He entered the tournament as the favorite and left with a 6th career Australian Open title, as Roger Federer went wire to wire, defeating Marin Cilic 6-2 6-7 6-3 3-6 6-1 in the final. Federer dropped just the two sets against Cilic all tournament, as he blitzed through a relatively weak path of Aljaz Bedene, Jan-Lennard Struff, Richard Gasquet, Marton Fucsovics, Tomas Berdych, and Hyeon Chung.
Federer fired 24 aces, saved 7 of 9 break points, and overall served really well, while breaking Cilic six times in the match mostly on the back of second serve returns. The first and fifth sets were one way traffic, as Cilic finished like he started, shaky and on edge. The second and fourth sets saw Cilic show his promise as he pressured Federer enough to get breakthroughs. In Set 4 he came back from a break down to force a fifth. The third set end up proving decisive though as Federer broke in the only game that featured break points in the set.
In his third career Grand Slam final the new world #3 Cilic played much better than he did against Federer at Wimbledon in the 2017 final, but he never was able to take control against the Swiss maestro. That said, it was the toughest test for Federer all tournament, as surprise semifinalist Hyeon Chung was forced to retire due to blisters on his feet, and veterans Gasquet and Berdych simply rolled over when facing down Federer.
Chung’s breakthrough came in the round of 32 against Alexander Zverev, and the round of 16 against Novak Djokovic, he beat Zverev in 5, and Djokovic in straights. The former world #1 and Serbian superstar was still rusty from an injury layoff, but he didn’t have a terrible AO and Chung beat him outright, not due to a fluke. Likewise Zverev got frustrated, but he was still beaten by the South Korean #1 straight up, and the young Chung deserves full credit for his accomplishments in Melbourne.
Chung spoiled the run of Tennys Sandgren, the last American standing, as he beat Sandgren in the quarters after the former Tennessee standout had upset both a less than fit Stan Wawrinka and young gun Dominic Thiem in Melbourne, beating Thiem in five sets and coming back from losing the 4th. Sandgren now has a great chance to back up the skill and mettle he showed in Melbourne the rest of the season, and became a regular contender at least the 250/500 level.
Cilic’s path to the final was Vasek Pospisil, Joao Sousa, Ryan Harrison, Pablo Carreno Busta, Rafael Nadal, and Kyle Edmund. He dropped sets against Pospisil and PCB but won thanks to his consistency. Against Nadal he took advantage of the Spaniard’s labored movement, and eventually won via a 5th set retirement as Nadal’s knee injury left him unable to continue. A healthy Nadal probably wins that match, but Cilic still took full advantage of his opportunity.
Edmund, 23, also had his slam breakthrough. He upset Kevin Anderson in the opening round, then beat three lower ranked players before upsetting Grigor Dimitrov in the four setter in the quarterfinals. Dimitrov missed out on his opportunity to make at least a slam final, while Edmund is stepping into the role of Britain’s leading man after Andy Murray was forced to exit stage right due to a hip injury.
Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in the men’s doubles final. It’s their first slam title as a team, and Pavic also won mixed doubles with Gabriela Dabrowski the next day.
Federer Claims First Indian Wells Title Since 2012 Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Roger Federer continued his magical comeback season and all but locked down comeback player of the year by March with a 6-4 7-5 victory over Stan Wawrinka in the 2017 Indian Wells Masters 1000 final. Federer has five career Indian Wells titles now, having claimed his first since the 2012 edition of the tournament, and adds the title to his trophy case for 2017 along with the Australian Open in Melbourne.
In a battle between two Swiss legends, who also happen to be the last two Slam champions, Federer had the upper hand early, and maintained a high level throughout the match. Wawrinka had an early break in the second set, and hung tight the whole way, but Federer was in control after going up a set and getting it back on serve in the second. Rather than being pushed into a potentially surprising second tiebreak, Federer pushed hard late to finish the match off and put his friend Wawrinka away. The result matches the general course of their rivalry, as Wawrinka, despite his own accomplishments, has always been in Federer’s shadow.
In a tournament that saw Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray make early exits, and end up injured. Federer was the star of the show by the end of the week. He didn’t drop a set in the California desert, claiming wins over Stephane Robert and Steve Johnson before dominating Rafael Nadal with strong backhand play, and then easing past Jack Sock in the semis, after Nick Kyrgios gave him a walkover due to stomach problems. It was still a good tournament for Sock as he claimed big wins over Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori, having cemented himself firmly as the American #1, and a possible candidate for top 10 status and the year end World Tour Finals.
Wawrinka started his journey with routine wins over Paolo Lorenzi and Philipp Kohlschreiber. He was a break down twice in the final set against Yoshihito Nishioka in round 3, but the upset minded Japanese ran out of gas and choked under pressure. After surviving that test, Wawrinka slipped past Dominic Thiem in a third set tiebreak, and then had an easier time against surprise semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta. PCB gets a ton of points for making the semis, but his path didn’t feature a top 25 victory, thus this surprise result is a bit of a mirage.
Veterans Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram put away Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo in an all-veteran battle to take home the doubles title in the desert. The first Masters tournament of 2017 going down as a resounding success.
Roger Federer captured Grand Slam #18 at the age of 35 this past weekend with his five set victory over long time rival Rafael Nadal 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3. Federer turned back the clock for two weeks in Melbourne, after missing of half of 2016 due to a back injury. The swiss legend took advantage of the quick surface in Melbourne to gain key advantages against Rafa in the three sets he won. Nadal was broken early in the three sets he lost, and in the fifth set, he was up a break, but lost it, going on to surrender the match. When Federer slipped into more passive play, Nadal took advantage with his topspin forehand, but from the start of the second week, with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray defeated, the tournament looked to be Federer’s to lose.
Federer had not won a title since 2015, and hadn’t won a slam since 2012, many thought he had at most a couple years left on tour. He still may have a couple of years left, but those years are all the sudden looking a lot more promising. The injury layoff gave Federer time to rest and recuperate, and in the right conditions, his ability to play masterful attack tennis is still good enough to beat almost every ATP player on tour.
Federer also showed renewed stamina, outside of his three set victory over Mischa Zverev, who served and volleyed his way into the quarterfinals, ending Andy Murray’s bid for a first AO title, the two other Federer victories to reach the final in week 2 were in five sets. Semifinalist Stan Wawrinka couldn’t keep up sustained pressure after coming back from 2 sets to 1 down. Kei Nishikori also forced a fifth set against Federer, but his serving wasn’t strong enough to take the 5th in their round of 16 match.
Nadal was an underdog all tournament, having not won a hard court title since early 2014. The 30 year old Spaniard was pushed to his limits against Grigor Dimitrov, in his second five set contest of the tournament, but in the end, Nadal’s experience and poise was too much for the less accomplished Dimitrov, who has been playing great tennis in 2017. Milos Raonic and Gael Monfils were Nadal’s two other victims, despite being top 10 players, they were no match for Rafa’s movement, and forehand pace.
Federer’s victory and Nadal’s finals appearance sets up an intriguing 2017 season. Djokovic and Murray remain the overall top 2 players, and should compete as co-favorites for the remaining three Grand Slam titles this season. At Wimbledon and the French Open however, Federer and Nadal will have key roles to play. A renewed Federer is dangerous on a fast grass court, especially if he continues to hit the ball as flat as he did against Nadal. A healthy Nadal remains the king of clay, and has a fantastic shot at winning yet another title in Paris.
Dimitrov has shown signs that he could solidify a spot in the top 10, after an excellent start to 2017. His performance at the eight Masters 1000 tournaments this season will go a long way towards determing his fate however. Dimitrov has historically failed to live up to expectations in clutch moments.
Wawrinka also showed he’s not going to drop from the top 5 anytime soon, having his Swiss countryman back playing at a top level should push Wawrinka to up his game as well. Wawrinka and Dimitrov were both masterful in their quarterfinal matches, defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Goffin respectively.
Players on the second tier of the ATP tour in terms of accomplishment, such as Monfils, Raonic, Nishikori, and Marin Cilic are going to have to play much better if they are going to threaten the tour’s core of Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka, and once again Federer and Nadal. They benefited from Federer and Nadal’s relative absence, especially on hard courts, but the competition level of the ATP tour just rose. Young guns such as Alexander Zverev, and Dominic Thiem are also fast improving too.
Henri Kontinen and John Peers took home the doubles title, defeating the legendary Bryan Brothers in straight sets. The Finnish/Aussie duo rose to prominence in 2016, and brought joy to home fans already in 2017.
Roger Federer gave himself momentum heading into the US Open with a masterclass 7-6(1) 6-3 victory over world #1 Novak Djokovic in Cincinnati on Sunday. The victory gives Federer seven career titles in Cincinnati, as he repeats as champion, and once more denies Djokovic the lone Masters 1000 title that he lacks.
Federer was aggressive against Novak on the day, and finished the match in just an hour and a half of afternoon play in the warm sunshine. Djokoic, though he reached the final, was clearly less than 100% and his failure to generate a single break point against the Federer serve demonstrated that fact. Normally one of the best returners in the mens’ game, Djokovic was on the defensive from the start, and though he saved seven of eight break point chances in the match, after the first set tiebreak he had a limited chance of engineering a comeback. His poor tiebreak proving to be the defining moment of the match.
Federer choosing to skip Montreal and play just Cincy as a warm up for the US Open seemed to pay off as the fresh veteran #2 seed didn’t drop a set all week in Ohio. He started his title campaign with routine wins over Roberto Bautista Agut and Kevin Anderson, and then rolled past Feliciano Lopez and Montreal champ Andy Murray to reach the final. Lopez had upset Rafael Nadal in the previous round, his best win of the season, and Murray was in good form, but fatigued by the time the semifinal took place.
Djokovic still demonstrated why he’s the world #1 this week, without being entirely healthy and fit, he got past Benoit Paire in straights, David Goffin in three sets, Stan Wawrinka in straights, losing just five games total to his rival, and surprise semifinalist Alexandr Dolgopolov, who posted his best result of the season with a win over Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals, but came up just short of upsetting Novak once again this year, losing in three sets, after being up a set and in a second set tiebreak. Both Goffin and Dolgopolov saw their level drop, the closer they got to a potential victory against Djokovic.
Presuming he can gets some rest and recover his health and conditioning, Novak will remain the favorite to take the US Open title, while Federer ensured he’s going to be part of the title conversation with Andy Murray, all of whom had good summers on the US Open Series. Murray also won the 2015 Emirates Airlines US Open Series bonus challenge over Djokovic.
In doubles Daniel Nestor and Edouard Roger-Vasselin did one better than their final in Montreal and took the title over fellow veterans Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic.
Roger Federer failed to put together consecutive top class performances, and it was Novak Djokovic who once again walked away with the Wimbledon title. The 2015 trophy is his third at the All-England club, and he’s the first repeat winner at Wimbledon on the men’s side since Federer in the mid 2000’s. Djokovic has now won two slams this year, and continues to be secure in the world #1 ranking spot, as he’s the best player in the men’s game right now by some margin.
Djokovic beat Federer in three hours, and four sets 7-6(1) 6-7(10) 6-4 6-3, as Federer fought hard to try and get the first two sets, but his quality declined over the final two frames. In set 1 Federer went up a break 4-2, but lost his serve the next game, he would later have two set point chances on Djokovic’s serve at 5-6, but Novak saved them both in a long service game, and then rolled through the tiebreak as Federer’s chances disappeared.
The Swiss would fight back in the second, even after failing to convert two more break point chances at 2-2. He staved off a set point serving 4-5, and then in the second set tiebreak saved an incredible six set points, including three consecutive down 3-6 in the tiebreak, before finally converting his second set point serving 11-10 in the tiebreak.
At this point Djokovic was angry, but he used that anger to fuel his game to another gear, a gear that Federer lacked. After dealing with an assault of winners from Fed, and some sloppy errors on his part in the first two sets, Djokovic buckled down and broke for 2-1 in the third, after failing to convert two break points in the opening service game of set 3. There would be a rain delay a couple of games later, but Federer didn’t look any better coming out of it, as Djokovic held the rest of the way and took the third 6-4, forcing Federer into a difficult position.
In set 4, Federer appeared to struggle with the wind and his error count went up considerably, he lost his serve at 2-3, and never recovered, failing to generate a break point on the Djokovic serve. At 3-5 he was broken again, gifting Djokovic the match on his first match point. Statistically, both men served at a similar level, but Djokovic was more efficient facing break point, as he saved 6 out of 7, while Fed saved 6 of 10, after previously only being broken once all tournament. Djokovic was also cleaner from the baseline as he slapped 46 winners compared to 16 errors, while Federer had a 58/35 spread. Simply put, Djokovic’s superior returning was enough to win the day against his elder rival as the Serbian sporting legend demonstrated he has shaken off any mental cobwebs from his shocking French Open final defeat to Wawrinka.
Surely Djokovic will enter the summer Masters tournaments, and the US Open as the favorite as he bids to win 3 out of 4 slams on the season. Federer meanwhile demonstrated he still has more good matches left in him, as his play at times this week was fantastic, even compared to his level of play in his prime. Winning a five set match against a physical opponent will likely continue to be a tough ask in a slam final, but Federer remains as the world #2 for good reason, and his longevity and grace is something to behold, as we truly are in a great era for men’s tennis.
In the second week, it was infact Djokovic that had to fight harder to reach the final, he shockingly went down 2-0 against Kevin Anderson, as the South African won a pair of tough tiebreaks 8-6 and was serving at a peak level, a level Djokovic was dazed by. The world #1 would do what world #1’s do however, as he found the spirit within himself to wake up, and remind Anderson beating the best in the world doesn’t come easy. He won the third set 6-1, and the fourth 6-4 as Anderson collapsed under the pressure of trying to pull off what would have been a massive upset. At this point, darkness suspended the match, and the next day Djokovic came out and won the fifth set 7-5. Anderson fought harder than expected to try to recover and finish the upset, but Djokovic had that extra gear that Kev couldn’t reach, in what was the biggest test for Novak of the 2015 tournament.
He went on to roll past a fatigued Marin Cilic in straights 6-4 6-4 6-4, and then outplayed, and outworked Richard Gasquet, a surprise semifinalist 7-6(2) 6-4 6-4. Gasquet played some of the best tennis of his career, as he upset Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals 11-9 in the 5th set. Wawrinka played well overall, as grass isn’t his best fit as a surface, and his first four wins were great, but Gasquet’s backhand befuddled him and he couldn’t get over the hump. It was an accomplishment for the classy French veteran to reach a grand slam semifinal as a 21 seed regardless, in round 4 Gasquet beat Nick Kyrgios in a close fourth set tiebreak, erasing the awful memory of his defeat last year against the volatile young Aussie.
As for Federer, he had little trouble against Roberto Bautista Agut, who was hampered by a sprained ankle and fell in straights, and then he beat Gilles Simon, another Frenchman who had a successful tournament, but had little to threaten the world #2. Simon beat Gael Monfils and Tomas Berdych on the week, but lost to Federer in 3 sets. In the semis, it was Andy Murray, who was also playing great tennis at Wimbledon. Murray came into the match as a slight favorite after a pair of week two wins over the big serving Ivo Karlovic in four sets, and surprise quarterfinalist Vasek Pospisil in three sets. Pospisil was the player who took advantage of the soft section in the draw, and reached his first ever slam quarterfinal, as he continues to occasionally show he still is a player with promise, especially on fast surfaces that suit his underrated serve.
Murray didn’t play poorly at all against Federer as he kept his first serve % high, and his error count relatively low, but Federer was simply stunning, putting up one of the serving performances of his career. The world #3 and UK number #1 often failed to generate even half chances against the Federer serve, and the Swiss broke when needed with his controlled aggression, world-class forehand and crisp volleys to take the match 7-5 7-5 6-4. His home fan base was certainly disappointed, but Murray really did all he could this tournament, and Federer on the day was just too good for anyone, as Murray again came up short in his quest to win another Wimbledon. All the same he’s had a good, and consistently top-tier year as he appears healthy, and happy with his tennis.
In the men’s doubles a surprise final took place as the #4 seeds Jean-Julien Rojer, and Horia Tecau beat Jamie Murray, the brother of Andy, and his partner John Peers the #13 seeds 7-6(5) 6-4 6-4. Tecau had previously come up short in Wimbledon finals, so finally taking the championship was a major career highlight for him. A qualifying team of Jonathan Erlich and Philipp Petzschner reached the semifinals, beating #2 seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo in the process, while the Bryan brothers lost in the quarterfinals to Florin Mergea and Rohan Bopanna.
The (primarily) North American hard court summer will begin in earnest for many of the worlds top players now as the focus shifts towards the US Open Series, on the road to the 2015 US Open, as many great matches have yet to be played in 2015.
2014 ATP Rogers Cup Preview, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
The first of two Masters 1000 level events on the Emirates Airlines US Open Series will take place this year in Toronto starting Monday. Most of the big names are in action and it is the first tune up for many of them before the US Open.
Rogers Cup 2014
ATP Toronto Rogers Cup ATP World Tour Masters 1000
August 4-August 10, 2014
Prize Money: $3,766,270
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (3)
3: Stan Wawrinka (4)
4: Tomas Berdych (5)
5: David Ferrer (6)
6: Milos Raonic (7)
7: Grigor Dimitrov (8)
8: Andy Murray (10)
Notably missing from the tournament are defending champion and world number 2 Rafael Nadal with a wrist injury, and top 40 players Fernando Verdasco, Nicolas Almagro and Dmitry Tursunov. Juan Martin Del Potro, Alex Dolgopolov, and Tommy Haas are also notable names we aren’t likely to see again this season.
First round matchups to watch:
Radek Stepanek vs. Gael Monfils
Stepanek was upset early in DC and seeks to rebound, while Monfils is finally beginning his post Wimbledon campaign. Both players are seeking to stay healthy and do well, and the style contrast will be fun in this one. They have met many times before and Monfils holds a 5-3 edge in the overall h2h, with it tied 2-2 on outdoor hard courts, the last meetings coming in 2011. I could see this going either way but I’m leaning towards picking Monfils to prevail.
(12)Richard Gasquet vs. Vasek Pospisil
Pospisil now has won two meetings against Gasquet, and he just beat him in the DC semis on Saturday, in that match Gasquet got off to a good start but let his advantage slip in the next two sets and bowed out in a 7-5 third set. The advantage should swing back to Gasquet for this meeting though, as I’m favoring the Frenchman to get his first win in the series because he did return to form in Washington DC after being on a cold streak for a while, and Pospisil, under the pressure of playing at home and defending semifinal points here, is likely to be fatigued after playing so much tennis this past week in DC. That slight change in circumstances, along with Gasquet being a motivated former finalist twice at the Rogers Cup, should make this match even more interesting.
Ivo Karlovic vs. (Q)Bernard Tomic
Another reprisal of a recent high stakes match, Tomic beat Karlovic in three sets by winning a pair of tiebreaks to win the title in Bogota, and will get the big serving Croat again as a qualifier in the Toronto first round. He has two other previous wins over Ivo outside of the Bogota meeting, and does seem to have the formula to get past Dr. Ivo’s serve and volley game
Santiago Giraldo vs. (WC)Nick Kyrgios
DC quarterfinalist Santiago Giraldo, who has had a solid season and is a big hitting shotmaker from the baseline, will do battle with the passionate and fiery Kyrgios, who as a wild card will be playing his first Masters tournament match in Toronto. The young Kyrgios has a heap of talent, great composure and a lot of eyes on him right now as he seeks to follow up his career result at Wimbledon where he beat Nadal and reached the quarterfinals. The winner will meet Andy Murray and this one should be an excellent match full of shotmaking highlights, I favor Kyrgios to get through in 3 sets.
Kevin Anderson vs. (Q)Thanasi Kokkinakis
Young Aussies Kokkinakis and Kyrgios could both win their ATP Masters main draw debuts in Toronto. Kokkinakis, who qualified and has had a good few weeks at the challenger level on hard courts will face the big serving Anderson, who is a solid hard court player but has been down in recent weeks, as he exited earlier than expected in DC, and was upset in his opening match in Atlanta as well. Kokkinakis will have to hold his serve and return well, as Anderson will put a lot of pressure on him with his serve/forehand combo that is elite, but he has a punchers chance if he can keep his nose ahead in the match.
Three time Rogers Cup champion and odds on favorite for a fourth, Novak Djokovic, will face Stepanek/Monfils to start, and then likely Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is making his post Wimbledon debut and looking for a stronger third quarter of his season, in round 3. Tsonga must defeat Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Jeremy Chardy/Federico Delbonis to get to that stage. Djokovic has owned Tsonga in recent years and that trend should continue.
Andy Murray, who is also making his post Wimbledon debut, and seeking to make a move back up the rankings with a strong hard court summer, will face Kyrgios/Giraldo in a big round 2 test, and should he survive he will face Gasquet/Pospisil or Karlovic/Tomic in round 3. It’s a tough draw for Murray but he should be rested and motivated, look for him to get through to meet Djokovic in the quarters.
Stan Wawrinka, also looking to put up a solid result in his post Wimbledon campaign resumption, will face Benoit Paire or Alejandro Falla in round 2. Paire, who had to qualify here, is best friends with Wawrinka and I doubt one will enjoy having to eliminate the other from the tournament should they meet. Look for Wawrinka against one of Kokkinakis/Anderson/Mikhail Youzhny/Fabio Fognini in round 3. Youzhny and Fognini are both struggling, so Kokkinakis/Anderson have a nice chance at making the third round, and Wawrinka should be favored through to the quarterfinals.
Grigor Dimitrov, hopefully healthy again, is also making his post-Wimbledon debut and has had a breakout season. The top Bulgarian may be tested by an in-form Donald Young in round 2, assuming the DC semifinalist Young can defeated Canadian wild card Frank Dancevic. Young made his first semi since 2011 in DC, but assuming Dimitrov is healthy I think he has too much game for the American baseliner (the h2h surprisingly is tied 2-2 and Young leads 2-1 on hard courts). Dimitrov/Young is slated to face one of Tommy Robredo/Philipp Kohlschreiber/Gilles Simon/Dominic Thiem in round 3. Robredo and Kohlschreiber are both struggling veterans, as is Simon, who may also be injured, while Thiem should be tired after playing in the Kitzbuhel final. Someone has to reach round 3 though and Kohlschreiber or Thiem is most likely to do so. Dimitrov/Young are quarterfinalist favorites in this section.
Roger Federer, seeking to win his third Rogers Cup, will open with Peter Polansky or Jerzy Janowicz, and should get his first big test against Marin Cilic in round 3. Cilic has been good on multiple surfaces this season, including hard courts and is close to reaching the best level of his career. He has never beaten Federer (0-4 last meeting in 2012) and would need to get past Denis Istomin and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez/Marinko Matosevic, a trio of players who can pull upsets on hard courts, to setup a fifth shot at Federer, but the match should at least be competitive if they meet. Look for Federer to be a quarterfinalist out of his section.
David Ferrer has had a down year this season and is on pace to have fewer wins and more losses than in any of his previous four seasons on tour. He was upset here in his first match last year and though Nicolas Mahut/Michael Russell don’t look like difficult opening match tests, Ferrer has shown he is vulnerable to being upset by journeyman over the past two seasons. He is carrying an elbow injury according to media reports but did not withdraw from the tournament like those reports suggested. If he’s not healthy, an already out of form Ferrer, who seems to have hit the wall, could be upset in his first match, if not look for 10 seed John Isner to send him home in round 3.
Isner seeks to bounce back from a disappointing showing in DC and he faces big server Ivan Dodig, playing his first match since the French Open after being injured, in round 1, Dodig should be unprepared to deal with Isner who plays a similar style as himself, and Isner should get through to face Andreas Seppi/Brayden Schnur in round 2. Canadian qualifier Schnur is making his ATP debut this week after working his way up through college tennis and the challenger circuit. Look for a Federer vs. Isner quarterfinal this week.
Tomas Berdych, another top 10 name who is struggling and was upset early in DC as the top seed, faces Rendy Lu or Marcel Granollers in his first match, and assumingly should advance to round 3 against most likely Roberto Bautista Agut who upset him earlier this spring in Indian Wells. RBA has two titles this season and is close to reaching the top 15 in ranking, he faces a struggling Feliciano Lopez in round 1, and then Tim Smyczek/Tobias Kamke in round 2 before a likely Berdych meeting. Smyczek tore it up in qualifying and is looking to have a resurgent result after slogging through a difficult 2014 season thus far. I look for Bautista Agut to beat Berdych again and reach the quarterfinals.
Defending finalist and DC champ Milos Raonic, one of the two prides of Canada along with Pospisil this week, will have a quick turnaround against Jack Sock/Jurgen Melzer in round 2. Raonic beat Sock in DC winning a pair of tiebreaks last week and overall he has beaten the American 3 times this year and four times overall, losing to him once in their maiden meeting in February 2013. The in form wild card Sock should beat Melzer who was playing on the clay of Kitzbuhel this week, and I give him a good chance against Raonic as well. Milos is likely to be tired and all of their previous head to head meetings have been relatively close. With Sock playing some of the best tennis of his young career right now, beating Raonic would be a stellar result for him. Raonic/Sock are likely to face Ernests Gulbis, always a dangerous lurker, in round 3. Gulbis must defeat Joao Sousa and Lleyton Hewitt/Julien Benneteau to reach that stage. Gulbis vs. Hewitt would be an entertaining and fiery round 2 encounter with Gulbis being slightly favored, they have never met before. This is probably the most open section of the draw and cases can be made for Raonic, Sock, Gulbis and Hewitt to be quarterfinalists.
Dark Horses: Donald Young and Jack Sock
American players have a great chance to post some surprising results at the Rogers Cup this week with Isner, Russell, Smyczek and two players I’ll spotlight for this tournament as dark horses, Young and Sock all having reasonable draws on paper.Young would need to beat Dimitrov but could reach the quarterfinals if he does so as the draw opens up until it gets to Wawrinka. Sock must beat Raonic and Gulbis/Hewitt as discussed, but he could also reach the quarterfinals where Bautista-Agut/Berdych are likely opponents. Sock has a more favorable potential quarterfinal opponent of the two dark horses this week.
Quarters: Djokovic d. Murray
Wawrinka d. Dimitrov
Bautista Agut d. Gulbis
Federer d. Isner
Djokovic beat Murray this season in Miami and he is a gear above the Scot right now, Murray could make it competitive but I don’t see him winning. Dimitrov had no trouble with Wawrinka this season on grass but Wawrinka won their only hard court meeting in 2011 and though it’s a very difficult pick, I’m going with Stan by just a hair, probably in 3 sets. In the hardest to predict quarter, I’m going against the 3-0 h2h in favor of Gulbis, including two wins this season, and picking Bautista Agut. The Spaniard is improving and has had better recent results than Ernie, also their two meetings this season went 3 sets and having watched them both, they were competitive contests where either player could have prevailed based upon just a few points. Federer should be a gear above Isner as well, and he has a 4-1 h2h advantage in that matchup.
Semis: Djokovic d. Wawrinka
Federer d. Bautista Agut
Stan and Nole have an excellent rivalry going, one of the best in the game currently, and should they reprise it in Toronto, Novak should have the advantage. He’s been the legitimate number one this season and has been elite all year, Wawrinka got him at the AO, but in a best of 3 sets format given both current form and mindset, Novak has to be favored like he has been in all of their previous head to head meetings, a vast majority of which he has won.
Fed and RBA have never met but Federer is the better player and should win.
Final: Djokovic d. Federer
With Nadal out, the spotlight shifts to Djokovic and Fed this week in Toronto, they contested a very competitive Wimbledon final, along with three other tournament matches this season, all of which came in the semis or final of a tournament. The h2h this season is split 2-2, and on outdoor hard court Djokovic won in 3 sets in Indian Wells, and before that Federer won in 3 sets in Dubai. Things are very close between these two titans of the sport almost every time they meet to do battle, however a slight edge seems to be favoring Djokovic right now and I’m picking him as the champ this week. ]
Also I’d like to introduce a friendly battle of the brackets between myself and our new ATP Challenger Tour journalist at Tennis East Coast, Chris De Waard, I’ll be including Chris’ weekly picks for the ATP tournaments on my preview posts and we will keep track of our selections compared to the actual results of the tournaments, at the end of the season the winner gets a prize yet to be named.
Chris De Waard’s Picks:
Djokovic d. Murray
Wawrinka d. Dimitrov
Raonic d. Bautista Agut
Federer d. Ferrer
2013 ATP Gstaad, Umag Previews and Predictions Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
Though I’m in Atlanta all week, there are in fact two other ATP events going on. They’re both in Europe on clay. Here’s a sneak peek of each.
Gstaad Official Site (Photo: Valeriano Di Domenico)
ATP Gstaad Credit Agricole Suisse Open Gstaad
ATP World Tour 250
July 22-July 28, 2013
Prize Money: €410,200
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes)
1: Roger Federer
2: Stanislas Wawrinka
3: Janko Tipsarevic
4: Juan Monaco
1st round matchups to watch:
(7)Lukas Rosol vs. Marcel Granollers
Rosol may be injured and he’s lost 4 straight. Rosol is seeded 7th, but Hamburg 3rd rounder Marcel Granollers should have the upset track on clay.
Federico Delbonis vs. Thomaz Bellucci
Current Hamburg finalist Delbonis, who upset Federer and has been on a whirlwind pace in Germany, will take on Bellucci. Belucci was knocked out in the first round of Hamburg and is still finding his feet. This is a quality clay court match and Delbonis should have an edge if he isn’t fatigued. Bellucci is the defending champion and would hate to give up so many points with a 1st round loss.
Roger Federer is not playing well right now. He lost in the semis of Hamburg to Delbonis and before that dropped sets to both Daniel Brands and Florian Mayer. Some say it was his switch to the 98-inch racquet from the 90-inch, but I’m not totally sure that will take care of the problem. He could very well face Brands again if the German beats Marco Chiudinelli in the opening round. Chiudinelli has some positive mojo working as he made the semis in Eskisehir challenger.
The winner will get one of a qualifier, Victor Hanescu, Henri Laaksonen or 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarters. RBA comes off 2nd round in Hamburg, while Hanescu lost in the opening round of Hamburg.
Hamburg quarterfinalist Juan Monaco will play Adrian Ungur or more likely Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who made the 3rd round of Hamburg and could perhaps give him some trouble.
In the quarters, one of Pablo Andujar/qualifier/Paul Henri Mathieu/Mikhail Youzhny await in what is a very open section.
Stan Wawrinka got a much needed break from the tour and will open at home against Daniel Gimeno-Traver or Kenny De Schepper with Sergiy Stakhovsky/Andrey Kuznetsov or Feliciano Lopez/Qualifier awaiting in the quarters.
Tipsy Needs to Find Himself
3 seed Janko Tipsarevic will backpeddle from Bogota, where he again failed to make even the semifinals of what was honestly a weak event (lost to Alejandro Falla in the quarters). Now he’s going back to clay and still trying to turn his miserable year around against Robin Haase or a qualifier. Tipsy was a finalist last year, but I don’t see that happening this year.
The winner will get Rosol/Granollers or Delbonis/Bellucci.
Dark Horse: Federico Delbonis
I considered giving this moniker to Brands or Bautista because they could both upset Federer and make it a tournament to remember. However, Delbonis, though he may be tired, has played incredibly well in Hamburg and has a tailor-made draw with an off kilter Bellucci, a probably injured Rosol/not dynamic Granollers, and then either ice cold Tipsarevic, tiebreak struggler Haase or a qualifier. Semis are reasonable.
Federer d. Monaco
Wawrinka d. Delbonis
Federer is 4-0 against Monaco, and though he could lose before this point, I don’t see Pico in his current form beating him. Wawrinka should get past his draw and beat whoever he faces in the semis.
“We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Racket” —Jaws, 1975
Wawrinka d. Federer
I’ll be gutsy and say Wawrinka will go against his 1-13 head to head against his more accomplished countryman and win an all Swiss final at home. Wawrinka’s only win against Fed came in ’09 on clay and with the year Stan has had, plus the way Federer is playing, I say he notches his 2nd win.
Vegeta Crotia Open Umag
ATP World Tour 250
July 22-July 28, 2013
Prize Money: € 410,200
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: Richard Gasquet
2: Andreas Seppi
3: Fabio Fognini
4: Alex Dolgopolov
First round matchups to watch:
Dmitry Tursunov vs. Thiemo De Bakker
Tursunov lost in the 3rd round of Hamburg to eventual finalist Delbonis, while De Bakker comes off Bastad semis. Both players have been good at times but are streaky, and on clay this should be entertaining.
Richard Gasquet comes back for his first event since Wimby against Albert Montanes or a qualifier, then could face Gael Monfils/Mate Pavic/Florian Mayer/qualifier in the quarters. Mayer is playing well and nearly beat Federer in the Hamburg quarters, so he could be a dangerous opponent.
Possible Hamburg champion and Stuttgart champion Fabio Fognini could be looking for his 3rd title in a row in Umag, opening with Tursunov/De Bakker, both of whom could defeat him if fatigued, though the Italian is playing some incredible tennis right now.
The other quarterfinalist will be one of Martin Klizan/Paolo Lorenzi/Albert Ramos/Leo Mayer in an open section.
Andreas Seppi lost in the opening round of Hamburg and will face Poznan challenger champ Andreas Haider-Maurer or talented youngster Jiri Vesely in the 2nd round. The quarterfinalist of that group will face Bastad champ and Hamburg 3rd rounder Carlos Berlocq if the Warlocq can beat a qualifier, and Borna Coric/Horacio Zeballos. Zeballos continues to struggle and the 16-year-old Croat wild card will have an upset chance.
Another struggling seed is Alex Dolgopolov, who is in danger of dropping out of the top 30 after another Round 1 loss (this time to Mayer in Hamburg). Dolgo opens with Aljaz Bedene or a qualifier. Dolgo has had Umag success before and he could use some now to kickstart his game. In the quarters, Tommy Robredo/Jan Hajek/Antonio Veic/Viktor Troicki await. Robredo lost in the opening round of Hamburg to Delbonis in 3 sets, and in fact has suffered consecutive opening round losses. Hajek, meanwhile, upset Ernests Gulbis to reach the Hamburg 3rd round.
Dark Horse: Jan Hajek
Hajek is a clay courter, and can play inspired tennis at times. His draw is favorable, with the seemingly struggling Robredo to open, then Veic/Troicki (neither of whom are that great right now), and a qualifier or a struggling Dolgopolov in the quarters.
Semis:Gasquet d. Fognini
Berlocq d. Hajek
Gasquet should get past Monfils and Mayer, though either could make the final. In addition, Fognini should worn out by the semis, but he has nothing in his draw to trouble him before except perhaps Tursunov. Fognini won the only clay meeting between them this year in Monte Carlo.
Berlocq should escape his section, though watch out for Vesely. Hajek gets a nice chance the semis. Berlocq is 2-0 career against Hajek, with both meetings coming on clay.
Final:Gasquet d. Berlocq
They have never met, but Gasquet is better and thus edge to him.
2013 French Open Week 1 Men’s Preview Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
May 26-June 9, 2013
Prize Money: € 7,984,000
For some reason, this feels like one of the most low-key French Opens in recent years. It’s still a Grand Slam, but it has not ignited as much excitement and discussion as in years past. Regardless, the draw is now out and soon enough it will be time to tune into the famed Parisian red clay once again.
Top 8 seeds
1: Novak Djokovic
2: Roger Federer
3: Rafael Nadal
4: David Ferrer
5: Tomas Berdych
6: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
7: Richard Gasquet
8: Janko Tipsarevic
Nadal is the defending champ, Djokovic is the defending finalist, and Juan Martin Del Potro and Andy Murray are the two notable absences this year. Murray is out with a back injury and Del Potro is battling a virus. While they will most certainly be missed, neither were favorites for the title so it isn’t that bad of a blow.
1st round matchups to watch:
(1)Novak Djokovic vs. David Goffin
A lot of eyes will be on Djokovic this time as he takes on Goffin in the opening round. He has not had the best of clay seasons and has been dragged down by a nagging ankle injury throughout. He may still not be 100%. Goffin, on the other hand, has dealt with a bit of a sophomore slump this year and is just 7-13 at the ATP level. He also comes off an opening round loss in Dusseldorf but few can forget his run to the Round of 16 at last year’s FO, and he will try to conjure that magic again. Djokovic should win, but Goffin might be able to take a set off him at least.
Ivan Dodig vs Guido Pella
Dodig seems to be perpetually under-noticed when it comes to top 50 ATP players. He has had a solid year thus far and this match with the rising Argentine Pella, who made his first career ATP semi this week in Dusseldorf is interesting and could go either way. Pella has talent on clay, but Dodig has more experience and consistency.
(16) Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (Q)Jiri Vesely
After dealing with vertigo in Rome, Peppo Kohlschreiber dropped his opening round match in Dusseldorf. Now he heads into a meeting with the only teen in the ATP top 200 (ranked 127 and climbing) Jiri Vesely, a 19-year-old Czech talent who blitzed through qualifying and has won 2 challengers and 3 futures titles this year. Kohli has been improving his form overall, but his health is still a question mark, giving Vesely a punchers chance at a big upset.
Andrey Kuznetsov vs. Ryan Harrison
Kuznetsov and Harrison both still have to be considered young talents and Kuznetsov has now moved past Harrison in the rankings. Neither have had breakthrough wins this year, but Kuznetsov has been a steady participant in ATP level events and Harrison has clawed his way back from an early season slump, though he did lose in the opening round of Nice. Because this is clay, Kuznetsov is a bit of a favorite but this one could also go either way.
(19) John Isner vs. Carlos Berlocq
Isner remains highly seeded but he keeps struggling and looking hapless on European clay. He has dropped 2 straight matches and will now take on the clay courter Berlocq, who he has never played before. Given the form of both players, Berlocq has to be a bit of a favorite.
(3)Rafael Nadal vs. Daniel Brands
As long as Nadal is healthy, as he appears to be, it is going to take a superhuman effort to beat him, but Brands, a continually improving German could at least make him work for a win. Brands comes off a bad 2nd round loss in Dusseldorf, but his consistently good year and solid game can’t be discounted.
(9)Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Thiemo De Bakker
Under normal circumstances, Wawrinka shouldn’t have an issue beating a player like De Bakker, who has talent but has struggled to put it all together. The problem is Wawrinka is dealing with a thigh injury and it was questionable he would even play the French. De Bakker has been better on the challenger circuit this year and Wawrinka will be a bit of a favorite, but in a best 5 sets match I don’t think Wawrinka’s fitness can be trusted right now even with his remarkable year. This is made even more disappointing by the fact that if Wawrinka was healthy he would have a great draw lined up.
(5)Tomas Berdych vs. Gael Monfils
If you only have time to watch one first round match, this is the one to watch. This match is good enough to be a 2nd week match, but instead one player will have to lose and the other will advance. Monfils is on a red-hot win streak, taking a challenger title and then making the finals in Nice (a tournament he may win). The French showman is utterly brilliant when he is in form in front of home fans, but is still ridiculously unpredictable. Berdych, on the other hand, has to hate his draw because after 2 straight clay masters semifinals (Madrid and Rome), he now faces the possibility of losing in round 1 of the French even though he is better than most of the other players in the field. Berdych has won all 3 H2H meetings, but 2 of those were last year and this is a much different Monfils right now. I still have to give an edge to Berdych here, but 5 sets is almost a given if Monfils isn’t out of gas.
Jan Hajek vs. (Q)Denis Kudla
Dusseldorf Quarterfinalist Hajek is best on clay but is a rather average player. Dynamite Denis Kudla has worked through qualifying and could break the top 100 with a couple of more wins in Paris. Given his form, I have to give Kudla a really good shot at winning this.
(18)Sam Querrey vs. Lukas Lacko
Querrey, like Isner, is struggling mightily on the red dirt and has lost 3 straight matches. Lacko, for his part, has also lost 3 straight and has continually dealt with the label of underachiever. Neither of these players are in form and this could go either way.
(2)Roger Federer vs. (Q)Pablo Carreno-Busta
Federer has a very easy draw up until the semifinals, excluding this match with Carreno-Busta who rolled through qualifying as everyone expected and continues to climb up the rankings. Carreno-Busta is making his Grand Slam debut in Paris. PCB of course had that tremendous winning streak on the futures circuit that led to 7 futures titles this year and he made the semis in ATP Estoril along with qualifying and making round 2 in Casablanca. He has tremendous talent and is playing like a top 60 player right now, but Federer, the Rome finalist, is still Federer, and though PCB should push him, I do not think he is quite at that level yet. Expect some great tennis.
After a meeting with Goffin, Djoker will take on Dodig/Pella before getting a rematch against Grigor Dimitrov, who upset him in Madrid in round 3. Dimitrov just needs to be Alejandro Falla and Alex Kuznetsov/Lucas Pouille. Excluding Dimitrov, Djokovic doesn’t have the most difficult of starts.
The Kohlschreiber/Vesely winner will play Rendy Lu or Simone Bolelli and then could meet Alex Dolgopolov, Dmitry Tursunov, Bernard Tomic or Victor Hanescu. Hanescu has had a career resurgence recently and just upset Albert Ramos in Nice. Tomic, of course, has been dealing with family issues and Tursunov is dangerous but inconsistent.
The slumping Janko Tisparevic has just been abysmal this year, losing once again in the opening round in Dusseldorf. He will try again against Nicolas Mahut, who hasn’t done very much for himself as well.The winner will play Fernando Verdasco or Marc Gicquel in the weakest part of the draw by far. One of those 4 has to make the 3rd round.
Joining them could be 29 seed Mikhail Youzhny, Federico Delbonis, qualifier Julian Reister or most likely Pablo Andujar. Andujar is coming off semis in Nice and has played surprisingly well this European clay season, setting him up to make the 3rd round or better in Paris.
12 seed Tommy Haas, who pulled out of Dusseldorf mid-tournament with a cold, will play Guillaume Rufin and then Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or surprise American qualifier Jack Sock. Few expected to make it this far. Haas could then play Kuznetsov/Harrison or Berlocq/Isner.
The heavy favorite and man to beat once again in Paris is Rafa, who will play Brands before meeting Michael Russell or Martin Klizan followed by Fabio Fognini, qualifier Andreas Beck, qualifier Pere Riba, or a big rematch with Lukas Rosol, who has had a solid year of his own. Nadal was shocked by Rosol last year at Wimbledon. Given that this is on clay, none of those options should trouble Rafa much.
13 seed Kei Nishikori will play Jesse Levine followed by Grega Zemlja or Santiago Giraldo. He should thereafter meet the dangerous Benoit Paire, who is seeded 24th, and opens with the formerly good Marcos Baghdatis and then Lukasz Kubot or qualifier Maxime Teixeira. Paire/Nishikori would be a huge 3rd round match.
Richard Gasquet personally carries French hopes, and will open with Sergiy Stakhovsky, followed by qualifier Michal Przysiezny or lucky loser Rhyne Williams, who lost to Przysiezny in the final round of qualifying. They will play each other again. In the 3rd round, it will be one of Florian Mayer, Denis Istomin, Florent Serra and Nikolay Davydenko.
Above Gasquet, the Wawrinka/De Bakker winner will play Horacio Zeballos or qualifier Vasek Pospisil followed by 21 seed Jerzy Janowicz or Albert Ramos. Ramos or Janowicz should beat Robin Haase or Kenny De Schepper, their round 2 opponents.
Ferrer will take on Marinko Matosevic, followed by current Nice finalist Albert Montanes, or surprise American qualifier Steve Johnson. After that, either Montanes or Ferrer should play another Spaniard, Marcel Granollers, if Granollers can beat the struggling Feliciano Lopez and then Go Soeda or Joao Sousa. This really is a good section for Ferrer.
14 seed Milos Raonic, who has had an off and on clay season, will play slumping Xaiver Malisse, and then qualifier Steve Darcis of Frenchman Michael Llodra. After that, fellow big server Kevin Anderson should come calling if the 23 seed can beat qualifier Ilya Marchenko and Evgeny Donskoy or qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff.
Berdych/Monfils will have the tough task of Ernests Gulbis in the toughest section of the draw, as long as Gulbis avoids being upset by Rogerio Dutra Silva. The survivor of that section likely plays 32 seed Tommy Robredo, but the veteran Jurgen Melzer and the Dusseldorf semifinalist Igor Sijsling are also options. Melzer and Sijsling played a tough match in Memphis this year that was won by Sijsling.
Below that, 11 seed Nicolas Almagro, dealing with some injury issues, will play qualifier Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria. If he gets past that, he will play Nice semifinalist Edouard Roger-Vasselin, a Frenchmen who has had a solid year. That is, of course, if Roger-Vasselin beats Martin Alund in the opening round. Almagro, if not too hobbled, has a tailor-made draw, as in round 3 he would play the out of sorts Andreas Seppi, whose game has disappeared from him. Seppi will play Leo Mayer, then Blaz Kavcic or qualifier James Duckworth. Kavcic-Duckworth is a rematch of a grueling 5-setter at the Australian Open that left Kavcic in a stretcher after the match. Hopefully, that won’t happen again. Duckworth-Kavcic could also upset Seppi. Keep that in mind.
After a meeting with Carreno-Busta, Fed should have a bit of an easier go against a pair of qualifiers, either Somdev Devvarman or Daniel Munoz-De La Nava. Munoz-De La Nava is making his 2nd Grand Slam main draw appearance at the age of 31. After that, Fed should play Paolo Lorenzo, Ricardas Berankis, or Julian Bennteau (with whom Federer has some experience). Lorenzi plays Tobias Kamke in the opening round while Rycka and Benny will do battle.
Above him, 15 seed Gilles Simon, who lost early in the quarterfinals in Nice, will play Lleyton Hewitt. Simon should then see countryman Adrian Mannarino or blast-from-the-past Pablo Cuevas, a former top 50 player, who after injuries is ranked outside the top 700. After not playing all of last year, with his last match actually being at the 2011 French Open, he has played 2 challenger events in April of this year and that is it.
Simon could very well play Denis Kudla, if Kudla beats Hajek and then Lacko/Querrey, neither of whom are consistent at all on the dirt.
Top Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will play Aljaz Bedene and then Paul-Henri Mathieu, the fiery Frenchmen who has gotten slightly better in recent weeks, or current Dusseldorf finalist Jarkko Nieminen, who has also had a quality year. Assuming he gets past the flying Fin or the inspiring Frenchman, Tsonga could run into yet another Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy the 25 seed. Chardy will have to beat Benjamin Becker and Roberto Bautista-Agut or Gilles Muller to make it happen. Agut just beat Muller in Dusseldorf but it went 3 sets. He shouldn’t be counted out as he has talent, but a wrist injury hamstringed him for a bit.
10 seed Marin Cilic opens with Philip Petzschner. He’ll follow that with a chaser of Radek Stepanek or young Aussie Nick Krygios, who is very talented but given this is clay and his slam debut, not much should be expected. Dusseldorf finalist and 17 seed Juan Monaco will play Daniel Gimeno-Traver and then Viktor Troicki or James Blake. After that, he should run into Cilic.
Week 1 predictions (round of 16 matchups and picks)
Djokovic d. Kohlschreiber
Andujar d. Haas
Nadal d. Paire
Janowicz d. Gasquet
Gulbis d. Roger-Vasselin
Ferrer d. Anderson
Tsonga d. Monaco
Federer d. Simon
Djokovic is still better than the competition he faces even though Kohli did shock him at the 09 French Open. Andujar has a really good chance to upset Haas. Nadal should beat Paire once again. Janowicz just beat Gasquet in Rome, and I have a feeling he will do it again. Gulbis beat Roger-Vasselin in Delray and since Roger-Vasselin is a 4th round surprise, should beat him again. Ferrer is better than Anderson on clay, a surface they have never played against each other on. Tsonga has beaten Monaco all 4 times they have met, including in 4 sets at the 09 French and in Davis Cup on clay this year, even with Monaco being in better form right now. Finally, Federer is superior to the inconsistent Simon who he just routined in Rome.
Picking the rest of the way,
Djokovic d. Andujar
Nadal d. Janowicz
Ferrer d. Gulbis
Federer d. Tsonga
Djokovic and Nadal shouldn’t have any trouble while Ferrer and Federer may struggle a bit against Gulbis and Tsonga, but eventually prevail. Federer is 9-3 career against Tsonga including a 5 set win over him at the AO this year.
Nadal d. Djokovic
Federer d. Ferrer
A healthy clay king in the form of Nadal should beat a not 100% clay prince in the form of Djokovic. Although Djokovic did get his number in Monte Carlo, Rafa has won everything else since, and regardless it should be a barn burner. Nadal is 19-15 overall against Djokovic and has beaten him all 3 times they have played at the French Open. He simply owns court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Federer is dominant over Ferrer and has beaten him an amazing 14 times without Ferrer ever registering a win.
Nadal d. Federer
In a rematch of the Rome final and the 2011 French Open final, Nadal won both, and he should win this one as well. His H2H is now 20-10 against Federer, which is actually a pretty notable gap for one of the biggest rivalries in tennis history.
Nadal Conquers Federer to Capture Seventh Rome Title
Rafael Nadal was once again a cut above as he defeated Roger Federer 6-1 6-3 in Rome, continuing his domination of clay court tennis. It is his 24th Masters title overall and as previously mentioned, his 7th in Rome. Federer, for his part, gained ranking points for the first time this year and made his first final of the year, but dropped to 0-3 career in Rome finals.
Nadal has only lost twice this year and continued his win streak over Fabio Fognini, Ernests Gulbis in 3 topsy turvy sets, David Ferrer in 3 sets and Tomas Berdych in straights. Berdych defeated Novak Djokovic to make the semis.
Federer improved against Potito Starace, Gilles Simon, Jerzy Janowicz and Benoit Paire. Paire upset Juan Martin Del Potro en route to the semis, while Janowicz upset both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet to make the quarterfinals.
Like Nadal, the Bryans continued their own domination of clay and everything else, winning over Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna to take the doubles title.
The second to last ATP masters event of the year and the pinnacle of the fall Asian swing will begin tomorrow in the early morning hours. Here is a preview.
Shanghai Rolex Masters
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
October 5-October 14, 2012
Prize Money $3,531,600
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: Roger Federer
2: Novak Djokovic
3: Andy Murray
4: Tomas Berdych
5: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
6: Janko Tipsarevic
7: Juan Monaco
8: John Isner
First round matchups to watch:
Bernard Tomic vs. Florian Mayer
Tomic was upset by Dmitry Tursunov in the first round of Tokyo after making the quarters in Bangkok and he will have to take on Mayer, who came out of nowhere to make the Beijing semis before falling to Novak Djokovic. Admittedly, Mayer didn’t have a tough draw to get to the semis. Mayer remains in the top 30 even though he has a losing record on the year and it will be interesting to see if he can carry his fine play into Shanghai against Tomic and beyond.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Jeremy Chardy
Dolgo continued his astounding inconsistency in Beijing, losing in the 2nd round to a slumping Jurgen Melzer after previously losing his first match in Malaysia. He faces Chardy, who lost in the 2nd round of Tokyo but is slightly more consistent. On paper, Dolgo should advance but look for Chardy to pull one out.
Jarkko Nieminen vs. Kevin Anderson
Nieminen was upset in the first round of Tokyo by Tommy Robredo, but that was coming off a semi in Bangkok so he may have been fatigued. Anderson, on the other hand, has had a pretty abysmal 2012. He just lost in the 2nd round of Beijing and is barely over .500 on the year. He has not won 2 straight main draw matches since DC. While they are only 1 spot apart in the rankings (35 and 36), look for the vet Nieminen to advance off of recent form (although he is also just over .500 on the year).
Tommy Haas vs. Nicolas Almagro
Tommy Haas has slowed down since his red hot spring and summer, losing in the first round of Beijing after previously losing in the 1st round of the US Open. He will take on Almagro, who was just upset in the first round of Tokyo but has come back from injury in pretty solid form. If Haas can channel his previous form, he could pull the upset but Almagro will be the favorite.
Feliciano Lopez vs. Allejandro Falla
In a battle of two lefties, Lopez made a surprising run to the Beijing semis before falling to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and retiring with a wrist injury. Falla lost in the 2nd round of Tokyo, but did make the quarters in Bangkok. This match is interesting based on the physical condition of both players and is a toss-up.
Roger Federer returns to tournament action and will face either a qualifier or surprising Beijing quarterfinalist Zhang Ze, who usually does his work at the challenger level. Then he likely faces countryman Stan Wawrinka in the 3rd round and Juan Monaco, Marin Cilic, Martin Klizan or Fernando Verdasco in the quarters.
Cilic, who was upset in the 1st round of Beijing by challenger stalwart Marius Copil, likely plays Klizan, who was upset in the 1st round at Tokyo by Marco Chiudinelli. That should be a good 2nd round match up. Kuala Lumpur champ Monaco, who was upset in the 2nd round of Tokyo by Marcos Baghdatis will likely have to deal with Fernando Verdasco in the 2nd round. Verdasco lost to Sam Querrey in the 1st round of Beijing and plays Go Soeda in the opening round.
Andy Murray, coming off a loss to Milos Raonic in the Tokyo semis and falling to defend his title in Tokyo, will attempt to defend another title this week in Shanghai. Murray opens with the winner of Mayer/Tomic and then could get Bangkok finalist Gilles Simon or Chardy/Dolgopolov in the 3rd round. He should be able to beat them all, but they are still tricky matchups.
In the quarters, Murray could get John Isner, who returns to tournament action, Bangkok champ Richard Gasquet who comes off a 2nd round loss in Beijing to Ze Zhang or Jarkko Nieminen, who would play Isner in a US Open rematch. Also in this part of the draw are Radek Stepanek and Lleyton Hewitt, who will battle each other.
Novak Djokovic, who is currrently playing for the Beijing title, will play either Pablo Andujar or Grigor Dimitrov in the 2nd round. He could then could face Phillip Kohlschreiber in the 3rd round if Peppo can get past slumping Ryan Harrison and Lopez/Falla. Kohlschreiber last suffered a shock loss to Adrian Mannarino in the Orleans challenger.
In the quarters, Novak likely faces countryman Janko Tipsarevic for the 4th time in 2012. Djokovic has won both hard court encounters. Tipsarevic lost in the quarters to Raonic in Tokyo and will play the winner of Mikhail Youzhny vs. Viktor Troicki in the 2nd round. In the 3rd round, he likely faces Almagro or Haas.
Tomas Berdych, who lost in the Tokyo quarters to Kei Nishikori, opens against either Andreas Seppi or a qualifier then likely faces Nishikori in a 3rd round rematch. Nishikori, who plays Raonic for the Tokyo final at home, plays Chinese wild card Wu Di and likely Beijing quarterfinalist Sam Querrey in the 2nd round. Look for Nishikori to have a nice shot at winning again.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who will play Djokovic in the Beijing final, plays either countryman Benoit Paire or a qualifier in the 2nd round. After that, he likely runs into Raonic in a battle of last week’s champions. Marcos Baghdatis, a Tokyo semifinalist is also in this part of the draw against St. Petersburg finalist Fabio Fognini and then likely Raonic. A lot of really good recent results in this part of the draw and some hot players make this the section to watch.
Dark Horse: Kei Nishikori
It is not an easy draw for Nishikori and he won’t have the advantage of home cooking like he did in Tokyo, but if he can skirt past Querrey and beat Berdych again he will have a nice shot at the semis against either Tsonga or Raonic. Anybody In this part of the draw is a possible dark horse from Raonic to Baghdatis to Querrey. Djokovic would be the semi-final opponent.
Federer d. Murray
Djokovic d. Tsonga
Djokovic d. Federer
Djoker should be able to make it two titles in a row winning Beijing tomorrow and Shanghai next week to complete the China double.