Fabio Fognini won his third title of 2018 and moved within one spot of his career high ranking (13) after upsetting Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4 6-2. Fognini dropped just one set this week and that came in his first match against Quentin Halys. After winning that match he eased past Yoshihito Nishioka, and Cam Norrie dropping just 18 games in his final three matches this week, facing no tiebreaks.
Del Potro reached his fourth ATP final of the season easing past Marcos Giron, Egor Gerasimov and Damir Dzumhur without dropping a set.
Mexico’s own Arevalo/Reyes-Varela defeated Fritz/Kokkinakis in the doubles final.
The ATP clay court season wrapped up with qualifier Martin Klizan winning in Kitzbuhel, his first ATP title since 2016. Klizan had it easy against Denis Istomin winning 6-2 6-2. Over the course of the week Klizan won two qualifying matches, plus he defeated Sebastian Ofner, Dominic Thiem, Dusan Lajovic, and Jaume Munar in the main draw, dropping sets against Thiem and Lajovic.
Istomin had his best run of the season, he came out of qualifying and then defeated Federico Delbonis, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Max Marterer, and Nicolas Jarry to reach the final in a surprise. He wasn’t favored in any match this week but won all but the final.
Jebavy/Molteni defeated Bracciali/Delbonis in the doubles final.
Goffin Takes 2 ATP titles in as many weeks, Nadal and Istomin Add to Trophy Case Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
David Goffin has made a great run of things after the US Open, he’s finishing the season out strong as he defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov in three sets in the Shenzhen final, after winning a three setter over Henri Laaksonen in the semis, and also earning wins over Evgeny Donskoy and Donald Young. Dolgopolov reached his third final of hte season with wins over Lloyd Harris, Sergiy Stakhovsky, Dudi Sela, and Damir Dzumhur. He beat Sela because Sela had to retire in the third set of their quarterfinal match due to religious reasons, as he was observing the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
The doubles title was won by Alex Peya and Rajeev Ram over Mektic/Monroe.
In Chengdu, Denis Istomin turned back the clock and won his second career ATP title via a retirement victory over Marcos Baghdatis. Istomin scored wins over Jan-Lennard Struff, Karen Khachanov, Jared Donaldson, and Yuichi Sugita as the Chengdu field was decimated by upsets. The veteran Baghdatis beat Vasek Pospisil, Peter Gojowczyk, Yen-Hsun Lu, and Guido Pella to reach the final. Erlich/Qureshi beat Daniell/Demoliner in the doubles final.
Goffin beat Adrian Mannarino in straight sets in the Tokyo final, he continued his winning streak from Shenzhen with wins over Feliciano Lopez, Matthew Ebden, Richard Gasquet, and Diego Schwartzman to reach the final, He won over Schwartzman narrowly, and came back from a set down against Ebden.
Mannarino reached his second final of the season scoring wins over Go Soeda, Jiri Vesely, Yuichi Sugita, and Marin Cilic to reach the final, the Frenchman isn’t done yet this season and has already had a career best year on tour at 29.
Mclachlan/Uchiyama beat Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares in a shocking doubles final upset, they beat both of the tournament’s top doubles seeds as wild cards.
Rafael Nadal improved to 61-9 on the season by taking the final in Beijing, his 6th of the year. Nadal saved match points against Lucas Pouille in the opening round and then blitzed past Karen Khachanov, John Isner, and Grigor Dimitrov before dominating Nick Kyrgios in the final.
Kyrgios, playing in his second final of 2017, didn’t seem comfortable, but played much better against Nikoloz Basilashvili, Mischa Zverev, Steve Darcis, and Alexander Zverev, all of whom he beat to reach the final.
Kontinen/Peers beat Isner/Sock in the doubles final.
Week 1 at the 2017 Australian Open is in the books, and what a week it’s been. World #1 Novak Djokovic fell to a stunning five set defeat in round 2 at the hands of qualifying wild card Denis Istomin, who started the tournament ranked outside of the top 100. That opens up the bottom half of the draw, and makes it more likely that we’ll have a new Grand Slam champion, and perhaps finalist as well. Here is your look ahead to week 2, with predictions for what’s to come.
Round of 16 matches
(1)Andy Murray vs. Mischa Zverev
Murray hasn’t dropped a set through three matches. Illya Marchenko and Sam Querrey both gave it a good effort, while teenager Andrey Rublev didn’t play quite as well, but regardless, the world #1 is the favorite to take his first ever Aussie Open title.
Zverev continues a late career breakthrough, he stunned John Isner 9-7 in a 5th set in round 2, and also earned wins over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Malek Jaziri. Zverev’s serve and volleying has been difficult to stop thus far, but Murray is a tremendous returner, and is a clear favorite in this match with a 3-0 h2h.
(17)Roger Federer vs. (5)Kei Nishikori
Federer has beaten Nishikori the past three times they met, and hasn’t dropped a set outside of his round 1 victory against Jurgen Melzer. Noah Rubin and Tomas Berdych were both dominated by the Swiss maestro, who is fit, and highly motivated at age 35.
Nishikori struggled with his serve, needing five sets to put away Andrey Kuznetsov in round 1, but has looked much better in matches against Jeremy Chardy and Lukas Lacko that were both completed in straights. Nishikori has the game to trouble Federer, but the Swiss veteran is a clear favorite, his aggressive ball striking should be superior in this one.
(4)Stan Wawrinka vs. Andreas Seppi
Wawrinka has won the last three meetings against Seppi, and although he’s had a shaky start, dropping sets in two of his three matches, he’s still a dangerous player left in the draw. Stan the man needed five sets against big hitter Martin Klizan, beat Steve Johnson in straights, and then narrowly avoided five sets against Viktor Troicki, winning a fourth set tiebreak. Seppi should be a bit exhausted as he dropped sets against both Paul-Henri Mathieu and Steve Darcis. In round 2, Seppi stunned Nick Kyrgios 10-8 in the 5ht set, coming back from two sets down to defeat the home favorite. Seppi’s steady play contrasted with Kyrgios roller coaster form, and eventually frustrated the young gun into defeat.
Seppi’s steadiness will likely trouble Wawrinka as well, but Wawrinka should tighten his game up and hit enough winners to prevail.
(12)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Dan Evans
The former AO finalist Tsonga got a huge win over Jack Sock in four sets in his last match, and he’s also defeated Thiago Monteiro and Dusan Lajovic to reach the second week. The in-form Evans is playing the best tennis of his career. The new top 50 player has won seven of his last eight matches, behind a powerful and versatile one-handed backhand. Evans upset Bernard Tomic, and also Marin Cilic in four sets, in consecutive matches, he also beat Facundo Bagnis in round 1.
Tsonga is a good attacking player, but Evans motivation has been something to watch recently. I’m going with an upset, and have Evans reaching a first ever slam quarterfinal.
(6)Gael Monfils vs. (9)Rafael Nadal
Nadal leads the h2h 12-2. Having lost weight, Rafa is playing better on hard courts than he has in recent years, and he looks fit, and newly aggressive on his groundstrokes, taking the ball earlier in rallies. The Spaniard needed five sets to defeat a powerful Alexander Zverev in round 3, as he outlasted the young gun with strong defensive play. Rafa also had easy wins against Florian Mayer, and Marcos Baghdatis in round 1 and 2.
Monfils has wins against Jiri Vesely, Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Philipp Kohlschreiber, dropping just a set to Dolgopolov. The Frenchman is playing quite well right now, but I don’t think he’s good matchup for Nadal, given Nadal’s top spin tends to push him back and away from the baseline.
(13)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. (3)Milos Raonic
Milos Raonic is suffering from flu, but leads the h2h 4-0 against RBA and is playing well, with his serve, volleys, and groundstrokes all clicking. Raonic defeated Dustin Brown, Gilles Muller, and Gilles Simon through three rounds, dropping just a set to Simon.
RBA dropped a set to David Ferrer, but he’s in a great form, having posted routine wins against Guido Pella and Yoshihito Nishioka. RBA is 7-0 to start the season, but unless his return game improves considerably, Raonic has to be the favorite.
(8)Dominic Thiem vs. (11)David Goffin
Thiem has won three of his last four matches against Goffin and the young Austrian continues to cement himself as a top 10 player. Wins against J.L. Struff, Jordan Thompson, and Benoit Paire allowed him to reach the second week, even though he dropped sets in all three matches.
Goffin is also a picture of steady tennis, after slipping past Reilly Opelka in five sets in round 1, he had no trouble with Radek Stepanek, and Ivo Karlovic, winning those matches in straight sets. The qualifier Opelka’s versatile game bothered Goffin, and Thiem isn’t the easiest opponent. That said, Thiem was having problems on serve in his last match, and seems to still be suffering from shoulder problems. Goffin is a clear favorite.
Outside of a bad set against Hyeon Chung in round 2, Grigor Dimitrov has been playing great, posting eight straight wins, including routine victories over Chris O’Connell and Richard Gasquet. Most people expected Gasquet to put up a better showing, but Dimitrov simply dismantled him, playing especially well on return games.
The draw has opened up, thanks to Denis Istomin. Istomin was nearly defeated in a pre-qualifier to gain a wild card to the AO, but instead he played the match of his life, handing Novak Djokovic his worst defeat since 2008 with a confident five set victory. Djokovic started the match slow, and never was able to gather momentum, Istomin’s great ball striking and confident serving allowed him to overcome leg cramps to win two tiebreaks, and the fifth set. Djokovic was especially poor on return and spewed errors. Istomin’s first victim was Ivan Dodig in round 1, and Pablo Carreno Busta lost to Istomin in round 3, falling in five sets, after taking the 4th set.
Istomin has proven that he may be set for a return to being an ATP regular, but Dimitrov is the more consistent and higher ranked player. Istomin’s run should end in the round of 16.
Predictions for the remaining rounds
Quarters Murray d. Federer in 4
Wawrinka d. Evans in 3
Raonic d. Nadal in 5
Dimitrov d. Goffin in 4
Murray will have a difficult match against Federer, but the fresher, younger, and better player at this point in their careers should prevail. Wawrinka’s backhand is better than Evans, and his experience should win out. Raonic and Nadal is a tough match to call, but on hard courts I’ll still go with Raonic. Dimitrov should have more upside than Goffin given his recent form.
Semis Murray d. Wawrinka in 4
Raonic d. Dimitrov in 5
Murray and Raonic should be clear favorites to reach the final, Dimitrov is a wild card to reach his first ever slam final though, depending on Raonic’s health.
Final Murray d. Raonic in 4
Raonic’s serve is a great weapon, but Murray’s elite return game neutralizes that. The World #1 should win his first ever Australian Open title, defeating Raonic just like he did in the Wimbledon final.
Top Seeds Shine @ChinaOpen Qualifying Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
The China Open has been dominated in recent years by Novak Djokovic, who is bidding to tin the title for the fourth consecutive time. Ahead of the main draw, qualifying got underway which saw the top three seeds successfully qualify.
Top seed and British No.2 Aljaz Bedene dropped eleven games en route to the main draw. Bedene is currently at a career ranking high of 55th in the world. In his first match Bedene eased his way past Chinese wildcard Yecong He (6-3,6-0). He is currently ranked 653rd in the world and is yet to win a title. Following his win over He, Bedene faced 35-year-old Michael Berrer. Berrer defeated 7th seed Alexander Zverev in the first round. The Brit dropped his serve once to take the match 6-4,6-4.
In the first round Bedene will play Czech Republic’s Lukas Rosol. Bedene has beaten the Czech twice before, but their last encounter was three years ago in the 2012 Prague Challenger.
Denis Istomin defeated Luke Saville is straight sets to set up a showdown with Chinese wildcard Zhang Zhizhen. The 18-year-old upset Lithuanian fifth seed Ricardas Berankis in the first round. Despite Istomin being ranked 500 places higher, Zhizhen unexpectedly took the first set to the delight of his home crowd. Istomin silenced the crowd by clawing his way back to win the match 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Istomin will play another Chinese player in the main draw, Ze Zhang. Zhang is currently ranked 216th in the world which is far from his 2013 ranking high of 148.
Third seed Simone Bolelli experienced a fairly straightforward route to the main draw which included a first round win against Novak Djokovic’s brother, Djordje Djokovic. The 20-year-old Serbian received a wildcard into the draw and is ranked 1490th in the world. He has one title to his name which was a doubles title from a Futures tournament in 2013. The Italian brushed Djokovic aside 6-0,6-4. In the final round of qualifying he encountered stiffer resistance from Andrey Kuznetsov. In both sets Bolelli went down a break of service at the start before clawing his way back to win 6-2, 7-6 (2).
In the main draw Bolelli will play another Djokovic, world No.1 Novak. The top seed has an outstanding record at the tournament with a win-loss of 24-0. Since 2009 he has won the tournament five out of six times. The only exception was in 2011 when Djokovic withdrew due to a torn muscle. The Italian has played the world No.1 four times between 2006-2009 and is yet to win a match against the Serbian.
Finally, Australia’s John Millman cruised into the main draw. In the first round, he defeated fellow countryman James Duckworth (6-4, 6-4) to set up a clash with China’s Bai Yan. Yan stunned fourth seed Lucas Pouille in the first round. Yan is currently at a career ranking high of 266 in the world and has won two Futures titles this year. Despite the positive upsurge in Yan’s form, he was no match for Millman. The world No.75 dropped two games to win the match 6-1, 6-1, after sixty-three minutes.
In the first round Millman will play Spain’s Tommy Robredo. The Australian has a 2-0 head-to-head lead against Robredo. In the first round of this year’s Wimbledon tournament, he defeated the Spaniard in straight sets.
Murray, Hewitt, and Rublev Star in Weekend Davis Cup Action Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Davis Cup had some exciting ties over the weekend as young guns, veterans, and a few top players starred in the action worldwide. Here is a recap of everything worth noting that went down.
Australia, Great Britain, Belgium and Argentina Advance From World Group Quarterfinals
The most anticipated tie of the weekend was between team GB and France at London Queen’s club on grass, and it did not disappoint as an emotional Andy Murray single handedly carried his team to a 3-1 victory in the tie. Murray had a part in all three of the needed wins for the players sporting the Union Jack, he beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with ease on Friday, won a crucial doubles point with his brother Jamie in 4 sets on Saturday, and then closed out the tie with a win against Gilles Simon after dropping the first set. Simply put, the French team didn’t perform up to the level needed to defeat Murray, as their depth couldn’t beat the British star power.
James Ward lost the other rubber to Simon on Friday as he couldn’t repeat his Davis Cup heroics of previous ties.
The next opponent for the British will be their Commonwealth partners Australia, as the green and gold clawed back from 0-2 down on Friday against Kazakhstan and relied on the steady veteran presence of Lleyton Hewitt to push them into the semis. The Aussie young guns Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios both played poorly with the pressure on Friday, Kokkinakis failed to win a set against the veteran Mikhail Kukushkin on grass, while Kyrgios lost a 4 setter to Aleksandr Nedovyesov, and stated after that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be there playing DC.
Aussie captain Wally Masur, and Captain in waiting Lleyton Hewitt seemed to take that statement to heart, as Hewitt stepped up himself in his final year as a pro player. The veteran took part in the doubles rubber with the big serving Sam Groth and won it over Nedovyesov and Andrey Golubev, and then Groth beat Kukushkin in four sets, and Hewitt closed out Nedovyesov in straights to win the tie. He’s struggled all year in singles, but in what could have been his final Davis Cup match, Hewitt played fantastic, and proved why he’s one of the most tenacious battlers the game will ever see.
GB vs. Australia could well be something special with Hewitt, Murray, the Aussie young guns with a chance to redeem themselves, and a pro British crowd filling the stands in the UK as they look for a spot in the Davis Cup final.
The fatally weakened teams of Serbia and Canada both slumped to defeat against Argentina and Belgium respectively, Team Serbia lacked Novak Djokovic and on the road in Argentina on clay they clearly struggled without his talent and leadership. Leonardo Mayer and Federico Delbonis scored singles wins on Friday over Filip Krajinovic and Viktor Troicki, Delbonis’ win coming from two sets to love down, and then on Saturday Mayer and Carlos Berlocq clinched the tie with a routine win over Troicki/Nenad Zimonjic. The dead rubbers resulting in the tie ending 4-1.
Team Canada was without their injured stars Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic and without their big serving, they were whitewashed 5-0 by an undersized Belgian team on clay in Belgium. The Canadian team was uncomfortable on the slow surface, as Steve Darcis beat veteran journeyman Frank Dancevic in four sets,and David Goffin rolled young gun Filip Peliwo in straights. The tie was then clinched by Ruben Bemelmans/Kimmer Coppejans who beat the veteran rock of Daniel Nestor, and Adil Shamasdin in the doubles tie. Coppejans and Darcis beat Dancevic and Peliwo in the dead rubbers to complete the rout.
Argentina will travel to Belgium in an interesting tie that will decide the other finalist spot.
Russia, India among teams with chance at 2016 World Group Participation
Group 1 ties also took place across the globe and the biggest story was Russia toppling a B-list Spanish Armada to book their spot in the world group playoffs. The Spanish team, led by veteran Tommy Robredo, got off to a good start on indoor hard on the Pacific coast city of Vladivostok far on the Asian side of Russia. Robredo beat young gun Andrey Rublev in straights, making Rublev extremely flustered, and Pablo Andujar beat Karen Khachanov also in straights for a 2-0 lead. However it was clear the Russians had more team unity and spirit, while the Spanish, with turmoil in their federation and a recent change in coaches, couldn’t seal the deal. Evgeny Donskoy and Konstantin Kravchuk beat Marc Lopez/David Marrero, one of the top doubles teams in the world in a shocking five set Saturday upset. On Sunday Donskoy upset Robredo in 4 sets, and then Rublev was the hero, winning a surprisingly routine 5th rubber over Andujar. After some time in the wilderness, Russia, a nation with a strong history in tennis, is close to returning to the top tier of the Davis Cup, while Spain will spend another year away from the spotlight.
Also advancing from Europe’s group 1 are the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia. The Dutch upset Austria on the road and on clay, as Dominic Thiem choked away a ton of break points to hand Thiemo De Bakker an opening rubber win in five sets, and though Andreas Haider-Maurer steadied the ship with a win over Robin Haase to make the tie 1-1, Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer won the doubles over Jurgen Melzer/Oliver Marach, and then Haase beat a disoriented Thiem in straights to clinch. The tie ended 3-2 as the Austrians won the dead rubber, but all the same it was a surprisingly clutch performance from a Dutch team made up of well known headcases, while the young gun Thiem failed under pressure and now has a lot to think about.
The Poles won 3-1 over Ukraine, their team had more depth and it showed on indoor hard in Poland. Alex Dolgopolov of Ukraine won the opening rubber over Jerzy Janowicz in straights, but Michal Przysiezny scored a minor upset in straights over Sergiy Stakhovsky, Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski beat Dolgopolov and Denys Molchanov in double, and Janowicz closed out the tie with a four set win over Stakhovsky.
Slovakia went 1-0 down on the road against Romania on clay,as Marius Copil beat Norbert Gombos in a thrilling 12-10 5th set tiebreak, but then they rolled off three consecutive rubber wins to clinch the tie between the two former Eastern Bloc nations. Martin Klizan beat Adrian Ungur and Copil in singles, and in between Andrej Martin/Igor Zelejnay upset Florin Mergea/Horia Tecau, a top 5 doubles team, to win the pivotal doubles rubber, as the tie again ended 3-2 with a Romanian dead rubber win.
In Asia’s group 1 Uzbekistan and India were winners, as expected. Denis Istomin carried his Uzbek team with a doubles rubber win partnering with Farrukh Dustov, and two singles wins over South Korea, as Hyeon Chung, the young gun leading the Korean team, came down injured in the 4th and decisive rubber. India beat New Zealand despite the best efforts of Michael Venus and company, Somdev Devvarman recovered from a five set loss from two sets up on Friday in singles, and beat Marcus Daniell on Sunday, while Yuki Bhambri was key as he scored two singles wins over Jose Statham and Venus, his routine win over Venus in a live fifth rubber.
In the America’s group 1 on clay, Colombia slipped past Uruguay 3-2, and the Dominican Republic slipped past Ecuador 3-1(3-2). Alejandro Gonzalez went a key 2-0 in singles as Pablo Cuevas’s Uruguay came up just short. Pablo and his brother Martin played all the matches for Uruguay, winning the doubles rubber and the 4th rubber (P. Cuevas d. Giraldo) to force a live fifth rubber from 2-0 down at the start of Saturday, but Gonzalez closed out Martin for the win. Victor Estrella did what Andy Murray and Denis Istomin did, carrying the load for the DR even at his age as they beat a weak Ecuador team that lacked any sort of top player. Estrella won the 1st, and 4th rubbers, along with the doubles rubber.
Results from Group 2 as Dimitrov and Sousa star in wins
Chile blanked Mexico 5-0 in the Americas’ group 2, Pakistan will face Taiwan in the 3rd round of round 2 in Asia, and in Europe it will be Portugal vs. Belarus and Hungary vs. Bulgaria. Of note, Grigor Dimitrov played for Bulgaria this weekend (they won 5-0 over Luxembourg) and Joao Sousa ensured the Fins lost 4-1, they were led by veteran Jarkko Nieminen.
Denis Istomin captured his first ever ATP title in Nottingham, as the Uzbek #1 battled his way through multiple tough matches to win the 250 level grass court title. Istomin won two tiebreaks over American Sam Querrey for a 7-6 7-6 final victory.
Prior to that Denis menaced his way past Nicolas Almagro, Juan Monaco, and Sergiy Stakhovsky without dropping a set. He faced a match point against Leonardo Mayer but prevailed in three sets, and beat Marcos Baghdatis via retirement in the semifinals, as Baghdatis pulled out to rest before Wimbledon.
Querrey got past Santiago Giraldo, and Pablo Cuevas in straights, and then Gilles Simon in three sets saving match point en route. In the semis, he slipped past Alexandr Dolgopolov in 3 sets.
Chris Guccione and Andre Sa won the doubles title over David Marrero and Pablo Cuevas.
Diego Schwartzman, Benoit Paire lead the list of qualifiers into the Monte-Carlo mainstage Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
This week the worlds best players on the ATP Tour will get their first test on the clay courts in the prestigious Monte-Carlo Masters. The tournament started back in 1897 when Reginald Doherty took the title in three straight sets. Since then the event has transformed into a multi million dollar event with a prize money value of €2,750,000. Over the weekend 28 players have battled against each other to grab a segment of the prize money as well as vital ranking points during the two qualifying rounds.
Heading the field was clay court specialist Diego Schwartzman. Last year the Argentine won four clay court Challenger titles within three months. So far in 2015 world number 62 has failed to progress past the second round of any tournament and will be desperate to pick up some more solid form as the clay court season begins. After dismissing world number 606 Romain Arneodo from Monaco in the first round, he also produced a final round 6-4, 6-4, win against Albert Montanes. After taking the first set, Schwartzman was forced to recover from a break twice in the second set before booking his place into the main draw.
Elias Ymer’s hopes of playing in his first Masters main draw were halted today following a straight sets loss to American Denis Kudla. In the first round Ymer trailed 4-6, 2-3, to second seed Carlos Berlocq before he retired due to an adductor injury while Kudla came from a set down to beat Andrey Golubev. After a close first set, Kudla cruised to a 6-4, 6-0 victory to play in his first ever clay court Masters main draw.
Slovakia’s Norbert Gombos qualified after Denis Istomin retired after only seven games. Gombos knocked out 9th seed Malek Jaziri in the first round. It is unclear in regards to the reason why Istomin retired, however the Uzbek has had some luck on his side as he received a lucky loser spot into the main draw due to Nicolas Almagro pulling out.
Albert Ramos-Vinolas continued his recent consistent form on the tour with a 6-4, 7-5, victory over Robin Haase in a match which lasted nearly two hours. In the first set Haase have 9 separate chances to breaks Romas-Vinolas but failed to do so every time in a match filled of misses opportunities for the Dutchman.
Andrey Kuznetsov overcame a close first set to beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6(4), 6-1. The 24-year-old has only played four Masters main draw matches in his career in which he has only won one of them (Rome 2013). The Russian is currently ranked 91st in the world with his best performance being a quarterfinal appearance at the ATP Happy Valley Challenger in Australia at the start of the year.
In the longest match of the day, French sixth seed Edouard Roger-Vasselin required almost three hours to beat Jan-Lennard Struff. Roger-Vasselin had two opportunities to take the final set 6-4, before the German clawed his way back to force the match into a deciding tie-break. In the tie-break nerves played a key part with seven breaks of serves before Struff edged his way to take the tie-break 8-6. The final score in the Frenchman’s favor was 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(6).
Completing the list of qualifiers is Benoit Paire after he stormed to a 6-1, 6-2, win against Thiemo De Bakker. Despite being ranked 84th in the world Paire has competed in a variety of tournaments which includes Futures, Challenger and ATP Pro events. So far this year he has one Futures and two Challenger titles to his name. Paire was formerly considered a top young gun, and is seeking to climb his way back into the conversation.
Who’s next for the qualifiers:
Albert Ramos-Vinolas (Q) – Denis Istomin (LL)
Norbert Gombos (Q) – David Goffin
Benoit Paire (Q) – Denis Kudla (Q)
Kudla had beaten Paire once before at the 2013 Aegon Championships at the Queen’s club in London.
Edouard Roger-Vasselin (Q) – Joao Sousa
Andrey Kuznetsov (Q) – Gael Monfils
Monfils beat Kuznetsov in straight sets earlier this year in the second round of the Marseille Open
Jeremy Chardy – Diego Schwartzman (Q)
2015 ATP Indian Wells Preview and Prediction Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
2015 ATP Indian Wells Preview
The first Masters event of the 2015 ATP World Tour Season is here, as it’s time for the celebrated, modern, BNP Paribas Open from the sweltering hard courts of the California desert in Indian Wells. I’m not as fond of Larry Ellison’s oasis in the desert as many fans and players are, but all the same the season is beginning to kick into high gear as all but a handful of the worlds best men’s tennis players will be battling for points, prize money and prestige over the next two weeks.
BNP Paribas Open
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
March 12-March 22, 2015
Prize Money: $5.381,235
Indian Wells put up even more cash this year, as prize money increased by over half a million dollars compared to 2014.
Top 8 seeds (All 32 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Rafael Nadal (3)
4: Andy Murray (4)
5: Kei Nishkori (5)
6: Milos Raonic (6)
7: Stan Wawrinka (7)
8: David Ferrer (8)
Notable players missing Indian Wells include a pair of top Frenchmen, Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who are joined in absence by David Goffin, Lleyton Hewitt, Leonardo Mayer, and Nicolas Almagro.
First round matchups to watch:
Jan–Lennard Struff vs. (WC)Thanasi Kokkinakis
Both players come off putting in hard work in the Davis Cup over the weekend. Kokkinakis helped lead Australia to a victory in their tie, while Struff put in a valiant effort but lost to Gilles Simon in 5 sets. Struff has a h2h win on clay, but he’s just 4-7 on the season in all competitive matches. Kokkinakis by contrast has been on the rise with a 12-5 record in the same span including three straight qualifications for ATP main draw events in Memphis, Delray Beach and Acapulco, all on hard courts. Struff should make this match closer than expected but the young gun Australian should prevail.
Kukushkin beat Pospisil at Indian Wells last year in straights, and he may be on track to do so again this year after two massive straight set wins over top 50 players Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi in Davis Cup over the weekend to help his nation clinch their tie. The unpredictable, and undersized ballstriker Kukushkin, who has an ATP hard court final on his resume this season (Sydney), snapped a four match losing streak with those Davis Cup wins. Pospisil by contrast went 1-1 in Davis Cup play, and has only won consecutive matches this year in one tournament, the Australian Open, resulting in an even .500 record. Pospisil certainly has the ability on this surface, but I’m endorsing the upset this time and picking Kukushkin to reach round 2.
Nick Kyrgios vs. (WC)Denis Kudla
Kyrgios, three years the junior of Kudla, should be able to beat the American wild card, but Denis has shown some good form at points this season, and Kyrgios is playing his first tournament since the Australian Open, having taken time off to recover from a back injury. Kyrgios is without a doubt the more talented player, but he will need to deal with the California weather conditions, and may have some rust in his game, so Kudla could give himself belief if he could strike while the iron is hot and get off to a confident start. All eyes will be on Kyrgios this year as he begins to play the Masters level full-time, and the journey this time around will begin with a young American on home soil, drawing even more attention the match. As we all know, Kyrgios feasts off the attention.
Querrey is 3-0, including 1-0 on outdoor hard against Stakhovsky, and that’s probably why he’s the bookies favorite for this one, but he’s been in terrible form but all but one tournament this season, with round 1 exits in every tournament but Memphis. Stako meanwhile had a top class month of February, reaching two 500 level quarterfinals in Rotterdam and Dubai, and a semifinal in Marseille sandwiched in between. The Californian Sam Q should be better adapted to the conditions, but I have Stakhovsky winning this one, perhaps quite comfortably. His game has been greatly improved this year overall based upon the two month sample size.
The American wild card Krajicek, who has had a career year in 2015, has another great shot at notching an upset over an ATP regular. Istomin happens to be in poor form, with just a 3-7 ATP record on the season. Krajicek by contrast qualified and reached the quarterfinals in Memphis, pushing Kei Nishikori to 3 sets, and also qualified in Acapulco. With the home crowd sure to be behind him, the former Texas A&M standout will still need to play his best to have a chance, but momentum, and venue favor him, and thus I have Krajicek, an unheralded American, into round 2 over Istomin.
Jack Sock vs. Yen-Hsun Lu
A battle of baselining ball strikers, the 22 year old American Sock is returning from hip surgery, and this is his first tournament of 2015. The 31 year old Lu has had a decent season with two ATP hard court quarterfinals (Chennai and Delray) on his resume. Lu is never going to wow or shock, his game simply is what it is, good but not great, and relatively weaponless but reliable. Sock by contrast has a gifted forehand but has had to work develop the other parts of his game to compliment that natural gift. He’s matured at the ATP level over time, when previously opponents were able to exploit his weaker backhand and poor fitness, and before the hip surgery was on an upward trend overall. This is really just a form test for Sock, and Lu, given how reliably bland he is, is actually not the best matchup for a player coming back from injury, because he is likely to be steadier than his opponent who will be feeling his way back into ATP level matches. Lu should advance, likely in 3 sets.
Three time, and defending Indian Wells champ Novak Djokovic will open with the winner of Jiri Vesely vs. Marcos Baghdatis, Vesely has been in awful form since winning his maiden ATP title, and a Baghdatis victory should extend his losing streak to six straight matches, as Vesely also lost in Davis Cup over the weekend. The Cypriot veteran has been in good form overall this year with no opening round exits in any tournament, and he’s also 2-0 in the h2h record. Djokovic is 4-0 on hard courts against Baghdatis (7-0 overall with the last meeting taking place in 2012), and shouldn’t have any issue reaching the third round, where his Davis Cup teammate Viktor Troicki is likely to be his next opponent. Troicki, who went 2-0 in Davis Cup most recently, and has an ATP title along with two quarterfinals on his resume should defeat dirtballer Albert Ramos, and 25 seed Julien Benneteau who has been in poor form in singles this year. Benny has a 2-0 h2h record on hard courts against Troicki but he has only won 1 match this season. Djokovic has dominated Troicki in the h2h, posting a 10-0 hard court record against the Serb who is two years his senior. I don’t expect Djokovic to drop a set before the round of 16.
16 seed Kevin Anderson likewise shouldn’t have too much competition going into the round of 16, Neither Federico Delbonis or Dusan Lajovic, his possible round 2 opponents are good hard court players. Anderson also had a good stroke of luck with the fact that the other seed in his section is 18 seed John Isner, the top American player. Isner, a former finalist at IW, has been in awful form this season, and suffered further blows to his confidence, and emotional well-being with two brutal Davis Cup losses in Glasgow that cost Team USA the tie. Isner is just 3-5 at the ATP level this year with egregious losses to James Ward most recently, and also Marinko Matosevic on home soil in Delray Beach, on outdoor hard.
I could see Isner losing to a qualifier (American Dennis Novikov or veteran Jurgen Melzer) in round 2, but if he does get through that match (he’s 1-2 on hard courts against likely round 2 opponent Melzer), a favorable h2h of 6-3 on hard courts against Anderson should at least give him hope, especially since he’s won the last four meetings between the pair. No matter, look for Anderson, who has an ATP final, and two ATP semifinals, all on hard courts, the most recent one coming in Acapulco, on his resume in 2015, to improve that h2h by 1 win, and setup a meeting with Djokovic.
David Ferrer has a flawless three ATP titles this season (Doha, Rio, Acapulco), and he has only lost one match on the season (to Kei Nishikori in Melbourne). He’s likely to get a rematch from Acapulco against 32 seed Bernard Tomic in round 3. Ferrer will need to defeat either Joao Sousa or Ivan Dodig in round 2 (Sousa in my bracket), while Tomic will need to beat Andreas Haider-Maurer or qualifier Borna Coric, most likely the qualifier Coric to set that up. Coric, who was coming off of Davis Cup duty, had to save match points to qualify for IW, and he was a semifinalist at the 500 level in Dubai. His match will Tomic will get a lot of attention, and it should be quality, but I feel Tomic is the more mature young gun, who is also in better form, and that along with being fresher should be enough to put the young Aussie over the young Croat. Tomic’s junkballing should also frustrate Coric.
As mentioned, Ferrer just beat Tomic in 3 sets in Acapulco, and prior to that Ferrer had won both their hard court meetings in 2 sets. The veteran Spaniard has been at his best thus far in 2015, and is a strong favorite to reach the last 16.
Marin Cilic, will begin his 2015 campaign in Indian Wells, coming off of a shoulder injury, and without any tournament play in 2015. The Croat, who had a major breakthrough in 2014, claiming the US Open title, his maiden slam, will get his first match against either Juan Monaco or Teymuraz Gabashvili. Gabashvili is on a four match losing streak, while Monaco has been in good form, all be it on South American clay. Cilic has a lone hard court h2h win 7 years ago against Monaco, and though rust is likely, and his form may be shaky, on a hard court surface, he should still be good enough to get past a declined Monaco. A more stern test is certain in the third round, as the Kokkinakis/Struff winner could be his opponent, or the unpredictable Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. First off, if Kokkinakis can get past Struff, and upset GGL, I feel his form will be good enough to also notch a top 20 win and upset Cilic, given the Croat number one is almost certain to be rusty. However, I also see GGL reaching the fourth round if he can beat Kokkinakis/Struff. GGL has beaten Cilic at Indian Wells before, and he has an ATP title among other good results this year. This is a hard to predict section, and in my own bracket I’m going with Garcia-Lopez over both Kokkinakis and CIlic to setup a round of 16 match with Ferrer, though either Cilic or Kokkinakis reaching the round of 16 would not shock me. I feel Kokkinakis may be emotionally spent from his Davis Cup triumph from 2 sets down, which was the key result that led to an Australian victory in the tie.
A one time finalist at Indian Wells, Andy Murray comes off doing a tremendous job in Davis Cup duty for team GB on indoor hard, having returned to the top 5 in the ATP rankings as well. Murray will have a difficult opening match against the Kukushkin/Pospisil winner, and should he show any signs of vulnerability, I could see Pospisil, or more likely Kukushkin pouncing and making it a match. Kukushkin has pushed Murray to three sets before, and as mentioned above, he was in peak form for Davis Cup while Murray has two h2h wins over Pospisil over the last two seasons, both close straight set matches. I’m not predicting an upset myself, but Murray’s opening match will be good viewing at minimum. Murray has had two early awful losses this year to Borna Coric in Dubai and Gilles Simon in Rotterdam, but his Davis Cup form was much better than those matches, and they are most likely aberrations rather than a worrying sign of things to come. Look for Murray to get past his third rounder as well, the seeded opponent would be Philipp Kohlschreiber, but Kohli is in poor form and really has been all year (3-6 on the season), most recently coming off Davis Cup play. American wild card Tim Smyczek has a nice chance at the third round, if he can get past ball striking grinder Benjamin Becker, and then upset Kohlschreiber. I have Becker in the third round in my own bracket, with wins over Smyczek and Kohlschreiber, his Davis Cup teammate. Becker most recently pushed Bernard Tomic to 3 sets in Acapulco. Murray should be untroubled by Becker or any other player though and reach the round of 16 this week.
14 seed Ernests Gulbis is in atrocious form. He hasn’t won a match in 2015, and he may be better off playing challengers to build his confidence at this point, rather than Masters events. I’m just about certain Gulbis will lose to either qualifier Daniel Gimeno-Traver, a veteran dirtballer, or Sam Groth in round 2. The big serving Groth has been steadily improving his game up to an ATP caliber level of play, and his rhythm on serve should frustrate a struggling Gulbis should they meet. With the qualifers placed, I’d place Groth into third round, with a shot at the round of 16, given that the other seed here is the 19 seed Fabio Fognini. Fogna has been in horrendous form on hard courts for months, and he most recently cost Italy their Davis Cup tie against Kazakhstan with a massive choke against challenger level player Alex Nedovyesov. I see Fognini struggling in a loss to either qualifier Mischa Zverev (who won the pre-qualifying tournament, then qualified) or Adrian Mannarino. Mannarino destroyed Fognini at the US Open last fall, and he posted an ATP semi in Delray, along with a final in Auckland as he’s an extremely streaky player to who can post big results and this lose consecutive matches early on in tournaments. Mannarino and Groth, which could be a very strange match for the third round of Masters event, have met twice prior, and split meetings on hard courts. Remarkably, I’d put Mannarino into the fourth round with a small edge in another difficult to predict section.
5 seed Kei Nishikori, who went 2-0 in Davis Cup play after reaching the final in Acapulco and winning Memphis in recent weeks, will open with the winner of Mardy Fish/Ryan Harrison. Nishikori beat Milos Raonic in Davis Cup, and appears to be streaking right now, having worked his way into the top 5, very much deserving that status. Fish/Harrison is one of the most over-hyped round 1 matches I’ve seen in quite some time, as it’s been given stadium 1 billing for Thursday. Fish hasn’t played a competitive tournament singles match since 2013, between psychological and health problems with his heart. Harrison meanwhile had one of the best results of his career with a run to the semifinals in Acapulco that included a win over top 15 player Grigor Dimitrov. I see no reason why Harrison wouldn’t routine Fish in a match that may end in a retirement, but Nishikori should beat him in round 2 and reach the third round, as he did in Memphis in 3 sets. As for his third round opponent, 28 seed Fernando Verdasco will face Dominic Thiem or qualifier James Duckworth in round 2. Duckworth is in great form, as he qualified after previously reaching a hard court challenger final in India. Still, Thiem is the superior talent and is likely to stave off the possible upset to setup a meeting with Verdasco. Verdasco and Thiem have never met, but Verdasco is perhaps slightly better at the moment, though his form has been very much average. Verdasco beat Nishikori in straights at the 2011 Aussie Open, but the tables have entirely turned since that match, and Nishikori is a much more complete player now, barring the conditions getting to him, I fully expect to see Kei into the round of 16.
12 seed Feliciano Lopez will open with Marinko Matosevic, whose form appears to be getting a bit better in recent weeks, or lucky loser Edouard Roger-Vasselin. I don’t expect Feli to have too much trouble reaching the round of 16 this week, as his third round opponent is most likely to be qualifier Thiemo De Bakker or Jarkko Nieminen in a weak section. Nieminen is decent, even at his age, on hard courts, while De Bakker, who is talented but a noted underachiever, appears to be near the cusp of a breakthrough back on the ATP stage, as he’s been doing well in ATP qualifying. Still, Lopez is better than every player in his section in terms of talent and form, and I have Lopez over De Bakker for a spot in the round of 16. The winner of Nieminen/De Bakker faces 20 seed Pablo Cuevas, who much prefers clay and comes off Davis Cup duty, in round 2. Interestingly for Lopez, he’s 0-1 against De Bakker on hard courts, and 1-3 against Nieminen likewise, he’s also had shock losses to Victor Estrella, Aljaz Bedene and Marsel Ilhan in 2015, all lower ranked journeymen (though he was sick against Ilhan in Dubai).
The three time former IW champion, Rafael Nadal, who seems to like the slow, high bouncing hard courts the venue offers up, will open up another hard court campaign against Igor Sijsling or qualifier Filip Krajinovic. Krajinovic surprisingly qualified on a hard court and has won three straight matches dating back to Davis Cup for Serbia, while Sijsling has lost four straight. I expect Nadal, who won a title on clay a couple of weeks ago in Buenos Aires, to cruise through to the third round no matter whom he faces in round 2. Rafa could get a bit of a contest from fellow lefty Donald Young at that stage. Young, who played poorly in Davis Cup, had a career month in February with an ATP final and an ATP semifinal in Delray and Memphis. He should be able to score wins over dirtballer Pablo Carreno Busta, and then a pedestrian Jeremy Chardy, who has been unfortunate to have some tough draws this season though his record is floating around .500 on the year. Nadal beat the American Young 6-1 6-3 at IW in 2008, though his hard court form has been shaky since this time last year (he hasn’t even reached a hard court semifinal since Miami 2014), he still should play well enough to get into the round of 16. Though Nadal isn’t really in the conversation for the champion of a hard court masters event right now, he’s still better than all but top 10 players on the surface as a general rule.
The section above Nadal featuring a pair of French seeds, Davis Cup hero Gilles Simon, and Richard Gasquet is intriguing. Simon should beat Tatsuma Ito or Malek Jaziri with ease (Ito should be favored over Jaziri given Jaziri has lost five straight matches while Ito has a challenger final and a challenger semi since the AO, and comes off of Davis Cup duty). While Gasquet is the favorite against one of two admirable veterans, qualifier Michael Berrer, or Victor Estrella. Berrer is retiring after this season, though the serve and volleying German has played well (beat Nadal in Doha, qualified for both Zagreb and IW), and Estrella comes off Davis Cup duty, and has won both his maiden ATP title (on clay), and a challenger title (on hard courts) this season. I have Estrella over Berrer, and then Gasquet over Estrella, though Estrella shocked Gasquet in Bogota on outdoor hard courts last season. Gasquet has two ATP quarterfinals and an ATP title this year, while Simon has a title and a semi. Gasquet leads the h2h with Simon on hard courts 4-1, and is more skilled and aesthetically pleasing than the defensively strong counterpuncher Simon. I expect a three setter, and while I picked Gasquet myself, a Simon win would not surprise me either.
6 seed Milos Raonic will get a chance at revenge if he faces Simone Bolelli in round 2, Bolelli beat him in Marseille this year (though Raonic won their meeting a week prior in Rotterdam). Bolelli has played well for points this year, but he played erratically, spraying errors in the Davis Cup for Italy over the weekend, and thus I don’t give him much of a chance against Raonic, though he should still beat Thomaz Bellucci, who struggled as well in Davis Cup for Brazil). The difference is Bellucci was playing on clay in his tie, and still played poorly, while Bolelli is superior on hard courts. Look for Raonic, who went for 1-1 in Davis Cup singles play for Canada over the weekend, to take out Santiago Giraldo or Alex Dolgopolov for a spot in the round of 16. Giraldo comes off Davis Cup duty, and hasn’t done much spectacular this year, while Dolgopolov is struggling compared to the form he was in this time last year. Dolgo will face qualifier Frank Dancevic before the 29 seed Giraldo who he has beaten twice on grass. Though Dolgo is unlikely to trouble Raonic, he has beaten Giraldo twice on grass and reached consecutive ATP quarterfinals in Delray Beach and Acapulco. Dolgo beat Raonic in the IW quarterfinals last year in their only meeting, but as mentioned, that was a vastly different Dolgo than his current self, and Raonic has proven himself to be reliable in the Masters series events against all but the top 10.
11 seed Grigor Dimitrov, who took part in an exo at Madison Square Garden in New York on Wednesday night, is going to have some trouble in his opening match, as he will face the Kyrgios/Kudla winner. Kyrgios, assuming his form is ok (as we will find out from his match against Kudla) has to be the favorite given Dimitrov has been poor in ATP matches this year, including recent losses to Gilles Muller in Rotterdam and Ryan Harrison in Acapulco. Dimitrov has been lacking killer instinct, and passion with his tennis this year, two things that Kyrgios has in excess, meaning the Bulgarian’s chances are slim in my mind against the teenage Aussie. Look for Kyrgios to also blow past his third round opponent, as Dustin Brown and Andrey Golubev are both journeymen, with Golubev coming off of DC duty, and 17 seed Tommy Robredo has very much struggled this season. Robredo beat Kyrgios at the 2014 US Open but he’s just 3-5 on the season, and age may well be catching up to him.
Roger Federer, a four time Indian Wells champion, the defending finalist, and most recently, the champion in Dubai, will open his 2015 IW campaign against Jerzy Janowicz or Diego Sebastian Schwartzman, as he stares down a challenging draw if he is to reach at least the semifinals. Janowicz , who has an ATP final this year and played excellent in Davis Cup duty for Poland over the weekend, played him well on clay in Rome in 2013, and appears to be in improved form compared to his play in 2014. Still, one has to expect Federer to find a way past the big serving Polish number one, given how well the Swiss is playing himself. After that, Andreas Seppi, who upset him at the Australian Open, is his likely round 3 opponent. Seppi will face a veteran in round 2, as Mikhail Youzhny and qualifier Victor Hanescu will battle for the right to face the 30 seed. Youzhny has a slight 2-1 hard court h2h edge over the Romanian, though both players who are 30+, are greatly declined from their heyday in the 2000s. Hanescu has been reduced to playing ATP qualies, while Youzhny has just two wins this year. Surprisingly, Youzhny is 4-0 against Seppi on hard courts, including a win last year in Cincy, and the Italian did not play well in Davis Cup, but still he’s had a solid year already in 2015, and with a second week showing in Australia and an ATP final on his resume this year, he has to be trusted to right the ship. Still, look for Federer to get his revenge, perhaps comfortably, and dispatch Seppi for a spot in the round of 16.
15 seed Roberto Bautista Agut faces a draw that will have him face the Istomin/Krajicek winner in round 1, and then one of Sock/Lu or Gilles Muller (who replaced Leo Mayer in the draw as a seed) in round 3. I have RBA over Krajicek rather comfortably, and then over Muller as well, as Muller, who has played well in 2015, should be favored over Lu or Sock, as his serve should disrupt their rhythm and overwhelm them. Muller is 3-3 in his career on hard court against Lu, and he won their most recent meeting last year. Muller beat RBA at the AO this year, and he has won both their hard court meetings, but it’s a competitive matchup and RBA has two ATP semifinals on his record this year. I feel these courts suit his game well.
7 seed Stan Wawrinka will open with a slumping Robin Haase or qualifier Alex Bolt, who is making his ATP main draw debut against the Dutchman. I have Bolt over Haase given that Haase is 0-7 in 2015, while Bolt has an ATP challenger final and semifinal on his resume already and scored to quality wins in qualifying. Wawrinka has a very easy draw, as his round 3 opponent will be most likely the talented but erratic ballbasher Martin Klizan. Klizan opens with dirtballer Pablo Andujar, and then will face 27 seed Lukas Rosol, who is in the midst of a six match losing streak. Klizan in the third round is mostly just the luck of the draw, rather than being particularly deserved, and I don’t see Wawrinka dropping a set before the round of 16.
9 seed Tomas Berdych has a much more challenging path to the fourth round, he will face the Querrey/Stakhovsky winner round 2, and though he’s 4-0 on hard courts against Stako, including a win this year in Dubai in 3 sets, playing an in-form opponent is still never easy. Berdych has made the semifinals or better at every single tournament he’s played a match in this season, but has no titles from that, which is why he’s been posting quality results under the radar. Berdych against Steve Johnson or 21 seed Ivo Karlovic in round 3 promises to be interesting. Karlovic has an ATP title (Delray), quarterfinal and semifinal on his record this season, and is playing well. Johnson, who played his college tennis at USC and is very much a southern California boy, has been much improved under the radar, already posting three ATP quarterfinals this year, the most recent of which came in Delray Beach, where his run was ended by Karlovic. Johnson, like Berdych, has been posting his quality results under the radar, but at Indian Wells his matches are sure to get attention, including his opening contest with veteran Marcel Granollers who he beat in 3 sets in Tokyo on hard courts last year. Johnson has beaten Karlovic twice before, even with that Delray loss, and he should be motivated to do perform at his best in California, with that in mind I have him reaching the third round to face Berdych who he has never played before. He’ll have an upset chance, but Berdych has been a tough opponent to face this year, and thus the battle tested Czech should reach the round of 16.
Dark Horses: Thanasi Kokkinakis, Mikhail Kukushkin, Nick Kyrgios, Steve Johnson
Teens Kokkinakis and Kyrgios, could, or should in the case of Kyrgios, reach the round of 16. As mentioned, Kokkinakis will need to beat Struff and Garcia-Lopez, then likely Cilic to setup a meeting with Ferrer, who is likely to be too much for him at this stage in his career. Kyrgios, the other half of “special-K’ from Down Under, has a path of Kudla, Dimitrov, and then Robredo/Golubev/Brown, to setup a meeting with Raonic, who I also think will be too much (Raonic beat him at both Wimbledon and the French last year), but who knows, Kyrgios is known to rise the occasion.
Kukushkin would need to shock Murray, after scoring perhaps a minor upset over Pospisil, but should be pull off that double, he could go as far as the quarterfinals as the rest of the section is very weak (Smyczek/Kohlschreiber/Becker round 3, Mannarino/Groth/Fognini/Gulbis round of 16). Johnson has the toughest road to the round of 16, as he would need to beat big servers Karlovic and Berdych to earn the right to face a very tough opponent in Wawrinka.
Djokovic isn’t his best against big servers but he’s 2-1 against Anderson and still should advance in straights, Ferrer is in great form, and has dominated GGL in the h2h record, Murray has a weak section and shouldn’t drop a set to his round of 16 opponent, Nishikori is 2-1 on hard courts against Lopez and in better form, Raonic as mentioned has the edge on Kyrgios, Nadal dominates Gasquet in the h2h as the Frenchman has a mental block against him, Wawrinka has won the last five meetings against Berdych on a hard court, including a win in the Rotterdam final this year, and thus should win again if they meet. Last but not least, Federer beat RBA twice last year on a hard court.
Quarters: Djokovic d Ferrer
Nishikori d. Murray
Raonic d. Nadal
Federer d. Wawrinka
No matter how well Ferrer is playing, Djokovic is a bit of an unstoppable force, and he has won their last six hard court meetings since 2012, it could well be a three setter, and I wouldn’t count Ferrer out but Novak has to be the intelligent pick. Murray was 3-0 all on hard courts, before losing to Nishikori at the World Tour Finals last year, but I see that matchup as a 50/50 type of decision, and Nishikori should be slightly fresher going into it, with that in mind I have Kei slipping through, perhaps in 3.
Nadal is 4-0 on hard courts against Raonic, but Raonic is one of those top tier hard court players that should very much give this current version of Nadal trouble, with that in mind, I have him earning his first h2h win in the matchup to reach the semifinals. Wawrinka has never beaten his celebrated countryman in 11 hard court meetings, though their matches have become closer and more competitive over time, Federer should be the favorite and I see no weaknesses in his game that suggest to me he’ll lose before the final.
Semis: Djokovic d. Nishikori
Federer d. Raonic
Nishikori of course shocked Novak at the US Open, but Djokovic won both their hard court meetings after that, and given a neutral venue such as Indian Wells, Djokovic has to be something like a 60/40 favorite. Nishikori has a strong enough game to generate chances, and pounce if Novak struggles, but the match is still on Novak’s racquet as to how it will go. Given I’m buying into the Serbian’s form, I have him reaching the final this week.
Federer is 5-1, including a win in the Brisbane outdoor hard court final this year, against Raonic, and he’s striking the ball and moving well, so I have a feeling no matter how well Raonic can play on his serve, Federer will return too well and have too much to go down in defeat before the final.
Final: Djokovic d. Federer
Federer upset Djokovic in Dubai, a fast low bouncing surface compared to IW, but Djokovic has won both their IW meetings, including a thrilling final last year, in three sets. The surface should favor his game against the more aggressive Federer, who likes the courts quick, even though it’s a razor call when these two meet. If you watched that Dubai encounter, it’s not that Federer was flawless, as Djokovic generated chances and could have won that match, but he simply didn’t play well enough in key moments to do so, and that was the difference. These two know each other well and it’s never a surprise when they battle in what are always world class matchups, it’s simply a matter of execution on a certain day, rather than skill or style, as to who the winner will be.
2015 ATP Montpellier, Zagreb and Quito Previews/Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The traditional European indoor 250 level events in France and Croatia will be on the tennis calendar this week, with players fresh from the Australian swing. In addition, a new event in Ecuador is making its debut on the ATP 250 series this week. It starts off the South American clay court golden swing.
2015 ATP Montpellier Preview
Open Sud de France
ATP World Tour 250
February 2-February 8, 2015
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Gael Monfils (19)
2: Gilles Simon (20)
3: Philipp Kohlschreiber (24)
4: Richard Gasquet (28)
A balanced field that is made up almost entirely of Europeans, as is to be expected. The seed cutoff is inside the top 60.
Struff and Nieminen have both had success at the ATP level indoors, and this should be a quality contest between two great ball strikers. Nieminen reached the third round in Melbourne, and appears to be in slightly better form, so I’d give him an edge to advance, but either of these players is a dark horse threat in the tournament overall.
(6)Denis Istomin vs. Malek Jaziri
Istomin went 0-3 in January, though two of his losses came to in-form players Tomas Berdych and Andreas Seppi as he hasn’t had the best draws. Jaziri remarkably reached the third round in Melbourne, and he’s now working with Marin Cilic’s coach, former ATP great Goran Ivanisevic, on a part time basis. Ivanisevic recently discussed in this interview that Jaziri had previously not put in much effort in regards to practicing, having a coach, working on his fitness, and so forth. Ivanisevic believes Jaziri can move beyond journeyman status with renewed effort and focus, and it will be interesting what he can do here in Montpellier, I have him upsetting the seeded Istomin.
(5)Jerzy Janowicz vs. Dustin Brown
Brown has twice beaten Janowicz indoors (at the challenger level), and JJ reached the third round in Melbourne before falling to Feliciano Lopez (scoring a notable win over Gael Monfils en route). I would expect Janowicz to win this match indoors over the erratic highlight maker Brown, but it should be a quality contest, and perhaps go 3 sets.
Defending champ Gael Monfils opens his title defense against Marsel Ilhan or Kenny De Schepper, I don’t expect Monfils to be bothered so he should slide into the quarterfinals against the Struff/Nieminen winner, with Tatsuma Ito or a qualifier also options in this section. I see Nieminen getting through to the quarters, and Monfils is 4-0 against him, including 2-0 in Montpellier, so he should be favored heavily to reach the semifinals.
Richard Gasquet appears to be on track for a huge clash with young Frenchman Lucas Pouille. Gasquet, who went 4-2 in January, and has a strong record with two titles and a final last year in Montpellier, could be ousted by the rising Pouille, who has started to come into his own after floating around with wild card status for a while on tour. Pouille has a gifted forehand, while Gasquet of course has that magical backhand, so the clash of styles should be quality. Pouille nearly took out Gael Monfils in Australia and he was a semifinalist in Auckland, still it’s a tough ask to pick him over the much more established Gasquet, who has such a good record here, so Gasquet into the quarters is the pick. Pouille opens with Alexander Kudryavtsev in round 1. Expect Gasquet against the Jaziri/Istomin winner in the quarters, with Dudi Sela, who reached the third round in Melbourne shockingly, and a qualifier also options in this open section. If Sela and Jaziri end up facing off in round 2, there could be some interesting political implications.
Gilles Simon has reached the semis multiple times, but never the final here, and he’s yet another well known Frenchman playing on home soil after the AO. Simon had an up and down January, but he should have little trouble against Andreas Beck/Edouard Roger-Vasselin in round 2, and his first test should come against Janowicz in the quarters. Benoit Paire and a qualifier are also options, and the formerly promising Paire, failed to even qualify for the Aussie Open, as his career has taken a nose dive after knee problems. Janowicz is 1-0 indoors against Simon, but I see that result reversing itself if they meet again, Simon’s pushing should frustrate Janowicz into enough errors to gift him the match.
Philipp Kohlschreiber, who appeared to be playing much better in Melbourne than he has been for quite some time, opens with a qualifier or the veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu in round 2. I expect Kohli, barring a blast from the past for PHM, to reach the quarters, and then take out one of Joao Sousa/Laurent Lokoli/Tobias Kamke/Vincent Millot in the most open section of the draw. Kamke isn’t playing well right now, so Sousa, who has also had indoor success, and reached the third round in Melbourne, should reach the quarters but fall to the German at that stage.
Pouille would need to defeat Gasquet, but the ceiling for this talented young Frenchman is quite high, as he seems to be the next great player hailing from that country to burst onto the ATP scene. Pouille has all the shots, it’s just going to be a matter of him gaining experience at the highest level, and working on things like his shot selection and fitness. Should he upset Gasquet, he certainly has a chance to get to the semis and play Monfils with a chance for revenge. He’s an enjoyable player to watch no matter how far he goes here.
Monfils beat Gasquet three times last year, including in the Montpellier final, so he should have an advatage going into a possible semifinal encounter. By picking Kohli over Simon i’m going against the h2h by a sizeable margin (Simon 2-0 indoors, 4-0 on hard courts) and both have been known to be inconsistent at times, it’s a hard pick to make, and the reason why I’m going with Kohli is because he played well against Tomic in Australia and seems motivated to better himself.
Final: Monfils d. Kohlschreiber
Monfils has had success here before, and additionally he’s 4-0 on indoor hard against Kohli, thus he has to be the favorite to take the title in Montpellier, though you never really know with his form.
PBZ Zagreb Indoors
ATP World Tour 250
February 2-February 8, 2015
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Ivo Karlovic (27)
2: Adrian Mannarino (36)
3: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (37)
4: Gilles Muller (42)
One of the weaker fields for a tour event this year most likely, it’s truly wide open in Zagreb. Marin Cilic was supposed to headline but he pulled out of this tournament still recovering from injury.
First Round matchups to watch:
Borna Coric vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky
One of the home favorites who the crowd will be rallying behind in Zagreb, the young Croat Coric went just 1-3 in January, and will be looking to improve on his record this month, boosted by home cooking and home soil. If he is to have a 2015 season where he gets inside the top 50 and stays there, he will need to win matches like this one against Stakhovsky, he’s a better player than the Ukrainian number two who plays splotches of good tennis mixed in with a lot of journeyman results. To add to the intrigue, Stakhovsky won the title in 2008 here. That said, without weather being a factor, and with crowd support, Coric should rise to the occasion and win this one.
Ivo Karlovic could get a tough test right off the bat against Marcos Baghdatis, who reached the third round in Melbourne shockingly, and is a former champion here. Baghdatis will need to beat wild card Toni Androic to get to round 2. Karlovic and Baghdatis split meetings in 2008, I’ve been impressed by Baghdatis over the past month, and I have him through to the quarterfinals. The Coric/Stakhovsky winner will have a shot at the quarters, with Blaz Kavcic and Mikhail Youzhny also in this section. Youzhny is a former champion in Zagreb as well, but he’s playing incredibly poorly right now, he’s 2-0 against Kavcic but both their meetings were competitive, so I have Kavcic through to round 2 in an upset, and then Coric over him for a spot in the quarters, with Baghdatis eventually making the semis.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who reached the second week of Melbourne, just his second week 2 appearance in singles in a slam, opens with Damir Dzumhur/qualifier. The dangerous name here is Sydney champion Viktor Troicki, who has been rising back up the rankings since returning to tour, and should be able to feast on a weak draw like this. GGL is good enough to reach the quarters, but Troicki should demolish a qualifier, then Go Soeda/qualifier to setup a meeting with him, and then I have Troicki winning that match to reach the semifinals.
Auckland finalist Adrian Mannarino will face Igor Sijsling or a qualifier in round 2, that’s not going to be an impressive match, but Mannarino should reach the quarters to meet perhaps Croatian Ivan Dodig. Dodig seems to be improving and his first match against countryman Mate Delic is winnable. Likewise he’s better than Marcel Granollers or Jurgen Melzer presently on an indoor hard court, though Melzer did qualify in Melbourne surprisingly. Melzer is 2-0, with two 3 set wins in his career against Dodig, one of which came indoors. Dodig is my pick for the semis in this section as I have him taking out Mannarino.
Gilles Muller, who reached the round of 16 in Melbourne, will open with Ricardas Berankis or Lukas Lacko, Lacko has had success here before but Muller is serving well right now so he should comfortably make the quarterfinals. Lurking in this section is Andreas Seppi, a quarterfinalist in Melbourne, and semifinalist in Doha who has really been hitting his shots well this past month. Seppi opens with a struggling Robin Haase, then has Antonio Veic or James Ward in his way, that shouldn’t be much of a contest, and I have Seppi, who is 2-1 indoors against Muller, through to the semifinals in a tight contest.
Dark Horse: Marcos Baghdatis
When it comes to an unseeded player who can have a surprising result, Baghdatis fits the bill, if he makes the semis, a match against Troicki will be difficult but winnable and likewise Muller/Seppi are beatable all be it tough in a potential final. Baghdatis is seeking a career resurgence in his later years and winning an ATP title would be a massive step towards that.
Baghdatis is 4-1 in his career, and 3-1 on indoor hard against Troicki, that said I feel the Serbian has been the better player, and playing better tennis as of late, so I still have him through.
Seppi is 4-1 against Dodig on hard courts in his career, and with how well he played in January, signs are good that he will reach the final. He just beat Dodig in Doha.
Final: Seppi d. Troicki
Seppi beat Troicki once on hard courts, and this is a difficult match to predict, however I have the Italian winning the ATP title here off of his good momentum and balanced approach over the past month.
Ecuador Open Quito
ATP World Tour 250
February 2-February 8, 2015
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Feliciano Lopez (14)
2: Santiago Giraldo (32)
3: Fernando Verdasco (33)
4: Martin Klizan (34)
Just one top 20 player in the field for this tournament, but it’s full of an interesting set of clay courters really and lots of Latin American flair at this maiden event.
Feliciano Lopez, who did well in Melbourne is the marquee name here, he had a poor January before the AO and had to drag himself into the second week, but he appears to be playing better tennis at the moment, and will shift onto clay against Alejandro Gonzalez or Facundo Bagnis. I have Lopez over Gonzalez (who beat Bagnis twice on clay last year) for a spot in the quarters, with 7 seed Dusan Lajovic in line to take the other spot. Lajovic will need to avoid upsets against Luca Vanni, and qualifier/Gonzalo Escobar but he’s got a really lucky seedline here with no serious competition. Expect Lopez over Lajovic in the quarters.
Fernando Verdasco, who reached the third round in Melbourne, will also be shifting his powerful game to clay, his first match will come against either a qualifier or Andreas Haider-Maurer, and then veteran clay courters are in the section below him competing to meet him in the quarterfinals. Joao Souza will face Alejandro Falla in R1, and Paolo Lorenzi will face Adrian Menendez Maceiras. Souza is 3-1 on clay against Falla, and Falla has been struggling so I have Souza into round 2, I have Lorenzi over AMM (3-0 including 2 wins last year in the h2h). Then I have the Brazilian into the quarterfinals, Lorenzi has won their last three meetings, but Souza has won twice on clay against him and appears to be playing slightly better right now. Verdasco should take out Souza and reach the semis.
Santiago Giraldo, who got off to a rough start in 2015, will face veteran Spaniard Albert Montanes or young Argentine Facundo Arguello in round 2. Even with Giraldo just 1-2 in 2015, he beat an aging Montanes last year on clay, and twice overall, and he’s 4-1 in the career H2H so he should be heavily favored to reach the quarterfinals here (Arguello has only played one tournament match this year and it was a bad loss in a clay court challenger). Awaiting Giraldo should be Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, Bellucci will face formerly established Ecuadorian player Giovanni Lapentti in round 1, and then the Horacio Zeballos/Austin Krajicek winner. Though Zeballos capable of random bursts of form, Bellucci is the relatively more accomplished name and he should get to the quarters here. Bellucci bested Giraldo twice last year, and hasa a 4-1 clay h2h against him, so he may be the favorite, but I feel this pair have careers going in the opposite direction right now, with Giraldo having a breakthrough 2014, and Bellucci seemingly stagnated around the top 100. In my own bracket I have Giraldo in the semis.
Martin Klizan opens with Daniel Gimeno-Traver or wild card Marton Fuscovics in round 2. Klizan is one of the rare European players that isn’t playing in Europe this week, and instead prefers his tennis South American style. Klizan should reach the quarters, and the inspiring veteran story Victor Estrella should await him. The unsung grinder Estrella faces a qualifier, then stagnated Russian Evgeny Donskoy, or a qualifier in round 2. Klizan is more accomplished and skilled than Estrella, but in these conditions Estrella will certainly have a shot at the semis, I put Klizan through in my own bracket though.
Bellucci is the type of player who could acquire a burst of form, and streak his way into perhaps an ATP title. He has an easy path before Giraldo in the quarters, and Giraldo is in a beatable condition right now, especially given the favorable H2H. Likewise Klizan/Estrella are beatable opponents on a good day for him and this entire field is beatable given it’s not that strong.
Verdasco and Lopez have pretty much split h2h meetings and it could go either way, that said, Lopez gives me the feeling that he’s setup to not win the title here, and Verdasco has the game to be able to take him out.
Giraldo has won clay win against Klizan, and the altitude should help him, it could go either way but Giraldo should be slightly favored.
Round 2 Matches: Robredo vs. Gonzalez, Ramos vs. Lu, Bautista Agut vs. Mannarino, Falla vs. Giraldo, Johnson vs. Coric, Thiem vs. Anderson, Garcia-Lopez vs. Young, Vesely vs. Gulbis Quarterfinals: Robredo vs. Lu, Bautista Agut vs. Giraldo, Johnson vs. Anderson, Garcia-Lopez vs. Gulbis Semifinals: Lu vs. Bautista Agut, Johnson vs. Gulbis Final: Bautista Agut vs. Johnson Champion: Bautista Agut
Chris de Waard’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Robredo vs. Gonzalez, Lorenzi vs. Lu, Bautista Agut vs. Mannarino, Falla vs. Giraldo, Johnson vs. Coric, Thiem vs. Anderson, Garcia-Lopez vs. Young, Bellucci vs. Gulbis Quarterfinals: Robredo vs. Lu, Bautista Agut vs. Giraldo, Coric vs. Thiem, Young vs. Gulbis Semifinals: Robredo vs. Bautista Agut, Coric vs. Gulbis Final: Bautista Agut vs. Gulbis Champion: Gulbis
Courtney Massey’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Robredo vs. Gonzalez, Lorenzi vs. Lu, Bautista Agut vs. Mannarino, Falla vs. Giraldo, Johnson vs. Coric, Thiem vs. Anderson, Garcia-Lopez vs. Young, Bellucci vs. Gulbis Quarterfinals: Robredo vs. Monaco, Bautista Agut vs. Giraldo, Coric vs. Thiem, Soeda vs. Gulbis Semifinals: Robredo vs. Bautista Agut, Coric vs. Gulbis Final: Bautista Agut vs. Gulbis Champion: Gulbis
Niall Clarke’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Robredo vs. Gonzalez, Lorenzi vs. Lu, Bautista Agut vs. Delbonis, Falla vs. Giraldo, Johnson vs. Coric, Thiem vs. Anderson, Garcia-Lopez vs. Young, Bellucci vs. Gulbis Quarterfinals: Robredo vs.Lu , Bautista Agut vs. Giraldo, Johnson vs. Thiem, Garcia-Lopez vs. Gulbis Semifinals: Robredo vs. Bautista Agut, Thiem vs. Gulbis Final: Bautista Agut vs. Gulbis Champion: Bautista Agut
Jeff McMillan’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Robredo vs. Gonzalez, Lorenzi vs. Lu, Bautista Agut vs. Mannarino, Falla vs. Giraldo, Johnson vs. Coric, Thiem vs. Anderson, Garcia-Lopez vs. Young, Bellucci vs. Gulbis Quarterfinals: Robredo vs. Lu, Mannarino vs. Giraldo, Johnson vs. Anderson, Young vs. Bellucci Semifinals: Lu vs. Giraldo, Anderson vs. Young Final: Lu vs. Anderson Champion: Anderson
RBA and Gulbis appear to be relatively consensus picks to do well this week, perhaps we will get another rivalry matchup between the two in the final, in addition Borna Coric, Rendy Lu and Tommy Robredo are favored to have good weeks.
Round 2 Matches: Fognini vs. Del Potro, Istomin vs. Almagro, Benneteau vs. Pospisil, Janowicz vs. Becker, Querrey vs. Muller, Tomic vs. Kohlschreiber, Klizan vs. Nieminen, Bolelli vs. Goffin Quarterfinals: Del Potro vs. Istomin, Pospisil vs. Janowicz, Muller vs. Tomic, Klizan vs. Goffin Semifinals: Istomin vs. Pospisil, Tomic vs. Klizan Final: Pospisil vs. Klizan Champion: Pospisil
Chris De Waard’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Fognini vs. Stakhovsky, Istomin vs. Almagro, Benneteau vs. Pospisil, Kyrgios vs. Mayer, Chardy vs. Groth, Tomic vs. Kohlschreiber, Klizan vs Andujar, Bolelli vs. Goffin Quarterfinals: Stakhovsky vs. Almagro,, Pospisil vs. Kyrgios, Chardy vs. Tomic, Klizan vs. Goffin Semifinals: Almagro vs. Kyrgios, Tomic vs. Goffin Final: Kyrgios vs. Goffin Champion: Goffin
Courtney Massey’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Fognini vs. Stakhovsky, Istomin vs. Cuevas, Benneteau vs. Seppi, Kyrgios vs. Becker, Chardy vs. Groth, Tomic vs. Kohlschreiber, Klizan vs. Nieminen, Matosevic vs. Goffin Quarterfinals: Stakhovsky vs. Istomin, Seppi vs. Kyrgios, Chardy vs. Tomic, Klizan vs. Goffin Semifinals: Istomin vs. Kyrgios, Chardy vs. Goffin Final: Istomin vs. Chardy Champion: Chardy
Niall Clarke’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Fognini vs. Stakhovsky, Istomin vs. Almagro, Benneteau vs. Seppi, Kyrgios vs. Mayer, Chardy vs. Groth, Tomic vs. Kohlschreiber, Klizan vs Nieminen, Matosevic vs. Goffin Quarterfinals: Fognini vs. Almagro, Benneteau vs. Kyrgios, Chardy vs. Kohlschreiber, Klizan vs. Goffin Semifinals: Fognini vs. Kyrgios, Kohlschreiber vs. Goffin Final: Kyrgios vs. Goffin Champion: Goffin
Jeff McMillan’s predictions
Round 2 Matches: Fognini vs. Del Potro, Istomin vs. Almagro, Benneteau vs. Seppi, Kyrgios vs. Mayer, Chardy vs. Groth, Tomic vs. Kohlschreiber, Klizan vs Andujar, Matosevic vs. Goffin Quarterfinals: Fognini vs. Istomin, Seppi vs. Mayer, Groth vs. Tomic, Klizan vs. Goffin Semifinals: Istomin vs. Seppi, Tomic vs. Goffin Final: Istomin vs. Goffin Champion: Goffin
Three of our five experts have David Goffin winning the title this week, while opinions are mixed on Denis Istomin, Nick Kyrgios and Vasek Pospisil among others, it’s a week before a slam and this tournament has a wide open field.
everyone had perfect semis except Jeff, while Chris outdid Courtney in the early rounds and given the fact they both had Federer as champion, they finished 1/2 in Brisbane this week. Shout out to Courtney for picking Duckworth over Simon in a big upset no one else picked.
Steen finished first and Jeff finished second because they were the only two who had Berdych in the final, Steen had Ferrer in the semis and that was the difference.
Chennai 1: Niall (104 points) (+250 overall)
2: Courtney (102 points) (+150 overall)
3: Steen (72 points) (+90 overall)
4: Chris (62 points) (+90 overall)
5: Jeff (60 points) (+45 overall)
Having Wawrinka as the champ and RBA in the semis made the difference for Niall as he won the Chennai tournament this week. Courtney also had Wawrinka as the champ and outpaced the rest of the field, with the difference between the top two being the fact Niall did one pick better in round 2.
Chris and Steen both took titles and got semifinal points in two other tournaments, which puts them out in the lead, while Courtney getting final points from two events puts her in third. A dual champion could add 500 points to their total this week.