Sijsling, Robert, Ymer and Berlocq Advance in ATP Qualifying Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
Igor Sijsling heads the field of qualifiers in the BMW Open
It isn’t every day that players on the ATP Tour have to contend with the threat of snow disrupting their matches, but this is what happened during qualifying at the BMW Open in Munich.
Despite the burst of snow showers, four players managed to book their places in the main draw on Sunday. Only one seed managed to progress to the main draw in Germany. Second seed Igor Sijsling started his qualifying journey against Andrey Golubev. The Dutch player crushed Golubev 6-2, 6-1, winning 86% of his total service points. Sijsling encountered a much tougher second round meeting against fifth seed Jozef Kovalik. Kovalik defeated Austrian wildcard Alexander earlier in his opening match. The final round of qualifying was far from plain sailing for Sijsling. Despite dropping his service three times, he managed to grab the win in straight sets, 7-6(4), 6-4, after two hours of play.
Sijsling will now play in his first ATP main draw this year and his first since the 2015 BNP Paribas Masters. The 28-year-old currently has a win-loss of 39-65 on the ATP tour (a 38% winning rate).
The qualifying draw in Munich saw a trio of triumphs for home players. The most significant of the three achievements was wild card entrant Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. Stebe is a former top-100 player whose career has been affected by injury and hip surgery. In February this year he played his first match in almost 18 months in a Turkish Futures tournament. The German has been sidelined from action due to osteitis pubis, a noninfectious inflammation of the pubis symphysis.
Playing his first ATP qualifying event since the 2013 US Open, Stebe upset eighth seed Peter Gojowcyzk 6-1, 7-6(5), in the first round. Awaiting Stebe in the second round was Nils Langer, who stunned top seed Mirza Basic in his first match. Stebe was victorious in the all-German marathon, winning 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-4.
Matthias Bachinger defeated two German seeds to reach his first ATP main draw since June. Bachinger was playing in his first tournament since September due to injury. In his successful comeback from injury, the world No.33 produced straight sets win over third seed Daniel Brands and seventh seed Tobias Kamke.
The final injury-plagued player to triumph in qualifying was Florian Mayer. The 32-year-old hasn’t played on the tour since the US Open due to a hip injury. Aided by seven aces, the world No.268 defeated France’s Vincent Millot 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, to reach the main draw.
Mixed fortunes for Argentine players in Istanbul qualifying as Carlos Berlocq triumphs
The qualifying draw at the Istanbul Open could easily be mistaken for a South American tournament with three of the top five seeds comprising of Argentine players.
The top seed at the tournament was world No. 137 Maximo Gonzalez. The 32-year-old has won five main draw matches this year and is yet to win back-to-back matches in a main draw of a tournament in 2016. Gonzalez will not have a chance of extending his streak to six in Istanbul after suffering a shock loss in qualifying. After coming through a tough three sets win against world No.314 Tomislav Krkic, he faced Romania’s Adrian Ungur. He was unable to live up to his top seed status after crashing out 6-3, 7-5.
The qualifying triumph is a much needed boost to Ungur’s poor start to 2016. Since winning a Challenger title in Sibiu (Romania) last year, he has only managed to win two matches. The Romanian will play in his first ATP main draw since the 2014 Bucharest Open.
Carlos Berlocq was the highest seed to progress to the main draw in what was a roller coaster qualifying experience for the Argentine. In his opening match, the world No.153 required over three hours to see off Dimitar Kuzmanov 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-5. Berlocq, who achieved a ranking best of 37th in 2012, enjoyed another stern test in the second round against sixth seed Alessandro Giannessi. In a match lasting over two hours, Berlocq battled his way past the Italian 7-6(3), 6-3, to progress to the main draw, where he will be bidding to grab his first win on the ATP Tour this year.
18-year-old Andrew Rublev overcame a blip to triumph in Istanbul. Earlier this year, the Russian claimed his first Challenger title in Quimper, France. Since then, Rublev has encountered a slow start to the clay court season after failing to qualify for the Casablanca Open and then losing in the first round of Monte-Carlo Masters to German talent Alexander Zverev. In his third event of the year on clay, the teenager recovered from a first set slump to crush seventh seed Marius Copil 4-6, 6-0, 6-3.
Rublev is currently at a ranking best of 154th in the world. He first rose to prominence after winning the 2014 French Open Boys’ title.
Completing the list of qualifiers is another Argentine, Renzo Olivo. The 24-year-old has already produced solid results on the clay this year. At the Ecuador Open he reached the quarterfinals as a qualifier and he has reached the second round of the Buenos Aires Open. Unlike the three other qualifiers, Renzo was the only man to book his place in the main stage of the tournament without dropping a set. Starting his campaign with a 6-4, 7-6(4), win over Michal Konecny, Renzo faced Ivan Nedelko in the final round. Nedelko is a Russian player who plays mainly on the Challenger and Futures circuit. The Russian was no match for Renzo as he eased to a 6-4, 6-3, victory.
Stephane Robert and Elias Ymer progress to the main draw in Estoril
The second edition of the Estoril Open at the Clube de Ténis saw mixed emotions for the stars of the tournaments qualifying draw. Only two top-five players managed to progress to the main draw.
Headlining the field was world No.104 Albert Montanes, who recently reached his first ATP semifinal in Marrakesh since the 2014 Nice Open. The Spaniard was stunned in the opening round by world No. 240 Salvatore Caruso, a player who has won only three Italian Futures titles in his career.
The unexpected win by Caruso moved him to an all-Italian encounter with seventh seed Andrea Arnaboldi. Arnaboldi has endured a disappointing start to the year by winning only three of his 11 main draw matches. Facing Caruso, the world No.170 saved a match point in the second set to win 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3, in a match lasting almost three hours. The tough win had earned the seventh seed a place in his first ATP main draw since the Bastad Open last July.
French veteran Stephane Robert was the highest seed to win both rounds of qualifying. The 35-year-old has already won two Challenger titles this year in India and Mexico and recently won two rounds of qualifying at the Monte-Carlo Masters. At Estoril he dismissed compatriot Alexandre Sidorenko in straight sets to face Farrukh Dustov. The Uzbek player stunned fourth seed Kenny de Schepper in his first round match. Robert was on the verge of exiting the tournament after trailing 3-6, 0-2 to Dustov. The Frenchman was able to turn his fortunes around to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. Robert will play in the main draw of the tournament for the second consecutive year. Last year he lost in the first round to Nicolas Almagro.
Elias Ymer continued his surge in form on the clay by defeating Croatia’s Franko Skugor 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, in the final round of qualifying in Portugal. Ymer is currently at a career ranking best of 123rd in the world after winning his maiden Challenger title in Barletta, Italy. The Swede was also granted a wildcard into last week’s Barcelona Open, where he lost in three sets to Thiemo de Bakker.
The lowest ranked player to qualify was Canada’s Steven Diez. The Canadian has enjoyed multiple success on the Futures tour this year by reaching the final of six tournaments, winning titles in three of them. Diez was able to convert his Futures success to ATP Tour delight with an impressive opening qualifying win against Luca Vanni. The 25-year-old crushed the fourth seed 6-1, 6-2. In round two he faced Argentine eighth seed Marco Trungelliti. The Canadian underdog won 64% of his service points and fended off 3 of 4 break points to upset the Argentine 6-3, 6-2.
Diez will now play in only his second ATP main draw after the 2014 Atlanta Open.
There was a double French celebration during the qualifying round of the Generali Open in Austria. The tournament is the final clay court event on the 2015 ATP Tour calendar.
Headlining the qualifying field was French world No.111 Paul-Henri Mathieu. The Frenchman entered the competition in impressive form following his successful run in Bastad, Sweden last month where he reached the quarter-final as a qualifier. In the main draw he produced wins over Jeremy Chardy and Ernests Gulbis. During the Kitzbuhel qualifying rounds, he beat Czech Republic’s Marek Michalička to set up a showdown with Spanish teenager Jaume Munar. The 18-year-old recently receive a wild-card entry into the ATP Hamburg German Open and reached the second round due to his opponent retiring. During his time in Hamburg, Munar demonstrated some impressive play to justify his wild-card, however he was unable to tame Mathieu in Austria. The top seed eased himself to a 6-4, 6-3, victory.
Accompanying Mathieu in the main draw will be his fellow countryman Kenny De Schepper. After two straightforward wins in the first two matches of qualifying, the 28-year-old endured an epic encounter against Spanish second seed Albert Montanes in the final round. Leading up to Kitzbuhel the Spaniard has lost to players ranked lower than him in the four previous tournaments. De Schepper was on the brink of exit as Montanes had two match points in the second set but failed to convert them. His failure was a catastrophe as Kenny valiantly battled to take the second set in the tie-break before edging his way to the win 3-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5.
Jan-Lennard Struff’s troublesome 2015 received a boost following his 6-2, 7-5, win against Jozef Kovalík. The German has played 22 main draw matches this year, but has only won 5 of them. Before his win over Kovalik, Struff defeated world No.197 Jordi Samper-Montana and Austrian wild-card Lenny Hampel. This is the second time this year that the German has produced three successive wins at the same tournaments. The first was at the ATP Heilbronn Challenger in Germany, where he reached the semi-final.
Finally, Brazilian world No.302 Rogerio Dutra Silva stunned sixth seed Carlos Berlocq to reach his second successive ATP Main draw. The Brazilian knocked out 4th seed Norbert Gombos in the first round followed by local player Pascal Brunner in the second. Despite a second set blip in which Silva trailed 4-0, the underdog held his nerve as he battled to the shock 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (3) victory after two hours and 40 minutes.
Rogerio Dutra Silva vs. Santiago Giraldo: Giraldo leads the head-to-head 3-2. Their most recent meeting was in the first round of Houston this year where Giraldo won 6-2,6-2. Despite playing five previous meetings, in the past seven years they have only played each other twice.
Jan-Lennard Struff vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber: They have played each other three times since 2014 with Struff leading the head-to-head 2-1 due to Kohlschreiber retiring in one of their matches. Their latest meeting was at the start of the year in Doha where Struff won in three sets. They are also Davis Cup teammates for Germany.
Kenny de Schepper – Paul-Henri Mathieu: This is the first meeting between the two Frenchmen, Mathieu’s strong recent form likely gives him an edge.
2015 ATP Houston and Casablanca Preview/Prediction Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
After a pair of Masters level events, the ATP will return to regularly scheduled programming with a pair of 250s, as the clay court season kicks off with the event in Houston, where we will have onsite midweek coverage from our staff writer Jeff McMillan, and in Casablanca, the lone stop for the ATP World Tour on the African continent.
2015 ATP Houston Preview
Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship
ATP World Tour 250
Houston, TX, USA
April 6-April 12, 2015
Prize Money: $488,225
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Feliciano Lopez (12)
2: Roberto Bautista Agut (15)
3: Kevin Anderson (16)
4: John Isner (19)
Houston has four top 20 players, and the seed cutoff is the top 45, making it a solid 250 level event, as many players are delaying traveling across the pond and opting to stay in the states for an extra week.
First round matchups to watch:
Steve Johnson vs. Donald Young
Many consider this match to be a battle for the second slot on the US Davis Cup team, as Johnson has steadily been on the rise, and for that matter Young has had a good season himself. Their h2h is split 1-1, but they have never met on clay before. Young earned 3 wins in the two hard court masters events, and only lost to top 5 players Nadal and Murray, while Johnson won two matches in Indian Wells, but was ousted by Mikhail Kukushkin in Miami. On clay, this match is very much a toss-up, and I give the slightest edge to Young, though I would give Stevie J the edge on a hard court right now, Young has played relatively well all season against all but the top tier of players, while Johnson has been a bit more up and down.
Joao Souza vs. Jack Sock
In-form American Jack Sock will have an interesting test with Brazilian dirtballer Joao Souza. He’s higher ranked, and has greater raw talent than Souza, but as with almost every American male tennis player, he’s far more comfortable and better on hard courts and fast surfaces, compared to clay, a surface he only plays minimally on. Since turning pro, Sock is 7-5 on clay on the main tour level, which of course most notably points out he’s only played 12 ATP matches on clay in the past two seasons, for contrast, Souza has already played 8 matches on clay at the ATP level just this year, and if you include the challenger tour his total is 12.
In 2013 he went 35-24 on clay between ATP and challengers, and in 2014 he went 45-24 as the world number 70 is much more comfortable moving on the dirt. Sock is 5-2 since returning from hip surgery as he played quite well in the Masters events but his loss to Dominic Thiem in Miami exposed problems with his game, and given Souza already has an ATP semi and a quarterfinal on clay, I have him pulling off an upset ranking wise.
Feliciano Lopez reached a clay final earlier this year in Quito, but for a Spaniard, he’s never come close to being a clay court master like some of his peers. That said, Feli has cemented himself as a top 15 player these days and his game is overall dangerous with his slice serve and ability to cause his opponents trouble at the net. Lopez was upset in his opening match in Miami, but he didn’t play poorly in that one per say, and he also reached the quarterfinals in Indian Wells. Right off the bat, Lopez is likely to get a rematch of his opponent in the Quito final, Victor Estrella. The speedy Dominican will need to defeat big server Sam Groth, who is playing on his worst surface, in the opening round. The veteran Estrella is an inspiring story, and he outlasted Lopez in 3 sets in that Quito final, but he’s currently riding a three match losing streak, and all of his losses came to players ranked outside the top 40, thus I have Lopez through to the quarters in a match that should be easier than in Quito where history was on the line for Estrella.
Sam Querrey, who has reached a final here before, opens with Marinko Matosevic, a relatively poor clay court player. Matosevic has been awful all year (3-9 with four straight losses), so Querrey, who has continued to struggle with his mental toughness this season, should be safe for round 2 where Young/Johnson will present a challenge. I have the winner of Young/Johnson getting into the quarters from that match, so thus in my own bracket it’s Donald Young to face Lopez in the quarters. Young actually upset Lopez at the French last year (overall the h2h is 3-2 Young), but Feli seems to be the safer pick regardless to reach the semis.
4 seed John Isner comes off playing one of the best tournaments of his life in Miami, very much out of the blue, and the former champion is likely to be a threat in the lone star state. Since Davis Cup play, Isner is 6-2 with his only losses coming to the world number 1 Djokovic, and in Miami he beat top 15 players Dimitrov, Raonic and Nishkori in consecutive matches to reach the semis, a remarkable streak of wins. Isner played one of the best ATP matches of his career against Nishikori, and it seemed the disaster that was Davis Cup lit a fire under him and recommitted him to tennis. Isner should have little trouble with either Tim Smyczek or Temyuraz Gabashvili in round 2 (Gabashvili recently snapped a losing streak, while Smyczek is struggling but seems to play well in Texas), but Fernando Verdasco, the defending champ, and a streakily dangerous player, is going to be a tough opponent in the quarters. Dasco will need to defeat Paolo Lorenzi and an unnamed qualifier to get that far.
Verdasco and Isner have a 1-1 h2h on hard courts, and have never met on clay, Verdasco of course upset Nadal for a huge win in Miami, but then meekly bowed out to Juan Monaco in the next round, and his consistency is all over the place, with that in mind, Isner actually seems like the more reliable pick right now, and thus I have him into the semis, both players have big weapons to bring to the table, as Verdasco has his world class forehand and Isner continues to have one of the best serves in the game, that said I see Isner frustrating Verdasco with said serve, and Verdasco is known to have slip ups on his own serve that Isner can capitalize on.
Should Sock beat Souza, Roberto Bautista Agut will be his opponent, an opponent he just beat in Indian Wells in a three setter. RBA is just 2-3 in his last five and is struggling at the moment, thusly he seems to be the top seed most likely to be upset, by either Sock or Souza. RBA went 12-5 on clay last year at the ATP level, after going 8-7 in 2013, seemingly improving on the surface. With a limited sample to size to gather from, I’m picking Souza in an upset myself and have him into the quarters.
The section above RBA/Souza/Sock is most interesting, the seed is Santiago Giraldo, who has been unreliable this year after a career year in 2014, and the other spots are taken by a pair of unnamed qualifiers, and Janko Tipsarevic, who after making his doubles debut in Miami with Djokovic last week, is now returning to the ATP World Tour on the singles side. Tipsarevic has been out for over a year due to a tumor on his foot that was removed, and though he’s sure to be rusty and has aged, he still has the talent deep down of a top 10 player, as he used to play remarkable tennis against the best players in the world across surfaces. Giraldo, who had his best result of 2015 in Sao Paulo on clay (semifinalist) is the odds on fave to reach the quarters from here, though a qualifier or Tipsarevic could make a run, and in such a wide open section, it’s hard to pick who will reach the semis, but I have Giraldo over Souza myself (Giraldo 3-1 h2h edge, all matches on clay).
Kevin Anderson, another big server in this draw, will open with Federico Delbonis or Ricardas Berankis in his opening match, most likely Delbonis. Anderson is 2-0 against Delbo and beat him on clay in 2012 (along with a close win in Indian Wells a couple of weeks ago). That said, Delbonis is at his best on clay and will have a punchers chance. Delbonis has two clay court quarterfinals already on his resume this year while Anderson has played well this year, but has, as to be expected, never been a top tier clay court player. Similar to the Souza/RBA situation, given the sample size, I’m going with Delbonis in another upset over a seed as the Argentinian will be aiming for his third quarterfinal of the season.
Above Anderson/Delbonis is the section featuring Jeremy Chardy as the seed, and also Lleyton Hewitt, a former champion in Houston, as a wild card. Hewitt continues to struggle in his final season on tour, as the magic, and more seriously the reliability, appears to finally be fading for the former world number 1. Still, he should beat Go Soeda, a hard court player, in the opening round. I see Chardy going out to another unseeded player, Dusan Lajovic. The Serb has two clay court quarterfinals this year on his resume at the ATP level, and though he has lost three straight and retired in Miami, he again, much prefers clay. Chardy has not had a good season as he’s just 2-3 in his last five matches. Though he’s French, Chardy has never been better than a 50/50 proposition on clay. Look for Lajovic to beat Hewitt to reach the quarters and face Delbonis. Lajovic beat Delbonis at the French last year, but Delbonis is 3-1 overall in the h2h (the other three meetings on hard court) and I trust his tennis more at the moment, thus I have Delbonis in the semis.
I have Delbonis reaching the final as an unseeded player this week, and thus he gets the dark horse designation. He played well against Anderson at IW, and if he gets through that Lajovic/Hewitt/Chardy are all beatable, likewise in the semis, any of RBA/Souza/Giraldo/Tipsarevic are beatable. Given this is clay, he’d also have a shot to take the title in any hypothetical final that could be drummed up. The Argentina is unlikely to be a world beater, but at events like this he is perfectly talented enough to do well if he can keep his error count down and stay aggressive.
Isner d. Lopez
Delbonis d. Giraldo
Isner has been so impressive in IW and Miami that I have to pick him to beat Flopez if they meet, he scored a h2h win in their lone match on clay here in 2012 in three sets, and though Lopez has a 3-2 overall h2h lead, the matches have been relatively close. Given form, and the fact Isner plays his best on clay in Houston, this tournament setups up nicely for him.
Delbonis and Giraldo have never played before, Giraldo has tons of talent but something has been off with him this year and his game doesn’t seem reliable enough to reach an ATP final right now.
Isner d. Delbonis
Delbonis will get a test run for facing Isner with a match against Anderson in round 2, and that should help prepare him, should he reach the final and face the American #1, that said, Isner is playing great right now and thus I have him winning this match. Delbonis won a 3 setter against Isner on clay in France in their lone meeting last year but Houston clay is very different from European clay.
2015 ATP Casablanca Preview
Grand Prix Hassan II
ATP World Tour 250
April 6-April 12, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (24)
2: Martin Klizan (41)
3: Jiri Vesely (49)
4: Marcel Granollers (50)
With only 1 top 40 player, Casablanca is almost certain to be one of the weakest ATP tour events this season, which is quite a shame given African, and Arab tennis in general could use a boost.
First round matchups to watch:
(WC)Lamine Ouahab vs. Robin Haase
This is quite an interesting round 1 matchup, Ouahab, who, no offense intended, is known to be one of the most physically out of shape players on tour (career high ranking 114 in 2009), but has plenty of skills with a racquet, will take on Haase who is the favorite. Haase had a terrible start to his season (0-7) but the Dutchman who is relatively adept on clay is 5-2 in his last 7 matches and seems to have turned the corner as he beat Stan Wawrinka in Indian Wells. Ouahab is also in good form, in fact he’s on a 15 match winning streak as he won three consecutive futures titles on clay in Morocco (F1, F2, F3). Though he failed to face any player to the level of Haase, that still bodes well for him, and of course the home fans will be behind the wild card, it’s worth watching no matter what happens, though I have Haase advancing.
(6)Andreas Haider-Maurer vs. Jan-Lennard Struff
Two unpredictable players will meet in this round 1 match, AHM, who lost to Struff on clay last year in Gstaad, has lost three straight but he was a surprise semifinalist on clay in Rio. and it’s by far his best surface. Struff is more versatile but has failed to catch fire at any tournament this season and is looking to break a pedestrian run of results. Both have enough clay court prowess to make this a quality match, and I give AHM a slight edge to advance.
PCB beat Berlocq in Rio this year, but overall the Spanish seed is very much struggling in 2015. He is reeling from four straight losses presently, including 2 on clay. Berlocq reached the semis on clay in Buenos Aires, and has had an up and down season. In theory, this is a great chance for PCB to kickstart his season, but I’m not sure that will happen, and Berlocq has at least even odds to advance into round 2.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the defending champion, will face off with the Haase/Ouahab winner. GGL is struggling with just two wins in his six matches, and this presents an opportunity for Haase to reach the quarters, I’m not picking it myself, but Haase vs. GGL strikes me as a 50/50 match. Albert Ramos is the main threat in the quarters, Ramos will need to beat Mikhail Kukushkin in the opening round, and then Daniel Gimeno-Traver/Malek Jaziri. Ramos is 4-3 in his last seven matches and is playing relatively well at the moment, given he’s a clay courter, he should be happy to return to his surface of choice. Kukushkin is inconsistent, thus I have him as unlikely to advance from that one. Jaziri is a local favorite from neighboring Tunisia but he prefers fast surfaces to clay, and the veteran DGT is favored, though he’s not playing that well either.
I have Ramos beating GGL in the quarters. He has a lone clay h2h win and he’s in better form at the moment.
3 seed Jiri Vesely is another player in poor form, but luck has shone on him, as he is likely to face a player in even worse form, Mikhail Youzhny, in his opening match. The declined Youzhny, who is nearing retirement, will face wild card Yassine Idmbarek, who is 28 and has never been ranked in the top 600. Honestly, if Youzhny loses that match, he should be announcing his retirement that very night, because that would be rock bottom. Even with Vesely on a seven match losing streak, I see clay treating him better than Youzhny, the streak has to end at some point, and Youzhny is the type of player to end it against. That said, it’s a great chance for a qualifier or Diego Schwartzman to reach the semifinals under the radar. DSS opens with a qualifier, and then Maximo Gonzalez or a qualifier. Though the young Argentine went just 1-3 on clay during the Golden Swing, I see him having a nice run, pending the qualifier, and reaching said semis, as Vesely is playing so poorly at the moment (Youzhny as well). DSS is a young gun and he’s due for a big result.
Martin Klizan will open with Andrey Kuznetsov or Dustin Brown, Kuznetsov has turned into a disappointment with his career thus far after showing signs of promise in years prior. Look for Klizan to reach the quarters, he’s had an up and down year and has failed to get much of a rhythm going, but even still he should be able to earn a win, he hasn’t lost an opening match a tournament since Sydney at the start of the season, but he’s never won consecutive matches in 2015. The Berlocq/PCB winner will play a big part in what happens with this section, but wild card Nicolas Almagro also lurks. Almagro is by far the most talented non-seeded player in the draw and it’s bad news for Klizan and also PCB/Berlocq he’s buried in this section, after opening with a qualifier. Almagro, a semifinalist in Buenos Aires and a quarterfinalist in Sao Paulo on clay, is 2-0 against Berlocq on clay and he beat Klizan in Barcelona last year on the surface. Thusly, Almagro should be one of the semifinalists this week if he plays up to par.
Marcel Granollers will open with Damir Dzumhur or a qualifier, even though he’s not playing well (5 straight losses), Granollers should still be able to win that and setup a possible meeting with Pablo Andujar, his countryman, in the quarters. Andujar, a two time champ here, opens with veteran journeyman Tobias Kamke of Germany, and then will have to face the Struff/AHM winner. Both of those players are threats, but given his previous Casablanca success Andujar is the favorite. Andujar retired in his last match at a challenger however and he has a six match losing streak ongoing (two of those losses coming on clay), thusly I have Haider-Maurer into the quarters myself, and I also have him defeating Granollers for a spot in the semis.
It’s quite strange to see Almagro as an unseeded wild card at a 250 level event, and I don’t see that situation lasting long. He should be the favorite to take the title this week quite honestly, as he is the most talented player in this field on clay, and the most accomplished, at a minimum he should reach the final out of the bottom section.
Semis: Ramos d. Schwartzman
Almagro d. Haider-Maurer
The two more accomplished players, in better form, should make the final, and Ramos-GGL in the quarters may well be the best match of the tournament.
Stan Wawrinka narrowly avoided his second shocking opening round match loss in a row, as he had to scrape past the gritty Carlos Berlocq 6-7(9) 7-5 6-2, on a windy afternoon at the Miami Open. Wawrinka opened the match in the same poor form that had seen him exit the Indian Wells masters tournament to underdog Robin Haase in his last match, and Berlocq clearly was spurred on by that previous upset, as he fully believed he could win the match, at least for the first two hours of it.
Berlocq staved off two match point chances to hold 2-2 in the first, and then shockingly broke Wawrinka for 4-3. Wawrinka would calmly, and easily break him back, evening the match up, but the Swiss couldn’t convert a set point chance 5-4 up, on the Argentine veteran’s serve to clinch the opening frame. Berlocq ball bashed his way to a first set tiebreak, and it was handled incredibly poorly by both players. Wawrinka had to save a multitude of set points, some of which were on Berlocq’s serve, and couldn’t convert his own, eventually letting the Argentine close it out 11-9, in an error filled, and sloppy first set. At the end of the set, Wawrinka sent his racquet on a ride enraged at having blown his chance at a routine victory against an underdog opponent, and guaranteed the need for three sets of tennis if he was to come back, which is never something a top player wants in the opening round.
Wawrinka got off to a good start in set 2, and broke Berlocq at love, as the Argentine was perhaps still delirious from his tiebreak triumph. He would recover, breaking back for 2-2. He later saved break points for a 4-3 lead, but Wawrinka would save a pair serving 3-4 to prevent the Argentine from having the chance to serve out the match. Berlocq would be broken on the third break point chance of the game at 5-5, and Wawrinka would eventually close out the second set 7-5 on his third set point chance, as it was a long and grinding game.
Come the third set, Wawrinka had the momentum, and the hopes of Berlocq began to fade, Wawrinka rushed out to a 5-1 lead, and though Berlocq would save a match point on his own serve, in what was a long game at 1-5, Wawrinka would close the match out on his fourth chance to do so, finishing 6-2, as the third set was still quite long, and more challenging than the scoreline would indicate for the Swiss number 2. All the same, he will be pleased with his tenacious victory, having mentally overcome the horrors of Indian Wells.
Joining Wawrinka in the third round is another player top player who has been prone to be upset this year, that being Spanish lefty Rafael Nadal, as he blitzed past his countryman, and occasional rival Nicolas Almagro 6-4 6-2.
Rafa was trademark quality in his opening match in Miami (photo credit Esam Taha)
The world #3 took on a somewhat on form Almagro in a tricky matchup. Almagro had to battle past Sergiy Stakhovsky in the 1st round, who’s in the form of his career, and staved off a massive collapse to do so. Nico himself has been finding his rhythm lately after the injury layoff, making a deep run in Buenos Aires before losing to Monaco in the semifinal. Nadal meanwhile has been looking like a shadow of his old self since returning from injury. Having said that he looked much better in Indian Wells, although he would lose to a Raonic that he would’ve likely put away a couple of years ago. Playing well in Miami would provide the Spaniard with a pivotal confidence boost entering the clay season.
The first set didn’t start off the way Rafa would’ve liked, piling on unforced error early on as he struggled to hold serve. Almagro meanwhile looked much sharper, getting nice pace on his forehands and placing the one-handed backhand well. However, completely against the run of play, Nadal would find a way to break Almagro to take a 2-1 lead, as the latter double faulted and missed a forehand sitter. Nadal would consolidate the break to go up 3-1. Nico would not be let down by the break and continue to put Nadal on the backfoot with some attractive attacking tennis, holding at love to keep the lead at a single break. Nadal still seemed a bit shaky with several shanks and uncharacteristic misses, but managed to hold serve to keep the lead at 4-2. Nico’s level at this point would start to deteriorate, committing error after error, but he still managed to hold.
At this moment in the match the tennis wasn’t of the highest quality. Almagro would sum that period of play by producing back to back double faults, falling into a 0-30 hole. He would regain his composure with some good serving and force Rafa to serve out the set at 5-4. Almagro would somehow keep himself in that pivotal game despite not playing his best tennis, and eventually generate double break point. Nadal however would step his game up, he had started to find his groove towards the tail-end of the 1st set. Both break points were be saved. Almagro would have another break chance but blew that as well. The set was be sealed with the point of the match. Nadal played incredible defense to keep himself in a point, that Almagro virtually won twice, before turning defense into offense with a blistering DTL forehand winner to freeze a stunned Almagro. The Miami crowd going wild at the beautifully played point.
Nico was feisty on the day but came up short (photo credit Esam Taha)
Almagro still had some fight left in him, he would hold with relative comfort to kick things off in the 2nd. Nadal would hold easily and it was clear to the crowd that the 4-time Miami Open finalist had elevated his level. Rafa was now hitting his spots and Almagro was having trouble dealing with the massive top spin the former generates. It didn’t surprise the crowd when Nadal broke a game later on double break point to go up 2-1. He would follow that with a quick love hold and generating break points again on Nico’s serve. Rafa would flash some of his doubles skills with some almost super-human reflexes at the net to generate those break points, leaving Almagro standing with his hand on his hips completely deflated. Nadal would get the break and put a firm grip on the set going up 4-1. Even when Nadal gifts Nico a couple of double faults, the latter found a way to not take advantage, this time he would miss a routine overhead smash. Nadal would serve at 5-2 to close out the match, and face little resistance from Almagro as he wrapped up a relatively routine 2nd round victory 6-4, 6-2.
Vamos! (photo credit Esam Taha)
After the match Nadal commented on his ankle in press, “I am well, no? I had just a little bit, how do you say, small torn in the beginning, so it was going to be tough. The day after I had pain, but after 2 days I improved 50% and stays the same. It’s not limiting my movements.” It appears Nadal is growing in confidence the more hard court matches he plays this season, as he was better here than in most of his Indian Wells matches.
Tomas Berdych, who may be on a track to face Nadal later on in the tournament, was also a winner today 6-3 6-4, as he had the early match against the South Korean teen Hyeon Chung, and adapted well to the conditions, and his unfamiliarity with Chung. The Korean young gun hung in there with the powerful Czech until he was broken to go down 4-2 in the first set, and though he responded boldly by breaking back, he couldn’t hold his serve in the next game, and eventually Berdych held to take it 6-3.
In the second set, Chung shockingly broke Berdych for 3-1, and was at one point 4-1 up, only to lose the plot, and find Berdych come back on him to even it up at 4-4. His inexperienced showed at that point, as he lost the next two games, and in fact five consecutive games from 4-1 in the second set, to lose the match in straight sets. He has a lot of raw potential, but it’s still going to be some time, and experience needed before he is a true threat to upset top 10 players like Berdych.
Tomas’s doppleganger, and most frequent opponent on the ATP Tour, Kevin Anderson, snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat 6-7 7-6 6-4 against Sam Querrey, a player he has struggled with before, and did for large parts of today. Though big Kev is ranked more than two spots higher than Querrey in the rankings, they were quite evenly matched on court. With big serving and powerful forehands the norm, Anderson saved a pair of break points in the first set, eventually forcing a tiebreak. Shockingly, both players saw their serve desert them in that tiebreak, but eventually Querrey would convert his second set point chance to take it.
In the second, Anderson had to break back Querrey twice, once 3-4 down, and the second time 5-6 down, when Querrey was serving for the match. The South African number 1, who rarely breaks his opponents serve, amazingly broke a choking Querrey from 0-40 in that final game of the second set. They went to another tiebreak, and Anderson continued his momentum, racing out to a 5-1 lead, that he never looked back from, finishing it off 7-3 to force a third set.
Querrey is severely lacking confidence in his game, and just like in Indian Wells where he lost a set and a break up against Sergiy Stakhovsky, he lost hope in the third, Anderson broke in the opening game, and then bludgeoned the American on serve to eventually close it out on his only match point chance 6-4.
We could see Anderson matchup with Andy Murray, playing at his personal training facility this week, later in the tournament. Murray dominated Donald Young yet again, 6-4 6-2. Murray had a minor slip up, after gathering a big lead 5-1 in the first, but otherwise Young was abysmally confident as he got ran off the court by the time the second set came around.
Austin Krajicek put up a valiant effort at an upset, but he would be the final domino that would confirm an 0-3 record for American men in day 4. Krajicek fell to Bernard Tomic 7-6 7-5, in a closely contested match, as Tomic had to work his way back into form from injury problems in Indian Wells, where he was a quarter-finalist. Other players into round 3 include Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (6-4 6-4 over J.L. Struff), Leonardo Mayer (6-4 7-6 over Jarkko Nieminen), Santiago Giraldo, who regained some form of his own, and snapped Robin Haase’s sudden momentum, with a 6-2 3-6 6-0 victory, and Dominic Thiem, who beat Feliciano Lopez for the second time in his career.
The Spanish slice server Flopez, who remains markedly improved as of late compared to his previous history, played a solid first set and got off to a strong start, but he failed to maintain his break of serve 4-2 up, and later he would be forced into a tiebreak, as Thiem would erase any chance at another break of serve. In that tiebreak, Thiem played brilliant tactically and technically, getting the one minibreak of serve he needed to go up a set. Lopez fought back, breaking to go up 4-2 in the second, and this time he fought off break point chances (two of them to be exact at 4-3), to eventually hold and force a third set. Lopez almost seemed fatigued in the third, as Thiem played some of his best tennis, and perhaps his best match of 2015, to score what is in fact the best win of the year for the Austrian young gun. He saved a trio of break point chances at 1-1 in the third, and never looked back, breaking for 3-1 and holding serve for a 7-6 4-6 6-3 victory. Thiem masterfully dealt with Lopez’s serve and volley aggressive, not getting rushed, or forcing his shots too much, his gameplan was executed to its peak, and he hit some masterful shots, especially passing shots, to the thrill of the crowd, in what was a high quality contest, with either player likely to beat many other players in the field, had they faced someone else.
All of the big names got through their 2nd round singles matches on Friday in Miami on the WTA side. Sloane Stephens beat fellow American Madison Keys in a slugfest 6-4 6-2, in what was a big win for her. Belinda Bencic beat Casey Dellacqua in an unexpected 3 set struggle 6-2 4-6 6-2, and Simona Halep ended, what would have been a cinderella run, from comeback kid Nicole Vaidisova 6-2 2-6 6-1. Still the Czech has to be pleased with her performance this tournament as a wild card, and taking a set off an elite WTA player bodes well for the rest of her season.
Sabine Lisicki beat her countrywoman Julia Goerges 7-6 6-7 6-4 in a matchup featuring power tennis at its best, Cici Bellis continued to make everyone feel old, as the 15 year old shocked a listless Zarina Diyas, the world number 32 in a mere hour 6-2 6-1. Italians Flavia Pennetta and Camila Giorgi both had the mojo to win, Pennetta 6-7 6-3 6-3 over Tsvetana Pironkova. and Giorgi more easily 6-3 6-2 over Alison Van Uytvanck. Garbine Muguruza was another seeded winner 6-1 6-3 over Sesil Karatantcheva, Ana Ivanovic avoided a collapse and slipped past American Irina Falconi 7-5 6-7 6-3. Ivanovic had three match points in the second set and served for the match. Victoria Azarenka destroyed Jelena Jankovic, who was likely fatigued, 6-1 6-1, Svetlana Kuznetsova relied on her experienced to beat Alison Riske 6-2 6-2 and Johanna Larsson upset Lucie Safarova 7-6 6-2, one of the few WTA upsets on the day.
The big doubles match of the day, and one of the biggest matches on the day in general, featured Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic, good friends and both leaders of Serbian tennis, teaming up to take on Robert Lindstedt and Jurgen Melzer. It was Tipsarevic’s first match back on tour in over a year, since more surgeries and a benign tumor in his foot kept him sidelined. The Serbian veteran baseliner was happy to be back on court, and not only seemed to relish playing with Novak, he also played well for himself, hitting some great shots, as did the world number 1. However, Lindstedt/Melzer play doubles much more often for a living, and their experience helped them to a 6-4 3-6 10-7 victory.
After the match, Novak did press, and here is what he had to say about his role in supporting his former top 10 countryman and friend, Tipsarevic.
“Yeah. It’s incredibly sad story with him in last 17 months. I know him for such a long time. We are great friends. His last official match was in October 2013, and ever since then he was suffering from injuries. Mostly from the heel that he had to operate I think two or three times. Along the way he also hurt some other muscles and joints. Just a very dreadful time for him. I tried to, as a friend and as a colleague, be close to him, to give him support, to let him know that I’m there and I wish him to have a speedy recovery and to come back as quick as possible. So the opportunity to play today with him was very special for me, really, as a friend and I cared very much to win this match today. I got very tight in the super-tiebreaker, I have to say, because it was a very tough match. We lost to two of the great, very good doubles players. But we talked after the match, and he appreciated the fact that he can actually play. Just feel that match play you know, have that sensation of how it feels and what it takes to be on the court. 17 month is a long time for injuries, and he’s also not young. You know, he’s now 31 this year, but he’s eager to play. He’s motivated. He feels 100% and he decided actually it’s better to skip this tournament in singles because he needed to a little bit more time to get in to it. Hopefully this doubles match today can help him. When he plays now in Houston after Miami he can perform his best. He can relax. He know, that’s the top 10. I really wish him that.”
Tipsarevic seemed to be pleased with his level of play, and given his general ease out there, I expect to see him fit, healthy, and perhaps causing some surprises the rest of the season, just like another Serb who made a recent comeback, Viktor Troicki did.
The other ATP doubles winners were Ryan Harrison/Rajeev Ram (1-6 6-4 10-4 over Eric Butorac/Sam Groth), and Nicolas Mahut/Edouard Roger-Vasselin (6-3 1-0 ret. over Viktor Troicki/Roberto Bautista Agut).
Martina Hingis and her partner Sania Mirza advanced over Bodgan/Melichar in WTA doubles 6-1 6-0, and in other scores, Babos/Mladenovic beat Date-Krumm/Pliskova 6-2 6-7 13-11, Dabrowski/Rosolska beat Medina/Tomljanovic 7-6 6-3, Hlavackova/Hradecka beat Aoyama/Voracova 7-5 4-6 10-5, and Makarova/Vesina, an all Russian pair, beat Krajicek/Zahlavova-Strycova 6-2 2-6 10-4.
Rain suspension adds to busy Saturday schedule in Crandon Park
The night matches were canceled due to rain in Miami, meaning the Saturday schedule is jam packed. Serena Williams, Aga Radwanska, and Caroline Wozniacki will all be action on stadium court in WTA singles, while top men’s players on stadium will be Novak Djokovic in the evening, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Grigor Dimitrov during the day.
Kei Nishikori will take to grandstand, as will top American John Isner, Venus Wiliams, and Milos Raonic, the Manitoba missile. American Jack Sock got pushed onto court 1, along with David Ferrer, talented shotmaker Alex Dolgopolov, and the Bryan Brothers.
Eugenie Bouchard, Gael Monfils, Borna Coric. Ernests Gulbis, and many other other intriguing, and fan favorite players have been pushed onto the outer courts given the tight schedule tomorrow.
As for matches in progress before the rain delay, Adrian Mannarino and Albert Ramos were locked in a struggle, one set each, before the rains came, and they will conclude with the third set of their match on Saturday. Two other WTA singles matches were also well underway at the time the rain struck, Heather Watson had dropped the first set to Angelique Kerber 7-5, and Sara Errani was on the verge of closing out Anatasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 4-1.
Thiem, Querrey regain form with round 1 wins at Miami Open (Day 2 Recap) Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
Photo Credit: Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
The first round of the men’s main draw at the 2015 Miami Open presented by Itau, got underway from the Crandon Park Tennis center in Key Biscayne, a suburb of Miami, and our journalist Esam Taha was there for action, as both Dominic Thiem, and Sam Querrey regained form and scored round 1 wins in the evening session. In addition, lots of matches took place on the WTA round 1 main draw side as well.
Dominic Thiem d. Diego Sebastian Schwartzman 7-6(0) 7-5
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
It’s fair to say that’s Dominic’s start this year has been somewhat underwhelming, he can’t afford many more early exits if he plans to live up to the hype that has been surrounding him at just 21 years of age. Today he played another young player in Diego Schwartzman (22), who is steadily moving up the rankings himself. The match took place in the Grandstand under a hot Miami sun. Both players struggled to hold serve in the 1st set as they broke each other 3 times. Thiem has the more dangerous serve but he struggled to get his 1st serve in, registering only 57% in the 1st set. Schwartzman while never known to have the most comfortable service games, was making up for it by always putting pressure on Dominic’s service games with aggressive ground strokes. The crowd, with a strong South American flavor, was pro-Diego, but he didn’t seem to be able to take full advantage of it, barely engaging them and showing little body language. Fans of the Austrian by contrast were far and few between.
Despite the struggles with his serve, Dominic had a chance to serve out the set at 5-4 but once again couldn’t find his first serve and DSS took full advantage. The set would go on to a tie break, where Thiem went after DSS with some overpowering forehands before eventually closing out the clean tiebreak with a rare ace.
Dominic was pushed hard in round 1 (Photo Credit Esam Taha)
It seemed that Dominic had all the momentum at that point and would power through DSS, however that was far from reality. The sun started to set and scorching heat subsided as the two youngsters started the 2nd. Schwartzman didn’t seem to lose belief after dropping the first set meekly, as he broke Dominic twice and jumped to an early 3-0 lead. Thiem was careless in those 1st 3 games but he gathered himself during the changeover and proceeded to string together 4 games to get back even on serve in a rollercoaster of a second set. Thiem was helped by DSS serving a measly 47% on his 1st serve. Meanwhile Dominic was starting to find his rhythm on serve, getting a lot of free points and registering 4 aces in the 2nd. Dominic serving first would eventually pay off, the pressure of serving to stay in the match would get to Schwartzman. Down 5-6 and looking to force a tiebreak, Diego would hit an unforced error on matchpoint. Thiem reacted with a confident fist pump as he escaped a tricky 1st round matchup, where his opponent outplayed him for considerable periods in the match. He’ll go on to face a tough opponent in Feliciano Lopez next round. Thiem will be bidding to win consecutive matches in a tournament for just the second time this season.
Sam Querrey d. Victor Estrella 6-4 6-3
The Dominican Community in Miami made their presence felt cheering on their man Estrella (Photo Credit Esam Taha)
Coming off 2 consecutive first round exits, Sam Querrey was hoping to quickly make amends in Miami, and return to the form that had granted him a semifinal showing in Memphis, about a month ago on US soil. His first match was against Dominican Victor Estrella Burgos, who surprised everyone by winning ATP Quito, Ecuador by beating Feliciano Lopez in the final on clay back in February. The 34 year old is peaking late as his ranking has continued to climb well into the top 100 the past 2 years, currently sitting just outside the top 50 at 55th overall.
The match started off the night session with both players comfortably holding serve, but it was clear right away that Victor was going to have home court advantage here in Miami as the Dominican crowd made their presence felt early.
The set seemed to be on fast forward as both players were playing aggressively and looking to quickly end the point, however it was clear that was Sam was much more comfortable holding serve as evidenced by his 7 aces in the first set. Victor had to save a double breakpoint midway through the first set to keep it even, and struggling to hold serve would be the theme throughout the rest of the night. Eventually Victor would bend…and actually break as Querrey finally converted his 4th break opportunity on set point to claim the 1st set.
The 2nd set got off to a shaky start for Victor, who needed every bit of the crowd cheering him on to recover from a 0-30 hole and avoid getting broken early. However his efforts would prove futile as Sam would break him the next service game while the latter continued to hold serve with ease. Querrey hit 9 aces in the 2nd set and only faced a single break point the entire match. The 2nd set was fairly routine for the American. Victor would make some noise as Sam was serving to close out the match taking him to deuce to the delight of the crowd, but a couple of big serves from Querrey and it was all over. It was quite the contrast between the mellow and nearly silent Querrey, moving like a gazelle on his returns, and the loud and undersized Estrella, who was practically screaming as he chased down the ball.
Querrey was a pleased winner on Wednesday night (photo credit: Esam Taha)
Sam will go on to face the big serving South African, Kevin Anderson in the 2nd round.
In the interim of those matches, a few of the top players were getting on the practice courts to get a feel for that nice Miami sun and the court conditions, Alexander Dolgopolov was one of the guys that seemed to enjoy it out there.
Dolgo was chill in practice (Photo Credit Esam Taha)
18 year old Chung’s maiden ATP win and a perfect sweep for American Men Headline ATP Maindraw Day 1 Results
18 year old South Korean Hyeon Chung took full advantage of his wild card and scored both his maiden ATP, and his maiden ATP Masters level main draw win today over Spanish veteran Marcel Granollers, who is rarely an easy out. Chung, who has built up his ranking near the top 100 purely due to strong results on the Challenger and Futures tour, including a challenger title and final this year already, got off to a strong start, blanking Granollers 6-0 in the opening set. Granollers proved he wasn’t ill or injured by responding in the second, forcing a much closer contest, and scoring a lone break midway 3-2 through set, to end up taking it 6-4, as Chung failed to generate any chances to break back. In the third the match became quite the battle, but Chung didn’t wilt in the slightest against the grinding Spaniard. He got an immediate break back after going 2-1 down in the third, saved another break point at 3-3 to hold serve, and broke in a game that lasted over 8 minutes for a 6-4 third set victory. Granollers got tight in the end, as errors mounted, and his serve and forehand was simply not good enough, compared to the young Korean’s raw, but powerful groundstrokes that were able to push the Spaniard back.
Americans Donald Young, Jack Sock, Tim Smyczek, and Austin Krajicek, a qualifier, were all winners and advanced into the second round, making it a perfect day for the American male contingent. Young beat Rendy Lu 5-1 via a retirement, as Lu was in poor shape going into the match, Sock rolled past Go Soeda 6-3 6-4, Smyczek had to survive qualifier Adrian Menendez-Maceiras, who was bidding for his maiden ATP main draw win at 29, 4-6 6-3 6-4, with a late break in the third set, and a hold of serve to close it out, and Krajicek got revenge over Denis Istomin, who he lost to previously in Indian Wells with a swift 6-4 6-4 victory.
Another men’s singles winner on the day was Juan Monaco, who survived multiple mentally induced collapses against Ruben Bemelmans, a qualifier, to prevail 7-5 6-7 6-4 on his fourth match point chance, and his second of the third set. What saved Monaco was the fact his opponent Bemelmans was even more fragile in the mental department than he was, throwing up tense errors when it counted in the third set, as Monaco threw away his chance to close out the match in straights.
Young guns Kyle Edmund and Thanasi Kokkinakis were denied further Masters level victories, Robin Haase and Carlos Berlocq took them out, 6-2 6-2 for Haase, and 6-4 3-6 6-2 for Berlocq. Kokkinakis, who was coming off a round of 16 showing in Indian Wells, had high expectations going into this tournament, but got off to a slow start, perhaps struggling to adjust to new conditions, and never really seemed to recover in his match.
Jan-Lennard Struff saved match points to take out Benjamin Becker 3-6 7-6(10) 6-4, the Davis Cup teammates battled it out for over two hours as Becker had three match points in the second set tiebreak, and was at one point 4-1 up in the third set, but Struff would battle back each time, converting his lone match point opportunity to break serve and finish the match off 6-4.
Nicolas Almagro, similar to Monaco avoided a mental collapse in a match he appeared to have in the bag, the final scoreline over Sergiy Stakhovsky was 6-3 6-7 6-4, but Almagro was at one point 6-3 3-1 up. Stakhovsky employed an aggressive gameplan throughout, but Almagro’s compact strokes and great passing backhands proved to be an effective foil for it, as he was returning the ball before the Ukrainian had time to properly react.
In men’s action on the outer courts, Albert Ramos won yet again on a hard court, 6-2 6-2 over Joao Sousa, dashing Portugese hopes this tournament, Jarkko Nieminen scored a comfortable 6-3 6-3 win over Marinko Matosevic, James Duckworth did better than his Aussie countryman and beat Damir Dzumhur 6-3 3-6 6-3, and fellow qualifier Filip Krajinovic got the better of his Serbian compatriot Dusan Lajovic 2-6 7-6 4-2 ret. as Lajovic came down with an arm injury.
Watson, Vaidisova, Azarenka among WTA singles winners on the day
British hope Heather Watson got past Evgeniya Rodina, the world number 96 3-6 6-1 7-5, as she saved 10/14 of the break points she faced, and nearly half of the points on Rodina’s serve.
25 year old Nicole Vaidsova of the Czech Republic continued her comeback on the WTA tour, the former Top 10 player won her first WTA level main draw match, in just her second WTA tournament since returning to tennis in 2014 after a four year absence. Vaidsova, who qualified in Monterrey recently, won 6-1 7-6 over the world number 87 Timea Babos, as her ranking will now surely rise back into the top 300.
Victoria Azarenka, who is looking to complete her own mini comeback, and surely get back into the top 20 in the world, got off to a good start in Miami with a 6-1 6-3 win over Silvia Soler-Espinosa. Other participants in the second round will include four Americans, as Christina McHale beat Sorana Cirstea 7-5 6-4, qualifier Irina Falconi beat Monica Puig 7-6 7-6, Alison Riske beat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-4 6-0 in less than an hour, and in the nightcap, Sloane Stephens dominated Yania Wickmayer 6-1 6-3, winning 70% of her service points, compared to just 45% for the Belgian.
Daria Gavrilova setup a meeting with Maria Sharapova, a fellow Russian, in round 2 as she beat Marina Erakovic 5-1 ret., Germans Annika Beck (6-4 4-6 6-4 over Shuai Zhang), Tatjana Maria (7-6 6-3 over Roberta Vinci), and Julia Goerges (6-1 6-0 over Jana Cepelova) will also be participating in round 2. American Lauren Davis continued her struggles with a loss to Sesil Karatantcheva 6-3 7-6, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat her countrywoman Vera Zvonareva 6-2 3-6 7-5 in a battle that lasted over two hours, with the 23 year old Pavs outlasting an opponent seven years her senior.
Alison Van Uytvanck added to the success of qualifiers wth a 7-5 2-6 6-0 win over Magdalena Rybarikova, Pauline Parmentier beat Kiki Bertens 4-6 6-2 6-3, Urszula Radwanska setup a meeting with Venus Williams with a 6-4 6-7 6-3 win over CoCo Vandeweghe, and Swiss Stefanie Voegele beat junkballer Kirsten Flipkens 6-2 6-2
Wonderkid Belinda Bencic beat Daniela Hantuchova 6-1 7-6, and Elina Vesnina (6-4 6-2 over Alexandra Dulgheru) and Tsvetana Pironkova (6-4 6-3 over Kateryna Kozlova) were two of the players who did have success over their qualifier opponents.
2015 Davis Cup World Group Round 1 Preview Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2015 Davis Cup World Group begins on Friday and runs through Sunday as the sixteen top teams in the World will battle it out to avoid having to fight against relegation, and, to reach the quarterfinals. There are at least two marquee ties this weekend, and six other intriguing ones, all but one of which take place on indoor hard court. Here is a look at all the action in Davis Cup this weekend, with an exception of one of those marquee ties, Great Britain vs. the USA in Glasgow, which our journalist Joe Craven will be previewing since he has media credentials and will have reports from Glasgow through the weekend.
Czech Republic vs. Australia
Australia, my personal favorites to win the Davis Cup this year, have a great shot at pulling off a road upset, and their case for victory is further advanced by the fact the Czechs lack their usual tandem of Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek to lead their team in the tie. Berdych and Stepanek are filled in for by Lukas Rosol, and Jiri Vesely both of whom have Davis Cup experience, and Jan Mertl and Adam Pavlasek, who aren’t as experienced. Australia has Davis Cup legend Lleyton Hewitt, who is playing his final DC as a player, and will be taking over as their coach next season, leading a young upstart squad that has Bernard Tomic, Sam Groth, and Thanasi Kokkinakis all available to participate. On indoor hard, and home soil, the Czechs do have at least some chance, but Tomic has had a solid season, Hewitt always ups his game for Davis Cup, and Groth’s powerful serve is always dangerous on this surface. Vesely, and Rosol, the two players expected to play singles for the home team, are both carrying four match losing streaks going into this tie, and with form playing a factor, Australia could well blank their opponents, and at minimum should win 3-1. The young Kokkinakis will be serving as the #2 singles player for the Aussies, and should garner much needed experience.
France won this matchup last year, this year it’ll be on indoor hard in Frankfurt, and the French should still be favored with a team of Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils, Julien Benneteau (a late addition), and Nicolas Mahut. With Mahut on the team as a doubles specialist. The defending Davis Cup finalists will be up against a German team led by Philipp Kohlschreiber, along with Jan-Lennard Struff, Benjamin Becker and doubles specialist Andre Begemann. With Simon and Monfils in better form than Kohlschreiber and company, 2 singles win are likely assured for team France. That said, the play of Struff, and especially Becker will be key if Germany is to pull an upset, both can rise to the occasion, with Struff having some of his previous best results indoors, and Becker in career best form over the past 8 months or so. I don’t expect it to happen, but the chance is there, and if Kohlschreiber was in better form, the German team would pack a stronger punch and this tie would be more of a battle, but as it stands France should get through something like 3-1 or 3-2.
The Pick: France
Canada vs. Japan
Japan won this tie last year, and Kei Nishikori continues to be the marquee player for them, but Canada should be favored given they will be on home soil in Vancouver, and have a stronger all around team with Milos Raonic joined by Vasek Pospisil, Frank Dancevic, and doubles specialist Daniel Nestor. Outside of Nishikori, Japan doesn’t have another top 80 player with Tatsuma Ito, Go Soeda and Yasutaka Uchiyama making up the rest of their team. Personally I was surprised that Japan didn’t choose at least one of their young guns, Taro Daniel and Yoshihito Nishioka for the team. Raonic-Nishikori will be a quality singles rubber match, and Raonic won their meeting this year in a third set tiebreak in Brisbane, though Nishikori has a long term 4-2 h2h edge in their rivalry. No matter who wins that, Pospisil has to be favored to go 2-0 in singles, and Pospisil-Nestor is a strong doubles pairing, so look for Canada to win 3-2 or 3-1 no matter the efforts of Nishikori.
The Pick: Canada
Serbia vs. Croatia
If Marin Cilic, or even Ivo Karlovic and Ivan Dodig, were able to represent team Croatia, this tie would be much more competitive, but as it stands, the Croats have no top 100 singles players besides the teenager Borna Coric, who is rising, and coming off a run to the semis in Dubai, but lacks experience. Coric’s “B Team” teammates are Mate Delic, Franko Skugor and Marin Draganja with the latter two expected to serve as doubles specialists. Serbia counters with a very strong team led by Novak Djokovic, who is joined by Viktor Troicki, playing his first Davis Cup in a while, having re-entered the worlds top 50 in singles, Filip Krajinovic, who prefers clay, and doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic, a battle tested veteran who helps anchor the team. On indoor hard, and on home soil in this battle of the Balkans, the expected Djokovic-Coric singles rubber should be fun to watch (though it may not even take place as it’s currently scheduled for Sunday), but Serbia overall has to be favored to whitewash their opponents 3-0 (and possibly 5-0) with Troicki and their doubles team both formidable.
This tie is perhaps the biggest toss-up of the World Group opening round ties, on clay in Buenos Aires, streaky dirtballers will be battling it out, and I expect a lot of 4 and 5 set matches. Argentina has a motley crue of mid tier clay courters with Leonardo Mayer, Federico Delbonis, Diego Sebastian Schwartzman and Carlos Berlocq, with their team having spent quite some time in Buenos Aires on clay, since this DC tie came right on the heels of the ATP 250 clay court event in Buenos Aires (where Berlocq made the semifinals). Brazil has the veteran Thomaz Bellucci, along with Joao Souza for singles and Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares for doubles. All of these players are notably streaky, and this will be a very passionate South American rivalry, with the dedicated fans of both nations assured to be rowdy, channeling the spirit of their battles in football (soccer). Even though Mayer isn’t in great form at the moment, the Argentinian team has more options in regards to Sunday rubbers, and overall slightly better form with Berlocq and Delbonis playing well, along with the home court advantage. I feel that will get through, either 3-1 or 3-2, with Brazil favored to win the doubles (Melo and Soares are a high quality pairing), and the pressure really falling on Bellucci to perform or Souza to pull an upset. I wouldn’t be surprised with a Brazil win but I can’t pick them this weekend.
This tie would would be intriguing and star studded if the defending Davis Cup champion Swiss had Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka again donning the national colors of red and white and representing their nation, but instead they will not be in Liege, Belgium this weekend on indoor hard, and journeymen have taken their place as coach Severin Luthi will be doing all he can to inspire his team of Adrian Bossel, Michael Lammer and Henri Laaksonen to pull off a miracle and prevent the Swiss from facing relegation in their next tie. Belgium counters with a strong core of David Goffin and Steve Darcis, one a top 30 player, the other a reliable veteran, and the secondary additions of Ruben Bemelmans, a skilled challenger level player, and Niels Desein. Goffin has an injury and isn’t expected to play, but simply put, even the lowest ranked Belgian player, Desein, is ranked more than 100 spots higher in the ranking than the highest ranked Swiss player, and without form, ability, or experience on the Swiss team, Belgian could well win a blowout victory at home, and I don’t see how they lose this tie. Late breaking news made headlines in this tie, as one of the Swiss players, challenger journeyman Yann Marti, was kicked off of the team a day before the tie by coach Luthi. According to media reports, Marti was outraged that he was not selected to play in one of the opening singles rubbers. It’s shocking to see a player of Marti’s caliber and status (292 in the world), act so put out and entitled about representing his nation in Davis Cup. His decision to abandon his teammates leaves the Swiss team with just 3 players for this tie.
Not to be forgotten this week, Italy will have to travel to Astana, Kazakhstan to battle on indoor hard. They have a much stronger team, as the in-form Andreas Seppi and Simone Bolleli are complimented by the experienced Fabio Fognini and Paolo Lorenzi. Kazakhstan has just two top 100 players, Mikhail Kukushkin and Andrey Golubev, who are expected to carry the load for them, with Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Dmitry Popko as secondary choices. Fognini, and especially Lorenzi, are far from top tier players on indoor hard, but Seppi and Bolelli can both hold their own, and with their great form this season, and a team that has good chemistry and balance, they should win this tie given neither Kukushkin nor Golubev have been in great form as of late. Seppi and Bolelli are playing the singles rubbers so Italy 3-0 or 3-1 is the pick.
Some of the other top players in the world of men’s tennis will be representing their nations outside of the world group in Davis Cup action this weekend. In the Americas region group 1, Pablo Cuevas, who has been in great form on the clay court Golden swing, and his brother Martin Cuevas, a challenger level player, will face off with Santiago Giraldo, Alejandro Gonzalez and Colombia. Though Uruguay has home court advantage, Colombia has a stronger all around team and should advance in their bid to reach the World Group.
In Europe-Africa Group 1, Jerzy Janowicz leads Poland against Ricardas Berankis and Lithuania, The Polish team at home is much stronger all around and should advance. A veteran Austria team led by the Melzer brothers, Jurgen and Gerald, along with Andreas Haider-Maurer and new coach Stefan Koubek, are strong favorites against Sweden. The young gun Elias Ymer leads them, and he will have to perform some heroics if Sweden is to have a chance to get any wins outside of the doubles rubber. Martin Klizan, Lukas Lacko and Slovakia should win at home against Blaz Kavcic and Slovenia. Dudi Sela will need to perform at his best if Israel is to upset Romania on the road, with Romania having Marius Copil for singles and a strong doubles pairing with the top team of Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau.
Diving into group 2, Joao Sousa should assist Portugal in dispatching Morocco, Marsel Ilhan and Turkey are slight favorites at home on indoor hard against a South African team that does not have Kevin Anderson, and a young Chile team should be fun to watch on clay against Peru, as the home fans will get to see Nicolas Jarry, Gonzalo Lama, and most of all Christian Garin of the 1996 generation in action.
2015 ATP Rotterdam, Memphis, Sao Paulo Previews and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The traditional Rotterdam 500 level indoor hard tournament takes place this week, along with the US indoor tournament in Memphis, and the clay court event in Sao Paulo, which got switched around on the calendar this year. Both of those tournaments are 250 level events. Here is a preview of all the action as indoor tennis heats up and the Golden Swing rolls on.
2015 ATP Rotterdam Preview
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament
ATP World Tour 500
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
February 9-February 15, 2015
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Andy Murray (4)
2: Milos Raonic (6)
3: Tomas Berdych (7)
4: Stan Wawrinka (9)
A stacked field with 6 of the top 15, there are also a host of unseeded and lower seeded players who can play great on hard courts as Rotterdam has yet again attracted a fantastic field for a 500 level event.
Vasek Pospisil vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber Pospisil hurt himself again in Australia, and he hasn’t performed as well historically indoors as he has on outdoor hard, but even still he’s a difficult opponent for the veteran Kohlschreiber in round 1. The German comes off a loss to Joao Sousa in Montpellier. He’s yet to win consecutive matches this season as his form has been up and down, that said Kohlschreiber should be the better performer indoors and having played more matches of late should help him advance to round 2.
(8)Gilles Simon vs. Joao Sousa Many would presume the Portugese number one Sousa is better on clay, but in fact he’s had some of his best career results on hard courts at the ATP level, and especially indoors. The veteran Simon comes off a loss to Jerzy Janowicz in the quarterfinals of Montpellier and has yet to do anything notable in 2015. Sousa faded against Janowicz in the semis of Montpellier and fatigue could well play a factor but he’s 5-3 in 2015, all on hard courts and none of his losses were poor, so I’m going with the upset and picking Sousa to reach R2.
(3)Tomas Berdych vs. Jerzy Janowicz The defending Champion has a difficult match scheduled in round 1, as you rarely see an early round match with both players in such great form. Berdych of course reached the semifinals at Australian Open with a notable win over Nadal, and before that he had reached the final of Doha by demolishing all opponents in his wake (including Richard Gasquet and Andreas Seppi). Janowicz is already showing signs of improvement in 2015, after a dismal 2014. He’s reached the final of Montpellier and he also reached the third round at the AO (notably beating Gael Monfils in 5). History favors Berdych though. The big hitting Czech is 3-0 in the h2h, including a win last year in Rotterdam over the big hitting Pole, and though all of those matches were tight three set encounters, Janowicz has fatigue working against him, and retired due to illness in Montpellier, while Berdych should be fresh, thus he should survive the upset alert.
(5)Grigor Dimitrov vs. (Q)Paul-Henri Mathieu
Dimitrov lost their only h2h meeting in straights (2012 Basel indoors) and he comes off quarterfinals in Melbourne. Mathieu, the mentally shaky veteran, beat Jurgen Melzer to qualify after pushing Philipp Kohlschreiber to 3 sets in Montpellier. Mathieu is a bit of an indoor hard court specialist these days, and it’s not an easy matchup for Dimitrov, I still expect him to advance but it could go three sets.
David Goffin vs. Gilles Muller Goffin, who hails from just over the border in Belgium, and is nearly playing in a home event, (like the Luxembourger Muller is a fellow Benelux), has yet to catch fire in 2015 after his rise in 2014 into a consistent ATP player. D Goff is just 3-3 in 2015 and has yet to beat a player with a top 50 ranking. Muller, who can do a lot of damage with his cracking serve indoors was shown the door by Ricardas Berankis in Zagreb in 3 sets after reaching the second week in Australia. Muller has kept himself busy thus far this year, having played every week on tour, but his gamestyle doesn’t lend himself to exhaustion, and with Goffin yet to put the pieces together this year, I’m going with an upset and have Muller into round 2. They have never met, and we’ll see if Goffin can keep his game under control under assault from Muller’s steady dose of serve and volleying.
AO finalist Andy Murray, who has won the title here before, opens with qualifier Nicolas Mahut, then the Pospisil/Kohlschreiber winner. Mahut isn’t too dangerous so Murray should be safe in that one. Murray has never played Kohli indoors, and he beat Pospisil last year in Vienna. As well he has started his season, I don’t expect the UK number one to have any problems reaching the quarterfinals to setup a meeting with most likely the Sousa/Simon winner. Julian Benneteau, who has indoor success, and Jeremy Chardy, are also possible opponents, but all the same Murray can’t really complain about his path to the semifinals. He demolished Sousa in Melbourne and has only lost once in a dozen meetings against Simon. I have Sousa into the quarters with wins over Simon and Benneteau. Sousa denied Benneteau a maiden ATP title in Kuala Lumpur indoors in 2013, taking the title himself.
Berdych/Janowicz will face Robin Haase/Andreas Seppi in round 2. Berdych beat Seppi in Doha, and the Italian, who is on a tear so far in 2015, is likely to be fatigued from his current final, and possible title in Zagreb. Haase continues to be pedestrian, so Berdych should get past Seppi for the quarters and setup a meeting with perhaps Roberto Bautista Agut. RBA opens with young gun German WC Alex Zverev, and then Gael Monfils or fellow French qualifier Edouard Roger-Vasselin are on deck. Monfils reached the semis in Montpellier while suffering from an undisclosed illness, and his health is uncertain at the moment. With that in mind, I’m playing it safe and putting RBA through even though Monfils beat him last summer in Cincy. RBA is 3-3 in 2015, but he was also ill in January and isn’t a bad indoor hard court player. Berdych and RBA have a split 2-2 h2h, with all meetings taking place since 2013, and Berdych won their only indoor meeting. That match could be close but Berdych has looked great against all but top tier competition in 2015 and he has points to defend so I expect to see him as a semifinalist this week.
Milos Raonic is making his debut in Rotterdam. The AO quarterfinalist will face Lukas Rosol or Simone Bolelli in round 2, after qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov in round 1. Bolelli, who is actually a grand slam champion now after winning the doubles title in Melbourne, has been in better form than Rosol, so he should advance to face Raonic. Raonic has appeared immune to losing to all but top 10 players on hard court as of late so he shouldn’t have any trouble banging his way to the quarterfinals. Raonic doesn’t have a difficult path to the semifinals either, as Ernests Gulbis is the seed in his section, and Gulbis has not looked good so far this season. The Latvian will likely be happy to be back indoors though and should be favored against his best pal and former hitting partner Dominic Thiem of Austria. Thiem actually beat Gulbis in 5 last year at the US Open but Thiem has appeared to be out of sorts and out of shape thus far in 2015, so now is a good time to see him on the other side of the net if you’re Gulbis, who will be looking to build his confidence. In round 2 for Gulbis/Thiem it’ll be Sergiy Stakhovsky or Marcel Granollers, two of the weaker players in this field. Stakhovsky lost in round 2 of Zagreb to Mikhail Youzhny, while Granollers reached the semifinals before falling to Seppi. With Granollers in better form I have him through against both Stako and Gulbis. The hard court h2h between Gulbis and Granollers is 1-1. Raonic should demolish whoever his quarterfinal opponent is and reach the semis.
Stan Wawrinka, who reached the semis in Australia will open with Dutch wild card Jesse Huta Galung, from there expect Wawrinka to beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez yet again, after winning in 4 sets over him at the AO. GGL is in the Zagreb final (beat Viktor Troicki notably) and may take the title there, he opens with Denis Istomin who luckily reached the quarters in Montpellier. GGL won their only indoor meeting, and should get into round 2, but I don’t expect him to have much left in the tank for for Wawrinka at that stage. Wawrinka is slated to face Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals, assuming he can get past Mathieu, and then the Goffin/Muller winner. Muller/Goffin could be trouble, but Dimitrov is still the more talented player so he should be favored. Dimitrov demolished Wawrinka on grass in their last h2h meeting but given current form, the fact this is indoors, and a 2-1 overall h2h Wawrinka should be able to get himself to the semis here and avenge that loss.
In a tournament where the top seeds should be filling out the quarterfinals and beyond, Muller represents the best chance for an unseeded breakthrough (given Janowicz’s likely fatigue). With his dangerous serve, and the fact this is a tournament close to his home. Muller plays tennis with narrow margins, when his serve is clicking he can win a bunch of matches, and when he has even a slight dip in form he’ll struggle against journeymen, but if he does start to click, he could perhaps beat Goffin, Dimitrov, and who knows, even Wawrinka if Stan has an off day, to reach the semis, it’s not likely but the chance is there on this surface.
Predictions Semis: Murray d. Berdych
Wawrinka d. Raonic
In what would be an AO rematch, Berdych is good indoors but we saw how well Murray played in their recent matchup, so the Brit has to be favored. Top 10 players Raonic and Wawrinka have a chance to meet for the fourth time here, I’m going with Wawrinka based on a gut feeling that he will be able to return well enough to beat Raonic, given he’s won all three previous meetings in that manner, but it is nearly a pure toss-up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of these names in the final given their excellent form so far this season.
Final: Murray d. Wawrinka
This match has always been a close one, Murray has a 6-3 hard court h2h edge, with Wawrinka having won their last meeting (US Open 2013). Again this is a super hard pick to make and both would be deserving champions. I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve seen from Murray since last Fall, and given that I feel he’s back, I have him as the champion this week of a stacked Rotterdam event.
Memphis Open ATP World Tour 250 Memphis, Tennessee, USA February 9-February 15, 2015
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (5)
2: Kevin Anderson (15)
3: John Isner (18)
4: Alexandr Dolgopolov (24)
In it’s second year as a 250 level, ATP only event, Memphis has three top 20 players, and a relatively quality international contingent to go with most of the top and up and coming US men.
First Round matchups to watch:
(WC)Jared Donaldson vs. (WC)Stefan Kozlov Two players who have been pegged as future leaders in US men’s tennis will meet early on in their careers as wild cards on US soil in Memphis. Donaldson, 18, just won the Maui challenger title, his first career Challenger title, after going on a tear of 17 match wins in a row last season. Kozlov, 17, who had more success at the junior level, reaching two junior grand slam finals last season (Wimbledon and the AO) won the Maui doubles title partnering with Donaldson. Both are at career high rankings (Kozlov nearing the top 400 and Donaldson inside the top 180). Donaldson at this point in his career is perhaps slightly ahead of the development curve compared to the younger Kozlov, and his recent form would make him the favorite, but I’m not sure the result of this match will mirror how their careers are going to turn out.
AO quarterfinalist Kei Nishikori has won this title twice in a row and he’s going for a three-peat this year. Malek Jaziri or a qualifier will be his first opponent, Jaziri, who has actually played well this year so far (reached the third round in Melbourne), got himself in hot water again after retiring from a set up against Denis Istomin in Montpellier. The stated reason was an “elbow injury” but Israeli player Dudi Sela had setup a meeting with the Tunisian in the next round, and Jaziri has withdrawn before to avoid facing an Israeli player. Jaziri also pulled out of doubles against an Israeli opponent in Montpellier, and this PR debacle of a situation is going to cloud him for quite some time, especially if he continues to not directly come out and address it. All the same expect to see Nishikori in the quarters, and perhaps get a rematch of last years final against Ivo Karlovic. The big serving Croat will need to defeat Lukas Lacko, who was awful in Zagreb last week, and then the Mikhail Kukushkin/qualifier winner. Kukushkin, who reached an ATP final in January in Sydney, is a rather streaky player, as is Karlovic, who lost his opening contest in Zagreb against Marcos Baghdatis in 3 sets. Kukushkin and Karlovic have never played, I’m simply picking Karlovic because of previous success and the quarterfinalist here is a toss-up. Regardless, expect Nishikori to blaze through to the semis.
John Isner has never played as well in Memphis as he has in most other US events, that said the American number one has Ivan Dodig or Teymuraz Gabashvili on his plate in round 2. Gabashvili played pretty well in the Dallas challenger, reaching the semifinals, while Dodig lost his second match in Zagreb to Marcel Granollers. This matchup could go either way, but given Gabashvili is already in the US, I have him into round 2, before falling victim to Isner. Benjamin Becker, who had his best result at a Grand Slam in a decade when he reached the third round in Melbourne this year is in this section as well as a potential quarterfinal opponent for Isner. Becker could potentially vanquish both parts of “Quisner” , as his round 1 opponent is Sam Querrey who is 0-3 in 2015. Look for Becker, who serves as well as Querrey, but is a superior ball striker and mover, to get into the quarterfinals after beating most likely Donaldson in round 2. This isn’t a bad draw for one of the young American wild cards, but more likely will serve as a learning experience with a round 2 loss against a more experienced player. Isner has a 3-0 h2h against Becker but they haven’t met since 2009 and Becker has played, perhaps the best tennis of his career into his 30s over the past 6 months or so, with that in mind, I have Becker as a surprise semifinalist this week.
Kevin Anderson reached the second week in Melbourne, and should expect to be matched serve for serve in his first match in Memphis, that is if Aussie Sam Groth, who reached the third round Melbourne, can defeat baseliner Rendy Lu in round 1. Both Groth and Anderson have had both good and bad results in 2015, and it’s a tough match to pick. Anderson, given his ranking and similar style of player, is in most cases better than Groth on the return and equal to him on serve, so the South African number one should get through with likely tiebreak sets. Groth has improved his return but Anderson was already a step ahead. American Steve Johnson has a great shot at a good result here, if he can beat Dudi Sela, and Marinko Matosevic/Dustin Brown, he’d setup a quarterfinal meeting with most likely Anderson. Johnson has yet to lose an opening round match in 2015, as he continues to show signs of improvement in his game. Brown was a point away from beating possible champion Jerzy Janowicz in Montpellier, but all the same I expect Johnson over Matosevic in round 2. Anderson is 3-0 against Johnson, including two wins last year and a win in straights this year in Auckland, with that in mind, the matchup favors Kev and he should reach the semis, even with a tricky path.
Alex Dolgopolov, who was injured in Australia with a leg problem could face Bernard Tomic in round 2, assuming the Aussie, who reached the second week in Melbourne, beats Igor Sijsling, who comes off the quarterfinals in Zagreb. Tomic is 7-3 in 2015 and appears to be focused and in the groove right now, you never know how long that will last, but he still should be the favorite to reach the quarterfinals at least here, with Dolgo in questionable physical condition and always unpredictable. Tomic and Dolgo have played some awesome h2h matches, with Tomic winning their most recent encounter last year in Sydney, and also a 5 setter at the 2012 AO (Dolgo had won three previous hc meeting before that one for a 3-2 hard court h2h edge), This is a must see match if it takes place, with talented shotmaking a given. Tomic should actually have an easier time in the quarters, Donald Young is an option, Adrian Mannarino is the 8 seed, and a pair of qualifiers are also here. This is a section a qualifier could get out of (Denis Kudla, and Thanasi Kokkinakis are potential qualifiers) but without knowing who the qualifiers will be, I have Mannarino into the quarters with wins over Young and a qualifier. Mannarino reached the final in Auckland last month and comes off a round 1 loss to Sijsling in Zagreb, while Young was a quarterfinalist in Auckland. Tomic should reach the semis out of this section that isn’t overly difficult.
Tomic should make the semis as a non seed given his draw, and one of Anderson/Johnson/Groth is also quite beatable, Tomic is 3-0 on hard courts against Anderson, including a win indoors last year in Stockholm, and thus he should be an a finalist this week if his play holds true to its current form. As usual the talent is there but the question is can Bernie remain focused and implement the game plan and discipline needed to translate that into results on a week to week basis?
Semis: Nishikori d. Becker
Tomic d. Anderson
Nishikori and Becker played one of the best regular ATP tour matches of the season last year in Tokyo, Nishikori won in a third set tiebreak, clawing back from a set down, as Becker was throwing his entire arsenal at Nishikori (and previously Nishikori beat Becker last year in Memphis). The Japanese number one should win, but this pair produce some great tennis on a consistent basis and it’s still worth watching.
As mentioned above, Tomic has a demonstrated edge against Anderson, and thus he should take advantage of his draw and make the final.
Final: Nishikori d. Tomic
Nishikori was a cut above Tomic in the Brisbane quarterfinals this year, given how that match went, I don’t expect this one to go any better, Nishikori is a strong favorite to win his third ATP Memphis title.
The 24 year old Lajovic remains poised to a breakthrough at the ATP level, though his ranking is stuck in the 60-90 no mans land right now. Meanwhile the veteran Andujar will be pleased to return to clay court tennis this week, as hard courts have once again not been kind to him this year. Lajovic pushed possible Quito champion Feliciano Lopez (a current finalist) to 3 sets in the quarterfinals, very nearly knocking him out with a 1 set lead and break point chances in the second. Andujar has experience and he’s higher ranked but I’m going with an upset and placing Lajovic into the second round, as I feel he has the ability to win this.
(8)Martin Klizan vs. Thomaz Bellucci
Bellucci beat Klizan last year in Sao Paulo, and comes off the Quito semis, where he dropped a tough match to Victor Estrella. The home player with have crowd support against the Slovak Klizan, who also lost to Estrella by a wider margin in the quarterfinals of that same event. Bellucci should be favored at home but his mentality is always a question mark, either way this should be a rowdy contest.
(5)Pablo Cuevas vs. Jiri Vesely
Cuevas had a fantastic year on the red stuff last year, going 47-9 on clay across all levels of tournament action with a pair of ATP titles to reach a career high ranking just inside the top 30. Now he will seek to repeat that showing, or even one up it this year, starting his ATP clay tournament calendar in Sao Paulo. In his first match on clay in 2015 he will face the young Czech Jiri Vesely who just won his maiden ATP title last month in Auckland. Vesely is also no slouch on clay, as he went 18-10 on the surface under the same standard as Cuevas. Vesely likely has more raw ability, but I have the experienced Cuevas, who plays some of his best tennis in these conditions, through to round 2.
Feliciano Lopez is seeking to binge his way through the Golden Swing and maintain, if not improve on his career high ranking inside the top 15. The current Quito finalist and possible champion will have his first match in SP against Juan Monaco, a former doubles partner, or a qualifier (young gun Elias Ymer and a host of second tier dirtballers are possible qualifiers). Monaco was once in the same position Lopez is in now, having reached a career high ranking of 10 in 2010, but it’s been all downhill from there for the declining Argentine, so even if he’s fatigued Flopez should flow his way into the quarters, while Monaco could struggle with a qualifier in round 1. Lopez could play a rematch of a strange, but quality semifinal match with his fellow Spanish Armada member Fernando Verdasco in the quarters. The Quito semifinalist has a qualifier first up and then the Lajovic/Andujar winner. This section presents a great chance for Lajovic to post consecutive quarters if Verdasco is exhausted. Otherwise I’m going to repeat what I picked last week, and put Verdasco into the semis, even though I was wrong on that in Quito. It was a close match and Lopez will have to play one extra match (and stay in Quito an extra day) compared to Verdasco. Something like that is enough to swing a result.
Leonardo Mayer. who went 19-10 on clay last year with an ATP title and final on the surface, both career bests, is another player that is happy to see the ATP tour return to clay. Mayer will face Spanish vet Albert Ramos or Brazilian WC Guillherme Clezar in round 1. Mayer is a cut above Ramos, and Ramos is more accomplished than Clezar, so expect Mayer to reach the quarters by defeating Ramos. Mayer vs. the Bellucci/Klizan winner is the most likely quarterfinal in this section. I favor Bellucci over Pablo Carreno Busta, assuming PCB beats Joao Souza, another Brazilian. Souza comes off a round 1 loss in Quito, while PCB will be making his 2015 clay debut after posting a 24-15 record on the surface last season in tournament play. Bellucci-PCB should be a good R2 match for a 250, with Bellucci has a home favorite. Mayer and Bellucci have a split h2h, when it comes to the slated quarterfinal (2-2), and Mayer has been better in recent career results, so I have Leo into the semis against Verdasco.
Tommy Robredo, who won this tournament in 2009 when it was in a different location, will open with Blaz Rola or Nicolas Almagro in round 2. Almagro is a three time former champion at the Brasil Open, and he’s 4-1 against Robredo on clay in his career. He’s played just a handful of matches since coming back from injury, but he looked healthy and improving in Melbourne (lost to Kei Nishikori in round 1), while Robredo is coming off his own injury and hasn’t completed any tournament matches this year. Rola hasn’t done anything special as of late, and I expect Almagro to keep improving against him, then get Robredo at a good time for that matchup to happen, and take him out as well to make the quarterfinals. At that stage Cuevas/Vesely could be his opponent, or defending champ Federico Delbonis who opens with a qualifier. Delbonis went 14-10 on clay last year in what was a breakthrough season into the top 60 for him. He has a lot of points to defend, and he’s not been gifted a lucky draw, as I feel Cuevas is superior on the surface, and will be the one to reach the quarters, though any of him, Vesely or Cuevas reaching the quarters wouldn’t shock me, as it’s a stacked section. Cuevas just beat Almagro in Sydney on HCs and has one previous H2H win against him, so for that reason I’m going with another (slight) upset and putting the Uruguayan number one into the semis from this stacked section.
Fabio Fognini is returning to clay in SP and looking to get his singles career back on track, having returned the Golden Swing he did so well in last year. Fogna will face his countryman Paolo Lorenzi or Diego Schwartzman in round 2. Lorenzi comes off quarters in Quito, while Schwartzman is ready to make his move to the next level, after an incredible 21-2 record on clay last year at the non ATP level (22-3 overall as he played almost entirely challengers to get into the top 70). I have the 22 year old making his move and defeating both Italians, Lorenzi and Fognini to reach the quarterfinals. SP is the type of tournament where rising players can have a shot to announce themselves to the tennis world, and Schwartzman is due. Fognini has been in crisis mode since the US Open and Schwartzman is good enough to at least give him a quality match, and given the current state of Fogna’s form, defeat him. Schwartzman also has a great chance at the semis, the only other seed left would be Santiago Giraldo, the Colombian who had a great year last year, dropped a bad match to Albert Montanes in Quito. He opens with WC Kimmer Coppejans, and should win, but I have Argentine grinder Carlos Berlocq beating him, given the 4-2 overall h2h in round 2. Berlocq went 18-6 on clay last year and beat Schwartzman in 3 sets to win a challenger title on clay (Porto Alegre). A quarterfinal between this is a bit of a coin flip but I have the experienced Berlocq into the semifinals against Cuevas.
I have the unseeded Berlocq in the semis this week as well, but Schwartzman gets the dark horse tag because he’s a young gun, and he could win his first ATP title this week if he rises to the occasion. Should he get through Lorenzi, Fognini and Berlocq/Giraldo, all accomplished veterans, Cuevas/Almagro/Robredo or some other player are all beatable semifinal opponents as Schwartzman would likely need to beat a bunch of veterans just to reach the final this week. It’s a relatively open tournament field and Verdasco/Mayer/Lopez aren’t unbeatable either in a possible final.
Predictions Semis: Mayer d. Verdasco
Cuevas d. Berlocq
Mayer should be fresher than Verdasco or Lopez, and you have to believe he can maintain the high level of play we saw from his last season, especially on his favorite surface.
Cuevas-Berlocq is another judgement call but Cuevas has won the last four clay court h2h meetings, so he should be favored.
Final: Mayer d. Cuevas
Mayer was slightly better last season and has a 2-1 clay h2h edge, this is a hard tournament to predict, but I have Mayer winning another ATP title, this time in Sao Paulo.
The second day of main draw play at the Winston-Salem open brought the first round to conclusion and saw fifth seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez open the second round in the night session. The day’s play was on the whole a level higher than Sunday’s, with a number of exceptional clashes and notable names.
The day session was opened with defending champion Jurgen Melzer falling to qualifier David Goffin 6-3 6-4. Melzer, who would later lose in the first round of doubles as well, will see his ranking fall outside the top 100 after an injury-plagued last twelve months. Goffin, meanwhile, continues an incredible run of form that saw him win his first title in Kitzbuhel.
On court two, Jerzy Janowicz put up an impressive performance against Carlos Berlocq. Although the two are close in the rankings currently, Berlocq was a serious underdog on the quick hard courts of Winston-Salem and looked lost in the first set before steadying himself slightly in the second. Janowicz, however, simply had too much power for Berlocq to absorb in the end, and won 6-1 6-4.
Janowicz dispatches Berlocq
On court three, Federico Delbonis pulled off an upset victory over a superior hard-courter in Martin Klizan, 7-6(5) 6-4. Klizan produced nearly all of the match’s best shots and received almost universal crowd support, but was too erratic and dealt with Delbonis’s impressive serving too poorly to prevail. On the distant court four, Igor Sijsling defeated Andrey Golubev in a tight two-setter. Golubev failed to take advantage of poor volleying by Sijsling and allowed himself to be outrallied by the Dutchman, surrendering his serve from 40-0 for the decisive break in a 7-6(5) 6-3 match.
Delbonis had one of the first big upsets of the tournament
In what was surprisingly possibly the day’s best match, Frank Dancevic faced off against Thomaz Bellucci. Both players’ smooth and powerful serves and groundstrokes drew a larger crowd than one would expect on the third court, and Dancevic produced a number of stunning backhands equaled by a stream of Bellucci winners off the forehand wing. An extended rally saw Dancevic take a very tight first set, but Bellucci rebounded to take the second set with ease. In the end, it was the Canadian who prevailed in a three-set match interrupted by rain with Bellucci down break point in the third set, 7-5 3-6 6-2.
Canadian veteran Frank Dancevic survived a test from Bellucci
Around the grounds, there was plenty of action to be had between spurts of rain which included what was nearly a two-hour delay. Adrian Mannarino easily put away an erratic Damir Dzumhur 6-2 6-2. Aleksandr Nedovyesov crushed American hopes with a close 6-4 6-4 win over Marcos Giron in which the American was a dismal 1/7 on break chances. Blaz Rola prevailed in two tight sets over fellow leftie Wayne Odesnik, 7-6(3) 6-3. In one of the day’s two second round matches, Jarkko Nieminen came from a break down in the second to defeat Benjamin Becker 7-5 6-4.
Mannarino showed great form against Dzumhur
On Center Court, the night session was led into with a pair of low quality matches, Paul-Henri Mathieu’s messy 6-3 7-5 win over wild card Robby Ginepri and Sam Querrey’s 7-6(5) 6-4 win over Pere Riba, who is unimposing on a hard court. However, the first set of Dustin Brown taking on fifth seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez was probably the highest quality and most dramatic of the event thusfar. Brown’s big serve and beautiful volleys were pitted against Garcia-Lopez’s capable return and piercing groundstrokes off both wings. Brown saved two set points with two aces at 4-5, and took the tiebreak 7-5 after a Garcia-Lopez double fault. Brown’s resistance would fade, however, in the next two sets, with a lackluster final scoreline of 6-7(5) 6-2 6-2.
The doubles draw got underway today with some upset results. The second seeded team of Rohan Bopanna and defending champion Daniel Nestor lost in a pair of tiebreaks to the Columbians Cabal and Farah. Melzer was handed his second loss of the day as he and partner Lukas Rosol lost to Marcel Granollers and his unaccomplished partner, singles specialist Pablo Andujar 7-6(3) 2-6 10-4, with Melzer making a number of errors on critical points. The wild card team of Nicholas Monroe and Donald Young upset the Argentines Delbonis and Leonardo Mayer 7-6(4) 7-5. Robin Haase and Nicolas Mahut defeated Scott Lipsky and Max Mirnyi 7-5 6-4 in a match that may have been decided when Mirnyi missed a sitting duck volley at 5-5 40-40 in the first.
Tomorrow will be the day that fourteen of the event’s 16 seeds begin their campaigns. This includes two-time champion and hometown John Isner, whose practices are better attended than some of the main draw matches, and last week’s Cincy quarterfinalist Tommy Robredo, as well as the top seeded doubles pairing of Leander Paes (the other half of last year’s winning doubles team) and David Marrero. The forecast calls for more rain, but hopefully that will not prevent all the day’s tennis from being played.
2014 ATP Clay Court Season In Review Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
In review: The 2014 ATP Clay Court Season
After Kitzbuhel concluded last week, the clay court calendar portion of the 2014 ATP season came to an end. With that conclusion, we can now review which players performed the best, and which players underachieved on the dirt this season. Clay courts comprise a large portion of the ATP calendar so there is a much larger sample size to draw from compared to, say, the grass court season.
27 year old journeyman Argentine Leonardo Mayer has transformed himself into a top 30 player this season and his best results have come on clay. He posted 18 wins on the surface compared to just 10 losses this season at the ATP level and scored wins over household names David Ferrer, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Joao Sousa and Tommy Robredo on the surface; he also pushed top 6 player Tomas Berdych to three sets in Oeiras.
He reached his first career final in Vina Del Mar, but fell short against Fabio Fognini there, and he finally got his maiden title in Hamburg over Ferrer in 3 sets. Winning that final set tiebreak ended a long journey to the top 30 for Leo and he remains an under recognized and underappreciated Argentine player. With Del Potro perpetually injured and Nalbandian now retired, Argentine will have to look to the likes of Mayer to carry Davis Cup and national hopes for a while. He reached the third round of the French Open and had quarterfinal appearances in both Oeiras and Nice to round out his best results on clay for 2014.
Honorable mentions for clay court surprise: Carlos Berlocq, Santiago Giraldo, Kei Nishikori, Roberto Bautista Agut
Carlos Berlocq joins his countryman Mayer as a surprising player this season. He won an ATP title for the second year in a row, this time coming in Oeiras where he upset and outlasted Tomas Berdych. The loud and flamboyant dirtballer also posted quarterfinals in Nice and a semifinal in Bastad to compliment his win in Oeiras. This highlights an overall 16-9 record on clay at the ATP level for 2014. He tends to get overmatched in the masters level and grand slam events but against a 250 level field he often flourishes. Notable opponents he defeated this year on clay include Andreas Seppi, Milos Raonic, Ferrer and Lleyton Hewitt at the French, along with the aforementioned Berdych.
Santiago Giraldo, a shotmaking Colombian with a huge forehand, has also had some of the best success of his career this season. He went 19-11 on clay and though he did not win a title, he reached the final in Barcelona, his second career final, along with semis in Houston and Vina Del Mar, and a pair of quarterfinals in Madrid and Stuttgart. Giraldo beat top players Tommy Robredo, Andy Murray, Nicolas Almagro, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga this season. Giraldo joins Mayer as a first time top 30 player after success on clay.
Kei Nishikori had an underappreciated clay court season this year, partially due to the fact that he had to battle injuries during that portion of the season, He played just three tournaments but posted a 10-2 record in them with a title in Barcelona and a final in Madrid, where he took a set off Nadal but had to retire during the third set of the match. He had top tier wins over Roberto Bautista Agut, Marin Cilic, Ferrer, Ernests Gulbis, and Raonic among his 10 overall and should he be able to stay healthy he has shown himself to be a threat on clay.
Bautista Agut is the last player I’ll discuss. He went 12-5 on clay and won his first title on the surface in Stuttgart over Lukas Rosol. Success on clay has helped him reach the top 20 for the first time in his career and he beat Robredo, Fernando Verdasco, and Fognini this year on the surface. RBA doesn’t play prototypical Spanish tennis but he’s still a top performing Spaniard on red clay.
Biggest upset: ATP Barcelona quarterfinals: Nicolas Almagro d. Rafael Nadal 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4
The powerful Spaniard Almagro had been outclassed by his much more successful countryman Nadal eight previous times on clay. Finally, Nico was able to get a victory against perhaps the greatest clay courter of all time. The first set was a routine affair, but Almagro fought back hard and Rafa played poorly, resulting in Nadal’s first loss on clay after winning the first set in over six years. Nadal had his chances to close out the match in the second, and didn’t face break points himself, but he couldn’t convert and the tiebreak went against him, giving Almagro an opening he took advantage of by winning a decisive fifth and final break in the third set to seal the victory. Nadal struggled to win his service points, and at the time, many were deeply worried about how he was playing going into the French Open. The fact Rafa did win the French perhaps makes this victory by Almagro look even more improbable and top quality, given Rafa showed his career wasn’t in serious decline yet.
Clay court breakthroughs: Dominic Thiem, Alex Zverev and Dusan Lajovic
A trio of young players found maiden ATP success on clay, while new Austrian number one Dominic Thiem was a mere 12-8 on clay at the ATP level. He went 4-0 in qualifying matches on the surface and won multiple main draw matches in Barcelona, Madrid and Hamburg. He finally reached his first career ATP final on home soil in Kitzbuhel and appears very close to his first career ATP title. Thiem had notable wins over Radek Stepanek and Stan Wawrinka this year on clay.
Alex Zverev, a teenager, notably made the semifinals in Hamburg, a one off showing but clearly a sign of things to come for the young German. Zverev had wins over Mikhail Youzhny and Giraldo en route. I have a feeling Thiem vs. Zverev may develop into a clay court rivalry in the future. Both players have things to work on but we could have a Germany vs. Austria French Open final come 2018 or beyond.
Dusan Lajovic established himself as a top 70 player with a strong clay court season. He also established himself as the Serbian number 2 behind Djokovic and should feature on their Davis Cup team for quite some time. He went 14-11 in both ATP main draw action and qualifying on clay this season and along with quarters in Hamburg and Bastad, he reached the round of 16 at the French Open, his best ever result in a major. He didn’t beat many top names this season but he still proved he can grind out matches to increase his ranking.
Clay Court Disappointments: Tommy Robredo, Stan Wawrinka, Gilles Simon, Joao Sousa and Andreas Seppi
The well-liked veteran Spaniard Robredo went just 15-12 this year on clay after going a tremendous 25-10 on the surface in 2013. His age may finally be catching up with him as he reached just one final, one semi and one quarterfinal this season along with posting seven early round exits. Once he finishes this season he will have a lot to think about going into to 2015.
Wawrinka did not have a terrible clay court season, but he underachieved after high expectations were placed on him after winning his first grand slam in Australia at the start of the year. He won Monte Carlo, but that was the only highlight of his 6-3 clay court season. He had a trio of surprising early exits in Madrid, Rome and the French Open, and next season he will have much to gain during the clay court portion of the year. He posted a 43-17 record on clay over the previous two seasons before this one and has the ability to do much better than he did in 2014.
Veteran Frenchman Gilles Simon has struggled to stay healthy in 2014 and he had a disappointing clay court season that has contributed to his fall from the top 30. He won consecutive matches in a clay court tournament just twice this season and failed to beat any players ranked above him on the surface. He also had bad losses to Teymuraz Gabashvili, Lukasz Kubot and Pablo Andujar. He was a subpar 8-9 on the surface overall in 2014. ‘
After a breakthrough 2013, top Portugese player Joao Sousa was a disappointing 7-13 on clay in 2014, struggling against ATP level competition on the surface. He reached one quarterfinal and one final but suffered ten opening match exits and eleven early round exists overall with multiple losses to players ranked below him. Sousa will need to improve considerably and adjust his game if he hopes to be more successful on clay in the future.
After struggling on clay in 2013, Italian veteran Andreas Seppi did so again in 2014. He is just 18-22 on the surface over the past two seasons and was 11-12 this season. He failed to reach a semifinal in any clay court tournament this year.
First time winners: Federico Delbonis, David Goffin and Pablo Cuevas
23 year old Argentine Federico Delbonis won his maiden title in Sao Paulo and has been successful on clay overall this season, posting an 18-13 ATP record. He later made a final in Nice, semifinals in Casablanca and a quarterfinal in Stuttgart to complement his Sao Paulo victory. Delbonis also showed his prowess on the red stuff last season when he reached the final in Hamburg and he should be a name to watch in many clay court tournaments to come.
David Goffin snagged a maiden title in Kitzbuhel at the tail end of the clay court season after getting red hot on the ATP Challenger Tour prior. Goffin, who had that run to the fourth round as a qualifier at the 2012 French Open, and has seen his once promising career fade from the spotlight since then, returned to the challenger tour to find his game and hopefully he will be able to keep himself at the ATP level this time. Goffin is undersized and many players were able to hit him off the court at the top level but perhaps he has rediscovered a path to success for himself given the limitations of his physical stature.
Lastly, Pablo Cuevas, who has overcome multiple knee and shoulder injuries and built his ranking back up to ATP status from the challenger tour, won his maiden title at 28 years old in Bastad, then followed it up with a title in Umag a couple of weeks later. Cuevas makes his living on clay and has been rapidly improving as of late. He pushed Fernando Verdasco to five sets at the French Open and has wins over Robredo, Fognini, Seppi, Sousa, and Verdasco this season. Cuevas’ rise is a testament to his tenacity and the work he has put into his game.
Weekend @PortugalOpen: Carla Suarez Navarro Wins Women’s Event, Berdych & Berlocq Fight For Men’s Title
Manuel Traquete, Tennis East Coast
The Women’s Champion of the 2014 Portugal Open is Carla Suarez Navarro after a titanic battle on center court, which saw her come back from 4-1 down in the decider to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4 in the third set to win her first ever career title and go up to #14 in the WTA rankings. It turned out to be one of the best finals of the event since it started in 1998.
On the men’s side, Tomas Berdych dispatched Victor Hanescu with the expected ease, overpowering him from the very first game on his way to a 6-2 6-2 win. His opponent in the last match of the tournament will be Carlos Berlocq, who after a very tight first set against Gimeno-Traver where he won 8-6 in the tiebreak and comfortably won 6-2 in the second set to reach his 3rd career final.
On paper, everything points to another comfortable Berdych win in the final. He’s superior to Berlocq in every aspect of the game. They have played three times with Berdych winning all of them in quite routine fashion and the Czech has much more experience in matches like this one.
It’d be a considerable surprise if Berdych wasn’t the one hoisting the trophy at the end of the match, picking up some steam for the battles ahead in the clay Masters and Roland Garros.