Quarterfinal day here at the Eastbourne International gave the fans plenty of excitement as it not only featured the top seeds of the tournament, but also home crowd favourites Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans. The marquee match arguably was on the women’s as two former world no.1’s, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep, battled it out for a place in the semifinals tomorrow.
Eventually, the current reigning Wimbledon champion, Kerber, defeated Halep comfortably in straight sets 6-4 5-3.
After the match, Simona Halep commented on how good Kerber played today: “She played really well today. I didn’t play bad. I think that I missed a little bit too much in some points, important points, and I didn’t take my chances. Also, in the second set, first game, I had 40-15 on my serve and I couldn’t take the game. But in my opinion, it was a good match.
When asked about her expectations about looking forward to Wimbledon: “Expectations are pretty okay in my head, but I don’t put pressure. Just match by match, and we will see how good I can be on grass this year.
Meanwhile, the battle of the Brits took place as British no.1 Kyle Edmund played his countryman Dan Evans. After dropping the first set 6-1, Edmund upped his intensity and won the subsequent two sets 6-3 6-4 and booked his place in the semifinals.
In his press conference after his match, Edmund said: “A poor start in terms of getting in the match. Like, you could say, yeah, credit to Dan for sort of putting his stamp on it. But also, I think I could have done a lot better and a lot more to stop that or put a bit more of my stamp on it.”
“But the best thing from that is to react to it, and I did. Just got more engaged. Put my sort of personality and engagement into the match and my game almost. I have good ability to be aggressive and take control of rallies and games, so it was really good for me, obviously not playing a lot of matches”
Other notable results worthy of mention are the third seed Kiki Bertens beating the eighth seed Belarusian, Aryna Sabalenka, in a three-set thriller 6-4 3-6 6-4. On the men’s side, two youngsters battled it out as Taylor Fritz beat Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4 7-6.
Tomorrow’s semifinal on the men’s side will be Brit Kyle Edmund taking on America’s Taylor Fritz and qualifier Thomas Fabbiano playing America’s Sam Querrey.
On the women’s side, the two semifinal matches will be the defending Wimbledon champion, Angelique Kerber taking on Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur and Czech’s Karolina Pliskova playing Kiki Bertens of Netherlands.
The biggest shock on Day 4 at the Eastbourne International was British women’s number one, Johanna Konta, beaten by world no. 62, Ons Jabeur in straight sets 6-3 6-2.
After the match, Konta analysed her match and said: “Well, to be honest, I mean, I think I just played an opponent who played very well today. I didn’t feel like I actually did too much wrong. Actually, I don’t think I did anything wrong. There is very few things I could have tried differently or more of, but to be honest, I actually thought I did quite well in the amount of questions I asked my opponent today, and she just was answering them every time.”
“It’s just she played incredibly well. She was able to get back balls from different positions of the court and hit winners from different positions of the court. Any changes of rhythm that I actually tried to give, yeah, she was just able to find her range and find her game from any balls that I gave her, which obviously makes it quite difficult for me not to be able to kind of put her on the back foot at all.”
When asked about whether she tried to change anything strategically in the game, Konta said: “I tried to obviously sometimes slow down the balls a bit because I know she absorbs pace very well. And then I tried to speed it up, because I tried to get at it that way. I tried to sometimes go through the middle a bit more. She was moving around the ball quite well. So then I tried to move it out wide.”
“She was moving well out wide (smiling). So then I tried to use slower slices. I tried to use faster slices. I actually thought I varied my serve quite well. I went through pretty much every serve I can hit.”
On the men’s side, the top two seeds were eliminated. America’s Taylor Fritz defeated the number one seed, Guido Pella in three close sets, 6-4 3-6 6-4. Also, the number two seed Laslo Djere was eliminated by qualifier Thomas Fabbiano in two tiebreak sets 7-6 7-6.
Looking ahead to Thursday, the marquee match on the women’s side will be former world no. 1 Simona Halep taking on defending Wimbledon champion, Angelique Kerber.
On the men’s side, it is the battle of the Brits, as British no.1 Kyle Edmund playing against his compatriot Dan Evans.
Edmund commented about his upcoming Evans match “He’s seeing the ball well. It’s another opportunity for me just in the match itself, forgetting about Dan… I just gotta get out there and play my best, really. Last few days I have been in a good place playing. I liked how I transferred that to the match court today. Hopefully I can keep improving.”
“Dan’s game is obviously, backhand probably 75% is slicing or something. I think there will be a bit more longer rallies with Dan because he slows up the ball a lot more.”
British no.1 Johanna Konta came through two tough sets today 6-4 7-6, against Greece’s Maria Sakkari to advance to the next round at the Eastbourne International.
After the match, Konta said: “Maria played well, to be honest. Yeah, no, I’m pleased I was able to stay calm and also just a good perspective. I don’t think anything major happened. It was important to see it that way and see the good things that I was doing. Yeah, I mean, it could have easily gone to a third set, so I definitely wasn’t taking anything for granted out there. Yeah, just pleased to have just, yeah, kept a good perspective and just competed well.”
“I’m very pleased to come through that. I think there was so little in it and in both sets. Our points actually felt that she was playing better than me, so I was just really pleased that I was able to stay with her and create a few opportunities and take a few of them. So, yeah, pleased I have come through.”
She will face Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in the third round, who she played back in 2015 in Sydney qualifying- a match that the Brit won comfortably in straight sets 6-2 6-2.
British player Dan Evans also came through today by beating Moldova’s Radu Albot 7-6 6-2. In the press conference, he said: “Today I felt a bit flat at the start but got into it. You know, I hung around a
lot last week, played dubs. So I was a bit lethargic at the start, but I thought I got going and I’m pretty happy with the end of that match. Yeah, it was a good match. It’s a great week for me.”
When asked about his thoughts about being back again competing in Eastbourne, Evans commented, “Yes, I mean, it’s nice to being back here, having another good match on grass before Wimbledon. That’s why I’m here. I like to play here on (the) grass, so I try to enjoy every match and every moment right now.”
Defending Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber had a tricky match-up as she played former top world 10 player, Samantha Stosur, but nevertheless prevailed in straight sets 6-4 6-4.
In her press conference, she discussed the differences between winning her maiden Grand Slam title in Australia and winning Wimbledon last year. “I think after I won Australia, a lot of things change. I mean, especially in Germany. It was so huge that someone after Steffi won the first Grand Slam, and, yeah, without expectation, I played in Australia and everything.”
“And of course then to winning Wimbledon as my third Grand Slam was even more special, because it was not just that I had the lucky draw or I just won my first one. It was my third one. And Wimbledon was always the tournament that I really would like to win one day.”
Other notable mentions are sixth seed Simona Halep taking out Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei 6-2 6-0 and Caroline Wozniacki beating Andrea Petkovic 6-4 6-4.
2017 ATP Dubai Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP World Tour returns to the Middle East for ritzy 500 level action in Dubai, where a host of elite ATP players are vying for the title. Here is your preview with predictions of the Dubai tennis championships.
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
February 27-March 4, 2017
Prize Money: $2,429,150
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Andy Murray (1)
2: Stan Wawrinka (3)
3: Roger Federer (9)
4: Gael Monfils (12)
A solid field features in Dubai, including three top-10 ranked Grand Slam champions.
First round matches to watch:
Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (8)Gilles Muller
Kohli has yet to find rthymn this season while Muller hasn’t had great draws since winning Sydney. Despite the h2h in favor of the German, Muller should be able to serve well enough to gain a narrow victory in this one.
(3)Roger Federer vs. Benoit Paire
Federer has never lost to Paire, and of course he won the Australian Open. Paire meanwhile has dropped three straight matches after posting an ATP semi a couple of weeks ago. Still this is a great style matchup between one handed backhands, Paire likely doesn’t believe he can win this, but this is a form check match for Federer.
Daniel Evans vs. Dustin Brown
Brown hasn’t played well since injuring his back, but he’s still a dangerous serve and volleyer if the surface plays quick. Evans is in the midst of a tremendous 2017, and will look to continue to the momentum in this tournament stop. His one handed backhanded should be good enough to gain a victory, but Brown is a tricky opponent.
Andy Murray will start his journey in Dubai against Malek Jaziri, who always gets local crowd support. He should win that match, and then defeat either Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or more likely Viktor Troicki to reach the quarterfinals. Waiting for him in the quarters should be Muller/Kohlschreiber, but Daniil Medvedev is an intriguing dark horse. The Russian has two quarterfinals and an ATP final this season. He’s posted rapid improvements at a young age, and I have him outgunning Muller before falling to Murray in the quarters.
Seven-time Dubai champion Roger Federer will face a qualifier or Mikhail Youzhny after taking on Paire. Federer should beat the veteran Youzhny, and then face the finalist in Marseille Lucas Pouille. Pouille found form in France and should put away a struggling Adam Pavlasek, then J.L. Struff or a qualifier to reach the quarterfinals. A fresher Federer has the edge on Pouille.
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka starts his title defense against Damir Dzumhur, with Jiri Vesely or Marcel Granollers to follow. None of the players in this section are in great form, Wawrinka should be fresh and focused though. In the quarterfinals Tomas Berdych, 8-3 in 2017, looms. Berdych faces a qualifier first, with Robin Haase or a qualifier to follow in a weak section. Wawrinka leads the h2h with Berdych 11-5 and has dominated the matchup recently, he should reach the semifinals.
Two talented shotmakers, Roberto Bautista Agut and Gael Monfils, should face off in the quarterfinals. Monfils faces wild card Mohamed Safwat, with Evans/Brown to follow, while RBA will face a struggling Karen Khachanov, with Florian Mayer or Fernando Verdasco to follow. Only RBA has form in this section and should reach the quarters. Monfils has a 3-0 h2h against RBA and is the favorite to reach the semifinals.
The Monfils/RBA section is the weakest part of the draw, creating an opening for Evans to perhaps reach the quarterfinals or better if he plays his best tennis. The Brit is a solid part of the ATP tour at this point, but with his game still improving, he could become more than that.
Semis Federer d. Murray
Wawrinka d. Monfils
Federer has won five straight against Murray, while Wawrinka has a 3-2 h2h edge over Monfils. Given his form in Melbourne, Federer is the favorite against the world #1.
Final Federer d. Wawrinka
Federer has a 19-3 h2h win over Wawrinka and a h2h this year, we could see an all-Swiss final, and Roger will be the favorite.
Week 1 at the 2017 Australian Open is in the books, and what a week it’s been. World #1 Novak Djokovic fell to a stunning five set defeat in round 2 at the hands of qualifying wild card Denis Istomin, who started the tournament ranked outside of the top 100. That opens up the bottom half of the draw, and makes it more likely that we’ll have a new Grand Slam champion, and perhaps finalist as well. Here is your look ahead to week 2, with predictions for what’s to come.
Round of 16 matches
(1)Andy Murray vs. Mischa Zverev
Murray hasn’t dropped a set through three matches. Illya Marchenko and Sam Querrey both gave it a good effort, while teenager Andrey Rublev didn’t play quite as well, but regardless, the world #1 is the favorite to take his first ever Aussie Open title.
Zverev continues a late career breakthrough, he stunned John Isner 9-7 in a 5th set in round 2, and also earned wins over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Malek Jaziri. Zverev’s serve and volleying has been difficult to stop thus far, but Murray is a tremendous returner, and is a clear favorite in this match with a 3-0 h2h.
(17)Roger Federer vs. (5)Kei Nishikori
Federer has beaten Nishikori the past three times they met, and hasn’t dropped a set outside of his round 1 victory against Jurgen Melzer. Noah Rubin and Tomas Berdych were both dominated by the Swiss maestro, who is fit, and highly motivated at age 35.
Nishikori struggled with his serve, needing five sets to put away Andrey Kuznetsov in round 1, but has looked much better in matches against Jeremy Chardy and Lukas Lacko that were both completed in straights. Nishikori has the game to trouble Federer, but the Swiss veteran is a clear favorite, his aggressive ball striking should be superior in this one.
(4)Stan Wawrinka vs. Andreas Seppi
Wawrinka has won the last three meetings against Seppi, and although he’s had a shaky start, dropping sets in two of his three matches, he’s still a dangerous player left in the draw. Stan the man needed five sets against big hitter Martin Klizan, beat Steve Johnson in straights, and then narrowly avoided five sets against Viktor Troicki, winning a fourth set tiebreak. Seppi should be a bit exhausted as he dropped sets against both Paul-Henri Mathieu and Steve Darcis. In round 2, Seppi stunned Nick Kyrgios 10-8 in the 5ht set, coming back from two sets down to defeat the home favorite. Seppi’s steady play contrasted with Kyrgios roller coaster form, and eventually frustrated the young gun into defeat.
Seppi’s steadiness will likely trouble Wawrinka as well, but Wawrinka should tighten his game up and hit enough winners to prevail.
(12)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Dan Evans
The former AO finalist Tsonga got a huge win over Jack Sock in four sets in his last match, and he’s also defeated Thiago Monteiro and Dusan Lajovic to reach the second week. The in-form Evans is playing the best tennis of his career. The new top 50 player has won seven of his last eight matches, behind a powerful and versatile one-handed backhand. Evans upset Bernard Tomic, and also Marin Cilic in four sets, in consecutive matches, he also beat Facundo Bagnis in round 1.
Tsonga is a good attacking player, but Evans motivation has been something to watch recently. I’m going with an upset, and have Evans reaching a first ever slam quarterfinal.
(6)Gael Monfils vs. (9)Rafael Nadal
Nadal leads the h2h 12-2. Having lost weight, Rafa is playing better on hard courts than he has in recent years, and he looks fit, and newly aggressive on his groundstrokes, taking the ball earlier in rallies. The Spaniard needed five sets to defeat a powerful Alexander Zverev in round 3, as he outlasted the young gun with strong defensive play. Rafa also had easy wins against Florian Mayer, and Marcos Baghdatis in round 1 and 2.
Monfils has wins against Jiri Vesely, Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Philipp Kohlschreiber, dropping just a set to Dolgopolov. The Frenchman is playing quite well right now, but I don’t think he’s good matchup for Nadal, given Nadal’s top spin tends to push him back and away from the baseline.
(13)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. (3)Milos Raonic
Milos Raonic is suffering from flu, but leads the h2h 4-0 against RBA and is playing well, with his serve, volleys, and groundstrokes all clicking. Raonic defeated Dustin Brown, Gilles Muller, and Gilles Simon through three rounds, dropping just a set to Simon.
RBA dropped a set to David Ferrer, but he’s in a great form, having posted routine wins against Guido Pella and Yoshihito Nishioka. RBA is 7-0 to start the season, but unless his return game improves considerably, Raonic has to be the favorite.
(8)Dominic Thiem vs. (11)David Goffin
Thiem has won three of his last four matches against Goffin and the young Austrian continues to cement himself as a top 10 player. Wins against J.L. Struff, Jordan Thompson, and Benoit Paire allowed him to reach the second week, even though he dropped sets in all three matches.
Goffin is also a picture of steady tennis, after slipping past Reilly Opelka in five sets in round 1, he had no trouble with Radek Stepanek, and Ivo Karlovic, winning those matches in straight sets. The qualifier Opelka’s versatile game bothered Goffin, and Thiem isn’t the easiest opponent. That said, Thiem was having problems on serve in his last match, and seems to still be suffering from shoulder problems. Goffin is a clear favorite.
Outside of a bad set against Hyeon Chung in round 2, Grigor Dimitrov has been playing great, posting eight straight wins, including routine victories over Chris O’Connell and Richard Gasquet. Most people expected Gasquet to put up a better showing, but Dimitrov simply dismantled him, playing especially well on return games.
The draw has opened up, thanks to Denis Istomin. Istomin was nearly defeated in a pre-qualifier to gain a wild card to the AO, but instead he played the match of his life, handing Novak Djokovic his worst defeat since 2008 with a confident five set victory. Djokovic started the match slow, and never was able to gather momentum, Istomin’s great ball striking and confident serving allowed him to overcome leg cramps to win two tiebreaks, and the fifth set. Djokovic was especially poor on return and spewed errors. Istomin’s first victim was Ivan Dodig in round 1, and Pablo Carreno Busta lost to Istomin in round 3, falling in five sets, after taking the 4th set.
Istomin has proven that he may be set for a return to being an ATP regular, but Dimitrov is the more consistent and higher ranked player. Istomin’s run should end in the round of 16.
Predictions for the remaining rounds
Quarters Murray d. Federer in 4
Wawrinka d. Evans in 3
Raonic d. Nadal in 5
Dimitrov d. Goffin in 4
Murray will have a difficult match against Federer, but the fresher, younger, and better player at this point in their careers should prevail. Wawrinka’s backhand is better than Evans, and his experience should win out. Raonic and Nadal is a tough match to call, but on hard courts I’ll still go with Raonic. Dimitrov should have more upside than Goffin given his recent form.
Semis Murray d. Wawrinka in 4
Raonic d. Dimitrov in 5
Murray and Raonic should be clear favorites to reach the final, Dimitrov is a wild card to reach his first ever slam final though, depending on Raonic’s health.
Final Murray d. Raonic in 4
Raonic’s serve is a great weapon, but Murray’s elite return game neutralizes that. The World #1 should win his first ever Australian Open title, defeating Raonic just like he did in the Wimbledon final.
Sock and Muller Claim Rare ATP Titles in Run Up to Melbourne Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Jack Sock rose to a career high top 20 ranking with his second career ATP title. The 24 year old American continued his red hot start to the 2017 season by claiming the championship in Auckland, where he reached the final last year. Sock’s win over Joao Sousa was a thrilling contest ending 6-3 5-7 6-3. Sock went up a set thanks to great returning and looked set to win in straights, but Sousa fought back for a late break with some tremendous shotmaking. Sousa would then go up a break in the third, but he surrendered two further breaks in the third set to hand Sock the hard fought trophy.
Sousa beat Albert Ramos, Brydan Klein, Robin Haase, and Marcos Baghdatis to reach his eight career ATP final, dropping to a 2-6 career record in those finals.
Sock moved to a 2-5 career ATP final record thanks to wins over Ryan Harrison, Jeremy Chardy, and Steve Johnson. Three of his four match wins this week came in three sets, as the Auckland crowd certainly enjoyed watching him battle.
Marcin Matkowski and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi defeated Jonathan Erlich and Scott Lipsky in the doubles final.
Gilles Muller won his first ever ATP title at 33 years of age with a 7-6 6-2 victory over Britain’s Daniel Evans. Muller started the Sydney tournament as one of the best players to never win a title, and ended it as a very happy ATP champion. Muller was 0-5 in previous ATP finals, but Evans, playing in his first ever ATP title at age 26, wasn’t up to the task of dismantling his effective serves.
Muller dropped sets against Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Matthew Barton before going on to defeat Pablo Cuevas, and Viktor Troicki in straight sets. Evans had three set contests all week, defeating Thiago Monteiro, Marcel Granollers, Dominic Thiem, and Andrey Kuznetsov. His one hand backhand continues to improve and he appears set to secure his place on the ATP stage in 2017. His win over Thiem was one of the best of his career, as he outlasted the Austrian late in the match.
Dutch pairing Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop defeated Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares in the doubles final.
Garcia-Lopez Upset, Verdasco Advances, Tuesday at 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic\
The Spaniards at the 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and Fernando Verdasco had mixed results on Tuesday when both were in action on stadium court. A lengthy rain delay made the match between Garcia-Lopez and Horacio Zeballos take most of the afternoon, as Zeballos prevailed in an upset victory 6-3 6-7 6-4 over the Spaniard in two and a half hours of match play.
Both players got off to a shaky start, but were able to hold their serves until the eight game of the match, where Zeballos broke Garcia-Lopez, and held the next game at love to capture the first set. Garcia-Lopez struggled mightily with his serve all match, his first serve percentage was under 50%, and the quality of his serves was lacking. Both players also hit a number of slow, and high spinners from their backhand side, as they didn’t seem entirely comfortable on hard court compared to clay. The hot conditions also took their toll on the volunteers, as well as the players, as a ball girl passed out in the first set, causing a delay.
Despite his troubles on serve, Garcia-Lopez didn’t waver in the second set, saving a break point in his opening service game, and breaking Zeballos, who also served poorly, but methodically, to go up 3-1. Zeballos would break back, but had to save four set points to send the match into a second set tiebreak. Zeballos lost three straight points from 5-4 up in the tiebreak, and the match was sent into a third set.
Garcia-Lopez played a poor third set however, as he was broken at love with a miserable game serving 1-2, and Zeballos would go 5-4 up, before rain came, and the Argentine had to wait over an hour to try to serve the match out. He was broken easily when the players returned to court, and Garcia-Lopez was given a second life, however, he was broken and lost the match in the next game serving 4-5, as Zeballos converted his second match point/break point opportunity. The frustrated Garcia-Lopez slammed his racquet on the ground, as Zeballos let out a roar of excitement. It was just not to be for GGL on the day. The win improves Zeballos to 11-5 in hard court matches this season, and he has reached the second round of an ATP main draw for the second tournament in a row.
Fernando Verdasco had better luck on the day against Dusan Lajovic, winning 7-6 6-4. A cagey match saw neither player earning a break point chance early and the first set going to a tiebreak. Verdasco took the initiative when needed, and then broke Lajovic midway through the second set, and held serve after facing two break points in the next game to go up 4-2. Lajovic was nearly ousted quicker than he was as he could have went down a double break, but he saved three break points to hold, and Verdasco went on to serve it out 6-4. Verdasco’s forehand was all he needed to dictate play on a hard court and smack winners when needed.
French veteran Julien Benneteau played his best match of the season to earn a 6-4 6-2 win over J.P. Smith. Benneteau has just two ATP main draw wins this year now, but his game has clearly picked up. Benny didn’t face a single break point, as Smith meekly conceded three breaks in total and was wiped off the court.
Lucky loser Tobias Kamke made the best of his luck after the withdrawal of Ivan Dodig, upsetting Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-6 7-6 to reach the round of 16 in two hours. Stako blew two set point chances in the first set tiebreak, and he faced pressure on his serve most of the day, as his serve and volley skills were lacking consistency, while Kamke was more consistent with his groundstrokes on the day. Stako’s struggles this season continued as his high risk style of play saw him getting passed at the net when it mattered. Stako was playing better in the second set and went up 4-2, looking prepared to force a third set, but he was broken back in the next game, and had to save break points serving 4-4 and 5-5 to eventually force a second set tiebreak. Kamke dominated that tiebreak, going 5-0 up, and he would eventually take it 7-2.
Yoshihito Nishioka showed signs of improvement in dealing with American heat, as he got past Dan Evans 6-2 6-7 7-6 in a match that also saw a lengthy rain delay late in the third set that paused play for over an hour. In Washington, Nishioka wilted in the hot conditions, but this time it was Evans struggling with his fitness, as the British man earned no break point chances in the first set, and was broken twice with relative ease, including at love serving 2-5. Evans went down a set and a break twice in the second set, and looked ready to hit the showers when he was 4-2, and 5-3 down.
Nishioka got tight serving the match out and after having to save three break point chances against Evans, he found himself dominated in the second tiebreak, going down 4-0, and losing it 7-2. Nishioka had two more bp chances early in the third, and rain came at 4-3 in the third. Nishioka found himself broken when he returned to court, and Evans had three match point chances from 40-15 up in the next game. However, Nishioka’s speed got him back into the match, and after saving a fourth match point chance in his next service game, Nishioka converted his second match point chance to take the victory in three hard fought sets to the delight of a few local Japanese fans.
Last, but certainly not least, Americans Taylor Fritz and Bjorn Fratangelo were big winners on the day. Fritz dominated college standout Austin Smith 6-2 6-2, despite loud chants for Smith throughout the match. The young American’s power from the baseline was too much for the Georgia Bulldog. Fratangelo rolled past Igor Sijsling 6-1 7-6. Early in the first he broke, and had to save six break point chances in an extremely long first service game, but Sijsling wilted from there. Fratangelo went a set and a break up, although he couldn’t serve it out, the Dutchman never really got a shot at a third set, as the American had the match in hand.
In the lone ATP doubles match on the day, Chris Eubanks and Zack Kennedy upset Thiago Monteiro and Nishioka in a narrowly fought third set tiebreak, as the pairing of local NCAA players produce some late magic to stay in the tournament.
Americans will feature in all of the four singles matches that are set to take place today at the BB&T Atlanta Open. Big men Kevin Anderson and Reilly Opelka will battle with their big serves, while Tim Smyczek and Donald Young fight it out for a much needed quarterfinal berth after that. In the night session, John Isner starts his quest for a fourth ATP Atlanta title against Adrian Mannarino, and Fritz will face Fratangelo in a battle of young Americans. Five ATP doubles matches will take place as well.
2016 ATP Atlanta Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The only ATP tournament this week is the final stop before Rio, the 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open. Tennis Atlantic will have live coverage all week once again this year.
BB&T Atlanta Open
ATP World Tour 250
Atlanta, GA, USA
August 1-7, 2016
Prize Money: $618,030
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: John Isner (16)
2: Nick Kyrgios (19)
3: Kevin Anderson (34)
4: Alexandr Dolgopolov (38)
A pair of top 20 players highlight the field in Atlanta, and rankings drop much lower from there.
First round matchups to watch:
(Q)Chris Eubanks vs. (WC)Reilly Opelka
Both these young Americans have promise, and Eubanks will have home support and momentum after qualifying. Still, the tall Opelka is continuing to develop nicely and looks to have a future perhaps on par with top seed John Isner, who shares the big frame of Opelka.
Sergiy Stakhovsky vs. Ivan Dodig
Stako has a h2h win over Dodig, who has lost four straight matches and is in terrible form. Stakhovsky has just two hard court wins this year at the ATP level, but Dodig has the same poor record, and thus Stako should have an edge in this match between serve and volleyers.
Groth has two wins against Donaldson, but he’s had an awful season and has lost three straight matches. The massive server has done little to develop the rest of his game, and has just two hard court wins at the ATP level this year. Donaldson qualified in both Washington and Toronto, and he’s six of his last eight matches, including a round of 16 result in Toronto. With Donaldson playing this well, it’s time he got his first win against Groth and continued his strong run of recent results.
Three-time defending champion John Isner is one of the favorites to take home a record fourth title in Atlanta. The American #1 will open with either Adrian Mannarino or qualifier Mischa Zverev as he looks to improve on his pedestrian play as of late. Isner is just 9-6 on hard courts this year, a poor record for him, but Mannarino isn’t in great form, and thus Isner should advance to the quarters like he did in Washington.
Memphis finalist Taylor Fritz hasn’t been playing well lately and has just two ATP wins since the end of the clay court season. Regardless, he’ll be the favorite against UGA’s top player Austin Smith, a wild card making his ATP debut, and he also should defeat either Bjorn Fratangelo, or Igor Sijsling, both of whom are challenger level players. Isner over Fritz is a safe pick in the quarters given Fritz struggles with consistently big servers like Isner.
Kevin Anderson has had a poor season, but he played surprisingly well in Toronto, reaching the quarterfinals, and should be able to continue that positive momentum if he can stay healthy. Anderson should get young gun winner of Eubanks/Opelka, then defeat Donald Young/Austin Krajicek or Tim Smyczek/Thiago Monteiro, probably Young, to reach the semifinals. Smyczek qualified in Toronto, and has an outside shot at the quarters. Young rarely plays well at home in Atlanta, but he’s been in decent form recently, and Krajicek came through qualifying.
Nick Kyrgios is playing just his third ATP 250 of the season, and making his debut in Atlanta. The young Aussie is 26-11 on the year, but he comes off an abysmal loss to teenager Denis Shapovalov in Toronto where he showed a complete lack of effort, and was poor on serve. If Kyrgios plays up to the level he’s capable of, he should cruise past Donaldson or Groth, and then most likely Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals, but he could be headed for another early exit if his head isn’t in the right place.
Verdasco is playing for the first time since Wimbledon and he wasn’t in great form the last time he played. Still he’s 18-14 on the season and his experience and ability outweights Serbian Dusan Lajovic, who is poor on hard courts, and his round 2 opponent, either Julien Benneteau, or qualifier J.P. Smith. Benneteau has been terrible this year as the French veteran has struggled to return from injury. Kyrgios should be able to power past Verdasco given a previous h2h win last year on hard courts.
Alexandr Dolgopolov will have to deal with hot conditions, and he’s won just one of his last three matches, but the inconsistent shotmaker is still the favorite to reach the quarterfinals out of his section. Dan Evans showed promise at Wimbledon and Washington, but he comes off a challenger match loss, and faces off with Japanese speed demon Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round. Nishioka could knock off Evans, as he showed good form in recent challengers. Evans is a bit of a dark horse, but Dolgopolov over Evans is my bracket pick.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez hasn’t had a great season, but Horacio Zeballos is a dirtballer who doesn’t play well on hard courts, and his round 2 opponent would be either Stakhovsky or Dodig, both of whom have been awful this season. Although Stakhovsky is another possible dark horse, Garcia-Lopez should reach the quarterfinals, before most likely falling to Dolgopolov’s shotmaking. He’s 3-1 against Dolgo, but those wins did not come on hard courts, Dolgopolov’s best surface.
Evans showed tremendous promise in a comprehensive upset of Grigor Dimitrov in Washington. With an open field, and an open section of the draw, a big win over Dolgopolov would give Evans a shot to go as far as the semifinals without facing either of the top two seeds who are the real threats this tournament.
Semis Isner d. Anderson
Kyrgios d. Dolgopolov
Isner hasn’t been playing well, but he always gets rejuvenated playing in front of friends and family in Atlanta, along with the raucous crowd. Anderson could knock him off given his recent form, but I can’t expect it. Kyrgios is a strong favorite to make the final if he doesn’t lose his focus.
Final Isner d. Kyrgios
It’s hard to pick against Isner in Atlanta if he’s healthy. Isner having a h2h win last year on hard court also works in his favor.
Dimitrov and Bouchard Fall on Tuesday at Citi Open Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Fan favorites Grigor Dimitrov and Eugenie Bouchard crashed out of the Citi Open on Tuesday at the hands of Dan Evans and Camila Giorgi respectively. Dimitrov played with malaise in the afternoon heat, creating an opportunity for Evans that he seized upon. The Brit dictated with his one handed backhand and came away with a 6-4 6-4 victory in less than an hour and a half of play. Dimitrov was broken in the opening game of the match, then broken once more after breaking back. He had a chance at the end of the first set to get the match to 5-5, but failed to do so.
In the second set, it was more of the same, with Evans steady on his serve, snuffing out chances for Dimitrov. Evans attacked Dimitrov’s serve and ended up 5-2 up, and serving for the match. He had three match points serving 5-2, but Dimitrov clawed back, and made a late rally, holding at love to force Evans to serve for the match once again at 5-4. Despite the final game going to deuce, a fifth match point was finally the clincher for Evans, as Dimitrov’s baseline game simply broke down when it mattered. A woeful season continues for Dimitrov, while Evans is perhaps making his move into a regular ATP tour quality player.
Bouchard, another would be star who has had woeful results this season, fell to Giorgi 7-5 6-4. She was behind the entire first set, at one point 4-1 down, only to break back, before eventually being broken on her own serve when serving to force a first set tiebreak. In the second set, the story repeated itself, with Giorgi going 4-2 up, Bouchard breaking back, but losing her own serve at 4-5 with the match on the line. Giorgi only had one match point, but it’s all she needed to score a big win.
In other WTA results, Naomi Broady defeated Irina Falconi 6-3 6-4, Sabine Lisicki was all smiles against Kristina Kucova 6-3 7-5, Christina McHale got past the unorthodox Monica Niculescu 6-3 6-4, Tamira Paszek defeated qualifier Lauren Albanese 6-3 6-4, Monica Puig won the lone battle on the day against Oceane Dodin 6-2 4-6 6-3 in two hours, and Risa Ozaki stunned Sloane Stephens 6-2 6-1 in less than an hour. Stephens played one of her worst matches of the season, while Puig looked dominant until she didn’t against Dodin, and had to fight her way back.
In the lone ATP doubles match on the day, Lukasz Kubot and Alexander Peya won a tight battle against Brian Baker and Austin Krajicek 4-6 6-2 10-8.
As for ATP singles, there were a lot of close tiebreak matches on the day. Brian Baker needed two tiebreaks to defeat the big serving Sam Groth. Groth was poor on return, as is usual, but just a few points difference separated the two men, as a frustrated Groth easily could have been the winner instead. Fellow American Ryan Harrison didn’t play incredibly great, but he still defeated a likely jet-lagged Stephane Robert 7-6 6-3. Ivan Dodig retired down 6-2 4-2 against Yoshihito Nishioka, as he was also feeling the effects of fatigue.
Austin Krajicek lost twice on the day, as he also fell in singles at the hands of Rendy Lu, 6-1 7-6. Donald Young found himself in a tight contest with lower ranked qualifier Ernesto Escobedo, he eventually prevailed 6-4 3-6 6-3, as Escobedo had few chances in the third set to get back into the match. Tall American Reilly Opelka battled hard for what would have been a big win against Malek Jaziri, but Jaziri was steady on his own serve, despite his struggles against the American’s height. The match finished 6-7 7-6 7-6, as late in the third set, Opelka was experiencing shoulder pain and had to call the trainer. With as well as he played against an ATP tour regular, Opelka showed more than a glimpse of his potential.
Another young gun, Denis Shapovalov, put up quite the contest against an ATP regular. Lukas Lacko needed three sets against the young Canadian, winning 7-6 4-6 6-4. The first set of the match featured four breaks of serve, while the second had just one, which went against Lacko. Shapovalov tightened up his game as the match went on, while Lacko forced him to hit a lot of his one handed backhands, a lethal, but at times erratic shot for him. In the third, Shapovalov was serving to make it 5-5, but found himself broken on match point, sending Lacko into the next round by the skin of his teeth. Despite the loss, it’s clear Shapovalov has the game to compete well on the ATP tour as a young gun.
Alexandr Dolgopolov found himself in a two hour war against Jordan Thompson. Dolgo was cruising up 6-4 in the first set, and connecting on his blistering shots from both wings. He played a miserable second set however, losing it 6-1, and in the third set, he was a comfortable 5-2 up, before getting broken and eventually forced into a third set tiebreak, a tiebreak that he got ahead in, and didn’t look back, taking the match 6-4 1-6 7-6. Though he surely wished the match had been easier, Dolgopolov packed the stands with his exciting play.
In late action, Benoit Paire dominated Jared Donaldson 6-0 7-5, and Sam Querrey came back from a shock first set dropped against Bjorn Fratangelo to win 6-7 6-4 6-4. Querrey wasn’t broken in the match until late in the third set, and at that point he was still 5-3 up, and served the match out in his next service game to earn an important victory. Thunderstorms moved in late on Tuesday, interrupting Steve Johnson vs. Adrian Mannarino (4-2 for Johnson), Kristina Mladenovic vs. Samantha Crawford (6-2 1-3), and Lauren Davis vs. Shelby Rogers (4-4). Those matches will be completed today.
The tournament marches on today with big matches on both the ATP and WTA side as the top seeds take to the court.
Fritz, Donaldson Lead Citi Open Monday ATP Winners Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
After rain delayed the start of first round ATP action at the 2016 Citi Open on Monday, the matches took to the court, and all of them were able to be completed with a late night finish in Washington.
Young Americans Taylor Fritz and Jared Donaldson were big winners on the day. Fritz rolled past Israeli veteran Dudi Sela 6-4 6-3 in just under an hour and a half. It was domination for Fritz, as he wasn’t broken in the match. This result should boost his confidence heading into a second round contest with fellow young gun Alexander Zverev, in which he’ll be an underdog.
Donaldson took two hours to defeat fellow qualifier Vincent Millot 5-7 6-2 6-4. It was huge of him to take control of the match from a set down and reverse course to grab a victory. A long first set saw three breaks of serve, with the key one going to Millot. In the third set Donaldson was 5-1 up, but nearly let Millot claw back, eventually closing the match out on his first and only match point opportunity at 5-4 serving.
Bjorn Fratangelo defeated fellow American Alex Kuznetsov 4-6 6-2 6-4, completing a comeback like Donaldson did in two hours of play. Players with D.C. ties were not as lucky however. Denis Kudla continued his struggles, losing to John Millman 7-5 6-0, and Frances Tiafoe battled hard in a red eye match against Adrian Mannarino, but the veteran Frenchman prevailed 7-6(4) 7-5. In both sets, Tiafoe served up a break, and in fact he was 3-0 up in the second set, but the pressure got to him, and Mannarino was able to come back and capture both sets, breaking Tiafoe when the young American was serving for a second set tiebreak, that could have led to a third set.
In other action, Dan Evans dominated Benjamin Becker and came up with some stunning shots, the Brit won 6-2 6-1. James Duckworth rolled past Tim Smyczek 7-5 6-1, and fellow Aussie Jordan Thompson joined him in the winners circle, 6-3 6-2 against the struggling Victor Estrella.
In the lone upset on the day, Yuichi Sugita knocked off Vasek Pospisil after getting breadsticked in the first set. That match finished 1-6 6-2 7-6(4) with a thrilling closing act. The final set featured no breaks of serve, as the big serving Pospisil was steady, but faltered in the tiebreak. It’s been a rough season for the Canadian, and he looks almost certain to fall out of the top 100 now, after just five main draw wins this season.
Looking ahead to Tuesday in Washington, along with the completion of first round ATP action, Grigor Dimitrov will face Evans, Alex Dolgopolov will face Thompson, Donaldson will be opposite Benoit Paire, Fratangelo faces Sam Querrey, and Mannarino will look to oust another American, Steve Johnson. Brian Baker will pull double duty as he plays both singles and doubles on Tuesday.