American #1 John Isner Joins Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and More at 2018 Citi Open Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2018 Citi Open has a loaded and diverse field this year. Here is your preview of all the action on hard courts at the ATP 500 level.
Last year’s champion Alexander Zverev will start his title defense against Evgeny Donskoy or Malek Jaziri. From there he should face his big brother Mischa in round 3, Mischa simply has to beat Tim Smyczek or Ricardas Berankis in round 2 to reach that stage. The younger Zverev is favored to reach the quarters.
Denis Shapovalov vs Daniil Medvedev looks like a fantastic round 2 matchup, Medvedev faces qualifier Yosuke Watanuki in his first match. I’ll give Shapovalov an edge until he runs into Kei Nishikori. Nishikori faces Donald Young or Stan Wawrinka, both of whom are struggling, in his first match. The section looks like Nishikori’s to lose.
David Goffin isn’t in great form but a path of Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Mitch Krueger and then most likely local hero Frances Tiafoe isn’t the most difficult. Tiafoe faces Hubert Hurkacz/Ilya Ivashka for a spot in the third round where he has a punchers chance against Goffin.
The fourth section of the draw is a bit weak. Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios are the seeds, neither are in great form and Kyrgios may not be fit. Jordan Thompson comes off a challenger final and I have him defeating Jared Donaldson while James Duckworth should defeat Thai-Son Kwiatkowski. I’ll go with Tsitsipas over Kyrgios in the third round, but this is a tough section to predict. Kyrgios should be favored if he’s healthy.
John Isner won Atlanta (again) and looks set to make a run in DC if he’s fit. Noah Rubin or Mikhail Youzhny are unlikely to stop him while Andrey Rublev/Tommy Paul/Alex Bolt will also be underdogs in the third round. I have Isner into the quarters.
Karen Khachanov vs Lucas Pouille looks like a good third round matchup. Khachanov should defeat Lukas Lacko/Denis Kudla, while Pouille should defeat Yuichi Sugita or Vincent Millot. I’ll take Khachanov to advance from the section.
Despite Andy Murray being in his section, I’ll back Kyle Edmund to make a run. Edmund beat Murray on grass a few weeks back and Murray should still be rusty, even if he defeats Mackenzie McDonald in the first round. I have Edmund defeating Jeremy Chardy in round 3 with Chardy taking on Mirza Basic or Marius Copil in round 2.
Newport champ Steve Johnson looks like a dark horse. Johnson will open with Vasek Pospisil/Alex De Minaur. Hyeon Chung played well enough in Atlanta to suggest he’ll beat Benoit Paire/Marcos Baghdatis, with Johnson or Chung advancing to the quarters. I’ll take Johnson to win the section.
2017 ATP Washington Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The only 500 level tournament in the United States, the Citi Open, is back for edition #49. Here is your full preview with predictions, as Tennis Atlantic will have on-site coverage all week from the nation’s capital.
Citi Open ATP World Tour 500* July 31-August 6, 2017 Washington D.C., USA Surface: Hard Prize Money: $1,750,080
*denotes joint ATP/WTA tournament
Top 8 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: Dominic Thiem (7)
2: Kei Nishikori (9)
3: Milos Raonic (10)
4: Grigor Dimitrov (11)
5: Alexander Zverev (8)
6: Gael Monfils (22)
7: Lucas Pouille (17)
8: Jack Sock (19)
Washington has attracted three top 10 players on the men’s side, and a solid group of top 20 seeds.
Dominic Thiem is back in North America, and as the top seed he has a weight on his shoulders in Washington. The Austrian should slip past Vasek Pospisil or Henri Laaksonen and then defeat Kevin Anderson in round 3. Anderson played well at Wimbledon, and will need to defeat either Malek Jaziri or Alessandro Bega to reach the third round. Anderson’s serve makes him a threat, but Thiem has a better all-around game.
Mischa Zverev hasn’t been in great form this year but should be better than either Ramkumar Ramanathan or a struggling Guido Pella. Gael Monfils should show his range against Yuki Bhambri or Stefan Kozlov, before putting away the serve and volleyer Zverev with his superior movement in the third round.
Milos Raonic looks safe against either Nicolas Mahut or Thomas Fabbiano, given both players are struggling. Atlanta finalist Ryan Harrison should be up in round 3. Harrison needs only to defeat a struggling Marcos Baghdatis, or ATP main draw debutante Edan Leshem. Given Harrison should be fatigued, Raonic is the favorite to reach the quarterfinals.
John Isner and Jack Sock look to be on a collision course in round 3. Sock opens with Sekou Bangoura or Marius Copil and should win that. Isner has won eight matches in a row, and if he can overcome a possible knee issue, he should defeat Dudi Sela or Jared Donaldson. I’ll go with Sock over Isner given the fatigue factor, Sock really could use a win against Isner to boost his confidence this Summer heading into the US Open.
Despite somewhat disappointing results this year, Kei Nishikori remains one of the most talented players in men’s tennis, and should defeat either Donald Young or Tim Smyczek in round 2. Juan Martin Del Potro awaits in round 3, Del Potro is a solid player, but he’s still a shell of the player he once was, and Nishikori is the favorite to reach the quarterfinals. Del Potro faces Alexios Halebian or Lukas Lacko in round 2.
Look for the in-form Gilles Muller, a semifinalist in Atlanta, to make a run at the Citi Open. Muller begins against Mitchell Krueger or Dmitry Tursunov, who hasn’t won a match this year. Lucas Pouille will be up in round 3, Pouille will face Atlanta quarterfinalist Tommy Paul, or another young gun, Casper Ruud, who has been struggling a bit, and tends to prefer clay. Pouille is credible on hard courts, but Muller should win if the court is fast enough.
The two remaining sections of the draw are pretty stacked. Grigor Dimitrov is 17-4 on hard courts this year, Atlanta semifinalist Kyle Edmund is likely up in round 2, unless Hyeon Chung spoils things. Dimitrov should be better than Edmund. Talented young Russian Daniil Medvedev should beat big serving American Reilly Opelka, I have Steve Johnson reaching the third round with a win over Medvedev, before falling to Dimitrov.
Alexander Zverev should have an edge against Nick Kyrgios. Kyrgios hasn’t been healthy, but he should beat Go Soeda or Tennys Sandgren. Both Ruben Bemelmans and Jordan Thompson are in great form, but Zverev played well enough during the grass court season that he should safely reach round 3, and then defeat Kyrgios, who I doubt is 100%.
Dark Horse: Daniil Medvedev
If Medvedev can find form against Johnson and Dimitrov he could well make his breakout in North America. The Russian has had a fantastic season and he’s primed to be a much bigger name than he is right now on the ATP tour.
Quarters Thiem d. Monfils
Raonic d. Sock
Dimitrov d. Zverev
Nishikori d. Muller
Dimitrov vs. Zverev is the hardest matchup to pick, but I like Dimitrov’s form, the big seeds Raonic, Thiem, and Nishikori should be set to make the semis.
Semis Raonic d. Thiem
Nishikori d. Dimitrov
On hard courts Raonic’s serve is a formidable weapon, Nishikori should be able to rise to the occasion against Dimitrov or Zverev, before falling to the big serving Raonic in the final. Milos could use a title heading into the US Open.
2016 ATP Washington Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic will have live coverage all week from the 2016 Citi Open in Washington D.C., a 500 level hard court tournament that kicks off the North American hard court summer swing.
ATP World Tour 500*
July 18-24, 2016
Washington, D.C., USA
Prize Money: $1,629,475\
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: John Isner (16)
2: Gael Monfils (17)
3: Bernard Tomic (19)
4: Benoit Paire (24)
For a 500 level tournament D.C. is up for grabs without any top 10 players in the field.
First round matchups to watch:
Adrian Mannarino vs. (WC)Frances Tiafoe
Newport quarterfinalist Mannarino will face the young Tiafoe, who recently made a hard court challenger final in the states. Tiafoe has the game to upset Mannarino, but the Frenchman is a steady performer on faster surfaces.
Lukas Lacko vs. (WC)Denis Shapovalov
The 17 year old Canadian Shapovalov won the 2015 US Open junior final, and reached the junior final of Wimbledon this year as well. This young gun is perhaps the next big thing in Canadian tennis, and is making his ATP debut in D.C.. With a one handed backhand as a lefty, and a confident game, he’s unlikely to be intimidated. Lacko played well at Wimbledon, but is known to be inconsistent.
Yoshihito Nishioka vs. Ivan Dodig
Nishioka qualified at Wimbledon, won a challenger, and most recently reached a challenger semifinal heading into D.C.. Dodig hasn’t had much success in singles this year, but he helped Croatia win their Davis Cup tie over the weekend, and that should help his confidence. Nishioka may be fatigued, but the speedy Japanese young gun is a potential dark horse this tournament given his great form.
John Isner has reached three D.C. finals, including one last year, and after the disappointment of Davis Cup over the weekend, he’ll face either James Duckworth or Tim Smyczek in his first match. Smyczek has never lost to Duckworth, but either should fall to Isner. In round 3, Marcos Baghdatis should await. Baghdatis has to defeat either Denis Kudla or John Millman, probably Millman given Kudla’s poor form, to reach round 3. The Newport semifinalist doesn’t have a great record against Isner, but I have a sense that fatigue will factor into Isner’s play and I’m going with Baghdatis in an upset. Isner is a poor 17-12 on the year, after posting 45 wins last year, and 37 wins in 2014.
Steve Johnson looks set to perform well and reach the quarterfinals. Johnson will face the Mannarino/Tiafoe winner with either Viktor Troicki, or Ryan Harrison/Stephane Robert to follow. Robert was a surprising semifinalist in Hamburg, and he’s into the top 60 now, but at his age, fatigue is likely to play a factor, while Harrison is playing on North American hard courts. Troicki should win that match, but I favor Johnson in the third round given the venue and recent form.
Bernard Tomic was seen working hard on the practice courts over the weekend, and his first match will be against Donald Young or qualifier Ernesto Escobedo. Tomic played well on grass, as he normally does, and now the key will be to continue his good form on hard courts over the summer. Young was a semifinalist in Newport, but Tomic is the better player and should reach round 3. Newport champion Ivo Karlovic played much better last week than he has most of the season, and the big serving veteran will face either Sam Groth or Brian Baker in round 2. If he faces Groth, expect two or three tiebreaks, but regardless, a healthy Karlovic should reach round 3. Tomic vs. Karlovic is a tough match to predict, but a fresher Tomic is my pick for the quarters.
Grigor Dimitrov badly needs a confidence boosting result in D.C. after a tough season. Dimitrov will face either Dan Evans or veteran Benjamin Becker in round 2, with most likely Jack Sock to follow in round 3. Sock comes off a tough loss in Davis Cup and faces the Lacko/Shapovalov winner in round 2. Sock is 2-1 in the h2h against Dimitrov, and he’s playing at home, but I see Dimitrov prevailing due to a Davis Cup hangover for Sock.
Gael Monfils will face Rendy Lu or Austin Krajicek in round 2, with most likely Davis Cup weekend warrior Borna Coric to follow in round 3. Coric will face Vasek Pospisil or Yuichi Sugita in round 2. Monfils has been in poor form in recent weeks, but he’s played a light schedule and could catch fire with his incredible talent. Monfils over Lu, and Coric over Pospisil are my picks for round 2, given Pospisil’s poor season. Monfils beat Coric this season on indoor hard, but that match went three sets, and with the way Coric played over the weekend, I tip him to upset Monfils.
Sam Querrey will be eager to continue his great form at Wimbledon at a stateside hard court tournament. Querrey will face a fellow American in round 2, either qualifier Alex Kuznetsov or Bjorn Fratangelo, before a likely third round match with the unpredictable shotmaker Alex Dolgopolov. Querrey should be strong enough to defeat Kuznetsov/Fratangelo, and Dolgopolov, as long as he continues to play well. Dolgopolov will play the winner of Jordan Thompson/Victor Estrella, and I’m unsure how well he will play in American heat.
Benoit Paire is the #4 seed, but Gilles Muller, a finalist in Newport, is the favorite to reach the quarters, with wins over Dodig/Nishioka, and either Paire or Jared Donaldson/Vincent Millot. Paire is just 4-5 on a hard court this year, and is below .500 in ATP play (17-20). Muller should serve his way through his opponents, and Donaldson has a shot at a third round breakthrough if he can defeat Millot and upset Paire.
Young gun Alexander Zverev has a difficult early draw to navigate, but he’s a player to watch this tournament, after making a hasty exit in Hamburg on clay. Zverev appeared calm and confident in press today, and the Olympian is set to face fellow young Taylor Fritz in a great second round battle, as long as Fritz gets the job done against veteran Dudi Sela. Sela is in decent form, while Fritz has been struggling as of late. Zverev should defeat either, although he’s had more success outside of hard courts this season. Kevin Anderson, desperate for some hard court success to help his ranking and form, awaits in round 3, presuming Anderson is healthy and can defeat Malek Jaziri or wild card Reilly Opelka. Anderson is an awful 7-10 this season, and he has struggled to stay healthy after winning 46 matches last year. Given the circumstances, Zverev into the quarters is my pick.
Dark Horse: Borna Coric
Coric is the final seeded player, but if he plays like he did in Portland over the weekend, he should be able to go far. Monfils and Querrey are tough opponents, but Coric is a more steady and consistent baseliner than they are, and if he wins those matches he should be opposite Zverev or Muller in the semifinals.
Quarters Johnson d. Baghdatis
Dimitrov d. Tomic
Zverev d. Muller
Querrey d. Coric
Johnson has a h2h win over Baghdatis, Dimitrov is 2-0 against Tomic, Zverev should be able to return well enough to defeat Muller, and Querrey has been in good enough form I have him defeating Coric.
Semis Dimitrov d. Johnson
Zverev d. Querrey
Both these European players could use a good run on hard courts, and with 500 ranking points up for grabs, look for them to perform well.
Final Zverev d. Dimitrov
Zverev has two wins this year against Dimitrov, and after two ATP finals on two different surfaces this season, he’s eager to capture his first ATP title. Weather conditions are one factor to consider however.
A 500 series on hard court as the US Open Series rolls on, and the final ATP stop of the season on clay in Kitzbuhel, a 250, are on the calendar this week.
2015 Citi Open Predictions
Steen Kirby’s picks
Round 2 matches: Murray vs. Becker, Berankis vs. Cuevas, Pospisil vs. Haas, Estrella vs. Isner, Gasquet vs. Muller, Bemelmans vs. Sock, Tomic vs. Johnson, Pella vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Nishioka, Dolgopolov vs. Karlovic, Querrey vs. Soeda, Sela vs. Cilic, Lopez vs. Hewitt, Groth vs. Troicki, Mayer vs. Kudla, Harrison vs. Nishikori Round 3 matches: Murray vs. Berankis, Pospisil vs. Isner, Muller vs. Sock, Tomic vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Karlovic, Querrey vs. Cilic, Lopez vs. Troicki, Kudla vs. Nishikori Quarterfinals: Murray vs. Isner, Muller vs. Tomic, Anderson vs. Cilic, Troicki vs. Nishikori Semifinals: Murray vs. Muller, Cilic vs. Nishikori Final: Murray vs. Cilic Champion: Murray
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round 2 matches: Murray vs. Becker, Lu vs. Cuevas, Pospisil vs. Young, Estrella vs. Isner, Gasquet vs. Muller, Bemelmans vs. Sock, Tomic vs. Johnson, Baghdatis vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Zverev, Smyczek vs. Karlovic, Querrey vs. Soeda, Sela vs. Cilic, Lopez vs. Hewitt, Groth vs. Troicki, Mayer vs. Kudla, Harrison vs. Nishikori Round 3 matches: Murray vs. Cuevas, Pospisil vs. Isner, Gasquet vs. Sock, Johnson vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Karlovic, Querrey vs. Cilic, Lopez vs. Troicki, Mayer vs. Nishikori Quarterfinals: Murray vs. Isner, Gasquet vs. Dimitrov, Karlovic vs. Cilic, Lopez vs. Nishikori Semifinals: Murray vs. Gasquet, Karlovic vs. Nishikori Final: Murray vs. Nishikori Champion: Nishikori
Joe Craven’s picks
Round 2 matches: Murray vs. Becker, Lu vs. Cuevas, Pospisil vs. Young, Estrella vs. Isner, Gasquet vs. Muller, Matosevic vs. Sock, Tomic vs. Johnson, Baghdatis vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Nishioka, Dolgopolov vs. Karlovic, Querrey vs. King, Chung vs. Cilic, Lopez vs. Hewitt, Groth vs. Troicki, Mayer vs. Kudla, Harrison vs. Nishikori Round 3 matches: Murray vs. Lu, Pospisil vs. Isner, Gasquet vs. Sock, Tomic vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Dolgopolov, Querrey vs. Cilic, Hewitt vs. Groth, Mayer vs. Nishikori Quarterfinals: Murray vs. Isner, Sock vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Cilic, Hewitt vs. Nishikori Semifinals: Murray vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Nishikori Final: Murray vs. Nishikori Champion: Murray
Chris de Waard’s picks
Round 2 matches: Murray vs. Becker, Lu vs. Cuevas, Pospisil vs. Haas, Estrella vs. Isner, Gasquet vs. Muller, Bemelmans vs. Sock, Tomic vs. Johnson, Baghdatis vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Zverev, Dolgopolov vs. Karlovic, Querrey vs. Soeda, Sela vs. Cilic, Lopez vs. Smith, Groth vs. Troicki, Mayer vs. Kudla, Duckworth vs. Nishikori Round 3 matches: Murray vs. Lu, Pospisil vs. Isner, Gasquet vs. Sock, Tomic vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Dolgopolov, Querrey vs. Cilic, Lopez vs. Troicki, Kudla vs. Nishikori Quarterfinals: Murray vs. Isner, Gasquet vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Cilic, Troicki vs. Nishikori Semifinals: Murray vs. Gasquet, Cilic vs. Nishikori Final: Murray vs. Nishikori Champion: Nishikori
Jeff McMillan’s picks
Round 2 matches: Murray vs. Gabashvili, Lu vs. Cuevas, Pospisil vs. Young, Estrella vs. Isner, Gasquet vs. Muller, Matosevic vs. Sock, Tomic vs. Johnson, Baghdatis vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Zverev, Dolgopolov vs. Karlovic, Querrey vs. King, Sela vs. Cilic, Lopez vs. Hewitt, Groth vs. Troicki, Mayer vs. Kudla, Harrison vs. Nishikori Round 3 matches: Murray vs. Lu, Pospisil vs. Isner, Gasquet vs. Sock, Johnson vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Karlovic, Querrey vs. Cilic, Lopez vs. Troicki, Kudla vs. Nishikori Quarterfinals: Murray vs. Isner, Gasquet vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Cilic, Troicki vs. Nishikori Semifinals: Murray vs. Dimitrov, Anderson vs. Nishikori Final: Murray vs. Nishikori Champion: Murray
Murray is the favorite in D.C., and Nishikori or a big server could make the final.
Round 2 matches: Thiem vs. Haider-Maurer, Montanes vs. Ramos, Fognini vs. Bedene, Giraldo vs. Kohlschreiber, Haase vs. Carreno Busta, Mathieu vs. Klizan, Vesely vs. Melzer, Lajovic vs. Seppi Quarterfinals: Thiem vs. Ramos, Fognini vs. Giraldo, Carreno Busta vs. Mathieu, Vesely vs. Seppi Semifinals: Thiem vs. Fognini, Mathieu vs. Vesely Final: Fognini vs. Mathieu Champion: Fognini
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round 2 matches: Thiem vs. Haider-Maurer, G. Melzer vs. Ramos, Fognini vs. Bedene, Giraldo vs. Kohlschreiber, Monaco vs. Carreno Busta, Mathieu vs. Klizan, Almagro vs. Gimeno-Traver, Lajovic vs. Seppi Quarterfinals: Thiem vs. Ramos, Fognini vs. Kohlschreiber, Monaco vs. Klizan, Almagro vs. Seppi Semifinals: Thiem vs. Fognini, Klizan vs. Seppi Final: Fognini vs. Klizan Champion: Klizan
Chris de Waard’s picks
Round 2 matches: Thiem vs. Haider-Maurer, G. Melzer vs. Ramos, Fognini vs. Bedene, Giraldo vs. Kohlschreiber, Monaco vs. Carreno Busta, Mathieu vs. Klizan, Vesely vs. Gimeno-Traver, Lajovic vs. Seppi Quarterfinals: Thiem vs. Ramos, Fognini vs. Kohlschreiber, Carreno Busta vs. Klizan, Vesely vs. Seppi Semifinals: Thiem vs. Fognini, Klizan vs. Seppi Final: Fognini vs. Seppi Champion: Fognini
Jeff McMillan’s picks
Round 2 matches: Thiem vs. Haider-Maurer, Montanes vs. Schwartzman, Fognini vs. Bedene, Giraldo vs. Kohlschreiber, Monaco vs. Delbonis, Mathieu vs. Klizan, Vesely vs. Gimeno-Traver, Lajovic vs. Seppi Quarterfinals: Thiem vs. Schwartzman, Fognini vs. Kohlschreiber, Delbonis vs. Klizan, Vesely vs. Seppi Semifinals: Thiem vs. Fognini, Klizan vs. Seppi Final: Fognini vs. Seppi Champion: Fognini
Fabio Fognini a clear favorite in Kitzbuhel, with Dominic Thiem likely fatigued.
2015 ATP Washington D.C. (@CitiOpen) Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The next ATP 500 series event is the joint ATP/WTA hard court tournament in the American capital city Washington D.C. Most of the ATP players from the first stop of the North American hard court Summer in Atlanta will be making the trek up to D.C., joined by a host of other big names, as many of the top players begin their US Open prep.
2015 ATP Washington D.C. Preview
ATP World Tour 500*
Washington D.C., USA
August 3-August 9, 2015
Prize Money: $1,508,815
*denotes joint ATP/WTA tournament
Top 8 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Andy Murray (3)
2: Kei Nishikori (5)
3: Marin Cilic (8)
4: Richard Gasquet (13)
5: Kevin Anderson (14)
6: Grigor Dimitrov (16)
7: Feliciano Lopez (19)
8: John Isner (18)
9 of the top 20 players in the world on the ATP side are in playing in D.C. this year as it’s one of the best fields they have ever had for this tournament, headlined of course by the three top 10, and two top 5 names in the draw, Murray, Nishikori, and Cilic.
First round matchups to watch:
Ricardas Berankis vs. Yen-Hsun Lu
Berankis is 6-2 in his last eight hard court matches and comes off of the quarterfinals in Atlanta where he lost to eventual champion John Isner. He’s once more been spending time on the challenger tour this year but he’s still always had the talent to do better than that. Lu, the steady baseline ball striker, suffered a tough round 2 loss to Vasek Pospisil in Atlanta and his form is somewhat questionable. Lu is predictable and ranked slightly higher, but Berankis will have his chances to advance from this competitive contest.
Donald Young, a loser of six straight, will take on the wild card Tommy Haas who is still working on his injury recovery tour (2-4 record since returning to tour). Haas is aging but always a talent, and Young appears entirely devoid of confidence at the moment, though he’s playing on his favored North American hard courts. Haas hasn’t played a hard court match since March 2014, but he will have a good chance of advancing from this match regardless.
Alexander Zverev vs. (Q)Yoshihito Nishioka
A battle between young guns, Zverev, 19, is just 1-4 in ATP level hard court matches this year but he’s a respectable 9-5 below that level, qualifying for both Marseille and Miami this year. The German much prefers clay and recently reached a semi in Bastad. The 18 year old Nishioka, who combines speedy footwork with solid power for his small frame has a much stronger hard court record of 16-9 on the year and came through qualifying with a pair of solid wins. The Delray Beach quarterfinalist Nishioka is better on this surface, and thus look for him to beat his young rival.
The 19 year old Chung is another of the young guns in the DC draw this year, but he’s struggling, just 1-5 since reaching a hard court challenger final in South Korea. Sela, the Israeli veteran who lacks power in his game but rallies well, comes off quarterfinals in Atlanta and should be used to the hot conditions. Chung has a lot of talent, but I’m not sure he’ll be able to outwit the wise Sela.
Andy Murray is the top seed, and he’s a fantastic 44-7 on the season with a very strong hard court record to go with that. This year only Gilles Simon and Borna Coric have beaten him outside of the top 10, and with that in mind the in-form Murray is a strong favorite to go as far as the final here. Murray’s first match is sure to come against a veteran, either Benjamin Becker or Teymuraz Gabashvili. Gabashvili hasn’t played since Wimbledon but was in good form on the challenger tour prior to that, while Becker won his first match in a while in Atlanta but still may not entirely be healthy. I have Becker winning round 1 but losing to Murray, setting the UK #1 up with a match against Berankis/Lu for a spot in the quarters.
14 seed Pablo Cuevas gets a bye but he’s just 2-4 on hard courts this year, and rarely plays hard court matches in general as he’s a clay court specialist. Murray is 2-0 against Becker, and beat Berankis, who I have reaching round 3, in the 2013 Australian Open, overall he honestly shouldn’t drop a set en route to the quarters.
Atlanta champion John Isner was serving up aces and firing winners as he dominated the field in his title run, and presuming he doesn’t have too much fatigue he should continue that in D.C. on the same surface. Isner is twice a finalist in Washington and should have no trouble against Nicolas Jarry/Victor Estrella in round 2. Jarry is a clay court specialist but gets a wild card, while Estrella is merely an average player on hard courts. From there Isner is likely to face Atlanta semifinalist Vasek Pospisil, presuming Pospisil can physically recover from a grueling tournament in which he suffered cramping in the heat. Pospisil defends final points this year and will face Young/Haas round 2, Haas could trouble him, but I see Isner reaching the quarters and knocking him out. Pospisil is 2-1 against Isner but all of their matches have been close and Isner seems to have the form edge. Both players are big servers, but if Isner continues to win tiebreaks like he did in Atlanta that’ll be the difference.
Richard Gasquet should be in upset alert in his first match however, as Gilles Muller, the big serving veteran, is in excellent hard court form and could shock him. Muller, a semifinalist in singles and finalist in doubles in Atlanta, will face a struggling Malek Jaziri round 1 and has to win that before facing Gasquet. He also holds a 2-1 hard court record over the Frenchman, and presuming he’s not fatigued I have Muller upsetting Gasquet and then beating Jack Sock to reach the quarters. Sock struggled in the Atlanta heat and played poorly there but he’s still an American hard court talent with his dangerous forehand. His play in Atlanta aside he should beat Ruben Bemelmans/Marinko Matosevic in round 2, as Matosevic finally qualified and reached a main draw. Bemelmans has a solid hard court record but almost all of it comes below the main tour level and Matosevic has a h2h edge, his awful form this year aside. Sock should beat Bemelmans/Matosevic and then lose for a second time this year to Muller, as he also lost in a third set tiebreak in Indian Wells.
Grigor Dimitrov will have an easy round 2 match, as Atlanta finalist Marcos Baghdatis is nursing a leg injury, while qualifier Guido Pella prefers clay. It’s hard to predict that round 1 match, but regardless Dimitrov, who is a rather pedestrian 9-6 on hard courts this year, should first be tested in round 3 against either Steve Johnson or Bernard Tomic, both of whom could upset him. Tomic, the Bogota champion, will face Johnson in round 2, presuming Stevie J beats Lukas Lacko for the second week in a row. Their match in Atlanta went to three sets. Tomic is always hard to predict and he lost to Johnson on grass this year, but judging from his play in Bogota I have him reaching round 3 and then upsetting Dimitrov, who he is 0-2 against. Dimitrov simply seems to be in a malaise this year, and I feel Tomic is actually playing better.
Kei Nishikori is 17-5 on outdoor hard courts in 2015 and a solid 38-9 on the year overall, he may struggle in the heat but I still see him advancing past Ryan Harrison in his first match, presuming the qualifier Harrison beats James Duckworth. Nishikori has twice beaten Harrison this year as he simply does what Harrison does better from the baseline, along with being quicker. Kei should be on a minor upset alert in round 3 however, as Denis Kudla is in the form of his career and is on track to face him. Kudla, a semifinalist in Atlanta, has been on fire since he hired Billy Heiser as his coach, and appears to be fully committed to playing his best tennis. Denis, who is from D.C., should roll past Blaz Rola, then upset the seed Leonardo Mayer, who prefers clay (5-4 on hard courts in 2015), before facing Nishikori. Kei has a lone h2h win over Kudla, and Kudla is sort of a poor man’s Nishikori, still the heat factor may sway the match in the American’s favor. I don’t have him winning it, but I do see him coming close, though Nishikori is a quarterfinalist in my bracket.
Former finalist Viktor Troicki is in good form but he could have some trouble against the massive server Sam Groth in round 2. Troicki beat Groth this year on grass though, and the Aussie will need to defeat Thomaz Bellucci, who comes off of European clay where he posted solid results, in round 1. I have Troicki over Groth, and then past another great server, Feliciano Lopez, to reach the quarterfinals. Lopez comes off a semifinal on Gstaad clay, but he’s just 7-5 on hard courts this year, and could struggle in the hot conditions. The Spanish lefty will open with either Lleyton Hewitt or qualifier J.P. Smith as Hewitt continues his farewell tour against his in-form countryman. It’s hard to predict how Hewitt will do, but I still see him slipping past Smith before losing to Lopez. Hewitt is 4-1 against Lopez but he’s not the same player he once was. Troicki beat Lopez this year on clay, and otherwise has been in better form all season.
Marin Cilic, the defending US Open champion, has hardly played any hard court tennis this season, but his form has been improving steadily since returning from injury, and he appears to be back in top 20ish form in the least. Cilic should advance with relative ease over Sela/Chung but Sam Querrey could trouble him in the third round. Cilic is 3-0 against Querrey, but Querrey has been in good form while playing World Team Tennis for the local Washington Kastles. He’s actually an awful 1-6 on outdoor hard at the ATP level this year but he should beat Go Soeda/qualifier Darian King to reach round 3. King is making his ATP main draw debut at 23, while Soeda comes off a quarterfinal result in Atlanta. Look for Querrey over Soeda, and then Cilic past Querrey to secure a quarterfinal berth.
Big servers dominate the section above Cilic’s, as Kevin Anderson and Ivo Karlovic are seeded. Anderson is an excellent 11-4 over his last 15 matches (and 15-8 on hard courts this year). Presuming the South African is healthy and can maintain the form that nearly saw him upset Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, he should dispatch Nishioka/Zverev and setup a meeting with Karlovic in round 3. Dr. Ivo was reportedly “crammed into a coach seat” on a flight to D.C. but hopefully he can stretch out against 2012 Champion Alexandr Dolgopolov/Tim Smyczek. Dolgo beat Smyczek this year in Delray (2-0 h2h), and though he comes off a tough loss in Atlanta, Smyczek is in atrocious form and thus the Ukrainian has the edge. Dolgo has two previous hard court h2h wins over Ivo but he lost to him in a close Wimbledon 5 setter this year, and Karlovic was a Newport finalist and Bogota semifinalist in recent weeks, showing his good form. Prior to that he also reached the quarters in Den Bosch and the semis in Halle.
Anderson is 3-1 against Karlovic in the h2h and their styles are very similar, with both using big serves to setup the rest of their game, except two or three tiebreaks as being a strong possibility, but Anderson is higher ranked and should reach the quarters by doing the same thing, at a higher level.
I have the big serving Muller, who also has crisp volleys and returned better than he usually does in Atlanta, dealing with hot conditions once more and reaching yet another ATP semifinal in D.C., getting farther than that will be a tough ask, but the veteran has a great chance to continue to post good results and earn ranking points this week. He’ll have to upset Gasquet and likely Tomic/Dimitrov to get that far, but it’s a doable result given how much pressure he places on his opponents to hold their serves.
Murray d. Isner
Murray, one of the best pure returners in the game, is 4-0 against Isner, and though it should be a close match it’s hard to justify anyone but Murray reaching the semifinals in the first section this week.
Muller d. Tomic
If we do get a Muller vs. Tomic quarter, rather than Gasquet (6-4 on outdoor hard in 2015), Dimitrov or another name, Muller has the decided edge as he leads the h2h 4-0 and beat Tomic this year in Sydney. It’s a tough section to predict, but Muller has been impressive as of late and I see him making a shock run to the semifinals.
Cilic d. Anderson
Cilic is 5-1 against Anderson and though they aren’t that far apart in terms of ranking, Cilic has never lost to Kev on a hard court. Look for the Wimbledon quarterfinalist to follow up that result with a semifinal in D.C.
Nishikori d. Troicki
Nishikori is 4-1 against Troicki and has two wins against him this year, suggesting a matchup mismatch more than anything else. If Kei gets this far, he should reach the semis.
Semis: Murray d. Muller
Cilic d. Nishikori
Murray is 3-0 against Muller with two wins against him this year, same as was true against Isner, he’s one of the bets returners in the game and can neutralize big servers. Regardless of who faces in the semis, he’s a clear favorite for the final, and in fact the title itself.
We could have a rematch of the US Open final in the semis as Nishikori holds a 5-3 edge over Cilic in their rivalry, but Cilic has won all three of his matches on outdoor hard court (twice at the US Open). It’s hard to predict either way, but I feel Cilic is grooving into form and the conditions will favor him to reach the final.
Final: Murray d. Cilic
Murray is 10-2 against Cilic, and thus Nishikori would actually have a better chance to upset him in the final, regardless, look for Murray to claim his fourth ATP title this year, which would also be his first on hard courts. The absence of Djokovic and Federer makes this his tournament to lose as he preps for the US Open.