Heading the 16-player field was Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny. The former world No.8 has climbed 49 places in the rankings this year after winning three consecutive Challenger titles across Asia (two in Bangkok and one in Manila). Youzhny, who reached the final of the tournament in 2007, kicked-off his campaign against Ireland’s Sam Barry. The Irishman is currently ranked 399th in the world and recently won a Futures title in Sunderland, Great Britain. Barry was no match for Youzhny as the world No.78 overcame a close opening set to win 7-6(1), 6-2.
Awaiting the Russian in the final qualifying round was Georgian fifth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, who defeated Belgium’s Yannick Mertens in straight sets during his opening round. Despite struggling with his first serve, the top seed booked in place in the main draw with a 6-2, 6-4, win. Getting 43% of his first serves in, Youzhny claimed 69% of his service points to extend his 2016 winning streak to 17.
Speaking about Youzhny performance, tournament vice-chairman Colm McLoughlin spoke of his delight for the Russian.
“We are delighted that Mikhail Youzhny has successfully negotiated the qualifying rounds here, and he did so without the loss of a set to emphasise that he is very much back in form after a disappointing season last year,” McLoughlin said.
Italy’s Thomas Fabbiano produced a surprise win to reach the first round in Dubai. Starting against Turkish wildcard Cem İlkel, the world No.142 endured a second set scare before winning 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. The reward for the Fabbiano was a meeting with second seed Ivan Dodig. During their marathon encounter, which lasted 13 minutes short of three hours, Fabbiano converted 6/10 break points to win 6-7(1), 6-4,6-2. The Italian will now play in his third ATP main draw this year.
Kyle Edmund’s hopes of continuing his strong start to the year was ended by unseeded Croat Franko Skugor. The Brit reached his first ATP quarterfinal at the start of the year in the Doha Open and claimed his fourth Challenger title in Dallas, USA. Edmund began his Dubai quest with a 6-3, 6-4, win over Czech veteran Radek Stepanek. Meanwhile, Skugor defeated eighth seed James Ward 6-3, 6-4.
Despite there being over 100 places separating Edmund and Skugor, the Croat saved 5/5 break points to seal a straight sets victory (6-4, 6-2). The score appears one-sided, however, Skugor won just 11 points more than his opponent (63 to 52).
Finally, Lucas Pouille dropped just six games in his successful qualifying campaign. In his first match the Frenchman played a little-known Dutch wildcard Roy de Valk, winning 6-1,6-0, in less than 40 minutes. After his easy opening match, Pouille faced fifth seed Ruben Bemelmans. The Belgian was forced to dig deep in his three sets win over Mischa Zverev in the first round. The first round efforts invested by the fifth seed had an effect on him during his match against Pouille. The world no. 91 fired 7 aces and faced no break points during his 6-2, 6-3, triumph.
Brazilian joy for Facundo Bagnis and Gastão Elias in Sao Paulo Qualifying
After the trials and tribulations of the Rio Open, the focus remains in Brazil at this week’s ATP 250 tournament in Sao Paulo. Headlined by France’s Benoit Paire, the tournament will feature six top 50 players. Prior to the main draw getting underway, a series of epic matches occurred during the qualifying draw for the tournament.
Top seed Facundo Bagnis secure his place in the main draw with a duo of wins over fellow Argentine players. Four Argentine players featured in the qualifying draw, three of which was drawn in the same section as Bagnis. In his first round he faced world No. 156 Nicolas Kicker. Kicker recently came close to winning his first Challenger title after reaching the final at the San Domingo Challenger. His recent form continued in São Paulo after taking the first set against Bagnis before the top seed battled back to win 5-7,6-4,6-2.
The next Argentine for Bagnis was fifth seed Facundo Arguello. Arguello defeated Brazil’s Orlando Luz 6-4,6-2, in his opening match. Converting 4/9 breaks point against Arguello, Bagnis eased to a 6-3,6-3 victory.
Portuguese sixth seed Gastao Elias endured two three-set battles to reach the main stage of the tournament. At last week’s Rio Open the world No.141 qualified for the main draw before losing to surprised finalist Guido Pella.
Elias’ second Brazilian qualifying campaign started with a tough 3-6,6-3,6-2, triumph over wildcard Jose Pereira. Impressively the sixth seed won 80% of his service points during the first round. Next up for Elias was Chile’s Hans Podlipnik-Castillo, who stunned second seed Rugerio Dutra Silva in the first round. In a three-hour marathon, Elias edged past the Chilean player 7-6(5), 5-7,6-2.
Another Argentine success occurred for eight seed Maximo Gonzalez. His opening match against Italy’s Filippo Volandri came to an unfortunate end. After over two hours of play, the Italian retired at 5-5 in the final set due to an abdominal tear. Awaiting Gonzalez in the final round was Spanish third seed Roberto Carballes Baena. Baena produced a three sets win over Brazil’s Joao Souza in the first round. After dropping the first set, Gonzalez converted 5/7 break points to stun the third seed 4-6,6-3,6-3 to progress to the main draw. There was some consultation for Baena after he received a lucky loser position in the main draw following Guido Pella’s withdrawal.
Completing the quartet of qualifiers is seventh seed Blaz Rola. The Slovakian was four points away from losing in the first round before he achieved his marathon win over local talent Andre Ghem – 7-6(4),4-6,7-6(3). In the next round he played world No.218 Gianluca Nasco, who upset fourth seed Andrej Martin. Nasco won six Futures titles on clay last year. The Italian was on course to producing another surprise win after taking the opening set against Rola. Despite the promising start, Rola recovered to seal the win 3-6,6-0,6-4.
The WTA tour heads to Dubai for Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. With 470 points available for the winner, who will take the rankings climb this week?
After being launched as a men’s only tournament in 1993, it became a joint event in 2001 and one of the best stays on the tour. Justine Henin has the tournament record with four titles followed by Venus Williams with three. Other former champions include WTA superstars Lindsay Davenport, Elena Dementieva, Martina Hingis, Petra Kvitova, Amélie Mauresmo and Caroline Wozniacki.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Prize money: $1,734,900
Date: February 15th- February 20th
Top four seeds who receive a BYE (Ranking)
1. Simona Halep (3)
2. Garbine Muguruza (5)
3. Carla Suarez Navarro (8)
4. Petra Kvitova (9)
Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska were both scheduled to compete but withdrew prior to the tournament.
Out of the all the opening round matches this one stands out the most. Ivanovic is coming in off the back of a disappointing loss to Roberta Vinci in St Petersburg whilst Gavrilova is playing for the first time since a good run in Melbourne.
The Aussie has won their only previous match in Rome last year coming through in three sets, so she has proven she is capable of upsetting the former world number one.
This one could go three sets and feature plenty of momentum shifts. Definitely one to look out for when the tournament kicks off.
Belinda Bencic (Photo: Christopher Levy @Tennis_Shots)
(5) Belinda Bencic vs Jelena Jankovic
Coming off yet another good run in St Petersburg, Bencic is one of the players to watch this year as she continues her climb towards the top of the game.
However the young Swiss star could be slightly fatigued in Dubai and faces a tough opener against the more experienced Jankovic.
Both play a more counter punching game and although Bencic is currently the better player, Jankovic always has the potential to reel back to the years where she made number one in the world.
The fifth seed leads the head to head 2-1 with them tied 1-1 on a hard court. Who will win the fourth meeting?
Andrea Petkovic, Life Member Eintracht USA
Camila Giorgi vs Andrea Petkovic:
With Petkovic vs Giorgi you have a classic style clash with the power of the Italian against the counter punching of the German.
Giorgi holds a 3-1 head to head lead over Petkovic despite being ranked 17 places below, including a victory in Dubai two years a go. The world number 23 won their last meeting however in Cincinnati last year.
Petkovic’s bad form and Giorgi’s general up and down style of play could make for a messy encounter but it is still one to watch as it could go either way.
Halep will be looking to turn her season around after a poor start that saw her exit the Australian Open in the first round. The defending champion will be the tournament favourite, but there are some tricky roadblocks ahead. After an opening round Bye the Romanian will begin her tournament against the winner of Ivanovic and Gavrilova. It is a tough match for the out of form Halep that could see another early exit.
Svetlana Kuznetsova is the other seed in this section and has a tough opener of her own against Julia Goerges. Barbora Strycova will likely wait the winner in round two as the Czech has drawn a qualifier in her opening round. Kuznetsova vs Strycova could be a lengthy and dramatic affair that could go either way.
Suarez Navarro’s quarter:
Spain is well represented in the draw with their top two players both being seeded. Suarez Navarro, being the third seed, will receive an opening round BYE before meeting the winner of Caroline Garcia vs Anna Schmiedlova. Two different propositions with Garcia being the aggressor and Schmiedlova being a more defensive minded player. The Frenchwoman will be full of confidence after her Fed Cup exploits.
Bencic will be another player that comes into Dubai in good form after a good run in St Petersburg, but she faces a tough first rounder against Jankovic. It won’t get much easier in round two wither with Petkovic or Giorgi waiting in the wings. It’s a tough draw for the Swiss and with fatigue possibly a factor, don’t be surprised to see an upset.
The Czech took a wildcard into the tournament in order to gain some momentum after her ranking fell to ninth in the world. The two time Grand Slam champion has the extra time to prepare due to her seeding and will therefore meet the winner of Madison Brengle vs Ekaterina Makarova in round two. Makarova could be a very tricky test in a battle of the lefties.
Vinci, like Bencic, will come into Dubai off the back of a good run in St Petersburg. The Italian faces a qualifier in round one before meeting compatriot and former doubles partner Sara Errani in round two. Who will win the battle of the former doubles champions?
Muguruza has also not enjoyed the best start to 2015 and has struggled to find her best form whilst struggling with a foot injury. The Spaniard will open her tournament in round two against either a qualifier or Elina Svitolina in round two. A match against the Ukrainian will be an interesting one between two of the tour’s best young talents.
Like Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova took a wildcard into the event and might fancy her chances at taking the title. The Czech will have a big serving battle against Coco Vandeweghe before meeting the winner of Kristina Mladenovic vs Lesia Tsurenko.
Halep Claims 10th WTA Title, Super Sara Wins Rio Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The WTA tour stopped on opposite sides of the globe this week for events in Doha and Rio. The number one was the key number of the week as the top seed’s at both events ran out successful.
Top seed Simona Halep overcame the power of Pliskova to claim her 10th WTA title. The Romanian got it done in two tight sets 6-4,7-6(4) and as a result, she climbs back up to No.3 in the world.
Halep began the match well, countering the power of her opponent smoothly with great effect, and at 3-3 the world number four got her reward as she broke the Czech to love. From there, Halep went on to serve out the first set comfortably to wrap it up in 41 minutes.
The 2nd set, however, didn’t go as smoothly. Halep lost her serve early in the 2nd to go a break down, but the Romanian broke straight back to even it at 2-2. The players managed to hold serve until 3-3, which is when the chaos ensued. Halep looked to have the match sealed when she broke at 3-3, but Pliskova didn’t stop fighting and broke straight back. Halep re-established a break advantage by breaking the Czech again, but she failed to serve it out with Pliskova saving match point along the way. Halep would have another chance to serve it out at 6-5, but yet again she failed to convert a match point, and thus we were treated to a second set tie-breaker. Plsikova was the first to strike, getting the mini-break at 3-3; she wouldn’t win another point on serve. Halep broke back and gained the lead giving her the opportunity to serve out the match. Third time was the charm for Halep who converted on her third match point to take the Dubai crown.
“I’m very happy right now. I cannot explain in words how I feel,” Halep said post match. “It’s an amazing title for me. It’s very important for my career. I’m really happy and just want to enjoy this moment.
She added. “At the beginning of the tournament some people asked me if I felt pressure because I was the No.1 seed. I said no, because I wasn’t thinking about it, and I just wanted to go on court and play match by match, because everyone would play really well here. And I played with big players like Makarova, Pliskova, Wozniacki – she was No.1 two years. So it’s honestly just an amazing victory for me.”
Despite the tough loss, Pliskova can certainly hold her head up high. This week has been a landmark week for the young Czech as she reached her first Premier 5 final, and obtained a career high ranking of 13.
“I was trying to turn it around, but even if I won the second set, I don’t know if I would have won the whole match,” she said. “It would still have been hard because she doesn’t give up on any point. She runs really, really well, and it’s hard to kill the ball against her. She really gets everything back.”
“I lost, so I’m not really happy right now, but obviously I’m happy for the week and for the last two or three weeks I had. I had so many matches here and beat great players – I’m not disappointed.”
In the doubles, Timea babos and Kristina Mladenovic defeated Spanish pairing Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3,6-2 to take the title.
Go Like Hell.
Sara Errani has edged closer to the top 10 by ending the breakthrough run of Anna Schmiedlova to win yet another clay court title in Rio.
Schmiedlova had never reached a quarter final of a WTA event before this tournament, let alone a final, and in the first set she put the former Roland Garros finalist under all sorts of pressure. The youngster pushed it all the way to a tiebreak, but from this point it was all Errani. The top seed raced through the tiebreak 7-2, to give herself a set lead after 73 long minutes.
The Italian carried that form into the second set where she quickly raced into a 4-0 lead before closing the match out on serve, 6-1.
With this result, Errani has now won eight WTA titles, and she inches ever closer to re-entering the top 10. Next week, the Italian will climb 4 places to number 12 in the world, and with clay season just around the corner, Errani has kicked into form just at the right time.
“The first set was tough. We played more than an hour,” Errani said post match. “We were both fighting hard in that set – she was playing very well and not giving me anything, really. It was also the first time I played her so I needed some time to find my tactics. I was happy I managed to win that set, and in the second set things started going much more my way. I think I was just physically stronger in the end.”
“Winning a title is always special. This tournament was great and I leave with only good memories.”
Schmiedlova, like Pliskova, can leave in good spirits despite the loss. The world number 59 had a landmark week in Rio, and will be looking to go one further in her next attempt.
“She was moving really well and she’s a really great player,” Schmiedlova said. “I played some very good tennis in the first set – the second set was worse, but I’m so happy I was in the final.
“This week gave me a lot of confidence. I hope it helps me in my next tournaments.” The youngster added.
Ysaline Bonaventure and Rebecca Peterson won the doubles title after their final opponents Irina Begu and Maria Irigoyen retired after 3 games.
2015 WTA Dubai Preview and Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Originally launched in 1993 as a men’s event, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships became a joint event in 2001 and has since become one of the best tournaments on the calendar. In 2001 the players voted it as the WTA’s Premier Tournament of The Year, an honour it was awarded again the following year.
Justine Henin holds the tournament record with four titles, followed by defending champion Venus Williams, with three. Other former champions include the likes of Lindsay Davenport, Elena Dementieva, Martina Hingis, Petra Kvitova, Amelie Mauresmo and Caroline Wozniacki.
Last year, Venus Williams tore through the competition to take the crown without dropping a set. The three time champion avenged her sister’s loss by defeating Alize Cornet 6-3,6-0 in the final.
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
WTA Premier Series
February 15-February 21,2015
Prize Money: $2,513,000
Top 8 seeds (who receive a first round byes)
1. Simona Halep
2. Petra Kvitova
3. Caroline Wozniacki
4. Ana Ivanovic
5. Agnieszka Radwanska
6. Ekaterina Makarova
7. Angelique Kerber
8. Venus Williams
Serena Williams and Eugenie Bouchard were scheduled to compete here, but withdrew at the last minute.
Elina Svitolina vs Coco Vandeweghe
The winner of this one will face Petra Kvitova in round two. These two youngsters possess different styles, with the American having the big serve and ground strokes, whilst her Ukrainian opponent offers a more consistent game. Svitolina recently withdrew from Pattaya, so who knows where her fitness is at this point. Vandeweghe hasn’t competed since the Fed Cup, where she lost in straight sets to Paula Ormaechea in Argentina. This will likely come down to how well the world number 32 serves. If the serve clicks for Vandeweghe, Svitolina will find it tough to break. If Vandeweghe is even a little off, expect Svitolina’s consistency to guide her to victory.
Vera Zvonareva vs Camila Giorgi
Former Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva has used her protected ranking to enter the main draw in Dubai. Her first round opponent is big hitting youngster Camila Giorgi, one of the most unpredictable players on tour. The former world number two played fairly well in her quarter final run in Pattaya last week, and will be looking to continue that form on her journey back towards the elite. Giorgi suffered a round 1 exit to Carla Suarez Navarro in Antwerp, so her confidence may be low, especially as she led after the first set. The Italian will be looking to overpower her 30 year old opponent, whilst Zvonareva will look to use more variety, and is the vastly more experienced of the two. If Giorgi peaks, she’s ultra-dangerous, but that is a big if.
(11) Lucie Safarova vs Monica Puig
The Czech leads the head to head 2-0, but all previous meetings were on clay two or more years ago. Youngster Puig, will be fairly high on confidence after a semi-final run in Pattaya last week, where she eventually lost narrowly to Ajla Tomljanovic. Safarova made the quarterfinals in the Diamond games last week, where she lost to compatriot Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals. Expect the Czech to try over power the Puerto Rican, who will look to use that power against her opponent with her counter-punching style. Puig may have stagnated since last year, but if she’s high on confidence, the youngster could be a handful for the 11th seed.
The top half of the draw looks the weaker on paper, but it still offers a lot of interesting players and match-ups. Top seed Simona Halep will most likely be the favourite to advance from this section of the draw, but after a measly round one loss last yea, and a whole host of dangerous players in the draw, it won’t be simple at all.
The Romanian will find it tough against Mona Barthel or Daniela Hantuchova, who both showed good form last week, but she should make at least the quarterfinals. From there, it will definitely get more difficult for the world number three, as she could end up facing Ekaterina Makarova. The sixth seed destroyed Halep at the Australian Open earlier this year, but historically the Russian has always brought her best to the grand slam events. It is also no guarantee that Makarova will make it that far however, as she has been drawn in a tough section. Round two will likely be Hobart champion Heather Watson, and round three will be tough no matter who makes it out of Andrea Petkovic, Zarina Diyas and Annika Beck. Makarova will be the favourite in all of her matches due to her having the biggest game, but this is WTA and nothing is ever set in stone.
Third seed Caroline Wozniacki finds herself drawn in the same section as Angelique Kerber, who has just dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in a while. The former world number one should make it out of this section, even with some troubling opponents likely to await her. It will likely be Sam Stosur in round two, and Alize Cornet in round three, both of which I expect Wozniacki to win.
It should be Kerber awaiting in the quarterfinals, despite her poor form as of late. Former grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova will provide a stern test for her in round two, but the German should expect herself to win that one. If Kerber doesn’t make the quarterfinals, I’ll be fairly surprised.
The bottom half seems to have the more dangerous players. Petra Kvitova is the number two seed and headlines this section. She is accompanied by the likes of Ana Ivanovic, Aga Radwanska, and defending champion Venus Williams; It’s a stacked section, no doubt.
Fourth seed Ana Ivanovic will face some difficult tests before she even makes the quarter finals here. Sabine Lisicki, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Karolina Pliskova have all been drawn into her daunting section. Lisicki can play great but is wildly inconsistent outside of Wimbledon, so Ivanovic should at least make it to round three. If Strycova and Pliskova make it past their round one opponents, you will be treated to one of the most interesting matches in the tournament. Pliskova will likely be too powerful for her, setting up a Pliskova-Ivanovic round three. The Czech will try to overpower the Serb, and serve big. Ivanovic will be the favourite due to her higher ranking and experience, but don’t be surprised to see an upset here.
Defending champion Venus Williams will also have it tough if she’s to make it to the quarterfinals. The eighth seed has been in good form this year though, and despite her advancing age, Williams is still one of the most feared players on tour. Her biggest rival in this section will be Lucie Safarova. The 11th seed has a fairly tough round one against Monica Puig, but the Czech should come through that and her round two opponent. The winner of Venus vs Safarova will be my pick to make the semifinals from this quarter. Both hit hard and would have played their way into form by time the quarterfinals roll around.
Second seed Petra Kvitova has no easy matches in her path to the semifinals. In the second round she’ll either face Elina Svitolina or Coco Vandeweghe. Both possess different challenges, but Petra’s power will likely guide her to a round three clash with Carla Suarez Navarro(?).
5th seed Agnieszka Radwanska might be the projected seed to meet Kvitova in the quarterfinals, but there is a name that sticks out just as much: Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard is in good form this year, only losing two matches in 2015. Recently she disposed of world number three, Simona Halep in straight sets at the Fed Cup. Despite her good form, the Spaniard’s inconsistency still remains making it far from a guarantee that we’ll see this third round clash. Radwanska will potentially have a challenge of her own in round two against Caroline Garcia. The Frenchwoman is very talented but her lack of effort at times has been questioned. Garcia could throw a spanner in the works, but don’t bank on it. With Muguruza vs Radwanska looking likely in round three, we will be in for a treat in this clash of styles. Muguruza will look to overpower Radwanska from the baseline, whilst the Pole will look to use her court coverage and variety to frustrate the Spaniard and force her to leak errors. Muguruza won their last meeting without particularly playing well, so it’s hard not to back her if she is playing well. But with her known fluctuation in level, I can only say that this will most likely go the distance.
Kvitova d. Williams
Wozniacki d. Makarova
Federer Wins 6th Dubai, Dimitrov Wins 1st 500, Delbonis Wins 1st ATP Title Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
ATP Dubai Roger Federer won a record sixth Dubai open title with a 3-6 6-4 6-3 win over Tomas Berdych, who was denied his shot at consecutive 500 series titles with the loss.
Federer has come back strong in late fall 2013 and the early part of this year. He is 14-2 this year with his only losses coming to Hewitt and Nadal, and starting with Basel last fall, he only had losses to Del Potro, Djokovic and Nadal.
The Swiss maestro had a weeklong streak of wins that consisted of a straight sets victory over Benjamin Becker, a 3 set victory over Radek Stepanek in a close, exciting match, a straight set win over Lukas Rosol and a 3 set upset of Novak Djokovic.
Berdych beat Marius Copil, Sergiy Stakhovsky, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Philipp Kohlschreiber, all without dropping a set before the final.
Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi won the doubles title over Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic.
Grigor Dimitrov won his second career ATP title 7-6 3-6 7-6 over the big serving South African Kevin Anderson, who was contesting his second ATP final in consecutive weeks and lost both finals.
Dimitrov beat Marinko Matosevic and Marcos Baghdatis in straights in the early rounds, and then won a barn burner 3 set match against Ernests Gulbis in the quarters. After that, he needed a pair of tiebreaks to come back from a set down and defeat his (sort of) rival Andy Murray for the first time in his career, as the Bulgarian continues to rise up the rankings.
Anderson beat Stephane Robert and Sam Querrey in straights, then was gifted with a retirement from a set down against David Ferrer, and prevailed in 3 sets over the in form Alex Dolgopolov in the semifinals.
Anderson did pick up a title this week however, as he and Matt Ebden were the dynamic doubles champions, beating Feliciano Lopez/Max Mirnyi in the doubles final.
ATP Sao Paulo
23-year-old Argentine dirtballer Federico Delbonis had one of the worst chokes of 2013 when he lost the ATP Hamburg final to Fabio Fognini in 3 sets, but he finally made amends for that and captured his first ATP title in Sao Paulo with a 4-6 6-3 6-4 win over maiden finalist Paolo Lorenzi, who at the age of 32, reached both his first ATP semifinal and first ATP final ever.
Delbonis crushed Filippo Volandri in straights before upsetting Nicolas Almagro in 3 in one of the best wins of his career yet. He also beat Albert Montanes in straights and dispatched home hope Thomaz Bellucci in 3 sets in the semis.
Lorenzi beat Pere Riba and Rogerio Dutra Silva in straights, then needed 3 sets against Juan Monaco and a second set retirement against Tommy Haas to reach the final.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Philipp Oswald won the doubles final over Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
2014 ATP Dubai, Acapulco, Sao Paulo Previews and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
Dual outdoor hard court 500s in Dubai and Acapulco (which switches from clay to hard courts this year), and the final golden swing event, a clay 250 in Sao Paulo are the offerings this week. All of this beckons as the ATP tour marches towards the next marquee event in Indian Wells.
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
February 24-March 1, 2014
Prize Money: $ 1,928,340
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (2)
2: Juan Martin Del Potro (5)
3: Tomas Berdych (6)
4: Roger Federer (8)
5 of the top 10 are in Dubai in what is a stacked, exciting event.
First Round matchups to watch:
(6)Mikhail Youzhny vs. Michal Przysiezny
There’s not an abundance of great appetizers on offering in the Dubai first round, but this one of two that stick out to me. First, the struggling Youzhny, who is just 1-4 on the season in ATP action, having lost 3 straight matches, faces off with the equally slumping Przysiezny, who is a miserable 1-7 on the year, between ATP and Davis Cup action.
Youzhny had high expectations this year and Przysiezny was an improving player going into the season, but 2 months in, they both need some wins to snap out of their funks. As the more accomplished, higher ranked player, Youzhny should be favored, and he also won their only head to head meeting (played on clay) very easily 4 years ago.
Andreas Seppi vs. Florian Mayer
Seppi leads the h2h 2-1, but Mayer won their only outdoor hard court meeting 6 years ago and he is in great form, having won 7 times in 11 tournament matches on the year. Seppi has just 1 win in 6 ATP and Davis Cup tournament matches and has lost 4 straight matches. Given the massive difference in form, I expect Funky Flo to win this one.
Defending and four time champion Novak Djokovic opens with Denis Istomin, who he has defeated 4 times previously, and then will face Roberto Bautista Agut or qualifier Adrian Ungur in round 2. Novak will most likely see Youzhny in the quarters, as after Przysiezny, the winner gets Delray quarterfinalist Teymuraz Gabashvili or wild card James Ward.
Five time Dubai champion Roger Federer opens with veteran German grinder Benjamin Becker, and will face another veteran in the next round, either Radek Stepanek or Michael Russell. Judging by his play earlier this year, Federer should be safe for the quarterfinals where his opponent will be one of Lukas Rosol/Daniel Brands/Lukas Lacko/Dmitry Tursunov. Lacko is a qualifier. Tursunov is the 8 seed but he’s out of form, and Brands has a h2h win against Federer last year. All in all, a toss-up section, and both Djokovic and Federer should be happy with their draws.
Juan Martin Del Potro, who bounced out much earlier than he would like in his last action in Rotterdam, opens with wild card Somdev Devvarman. I expect JMDP vs. Igor Sijsling in the next round, as the Rotterdam semifinalist, who was bounced out in the opening round of Marseille, opens with wild card Malek Jaziri, who is a hard worker who will battle hard but isn’t the highest ranked of players.
Should Del Potro be healthy and not too rusty, with a fit wrist and other factors, I expect Del Potro vs. 6 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber or Florian Mayer in the quarters. Kohli needs wins against Thiemo De Bakker and Seppi/Mayer to reach the quarters as he did in Rotterdam. Kohli leads the hard court h2h with Mayer, his Davis Cup teammate, 1-0, but Mayer does have a clay court and an indoors win, their last match coming in 2010.
Rotterdam champion Tomas Berdych, who has only lost 2 ATP level matches this year, and sports a 12-2 record going into this tournament, along with being a defending finalist, faces qualifier Marius Copil in the opening round and then Sergiy Stakhovsky or Ivan Dodig in round 2.
Dodig comes off quarterfinals in Marseille, but Berdych should smash his way to the quarterfinals against the 5 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who made the finals in Marseille, and opens with the journeyman veteran Victor Hanescu, followed by Nikolay Davydenko/Andrey Golubev.
Dark Horse: Andrey Golubev
Golubev has an outside shot at the quarterfinals, given the nice draw he has, with Nikolay Davydenko, who for quite some time has been a shell of his former self, up first. He would follow with Hanescu/Tsonga, as Hanescu is a journeyman and Tsonga has not been at his best all year, and should be tired coming off the Marseille final. Golubev won the title at the Astana challenger and thus is in good form.
Djokovic d. Federer
Berdych d. Mayer
Djokovic/Federer is a near lock for the semifinals, and their h2h is rather even, Federer leading it 16-15.
Yet Djokovic has won the last 3 meetings, and the last 10 hard court meetings are 5-5. In Dubai the h2h is 1-1.
I give Djokovic the edge to advance given his better in recent years.
Berdych should make the final regardless of his semifinal opponent and I have Mayer penciled in as his form should propel him past Seppi, Kohlschreiber and Del Potro/Sijsling. I just don’t think JMDP is 100% yet.
Berdych d. Djokovic
Berdych is just 2-15 against Novak, but with his form sizzling, and Novak having not played since the Australian Open, I think he will get his third win in an upset and keep Novak from winning his fifth Dubai title in a close match. This would be a rematch of the Dubai final last year, and Djokovic won that match in straights, but I think revenge is in order and it will be a much closer match this time.
ATP AcapulcoAbierto Mexicano Telcel
ATP World Tour 500
February 24-March 2, 2014
Prize Money: $ 1,309,770
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: David Ferrer (4)
2: Andy Murray (7)
3: John Isner (13)
4: Grigor Dimitrov (20)
Four of the top 20 and a pair of top 10 players are in Acapulco, as the switch to hard court attracted a nice field for this event.
First Round matchups to watch:
Feliciano Lopez vs. Edouard Roger-Vasselin
The first meeting between these two veteran players, ERV comes off quarters in Marseille and Feli comes off quarters in Delray. However, Roger-Vasselin was more impressive in his quarterfinal loss in 3 sets to Tsonga, while Lopez really struggled from the start against Steve Johnson and never found the effort needed to put up a fight. ERV has farther to travel, but I give him the edge in this one, in what looks like a quality, balanced matchup.
(3)John Isner vs. Ivo Karlovic
These two big bomb servers have met 4 times, and in every meeting there has, as would be expected, at least one tiebreak in the match. Overall, the h2h is 2-2, and their only outdoor hard court meeting went to Karlovic.
Karlovic is better on the volley and first serve, and Isner is better with his forehand and second serve. This one should be very close as Karlovic retired in round 2 of Delray after the making the final in Memphis, while Isner scraped his way to the semis in Delray, but he dropped a set in all 3 of his wins and then lost in straights to a tired Marin Cilic.
Hopefully, Big John was shaking off rust and nothing more, and hopefully also Karlovic is fit for this one, as it could very well be 3 tiebreak sets to decide.
(8)Vasek Pospisil vs. Alex Dolgopolov
Pospisil pulled out of Delray as he stated he didn’t feel fully recovered from his back injury and needed an extra week off, thus his first tournament back will be Acapulco. He’s seeded, but his first round opponent is a tough one, as Dolgo found surprising quality to reach the final in Rio. He played some tough matches there and may be tired, but he did very well and depending on the Pospisil form he may be able to grab an upset win.
Joao Sousa vs. Adrian Mannarino
A pair of players who were struggling but found some form in their last tournaments, Sousa made his way to the quarters in Rio on clay, while Mannarino finally beat Jack Sock to reach round 2 in Delray, where he fell to Lopez in 3 sets.
Mannarino has played more hard court tennis as of late, while Sousa will be coming back from a couple of weeks on clay, but he is a good, reasonably accomplished hard court player and this is their first meeting. On paper, Mannarino probably has a slight edge but personally I think Sousa will win this one, probably in 3 sets.
David Ferrer, who was upset in the Rio semifinals and is back on hard courts now after the clay golden swing, faces Mikhail Kukushkin round 1, and then ERV/Lopez in round 2 in what could perhaps be a tricky matchup for him. I think he gets to the quarters to most likely face Delray finalist Kevin Anderson, who opens with a qualifier, and then the severely slumping Sam Querrey, or against all odds Mexican wildcard Tigre Hank.
Anderson may be tired, but Querrey is in horrendous form and he has to be happy with the opponent he drew in round 1. Assuming Ferrer gets past his second round opponent, this is a good draw for him.
Isner/Karlovic will face off with Dudi Sela or a qualifier in round 2. Isner beat Sela in a close 3 set match in Delray, and that would be a rematch just days later. I expect Isner/Karlovic in the quarters against Pospisil/Dolgopolov. The winner of that match gets Jeremy Chardy/Matt Ebden in round 2, with Chardy coming off of playing clay, and Ebden not really at his best right now. This is an interesting section of the draw.
Andy Murray makes his debut south of the border, as he takes on Rio semifinalist Pablo Andujar first and then Sousa/Mannarino. I don’t expect either opponent to trouble him too much, and he has a rather weak quarterfinal section with one of Gilles Simon/qualifier/Jurgen Melzer/Jarkko Nieminen on tap. Melzer, the veteran Austrian lefty, is playing his first tournament of the year coming off of injury. Nieminen took a week off after Rotterdam, and the veteran Finnish lefty is always a dependable competitor. Simon, meanwhile, has lost 2 straight matches and has been struggling all year, as he may be in a bit of a decline at this point in his career.
Grigor Dimitrov will try for success first against Marinko Matosevic, and should he advance, he will face Marcos Baghdatis, who gets another wild card this week, or Mexican wild card Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela. I expect it to be Dimitrov vs. one of Marseille champ Ernests Gulbis/Rendy Lu/Lukasz Kubot/qualifier in the quarters. Gulbis is in some great form, with semis in Rotterdam and a title in Marseille in the past 2 weeks but he’s likely exhausted after so much tennis over a short period and he will be coming in from Europe, making this an open section. Lu is struggling to stay healthy, and Kubot is in poor form.
Perhaps a qualifier will make a run like we saw in Delray.
Dark Horse: Edouard Roger-Vasselin
I thought of putting Rendy Lu or Karlovic in this spot, as they both have dark horse chances, but I’ll go with ERV, who has also been another of my steady DH designations this year. He will need to get past Lopez and Ferrer, neither of whom are easy to beat, but if he does a tired Anderson or a lucky Querrey will be his quarterfinal opponent. He has a great chance at the semis or even a run to the final with Isner/Karlovic/Pospisil/Dolgopolov likely to be the semifinalist from the other section, all beatable on a good day.
Ferrer d. Karlovic
Murray d. Dimitrov
Ferrer leads the h2h with Ivo 2-1 but Ivo won their last meeting in 2011, all on hard courts. I don’t think Isner is in good enough form to reach the semis so I have the good Dr. here. Murray, who didn’t look at his best in Rotterdam, should still be in good enough form to make his way to the semis and expand his h2h from 3-0 to 4-0 against Dimitrov. All of their previous meetings finished in straight sets on hard courts.
Both normally-top 5 players haven’t been near their best this year, though probably for different reasons. I still feel confident that they both make the final of this 500 series event, and I have Murray, who leads the outdoor hard court h2h with Ferrer 5-0, as the champion.
ATP Sao Paulo
Brasil Open 2014
ATP World Tour 250
Sao Paulo, Brazil
February 24-March 2, 2014
Prize Money: $ 474,005
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Tommy Haas (12)
2: Nicolas Almagro (18)
3: Marcel Granollers (35)
4: Juan Monaco (42)
A weaker field than rest of the golden swing. Just 2 top 20 players and a huge drop off in quality below that makes this a tournament that gives a great chance for someone new to make a breakthrough or an old veteran to find some hot form and surprise.
First Round matchups to watch:
(7)Leonardo Mayer vs. Guido Pella
A veteran Argentine vs. a young Argentine, Vina Del Mar finalist Leo Mayer is just 1-2 after that showing including a blowout loss to Albert Ramos last in Rio. Mayer will take on Pella, who is 2-2 in Golden swing ATP events and skipped Rio. This match will come down to which Mayer shows up. I’ll go with Pella in a slight upset. The h2h is 1-1 but both of their meetings have come on hard courts.
(8)Santiago Giraldo vs. (WC)Thomaz Bellucci
They just met last week in Rio and Bellucci won in 3 sets. This should be a very good match as Bellucci found some form in Rio with an additional 3 set win against Juan Monaco and a 3 set loss to David Ferrer on his record as he made the quarters on home soil. He will be playing on home soil yet again, but Giraldo will be looking to avenge his defeat and he has a great chance to do so. This match is a hard call.
Top seed Tommy Haas debuts in Sao Paulo, as he has been struggling some, just 2-2 in his last 2 tournaments with losses to Steve Johnson in Delray and Jerzy Janowicz in Rotterdam. He will be adjusting to clay, though he plays very well on the surface. Alejandro Gonzalez or a qualifier are first up, and then one of Mayer/Pella or Pablo Cuevas/Horacio Zeballos in the quarters.
I expect it to be Mayer or Pella but watch out for Cuevas who showed some improvement in Rio.
Juan Monaco finally won a match, beating Zeballos in Rio, but he’s still struggling and I expect him to be knocked out by Albert Ramos, who made the second round in Rio. Ramos has to beat a qualifier first. The quarterfinalist will face Paolo Lorenzi, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or a pair of qualifiers in an open section. GGL has lost 2 straight matches, but he did beat Lorenzi in Vina Del Mar in 3 sets.
A qualifier has a nice chance at a run in this section.
3 time Sao Paulo champ Nicolas Almagro, who was ousted by Alex Dolgoplov earlier than he would have liked in Rio, will face Federico Delbonis or Filippo Volandri in his first match. He should advance to face the 5 seed Robin Haase in the quarters, as the Dutchman needs a win over a struggling Filippo Volandri and Albert Montanes/Aljaz Bedene (neither of whom are in good form). That said, Montanes just beat Haase In round 1 of Rio and that would be an immediate rematch.
Marcel Granollers is another struggling but accomplished player with just a 1-3 Golden Swing record this year. He will face Martin Klizan or Guilherme Clezar in round 2, and the winner will face Giraldo/Bellucci or Julian Reister/Andreas Haider-Maurer. Klizan retired in his last match, Reister is 0-5 on the year, and AHM has lost 2 straight matches. I expect Giraldo or Bellucci to emerge as the best of this section.
Dark Horse: Albert Ramos
It seems pretty easy for the Spaniard Ramos to reach the semis, as he has a struggling Monaco after a qualifier, one of the easiest round 1 bye seed opponents in an ATP tournament in a long time, and then Lorenzi/qualifier/GGL in the quarters. Then, it’s probably Haas or perhaps someone else in the semis. He even has an outside shot at the final.
Haas d. Ramos
Almagro d. Giraldo
Almagro is 5-0 against Santi, including 2 wins on clay, thus he should win, given Sao Paulo is his event anyway. Haas has never met Ramos but I also think he will prevail.
Final:Almagro d. Haas
Haas is 3-0 against Nico with a win on clay, but that was 9 years ago, and Almagro has great history at this event. Besides the Rio round 1 loss, Nico appears to be in ok form with his only golden swing losses to top players Fabio Fognini and David Ferrer. Haas, meanwhile, is adjusting to clay and as previously mentioned hasn’t been up to his usual par this year so far, thus I think Nico will make it 1-3 against him and grab a win.
Novak Djokovic won his fourth title in Dubai and extended his consecutive match winning streak to 18 with a 7-5 6-3 working over of Tomas Berdych yesterday. Djokovic was dominant over Viktor Troicki, Robert Bautista Agut, Andreas Seppi and Juan Martin Del Potro earlier in the week and has only lost one match since his US Open final loss last year. He really looks like a cyborg out there.
Berdych knocked off Roger Federer yet again in the semis, needing 3 sets to do so. Fedex continues to struggle. Berdych also beat Rajeev Ram, Tobias Kamke and Dmitry Tursunov without dropping a set.
Mahesh Bhupathi and Michael Llodra took the doubles over Robert Lindstedt and Nenad Zimonjic.
Rafael Nadal decimated and routed a hapless David Ferrer in Acapulco 6-0 6-2 in a match where Ferrer, who continues to struggle when faced with taking on his more famous countryman, never had a chance. It was over in just over an hour.
Nadal had it clicking and takes his second title since his return to the tour. He beat Diego Sebastian Schwartzman, Martin Alund, Leonardo Mayer and Nicolas Almagro earlier in the week. Ferrer beat Antonio Veic, Wayne Odesnik, Paolo Lorenzi, and Fabio Fognini in 3 to reach the final.
Lukasz Kubot and David Marrero took the doubles over the Italian duo of Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli.
The Delray final will be between Ernests Gulbis and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. A recap of that will follow later today.
2013 ATP Delray, Dubai and Acapulco Previews Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
Another triple header is in order for the ATP tour this week with dual 500s in Acapulco on clay, the culmination of the golden swing, and Dubai on outdoor hard. Meanwhile, sunny Delray Beach, Florida will host an outdoor hard 250 event.
ATP Delray Beach
Delray Beach International Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 250
Delray Beach, Florida, USA
February 25-March 3, 2013
Prize money: $455,775
1: John Isner
2: Tommy Haas
3: Sam Querrey
4: Kei Nishikori
5: Alexandr Dolgopolov
6: Kevin Anderson
7: Feliciano Lopez
8: Xaiver Malisse
First round matchups to watch:
Michael Russell vs. (3) Sam Querrey
Russell at the age of 34 is playing some of the best tennis of his career all of a sudden and looked quite good en route to the quarters in Memphis after qualifying. He will face Querrey, who has been a bit up and down, losing in the 2nd round of Memphis after semis in San Jose. Sam will be the favorite as he has beaten Russell 5 times in a row but muscles Russell has a nice chance at another quality win.
(5)Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Ivan Dodig
Dolgopolov never seemed to be in great form while in Memphis, though he made the quarters and admitted he was coming off of some injury issues and still trying to get back fully with his body along with his technical play. He gets an interesting match with Dodig, who was competitive in his 3 set loss to Cilic in Memphis, plays well on hard courts, and is in decent form. Dodig will also have a good chance at an upset victory.
Igor Sijsling vs. (2)Tommy Haas
You have to feel a bit sorry for Tommy Haas. After withdrawing from Memphis because of sickness, he gets the misfortune of having to play sizzling Igor Sijsling, who packs a serious punch and looked quite strong in Memphis. Sijs won a good match over Melzer before losing a nail biter with Cilic in 3. Sijsling continues to show that he has a great multi faceted game when he puts it all together, especially on the mental side. He is primed and ready for a deep run in an ATP event. Haas did well to make the San Jose final and won his only match in Memphis, but I think even as a 2 seed he will be the underdog in this one. Haas did beat Sijsling in Auckland this year.
A seriously struggling John Isner opens with Jesse Levine and then will get the Go Soeda vs. Marinko Matosevic winner. Matosevic was a semifinalist in Memphis along with a defending finalist in Delray but retired from his semifinal match with a foot injury and his performance may well be questionable.
Defending champ Kevin Anderson comes off elbow surgery, and this is his first tournament back since the Australian Open, where he actually looked quite good before the elbow problem arose. Anderson will play a qualifier, then Yen-Hsun Lu or a qualifier. It should be a somewhat comfortable start for the South African, but you never know what kind of shape he is in. Also, the qualifying draw is very strong, with names like Berankis, Gulbis and Smyczek participating.
All in all, the first quarter of the draw is actually very weak with a bunch of players either out of form or coming off injuries.
Memphis champ Kei Nishikori will look to continue his strong play against Ivo Karlovic, then the Flavio Cipolla vs. Edouard Roger-Vasselin winner. In the quarters, Kei could get a Memphis finals rematch with Feliciano Lopez, who opens with Bjorn Phau. Lopez could get a rematch with Jack Sock in Round 2 if Sock beats Matt Ebden.
The Haas/Sijsling winner won’t have it much easier in the next round, as they will likely face Memphis semifinalist Denis Istomin, who opens with Benjamin Becker. The winner of that could get Dolgopolov/Dodig, Steve Darcis or Evgeny Donskoy.
The Querrey/Russell winner will face James Blake or a qualifier in yet another All-American matchup. After that, the winner could face a struggling Xaiver Malisse, a qualifier, a struggling Ryan Harrison, or perhaps most likely, Alejandro Falla. Falla could set up a 3rd meeting in consecutive weeks if both he and Querrey win up to the quarters. This is another pretty weak section of the draw.
Dark Horse: Igor Sijsling
Yet again, I’ll pick Sijs as my dark horse, and by now you should be aware of the reasons why. If he gets past Haas and a possibly tired Istomin things really open up, as his quarterfinal opponent probably Dodig or Donskoy isn’t as strong. In the semis, he will get yet another somewhat struggling opponent, probably still Querrey, but watch out for Blake or Russell. Sijsling should have really good chances at making the final if he keeps it together and with a weak top half of the draw, excluding Nishikori, has a great chance of winning the title.
Nishikori d. Anderson
Sijsling d. Querrey
Nishikori, even if he is a bit tired, is simply playing much better than anyone else in his section, by far. Yes, I’ll pick the guy coming off elbow surgery in the 1st section because it really is that open of a draw. I could even see a qualifier making the semis in that section, especially a guy like Berankis. Isner has a good draw yet again, but he is playing poorly right now and can’t be counted on.
Querrey should also be a heavy favorite to reach the semis but you never know..
Nishikori d. Sijsling
I could see Sijsling winning if this final comes to fruition, but I’ll have to go with the steady Nishikori as the favorite.
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
February 25-March 2, 2013
Prize Money: $1,785,500
Top 8 seeds:
1: Novak Djokovic
2: Roger Federer
3: Tomas Berdych
4: Juan Martin Del Potro
5: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
6: Janko Tipsarevic
7: Andreas Seppi
8: Mikhail Youzhny
500 ranking points and a whole lot of prize money brings the usual star-studded field to the desert for some tennis.
First round matchups to watch:
(6)Janko Tipsarevic vs. Nikolay Davydenko
To be blunt, Tipsarevic has been terrible this month, losing opening round matches to Dmitry Tursunov and Michael Llodra, a couple players ranked well below him, in consecutive weeks. Now he gets the still talented, but also very streaky and inconsistent Nikolay Davydenko, who he has a split head to head with 2-2 though they last played in 2011. Given how poor Tipsy has looked, Davy has a good shot a win.
Three time Dubai champion Djokovic returns from his post AO hiatus (excluding the Davis Cup tie he played) against DC teammate Viktor Troicki, then will face Roberto Bautista-Agut or David Goffin in the quarters. He could get the Andreas Seppi/Paul Henri Mathieu winner, Lukas Rosol or qualifier Matteo Viola. Seppi has never won a match in Dubai.
Rotterdam champion and Marseille quarterfinalist Juan Martin Del Potro will look to continue his success outdoors against Marcos Baghdatis, who can still be dangerous at times. After that, he will play Somdev Devvarman or qualifier Igor Kunitsyn in the quarters. He could face the winner of Mikhail Youzhny/Blaz Kavcic or one of the two qualifiers in this section, Daniel Brands and Florent Serra. This is a tailor-made draw for Del Po and he shouldn’t slip up.
Five time Dubai champion and defending champion Federer will play wild card Malek Jaziri, who can produce some tremendous tennis at times but has otherwise been a challenger level player. After that, he should face an ice cold Marcel Granollers or dirtballer Albert Montanes. In the quarters, Fed could get the Tipsarevic/Davydenko winner or most likely Marseille quarterfinalist Bernard Tomic in what would be an AO rematch. Yet again, this is an easy draw for Fed.
Marseille finalist Tomas Berdych will face wild card Rajeev Ram, then either Tobias Kamke or Mikhail Kukushkin. In the quarters, T Berd could get a Marseille finals rematch with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who opens with Michael Llodra. Other less likely options are Jan Hajek, or the man he beat in the Marseille semis, Dmitry Tursunov, who gets a wild card after his surprising play in Marseille.
Dark Horse: Marcos Baghdatis
In a top-heavy field, there aren’t very many dark horses who are good for much more than the quarters (Tomic and Mathieu, for example). If I had to pick a top seed to fall, it may as well be Del Potro, mainly because he has played a lot of tennis these past couple of weeks and he still doesn’t seem to be fully on his game (losing to Gilles Simon, for example). Baghdatis has had good results before and has been on and off this year, including semis in Brisbane and quarters in Rotterdam. He should be well rested and could leave a mark on the field.
Djokovic d. Del Potro
Federer d. Berdych
Djoker should beat Seppi or Mathieu to set this one up, Fed should roll, and Berdych should get revenge on Tsonga.
Djokovic d. Federer
It is pretty clear Djokovic is the better player right now, especially on hard courts, and I have no reason to think he won’t win this one.
Abierto Mexicano Telcel
ATP World Tour 500
February 25-March 3, 2013
Prize Money: $1,212,750
The Acapulco field was weakened by the withdraws of Fernando Verdasco, Jeremy Chardy and Juan Monaco. Security issues around the venue related to the violence going on in the area further hampers this event. The event continues nonetheless and it is worth 500 points.
Top 8 seeds
1: David Ferrer
2: Rafael Nadal
3: Nicolas Almagro
4: Stanislas Wawrinka
5: Jurgen Melzer
6: Thomaz Bellucci
7: Benoit Paire
8: Horacio Zeballos
1st round matchups to watch:
Paolo Lorenzi vs. (7)Benoit Paire
Paolo Lorenzi comes off a 1st round loss in Buenos Aires, but is at a career high ranking of 56 at the age of 31 and is far and above a better player on clay than any other surface. He gets an intriguing match with Paire, who in addition to coming off a 1st round loss in Marseille, has been playing indoor hard courts in Europe all month and will be playing his first tournament on clay this year Though Paire is normally the better player, this match is ripe for an upset.
Aljaz Bedene vs. David Nalbandian
Bedene had a nice win over Horacio Zeballos in Buenos Aires, but then lost to Julian Reister in a bit of a surprise. He will look to recoup against Nalby, who beat Carlos Berlocq solidly before losing to eventual champ David Ferrer. This is an interesting match and Nalbandian will have a slight edge.
(8)Horacio Zeballos vs. Simone Bolelli
Zeballos comes off a 1st round loss but still has had a good golden swing. He should be the favorite against Bolelli, who also comes off a 1st round loss in Buenos Aires after some good prior results. This is a match between a couple of solid enough dirtballers and if you like clay court tennis, is worth a look.
Buenos Aires champ and defending Acapulco champ David Ferrer opens with countryman Albert Ramos, then will get Lukasz Kubot or a qualifier. In the quarters, Ferrer could get Paire/Lorenzi, a qualifier or Pablo Andujar.
His opponent in that final, Stan Wawrinka, will play Fabio Fognini, a Buenos Aires quarterfinalist, then the Bedene/Nalbandian winner, both of which could trip him up early. 5 seed Jurgen Melzer will adjust to clay against Joao Sousa and then the winner of Santiago Giraldo vs. Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo. Melzer is close to dropping out of the top 50 and could use some wins here.
Rafa Nadal took a week off in Cozumel and comes back to an easy draw, opening with a qualifier then playing Mexican wild card Daniel Garza or a qualifier. In the quarters, he could get a slumping Thomaz Bellucci, who opens with Andrey Kuznetsov, Leonardo Mayer or another Mexican wild card Miguel Angel Reyes.
Buenos Aires semifinalist and 2 time Acapulco champ Nicolas Almagro will play Mexican wild card Cesar Ramirez before taking on Buenos Aires semifinalist Tommy Robredo or Filippo Volandri. In the quarters, Almagro could get Bolelli/Zeballos, Carlos Berlocq or Daniel Gimeno-Traver.
Dark Horse: David Nalbandian
For Nalby, his final showing in Sao Paulo showed he still had something left in the tank and he wasn’t just going to let his career fade away. He has a decent chance of success in Acapulco if he gets past Bedene, and Wawrinka is still suffering a bit of a hangover from his tough loss in the Buenos Aires final. If he gets through that, the semis would almost be a sure thing as Melzer or someone else probably doesn’t pose much of a threat.
Nadal d. Almagro
Ferrer will be a heavy favorite to beat Wawrinka again, and Nadal has such an easy draw, he could yet again make the semis even if he isn’t near top level.
Ferrer d. Nadal
This would be the Spanish 1 vs 2 showdown on clay, with a lot on the line in terms of bragging rights and otherwise. Nadal obviously has owned Ferrer in the past (16-4 h2h and only one loss on clay, back in 2004), but he still isn’t near the level he was at when he won those matches and Ferrer looked good in Buenos Aires. Ferrer will also be trying to defend his title points. Though this should be a gutsy match, I have to give a slight edge to Ferrer just this one time.