2017 ATP Brisbane Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A new tennis season is upon us, and once again it kicks off down under in Brisbane. The Australian summer brings warmth, and world class tennis to our tv sets. Here is a look at Queensland’s ATP 250.
ATP World Tour 250
January 1-8, 2017
Prize Money: $437,380
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Milos Raonic (3)
2: Stan Wawrinka (4)
3: Kei Nishikori (5)
4: Dominic Thiem (8)
A super strong field for a 250, Brisbane packs the star power with all their seeds.
First round matches to watch:
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. (5)Rafael Nadal
Nadal started 5-0 in this h2h, but Dolgo has won their last two meetings. Nadal just won the exo in Abu Dhabi, and posted an 18-10 record on hard courts last year. Dolgopolov had a poor season last year, falling out of the top 50, and finishing below .500 on hard courts. The Ukrainian remains a threatening player with the ability to hit some amazing shots, but Nadal should be able to continue his momentum early this season with an opening round win.
Steve Johnson vs. (7)Grigor Dimitrov
Dimitrov leads Johnson 3-2 in their h2h, with all of their matches taking place in the past two seasons. Dimitrov went 30-15 on outdoor hard courts last year, while Johnson went just 17-15 in what was a slightly down season for the American. This should be a close match, but I’d give Dimitrov an edge based on his ability to hit off both wings.
David Ferrer vs. Bernard Tomic
Tomic has won his last two meetings against Ferrer after losing his first three. Bernie tends to play well in Australia and went 20-15 on hard courts last year. Ferrer went just 16-10 in what was his worst season on tour in over a decade. Once a consistent top 10 player, Ferrer is no longer ranked in the top 20. Tomic for his part continues to underperform his talent. At home in Australia, Tomic should have an edge though, as Ferrer has declined.
Lucas Pouille vs. Gilles Simon
The veteran Simon has two wins against the rising Pouille. Born a decade apart, Simon went 15-10 on hard courts last year, while Pouille went 19-12 and reached the top 15 for the first time in his career. Simon’s consistent counterpunching always makes him a challenging opponent, but Pouille has more upside and should sneak out a win in this one.
Defending champion Milos Raonic got his season started in Abu Dhabi after going 27-7 on hard courts last year, and now heads to Brisbane for an opening test against either Sam Querrey or Diego Schwartzman. Querrey is good on his day on hard courts, but Raonic’s serve should be enough to get him into the quarterfinals for a huge early season test against Rafael Nadal. Nadal looks rejuvenated and eager to return to world class tennis in his Brisbane debut. The Spaniard will face a qualifier, or serve and volleying veteran Mischa Zverev in the second round, after playing Dolgopolov. Zverev had a great finish to his season, and Nadal can struggle with the serve and volley style on fast surfaces, but I feel good enough about Rafa to predict him to reach the semis, defeating Raonic in the quarters. Nadal just beat Raonic in Abu Dhabi.
Dominic Thiem looks refreshed, and will hopefully take more care with his scheduling in 2017. The rising Austrian, 19-10 on hard courts in 2016, opens with Aussie Sam Groth or doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert in round 2. He should win that one easily enough to setup a quarterfinal test against Dimitrov, who will face Nicolas Mahut or Stephane Robert in round 2. Thiem has a h2h win against Dimitrov, and when fresh, Thiem is presumably the better player.
Stan Wawrinka, the Swiss #1, should get his year off to a winning start against Viktor Troicki or a qualifier, with Pouille his likely quarterfinal opponent. Pouille just needs to defeat Simon, and Kyle Edmund or a qualifier. Wawrinka went 26-6 on hard courts last year and should be motivated and fit to start the season. I’d expect him to make at least the semifinals in his first tournament.
Kei Nishikori posted a 32-12 hard court record in 2016, and after a tiring finish to the year, he’ll hopefully be in good form, and fitness to start 2017. Nishikori will face big server Gilles Muller or a qualifier in his first match, with Bernard Tomic lurking in the quarters. Tomic faces Elias Ymer or fellow Aussie Jordan Thompson after his first round match against Ferrer. Nishikori should be better from the baseline against Tomic and reach the semifinals.
Dark Horse: Bernard Tomic
The unseeded Tomic has a tough draw with Ferrer first, and Nishikori and Wawrinka his likely quarterfinal and semifinal opponents. At home, Bernie tends to play his best though, and wins against accomplished players such as the ones just mentioned would do wonders for his confidence and focus this young season.
Nadal d. Thiem
Nishikori d. Wawrinka
Nadal is 2-1 against Thiem, the veteran should be troubled by Thiem, but I still predict him to advance. Wawrinka leads the h2h with Nishikori 4-3, but it’s a close matchup, and Nishikori won the most recent one at the tour finals.
Nadal d. Nishikori
Nadal lost to Nishikori in the Olympics, but he leads the overall h2h 9-2, and I have a feeling that Rafa will start his year with an ATP title.