving him some rest, Tsonga should make the semifinals this week.
Defending champion Nick Kyrgios will serve it up against Andrey Kuznetsov or Malek Jaziri, with a matchup against fellow young gun Alexander Zverev looming in the quarterfinals. Kyrgios hasn’t played much in 2017, but neither Kuznetsov or more Jaziri are a threat to his serve. Zverev opens with home favorite Nicolas Mahut, with a qualifier to follow. The extra match should be enough to boost Zverev’s form enough to defeat Kyrgios and reach the semifinals. He’d love a second ATP title in France already in 2017. The pair have never met at the pro level before but are players full of promise.
Dark Horse: Paul-Henri Mathieu
A four-time ATP champion, PHM reached a tour final as recently as last year. The veteran is a shell of the player he once was, but he’s still a solid enough ballstriker to make a run at least once or twice a year in a tour level event. His focus has always failed him in tight moments though, and he’ll need to defeat Pouille and Paire to reach the semifinals, two opponents with more weapons than he possesses.
Semis Gasquet d. Paire
Zverev d. Tsonga
Gasquet leads Paire 4-0 in the h2h, Zverev just beat Tsonga in Montpellier and should be fresher. If these are the semis, it will be a complete repeat of 2017 Montpellier a couple of weeks ago.
Final Zverev d. Gasquet
It would be a reprisal of the other French ATP final this year, Zverev won that one, and I don’t see any particular reason why he can’t win himself another title in this 250.
2017 ATP Rotterdam Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
One of the strongest ATP 500 level tournaments of the year will take place once again in Rotterdam, as many of the ATP World Tour’s best have included a stop in Holland on their 2017 spring tour calendars. Here is a preview, with predictions of all the action.
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament
ATP World Tour 500
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
February 13-19, 2017
Surface: Indoor Hard
Prize Money: €1,724,930
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Marin Cilic (7)
2: Dominic Thiem (8)
3: David Goffin (11)
4: Tomas Berdych (12)
Despite a lack of top 5 players, Rotterdam boasts seeds that are all ranked in the ATP top 20, and nearly all of the opening round matches feature quality ATP caliber contests, the winner will not have had an easy road to the title.
First round matches to watch:
(1)Marin Cilic vs. Benoit Paire
Cilic will have to lean on a 2-1 h2h edge against his French opponent, as he’s endured a miserable start to his season, with just one win in three matches. Despite being the top seed, he drew a difficult opponent in Paire, who has enough weapons to upset higher ranked players, and this time is entering Rotterdam in good form, after reaching the semifinals in Montpellier. Cilic is the favorite, but I’ll go with Paire to continue his good form. The Croatian #1 has looked lost in matches thus far in 2017 and Paire won’t let him find rhythm.
Viktor Troicki vs. Richard Gasquet
Gasquet has won his last two matches against Troicki but they have split the h2h 2-2, and Troicki isn’t in bad form, coming off of the quarterfinals in Sofia. The Montpellier finalist Gasquet may be fatigued entering Rotterdam, which would give Troicki a shot, but otherwise the French veteran’s shotmaking should allow him to advance.
(5)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Mischa Zverev
A first time between this pair, Dimitrov is red hot and on the cusp of entering the top 10 after winning his second title of the season at home in Sofia. Zverev lost his opening match in Montpellier, and looked to be back down to earth after a run to the quarterfinals in Melbourne. Dimitrov is a clear favorite given his red hot form, but if he’s fatigued, Zverev’s serve and volley could flummox him.
Alexander Zverev vs. (2)Dominic Thiem
After three straight wins by Thiem, Zverev finally got a victory at the end of last year against his fellow young gun. The young German is 6-1 on tour to start the season, as he took the title in Montpellier, showing no signs of frustration after his struggles in Davis Cup play. Thiem has lost two straight matches and has been somewhat pedestrian so far in 2017, presuming Zverev isn’t out of gas, despite being lower ranked, he should be the favorite.
The winner of Cilic/Paire will draw a young gun, either Russia’s Karen Khachanov or Croatia’s Borna Coric. Coric hasn’t won a match since last Summer, while Khachanov hasn’t played his best either, that sets up Paire to defeat Khachanov and reach the quarterfinals, opposite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga, a semifinalist in Montpellier, is slated to face 18 year old Stefanos Tsitsipas, a Greek talent who is making his ATP main draw debut, with most likely Sydney champion and Sofia quarterfinalist Gilles Muller to follow. Muller opens with Dutch wild card Tallon Griekspoor, age 20, who is also making his ATP main draw debut. Tsonga should beat the young Greek, Muller, and Paire to reach the semifinals, putting him one match away from his former best result in Rotterdam, where he was finalist in 2011. Tsonga is 3-0 in the h2h vs. Paire, and 2-1 vs. Muller at the tour level.
The Gasquet/Troicki winner will take on former champion Tomas Berdych, presuming Berdych puts away qualifier Marius Copil, who plays a poorer version of his style of tennis. Berdych leads Gasquet 8-7 in the h2h, and has won the last two meetings, however, Gasquet is likely in better form, and thus I have the Frenchman prevailing to reach the quarterfinals. Defending champion Martin Klizan opens his title defense against Fernando Verdasco. Klizan trails Verdasco in the h2h, but finally found a bit of form, reaching the quarterfinals in Sofia last week. Klizan likely wins in round 1, but the winner of Philipp Kohlschreiber/Lucas Pouille will be a tough opponent in round 2. Kohlschreiber may not be totally fit, while Pouille hasn’t played well this season, thus I have Klizan reaching the quarterfinals before falling to Gasquet.
The winner of Zverev/Thiem will face a veteran, either Gilles Simon or Nicolas Mahut, Simon has a h2h edge over Mahut, while Zverev is in the best form of this section, setting him up to at least reach the quarterfinals. Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez hasn’t played great thus far in 2017, but he gets the best draw of any player in the tournament. Qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert is his first opponent, with qualifier Evgeny Donskoy or Marcel Granollers to follow. Lopez should ease past Donskoy in round 2, before falling to Zverev in the quarterfinals.
Sofia finalist David Goffin is likely to get a rematch of that final with Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals. Dimitrov faces lucky loser Denis Istomin or qualifier Aljaz Bedene after facing the older Zverev brother, while Goffin opens with Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov, who is struggling, with Robin Haase or Florian Mayer to follow. Given Dimitrov just beat Goffin in Sofia, and before that Melbourne, Dimitrov is the favorite to reach the semifinals from this section.
Fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon could make a run from the bottom half, but Paire has the most upside here. He has a winnable match against Cilic, and a path to the quarterfinals. Tsonga is a tough opponent, but he’s also not unbeatable, and this is a great chance at ranking points for the mercurial Paire.
Semis Tsonga d. Gasquet
Dimitrov d. Zverev
Tsonga has won his last three contests against Gasquet, it should be a close contest if they meet in the semis, but Tsonga’s aggressive play likely gives him an edge.
Despite a 2-1 h2h lead for Zverev, Dimitrov has been playing top 5 caliber tennis this season. Fatigue should weigh on both players equally, but it’s hard to pick against Dimitrov’s positive form right now.
Final Dimitrov d. Tsonga
Despite Tsonga leading the h2h 4-0, Dimitrov is simply playing better, and should finally be able to overcome his opponent in this potential 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.