Andrej Martin Survives A Scare During Qualifying At Ecuador Open 2016 Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
Top seed Andrej Martin was forced to work hard for a place in the main draw during Qualifying At the Ecuador Open
Martin is currently ranked 148th in the world and is a regular feature on the Challenger tour. The Slovakian has already played in three Challenger tournaments this year, losing in the first round of the first two before reaching quarterfinals in Rio de Janeiro. He kicked-off his qualifying bid with a 7-5,6-4, win over home favorite Emilio Gomez. After his convincing first round win, Martin encountered a stern test against French seventh seed Calvin Hemery in the final round. Hamery is ranked 229th in the world and his opening win over Austria’s Bastian Tinker was his first match win on the tour this year. Dropping the opening set after 26 minutes, Martin battled back to win 2-6,6-2,7-5, after an hour and 50 minutes.
Martin is one of two Slovakian players to successfully qualify for the main draw in Ecuador. Jozef Kovalik upset fourth seed Franko Skugor on his way to the main draw. The world No.251 required exactly two hours to defeat Skugor 6-4,3-6,6-4 in the first round. Kovalik was on course to play sixth seed Jordi Samper-Montana in the final round, however, the Spaniard was stunned by Colombia’s Eduardo Struvay in straight sets. In 2015 Struvay achieved a career high of 185th and won two gold medals at the Central American and Caribbean Games. Kovalik encountered tough resistance from the Colombian but managed to pull off a 7-6(2), 6-4, victory after converting his fifth match point.
The first player to secure his place in the main draw was Argentina’s Renzo Olivo. The 23-year-old recently made his Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open where he won three qualifying matches before upsetting Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely in the first round. Olivo breezed past France’s Jonathan Eysseric 6-3, 6-1, in the first round. Eysseric is known best for reaching the final of the 2007 French Open boys’ draw. The reward for Olivo’s first round win was a meeting with compatriot Juan Ignacio Londero. Olivo had a 3-1 winning head-to-head record going into the match and he was able to increase it in Ecuador. Despite falling behind 0-2 in both sets, Olivo managed to claw his way back on both occasions to win 6-3, 7-5, booking his place in the main draw.
Finally, Joao Souza produced a duo of wins over home players to become the highest seed to reach the main draw in Quito. After reaching a ranking high of 69th in April last year, the Brazilian has fallen to 149th in the world. During qualifying Souza enjoyed a 6-3,6-4, win over wildcard Iván Endara. Souza continued his winning momentum by defeating Roberto Quiroz 6-4, 6-3. Quiroz is a former junior world No.7 and has recently been studying in America at the University of Southern Carolina.
First round matches for the qualifiers
Kovalik will battle Spanish veteran Albert Montanes, Martin faces another Spanish veteran, Marcel Granollers, Olivo faces wild card Alejandro Gonzalez, and Souza has a winnable contest against Argentine Facundo Arguello.
The defending champion Estrella has a tough opening round contest against Pella. Pella is 2-2 on clay against Estrella, and is also the oddsmakers favorite. It’s going to be hard for Estrella to maintain ATP caliber tennis in 2016, and winning matches like this are key.
Bernard Tomic is 7-3 to start the season, but he’s never posted a winning record on clay, and though this is a weak field, he’s clearly at risk of an upset before the semifinals. Tomic will face American Austin Krajicek or Roberto Carballes Baena, and then most likely Alejandro Falla or Paolo Lorenzi in the quarterfinals. Falla opens with Giovanni Lapentti, who has yet to win in 2016, while recent challenger finalist Lorenzi opens with Gonzalo Escobar. Lorenzi is 2-1 on clay against Falla, and is the most likely quarterfinalist after a great start to the season for the Italian veteran.
Given this is clay I have Lorenzi upsetting Tomic to reach the semifinals.
Thomaz Bellucci is just 1-3 to start the season, but he has positive history on clay and he should get past either Albert Montanes or Jozef Kovalik, who is a perfect 3-3 in qualifying bids this season. Montanes is a fading veteran, though he could win the round 1 match. Bellucci vs. Pablo Carreno Busta is a quality quarterfinal. PCB has yet to post an above .500 record on ATP clay, but he’s demonstrated great ability at the challenger level, and should beat Rogerio Dutra Silva in round 1, and Pere Riba or Inigo Cervantes in round 2.
Carreno Busta looks capable of making a move up the rankings in 2016, and I have him upsetting Bellucci, and moving the clay court h2h to 1-1 to reach the semifinals.
Feliciano Lopez is defending finalist points and is 2-2 to start the season. Lopez’s serve and volley game played well on high altitude clay last year and he should handle either Facundo Arguello or qualifier Joao Souza in round 2. Likely quarterfinal opponent Albert Ramos has proven himself on clay with his topspin game. Ramos opens with Dusan Lajovic and will face Horacio Zeballos or Rajeev Ram in round 2. Zeballos could trouble Ramos, but the ATP veteran should advance.
Ramos has never played his countryman Lopez on clay, but given his success last year, Lopez is a minor favorite to reach the semifinals.
Fernando Verdasco is 2-2 to start the season, and scored a win over Rafael Nadal in Melbourne. The Spaniard hasn’t been at his best on clay but the altitude should help him power past Alejandro Gonzalez or Renzo Olivo in round 2. Olivo qualified in Melbourne. Marcel Granollers opens with Andrej Martin, and should beat Pella or Estrella to setup a matchup with Verdasco. Granollers is 2-0 on clay against Verdasco, but once more the venue should allow Verdasco’s power to help him reach the semis.
Lorenzi is a seed but you wouldn’t expect him to reach the semifinals and perhaps go farther than that. He lacks an exciting game, or a recognizable personality, but he’s battling on the ATP tour for quite some time, and he’s always been consistent, especially on clay. A shocking run to the final or even capturing the title would be a fitting result for the Italian.
Semis Carreno Busta d. Lorenzi
Lopez d. Verdasco
PCB leads Lorenzi 4-0 in the h2h, Lopez beat Verdasco in the Quito semis last year.
Final Lopez d. Carreno Busta
PCB has a h2h win over Lopez, but Feliciano should be eager to do one better and win a title in Quito.
The legend of Victor Estrella continues to grow, the 34 old won his maiden ATP title in Quito, becoming the first Dominican player to capture an ATP title. Estrella is set to soar past his previous career high ranking of 65 after winning a thrilling three setter with top seed, and top 15 player Feliciano Lopez 6-2 6-7 7-6. Estrella was up a break in the third set, and surrendered it, but he held his serve and got the match to a tiebreak, where he seized a crucial advantage over the Spaniard and took it 7-5. Estrella over the past 15 or so months has been the most inspiring story in tennis, and is a testament to hard work and never giving up on your dreams. He has received little support and considered dropping tennis due to financial difficulties given the lack of support from his undeveloped federation. He was the definition of journeyman until 11 months ago when he broke into the top 100 for the first time. Since them, he’s established himself at the ATP level and also done well in his first Slam main draws.
Estrella began his run this week with a win over Andre Ghem, after that he beat Renzo Olivo, and upset 4 seed Martin Klizan to reach the semis, all without dropping a set. In the semis, he held on against Bellucci, who gave the match away in straights. ATP 250 events often receive criticism for field quality, and so much of the attention in the tennis world gets focused on the top 10 and the Masters and Slam level events, but if you ask me, Estrella and his story are what pro tennis is all about, he’s certainly not the most physically gifted or technically skilled player on tour, but with heart, and drive, he has gotten himself this far on tour, and the run doesn’t appear to be likely to end anytime soon. This is a sport where the grittiest, most dedicated players can post good results, and this was a magical week for Victor Estrella.
As for the top seed Lopez, he remains a Spaniard without a clay court title, Feli beat Alejandro Gonzalez in straights, Dusan Lajovic in 3 sets, from a set down and staring triple break point in the face in set 2, and Fernando Verdasco in a pair of tiebreaks, as Verdasco was unable to convert his chances in that match and mentally collapsed under pressure. His slice and serve was generally effective this week en route to the final.
Estrella pulled double duty in Quito this week, as he and his partner Joao Souza reached the doubles final, however it was Germans Gero Kretschmer and Alexander Satschko that took the doubles title in the end.
Richard Gasquet claimed his third career Montpellier title thanks to a retirement from an ill Jerzy Janowicz. Janowicz would have been bidding for his maiden ATP title but he simply wasn’t physically able to contest this match, retiring after 3 games. Gasquet staved off Lucas Poulle in straights, avoiding a third set against the young gun, and then beat Denis Istomin and Gael Monfils to reach the final. Monfils was also struggling with an undisclosed illness.
Janowicz had a great week, in fact already showing considerable improvements to his game after a dismal 2014. The Polish number one saved six match points against Dustin Brown to advance in 3 sets, and then also beat Benoit Paire in 3 sets to reach the quarters. Janowicz showed clutch play and steady improvement as he beat Gilles Simon in straights and Joao Sousa in 3 sets, with a third set breadstick in his final competitive match, and it’s a shame the final never took place.
Artem Sitak and Marcus Daniell beat Dominic Inglot and Florin Mergea, the top seeds, to win the doubles title, Sitak and Daniell are the first New Zealand pairing to win an ATP doubles title in decades.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez won his second career indoor hard court title in Zagreb, upsetting the favored, and in form Andreas Seppi, who has been off to a hot start in 2015. GGL and Seppi were neck and neck in the first set, and GGL clawed back a minibreak to take the first set, in the second, it was likewise close, but Seppi played a poor service game at 3-4 to get broken, and GGL served the match out after that for a 7-6 6-3 victory. It was close but GGL had fewer errors in his game and won the longer rallies, as he continues to post up and down results with his diverse game.
Garcia-Lopez demolished Damir Dzumhur in round 2, then beat Viktor Troicki in a close 3 set contest, and fellow veteran Marcos Baghdatis in the semifinals 4 and 4. Baghdatis had previously saved a match point to defeat Ivo Karlovic in round 2, and was perhaps fatigued from having three previous three set wins (over Toni Androic, Mikhail Youzhny and Karlovic) to reach the semifinals.
Seppi didn’t have any easy matches this week, he needed 3 sets against Robin Haase, James Ward, and Ricardas Berankis, that match decided in a tight third set tiebreak, and then he won a first set breaker and went on to breadstick Marcel Granollers for a straight set win in the semifinals. Outside of Berankis, and perhaps Igor Sijsling, all of the quarterfinalists in Zagreb this week were veteran players (Baghdatis, Youzhny, GGL, Troicki, Seppi, Granollers). Seppi already has an ATP final, an ATP semi (Doha) and the second week of a Slam (the AO) on his resume and it’s just now the second week of February as he has been on a tear as of late.
Home fans in Croatia had something to cheer about as Marin Draganja, a Croat, along with his partner Henri Kontinen of Finland beat Fabrice Martin and Purav Raja to capture the Zagreb doubles title. Croatian legends Ivan Ljubicic and Goran Ivanisevic were on hand to celebrate with the Zagreb winners this week, in a nice moment at the end of the tournament.
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.