Taro Daniel and Facundo Bagnis Triumph During Rio Open Qualifying Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
As the Rio de Janeiro Olympics swiftly approach, players will have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the Brazilian climate at this week’s Rio Open. Headed by the Spanish duo of Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, qualifying for the main draw of the tournament was a tough task in itself for the 16-strong field.
France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu was the top seed in the draw. The 34-year-old entered the tournament with good form after recently reaching the final of the Montpellier Open, the tenth ATP final of his career. Unfortunately for Mathieu he failed to win his first ATP title since 2009 after losing to Richard Gasquet.
Switching from hard to clay didn’t appear too troublesome for Mathieu in his opening match against Brazilian world No.155 Andre Ghem. Despite dropping his service twice (one in each set) the top seed broke his opponent four times to secure the 6-3, 6-4, win. The win moved Mathieu to a showdown with Spain’s Daniel Gimeno-Traver. Traver has played in 21 ATP Challenger finals, 20 of which has been on clay. Mathieu’s Brazilian journey came to an unfortunate end after he retired at 2-2 in the second set due to a yet to be confirmed injury, elevating Gimeno-Traver to the main draw.
There was better news for Japanese second seed Taro Daniel. Daniel, who has an American father and a Japanese mother, started his Rio campaign against Brazilian youngster Orlando Luz. The 18-year-old won the Wimbledon Boys’ doubles title in 2014 and is also a two-time Youth Olympic medalist (gold in doubles and silver in singles). The world No.94 was made to battle in both sets before winning 6-3, 6-4, after 90 minutes on the court. Next up for Daniel was clay court specialist Facundo Argüello. Unlike many other players, the Argentine has played on clay continuously since the start of 2016. Arguello reached the second round after defeating Blaz Rola 3-6, 6-2,6-1. The final encounter was a roller coaster journey for Daniel, who recovered from a set down to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Argentinian pride was restored by third seed Facundo Bagnis, who survived a two-hour opening match. Facing compatriot Maximo Gonzalez, the world No.97 battled to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The next opponent for him was Spain’s Albert Montanes. The Spanish sixth seed also endured a testing opening match, winning 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-0 against Brazil’s José Pereira. The opening set between Bagnis and Montanes was highly competitive as the Argentine broke his opponent for the second time of the match to seal the opening set. Bagnis then had to fight back at the start of the second set after being broken to love. Staging a successful comeback, the third seed broke Montanes twice in the second set to lead 6-4, 5-2, before his opponent surprisingly retires. Similar to Mathieu, there were no details concerning the nature of his retirement.
Grabbing the final spot was Portugal’s Gastao Elias. During the Argentina Open the world No.113 produced some outstanding tennis against Dominic Thiem. The problem for the Portuguese player was this his inconsistent play got the better of him as Thiem clinched the win in three sets. Elias continued his encouraging form in Rio with a first round win over Chile’s Hans Podlipnik (6-2, 6-2). The reward for his was a showdown with home favorite Rogerio Dutra Silva. Silva appeared on course to a crushing win after taking the first set in 34 minutes, however, Elias triumphantly battled back to win 1-6, 7-5,6-2. Elias won 56% of his service points, firing six aces against Silva.
First round matches
Q Taro Daniel JAP – Inigo Cervantes ESP
Q Facundo Bagnis ARG – Pablo Cuevas URA
Q Daniel Gimeno-Traver ESP – Juan Monaco ARG
Q Gastao Elias POR – Santiago Giraldo COL
The ATP quality player heavy Mutua Madrid Open qualifying concluded Sunday with five seeded players, and two unseeded players filling out the qualifying spots, while a lucky loser was also placed in the draw, due to Tommy Robredo pulling out of the tournament with an injury.
Aussie young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis improved to a remarkable 13-0 in qualifying at the ATP level this year as he scored big wins over Matteo Viola and Janko Tipsarevic to qualify. Tipsarevic has been improving his results since returning from injury, and he’s had success in Madrid before, but Kokkinakis was clutch and won a third set tiebeak 7-4 to advance in three sets, after dropping the second set.
Daniel Gimeno-Traver continued his tremendous run of form over the past few weeks on clay, the 29 year old Spanish grinder, who reached the final in Casablanca, the semis in Bucharest, and the quarters in Istanbul, will now have a chance to improve his results at the Masters level. He rolled over Javier Marti and Marsel Ilhan, as neither were a challenge compared to Roger Federer, who he took a set against in Istanbul.
Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia was 1-4 in his last five matches on clay going into the Madrid qualifying, but he scored a pair of quality wins, as he defeated Kenny De Schepper in 3 sets, and then upset Joao Sousa in 3 sets as well. Sousa would later be placed in the draw as a lucky loser though, so his day wasn’t entirely ruined. Gonzalez has struggled this season, but perhaps this run in qualifying can be the spark he needs to carry him into the summer.
Albert Ramos will be another Spanish player in the main draw of Madrid, the 27 year old lefty with his spinning shots beat Ivan Dodig via 3rd set retirement and then rolled over Ricardas Berankis to qualify. He’s actually struggled on clay this year, but historically it’s been his best surface, and he’s looking to make some noise in the main draw. Right now he’s been very unpredictable.
Thomaz Bellucci, is another left handed qualifier, the Brazilian beat Michael Berrer, and then Federico Delbonis (in a nailbiting third set tiebreak), to qualify, he comes off the quarterfinals in Istanbul and he’s a threat on clay as well.
The unseeded qualifiers were Alejandro Falla, a Colombian veteran (and lefty), and Luca Vanni, an Italian veteran having his career best year in pro tennis. Falla, who has been poor on ATP main draw clay over the past three seasons (4-13 since 2012), will have a chance to improve that record. He upset Sergiy Stakhovsky, and then beat Roberto Carballes Baena, a Spaniard, to qualify. Vanni, who had a miracle run to the Sao Paulo final as a qualifier not that long ago, beat Carlos Berlocq and then Nicolas Mahut in three sets to snap a four match losing streak and place himself in his first ever Masters 1000 main draw.
Gimeno-Traver has been drawn against Nick Kyrgios in a highly anticipated round 1 clash of in-form warriors, Bellucci has been given a winnable match against Jeremy Chardy in round 1, Gonzalez will face American Steve Johnson, Vanni will do battle with non-clay courter Bernard Tomic, Falla will face a fatigued Philipp Kohlschreiber, Kokkinakis will have a great chance to beat Sam Querrey, Ramos will face Istanbul finalist Pablo Cuevas, a possibly fatigued opponent, and Sousa will face Jerzy Janowicz as the lucky loser.
2015 ATP Madrid Preview, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic’s Niall Clarke, and Adam Addicott will both be in Madrid this week as credentialed members of the press, and they will be providing us with fantastic onsite coverage of the second clay court Masters event of the season, this one of course at the Magic Box in Madrid. As an appetizer for that, here is a preview, and some predictions for the men’s draw.
2015 ATP Madrid Open Preview
Mutua Madrid Open ATP World Tour Masters 1000* Madrid, Spain May 3-May 10, 2015 Prize Money: €4,185,405
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (2)
2: Andy Murray (3)
3: Rafael Nadal (4)
4: Kei Nishikori (5)
5: Milos Raonic (6)
6: Tomas Berdych (7)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Stan Wawrinka (9)
Novak Djokovic is the notable absence here, as the world number 1 cited fatigue in skipping Madrid, and he’s never liked playing at the venue anyway. In addition, Gilles Simon, Tommy Robredo and Andreas Seppi are the only other notables missing from the draw.
First round matchups to watch:
Nick Kyrgios vs. (Q)Daniel Gimeno-Traver
Both players are in great form going into this match, Kyrgios raced to the Estoril final in a surprise, though he lost rather routinely to Richard Gasquet, and DGT was a finalist in Casablanca, a semifinalist in Bucharest, and most recently a quarterfinalist in Istanbul before qualifying for Madrid with a pair of routine wins. They have never met before, and DGT has more experience on clay, while Kyrgios has more talent, and both should be about equally fatigued. I have Kyrgios winning, but it should be close, and it’s an interesting match.
Sock and Andujar have a split hard court h2h, while Andujar won a round in Munich, only to retire in his next match (previous to that the Spaniard reached the 500 series final in Barcelona on home soil with a shock run). Sock is playing his first tournament since taking the title on har-tru clay in Houston. The outcome of this match likely hinges on Andujar’s health, but it still presents a good opportunity for Sock to beat a solid clay court opponent, who is in some level of good form. If Andujar is healthy, he’s the favorite given his experience on the surface, but Sock has plenty of potential and he could well get this win, as it’s always notable when an American can win a match on European clay.
Fabio Fognini vs. Santiago Giraldo
This time last year, Giraldo was on-fire but he’s struggling now, and he will face off with the unpredictable Fognini who crashed out in the quarterfinals of Munich last week. Giraldo beat Fognini in Sao Paulo this year, and that evened their clay court h2h 3-3. Giraldo likewise won a round in Istanbul and then lost in an upset, and over their past two tournaments Giraldo is 2-2 and Fognini is 3-2, thus everything on paper makes this seem like an open match. It’s a hard prediction to make, but when Fognini isn’t facing Nadal (who he has beaten twice this year), I don’t trust him, and thus I have Giraldo winning.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
Verdasco is 3-0 at the ATP level on clay against GGL, but he’s lost two straight matches on clay, while GGL won Bucharest, and then comes off a semifinal result in Estoril. Over the past two weeks, Garcia-Lopez has beaten notable names Gael Monfils, Kevin Anderson and Borna Coric, however he may be fatigued from playing so many matches. Both are home players so they should feel comfortable with the home cooking in Madrid, and it’s hard to predict, but you have to go with Garcia-Lopez’s form at the moment and I have him advancing in the battle of talented shotmakers.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Jiri Vesely
The Croat Cilic has never faced the Czech Vesely, and it’s an interesting matchup, as both are lanky hitters with a good amount of power but questionable movement. Cilic reached the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo with a pair of wins, but cooled off and was upset in Barcelona, while Vesely has been in good form on clay, reaching the final in Bucharest, and also a semi in Casablanca already this clay court season. He hasn’t beaten any top names on the surface this year, and he struggled in Munich, but I’d still give him an outside shot to upset Cilic if the Croat continues to be rusty coming off of injury. Cilic is the favorite, but watch out for Jiri here.
Juan Monaco vs. (WC)Nicolas Almagro
Monaco beat Almagro in a high quality contest in Buenos Aires this year, but he’s just 2-5 overall on ATP clay against the Spaniard, who will be playing on home soil of course. Monaco is 2-2 on European clay in his past four matches, while Almagro reached the quarters in both Casablanca and Estoril. Almagro has not been quite up to par with his former self, but neither has Monaco, as both were formerly reliable top 20 players who maximized their games, now with their current versions it’s a 50/50 matchup, and I’m going with Monaco as I felt Almagro did not play that well in Estoril.
3 time Madrid champion Roger Federer, who won the Istanbul title, will open with either Kyrgios or DGT and NK could catch Federer on the downswing and pull off a huge upset, though he may be too fatigued from Estoril. Federer has struggled in Istanbul, dropping a pair of sets to much lower ranked players, and those are worrying signs for the Swiss champion. That said, given this is clay, I don’t have the confidence to pick Kyrgios, and he could even lose to DGT as mentioned. Federer beat DGT in three sets in Istanbul.
Look for Federer/Kyrgios to advance to the quarters over John Isner most likely, as the American has a weak draw of Adrian Mannarino, and a qualifier Thomaz Bellucci/Jeremy Chardy. Chardy is struggling, and the qualifier Bellucci may have a shot here as well. Isner is actually 0-2 against Chardy, and they have never met on clay. Isner won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo to reach that same R16 stage though. Bellucci has beaten Isner before on clay, and he comes off quarterfinals in Istanbul.
Tomas Berdych has been on fire this year, the Monte Carlo finalist (most recently), is most likely to face Richard Gasquet, who he is just 1-2 against on clay in his opening match. Gasquet is a current finalist in Estoril, and he’s playing well, though his back has been giving him problems. Presuming he stays in the draw, Gasquet will need to defeat non-clay courter Ivo Karlovic to reach the second round. Given how well he’s played all season, Berdych should be safe to reach round 3, where he will face either Andujar/Sock or Lukas Rosol/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Munich and Bucharest quarterfinalist Rosol has played decently well as of late, while Tsonga has lost two straight. He still should win the mathc against Rosol as he beat him last year on clay, and I’ve picked him to do so, before falling to Sock in an upset, as I feel Sock is playing well enough right now to pull off a pair of upsets, before falling to Berdych in round 3. No matter, a Federer vs. Berdych quarterfinal is the most likely outcome of this interesting section of the draw.
Four time and defending champion Rafael Nadal has been struggling this season, but he still should be safe against Steve Johnson/qualifier Alejandro Gonzalez in his opening match. In the third round, his opponent is uncertain, the seed Kevin Anderson lost early in Estoril and is not a clay court player, later falling to Simone Bolelli in Sunday action. Bolelli is an unpredictable player who is decently good on clay (a quarterfinalist in Bucharest) just below Anderson in the draw. Also here is Bernard Tomic who has lost two straight on clay, but has the talent to excel in theory. I look for Tomic to beat a qualifier, and then Bolelli to beat him. Nadal should then beat Bolelli, as he has done four times previously.
8 seed Stan Wawrinka, a former finalist here, is struggling mightily and appears dazed and confused on tour right now, still Jerzy Janowicz is the type of opponent he’d like to start with, as he’s a high risk power player, not a reliably smooth ball striker, and thus should spew enough errors to give Wawrinka a chance to get his footing in the match. Janowicz will need to defeat lucky loser Joao Sousa and end a two match losing streak on clay to get the Wawrinka matchup. Wawrinka is just 3-4 since winning Rotterdam, but he’s beaten JJ on clay before and more likely I see Wawrinka going out to either Grigor Dimitrov, who beat him in Monte Carlo, or the Fognini/Giraldo winner in round 3.
Dimitrov is an interesting case, he will open with Donald Young, who is poor on clay, and he should be favored against either Fognini or Giraldo. He beat Fogna in Monte Carlo, and he’s simply better than Giraldo, that said, he lost in the semis of Istanbul in an upset, and was poor in that match, so his form is a question mark. That said, given the h2h, Dimitrov should be motivated at the Masters level to also beat Wawrinka and setup a quarterfinal against Nadal.
Andy Murray, in the hunt for his first ever clay court title in Munich still, where he is a finalist, could very well face his opponent in that Munich final, Philipp Kohlschreiber in a rematch, presuming Kohli stays in th draw coming off a busy week of long matches in Munich, and beats qualifier Alejandro Falla In that rematch, I have Murray winning, given fitness, and the fact I have him winning in Munich too. Murray could be posed with trouble in the third round as Gael Monfils lurks. Monfils pulled out of Munich, citing a knee injury, but he’s been playing well when healthy and will open with the struggling Viktor Troicki before facing Martin Klizan or Marcel Granollers. Klizan is also in good form, as the Slovak reached the semis in Barcelona, and won Casablanca (Monfils reached the semis in both Monte Carlo and Bucharest). With both players coming off a break, I’m favoring Klizan to advance, but that match could very well go either way with such unpredictable players, and I’d favor Klizan or Monfils over Murray in round 3. Murray is 2-1 on clay against Monfils but they have always battled on the surface, and Murray played a lot of tennis in Munich. Klizan and Murray have never played, but I favor the clay court form of the big hitter. Klizan is the quarterfinalist in my draw.
5 seed Milos Raonic will have a tough match right away and is in danger of exiting the tournament at the hands of the Almagro/Monaco winner. Monaco has beaten Raonic on clay (and is 2-0 in the overall h2h), while Raonic has beaten Almagro on clay, and is 2-0 against him. Raonic reached the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo before retiring in that match, and he’s deceptively a quality player on clay, that said, the retirement is a question mark, and I’m going with an upset with Monaco reaching the third round over Raonic. Raonic/Monaco/Almagro would all have the edge to reach the quarters, the seed Feliciano Lopez is struggling mightily on clay, as he’s suffered early exits as of late, though his first round opponent Benjamin Becker is not a clay courter either. Leo Mayer could be the round 2 opponent of Lopez/Becker, but he’s been pedestrian this season, and has lost two straight on clay after a great run on the surface last year. Gilles Muller reached the quarters of Estoril, winning two matches on clay for the time in multiple seasons, and Muller/Mayer is a harder match to pick than one would think. Still I have Mayer reaching the third round in a very weak section, and then falling to his countryman Monaco.
Defending finalist Kei Nishikori will face David Goffin or Ernests Gulbis in his opening match. Gulbis has lost four straight matches and has been in free fall this season, while Goffin reached the quarters in Munich but has been pedestrian as well as of late. Nishikori, the Barcelona champion, should frankly demolish either player (most likely Goffin), and he dismantled Goffin in Miami 6-1 6-2 not too long ago. Nishikori will also be a strong favorite over most likely Roberto Bautista Agut in round 3. RBA has a weak draw of Marius Copil, a wild card, and Sam Querrey/qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis. Nishikori won a 3 setter against RBA in Barcelona and RBA comes off the semis in Munich. Nishikori, the more complete player, is likely to face David Ferrer in the quarters.
Ferrer, who has only reached the semis in Madrid (twice), opens with either qualifier Albert Ramos or current Istanbul finalist Pablo Cuevas, Cuevas is in great form but could be tired, while Ramos has been unpredictable. Ferrer is 2-0 against Cuevas and he was a semifinalist in Madrid, after previously reaching the quarters in Monte Carlo. Ferrer could have a tougher matchup against either Verdasco/Garcia-Lopez or Cilic/Vesely, in round 3. GGL, presuming he beat Verdasco, just beat Vesely in Bucharest, and he’s 1-1 against Cilic. Given current form, I’m going with Garcia-Lopez into the third round before falling to Ferrer, who has beaten him three times previously on clay.
Dark Horses: Nick Kyrgios, Fabio Fognini, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Martin Klizan
Jack Sock should do well in the top half, but Kyrgios has the most upside potential, if he does play his best, he could shock Federer, and run all the way to at least the quarterfinals, on the heels of his run to the final (and perhaps a title) in Estoril. Clay is not his best surface, but the Aussie young gun is on the rise, and there is little doubt he has top 10 ability, and will eventually get there, perhaps sooner rather than later, the Madrid draw gives him a chance to notch another remarkable result for his age.
Fognini is incredibly unpredictable, and likely loses in round 1 to Giraldo, but he still has great upside potential. If he catches fire, he could beat Giraldo, upset Dimitrov and then defeat likely Wawrinka to setup another rematch with Nadal, who he has beaten twice this year (most recently in Barcelona). It’s not likely any of that happens, but he has the clay court ability if he can keep his head on straight and put in the effort to get it done.
Garcia-Lopez may be fatigued but he’s been in great form on clay as of late, and if he beats Verdasco and Cilic/Vesely, he could also upset Ferrer and reach the quarters, on home soil, anything is possible if he finds his inspiration and is fit enough to get it done.
Klizan will have tough tests in Monfils, and likely Murray in order, but if he gets past that murderers row, the draw opens up with a winnable quarterfinal against Monaco/Almagro/Raonic waiting in the wings, and a chance to reach his first ever Masters semifinal. He could even reach the final, though Nishikori/Ferrer/other would of course be the favorite.
Federer d. Berdych
Nadal d. Dimitrov
Klizan d. Monaco
Nishikori d. Ferrer
Federer has never lost to Berdych on clay, thus even though he’s playing so well this season, I don’t feel like he’ll get over the hump. Nadal is 5-0 against Dimitrov, so again I feel like he gets lucky and reaches the semis, Klizan just beat Monaco in sets in Barcelona, and Nishikori beat Ferrer in their only meeting on clay here in Madrid last year.
Federer d. Nadal
Nishikori d. Klizan
Nadal should have the edge, but I feel Federer is an actual superior player right now, and he’ll expose and take advantage of a weak Nadal, Nishikori should beat Klizan again or any other player to each the final.
Nishikori d. Federer
Nishikori won the only clay court h2h meeting against Federer, and I feel no matter who his opponent it is, be it Federer, Nadal, Berdych or another player, that he will win this title. He was solid in Barcelona, and he would have won last year if he hadn’t injured himself. Clearly it’s a venue he enjoys and he’s rising overall, so a maiden Masters 100 title would be well deserved.
Federer, Dimitrov, Schwartzman, and Cuevas reach Istanbul Open 2015 semifinals Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Federer won a thriller (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
It was sunny day at the Istanbul Open today. Due to May day demonstrations against the government, police bottlenecked public transportation, which resulted in difficulties for fans trying to reach the venue, Still, that didn’t prevent thousands of them thronging to see Federer, and Dimitrov among the big names in action.
The day started with impressive youngster Diego Schwartzman facing 4th seed Santiago Giraldo. The Colombian stormed past the first set in 20 min, and stunned both Schwartzman and the crowd. The second set, again saw a break by Giraldo in the very first game, as he capitalized to make it 2-0. Suddenly, Schwartzman raised his level, and began to play much more aggressive with the perfect movement. The Argentine won six games in a row, and made it to final set. For a third consecutive time, Giraldo broke in the first game of the set, but got broken thanks to his silly mistake, and a good fight by Schwartzman. Giraldo was serving abysmally at this point, and the first hold came for 2-2. Schwartzman saved three break points with wonderful shotmaking and point constructing as we are used to seeing from him this week. Giraldo threw his racket at this point, and started whine about crowd, resulting in him getting booed for around 2 minutes. The set was basically decided at this point, and Giraldo lost five straight games to drop the match. Giraldo was the favorite but he missed his chances, and DSS reached his first ever ATP semifinal.
Schwartzman d. Giraldo 0-6 6-2 6-2
Schwartzman reached his first ATP semi (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
The packed stadium was ready for Roger Federer meeting No: 62 Daniel Gimeno-Traver for the second QF. Federer after winning his service game, broke the Spaniard only to get broken back in following game. Then, an even set started, both players cruised in their service games with the help of their opponent putting up a multitude of unforced errors. Federer couldn’t get the break in the 4-3* game where he missed three break point chances. The set was decided by TB, which was entertaining. Federer finished it winning with beautiful points.
Federer won a tough first set (photo credit; Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
DGT was the better player in the second, with deep shots often on his forehand side, and wonderfully executed drop shots, troubling Federer unexpectedly. Federer made many mistakes when returning, also his BH didn’t work as he wished. The Spaniard despite losing the break advantage when serving for *5-3, still won the set in the TB. The Third set started tense, Federer had to save four break points in the opener with a lot of “Komm Jetz” from the world No:2, which was crucially important for both side. After Fed’s surviving, the match balanced out yet again into a classical clay court battle. Eventually, Federer broke DGT in the 4-3* game with great crowd support on his back, and served out without any incident. Swiss was the second semifinalist of the day, after the long struggling match lasted 2 hours and 27 minutes.
Federer d. Gimeno-Traver 7-6(3) 6-7(5) 6-3
During the first match of the night session, there were around 300 Bulgarian fans with their flag in the stands, to support their countryman Grigor Dimitrov for his match against Croatian veteran Ivan Dodig. The world No:11 was far superior as expected, Dodig played some good points here and there, but his level was never catching Dimitrov’s high quality. The Bulgarian played very aggressive, and made Dodig run a lot, benefiting from the No:107’s poor movement. Despite the unnecessary amount of UE’s from Dimitrov, his performance was enough to routine Dodig without much trouble. Dimitrov seemed very motivated to reach the SF at the Istanbul Open, in front of the fans from his homeland.
Dimitrov d. Dodig 6-4 6-3
Bulgarian fans were excited to see Grisha (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
In the final match of the night session, which was another late nighter, Thomaz Bellucci couldn’t continue his fairytale run against Pablo Cuevas, and let his opponent revenge the loss in Miami.The Brazilian played a high-risk match as his forehand was again very powerful, same as his shotmaking capability, but the Uruguayan grinded through the many games, while getting almost every ball back, especially after he was down 3-1 in the first. Cuevas played solid, and broke again the Brazilian in the last game, to win the set 7-5. In the second, Bellucci broke himself twice, and lost the match, despite the fact that he was the one who offered enjoyable tennis most of the time. Cuevas didn’t make many unforced errors, started to serve wonderful after the middle of the second set, and never gave a chance to lefty again. Cuevas was the last semi-finalist of the day and received standing ovation from around 100 people left in the stadium.
Cuevas d. Bellucci 7-5 6-3
Cuevas was less exciting but more effective (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Tomorrow, the semi finals day, the first match starts at 3:30 pm local time, where Federer will be the obvious favourite against Schwartzman, who he has beaten this season. Then Dimitrov faces Cuevas, a match match which is expected to be a close battle with Dimitrov the favorite.
In Mens doubles, Lindstedt/Melzer beat Daniell/Grialdo 6-2 6-1, to reach the final, with Guccione/Sa and Albot/Lajovic playing the other doubles semi on Saturday.
Federer, Gimeno-Traver setup quarterfinal clash at 2015 Istanbul Open Wednesday Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Federer captivated crowds in his Wednesday victory (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Day 3 at the Istanbul open, saw only four men’s singles matches.
Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver beat 6th seed Kukushkin, in straight sets, and made the QF of ATP 250 tournament three times in a row. The Kazakh was helpless and Gimeno-Traver was effective with his forehand.
Gimeno-Traver d. Kukushkin 6-3 6-3
Second match on the Center Court, was a beatdown, between the undersized Argentine Diego Schwartzman and veteran Jurgen Melzer. It was one of the best matches I have seen Schwartzman play, great shot-making with also enormous foot work. Melzer, on the other hand, was poor throughout the match. He earned a couple of break point chances early in the second, but failed to take it, thanks to aggressive plays from the 8th seed on those points. 52 min was enough for Schartzman for the in the end.
Schwartzman d. Melzer 6-0 6-2
In the first match of the night session, 4th seed Santiago Giraldo prevailed over Andrey Rublev in a very tight 3 setter. In the first set, after two breaks from the each, The Colombian broke again in a long game at 2-2, which decided the set. Rublev, after losing the first set, went to bathroom break, and came back calmly. The world No: 292, cruised in the second, breaking the 4th seed two times, and won the set pretty comfortably. This effort from the Russian teenager, set the first ever 3 setter at the Istanbul Open main draw. In the third set both players got chances for early breaks with, No further break point chances occurred until the 6th game of the set, where Rublev made some unforced errors, and Giraldo won the game with his experience. Then the Colombian served out and won the third set, while Rublev whined a lot to himself, and threw his racquet Still, it was a good showing from the youngster. Crowd adored the effort that the young gun put in.
Giraldo d. Rublev 6-4 1-6 6-3
The scene for Giraldo-Rublev (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
In the last match of the night session, 1st seed Roger Federer routined Jarkko Nieminen,with the mostly packed stadium cheering him on. The Swiss maestro started his first ever match in Turkey with a break, while the Finnish played poorly in the first, Federer was good enough to win the set 6-2 in a very shot time. The second was a bit tricky, with both players raising their level. Nieminen fought well with his limited game, Federer looked good on forehand, and also served worked great. It was an even set, the Finnish escaping his every service game, but he couldn’t make it to tiebreak, where he may have had a chance to force a third, and lost the 5-5 game despite having a game point.
Federer served out comfortably afterwards, and made it to QF at the Istanbul Open. The crowd went crazy with the joy of seeing him play for the first time. Federer said, it was slow and humid out there, as expected for night clay match, regarding the surface at the press conference.
Wednesday Doubles Scores:
Bury/Gabashvili d. Martin/Raja 6-2 6-3
Golubev/Istomin d. Kukushkin/Nedovyesov 6-3 6-4
Guccione/Sa d. Altuna/Basilashvili 6-3 6-2
Albot/Lajovic d. Marach/Oswald 6-7(9) 6-2 10-8
Rublev, Dodig win Tuesday at ATP Istanbul 2015, Turkish Players Crash Out Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Rublev scores another ATP md win (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Today at the Istanbul Open, was a day of minor upsets. Mikhail Kukushkin routined his opponent in all Kazakh battle as expected 6-3 6-4, despite coming back from the break down in the second. Alexandr Nedovyesov has nothing to trouble the 6th seed. Turkish WC Cem Ilkel played an okay match, especially in the second. Though, his volleys were poor and his second serves were not working at all. With the home crowd on his side, he kept the score close against a solid clay courter, No:62 Daniel Gimeno-Traver. The Spaniard dominated the first set, but crowd started to push kid, at least to get the second set. Ilkel did well for a time, until he was serving 4-5 down, where he got broken again and lost the match. It was Ilkel’s first ever ATP tour match, so it was still a good showing, with DGT advancing 6-1 7-5.
DGT beat one of the Turkish MD players (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Turkish No:1 Marsel Ilhan played a miserable match later in the day, unforced errors were flying off his racket, and he was very impatient with his play, likely partially influenced by the immense pressure of being the home favorite. The Turk was everything but clutch, missing 8 break points in 3 different games. On the other hand, Jarkko Nieminen was not special today, the lefty used his BH slices very well, Ilhan never responded well to these shots. The Flying Finn played deep balls, with a limited number of UEs. His serves were weak, but it was enough for Nieminen to keep the ball in play and wait for an error from Ilhan. A crowd of about 1,000 watched the home favorite slump to a 6-3 6-4 defeat.
The night match on Center Court, was between Andreas Haider-Maurer and Ivan Dodig. TheCroatian revenged his loss in Bucharest, in a meeting where he served extremely well, and took his chances in the key moment of the match. The 5th seed AHM, lacked intensity, and lost fighting spirit after dropping the first set. Dodig played a really solid match and pleased remaining crowd which was reduced after Ilhan lost. The scoreline was 7-5 6-3
Dodig pushed past AHM (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
On the outside courts, Andrey Rublev was on top of his game against Damir Dzumhur 6-3 6-3, the young Russian executed his game well, with using wonderful forehands as his main weapon. Rublev dominated the match in straight sets, which resulted in Dzumhur grumbling and cursing at himself for its entirety. The Bosnian Dzumhur whined about the court size to chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani, asking his opinion whether could Rafael Nadal play here or not. It was a high tension match with both players exchanging unkind words after a net point. Overall, Rublev was the one who focused on his job, and impressed the crowd with his great performance. The only hiccup he faced, was getting broken after Dzumhur’s Medical timeout, but he answered well in the following game with breaking back. He seemed so promising on clay, though his net game needs improvement.
Other results from today
 Diego Schwartzman (ARG) d [Q] Blaz Kavcic (SLO) 62 61
Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d Steve Darcis (BEL) 52 Retired
Denis Istomin (UZB) d Benoit Paire (FRA) 63 64
[Q] Teymuraz Gabashvili (RUS) d Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) 76(1) 64
Dusan Lajovic (SRB) d [Q] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 64 75
We have yet to see a 3 setter in the main draw at the Istanbul Open.
Tomorrow, Day 3 starts with second round matches on Center Court. Mikhail Kukushkin and Gimeno-Traver will face early in the day, which will be also their second meeting this year on clay. The Kazakh will be looking to get the win this time, and even the their H2H. Additionally Austria’s Jurgen Melzer will take on Diego Schwartzman, who beat woeful Blaz Kavcic. The Argentine dirtballer should be the favorite.
In the night session, 4th seed and Sao Paolo semi finalist Santiago Giraldo will be up against Andrey Rublev. This will be the best match of the day, one could say. Given form and ability, that is fair to say Russian has a great chance to make the quarterfinals. Nevertheless, I’d expect an entertaining match which goes to 3rd set. In the last match of the night session, world No:2 Roger Federer will face Jarkko Nieminen, whom he has a clear match-up advantage, as well as the game superiority. Beside their 14-0 H2H, the Finnish never got more than 5 games, in any of their clay meetings. Also Nieminen played really a mediocre match today, which declined the expectations even lower. Federer, though, coming off the shock loss to Monfils in Monte Carlo, will not be tested here until semi finals, if not the final, it seems.
2015 ATP Barcelona and Bucharest Preview/Prediction Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The European spring journey continues for the players of the ATP world tour with clay court events in both Barcelona, Spain, and Bucharest, Romania, with Barca a 500 series event, and Bucharest, one of the few ATP events in Eastern Europe, a 250.
2015 ATP Barcelona Preview
Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell
ATP World Tour 500
April 20-April 26, 2015
Prize Money: €1,993,230
Top 8 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (4)
2: Rafael Nadal (5)
3: David Ferrer (7)
4: Marin Cilic (10)
5: Feliciano Lopez (12)
6: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14)
7: Roberto Bautista Agut (16)
8: Ernests Gulbis (18)
Four of the top 10 will be playing in Barcelona, and the top 8 seeds are all top 20 players for a strong 500 level field.
First round matchups to watch:
Alex Dolgopolov vs. Joao Sousa
Dolgopolov has played relatively well in the past few weeks, but he remains a streaky highlight reel generator, he’s the favorite against the streaky Portuguese player Joao Sousa, who can struggle for weeks, but puts together a great tournament from time to time. Both these players hit the ball relatively hard from the ground, and they are solid movers, thus creating an interesting matchup, I have Dolgo winning in straights but upset potential is there.
Thiem is the favorite without a doubt, but don’t count the veteran Estrella out, as he’s known for the ability to put up the occasional heroic performance. He’s a great mover, while Thiem, though he rounded into form in Miami, lost his opening match in Monte Carlo on clay, and has been unpredictably poor this year. Estrella retired in his last match in Monte Carlo against David Ferrer, so his physical condition is in question. As I said, I expect Thiem to prevail, but it’s still an interesting matchup.
Benoit Paire vs. (Q)Jaume Munar
Benoit Paire, who used to be considered a young gun, will take on one of the unheralded young guns coming onto the tour slowly but surely, 17 year old Spaniard Jaume Munar, who qualified to reach the main draw. Munar just recently turned pro, and was a former top 5 junior who reached the French Open Junior final in 2014, I’m interested to see what he can do against the technically talented but mentally weak Paire, who has a world class backhand, but a futures level forehand. It’s a winnable matchup for sure, though Paire has played well on the challenger tour in 2015.
Fernando Verdasco vs. (Q)Andrey Rublev
Former Barcelona champion Fernando Verdasco will take on the player Munar lost to in that RG junior final in 2014, Andrey Rublev, a more recognizable young gun who won ATP matches in both Delray Beach and Miami, and then qualified to reach the main draw here. At 17, the combustible Rublev may be less mentally stable than even Verdasco, but he has all the weapons to make this a match, and he could at least take a set. Verdasco of course has the world class forehand and he reached the semis in Houston, along with a round 1 loss to Grigor Dimitrov in Monte Carlo. Once again, look for the favorite to win but the challenger to put up a more competitive contest than expected.
Kei Nishikori snapped Rafael Nadal’s chokehold on this tournament last year, as the defending champion, who is also ranked higher than the king of clay, will begin his clay court season in Barcelona and work on keeping his ranking trending upwards. It should be a relatively easy start for Nishikori, who went 10-2 on clay last year, as he will open with Pablo Carreno Busta or Teymuraz Gabashvili, both of whom have struggled in 2015. After that, Nishikori could get a shotmakers match with Alex Dolgopolov in the round of 16.
Dolgo will need to beat Sousa, and then defending finalist Santiago Giraldo, who has struggled in 2015 to set that up. Giraldo has their lone clay h2h win, but is 1-3 in the overall h2h, and he comes off quarterfinals in Houston, while Dolgopolov won a round in Monte Carlo before losing to the in-form Gael Monfils in a close contest. Regardless, Nishikori beat Giraldo in the final here last year, and he is a perfect 3-0 with no sets dropped against Dolgopolov, including a win this year in Acapulco against the man from Ukraine.
In the quarters the road is unlikely to get easier for Nishikori to defend his title, as Pablo Cuevas and Roberto Bautista Agut are the primary contenders in the section below. Cuevas won an ATP title on clay in Sao Paulo earlier in the year, and is making his European debut this year, he should be able to ease past either the struggling JL Struff or the struggling Roberto Carballes Baena, a wild card in the second round. RBA won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo, and appears to be playing a bit better than he was earlier this year, where deficiencies in his game were evident. He will open with most likely Thomaz Bellucci, one of the dangerous non-seeds in this draw who beat RBA on clay in Davis Cup last year.
Bellucci will need to beat qualifier Yuichi Sugita in round 1, and is a poor 3-6 on clay in 2015, that said, hes a streaky player who can catch form, so though I picked RBA to face off with Cuevas, Bellucci has a chance here. In that match between Cuevas-RBA, I’m going with an upset and have Cuevas into the quarters, he makes his living on clay and his game has steadily been improving over the past few months.
As for the match between Cuevas-Nishikori, Nishikori has a h2h win on clay, and he’s the better player, nothing indicates to me he will struggle presently, even though he hasn’t been red hot, and I don’t think Cuevas will have the weapons and skill needed to win that matchup, thus putting Kei into the semis.
4 seed Marin Cilic, who reached the quarters in a Monte Carlo surprise, will open with the Estrella/Thiem winner, if he struggles, Thiem could very well pull an upset and give him trouble, however his solid play in Monte Carlo gives me the confidence to say he will win that, given Thiem has likewise been erratic this season, and one would have to think Cilic, who is coming off of injury, can only improve as he gets more matches under his belt.
Casablanca champ Martin Klizan could stop Cilic in his tracks in the third round though, Klizan will need to beat Juan Monaco, who cooled down in Monte Carlo, and lost in the second round after previously showing good form. Monaco should defeat the struggling Alejandro Gonzalez however in round 1. What bodes well for Cilic’s chances is he’s 3-0 against Klizan, but they have never met on clay, and that’s a swing matchup to me, but I’m picking Cilic to go into the quarters.
Cilic/Klizan/Monaco/Thiem are almost certain to face either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Tommy Robredo in the quarters, as the section below Cilic is a weaker one. Robredo will face either Joao Souza or Mikhail Kukushkin, neither of whom are in good form, in round 2, while Tsonga has Marinko Matosevic or Marcel Granollers, two more out of form players. Tsonga is 3-2 this year, while Robredo won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo but has overall not played that great this year, it’s a hard match to pick, but Tsonga has more upside potential, and thus I’m going with him to reach the quarters and face Cilic in a rematch of their Monte Carlo match that Cilic won, given that result, a Nishikori vs. Cilic semifinal seems most likely in the top half.
Rafa Nadal is the undisputed king of Barcelona with a 42-2 record at the tournament, and 8 titles, but he lost here last year and right off the bat he has a chance to get revenge against the player he lost to, Nicolas Almagro, who opens with journeyman Paolo Lorenzi in round 1. Nadal comes off the semis in Monte Carlo, where he did well against all of his opponents except the world number 1 Djokovic, while Almagro was last a quarterfinalist in Casablanca. Nadal beat Almagro in Miami 4 and 2, and as I said should be hungry for revenge, so I really don’t expect that to be much of a match, given that the performance Almagro turned in 2014 was once in a lifetime.
Look for Nadal against Verdasco/Rublev in round 3, the seed is Fabio Fognini, but his singles game is challenger level right now (1-6 since reaching the Rio final), and Verdasco is solid enough to win especially given the 3-1 h2h. Verdasco of course shocked Nadal in Miami, and he will do his best to try do it again, however, on clay the advantage should swing further towards Nadal, and thus he should be able to reach the quarters at one of his best events.
Feliciano Lopez will player either qualifier James Ward or Marsel Ilhan, though he’s not elite on clay, he still should be good enough to win that round 2 match and setup a match with either Leo Mayer or Albert Ramos/Pablo Andujar. Ramos has been in good form in the past few tournaments, while Mayer has been struggling. Ramos leads the h2h with Mayer 3-2, but Mayer beat him in Sao Paulo this year.
Andujar has beaten Ramos before as well and they are similar ball spinning dirtballers as an aside and Ramos has been in better form, giving him the edge. I have Ramos beting Mayer, and then Lopez to reach the quarters, Ramos has a 2-0 h2h edge with Lopez, and he is a better clay court player, so given the surface, the lower ranked Spaniard has to be the favorite. Nadal has beaten Ramos twice before in Barcelona, and he should do so again to reach the semis.
David Ferrer will face wild card Albert Montanes, a journeyman veteran, or Ricardas Berankis, a former top junior turned journeyman, in the opening round. He has never won in Barcelona but he’s reached the final four previous times, and he comes off a quarterfinal loss to Nadal in Monte Carlo. Ferru has been peak this season and I expect him to blow past Montanes/Berankis and also Nick Kyrgios, the 16 seed, to reach the round of 16. Kyrgios is returning to tour from a back injury, and has limited experience on clay. In fact, the young gun may well lose to qualifier Thiemo De Bakker, or fellow young gun wild card Elias Ymer in round 2, De Bakker has been reliable in ATP qualifying this season an seems breakthrough ready. I have Ferrer beating Montanes, and De Bakker to reach the round of 16.
12 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber is the favorite for the quarterfinals in the weakest section of the draw. The wheels have come off for the 8 seed Ernests Gulbis, who badly needs to be back gaining confidence and form with his new coaching team on the challenger tour, rather than continuing to self-destruct at the ATP level. He was a cacophony of errors in a blowout loss in Monte Carlo, and I don’t see the bleeding stopping against the Munar/Paire winner, though it could. The 17 year old Munar actually has a realistic path to the third round, but I have it Paire vs. Kohlschreiber, after Kohli beats Andrey Kuznetsov, who will face Marton Fucsovics, a qualifier, in round 1. Kuznetsov qualified in Monte Carlo, while Kohli is 2-2 in his last four matches, and won a round in Monte Carlo.
Paire and Kohli have a 2-2 h2h, though Paire won the last two meetings, and Paire has a dark horse chance to reach the quarters if his game is on, he qualified in Monte Carlo and has played well at the challenger level, as mentioned. No matter if it’s Kohlschreiber or Paire in the quarters, Ferrer should reach the semis, he’s 2-0 against Kohli on clay (8-2 overall), and 3-0 overall against Paire.
Dark Horse: Benoit Paire
Albert Ramos, who I have reaching the quarters, is another dark horse candidate, but Paire gets the official designation because his run would be less likely, but more interesting. He has all the talent and the tools, but with his weak mental approach to the game, he slipped down the rankings, and now newly focused he seems to be working his way back, a run to the quarters in a weak section would be a great way to announce to the rest of the tennis world that he’s back in the game.
Cilic famously won the US Open final over Nishikori, but Kei won their clay court meeting in Barcelona, and he’s an overall 5-3 h2h leader, given the fact Nishikori is stroking the ball, while Cilic is just returning from injury, Kei is the fave.
Nadal just beat Ferrer in Monte Carlo, and almost always has, so again he’s the pick.
Nadal d. Nishikori
This is the matchup just about everyone wants this week, and I have a feeling they will get it, Nadal has a 7-0 h2h on his side, though their only clay court meeting was basically a draw as Nishikori took the first set and then hurt himself and had to retire midway through the third set in Madrid. He also has all the positive history in Barca on his side, and home fans, but Nishikori has been rising while Nadal has been in decline over the past 18 months, and Nishikori is now ranked higher than the Spanish veteran. Both players are pure ball strikers, while Nadal hits with tons more spin of course, and both fly movement wise, it’s a more even matchup than the h2h would suggest, but I feel like Nadal, who showed signs of improvement in Monte Carlo, will find a way to get it done and take the title this week.
Troicki is more accomplished than Gimeno-Traver, who just reached his first ATP final in Casablanca and he has a 5-0 head to head edge (3-0 on clay including 2-0 last year), but still DGT playe some surprisingly good tennis to reach that Casablanca final, and should have some positive momentum. Troicki is an even 2-2 in his last four, and that pretty much sums up his 2015 season thus far, some good results with losses mixed in, and he’s still looking to do better. He should win, but an upset is possible.
Borna Coric vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky
Stako crushed a listless Coric in Zagreb 2 and 4 earlier this season, but Coric has been improving since that loss, and he comes off a tough loss to Alex Dolgopolov in 3 sets in Monte Carlo. Stako lost to Tomas Berdych and is 1-3 in his last four, though he was playing some of the best tennis of his career earlier in the year. Given this is clay, Coric should win, but who knows if that h2h will hang over his head.
(7)Jiri Vesely vs. Diego Schwartzman
Vesely and Schwartzman, two young guns, have never met, and both can play their best tennis on clay. Vesely snapped an atrocious losing streak an reached the semis in Casablanca, but he promptly lost in Monte Carlo to Juan Monaco, while Schwartzman qualified and lost to Jeremy Chardy in the opening round. Vesely is favord, and more accomplished, but DSS has a great chance and I have him winning this matchup personally.
Ivan Dodig vs Andreas Haider-Maurer
AHM is nearly a top 50 player now, as the Austrian journeyman has been outdoing himself, primarily on clay, this year. Dodig, who has won twice, and lost twice to the Austrian, is still languishing just inside the top 100, though he has the skill to be much better than that. AHM is 4-2 in his last six, while Dodig is playing his first tournament since a gut wrenching loss to David Ferrer in an Indian Wells thriller. Dodig showed flashes of renewed top 50 ability in that match, and it will be intriguing to see if that shows up in Bucharest,even with AHM the favorite.
Three time champ Gilles Simon is likely to get an interesting opening match with Janko Tipsarevic, who gets a wild card for this tournament, his second since returning to the tour after a lengthy injury layoff. Tipsarevic will need to beat a qualifier, but if the reaches the second round, just as he did in Houston, he’ll have a shot at upsetting Simon for just the third time in what would be their eleventh meeting. The clay h2h is 1-1, but Simon leads 8-2 in the overall h2h, and given form, Simon will be a strong favorite. Simon is 6-3 in his last three tournaments, and has only lost to top 10 players (Ferrer x2 including Monte Carlo, and Nadal) in that span. Look for Simon to beat another Serb, Viktor Troicki, who he has a 5-0 h2h with, in the quarters. Troicki will need to beat DGT and the struggling Denis Istomin or a qualifier.
3 seed Ivo Karlovic isn’t the favorite to reach the semis in his section, that would be Borna Coric most likely, presuming he can beat Stakhovsky. While he isn’t going to be used to the Karlovic serve, as one would expect, clay slows it down to some extent, and thus it’s Dr. Ivo’s worst surface, and the one Coric is most likely to beat him on. Below Coric/Stakhovsky/Karlovic is Vesely/Schwartzman, along with former champ Florian Mayer, and Malek Jaziri. Mayer won his comeback match against Mikhail Youzhny in Monte Carlo before losing to Marin Cilic in 3 sets, and given he played pretty well, I have him beating both Jaziri an Schwartzman to setup a quarterfinal with Coric. It will be youth and form against experience, and wit, as funky flo is a difficult player to deal with given his wonky, tactically smart gamestyle. I’m going with the youth and talent of Coric to shine through at this 250, and have him reaching the semis.
Monte Carlo semifinalist Gael Monfils, who beat both Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov in the rich man’s paradise will start his Bucharest campaign against a player in terrible form, either the should be retired Mikhail Youzhny, or the challenger player Marius Copil awaits. Even if he’s fatigued, as it seems he was in his Monte Carlo semi, I still expect him to win that. Either AHM/Dodig or Simone Bolelli/Andrey Golubev await in the quarters. Given this is clay, Bolelli should prevail over Golubev. Bolelli and AHM have a 1-1 h2h, but Bolelli lost to Victor Estrella in Monte Carlo and is playing poorer than AHM at the moment, so I have a Haider-Maurer vs. Monfils quarter, with Monfils advancing unless he injures himself or is too tired to stand.
Former champ Lukas Rosol will open against Dusan Lajovic or a qualifier, with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez likely in the quarters. Rosol beat GGL in the 2013 final and he comes off a round 1 loss in Monte Carlo. GGL was shocked by Lamine Ouahab in Casablanca and is on a two match losing streak, in fact hes just 2-5 since winning the Zagreb title. GGL will need to snap that losing streak an beat a qualifier, then Steve Darcis/Marcos Baghdatis to reach the quarters. In an interesting stats note, Baghdatis hasn’t won a clay match since 2012, and Darcis, though he’s a serve and volleyer, is actually relatively solid on the surface. GGL is 3-1 against Darcis, and thus he’s still the fave even with his struggles. Rosol is streaky and very unreliable, but I’m going with the h2h and have him beating GGL for a spot in the semis.
Coric could take the title this week, Stakhovsky, a serve and volleyer, Karlovic, a big server, and possibly Mayer, a funky finesse technician all present unique matchup challenges, but Coric has a well rounded game, and the youthful energy to confront ech challenge and at least reach the semis. The reliability, yet blandness of Simon, is its own frustrating challenge, and he’s had such success at the tournament before, but you never know with Gillou, and likewise, Monfils, or anyone else on the bottom half is beatable if Borna plays well and his opponents do not, we could well see a teenage ATP champion this week.
Simon d. Coric
Monfils d. Rosol
As mentioned, Coric will need to be patient against Simon, and I’m not sure he can manage that quite yet, in their Marseille h2h meeting, Coric struggled at the start, took the second, but then lost in three, plus he should be more fatigued, thus I give Simon the edge.
Monfils won a Davis Cup match against Rosol, and this tournament is on his racquet given how well he played in Monte Carlo, if he shows interest, he should be a near lock to reach the final, as nobody is near his level on the bottom half.
Simon d. Monfils
Simon beat Monfils in Marseille this year, and also won their clay court meeting (5-1 h2h), they play what is one of the highest average rally length matchups in tennis, and though Monfils should win Bucharest this week given his level, I don’t trust him enough, and I’m going with the more reliable Simon, especially given the h2h, and the win this year.
Jack Sock continued his hot streak since returning to the ATP tour, and won his maiden ATP title in a rain delayed final over Sam Querrey 7-6 7-6. The match began with a sloppy first set that got delayed midway through after a pair of breaks, one for each player. Upon the resumption of the match, Sock and Querrey battled to a tiebreak, and though Querrey was 5-3 up at one point and had three set point chances in the breaker, Sock would be the one to take it 11-9 on his second set point chance.
In set 2 Sock saved a break point in the opening game, and broke back Querrey 3-4 down later on. Sock would have a match point at 5-6 in the second set on Querrey’s serve, but couldn’t convert. However once they got to the tiebreak, Sock was the superior mover, and shotmaker and came up with some quality shots to comfortably take it 7-2. As to be expected, Sock was mentally tougher than Querrey when it mattered, though he posted 11 double faults (Querrey had 6) and generally it was a close match.
On the week, Sock was simply on fire, he got past Joao Souza in 3 sets in the opening round, then beat Roberto Bautista Agut, and Santiago Giraldo, both solid clay court players in straight sets. In the semis he got past Kevin Anderson with a tiebreak and a break of serve. The young American is rising and is playing like a top 20 player right now. This was also his maiden ATP final.
Querrey posted his best result of the season and reached his first ATP final in three seasons with a retirement win over Marinko Matosevic, a 3 set win over Steve Johnson, and then an upset of Feliciano Lopez in straight sets. In the semis he shocked Fernando Verdasco, a favorite to take the title, in 3 sets. As often happens in Houston, the har-tru surface played differently than red clay, and thus produced some surprising results.
Ricardas Berankis and Teymuraz Gabashvili, an alternate pairing, pulled off some huge upsets to win the doubles title over Treat Huey and Scott Lipsky. They beat the Bryan brothers and also Lindstedt/Melzer in earlier rounds.
The 2015 Grand Prix Hassan II, as to be expected given its weak field, produced some surprising results, and that culminated with Martin Klizan winning his third career ATP title over maiden finalist Daniel Gimeno-Traver, a journeyman veteran. Klizan improved to 3-0 in ATP finals with a 6-2 6-2 drubbing of DGT, the 29 year old simply couldn’t handle the powerful game of Klizan, and he didn’t help his own cause by failing to convert all 7 break point chances he had during the match.
Klizan, the 2 seed, had to survive Dustin Brown in a third set tiebreak in his first match, but improved as the week went on, defeating Nicolas Almagro in an upset in the next round in 2 sets, and then Damir Dzumhur in 3 sets, as he clawed back from a set down. Though he fell in the semis, it’s still perhaps the best result of Dzumhur’s career.
DGT beat Malek Jaziri, and then Mikhail Kukushkin, Lamine Ouahab, and 3 seed Jiri Vesely, the latter in a close 3 set battle, as Vesely was aiming to make his second ATP final of the season but came up just short. Ouahab is also a remarkable story, the out of shape veteran, and former world class junior player, upset both Robin Haase and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (who was the top seed and defending champion), in straight sets, as his wacky, drop shot centric style of play flummoxed his opponents. Ouahab was a clear fan favorite with local fans, the Algerian turned Moroccan is 22-1 on home soil this year, with all of those matches coming on clay.
Rameez Junaid and Adil Shamasdin beat top seeds Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea in the doubles final. It’s their first career doubles title together, and overall the second for Shamasdin and the first for Junaid.
A lot of people were interested to see how Ryan Sweeting’s comeback at Challenger level would play out, but he clearly wasn’t ready to be competitive just yet, losing 6-3 6-0 to qualifier Nicolas Meister in the first round. Meister, however, would proceed to profit hugely from all seeds in the top half going out, making it all the way to the final without facing one. Meister beat fellow qualifier Takanyi Garanganga, who took out top seed Denis Kudla, in the quarterfinal and James McGee in the semi-final.
In the bottom half Ryan Harrison went through yet another disappointing loss, falling to Dennis Novikov in the first round. Jared Donaldson went on a great run, taking out second seed Bradley Klahn in the semi-final to reach the final without dropping a set. In the final Meister wasn’t a match for him either and got easily dispatched by Donaldson, outside of a small hiccup when he went up a double break in the second. Donaldson took down his first ever Challenger title after a 6-1 6-4 victory. Donaldson is now ranked inside of the top 200 for the first time, rising 73 spots to #178. Meister posts a new career high ranking just outside of the top 300 at #302.
The doubles draw held some controversy, as Wayne Odesnik and Michael Shabaz blatantly tanked the super-tiebreak of their second round match, giving absolutely no effort. See for yourself, it starts at the one hour mark and gets particularly ridiculous at 5-3, as Odesnik simply hits the ball to the ground and the team proceeds to get aced twice in a row http://new.livestream.com/ATP/royallahainachallenger2015stadium/videos/75406462
The tournament started off with a miracle that sent purists into a state of delight, as Enrico Becuzzi and Paolo Lorenzi entered the doubles draw as alternates, getting paired to Sam Barnett and Kevin Kim in the first round. Becuzzi and Barnett are the two most famous amateur players trying to make it as professionals, but as in their singles match two years ago, Becuzzi triumphed here as well, 6-1 6-4. In the second round they fell 6-1 6-2 to Martin Cuevas/Guido Pella. Another tanking controversy occured with Andre Ghem and Gerard Melzer, who blatantly gave away their doubles match in a 6-2 6-0 loss. In the singles draw Lorenzi got upset by Gerald Melzer in the second round, 6-4 3-6 6-3. Profiting from Lorenzi going out was Gastao Elias, who beat Melzer in the next round and went on to reach the final after beating Jordi Samper-Montana in the semi-final. Samper-Montana beat Kevin Kim in the first round, who was playing on a presumably bought wild card due to pairing up in doubles with the wealthy Barnett, considering the 36 year old Kim is unranked and has been effectively retired since 2012.
In the bottom half #7 seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver annihilated #2 seed Victor Estrella-Burgos 6-0 6-4 in the quarterfinal, after which he beat Facundo Bagnis 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 for a place in the final against Elias. Another long three set match followed, with Gimeno-Traver once again coming out on top, 6-3 1-6 7-5. With that result Gimeno-Traver recaptured a spot inside of the top 100, rising 21 spots to #89. Elias rose 17 spots to #126.
Hong Kong Challenger
Quite remarkably not a single seed in the top half survived the first round. Top seed Ricardas Berankis fell to Saketh Myneni, #4 seed Jimmy Wang to Di Wu, #6 seed Yuichi Sugita to Matthew Ebden and #8 seed Hiroki Moriya to Niels Desein. None of them could really build on the upset, as the semi-finalists were Kyle Edmund and Yoshihito Nishioka. Edmund won their match 7-6(2) 6-0. In the bottom half #2 seed Tatsuma Ito did live up to his seeding, beating Hyeon Chung 6-4 6-0 for a place in the final. Both men didn’t drop a set on their way to the final, but Edmund clearly was the better player, comfortably beating Ito 6-1 6-2. Edmund rose to a career high ranking of #148, rising 44 spots. Ito marginally improved with three spots, landing at #86.