Five Spaniards Including Pablo Carreno Busta and David Ferrer Invade ATP Bastad Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The SkiStar Swedish Open is an ATP 250 on clay in Bastad, Sweden. A host of accomplished clay courters will take to the court, and here is your look at the action to come.
Diego Schwartzman should win this section over Roberto Carballes Baena/qualifier, and then the winner of Matteo Berrettini/Leonardo Mayer. I’ll back the rising Berrettini to post a good result, upsetting Mayer and then Gastao Elias/qualifier.
With Jaume Munar in good form, I’ll back him to upset Casper Ruud in round 1 in a battle of the wild cards, and then I have David Ferrer falling to his younger countryman Munar in the second round. Richard Gasquet should beat Gerald Melzer/qualifier, then Munar/Ruud to win this section.
Pablo Carreno Busta is solid enough on clay to suggest he’ll defeat Thiago Monteiro/Elias Ymer in his opening match before facing off with fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the quarters. Verdasco opens with Lorenzo Sonego, Radu Albot/Pedro Sousa will follow. Carreno Busta over Verdasco is the sensible choice for this quarter.
John Millman should get past Guido Andreozzi and Horacio Zeballos or Federico Delbonis. Fabio Fognini is the best player in this section and a potential champion though. Presuming the Italian is focused he should ease past Denis Istomin/Mikael Ymer, and then Millman to reach the semis.
Despite having to play on the road France came away the victor in all but one singles rubber to win 3-1. Lucas Pouille was the national hero with wins over Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini to win the tie. His win against Seppi came in 5 sets, while against Fognini he needed 4 sets. Fognini beat Jeremy Chardy in the lone singles win for Italy, while Fognini and Simone Bolelli were trounced by Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in the doubles rubber.
Rafael Nadal featured in a big way but David Ferrer emerged the hero as Spain triumphed over Germany 3-2. Nadal didn’t drop a set against Philipp Kohlschreiber and Alexander Zverev, but Germany kept the tie alive thanks to wins by Zverev against Ferrer and Tim Puetz/J.L, Struff over the Lopez brothers in doubles. After Nadal won the stage was set for Kohlschreiber vs. Ferrer to decide the tie. Despite his decline at the ATP level Ferrer grinded away for multiple hours to emerge the victor 7-5 in the 5th set. Neither veteran was poor, but Spain’s hopes remain alive for perhaps a final Davis Cup title for their golden generation.
Marin Cilic won twice without dropping a set (d. Dmitry Popko and Mikhail Kukushkin), and even though Kukushkin upset Borna Coric on Friday, the doubles win for Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic all but sealed the tie for Croatia as they outmatched Timur Khabibulin and Aleksandr Nedovyesov.
Strong play from John Isner and Sam Querrey against Joris De Loore and Ruben Bemelmans setup Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock to close out the tie with a doubles win against Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen. Belgium came into the tie outgunned, and the end result was no surprise as team USA remains a great contender for the 2018 Davis Cup title.
Action outside the World Group
Argentina, Columbia, India, Uzbekistan, Czech Republican, Sweden, Bosnia, and Austria advanced to the World Group Playoffs for 2018. Austria being the biggest surprise of that bunch as Andrey Rublev and Evgeny Donskoy disappointed in a big way at home.
An experienced Italian side will battle on clay against the title favorites France. Lucas Pouille takes on Andreas Seppi, while Fabio Fognini is slated to face Jeremy Chardy in the opening ties. Those early ties should decide things, while the French have an edge in doubles with Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut opposite Simone Bolelli/Paolo Lorenzi. Italy at home has a chance, but I’ll back a strong French side.
On clay in Spain, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer lead the Armada against a strong German side in the tie of the weekend. Alexander Zverev will look to strengthen his credentials as the top player for his country. Philipp Kohlschreiber is also on hand, while the Lopez brothers is set to face Tim Puetz/J.L. Struff in doubles. On clay Nadal and Ferrer should be too tough and Spain looks positioned to advance.
Marin Cilic and Borna Coric make the home Croatian side favorites on clay against Kazakhstan. The Kazakh’s play strong as a team led by Mikhail Kukushkin, but Dmitry Popko, Timur Khabibulin, and Aleksandr Nedovyesov are simply not strong enough against Cilic and Coric. Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic are on hand for doubles. Croatia should win easily.
John Isner and Sam Querrey are on home soil in Nashville on hard courts against a weak Belgian side. Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock are also on hand, while Joris De Loore, Ruben Bemelmans, and Sander Gille/Joran Vliegen counter for Belgium. Anything but a USA sweep would be a shock.
In Europe/Africa Group 1 Jiri Vesely and the Czech Republic takes on Dudi Sela in Israel, the Ymer brothers lead Sweden against Joao Sousa and Portugal, Martin Klizan and Damir Dzumhur feature in the Slovakia vs. Bosnia tie, and a strong Russian side looks to close out Austria with Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev leading the charge.
Colombia vs. Brazil, Indian vs. China, and Argentina vs. Chile also feature, with Diego Schwartzman and Nicolas Jarry squaring off in Argentina on clay.
2018 ATP Auckland Preview and Predictions: Sock and Isner Tune Up in Auckland Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The hard court ATP 250 in Auckland comes on the heels of a successful week of WTA tennis at New Zealand’s marquee tennis event of the season. Americans make up three of the top four seeds as Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, and John Isner lead the field alongside Juan Martin Del Potro. Here is your look at the draw.
Sock had a hip ailment at the Hopman Cup and went 1-2 for in singles play. After 37 wins last year he has points to defend as he won the Auckland title last season. Presuming he’s fit Sock should begin against Peter Gojowczyk, who opens with qualifier Tim Smyczek. Smyczek had a great run at the challenger tour level to end 2017 but Gojowczyk comes off quarters in Doha. Regardless Sock is talented enough to reach the quarters.
Doha finalist Andrey Rublev takes on fellow next gen star Stefanos Tsitsipas, I’m backing the Greek player because he should be fresher and he showed good form, reaching the quarters in Doha. Robin Haase takes on another young gun, Casper Ruud who tends to be at his best on clay. The Dutchman comes off quarters in Pune but I have Tsitsipas winning this quarter before falling to Sock.
Roberto Bautista Agut faces Michael Venus first up, Brisbane finalist Ryan Harrison or Steve Johnson will follow. Johnson is in poor form, and Harrison should be fatigued so RBA is the favorite to reach the quarters. Jiri Vesely is struggling but he should beat qualifier Radu Albot before falling to Querrey. I’ll back RBA over Querrey in the quarters. Querrey is starting his season after a career 2017 where he won 35 matches.
Del Potro will face the dangerous Denis Shapovalov first up, presuming Shapovalov beats Rogerio Dutra Silva. A healthy Del Potro showed he’s a serious contender last season and he should reach the quarters defeating Shapovalov. Karen Khachanov opens with Yuichi Sugita, while Guido Pella, a semifinalist in Doha, takes on Pablo Cuevas. Khachanov is my pick for the quarters in this open section, with JMDP reaching the semis.
Veterans Isner and David Ferrer highlight the third section of the draw, Ferrer should defeat Yibing Wu, while Isner faces Hyeon Chung or Brisbane quarterfinalist Kyle Edmund. It’s not an easy draw for Isner but I have him beating Chung, and Ferrer or Joao Sousa/Donald Young to reach the semis.
Any of these 4 guys could take the title, but I’m not sure about Sock’s hip (or his desire to make a run in Melbourne superseding this tournament). Del Potro has the most upside so I’ll pick him to take home the title.
2017 US Open Men’s Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
August 28-September 10, 2017
New York, NY, USA
Prize Money: $24,193,400
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (1)
2: Andy Murray*(2)
3: Roger Federer (3)
4: Alexander Zverev (6)
5: Marin Cilic (7)
6: Dominic Thiem (8)
7: Grigor Dimitrov (9)
8: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (12)
The US Open has had a ton of top players withdrawing. Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, and Milos Raonic are all not playing, leaving just Nadal, Federer, Cilic, and Juan Martin Del Potro as former champions.
First round matches to watch:
Jan-Lennard Struff vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
Dolgopolov is a dangerous shotmaker, but Struff has been in better form (coming off semis in Winston-Salem), and is arguably better than his current ranking. If Struff can keep his mindset clear he’ll win this match.
(15)Tomas Berdych vs. Ryan Harrison
Both players could be in better form but have shown some solid form overall this season. Berdych is a bigger hitter, but if Harrison dials up his serve and defends well he has an outside shot in this one. I’ll back the veteran Czech to prevail.
Donald Young vs. (Q)Max Marterer
The 22 year old qualifier Marterer is rising quickly up the rankings, Young has home court advantage but has not been impressive this summer. Despite his edge in experience, I don’t see Young winning this match. Look for the young German to pull off a slight upset.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Vasek Pospisil
Two players with aggressive games that can fly wildly if their form is off. Neither player is performing well right now, which makes for what should be a sloppy, desperate match. The veteran Verdasco has more success at this level than Pospisil and probably nabs it, perhaps in five sets.
(31)Feliciano Lopez vs. Andrey Kuznetsov
Lopez has never lost to Kuznetsov, but the Spanish veteran is in terrible form. With his serve and volley game not clicking, look for Kuznetsov to find some momentum and win points from the baseline to pull off an upset.
Ivo Karlovic vs. (WC)Bjorn Fratangelo
Fratangelo has earned a wild card and he has a punchers chance against the big server Karlovic. The veteran has been in decline this season, but his serve is still hard to break. Karlovic probably wins but Fratangelo is still one to watch.
(17)Sam Querrey vs. Gilles Simon
Querrey trails in the h2h but is in the best form of his tennis career, Simon tends to fluke solid slam results but he’s been in a marked decline this Summer. Querrey should have too much power to lose to Simon the pusher.
(19)Gilles Muller vs. Bernard Tomic
Tomic hasn’t played since Wimbledon after a crisis of faith and confidence in his desire to play tennis. Muller, a steady veteran, has been playing well this year and on hard courts his serve is most lethal. Look for Muller to keep the pressure on Tomic and grab the win in this one.
Daniil Medvedev vs. (Q)Denis Shapovalov
Shapovalov’s stock is rapidly rising, and he looks like the next great ATP star after his run at the Rogers Cup, where he made the semifinals. Medvedev reached the quarters in Washington but has struggled since. The young Russian is a talent, but the form favors the Canadian to win this one rather easily.
(32)Robin Haase vs. Kyle Edmund
Both Edmund and Haase have reached a pair of semifinals this Summer, Edmund on hard courts is probably the better player though. Haase is a talent but he’s underachieved his whole career, the young British player should prevail in a match that should feature great ball striking.
Jared Donaldson vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili
Donaldson just beat Basilashvili in Cincy and has had a fantastic summer. The young American broke through with eight wins on North American hard courts this summer and looks primed for a strong run at the US Open. Basilashvili is a good ball striker who can frustrate his opposition though, and he’s improved a lot in his own right.
World #1 again with two career US Open titles, Rafael Nadal begins his journey against Dusan Lajovic. American Tommy Paul has a great shot at upsetting Taro Daniel before falling to Nadal in round 2. Richard Gasquet hasn’t been fit but his path to round 3 is just Leonardo Mayer, and Yuichi Sugita or wild card Geoffrey Blancaneaux, who is making his main draw Grand Slam debut. Sugita has had some good runs this season, but Gasquet should be good enough to reach round 3 before getting dumped out by Nadal. Fabio Fognini should beat his countryman, qualifier Stefano Travaglia, then Viktor Troicki or Norbert Gombos. Tomas Berdych will face Struff/Dolgopolov in round 2 after Harrison. Struff could be a dark horse, but Berdych over Fognini is the sensible pick in round 3.
David Goffin is struggling and should be on upset alert against pesky veteran Julien Benneteau, Steve Darcis will be favored against Guido Pella, but an underdog against his countryman Goffin in round 2. Gael Monfils, if healthy, should beat Jeremy Chardy and the Young/Marterer winner, then Goffin in round 3 to reach the second week. Grigor Dimitrov has an easy path to the second week. The Cincy champ opens with Vaclav Safranek, a qualifier, Aljaz Bedene or Andrey Rublev will be next, with Winston-Salem finalist Damir Dzumhur likely next in round 3. Dzumhur faces Pablo Cuevas, who is poor on hard courts, and either Nicolas Kicker or qualifier Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.
Roger Federer has five US Open titles and he’s the favorite for title #6 this US Open. Federer should beat American Frances Tiafoe to start his US Open journey, Mikhail Youzhny faces Blaz Kavcic before Federer in round 2. I have Andrey Kuznetsov beating Lopez, then Verdasco/Pospisil before falling to Federer in round 3. Philipp Kohlschreiber hasn’t been healthy, he opens with qualifier Tim Smyczek, Santiago Giraldo should beat qualifier Vincent Millot. Nick Kyrgios opens with John Millman, then should defeat Malek Jaziri/Thiago Monteiro in round 2. Kyrgios has the talent to reach the second week, only a mentality issue (or failing fitness) will keep him from making the round of 16.
Winston-Salem champion Roberto Bautista Agut faces veteran Andreas Seppi, Dustin Brown will take on fellow big hitter Thomaz Bellucci in round 2. Former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro faces Henri Laaksonen, Adrian Menendez-Maceiras faces wild card Patrick Kypson. Del Potro should reach the third round, but I back RBA’s form to defeat the Argentine fan favorite at that stage. American young gun Taylor Fritz is in good form, but facing Dominic Thiem in round 2 will be a tough task. Thiem should dispatch Alex De Minaur, Fritz opens with the fading Marcos Baghdatis in round 2 to setup that match. I have Thiem reaching round 3. Adrian Mannarino is 7-3 in his last three tournaments, he should extend that great form and defeat Ricardas Berankis, then Karlovic or Fratangelo. Thiem over Mannarino is my pick in round 3.
Russia’s Karen Khachanov should defeat Rendy Lu then Ernesto Escobedo or Radu Albot before falling to Sam Querrey in round 3. Querrey faces Dudi Sela or Chris Eubanks in round 2 after defeating Simon. Mischa Zverev has not been in good form since early in the season, he’s the favorite against Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, then Lukas Lacko or Benoit Paire in round 2. John Isner is the clear favorite in this section, Isner will need to get past big server Pierre-Hugues Herbert, then rising young gun Hyeon Chung (or Horacio Zeballos). Chung is a possible dark horse, but Isner has the experience and he’s playing at home. Look for him to beat Zverev in round 3 to reach week 2.
Jack Sock is a heavy favorite to reach week 2, he should defeat Jordan Thompson, a pesky competitor who lacks the power that Sock has in his game. Sock should then defeat Thomas Fabbiano or J.P. Smith before facing Gilles Muller in round 3. After Tomic, Muller will face Joao Sousa or Paolo Lorenzi in round 2. Sock over Muller is the sensible pick in round 3, Sock has a crisper game, but could fall victim to the upset. Alexander Zverev claimed two titles this summer and has a great chance to win the US Open with so many other players missing from the draw. Zverev faces Darian King, a qualifier from Barbados, Zverev will then face Borna Coric or Jiri Vesely in round 2. Zverev will then face Kevin Anderson in round 3. Anderson is playing well but he’s never beaten Zverev. Anderson faces J.C. Aragone, an inspirational story, then Ernests Gulbis or Alessandro Giannessi in round 2. Zverev should be too much in the third round.
Former US Open champ Marin Cilic opens with improving American Tennys Sandgren, Cilic will then face Rogerio Dutra Silva or Florian Mayer in round 2. Thanasi Kokkinakis faces Diego Schwartzman or Carlos Berlocq after defeating Janko Tipsarevic in the opening round. Cilic and Kokkinakis should face off in round 3, Cilic has not been fit this summer and hasn’t played matches. Kokkinakis is getting better and better off a long injury layoff, I have him upsetting Cilic and reaching the second week. Veteran David Ferrer opens with qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin, Evgeny Donskoy or Andreas Haider-Maurer will follow. I have the Spanish grinder defeating Jared Donaldson in round 3 after Donaldson beats Nikoloz Basilashvili and either Ruben Bemelmans or a struggling Lucas Pouille. It’s a great opportunity for Donaldson, but Ferrer finds a way to win matches.
In the weakest section of the draw, Pablo Carreno Busta should defeat qualifier Evan King, Dmitry Tursunov/Cameron Norrie and either Nicolas Mahut or Albert Ramos in round 3. I have Mahut beating Marton Fucsovics, then Ramos (or Denis Istomin) in round 2 before falling to PCB. The Shapovalov/Medvedev winner faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Marius Copil. Denis Shapovalov is in better form and should upset Tsonga. Look for Kyle Edmund to defeat Haase, then Steve Johnson or Nicolas Almagro in round 2. Johnson is a home favorite, but Edmund is in better form and I tip him to advance to round 3. I have Shapovalov reaching week 2.
Dark Horse (one for each section of the draw): Jan-Lennard Struff, Taylor Fritz, Hyeon Chung, Denis Shapovalov
All four of these players, three of them young guns, are very talented, but they will need to step up on a big stage to make deep runs. Struff would need to upset Berdych and Fognini to reach week 2. Fritz needs to get past Dominic Thiem to reach at least the round of 16, Chung would need to upset big server John Isner. I have Shapovalov making the deepest run, and I also feel he’s the most talented of the bunch, the draw sets up the best for him in terms of reaching the second week as Tsonga is not in good form.
Round of 16 Nadal d. Berdych
Dimitrov d. Monfils
Federer d. Kyrgios
Thiem d. Bautista Agut
Querrey d. Isner
Zverev d. Sock
Shapovalov d. Carreno Busta
Ferrer d. Kokkinakis
Nadal has a clear edge on Berdych, Dimitrov will be the favorite against Monfils despite the Frenchman’s skill level. Federer could be upset by Kyrgios but it seems unlikely. Thiem vs Bautista Agut is an interesting matchup, Thiem has more talent but RBA is more consistent. Querrey should beat his friend Isner, Zverev is the favorite against the American #1 Sock, I have Ferrer edging Kokkinakis, and Shapovalov in, at least, the quarterfinals.
Quarters Nadal d. Dimitrov
Federer d. Thiem
Zverev d. Querrey
Shapovalov d. Ferrer
A Nadal vs Federer semifinal seems likely, despite Dimitrov and Thiem’s ability to upset the apple cart. Zverev should also reach the semis given his good form, I have Shapovalov making a storybook run and beating Ferrer.
Semis Federer d. Nadal
Zverev d. Shapovalov
Federer and Zverev will be favorites for a reason.
Final Federer d. Zverev
Federer should win another slam, this time against an opponent playing in his first slam final.
2017 ATP Hamburg Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Hamburg is on the calendar again this year, it’s a 500 level stop, meaning making a deep run can meet quite the rankings boost.
German Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
July 24-30, 2017
Prize Money: €1,499,940
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Albert Ramos (24)
2: Pablo Cuevas (26)
3: Karen Khachanov (32)
4: Gilles Simon (39)
Spain’s Albert Ramos should get past Leonardo Mayer, a lucky loser, and either J.L. Struff or Evgeny Donskoy, Fernando Verdasco is the favorite in the top section though. He reached the semis in Bastad and presuming he can get past a tough opening round match with Jiri Vesely, he should ease past Horacio Zeballos or wild card Daniel Altmaier.
David Ferrer just won his first title in two years, he should continue his form on clay and defeat Nikoloz Basilashvili, Federico Delbonis, presuming Delbonis defeats Carlos Berlocq, should pose trouble in round 2, but I’ll tip Ferrer. and he should also beat Karen Khachanov, who is having a great season. The Russian opens with Rudolf Molleker, making his ATP debut, then should face Aljaz Bedene, presuming Bedene defeats Rogerio Dutra Silva.
Pablo Cuevas will face Andrey Kuznetsov to start off, and I’ll back the in-form Kuznetsov to get the upset. Marco Cecchinato should be next up for Kuznetsov, Florian Mayer is also a possibility. Diego Schwartzman is the favorite for the quarters above, he opens with Andreas Haider-Maurer, a qualifier, either Cedrik-Marcel Stebe or Damir Dzumhur will follow. I’ll back Kuznetsov to reach the semis.
Everyone but Umag champion Andrey Rublev has struggled in the third quarter of the draw, Gilles Simon and Philipp Kohlschreiber have plenty of elite experience, but are not playing well, Max Marterer is a wild card, Tommy Haas and Dmitry Tursunov are aging veterans in poor form, Benoit Paire lost in the opening match of his last tournament, and Nicolas Kicker has yet to make real inroads on the ATP tour. I’ll back Kohlschreiber over Paire at home in the quarters, as Rublev should be gassed.
Dark Horse: Andrey Kuznetsov
Kuznetsov should score the early upset against Cuevas, and go as far as the final from that point.
Semis Verdasco d. Ferrer
Kuznetsov d. Kohlschreiber
I can’t predict Ferrer to go back to back in consecutive weeks given his age, Kuznetsov is playing well enough to make the final, but Verdasco should be a slight favorite in Hamburg.
Carreno Busta and Muller Setup Unexpected Final in Estoril Manuel Traquete, Tennis Atlantic
It’s been an exciting week at Portugal’s only ATP tournament in Estoril, as the final is now set between Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta and serve and volleying veteran Gilles Muller. Carreno Busta, a finalist last year, hasn’t dropped a set through three matches and has been in good form on European clay this year. He seems very comfortable on the main court and has played technically sound, skillful clay court tennis, as he slipped past Tommy Robredo, and then dismantled Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer, having beaten three formerly highly ranked Spanish clay court veterans this week. Ferrer winning a pair of easy matches over Portugese wild card Frederico Ferreira Silva and American Ryan Harrison to reach the semfinals and find his footing after a woeful year. PCB will thus be the expected favorite against Muller.
Muller, who much prefers fast surfaces, had a 4-10 clay court record since 2013 prior to playing in Estoril, but has now won three straight on his worst surface, defeating Pedro Sousa, Taro Daniel in three sets, and Kevin Anderson to reach the final. Muller maneuvered past Anderson’s big serve, which had allowed him to upset Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals, and Daniel, who is usually at his best on clay, simply cracked under pressure in their quarterfinal match. Despite the fact he’s unlikely to defeat Carreno Busta, he should have plenty of confidence heading into the final, and if he serves well anything is possible, even on clay.
In doubles, fans have enjoyed the success of Spanish veterans Tommy Robredo and David Marrero, while Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus are out to surprise them in the final, having beaten the top seeds in the opening round of doubles action.
2017 ATP Buenos Aires Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP Golden Swing rolls on with a 250 level stop in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The South American nation has contributed a lot to the rich landscape of men’s tennis, and now its time to celebrate Argentinian tennis for a week in its capital. Here is your preview, with predictions.
ATP World Tour 250
February 13-19, 2017
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Prize Money: $546,680
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (5)
2: Pablo Cuevas (20)
3: David Ferrer (25)
4: Pablo Carreno Busta (26)
The Argentina Open has one top tier star competing against a host of the ATP World Tour’s best dirtballers.
First round matches to watch:
Victor Estrella vs. Thiago Monteiro
36 year old Victor Estrella comes off a third straight Quito title and has started the season in good form, while young Brazilian Thiago Monteiro has lost three straight. The 22 year old is fresher, and no slouch on clay, but Estrella’s grinding should give him an edge in this matchup, as long as he can recover.
Tommy Robredo vs. (7)Fabio Fognini
The h2h between these veterans is split 4-4, but Fognini, a hero in Davis Cup for Italy, is likely the better player in this matchup. Robredo is returning to tour from injury, at Age 34 he’s making his 2017 debut, after focusing on the Challenger tour to recover his ranking and form in 2016. Robredo was once a top clay court player, and he could upset Fognini, but if the Italian hones in he should be able to slap forehand winners on the way to victory.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. (WC)Janko Tipsarevic
This pair have never met on clay, and split hard court meetings 1-1. Dolgopolov has continued his miserable form, he dropped a match to serve and volleyer Rajeev Ram on Quito’s clay. Tipsarevic lost in round 2 of Quito, but still looks to be playing better, and has a great shot at a quality tour win in this one.
Kei Nishikori is 28-7 on clay over the last two seasons, and as the top seed a lot of pressure is on him to perform well in Buenos Aires, where he is playing for the second time in his career. His first match will be against an Argentine, either Diego Schwartzman or Facundo Bagnis. DSS leads Bagnis 3-1 in the h2h, so Nishikori over Schwartzman is the likely path to the quarters for Kei, who has started the season 6-2. Federico Delbonis was 16-8 on clay last year, and has a clear advantage to reach the quarterfinals with wins over a struggling Stephane Robert, and Horacio Zeballos or Joao Sousa. Sousa isn’t quite as good on clay as Delbonis, but Nishikori represents a much stronger challenge. Presuming the Japanese #1 is motivated, Nishikori is the semifinal favorite.
The Fognini/Robredo winner should be favored over a tired Estrella or Monteiro in round 2. In the quarterfinals I have it Fabio Fognini vs. David Ferrer. Ferrer, despite having a poor season last year, and struggling to start this year by his usual standards, was still 15-7 on clay in 2016, is a 3-time champion in BA, and is simply better than Carlos Berlocq or a qualifier. Ferrer is 11-0 against Fognini, with that kind of h2h in his favor, Ferrer should be the semifinalist opposite Nishikori/Delbonis.
Pablo Cuevas and Paolo Lorenzi, the two seeds at the bottom of the draw, are clear favorites to face off in the quarterfinals. Cuevas was 21-8 on clay last year and is better on the surface than the Dolgopolov/Tipsarevic winner he opens with. Lorenzi faces off with Gerald Melzer, Melzer isn’t bad on clay, while Lorenzi just lost a hard fought Quito final. Fatigue could be a factor, but the grinding Italian veteran should reach round 2 to face Renzo Olivo or a qualifier. Olivo is solid on clay as well, and playing on home dirt, but I still think Lorenzi is the better ATP player (3-0 h2h) and will prevail. Cuevas leads Lorenzi 5-0 in the h2h, and should be fresher, making him the semifinal favorite.
Pablo Carreno Busta and Albert Ramos look set to create an all-Spanish quarterfinal between sometime doubles partners, presuming PCB defeats a qualifier, and Ramos defeats Guido Pella and the winner of Leonardo Mayer/Gastao Elias. Pella is struggling, while Ramos comes off semis in Quito. Mayer hasn’t played as much on tour recently, but he’ll have home court advantage against Elias, a journeyman Portugese player who has hung around the fringes of ATP main draws for a bit now. PCB picked up a win over Ramos last year, he’s starting his season on clay after going 20-12 last season on the surface. I have PCB facing Cuevas in the semifinals.
Of the non-seeded players, the streaky Delbonis may be the most dangerous on clay. He’ll have home fans behind him, and Nishikori could falter if he’s not focused in this 250. If Delbonis can slay Nishikori, he has a shot at taking this title at home.
Semis Nishikori d. Ferrer
Carreno Busta d. Cuevas
Nishikori has won six of his last seven matches against Ferrer and has only gotten better since they last met. PCB vs. Cuevas is hard to call, Cuevas leads the h2h 3-2, but PCB may be in slightly better form, I’ll go with the Spaniard, either way we would see a Pablo in the final.
Final Nishikori d. Carreno Busta
This pair have never met, Nishikori is an elite player though, and although he’s not an elite clay courter, he’s still great on the surface and with his movement and steady groundstrokes, not easy to defeat on this surface. He should outmuscle allcomers and take this 250 title.
2017 ATP Auckland Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
It’s time to preview and predict New Zealand’s only ATP tournament, the ASB Classic. The Women’s version of this ran all last week.
ATP World Tour 250
Auckland, New Zealand
January 9-14, 2017
Prize Money: $450,110
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: Roberto Bautista Agut (14)
2: John Isner (19)
3: David Ferrer (21)
4: Jack Sock (23)
For a pre-slam 250, Auckland has one of the better fields it’s had in recent years.
First round matches to watch:
(8)Marcos Baghdatis vs. Adrian Mannarino
Mannarino just took a challenger title to start the year while Baghdatis was injured in his first match in Doha. Both players prefer to attack rather than defend with their tennis, Mannarino continues to alternate between challengers and the tour level with success. He’ll be the favorite in this match presuming he’s still fresh enough.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez vs. (Q)Ryan Harrison
Harrison qualified and is 2-1 to start his season. He’s never lost to Garcia-Lopez (3-0 in the h2h), and the Spaniard is on a seven match ATP losing streak dating back to last season. Harrison spent most of his time at the challenger level last year, going 11-11 in ATP matches. He’s just inside the top 100, and could use a good run in a 250 like this to get back to tour level.
Chennai champion Roberto Bautista Agut has won Auckland before, and although Jiri Vesely isn’t the easiest round 2 opponent, presuming the Czech ousts Horacio Zeballos, RBA should still be fresh enough with the first round bye to prevail and reach the quarters. Mannarino should be opposite him, after Baghdatis, Dustin Brown or qualifier Michael Mmoh. Mannarino has lost twice at the tour level against RBA, so the Spaniard should be the favorite to reach the semifinals. Brown could also serve and volley his way to surprise success.
David Ferrer struggled in Brisbane as his decline has continued thus far in 2017. Ferrer will face qualifier Finn Tearney, a local favorite, or Robin Haase. He should win that to reach the quarterfinals opposite Albert Ramos/Joao Sousa. Facundo Bagnis and qualifier Brydan Klein are also in this section. Sousa had a down season last year (25-33 record) and is making his 2017 debut, the h2h favors Ramos beating Sousa and Klein, then falling to Ferrer in the quarters. Ramos also made the quarters in Chennai.
John Isner will kick off his 2017 season against Malek Jaziri or Diego Schwartzman. Isner posted a down 35-21 record in 2016, and will be looking to get off to a better start, most likely against Schwartzman. Fellow Yank Steve Johnson looms in the quarters, Johnson will face Stephane Robert, then most likely another veteran, Yen-Hsun Lu in round 2. Lu first has to face Karen Khachanov, another player who won a match to open his season. Johnson is good enough to beat Robert and Lu/Khachanov, but I don’t think he’ll get past Isner’s serve this time, and I have Isner reaching the semis and moving his 4-2 h2h edge against Johnson to 5-2.
Hopman Cup finalist Jack Sock went 3-1 in singles matches at the exhibition, and presuming he’s fresh and focused, he should do well in Auckland. Sock showed off his great hard court game, and his powerful forehand in Perth. He should ease past Harrison/GGL, and then win against Feliciano Lopez, who he beat in the Hopman Cup. Lopez faces Kiwi Michael Venus in round 1, with Jeremy Chardy or Artem Sitak to follow. The veteran Spaniard went 30-24 last year, while Sock went 37-22 over the same span. It should be a good week for Americans in New Zealand.
It wouldn’t shock me at all if the unseeded Mannarino got past Bautista Agut in the quarters and went as far as winning the tournament. Strange results tend to happen in tournaments held before slams, and Mannarino could use the ranking points.
Semis Ferrer d. Bautista Agut
Sock d. Isner
Ferrer has beaten RBA twice, and I think he wants and needs to make this final more than his countryman. Ferrer has had success in Auckland, and I see him fighting harder than most players in this field to get back on top. Sock has beaten Isner twice in three attempts since 2015. Isner had a clear edge in the years prior, but Jack is improving, while John has declined just a bit.
Final Sock d. Ferrer
If Sock plays like he did in the Hopman Cup he’ll be a worthy recipient of his second career ATP title. This pairing have a split h2h, but Sock won in the Auckland semis last season to reach the final.
Steve Darcis is a home favorite, and he’ll put his serve and volley skills up against a struggling Benoit Paire. Paire has been off his game for months and the veteran Darcis could knock him off.
David Goffin will face off with Tommy Robredo or Florian Mayer, with #6 seed Joao Sousa his most likely quarterfinal opponent. Goffin is in the race for London and needs to win his home tournament to have a chance at qualifying. Mayer is struggling, Sousa likewise isn’t playing well but he tends to play well indoors and he should beat qualifier Marius Copil, and the Darcis/Paire winner. Goffin over Sousa is my pick in the quarters.
Serve and volleyer Nicolas Mahut plays well in indoor hard court tournaments like this and he should dispatch Diego Schwartzman and Taylor Fritz or Joris De Loore for a spot in the quarterfinals. Fritz should defeat local favorite De Loore, while Pablo Cuevas faces Jozef Kovalik or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in round 2. Kovalik has the best form in his section, and Mahut over Kovalik is my pick for the quarters.
David Ferrer is just 16-10 on hard courts this year but he’s still the strongest player in his section. The veteran will face an in-form but likely fatigued Kyle Edmund in round 2, after Edmund beats Illya Marchenko. Paul-Henri Mathieu faces Robin Haase first, with a struggling Federico Delbonis or an equally struggling Andreas Seppi to follow. Mathieu over Seppi is my pick for round 2, with Ferrer favored to defeat Mathieu.
Shenzen finalist Richard Gasquet will face Inigo Cervantes or serve and volleying qualifier Michael Berrer in round 2. Berrer should fall to Gasquet, and that would setup an all-French matchup with Gilles Simon. Simon faces ATP main draw debutante Yannick Maden with J.L. Struff, the Mons challenger champ, or Mikhail Youzhny to follow. Simon reached the semis in Shanghai, so I have him beating Struff and Gasquet to reach the semis and continue his good form.
If the British #2 can knock off Ferrer he would have a clear path to the semifinals. Edmund isn’t the headline grabber that Andy Murray is but he’s shown steady improvement this season, and a win over Ferrer would be a big result.
Semis Goffin d. Mahut
Simon d. Ferrer
Goffin and Simon’s form should tip them to reach the final.
Final Goffin d. Simon
Goffin has to be the favorite to win his home tournament.