2015 ATP Montreal Qualifying Preview
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
photo credit: CBC
The ATP Rogers Cup for 2015 will take place in Montreal, Quebec and the strong Masters level field means that the qualifying draw is strong, and features many recognizable names both veteran and young gun, along with players in between those categories. Here is a preview of the weekend action set to come, as Tennis Atlantic is proud to have credentialed coverage of the tournament this year with our writer Leich Sinha.
Top 7 qualifying seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Nicolas Mahut (66)
2: Thanasi Kokkinakis (72)
3: Alexandr Dolgopolov (73)
4: Donald Young (75)
5: Yen-Hsun Lu (76)
6: Hyeon Chung (77)
7: Denis Kudla (79)
Seven qualifying spots are up for grabs, as all of the qualifying seeds have had ATP success this year and it makes for a competitive draw.
First round matchups to watch:
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(9)Ernests Gulbis vs. Blaz Rola
Gulbis, now down to #81 in the world, has endured a rough season, and he’s now reduced to having to play ATP qualifying again. The Latvian is just 5-17 this year after going 41-20 last season and he’s failed to win consecutive matches at any tournament this year. The lack of consistency and high error counts has hurt him mentally and his first round opponent isn’t an easy win.
Rola, an Ohio State product, has the ability to be top 100 and played well in Washington, beating Denis Kudla and losing to Leonardo Mayer, both in three sets. His NCAA experience built up his hard court abilities, and it’s hard to tell how this match will go. Gulbis is a name with star power, but Rola may well get the win in the end.
(2)Thanasi Kokkinakis vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Thanasi Kokkinakis has been struggling since the French Open and he put together a poor Davis Cup showing in his last outing. That said, the young Australian is still 9-12 at the tour level this year, and 21-1 below it, as he’s been fantastic in ATP qualifying. He has great skills for hard courts, and still should be a minor favorite over Herbert.
The Frenchman who has shown flashes of talent worthy of the ATP level has had more success in doubles than singles this year and he’s just 1-2 at the ATP main draw level, though he qualified for Wimbledon in his last tournament entry. It’s hard to tell how his form will be on hard courts, but he has a solid serve. I see Kokkinakis advancing from this is he can find form.
(3)Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Dudi Sela
An interesting hard court matchup that should feature solid shotmaking, Dolgopolov has been inconsistent, but he won a pair of matches in Washington and he’s clearly under ranked given his abilities. The veteran Sela reached the quarterfinals in Atlanta, but didn’t fare well in Washington losing in a blowout, and his form is thus questionable. You never know what you’re going to get with Dolgo, but he’s a likely favorite to advance.
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(7)Denis Kudla vs. Ryan Harrison
An All-American battle that should favor the seeded Kudla over the formerly more accomplished Harrison. Kudla has been in fantastic form since the grass court season, as working with Billy Heiser seems to be paying off for him. The counterpunching ball striker who is solid from both wings reached the Semis in Atlanta to start his US Open Series, and though he lost his first match in Washington that may have been due to fatigue.
Harrison lost to Kudla in a third set tiebreak in Atlanta, in what was a tight match featuring a lot of balls hit back and forth, and though he qualified in Washington his form hasn’t been the best since the Spring. If something is up with Kudla, Harrison could win, but Kudla appears to have outpaced Harrison in development and form at this point in their careers, and I see him advancing.
Well-traveled veteran Nicolas Mahut is the top seed, but he’s 0-4 on outdoor hard courts this year and will look to improve against Canadian wild card and former Indian Hoosier Isade Junea. Junea is also 0-4 on hard courts this year and seems to prefer clay, thus Mahut is a heavy favorite over the futures level player. From there it should be Mahut against Rola/Gulbis to qualify, with Rola/Gulbis a favorite. I have Rola qualifying from section 1.
Section 2 has Kokkinakis/Herbert facing the winner of J.P. Smith/Mikhail Youzhny in the final round of qualifying. Youzhny, a loser of seven straight matches, is in awful form as he seemingly heads towards retirement. The former ATP regular who is just 1-5 on outdoor hard this year should go out to Smith who is 13-11 and qualified in Washington. In a possible battle between Aussie’s Kokkinakis has more talent, but Smith may be in better form, overall I see Kokkinakis as the favorite to qualify.
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Section 3 is Dolgopolov/Sela against against Alejandro Falla or James Ward. Falla hasn’t played since Bogota but he’s 14-10 on an outdoor hard court this season. That match would be more entertaining on grass, but all the same Wardy is seeing the wheels come off his game right now and he’s lost four straight since Wimbledon. Ward tends to peak for the British part of the season on grass, and things aren’t looking up for him, so look for Dolgopolov over Falla in a shotmakers special to qualify.
Donald Young will look to break out of his funk against Edouard Roger-Vasselin in section 4. Young, after a hot start to the season, won his first ATP main draw match since Miami in Washington, where he upset Tommy Haas, but otherwise the American has been a disaster since career best results in Memphis and Delray Beach back to back (semis and final). He struggled at home in Atlanta, and though he’s a hard court player, he could well crash out here as well. ERV, now 31, isn’t a great singles player, but he’s 9-4 on outdoor hard below the tour level this year, and if his form is even halfway decent, I have the French speaker knocking out Young in Quebec.
The winner of Young/ERV will face Canadian Peter Polansky or veteran serve and volleyer Rajeev Ram in round 2. If it’s ERV vs. Ram it’ll be a battle of the doubles experts. Ram won Newport on grass and played well in Bogota but he was injured for Washington and Polansky at home may have an edge. Peter is 3-0 in the h2h and since returning from injury he’s played just two tournaments this season. This is a weak section, but I have Roger-Vasselin over Polansky to qualify.
Rendy Lu will be a strong favorite in section 5. Lu opens with 17 year old Canadian wild card David Volfson, who plays futures and has never faced an opponent up to Lu’s level. The 31 year old veteran is then likely to meet Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans in the final qualifying round. Bemelmans won a match in Washington and is a solid 18-5 below the tour level this year on indoor hard. He’ll open with Canadian wild card and NCAA player (North Carolina) Brayden Schnur. Schnur isn’t up to his level, but Lu vs. Bemelmans should be a battle. Lu doesn’t have a lot of weapons but his steadiness should see him through qualifying.
Young gun Hyeon Chung of South Korea highlights section 6, Chung should roll past Canadian futures player Kelsey Stevenson and setup a meeting with Alejandro Gonzalez/Tim Smyczek. Chung won a main draw match in Washington and was competitive against Marin Cilic, a top 10 player, in round 2. The 19 year old is solid on both hard courts and clay and has a lot of game, thus I see him qualifying. Gonzalez is a pedestrian hard court player and Smyczek is in poor form (5 straight losses). Chung has a non-traditional game in some respects, he’s a good server and he whips his backhand.
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Last but not least, Kudla/Harrison will face Illya Marchenko or James Duckworth in an interesting hard court section. Duckworth has a 2-0 h2h over Marchenko, who has lost three straight, and the Aussie is in good form, as he beat Harrison in Washington and pushed top 10 player Kei Nishikori to three sets before succumbing. Kudla and Duckworth, the likely matchup, have a 1-1 h2h and both are in good form, so it’s a hard match to predict, but I’m going with Kudla to qualify.
Look for our on-site reports from the ATP Montreal Rogers Cup this week!