Roger Federer Returns at the Mercedes Cup 2018 in Stuttgart Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Mercedes Cup ATP 250 in Stuttgart is where Roger Federer, Nick Kyrgios, Milos Raonic and other accomplished grass courters will start their 2018 Wimbledon preparations. Here is a look at the German grass court stop.
Roger Federer will begin his return to the ATP tour against a veteran no matter what. Mischa Zverev is his likely opponent (rather than qualifier Mikhail Youzhny). Federer should be tested more by Denis Shapovalov or John Millman in the quarters though. I’ll back Shapovalov to defeat Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Millman (or Guido Pella) to reach that quarters. At that stage though I don’t see him beating the legendary Fed on grass.
Nick Kyrgios vs. Feliciano Lopez looks like a great quarterfinal contest. Kyrgios will need to find form and defeat Max Marterer or Viktor Galovic while Lopez has to defeat fellow veteran Viktor Troicki, followed by Gilles Simon/Matteo Viola. On grass Lopez should be up to scratch though, I’ll back him to reach the semis and upset Kyrgios in the process.
Lucas Pouille is in awful form this year but he should still defeat Rudolf Molleker/J.L. Struff as he aims to turn his season around. Philipp Kohlschreiber at home is the danger player here though. Peppo opens with Denis Istomin and I’ll back him over Florian Mayer or Yannick Maden in round 2. Kohlschreiber over Pouille at home in Germany seems like a sensible pick.
Milos Raonic will take on Mirza Basic in round 1, Marton Fucsovics or Denis Kudla in round 2 will be far trickier. That said, Raonic is the most accomplished player in this section and I’ll back him into the quarters against Tomas Berdych. Berdych has to find form and defeat Taylor Fritz and Benoit Paire in round 2. Raonic should win the section.
2018 ATP Doha Preview and Predictions: Next Gen Stars Thiem, Coric, Rublev Lead Weakened Doha Field Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP 250 in Doha on hard courts to start the season is normally the ritziest 250 on tour but with most notably Novak Djokovic’s absence it plays host to one of the weaker fields it’s had in recent memory. ATP Next Gen stars Dominic Thiem, Borna Coric, and Andrey Rublev are presented with a great chance to make a run. Here is your full preview, with predictions.
Having cemented himself in the top 5, Thiem leads the Doha field and will open with Evgeny Donskoy. Thiem needs to focus on keep himself fresher in 2018, and he’s also going to be playing with a target on his back all season. That said, he has the game to put away Donskoy and either Malek Jaziri or Aljaz Bedene, Jaziri tends to step up his play in the Middle East, Bedene, who is back representing Slovenia, had a great 2017 though and should be opposite Thiem, falling in round 2.
French veteran Richard Gasquet opens with one of the oldest players on tour, Victor Estrella, he’ll then get another young gun in this draw, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, or veteran Florian Mayer in round 2. The Greek won 4 matches on the main tour last year and will be looking for a big scalp to start the season, that said Gasquet is good enough when fit I have him defeating everyone into the semifinals, including Thiem in the battle of backhands.
Another veteran hoping for a good 2018 is Tomas Berdych, the Czech won 35 matches but hoisted no titles in 2017 was forgotten for much of the season. He’s better than J.L. Struff, and either Paolo Lorenzi or wild card Gael Monfils though. Monfils had yet another season derailed by injury last year, shutting down after the US Open, he hopes to be fit to start 2018.
Serbia’s Viktor Troicki faces ATP debutante Matteo Berrettini, while his countryman Filip Krajinovic takes on Peter Gojowczyk. Krajinovic had an incredible 2017 winning 71 matches in total (only 5 on the main tour) and reaching the ATP Paris Masters final. After tearing up the challenger tour look for Krajinovic to rise defeating Troicki and Berdych to reach the semifinals.
Pablo Carreno Busta had a career year in 2017 but it still doesn’t seem like he’s appreciated enough. PCB has transformed into an all court performer, but despite his top 10 ranking he’s an underdog against Coric in his opening match. Coric is a talent but posted a below .500 tour record in 2017, PCB should defeat Coric and either Nikoloz Basilashvili or Thomas Fabbiano to reach the quarterfinals.
Russia’s young gun Rublev is my choice to reach the semifinals, Rublev just beat PCB in Abu Dhabi and his path is Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, then a veteran, either Fernando Verdasco or Dudi Sela, before facing PCB or Coric in the quarters (most likely).
The section with Albert Ramos as the highest seed is the weakest part of this draw, Ramos faces Guido Pella in a toss-up contest, Spanish veterans Feliciano Lopez and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez will square off, qualifier’s Mirza Basic and Stefano Travaglia are favored against Andreas Haider Maurer and local wild card Jabor Al-Mutawa respectively. Lopez did not have a great year last year but he still should be favored to survive and reach the quarters where he should defeat Ramos.
I’ll take Gasquet’s guile and shotmaking to take home the Doha title over the young gun Rublev, this is a pretty open field so anything could happen, but look for this contingent to get off to a good 2018.
2017 ATP Gstaad Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP World Tour stops for another tournament in Switzerland, the 250 on clay in Gstaad.
J Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad
ATP World Tour 250
July 24-30, 2017
Prize Money: €482,060
Top 4 seeds (Top 4 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: David Goffin (13)
2: Roberto Bautista Agut (18)
3: Feliciano Lopez (27)
4: Fabio Fognini (31)
David Goffin opens with Mikhail Youzhny or Radu Albot, Bastad finalist Alexandr Dolgopolov opens with Thiago Monteiro, Renzo Olivo or Robin Haase will follow. Dolgopolov tends to be highly inconsistent in terms of form, but I have him falling to Goffin in the quarters.
Feliciano Lopez opens with either qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, or Facundo Bagnis. Lopez should win that matchup given his decent enough form on clay. Home Swiss player Henri Laaksonen should defeat Thomaz Bellucci and either Santiago Giraldo or Joao Sousa, Sousa is in terrible form, and Laaksonen has been playing well as of late. I have Lopez reaching the semifinals.
Umag finalist Paolo Lorenzi should be safe to defeat Marco Chiudinelli, an inconsistent Ernests Gulbis should beat Daniel Brands, before falling to Lorenzi on clay. Look for Fabio Fognini to put away Taro Daniel or Norbert Gombos, then defeat a fatigued Lorenzi to reach the semifinals.
Roberto Bautista Agut has an easy start against either Gleb Sakharov/Antoine Bellier, RBA should then dispatch Dusan Lajovic in the quarters. Lajovic faces Dustin Brown, then Lorenzi Giustino or Denis Istomin. Istomin has been in terrible form as of late.
Dark Horse: Henri Laaksonen
Laaksonen is 15-10 on clay this year, the 25 year old is flirting with top 100 tennis, and has more tour wins this year, than he’s had in any other season. This home hero could be in for a great run.
Semis Goffin d. Lopez
Fognini d. Bautista Agut
I’ll go with Fognini to have a big week on clay, Goffin and RBA should have a bit more trouble adjusting, and Fognini seems due.
Fan Favorites Federer and Lopez Use Vintage Form To Capture Grass Titles Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Roger Federer banked his ninth Halle title, and made a case for renaming the tournament after him as he dominated on German grass yet again to defeat Alexander Zverev 6-1 6-3 in the final. Federer moves to 24-2 on the year, shaking off an early loss on grass last week and not dropping a set in Halle as he drubbed Yuichi Sugita, Mischa Zverev, Florian Mayer, and Karen Khachanov to reach the final. Federer being one of the few ATP players to defeat a pair of brothers en route to a title.
the younger Zverev moved to 33-12 on the season, reaching a fourth final this season by fighting past Roberto Bautista Agut, and Richard Gasquet in consecutive fashion, both wins needing three sets. Earlier in the week he flexed his skills against Paolo Lorenzi and Philipp Kohlschreiber. Both finalists sohuld perform well at Wimbledon, with Federer strengthening his case to be the favorite at SW19 in one week’s time.
Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo defeated the Zverev brothers in the doubles final, as Alexander Zverev was a double runner-up this week.
ATP London Queen’s
Feliciano Lopez has reached consecutive grass court finals, and is enjoying the best part of his season, this time in the final he didn’t let the chance at a title pass him by, winning ATP title #6 4-6 7-6 7-6 as the underdog against Marin Cilic. Playing in his second final of the year, only the closest margins denied Cilic, who had a match point, the champions trophy. He still had a good week, defeating Gilles Muller in the semifinals (three sets), and three Americans, John Isner, Stefan Kozlov, and Donald Young, all without dropping a set, as Cilic would not be someone the USA would want to face in Davis Cup.
Lopez had a much tougher draw, but he didn’t let it phase him. His serve clicked and he got past Stan Wawrinka, Jeremy Chardy, Tomas Berdych, and Grigor Dimitrov, three of those four victories, plus the one against Cilic all coming against some of the best players in the men’s game right now. Simply put, no one wants to draw Lopez early at Wimbledon, as he should be able to do damage.
The home fans enjoyed Jamie Murray teaming with Bruno Soares to take the doubles title against Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
2017 ATP London Queens Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
It’s one of the biggest ATP tournaments on the calendar up this week, the player and fan favorite Aegon Championships in London. This is the biggest ATP World Tour grass court stop, and here is your complete preview, with predictions.
ATP World Tour 500
June 19-25, 2017
London, Great Britain
Prize Money: €1,836,660
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Andy Murray (1)
2: Stan Wawrinka (3)
3: Milos Raonic (6)
4: Marin Cilic (8)
London Queen’s is the biggest warmup tournament prior to Wimbledon as most of the top players look to get in at least a couple of matches prior to taking part in a Grand Slam.
First round matches to watch:
(1)Andy Murray vs. Aljaz Bedene
five-time and defending Queen’s club champion Andy Murray shouldn’t have any trouble out of the starting blocks, but Aljaz Bedene is an in-form dark horse who has nothing to lose in this one. Bedene comes off the quarters in Rosmalen and has enough of a game on grass to catch Murray if the Brit struggles with his serve. Murray should win this one in straights, but it’s a good form test for him.
(4)Marin Cilic vs John Isner
The Rosmalen semifinalist Cilic should be safe in this one but Isner is not the easiest round one opponent on grass. Cilic has been in good form as of late, and if Isner can rise up and get an upset that would be huge. Expect at least one tiebreak in this one, with Cilic getting another quality win.
(2)Stan Wawrinka vs. Feliciano Lopez
Wawrinka’s worst surface is Lopez best and that sets up the potential for an upset in this match. Lopez comes off the final in Stuttgart, as he found form on grass already, while the Roland Garros finalist Wawrinka is playing his first match on the surface this year. Wawrinka is the better player, and he won’t back down easily in this one, but Lopez is my upset pick, as his serve and volley should annoy the Swiss into submission.
Murray/Bedene will face Cam Norrie or Sam Querrey in round 2, Querrey is another dangerous player on grass who could catch Murray if the Brit is having a bad day. Presuming Murray makes the quarters, Gilles Muller is his most likely opponent, I have the Rosmalen champion defeating Nikoloz Basilashvili and the winner of Adrian Mannarino/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga is good on grass, and Mannarino is no slouch either, but Muller’s form is fearsome right now, and if Murray gets to the semis, it won’t be because he had an easy path.4
Nick Kyrgios and Cilic/Isner look set to face off in the other top half quarterfinal, Kyrgios is hoping that grass will bring him better form. The Aussie starts with a struggling Donald Young, and then will face the Viktor Troicki/Janko Tipsarevic winner in that all-Serbian clash. Cilic/Isner will face an American, either Steve Johnson or Stefan Kozlov, in round 2. Johnson is dangerous, but Cilic’s form should be too much, as I have Cilic beating Kyrgios in the quarterfinals.
Presuming Lopez upsets Wawrinka, he should have a clear path to the quarters with Tomas Berdych most likely waiting there. Lopez will face either Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Jeremy Chardy in round 2, Kyle Edmund should beat young qualifier Denis Shapovalov before facing Berdych or Steve Darcis. Berdych isn’t in his best form, and thus Lopez is my pick to reach the semifinals.
With Ryan Harrison in poor form, he probably won’t be able to upset Grigor Dimitrov in round 1, Julien Benneteau or James Ward will also be underdogs against the Bulgarian, despite the fact he played poorly in his first grass court outing this year. Milos Raonic should defeat Thanasi Kokkinakis, and then continue to improve his form coming off injury woes this season, defeating either serve and volleyer Nicolas Mahut, or a rapidly improving Daniil Medvedev, who made the quarters in Rosmalen. Raonic is my pick for the semifinals with his powerful serve.
Dark Horse: Feliciano Lopez
I have Lopez reaching the semis and falling to Cilic, but a second straight final on grass would not be out of the question. Lopez just needs to improve a bit on return, and his performances will get even better on grass.
Semis Murray d. Cilic
Raonic d. Lopez
After Murray surprised everyone at Roland Garros and reached the semis, it seems foolish to pick against him on grass at the Queen’s club. I don’t count out Cilic and Raonic at all though, and both should be serious challengers at Wimbledon.
Pouille and Muller Claim Second ATP Titles of the Season Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A great comeback for Frenchman Lucas Pouille secured his second ATP title of the season, the first final of the 2017 grass court season was decided 4-6 7-6 6-4, as Pouille was pushed to the limit in the second set tiebreak, and after taking that, battled hard in the third to break Lopez’s effective grass court serve and volley and hold his own serve to secure the title. Pouille barely got out of his opening match, winning close second and third set tiebreaks and saving a match point to defeat J.L. Struff, he went on to defeat Philipp Kohlschreiber and Benoit Paire in close matches, showing his mental toughness this week.
Lopez chip and charge helped him reach his first tour final of the season, the Spaniard, happy to be on grass, got past Gilles Simon, Jeremy Chardy, Tomas Berdych, and Mischa Zverev, all of those matches going three sets except for his contest against Simon as the Mercedes Cup featured a lot of close matches this week.
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares defeated Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic to take the doubles title.
34 year old Gilles Muller continued his best season on tour, winning a second title this year 7-6 7-6 in narrow fashion over fellow big server Ivo Karlovic at the Ricoh Open. Muller won tiebreaks this week against Andreas Seppi and Alexander Zverev, also winning in three sets against Aljaz Bedene to reach the final as his serve and volley game was lethal on grass.
Karlovic, 38, reached his first final this season, the veteran upset Marin Cilic in three sets in the semifinals, Daniil Medvedev and Stefan Kozlov were his other victims on the week, as both players will be difficult early round opponents at Wimbledon.
Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo continued the trend of veteran success in Rosmalen as they defeated Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram.
19 year old Russian/Kazakh Alexander Bublik has an entertaining style of play, and is making his grand slam debut after qualifying against French young gun Lucas Pouille. Despite Pouille being just 22, he has significantly more tour experience than Bublik, and that alone should give him an edge in this matchup that should feature entertaining shotmaking. Pouille retired in his last match though, so Bublik may have a shot if the Frenchman is unfit.
(5)Kei Nishikori vs. Andrey Kuznetsov
A three time and defending quarterfinalist in Melbourne, Nishikori has two previous wins over Kuznetsov, and they both came in slams last season. Kuznetsov continues to improve though and coming off of the semifinals in Sydney, perhaps he can take his first set in a slam against Nishikori. Kei dropped the final in Brisbane as his pre-AO warm-up.
(14)Nick Kyrgios vs. Gastao Elias
Kyrgios has made the quarters in Melbourne before, but knee problems have prevented him from playing any warm-up matches. Expectations are down for this controversial home favorite, while Elias pushed Dominic Thiem to a third set in Sydney, and perhaps could trouble Kyrgios in this one if he’s unfit. More than likely Kyrgios will dictate play with his serve.
(27)Bernard Tomic vs. Thomaz Bellucci
Tomic is defending fourth round points after a miserable run in his Australian summer. He’s lost twice previously to the big hitter Bellucci, and is in danger of losing this match after unexpected losses in his warm-ups. Tomic is apparently struggling with his diet, and while Bellucci isn’t in great form, I see Bernie crashing out in round 1 to Bellucci, who has never made it past the second round in Melbourne.
Both players are big hitters, and their careers have taken drastically different turns. Cilic has cemented himself in the top 10 and is a former AO semifinalist and slam champion. Janowicz, once in the top 15, has fallen from the top 200 and didn’t post a tour level win last season. Janowicz has the talent to pressure Cilic with aggressive play. Despite his poor start to the season, Cilic should win though.
(6)Gael Monfils vs. Jiri Vesely
A defending AO quarterfinalist, Monfils has a loss to Vesely in their only slam meeting and didn’t opt to play warm-ups before his first round match. That said, Monfils remains an athletic and talented threat, while Vesely, a quarterfinalist in Auckland, has power, but probably lacks the movement to get past Monfils in this match.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Borna Coric
Dolgo is a one time AO quarterfinalist who continues to play well below his potential and is outside of the top 50 in the rankings. Coric won their last h2h meeting, but after knee problems, and then knee surgery, he’s been struggling to get himself back to his talent level. At age 20, Coric still has a long career ahead, but Dolgopolov will probably win this encounter.
Mikhail Youzhny vs. Marcos Baghdatis
These over 30 veterans have met seven times in their careers, with Youzhny holding a 4-3 edge in the h2h. Youzhny made the quarters in Chennai, while Baghdatis made the semis in Auckland, showing they are in good form heading into this matchup. Baghdatis is a fan favorite and former finalist here, while Youzhny once made the quarters. Baghdatis attacking style likely gives him a slight edge in this one.
The first meeting between this pair of 20 year old talents. Neither have much tour level experience, but Medvedev is coming off of his first ever tour final in Chennai, while Escobedo came through qualifying. Escobedo has enough power to win this, but Medvedev should be the better, and fresher player right now.
(21)David Ferrer vs. (WC)Omar Jasika
A two-time semifinalist in Melbourne, Ferrer has fallen on hard times at 34, and after a rough 2016, has had a miserable 1-2 start to 2017. The 19 year old Jasika, a wild card, is one of the most promising young players in tennis. He just reached a challenger final and very well could made a match of this against Ferrer. I still can’t count against Ferrer’s grinding though, despite his decline in shotmaking ability and fitness.
Muller comes off of his first ATP title in Sydney, while Fritz is still seeking his first Grand Slam win after taking part in all four Grand Slams last year. The 19 year old will likely struggle with Muller’s effective serve, but if the veteran is fatigued, Fritz could gain a confidence boosting win.
Jordan Thompson vs. Joao Sousa
Sousa dispatched Thompson in the 2015 AO when they last met, and he comes off a run to the final in Auckland. Fatigue should play a part in this match though, and with Thompson garnering home support, he’ll have a punchers chance in this one. Thompson reached the quarters in Brisbane, and after a 3-2 warm-up record, I don’t count him out in this match as the underdog.
(28)Feliciano Lopez vs. Fabio Fognini
Lopez has won both of their meetings, which happened to take place in Slams. These veterans play entertaining tennis, and this match is a bit of a toss-up. Neither are in great form, but Fognini is probably a bit worse off, and presuming Lopez is fit he should serve and volley his way to a third victory in this matchup.
(11)David Goffin vs. (Q)Reilly Opelka
The big serving Opelka, who plays like a younger version of John Isner, will make his slam debut against the talented David Goffin. Opelka towers over Goffin on the court, but Goffin has crisper groundstrokes, and will probably win this match. The Belgian is defending fourth round points, and I doubt he’s happy to get this first round matchup.
(2)Novak Djokovic vs. Fernando Verdasco
A one time semifinalist, Verdasco once again gets the misfortune of a brutal early round matchup in Melbourne. Djokovic leads the h2h 9-4 and just saved multiple match points to defeat Verdasco in a Doha three setter to start the season. I don’t see Djokovic losing this one, but Verdasco can still make for a difficult, and entertaining matchup.
For the first time, the new world #1 (Sir) Andy Murray gets the #1 seed slot in a Grand Slam. Murray will start his campaign against journeyman Illya Marchenko, and in round 2 he’ll either get the steady ball striking of Yen-Hsun Lu, or the more aggressive approach of qualifier Andrey Rublev, a hot shot young gun. Rublev could be a bit more troublesome, but either way Murray should slide into the third round, and then the fourth, as none of Sam Querrey/Quentin Halys/Gerald Melzer/Alex De Minaur is a threat to him. The 17 year old De Minaur has three wins already in 2017 and has a great shot at his first slam win against Melzer. Querrey should snap a six match tour losing streak against Halys, who isn’t as sharp on hard courts. I don’t count De Minaur to find form and reach the third round, but the veteran Querrey, who won a pair of exo matches, should fall to Murray at that stage.
John Isner is in a bit of a career decline but he still has a favorable draw early on. Isner faces Konstantin Kravchuk, who at 31, has just one tour level win in the last 3+ seasons. Mischa Zverev and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez face off below Isner, a loser of eight straight matches, GGL looks to be in no form to challenge Zverev, who should serve and volley his way into round 2, before falling to Isner. Pouille/Bublik will face Malek Jaziri or qualifier Go Soeda in round 2. This isn’t a strong section, but Pouille vs. Isner isn’t a bad third round match. Isner should have a slight edge to reach the second week due to his serve.
Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer look set for a star studded third round clash on Rod Laver, presuming Berdych handles qualifier Lucas Vanni, and serve and volleyer Nicolas Mahut or Ryan Harrison. Federer faces fellow veteran, Jurgen Melzer, a qualifier, then an American qualifier, either Bjorn Fratangelo or Noah Rubin. Federer isn’t the player he once was, especially after injury, but it can’t be discounted that the maestro has won his last five matches against the Czech. It’s not the biggest upset in the world, but I’ll go with Berdych’s form to reach round 4.
Nishikori/Kuznetsov look to be favorites to reach the second week as well, Jeremy Chardy or Nicolas Almagro await in round 2. Almagro leads the h2h 5-0, so I have him falling to Nishikori in round 2. Albert Ramos isn’t in great form, and could be troubled by qualifier Lukas Lacko, but I don’t trust Lacko at this point to make a run, and I have Ramos winning in round 1, before falling to the in-form veteran Dudi Sela in round 2. Sela opens with fellow veteran Marcel Granollers, and regardless, Nishikori should win in round 3. Sela is 8-1 to start the year with a challenger title.
Former champion Stan Wawrinka has a h2h win against his first round opponent Martin Klizan, and Klizan is in terrible form, having lost nine straight matches. Klizan is normally a tough matchup, but Wawrinka should beat him, and defeat Auckland semifinalist Steve Johnson in round 2, presuming Johnson eases past Federico Delbonis. Wawrinka faces Viktor Troicki, a Sydney semifinalist, most likely in round 3, as Troicki opens with journeyman Damir Dzhumur, with James Duckworth or Paolo Lorenzi to follow. At home I give Duckworth an edge in round 1, with Wawrinka beating Troicki in the third round for the eight time, in eight meetings (7-0 h2h).
Kyrgios or Elias will get a veteran, either Andreas Seppi or Paul-Henri Mathieu in round 2. PHM is in miserable form, so Seppi should win for the third straight time, with Kyrgios a favorite for the third round. Steve Darcis or Sam Groth are his likely third round opponent, Pablo Cuevas or Diego Schwartzman are also in this section. It’s hard to pick between Cuevas or Schwartzman, but I have Darcis serve and volleying past a struggling Groth, and then beating Schwartzman to reach round 3, before falling to Kyrgios. Darcis has been in good form as of late, and could be a dark horse if Kyrgios knee fails him.
Cilic or Janowicz will battle either Facundo Bagnis, or more likely Sydney finalist Dan Evans in round 2. Tomic or Bellucci likely await in round 3, unless Aljaz Bedene beats Victor Estrella, and then Tomic/Bellucci. This is a weak section, but I have Bedene over Bellucci, and then Cilic reaching the fourth round, despite his poor form.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has an easy early path, Thiago Monteiro, who is poor on hard courts, and neither Dusan Lajovic or Stephane Robert are likely to trouble him through the first two rounds. Both Lajovic and Robert are in poor form. The former Australian Open finalist looks set to face Jack Sock, the Auckland champion, in round 3. Sock opens with doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert in round 1, with Karen Khachanov or Adrian Mannarino to follow in round 2. Khachanov beat Mannarino at the end of last season, but either way, Sock should be the one to face Tsonga in round 3. Given the fatigue factor, I have Tsonga advancing into week 2.
The Canadian #1 Milos Raonic gets his own quarter of the draw after reaching the semifinals for the first time last year. Raonic will face fan favorite Dustin Brown to start, with Muller/Fritz to follow, and a struggling Gilles Simon most likely in round 3. Simon opens with Michael Mmoh, and Jared Donaldson or Rogerio Dutra Silva will follow. Simon is the seed, but his form hasn’t been great, I see Donaldson having a bright future,but I’m not quite sure he’s ready to beat Simon yet. Raonic should beat Simon in round 3.
Roberto Bautista Agut is a solid favorite in his own part of the draw. The Chennai champion opens with Guido Pella, with Yoshihito Nishioka or qualifier Alex Bolt to follow. RBA is defending fourth round points and will likely face a third round contest with his countryman Ferrer. I’m going with an upset though, and I have RBA facing Daniil Medvedev the third round, with Medvedev upsetting Ferrer. RBA should reach the second week.
One-time champion Rafael Nadal opens with Florian Mayer, Nadal’s form is a little shaky, but he should beat the veteran Mayer, and the Baghdatis/Youzhny winner, before facing off with talented young gun Alexander Zverev in round 3. Zverev opens with journeyman Robin Haase, and either Frances Tiafoe or Mikhail Kukushkin will follow. Nadal won his only meeting against Zverev, and the veteran should reach the fourth round. Zverev has the ability to beat Rafa, but Nadal’s quality should have an edge in best of 5.
Monfils/Vesely will face Dolgopolov/Coric, with Monfils likely to be opposite Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round. The veteran German faces Nikoloz Basilashvili, with Thomas Fabbiano or Donald Young to follow. Presuming Kohlschreiber is fit, he could test Monfils, but a healthy Monfils is the best player in his section. Monfils leads the h2h 12-2 over Kohli.
Six-time and defending AO champion Novak Djokovic will do battle with Verdasco, then will face Denis Istomin or qualifier Ivan Dodig in round 2. Djokovic should ease past Dodig with Kyle Edmund likely waiting in round 3. Edmund opens with Santiago Giraldo, with Pablo Carreno Busta or Peter Polansky to follow. Edmund continues to improve, and although I see him defeating PCB in round 2, Djokovic should be a bridge too far.
Brisbane champion Grigor Dimitrov opens with wild card Christopher O’Connell, who is making his Slam debut. Dimitrov has been playing great tennis as of late, and should ease into the third round over Hyeon Chung, after Chung beats Renzo Olivo. Richard Gasquet, who opens with qualifier Blake Mott, looks to be fit, and should beat Mott and Radu Albot or Carlos Berlocq to setup a third round clash of the one handed backhands. Gasquet leads the h2h 5-1, but Dimitrov won their last meeting, and I back the Bulgarian to reach week 2.
Goffin faces Opelka, then the oft-injured Dmitry Tursunov or more likely 38 year old qualifier Radek Stepanek in round 2. Goffin could be tripped up, but I have him reaching round 3, and then dispatching Ivo Karlovic, who opens with Horacio Zeballos. Adam Pavlasek or wild card Andrew Whittington waits in round 2. Karlovic has reached Melbourne’s second week once before, but Goffin seems reliable enough.
Dominic Thiem opens with J.L. Struff, who reached a challenger final in his last outing. Thiem has struggled a bit to open the season, but he should beat Thompson/Sousa in round 2 before running into Lopez in round 3. Chennai semifinalist Benoit Paire is also in this section, opening with the ageless Tommy Haas. Lopez should beat Fognini and Paire before falling to Thiem.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Mischa Zverev, Steve Darcis, Daniil Medvedev, Feliciano Lopez
Zverev could upset Isner and Pouille to reach the second week of a slam for the first time. His brother Alex could also upset Nadal for a big result for the whole family. Darcis, another veteran, has reached the third round of a slam once before, he has a great shot at making it at least that far, and with Kyrgios knee in question he could reach the second week for the first time.
The young Medvedev needs to upset Ferrer and RBA to reach the second week, it’s a tough task, but doable given his talent. Lopez has reached the second week of slams before, and with Thiem and Paire a bit shaky in terms of form, he could well do so again.
Round of 16 Murray d. Isner (8-0 h2h)
Nishikori d. Berdych (4-1 h2h)
Wawrinka d. Kyrgios (2-2 h2h)
Tsonga d. Cilic (3-5 h2h)
Nadal d. Monfils (12-2 h2h)
Raonic d. Bautista Agut (4-0 h2h)
Goffin d. Thiem (5-3 h2h)
Djokovic d. Dimitrov (6-1 h2h)
Murray, Djokovic, and Raonic should be pretty safe to advance into the final stages, Nishikori, Wawrinka, and Nadal should be tested, but I see them surviving. Tsonga should be in better form than Cilic, and Goffin is probably fresher than Thiem.
Quarters Murray d. Nishikori (9-2 h2h)
Wawrinka d. Tsonga (4-3 h2h)
Raonic d. Nadal (2-6 h2h)
Djokovic d. Goffin (5-0 h2h)
These four quarterfinals, if they come to fruition, should be quality matchups. Murray and Djokovic remain clear favorites, Wawrinka vs. Tsonga and Raonic vs. Nadal should be quality and tightly contested matches. Raonic and Wawrinka have had an edge in the past year, and that should continue.
Semis Murray d. Wawrinka (10-7 h2h)
Djokovic d. Raonic (8-0 h2h)
It’s hard to pick against the world’s top 2 players to reach a hard court Grand Slam final.
Final Djokovic d. Murray (25-11 h2h)
Djokovic won in Doha, Murray may be the world #1 for the time being, but Novak still has a clear edge in the h2h, and until Murray can beat him in Melbourne, I have to go with Djokovic over the five time AO finalist Murray.
2016 ATP Chengdu Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A new ATP 250 event in Chengdu, China takes place this week, here is a look at the players taking part and their path forward as the ATP Asian swing kicks off.
ATP World Tour 250
September 26-October 2, 2016
Prize Money: $840,915
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: Dominic Thiem (10)
2: Nick Kyrgios (15)
3: Grigor Dimitrov (21)
4: Feliciano Lopez (26)
Chengdu boasts a strong field featuring some popular second tier stars for the first ever run of this tournament.
First round matchups to watch:
(Q)Radek Stepanek vs. Yen-Hsun Lu
Stepanek hasn’t faced Lu in 8 years, but he’s 2-0 in their h2h matches and has been on a great run of form in recent months. The Czech has qualified for three consecutive ATP events, and he also had a good showing at the US Open, although he’s played sparingly this season due to health concerns and age.
Lu, as usual, has performed well on the challenger tour, and is a steady hard court ball striker, though he lacks the weapons to do further damage. Stepanek’s attacking game should foil him a bit and I give the qualifier an edge.
Millman, who reached the semis in Winston-Salem, should defeat the dirtballer Lorenzi, but the veteran journeyman has had a career year and is 4-2 on hard courts in his last six matches. Lorenzi has never been a good hard court player, but he’s suddenly found form on the surface, and Millman should be careful to avoid being tripped up.
(6)Viktor Troicki vs. (WC)Casper Ruud
The 17 year old Ruud hopes to be the player to put Norway on the tennis map. Ruud is a full fledged pro now and won his first challenger in Seville, Spain on clay as a qualifier. He’s 4-2 on outdoor hard courts this year and peaked as the #2 junior in the world. He’ll make his ATP main draw debut against the experienced battler Troicki, who is a favorite in this matchup.
Troicki reached the semis in Winston-Salem and the quarterfinals in St. Petersburg, his good form should see him through to round 2. It will be a learning experience for Ruud, who is worth watching.
Both players are just inside the ATP’s top 40. Baghdatis is an accomplished hard court player who has put in his years on the ATP tour, while PCB is rapidly improving on the surface. Baghdatis reached the second week of the US Open while PCB took home a hard court title in Winston-Salem. Baghdatis is a slight favorite but I’m going with PCB because he’s been hot since the summer and should continue to rise.
Dominic Thiem reached the final in Metz but fatigue is a real concern for the Austrian, who continues to play a brutal schedule. He’s young, but he’s not super human and he’s already suffered fatigue induced injuries this year. Thiem opens with Konstantin Kravchuk or Di Wu, with the Lu/Stepanek winner likely in the quarters. I have Stepanek surging through to knock off Thiem after he beats Michael Berrer or Albert Ramos. Stepanek is a solid competitor with nothing to lose at this point in his career, and Thiem should be jetlagged. Kravchuk is usually on the challenger tour, and neither Ramos or Berrer are that great right now. Ramos was upset in St. Petersburg.
Grigor Dimitrov will be the favorite in the top half, the Bulgarian faces Dusan Lajovic or a struggling Federico Delbonis first up with Millman likely to follow in the quarters, presuming the Aussie battler defeats Lorenzi and Diego Schwartzman. With this type of draw Dimitrov should reach the semis after making the second week of the US Open in his last outing.
Nick Kyrgios faces Kevin Anderson or his countryman Jordan Thompson. Kyrgios is dangerous when healthy and focused, and he’s 34-13 on the season, having surpassed his 24 wins last season with a few tournaments yet to come. Anderson will be a tough opening match opponent, but Kyrgios is a big server like Anderson, and his superior return game should see him through. Troicki looks to be his likely quarterfinal opponent, after Ruud he’ll face Pablo Carreno Busta or Marcos Baghdatis. Both have shown good recent form, and with Carreno Busta having found a hard court game it won’t be easy for Troicki, but I still see it Kyrgios over Troicki in the quarters.
Feliciano Lopez opens with Juan Monaco in round 2. The Spaniard hasn’t had a great season but I still have him ousting Joao Sousa in the quarters, after Sousa bests Karen Khachanov and Adrian Mannarino or Denis Kudla. This seems like the type of 250 where Mannarino could get hot and reel off some wins, but his form is poor right now and thus Sousa should beat him in round 2.
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A fatigued Thiem in the top portion of the draw sets Stepanek up to make at least the semifinals, and perhaps knock off Dimitrov to reach the finals. His serve and volley game is a true throwback you don’t see much on tour these days and his good recent form means he’ll be the favorite to make at least the quarterfinals.
Dimitrov d. Stepanek
Kyrgios d. Lopez
Dimitrov and Kyrgios seem somewhat destined to reach the final here and that’d be great for the tournament organizers.
Argentina and Croatia to Face off in 2016 Davis Cup Final Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2016 Davis Cup World Group semifinals saw two upsets, as Argentina and Croatia are set to do battle in the DC final after knocking off Great Britain and France in upsets. The World Group playoffs also saw a few upsets. Here is a recap of all of this weekend’s action.
Argentina got a huge boost on Friday from Juan Martin Del Potro, who stunned Andy Murray in a five set war, coming back from 2 sets to 1 down, to get off Argentina to a 1-0 start. Del Potro’s win was essential for Argentina to triumph, and he fended off Murray, and the Glasgow crowd in a thrilling opening rubber.
Guido Pella then followed up Del Potro’s win with a spirited performance to shock the favored Kyle Edmund in four sets. Edmund took the first set, but tailed off from there, and although Pella had a limited track record on hard courts, he didn’t appear fazed by the crowd, or Edmund’s game.
Team GB was on the ropes, but the tie would last into Sunday thanks to the Murray brothers beating Del Potro and Leonardo Mayer in doubles. After a grueling match on Friday, both Murray and Del Po returned to court, which was a bit of a surprise.
Murray got the job done vs. Pella in the 4th rubber, setting up Dan Evans vs. Mayer in the key 5th rubber, as Del Potro was skipped in favor of the fresh veteran Mayer. Evans fought mightily, but once again team GB saw their hopes slip away after taking a 1 set lead. Mayer battled back from a set down, and sent Argentina into the DC final with a spirited performance.
Croatia and France split rubbers on Friday, as was predicted, with Richard Gasquet cruising past Borna Coric, and Marin Cilic defeating the young gun Lucas Pouille in 4 sets.
From there the tie swung in favor of the underdog Croatians. Ivan Dodig and Cilic stunned doubles specialists Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in 4 sets, setting up Cilic to finish the tie off and send his nation into an unexpected DC final on Sunday. Cilic faced Richard Gasquet, who struggled, and the former Grand Slam champion won in straight sets, setting him up for a chance to add Davis Cup champion to his resume.
Lucas Pouille won the dead rubber against Marin Draganja, regardless, Cilic was the hero of the weekend, and will be likely to face off with fellow big hitter and former US Open champion Del Potro in the DC final.
World Group Playoffs
Switzerland d. Uzbekistan 3-2
An undermanned Swiss team pulled off an amazing road upset against Uzbekistan to remain in the world group. Denis Istomin won his pair of rubbers against Antoine Bellier and Henri Laaksonen, but Laaksonen and Bellier won both of their other singles rubbers against Sanjar Fayziev, and Jurabek Karimov respectively. The deciding point turned out to be the doubles, as Laaksonen, the most experienced member of the Swiss team, teamed with Adrian Bossel to beat Farrukh Dustov and Denis Istomin, both of whom have ATP experience. Bellier won a live fifth rubber to send France through, as the unknown Swiss player made a splash this weekend.
David Goffin and Steve Darcis were all team Belgium needed, as they dominated Brazil, dropping just one set in their first two rubbers. Ruben Bemelmans and the unknown Joris De Loore combined to win the deciding doubles point, as they stunned Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares to clinch the tie. Both Thiago Monteiro and Thomaz Bellucci struggled for Brazil as well. Bellucci lost twice, as he fell to De Loore in a dead 4th rubber.
Australia d. Slovakia 3-0
Traveling to Sydney to face a solid Australian team turned into a nightmare for Slovakia, as Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic dominated Andrej Martin, and Jozef Kovalik on Friday. The Slovak team conceded the tie meekly to Sam Groth and John Peers, as they won the doubles point over Martin and Igor Zelenay. The Green and Gold are back in the world group, and look ready to do damage next year.
Canada dominated a weaker Chile team to maintain their spot in the world group. Frank Dancevic and Vasek Pospisil both dropped sets against Christian Garin and Nicolas Jarry in Friday rubbers, but won anyway, and Pospisil teamed with Adil Shamasdin to beat Jarry and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo in a tie clinching doubles match.
Denis Shapovalov made his DC debut as a teenager in a dead 4th rubber, he dispatched Garin, while Dancevic beat Gonzalo Lama in straights to complete the sweep.
Rain delayed the start of Russia vs. Kazakhstan, but it turned into home joy for the Russian fans as Andrey Kuznetsov came up big with a pair of critical wins over Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Mikhail Kukushkin respectively to take the tie. Kukushkin beat Evgeny Donskoy in the second rubber, but Andrey Golubev and Nedovyesov disappointed as they lost to Andrey Rublev and Konstantin Kravchuk in the doubles. The Kazakh’s veterans proved to not be enough.
The Lopez brothers carried Spain as Feliciano Lopez beat Ramkumar Ramanathan, and Marc Lopez teamed with Rafael Nadal to beat Saketh Myneni and Leander Paes in a tie clinching doubles rubber. David Ferrer snuck in an expected 2nd rubber win over Saketh Myneni, and he also beat Ramanathan, while Marc Lopez beat Sumit Nagal in dead rubbers. India put on a good showing, but they had no chance against an ATP quality Spanish team.
Jan-Lennard Struff was the hero for Germany, as his five set win over Kamil Majchrzak, and his three set win over Hubert Hurkacz carried the day for the German team over their Polish neighbors. Florian Mayer also beat Hurkacz, but wins by Majchrzak over Mayer on Sunday, and Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski over Daniel Brands and Daniel Masur in Saturday doubles kept Poland alive. It fell on Struff’s shoulders to get the critical fifth win, and he came through.
Japan d. Ukraine 5-0
Taro Daniel and Yoshihito Nishioka beat Sergiy Stakhovsky and Illya Marchenko right off the bat to put Japan 2-0 up before Kei Nishikori even took the court. Japan saved their #1 to clinch the tie, and with Yuichi Sugita they won the doubles and the tie over Artem Smirnov and Stakhovsky, who continues to struggle.
Daniel and Nisihoka finished out the sweep with dead rubber wins over Smirnov and Danylo Kalenichenko.
Ivo Karlovic earned his second ATP title of the summer and at 37 and improved his record to 14-2 since Wimbledon with a 7-6 6-2 victory over fellow over 30 veteran Feliciano Lopez, the tournament’s top seed. ATP Los Cabos was treated to a serving exhibition from Karlovic who dropped sets in both of his early matches, but finished the week strong, in part benefiting from a retirement victory over Dusan Lajovic in the semifinals. Karlovic won third set affairs against Mischa Zverev and Marcel Granollers this week in addition to his win over Lopez.
Lopez beat Reilly Opelka, Julien Benneteau, and Pablo Carreno Busta to reach the final, he dropped a set against PCB but worked his way back into the match. The Spaniard has reached two ATP finals this season.
Purav Raja and Divij Sharan of India won the doubles title over Jonathan Erlich and Ken Skupski in straight sets.