2017 ATP Marrakech Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2017 European clay court season begins with a 250 stop in Marrakech, Morocco, North Africa’s only ATP tournament. Here is your preview with predictions.
Grand Prix Hassan II
ATP World Tour 250
April 10-16, 2017
Prize Money: €482,060
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Grigor Dimitrov (12)
2: Albert Ramos-Vinolas (24)
3: Philipp Kohlschreiber (32)
4: Mischa Zverev (33)
Just one elite player in the field for this 250 but it’s far from the weakest tournament played at this level.
First round matchups to watch:
(6)Benoit Paire vs. Carlos Berlocq
A great opportunity for Paire, if he can continue his momentum from a challenger final on clay this past week, he could have a good showing in this 250. Berlocq is a solid dirtballer, but far from elite, he’ll grind away, hoping for a win, but Paire’s talent should edge it.
Malek Jaziri vs. Jeremy Chardy
Jaziri has had a great 2017 thus far and posted solid results in both hard court Masters, he’s not playing far from home but clay is not his favorite surface. Chardy played well in Davis Cup and presuming he’s still fresh and fit he looks set to win this match and perhaps go much farther than that.
(7)Diego Schwartzman vs. Borna Coric
Both players are talented on clay, Coric probably has more upside with his game, but Schwartzman has been steadily competitive for a while now. Coric is slowly working his way into form after a slow start to the season and is defending finals points in this tournament. Schwartzman is not a great opponent to have to face in round 1, and the Argentine should notch a win here.
Grigor Dimitrov has gotten off to a roaring start this season and should be set to defeat either former champ Tommy Robredo or qualifier Sergiy Stakhovsky in round 2. Paire should follow, presuming Paire beats Berlocq and Radu Albot/Nicolas Almagro. Almagro is struggling, and although Dimitrov was abnormally poor last year on clay, he looks to be a different player this season, more well-rounded than Paire.
Philipp Kohlschreiber will face Chardy/Jaziri in round 2, a happier opponent for him than the top 10 losses he’s suffered in recent outings. Kohli is solid on clay and should also defeat qualifier Taro Daniel in the quarters. Daniel has won seven straight matches now, he’ll open with J.L. Struff, with either a struggling Marcel Granollers or young wild card Amine Ahouda to follow.
Albert Ramos-Vinolas should face former champion Martin Klizan in round 2, presuming Klizan defeats qualifier Laslo Djere. Ramos comes off of Davis Cup duty and is solid on clay. Presuming he’s fresh, he should edge past a streaky Klizan before running into defending champion Federico Delbonis. Delbonis opens with local wild card Reda El Amrani, with Schwartzman/Coric to follow, that round 2 match could decide the tournament winner, and perhaps could feature a finals rematch from last year if it’s Coric vs. Delbonis. That said I like Delbonis form to win his first three matches, also defeating Ramos in the quarters.
Paolo Lorenzi struggled in Davis Cup action and now will face off with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, a former champion who he has struggled against. I have GGL winning that contest, and also defeating another former champion Paul-Henri Mathieu (or qualifier Gianluigi Quinzi) to reach the quarterfinals opposite Jiri Vesely. Vesely should beat Nikoloz Basilashvili and also Mischa Zverev, who is not at his best on clay. I have Garcia-Lopez as the semifinalist in this section.
Dark Horse: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
The unseeded Garcia-Lopez looks set to take advantage of a weak section and beat both Lorenzi and Zverev/Vesely to reach the semifiinals. He’ll have a tough contest with Delbonis or Schwartzman in the semis, but it’s not out of the question he could suddenly find form and take this title, he’s done it before.
Semis Dimitrov d. Kohlschreiber
Delbonis d. Garcia-Lopez
Kohli has a great shot at this title but I’m backing Dimitrov this tournament, Delbonis is also a favorite to reach the final.
Garcia-Lopez Upset, Verdasco Advances, Tuesday at 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic\
The Spaniards at the 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and Fernando Verdasco had mixed results on Tuesday when both were in action on stadium court. A lengthy rain delay made the match between Garcia-Lopez and Horacio Zeballos take most of the afternoon, as Zeballos prevailed in an upset victory 6-3 6-7 6-4 over the Spaniard in two and a half hours of match play.
Both players got off to a shaky start, but were able to hold their serves until the eight game of the match, where Zeballos broke Garcia-Lopez, and held the next game at love to capture the first set. Garcia-Lopez struggled mightily with his serve all match, his first serve percentage was under 50%, and the quality of his serves was lacking. Both players also hit a number of slow, and high spinners from their backhand side, as they didn’t seem entirely comfortable on hard court compared to clay. The hot conditions also took their toll on the volunteers, as well as the players, as a ball girl passed out in the first set, causing a delay.
Despite his troubles on serve, Garcia-Lopez didn’t waver in the second set, saving a break point in his opening service game, and breaking Zeballos, who also served poorly, but methodically, to go up 3-1. Zeballos would break back, but had to save four set points to send the match into a second set tiebreak. Zeballos lost three straight points from 5-4 up in the tiebreak, and the match was sent into a third set.
Garcia-Lopez played a poor third set however, as he was broken at love with a miserable game serving 1-2, and Zeballos would go 5-4 up, before rain came, and the Argentine had to wait over an hour to try to serve the match out. He was broken easily when the players returned to court, and Garcia-Lopez was given a second life, however, he was broken and lost the match in the next game serving 4-5, as Zeballos converted his second match point/break point opportunity. The frustrated Garcia-Lopez slammed his racquet on the ground, as Zeballos let out a roar of excitement. It was just not to be for GGL on the day. The win improves Zeballos to 11-5 in hard court matches this season, and he has reached the second round of an ATP main draw for the second tournament in a row.
Fernando Verdasco had better luck on the day against Dusan Lajovic, winning 7-6 6-4. A cagey match saw neither player earning a break point chance early and the first set going to a tiebreak. Verdasco took the initiative when needed, and then broke Lajovic midway through the second set, and held serve after facing two break points in the next game to go up 4-2. Lajovic was nearly ousted quicker than he was as he could have went down a double break, but he saved three break points to hold, and Verdasco went on to serve it out 6-4. Verdasco’s forehand was all he needed to dictate play on a hard court and smack winners when needed.
French veteran Julien Benneteau played his best match of the season to earn a 6-4 6-2 win over J.P. Smith. Benneteau has just two ATP main draw wins this year now, but his game has clearly picked up. Benny didn’t face a single break point, as Smith meekly conceded three breaks in total and was wiped off the court.
Lucky loser Tobias Kamke made the best of his luck after the withdrawal of Ivan Dodig, upsetting Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-6 7-6 to reach the round of 16 in two hours. Stako blew two set point chances in the first set tiebreak, and he faced pressure on his serve most of the day, as his serve and volley skills were lacking consistency, while Kamke was more consistent with his groundstrokes on the day. Stako’s struggles this season continued as his high risk style of play saw him getting passed at the net when it mattered. Stako was playing better in the second set and went up 4-2, looking prepared to force a third set, but he was broken back in the next game, and had to save break points serving 4-4 and 5-5 to eventually force a second set tiebreak. Kamke dominated that tiebreak, going 5-0 up, and he would eventually take it 7-2.
Yoshihito Nishioka showed signs of improvement in dealing with American heat, as he got past Dan Evans 6-2 6-7 7-6 in a match that also saw a lengthy rain delay late in the third set that paused play for over an hour. In Washington, Nishioka wilted in the hot conditions, but this time it was Evans struggling with his fitness, as the British man earned no break point chances in the first set, and was broken twice with relative ease, including at love serving 2-5. Evans went down a set and a break twice in the second set, and looked ready to hit the showers when he was 4-2, and 5-3 down.
Nishioka got tight serving the match out and after having to save three break point chances against Evans, he found himself dominated in the second tiebreak, going down 4-0, and losing it 7-2. Nishioka had two more bp chances early in the third, and rain came at 4-3 in the third. Nishioka found himself broken when he returned to court, and Evans had three match point chances from 40-15 up in the next game. However, Nishioka’s speed got him back into the match, and after saving a fourth match point chance in his next service game, Nishioka converted his second match point chance to take the victory in three hard fought sets to the delight of a few local Japanese fans.
Last, but certainly not least, Americans Taylor Fritz and Bjorn Fratangelo were big winners on the day. Fritz dominated college standout Austin Smith 6-2 6-2, despite loud chants for Smith throughout the match. The young American’s power from the baseline was too much for the Georgia Bulldog. Fratangelo rolled past Igor Sijsling 6-1 7-6. Early in the first he broke, and had to save six break point chances in an extremely long first service game, but Sijsling wilted from there. Fratangelo went a set and a break up, although he couldn’t serve it out, the Dutchman never really got a shot at a third set, as the American had the match in hand.
In the lone ATP doubles match on the day, Chris Eubanks and Zack Kennedy upset Thiago Monteiro and Nishioka in a narrowly fought third set tiebreak, as the pairing of local NCAA players produce some late magic to stay in the tournament.
Americans will feature in all of the four singles matches that are set to take place today at the BB&T Atlanta Open. Big men Kevin Anderson and Reilly Opelka will battle with their big serves, while Tim Smyczek and Donald Young fight it out for a much needed quarterfinal berth after that. In the night session, John Isner starts his quest for a fourth ATP Atlanta title against Adrian Mannarino, and Fritz will face Fratangelo in a battle of young Americans. Five ATP doubles matches will take place as well.
2016 ATP Umag Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The seaside town of Umag in Croatia hosts a player favorite ATP 250 tournament in a week full of clay court 250 action.
Konzum Croatia Open Umag
ATP World Tour 250
July 18-24, 2016
Prize Money: €463,520
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Pablo Cuevas (20)
2: Joao Sousa (32)
3: Jeremy Chardy (38)
4: Fabio Fognini (39)
Although it lacks an elite field, Umag has a lot of competitive balance this week.
First round matchups to watch:
Gastao Elias vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
A battle of ATP semifinalists last week, Elias reached the semis in Bastad, while GGL did the same in Hamburg, and now they will battle in round 1 on clay a week later. Elias has a game good enough to compete with GGL, but the Spaniard is the favorite.
(6)Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Andreas Seppi
Seppi comes off Davis Cup play, while PCB has been solid enough on clay this year. Seppi is slightly better known, but the seeded Spaniard deserves to be called the favorite in this clay court match.
Former champion Pablo Cuevas is the top seed, and looks set to reach at least the semifinals, as long as he can get past Elias or GGL in his first match. 19 year old Nino Serdarusic, or veteran Teymuraz Gabashvili will face the Seppi/PCB winner for a spot in the quarters opposite Cuevas. Cuevas was a finalist in Hamburg most recently, and unless he’s fatigued, he’ll improve on his 21-7 clay mark this season and defeat likely PCB as well to reach the semis.
Fabio Fognini will face qualifier Andre Ghem or Hamburg semifinalist Renzo Olivo in round 2. Fognini comes off Davis Cup weekend, and although Olivo could upset him, you have to assume the veteran Italian dirtballer will find a way to win. Doubles specialist Franko Skugor has been a surprise to make this many ATP main draws, although he’s a wild card this time, but Thomas Fabbiano should defeat him in round 1, while Nicolas Almagro does the same against Damir Dzumhur. Almagro losing to Fognini is my pick in the quarters. It’s a tough section to predict, but Fognini has more upside these days on clay.
Joao Sousa has been poor on clay this year, but Leonardo Mayer has been struggling, and wild card Nikola Mektic lacks ATP experience. Sousa into the quarters opposite Hamburg champion Martin Klizan is my pick. Klizan should roll past Enrique Lopez-Perez, then Andrej Martin or Sergiy Stakhovsky. Klizan keeps playing well at the ATP 500 level, and suddenly had a tremendous week in Hamburg on clay. Coming out of injuries, Klizan vs. Sousa makes sense as a result on clay.
Jeremy Chardy is merely 6-6 on clay this year, setting up a good chance he’ll suffer an early defeat as the #3 seed. However, Aljaz Bedene is in poor form, and qualifier Nikola Cacic has little ATP experience, which makes Bedene a defacto favorite for the quarterfinals opposite Jiri Vesely. A struggling Vesely had Davis Cup weekend and opens with qualifier Michael Linzer, with either unfit Filip Krajinovic or Carlos Berlocq set for the next round. Berlocq is in solid form, but I have a feeling Vesely will still upset him, and then lose to Chardy in the quarterfinals, as they both play power tennis.
2016 ATP Bucharest Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The smaller ATP tournament this week is the 250 stop in Bucharest, Romania, one of the few ATP stops in Eastern Europe. Here is a look at the field, and predictions for the action.
BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy
ATP World Tour 250
April 18-24, 2016
Prize Money: €463,520
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Bernard Tomic (21)
2: Ivo Karlovic (30)
3: Federico Delbonis (36)
4: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (38)
A lack of top clay courters means Bucharest is one of the most open ATP tournaments this season, and a lot of players have a tremendous chance to earn ranking points.
Bernard Tomic is a miserable 4-11 on clay over the last three seasons, and thus even though he’s the top seed, either Andrea Arnaboldi, or Robin Haase will be gunning to defeat him in his opening match. The qualifier Arnaboldi is in a good position to trouble Tomic, but I have either Paul-Henri Mathieu, or Fernando Verdasco dispatching him in the quarterfinals. Verdasco is facing qualifier Aldin Setkic, and is currently in danger of slipping outside the top 100, after formerly being a top 10 player. PHM faces qualifier Radu Albot, after reaching the quarterfinals in Casablanca. Verdasco is 5-0 against PHM, and thus I have him reaching the semifinals, after defeating Tomic on clay.
Defending champion Guillermo Garcia-Lopez will face either Kyle Edmund or Lukas Rosol in round 2. The power hitter Rosol has been shaky on clay in recent years but he won the title in Bucharest in 2013. Edmund is surprisingly good on clay for a British player. GGL should be good enough to win his third clay court match of the season and reach the quarterfinals over Rosol/Edmund.
Rio finalist Guido Pella should slip past journeyman veteran Adrian Ungur, and then get past most likely Daniel Gimeno-Traver to reach the quarterfinals. DGT opens with Adrian Mannarino, a poor clay courter. DGT recently qualified in Monte Carlo and can have his moments on clay, but Pella is the better dirtballer. Pella has a h2h win over GGL, but given his previous success in Bucharest, I have it Verdasco vs. Garcia-Lopez in an all Spanish semifinal.
Ivo Karlovic is 0-5 this season, and 1-4 on clay over the past two seasons. In short, the veteran Croatian is a poor clay courter, in terrible form. Thus, he’s the #2 seed, but he should go out to either Lucas Pouille, or Sao Paulo semifinalist Dusan Lajovic in his first match. Pouille has upset wins over David Ferrer and Richard Gasquet in recent weeks, thus the Frenchman should burst into the quarterfinals. Veteran Paolo Lorenzi has a great chance to earn an ATP main draw win over Diego Schwartzman, DSS has been rather disappointing this year, even on clay. After DSS, Lorenzi should face Taro Daniel, presuming Daniel dispatches qualifier Michael Linzer in round 1. Pouille has the edge over Lorenzi in the quarterfinals.
Federico Delbonis won the Casablanca title, and he could add another ATP title to his resume this week in Bucharest. He’s the best clay courter in his section, as he’ll open with Illya Marchenko or Dudi Sela, with either Marcos Baghdatis or Damir Dzumhur likely to follow in the quarters. Baghdatis is normally not well suited for clay but he was a quarterfinalist in Houston, and he opens with a struggling Marco Cecchinato. Dzumhur opens with Marius Copil, a recent clay court challenger semifinalist. Dzumhur is 7-0 against opponents not named Milos Raonic in recent weeks, and thus I have him defeating Baghdatis, before falling to Delbonis in an engaging quarterfinal.
Besides Delbonis or GGL, the title is likely to go to a dark horse, and Pouille is a strong possibility. This talented Frenchman has a great forehand, is solid on clay, and has been on a steady upward trend in recent years. He’s not as flashy, or consistent, as some of the other young guns, but he is leading the next generation of French tennis.
Garcia-Lopez d. Verdasco
Delbonis d. Pouille
Though Verdasco is 3-0 against GGL on clay, GGL is simply a better player these days, and he has a chance to sneak himself into an ATP final out of relative obscurity.
Delbonis has never faced Pouille, that match is worthy of the final, but I have the Argentina winning his second title in recent weeks so thus he has to advance.
Delbonis d. Garcia-Lopez
This isn’t an easy tournament to predict, but Delbonis showed he can play consistent clay court tennis at the 250 in Casablanca, and he’s due for another title.
2016 Irving Challenger Preview & Predictions Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
2016 BMW of Dallas Irving Tennis Classic
ATP Challenger Tour
15-20 March 2016
Hardcourt, Laycold Purple
Prize Money: $125,000
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (38)
2: Gilles Muller (45)
3: Lukas Rosol (50)
4: Aljaz Bedene (51)
5: Inigo Cervantes (59)
6: Denis Kudla (66)
7: Daniel Munoz De La Nava (69)
8: Iliya Marchenko (72)
The last direct acceptance is Jozef Kovalik, ranked 183rd.
First round match-ups to watch
(1) Guillermo Garcia-Lopez – Marco Cecchinato
This should be an interesting match press wise, as it got known a couple of days ago that Cecchinato is under investigation by the Italian Tennis Federation because of suspected match-fixing at the Mohammedia Challenger last year. The alleged fix took place in his quarterfinal match against Kamil Majchrzak, a match he lost 1-6 4-6.
(WC) Ryan Harrison – Andrey Rublev
18-year-old Rublev won his first Challenger in Quimper two weeks ago, beating home player Paul-Henri Mathieu in the final. Harrison had a good showing at the Acapulco 500 event, beating world #12 Marin Cilic in the first round, before losing in a third set tiebreak to Iliya Marchenko, the eighth seed here in Irving.
(WC) Dimitry Tursunov – Donald Young
Donald Young (Photo: Chris Levy @Tennis_Shots for TennisAtlantic.com)
33-year-old former world #20 Tursunov recently returned from a very lengthy injury lay-off, that saw him sidelined for more than a year. He pushed eventual winner Dominic Thiem to the brink in the second round of Acapulco, losing 7-6(5) 3-6 4-6. At Indian Wells he lost in the first round to Marchenko, despite reeling off a spectacular volley winner. Young, a former top 40 player, has lost in the second round of four of the six tournaments he played this year, the other two losses were in the first round. In the first round of Indian Wells he lost in three sets to Andreas Seppi.
As always, this tournament has a stacked draw, in reality lifting it from Challenger status to a low-tier 250 event. In the top half top seed Garcia-Lopez landed a cushy draw, with perhaps only an on-fire Rublev who will be able to stop him from reaching the semi-final. The Russian however is still very erratic and it makes sense to favor Garcia-Lopez. When it comes to the other semi-finalist I predict Aljaz Bedene, although he will face stiff competition from guys like Tursunov/Young and perhaps even Frances Tiafoe, who had a great win over Taylor Fritz at Indian Wells a couple of days.
Second seed Gilles Muller came close to an upset against Rafael Nadal in the second round of Indian Wells, but the Spaniard edged him out 6-2 2-6 6-4. Muller should be able to at least reach the semi-final here, although he likely faces tough competition in the quarterfinal from Marchenko, who has been in good form lately. In the top section third seed Lukas Rosol has a comfortable draw and should be able to get through. The other seed in this section is Denia Kudla, who got absolutely hammered by Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round of Indian Wells, 6-0 6-1.
Bedene d. Garcia-Lopez
Rosol d. Muller
Rosol d. Bedene
This would mean a final between the winner in 2014 (Rosol) and this year’s defending champion, Bedene.
2016 ATP Sofia Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Sofia Open is on the ATP World Tour calendar for the first time, it’s an indoor hard court tournament in Bulgaria, and Bulgarian tennis fans are excited to have a men’s tournament of their own to celebrate and attend.
Garanti Koza Sofia Open
ATP World Tour 250
February 1-7, 2016
Surface: Indoor Hard
Prize Money: €463,520
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roberto Bautista Agut (21)
2: Viktor Troicki (26)
3: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (27)
4: Andreas Seppi (29)
Sofia lacks a top 20 player, and failed to attract home hero Grigor Dimitrov, thus it’s one of the weaker ATP 250s.
First round matchups to watch:
Damir Dzumhur vs. Jiri Vesely
Dzumhur leads Vesely 2-0 in the h2h, and won a round in Melbourne, while Vesely has yet to win this season. Vesely is a talent, but Dzumhur could well pull off a minor upset in this one.
Roberto Bautista Agut already has an ATP title this season and reached the second week in Melbourne, as the Spaniard is in great form to start the season. RBA is the tournament favorite, and he should ease past either Marsel Ilhan or Filip Krajinovic in his first match. Hyeon Chung or Adrian Mannarino is his likely quarterfinal opponent. The young Korean opens with qualifier Marius Copil, while Mannarino will open with Evgeny Donskoy. Mannarino has a challenger title under his belt this season, and the veteran Frenchman should be a minor favorite over Chung, with RBA a strong favorite for the semifinals.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez has Yuki Bhambri or Mirza Basic to open his quest for a title in Sofia. Basic qualified in Australia, and in Sofia, demonstrating strong form to start the season. GGL has an ATP quarterfinal already, and he should reach another with a win over Basic, and then a quarterfinal win over Gilles Muller. The Sydney semifinalist Muller opens with a struggling Malek Jaziri, and Ricardas Berankis or Dimitar Kuzmanov in round 2. Kuzmanov is a wild card, while Berankis is just 1-2 to start the season. Muller should serve past Berankis before falling to Garcia-Lopez, given GGL leads the h2h 4-0.
Sydney champion Viktor Troicki could be troubled by big serving Daniel Brands in round 2, presuming Brands defeats Thomas Fabbiano. Brands qualified for both Melbourne and Sofia, and has demonstrated an ATP caliber game. Troicki is the quarterfinal favorite though. Philipp Kohlschreiber has had tough draws this season, but Sergiy Stakhovsky is a beatable opponent, and so is the Vesely/Dzumhur winner. Kohlschreiber is 2-1 in the h2h against Troicki, but Troicki should keep his form and reach the semis.
Andreas Seppi is 3-3 to start the season and will face either Matt Ebden or more likely Thiemo De Bakker in round 2. On ranking and talent alone, Seppi should reach the quarters and face either Martin Klizan or Lukas Rosol, a pair of heavy ball strikers. Klizan is looking for his first win of the season against Alexandar Lazov, a wild card. Rosol drew a beatable Robin Haase. Rosol vs. Seppi is an interesting quarterfinal matchup. Seppi leads the hard court h2h 2-1, but Rosol, a streaky player, should have a slight form edge and reach the semis.
Rosol has a great chance to reach the semifinals, and a semifinal against Troicki is winnable, Rosol trails the hard court h2h 2-0, but he’s capable of turning that around if he clocks the ball liek he’s capable of.
Bautista Agut d. Garcia-Lopez
Troicki d. Rosol
RBA has a 2-0 h2h edge over GGL, while Troicki has the same edge over Rosol on hard courts, making them both favorites to reach the final.
Bautista Agut d. Troicki
Given they have never met before this match could go either way, but RBA’s game should be slightly superior.
Tomas Berdych secured his first ATP title of 2015, and practically secured himself a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-3 7-6(7) victory over Spanish veteran Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in a rain delayed Monday final in Shenzen. The loss denies GGL his third title this season.
Berdych demonstrated he was a worthy #1 seed as he didn’t drop a set against Austin Krajicek, Jiri Vesely, and Tommy Robredo en route to the final. GGL beat Lukas Rosol in straights, got a walkover against Adrian Mannarino, and then upset Marin Cilic in three sets to reach the final.
The doubles title went to Jonathan Erlich/Colin Fleming over Chris Guccione/Andre Sa.
The Spanish Armada also proved its depth in Malaysia this week as David Ferrer took his fourth ATP title of 2015 and helped his quest to qualify for the World Tour Finals with a 7-5 7-5 victory over Feliciano Lopez. Ferrer rolled past Radek Stepanek and Mikhail Kukushkin in unblemished fashion before recovering from a dropped first set to defeat the pesky ball striker Benjamin Becker in a three set semifinal.
Lopez served well and played some clutch tiebreak tennis to defeat Mischa Zverev in straights, Vasek Pospisil in three sets, and Malaysia’s own Nick Kyrgios in a pair of tiebreaks to reach the final. Both veterans are in good form though they approach tennis quite differently.
Treat Huey and Henri Kontinen beat Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram to take home the doubles trophy.
2015 ATP Rome Preview, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
After the excitement of the Madrid Masters, the ATP heads to the third and final Masters event of the clay court season in Rome, where the intimate venue tends to create late night drama and bring out passionate fan support. This clay court season continues to be one of the most wide open in years, with multiple top players in feasible contention for the title going into this tournament.
2015 ATP Rome Preview
Internazionali BNL d’Italia
ATP World Tour Masters 1000*
May 10-May 17, 2015
Prize Money: €3,288,530
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (3)
4: Rafael Nadal (4)
5: Kei Nishikori (5)
6: Tomas Berdych (7)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Stan Wawrinka (9)
Milos Raonic pulled out but Djokovic is back in action, in terms of other names missing from the top 20, Tommy Robredo (injury), and Gael Monfils are both missing in action. Other players missing include Fernando Verdasco, and Italy’s Andreas Seppi.
The Italian wild card Vanni is unlikely to win over the much more accomplished Almagro, but he has a better chance than people are predicting. The slice and dicer on clay reached his first career ATP final at 29 in Sao Paulo, and he’s followed that up well as he qualified in Madrid, and then upset Bernard Tomic before falling in round 2 of the main draw. Vanni hits a lot of slice and has variety in his game, but not much power, and he’s on track to reach the top 100 and be able to compete at the ATP level on a regular basis. Almagro is still working back from injury problems and he comes off a round 1 loss in Madrid, though he has reached a pair of clay quarterfinals this Spring (Casablanca and Estoril). His power is likely to overwhelm Vanni matchup wise, but you never know if Vanni can work him into errors.
(11)Feliciano Lopez vs. Nick Kyrgios
With Lopez’s struggles on clay continuing unabated, Kyrgios is the favorite to score yet another top 15 win. The Aussie young gun is regularly battling hard against the ATP’s best these days, as he shocked Roger Federer in a Madrid thriller before falling in he round of 16. Prior to that, he reached the final in Estoril, his first on the ATP tour. It’s also notable he’s doing this on clay, which is his worst surface (likewise for Lopez). At this point it’s clear NK has arrived, and he’s earned the respect that a top player deserves, his rapid rise should continue with a win here as Lopez hasn’t won consecutive matches since March, he’s also one of the easier seeds to face on clay.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
An intriguing matchup of unpredictable players, the heavy hitting Cilic has yet to return to the form that saw him reach top 10 status, while Garcia-Lopez is having the best year of his career, while at the same time being inconsistent from week to week, as you never really know what you are going to get with him. The h2h is an even 1-1 and this is their first meeting on clay. The style contrast will be a joy as GGL brings variety and Cilic brings brute force. GGL won Bucharest and reached the Semis in Estoril, but lost early in both Casablanca and Madrid. Cilic reached the quarters in Monte Carlo but is just 1-2 since then, as the pressure is starting to build on the Croat if he is to keep his ranking up. This is another 50/50 match, but I’m going with Garcia-Lopez in an upset, he should be rested by now and appears to be playing better.
A quality matchup featuring clean ballstrikers, both have been in erratic form this season, but have the ability to play some of their tennis on clay. Thiem comes off the quarters in Munich but he’s just 2-3 on red clay this year, with 3 bad losses to lower ranked opponents. Bolelli, who reached the quarters in Bucharest, won a pair of matches before falling to Rafael Nadal in Madrid. The home court Italian is 5-4 on spring red clay in Europe, and playing in Rome is a big deal for him. This one could go either way, but given home soil, and a slight edge in form to Bolelli, I have him winning this one and continuing the pedestrian showings for Thiem.
(12)Gilles Simon vs. Jack Sock
A matchup of interest for American tennis fans, Houston champ Jack Sock, who upset Pablo Andujar in Madrid, and then pushed Tsonga to 3 sets, will take on the pusher Simon who is 3-2 on clay this year, and did not play in Madrid. Sock, who may be the best American clay courter right now (John Isner is the only other player in the conversation), will of course bring his aggressive forehand centric game to the table, against Simon’s defensive rallying and massaging of the ball. If Sock can keep his errors down and avoid frustration, he should be able to upset Simon, but that can be a tall task.
Three time, and defending champion Novak Djokovic should be well rested as he begins his quest to win yet another Masters title. It’s unlikely he’ll have much of a problem stretching his 18 match win streak to 20 matches as his first two opponents Vanni/Almagro and probably Roberto Bautista Agut, aren’t world beaters at the moment. RBA is 8-4 on clay this year, with all of those losses coming to top 8 opponents. He has a weak draw of Marcel Granollers, and a qualifier to start, but he doesn’t have the game to trouble Djokovic (0-2 h2h with no sets won). I don’t see Novak dropping a set en route to the quarterfinals.
Kei Nishikori, a semifinalist in Madrid, and the winner in Barcelona, will open with the winner of Ernests Gulbis/Jiri Vesely, and in theory either of those opponents could give him trouble if he’s fatigued. That said, Gulbis continues his disastrous form (5 straight losses), and Vesely has lost three straight himself, so though they have the ability, it’s unlikely they will show it. Nishikori could be in more trouble in the round of 16 though, if Kyrgios continues his fine form and beats Lopez and then the Bernard Tomic/Viktor Troicki winner. Kyrgios-Tomic is a good matchup on paper, but Bernie is not a clay courter and he’s failed to impress this year on the surface (3 straight losses), likewise Troicki is in a slump (4 straight losses), so Kyrgios is actually a favorite in the section. Kyrgios-Nishikori is hard to predict, and stamina will be a factor, but given this is clay, I see Nishikori getting through to the quarters.
AndyMurray, who has a poor record in Rome (8-9),will open with the Jeremy Chardy/Lukas Rosol winner. Murray has been in solid form as of late, he’s currently a finalist in Madrid, and won Munich, but with so much tennis over the past two weeks, he could be fatigued going into this tournament. Chardy has lost three straight, while Rosol has a pair of quarterfinals on clay this season, Chardy has a 2-0 clay h2h, but I still see Rosol winning a toss-up match. Murray just beat Rosol in a three setter in Munich, and presuming he does play in Rome, I still see him getting through his opening match, given his elite level of fitness. The next round should pose a problem however, as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Goffin are both solid clay court threats. Goffin pushed Nishikori to three sets in Madrid while Tsonga is 4-3 on the surface this year. Tsonga won the h2h match with Goffin on clay in Monte Carlo this year, and thus he should advance in another hard to predict matchup. Tsonga faces Sam Querrey round 1, and Goffin will face a qualifier. Tsonga and Murray have never played on clay, though Murray has a decisive h2h edge on other surfaces. I made the mistake last week of picking Murray to go out early, but I’m going to do it again anyway, and pick Tsonga to go through to the quarters, allowing Murray to get much needed rest before the French Open, where he could pose a threat given his play in Munich and Madrid.
David Ferrer will get a tough round 2 matchup will Richard Gasquet, barring Reeshy loses to a qualifier. Ferrer is 2-0 on clay against Gasquet, but lost their last two h2h meetings. The Barcelona semifinalist and Madrid and Monte Carlo quarterfinalist has been steady but not in peak form on clay this year. Gasquet won the title in Estoril then fell in round 2 of Madrid. It’ll be an interesting match, and fun to watch, but Ferrer has to be the favorite on clay to advance to the round of 16. There he is likely to face the winner of Garcia-Lopez/Cilic. Martin Klizan, who has played good tennis this season, was injured in Madrid, and it’s uncertain if he’s healthy again, he will open with a qualifier, and then the winner of that will be the next opponent for GGL/Cilic. Klizan has a h2h win on clay over GGL, and if he’s healthy, he could reach the round of 16, but for now GGL has to be the pick in this interesting section. Ferrer is 3-0 on clay against his countryman, and thus should reach the quarters, though he may drop a set or two en route.
Roger Federer, the champion in Istanbul, comes off a shock loss to Kyrgios in Madrid, and he’s never won the title in Rome (three previous finals). That said, he still should be able to recover his form and beat Pablo Cuevas, who he beat in Istanbul, in round 2. Cuevas will open with Italian journeyman Paolo Lorenzi. After Cuevas, the rather pedestrian draw for Federer will continue, as Philipp Kohlschreiber is his toughest possible round 3 opponent. Kohli will need to beat an injured Donald Young, and the winner of Florian Mayer/Kevin Anderson. Mayer is just 2-4 in his comeback, and Anderson has lost three straight. Kohlschreiber reached the final in Munich and the quarters in Barcelona (his last two losses in Madrid and Munich have come at the hands of Andy Murray), still Federer is a big step up in competition level and in 7 h2h matches, Kohlschreiber has won just a single set off the Swiss legend. Thus look for Federer to blitz through a pair of weak matches to reach the quarters.
Madrid semifinalist, and Monte Carlo finalist Tomas Berdych has been in fine form all season, and that should continue against Santiago Giraldo in round 2. Giraldo will open with Italian wild card Matteo Donati. He’s been in poor form, but he still should have enough game to beat the 20 year old who has 1 challenger final on his resume in 2015. Berdych should get a more interesting test against Grigor Dimitrov, a semifinalist in Istanbul, and a quarterfinalist in both Monte Carlo and Madrid. Dimitrov started the year off slow but he’s found a better run of form on clay, and thus should have little trouble dispatching Jerzy Janowicz, who has lost two straight, and Fabio Fognini who he just beat in 3 sets in Madrid. Fognini opens with American Steve Johnson, who is slowly getting used to playing on red clay it seems. The Italian will have fan support, but he’s still extremely moody and unpredictable. When it comes to Berdych-Dimitrov, the clay h2h is 1-1 and Dimitrov won their Rome meeting last year. That said, Berdych has been dare I say the most consistent player on tour this year, and his machinelike consistency gives him the edge to reach the quarters in yet another Masters event.
7 time Rome Champion, and current Madrid finalist Rafael Nadal should be able to blow past Adrian Mannarino/qualifier in round 2, and also defeat either John Isner or Leo Mayer in the round of 16. It’s a rather weak draw for the Spanish star. Isner will open with Joao Sousa, as he comes off the quarters in Madrid, a great result for him given it’s clay, while Mayer, who won a pair of matches in Madrid, faces Italian wild card Federico Gaio, a 23 year old with good results in futures. Isner should be able to reach the round of 16, but Nadal is 5-0 against him, with three wins on clay, including in Monte Carlo this year. Even when not at his best, Rafa has the edge against Isner, especially on clay.
Stan Wawrinka will take on Juan Monaco or a qualifier in his opening match, Stan the man continues to struggle, as he lost round 2 in Madrid, but he’s 4-0 against Monaco, including a win on clay this year, so regardless he should win his opening contest. After that Sock/Simon is likely to beckon in the round of 16, though Bolelli/Thiem are also options. All four of those players are very capable opponents and solid. Personally I’m backing Sock’s superior form to buzzsaw through to the round of 16, where he could upset Wawrinka. It’s perhaps unlikely, but Wawrinka is struggling, and appears mentally checked out, so the possibility is there. He’s the top 8 seed most likely to lose before the quarters but I still have him winning. Thiem, Bolelli, and Simon have all beaten Wawrinka before, while Thiem is the only player to do so on clay.
Dark Horses: Nick Kyrgios, David Goffin, Jack Sock, Fabio Fognini
Kyrgios is a rather obvious dark horse choice, as he should reach the round of 16, and then we’ll see what kind of shape Nishikori is in. I wouldn’t give him much of a chance against Novak in the quarters, but he’s beaten Federer and Nadal, so who’s to say he can’t add another big four scalp to his list.
Goffin would need to beat Tsonga to get anywhere but if he does, like Jo, he has a great chance to benefit from Murray’s fatigue, and should he do so, beating Ferrer isn’t out of the question in the quarters. It’s an outside chance, but believable all the same.
Sock would have a great tournament just by beating Simon and Bolelli/Thiem, but if he upsets Wawrinka that would take the result to an even higher level of magnitude. All of those players would be tough opponents, but he has the game to do it, and can cement himself as the American #1 on clay if he runs the ringer.
Fognini could be a threat on home soil, the talent is there, but he’s incredibly hard to predict. He did push Dimitrov to three sets in Madrid, so if he can switch that result around you can’t entirely count him out against Berdych on clay, and given the circumstances.
Djokovic d. Nishikori
Ferrer d. Tsonga
Nadal d. Wawrinka
Berdych d. Federer
Djokovic won his only clay court match with Nishikori, and given he’s been the best player in the world all season, and he’s rested, I have little doubt he’ll at least reach the semifinals in Rome. Ferrer is 2-0 on clay against Tsonga, and no matter who he faces (Murray/Tsonga/Goffin), he should benefit from the draw and reach the semis due to how its structured.
I don’t see Nadal losing before the semis either, as Wawrinka, in his current form, is extremely unlikely to pose a threat, especially with Nadal rounding into form. Nadal is 5-0 on clay against Wawrinka. I’m going with an upset in Berdych vs. Federer, Federer has never played as well in Rome compared to other tournaments, and he was shaky in Istanbul and Madrid. By contrast Berdych’s game has been reliable and a threat to everyone on tour this year. Federer is 3-0 on clay, and beat Berdych this year at IW, but I don’t feel he’s the same player at the moment.
Djokovic d. Ferrer
Nadal d. Berdych
Djokovic actually tends to have to fight against Ferrer on clay (2-3 h2h) but he’s won the last two meetings on clay, he beat Ferrer this year on a hard court, and he’s been on fire all year. Nadal just beat Berdych in Madrid (he consistently does so with a 7-0 clay court h2h), thus it seems pretty inevitable that we’re headed for a Djokovic vs. Nadal final in Rome.
Djokovic d. Nadal
Djokovic defeated Nadal in Monte Carlo this year 7-5 6-3, and though Nadal is slightly better since that loss, he’s still not up to the same level he was, thus Djokovic should have the edge in a best 2/3 sets format. Nadal is capable of flashes of brilliance and plenty of hotshots in this classic rivalry, but Djokovic has the consistency to earn the win right now.
Gasquet, Kyrgios Battle Past Tough Opponents to Reach Estoril Open 2015 Final
Manuel Traquete for Tennis Atlantic
Gasquet won a thriller in a 3rd set TB (photo credit: Manuel Traquete)
Semifinal day at the Estoril Open featured two high quality and incredibly tight 3-set matches, with the favorites prevailing in the end end.
Nick Kyrgios was on the brink of defeat against Pablo Carreno Busta, with his erratic play getting him a set down and very close to being broken in the second set as well. It was clear all throughout that the match was on Kyrgios’s racket though and that if he stopped making errors he’d have too much game for his Spanish opponent, who was mostly content to just keep the ball in play and wait for the errors from Kyrgios. This point was driven home in the second set tiebreak, where Kyrgios played some big time tennis to tie the match and never looked back, getting two breaks in the decider to book a spot in his first ever ATP final. Asked by me about who he’d prefer to face in the final, the Aussie claimed both opponents were tough, but he did mention that it’d be good to get a shot at ‘revenge’ against Gasquet, who had won the only clay match between the pair before.
The scene for Kyrgios vs PCB (photo credit: Manuel Traquete)
Nick will get said chance at revenge, as Richard Gasquet booked his spot in a third Estoril Open final – after 2007 and 2012 final losses to Djokovic and Wawrinka – with an incredibly close 3-set win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in what was surely the match of this year’s edition of the tournament, featuring ridiculous shotmaking – especially off both players’ one-handed backhands – and several shifts of momentum throughout. The match started tight until Garcia-Lopez ran away with the first set with two breaks in a row to seal it 6-3.
In the second set it was Gasquet who dominated the rallies, recording an easy 6-2. He seemed to have picked up from where he had left off in the third set, but he faltered when serving for the match at 5-4, allowing Garcia-Lopez back into the match, especially after the Spaniard came up with some absolutely huge plays to avert that crisis. Garcia-Lopez was two points away from winning the match – 0-30 on Gasquet’s serve at 6-5*, but from then on it was all Gasquet, who dominated the tiebreak with some stunning winners and emerged as the deserved finalist on the balance of play.
Garcia-Lopez still had an amazing two weeks and looks well on course for the best year of his career, while Gasquet couldn’t have hoped for a much better return from injury; after claiming he didn’t even think of winning the title year after his first match, he now finds himself the (slight) favorite for the title after downing good claycourt players like Almagro and Garcia-Lopez on his way.
In the doubles semifinals, Marc Lopez/Marrero beat Fyrstenberg/Mirnyi 6-4 6-3 and Huey/Lipsky beat Muller/Qureshi 7-6(3) 6-3, thus the top two seeds will battle in the final.
The final will therefore be a reedition of that epic Wimbledon 2014 round 3 clash, where the young Aussie saved 9 match points before securing a memorable comeback win from 0-2 behind in sets. On clay, it seems like Gasquet should have the slight edge with his better movement and consistency, but Kyrgios’s serve and power always lethi in with a chance. Kyrgios might not (yet) have the consistency necessary to go into the top 10 right now, but at his best he believes he can beat anyone, anywahre, so he will be fancying his chances of a first career title in Portugal. The pressure will be all on Gasquet, who has been playing well all week and is expected to put away his young foe at the third time of asking in a Estoril Open final. There’s only one match left to conclude the 2015 edition of the Estoril Open, who will emerge as a 1st time champion?
2015 ATP Madrid Preview, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic’s Niall Clarke, and Adam Addicott will both be in Madrid this week as credentialed members of the press, and they will be providing us with fantastic onsite coverage of the second clay court Masters event of the season, this one of course at the Magic Box in Madrid. As an appetizer for that, here is a preview, and some predictions for the men’s draw.
2015 ATP Madrid Open Preview
Mutua Madrid Open ATP World Tour Masters 1000* Madrid, Spain May 3-May 10, 2015 Prize Money: €4,185,405
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (2)
2: Andy Murray (3)
3: Rafael Nadal (4)
4: Kei Nishikori (5)
5: Milos Raonic (6)
6: Tomas Berdych (7)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Stan Wawrinka (9)
Novak Djokovic is the notable absence here, as the world number 1 cited fatigue in skipping Madrid, and he’s never liked playing at the venue anyway. In addition, Gilles Simon, Tommy Robredo and Andreas Seppi are the only other notables missing from the draw.
First round matchups to watch:
Nick Kyrgios vs. (Q)Daniel Gimeno-Traver
Both players are in great form going into this match, Kyrgios raced to the Estoril final in a surprise, though he lost rather routinely to Richard Gasquet, and DGT was a finalist in Casablanca, a semifinalist in Bucharest, and most recently a quarterfinalist in Istanbul before qualifying for Madrid with a pair of routine wins. They have never met before, and DGT has more experience on clay, while Kyrgios has more talent, and both should be about equally fatigued. I have Kyrgios winning, but it should be close, and it’s an interesting match.
Sock and Andujar have a split hard court h2h, while Andujar won a round in Munich, only to retire in his next match (previous to that the Spaniard reached the 500 series final in Barcelona on home soil with a shock run). Sock is playing his first tournament since taking the title on har-tru clay in Houston. The outcome of this match likely hinges on Andujar’s health, but it still presents a good opportunity for Sock to beat a solid clay court opponent, who is in some level of good form. If Andujar is healthy, he’s the favorite given his experience on the surface, but Sock has plenty of potential and he could well get this win, as it’s always notable when an American can win a match on European clay.
Fabio Fognini vs. Santiago Giraldo
This time last year, Giraldo was on-fire but he’s struggling now, and he will face off with the unpredictable Fognini who crashed out in the quarterfinals of Munich last week. Giraldo beat Fognini in Sao Paulo this year, and that evened their clay court h2h 3-3. Giraldo likewise won a round in Istanbul and then lost in an upset, and over their past two tournaments Giraldo is 2-2 and Fognini is 3-2, thus everything on paper makes this seem like an open match. It’s a hard prediction to make, but when Fognini isn’t facing Nadal (who he has beaten twice this year), I don’t trust him, and thus I have Giraldo winning.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
Verdasco is 3-0 at the ATP level on clay against GGL, but he’s lost two straight matches on clay, while GGL won Bucharest, and then comes off a semifinal result in Estoril. Over the past two weeks, Garcia-Lopez has beaten notable names Gael Monfils, Kevin Anderson and Borna Coric, however he may be fatigued from playing so many matches. Both are home players so they should feel comfortable with the home cooking in Madrid, and it’s hard to predict, but you have to go with Garcia-Lopez’s form at the moment and I have him advancing in the battle of talented shotmakers.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Jiri Vesely
The Croat Cilic has never faced the Czech Vesely, and it’s an interesting matchup, as both are lanky hitters with a good amount of power but questionable movement. Cilic reached the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo with a pair of wins, but cooled off and was upset in Barcelona, while Vesely has been in good form on clay, reaching the final in Bucharest, and also a semi in Casablanca already this clay court season. He hasn’t beaten any top names on the surface this year, and he struggled in Munich, but I’d still give him an outside shot to upset Cilic if the Croat continues to be rusty coming off of injury. Cilic is the favorite, but watch out for Jiri here.
Juan Monaco vs. (WC)Nicolas Almagro
Monaco beat Almagro in a high quality contest in Buenos Aires this year, but he’s just 2-5 overall on ATP clay against the Spaniard, who will be playing on home soil of course. Monaco is 2-2 on European clay in his past four matches, while Almagro reached the quarters in both Casablanca and Estoril. Almagro has not been quite up to par with his former self, but neither has Monaco, as both were formerly reliable top 20 players who maximized their games, now with their current versions it’s a 50/50 matchup, and I’m going with Monaco as I felt Almagro did not play that well in Estoril.
3 time Madrid champion Roger Federer, who won the Istanbul title, will open with either Kyrgios or DGT and NK could catch Federer on the downswing and pull off a huge upset, though he may be too fatigued from Estoril. Federer has struggled in Istanbul, dropping a pair of sets to much lower ranked players, and those are worrying signs for the Swiss champion. That said, given this is clay, I don’t have the confidence to pick Kyrgios, and he could even lose to DGT as mentioned. Federer beat DGT in three sets in Istanbul.
Look for Federer/Kyrgios to advance to the quarters over John Isner most likely, as the American has a weak draw of Adrian Mannarino, and a qualifier Thomaz Bellucci/Jeremy Chardy. Chardy is struggling, and the qualifier Bellucci may have a shot here as well. Isner is actually 0-2 against Chardy, and they have never met on clay. Isner won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo to reach that same R16 stage though. Bellucci has beaten Isner before on clay, and he comes off quarterfinals in Istanbul.
Tomas Berdych has been on fire this year, the Monte Carlo finalist (most recently), is most likely to face Richard Gasquet, who he is just 1-2 against on clay in his opening match. Gasquet is a current finalist in Estoril, and he’s playing well, though his back has been giving him problems. Presuming he stays in the draw, Gasquet will need to defeat non-clay courter Ivo Karlovic to reach the second round. Given how well he’s played all season, Berdych should be safe to reach round 3, where he will face either Andujar/Sock or Lukas Rosol/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Munich and Bucharest quarterfinalist Rosol has played decently well as of late, while Tsonga has lost two straight. He still should win the mathc against Rosol as he beat him last year on clay, and I’ve picked him to do so, before falling to Sock in an upset, as I feel Sock is playing well enough right now to pull off a pair of upsets, before falling to Berdych in round 3. No matter, a Federer vs. Berdych quarterfinal is the most likely outcome of this interesting section of the draw.
Four time and defending champion Rafael Nadal has been struggling this season, but he still should be safe against Steve Johnson/qualifier Alejandro Gonzalez in his opening match. In the third round, his opponent is uncertain, the seed Kevin Anderson lost early in Estoril and is not a clay court player, later falling to Simone Bolelli in Sunday action. Bolelli is an unpredictable player who is decently good on clay (a quarterfinalist in Bucharest) just below Anderson in the draw. Also here is Bernard Tomic who has lost two straight on clay, but has the talent to excel in theory. I look for Tomic to beat a qualifier, and then Bolelli to beat him. Nadal should then beat Bolelli, as he has done four times previously.
8 seed Stan Wawrinka, a former finalist here, is struggling mightily and appears dazed and confused on tour right now, still Jerzy Janowicz is the type of opponent he’d like to start with, as he’s a high risk power player, not a reliably smooth ball striker, and thus should spew enough errors to give Wawrinka a chance to get his footing in the match. Janowicz will need to defeat lucky loser Joao Sousa and end a two match losing streak on clay to get the Wawrinka matchup. Wawrinka is just 3-4 since winning Rotterdam, but he’s beaten JJ on clay before and more likely I see Wawrinka going out to either Grigor Dimitrov, who beat him in Monte Carlo, or the Fognini/Giraldo winner in round 3.
Dimitrov is an interesting case, he will open with Donald Young, who is poor on clay, and he should be favored against either Fognini or Giraldo. He beat Fogna in Monte Carlo, and he’s simply better than Giraldo, that said, he lost in the semis of Istanbul in an upset, and was poor in that match, so his form is a question mark. That said, given the h2h, Dimitrov should be motivated at the Masters level to also beat Wawrinka and setup a quarterfinal against Nadal.
Andy Murray, in the hunt for his first ever clay court title in Munich still, where he is a finalist, could very well face his opponent in that Munich final, Philipp Kohlschreiber in a rematch, presuming Kohli stays in th draw coming off a busy week of long matches in Munich, and beats qualifier Alejandro Falla In that rematch, I have Murray winning, given fitness, and the fact I have him winning in Munich too. Murray could be posed with trouble in the third round as Gael Monfils lurks. Monfils pulled out of Munich, citing a knee injury, but he’s been playing well when healthy and will open with the struggling Viktor Troicki before facing Martin Klizan or Marcel Granollers. Klizan is also in good form, as the Slovak reached the semis in Barcelona, and won Casablanca (Monfils reached the semis in both Monte Carlo and Bucharest). With both players coming off a break, I’m favoring Klizan to advance, but that match could very well go either way with such unpredictable players, and I’d favor Klizan or Monfils over Murray in round 3. Murray is 2-1 on clay against Monfils but they have always battled on the surface, and Murray played a lot of tennis in Munich. Klizan and Murray have never played, but I favor the clay court form of the big hitter. Klizan is the quarterfinalist in my draw.
5 seed Milos Raonic will have a tough match right away and is in danger of exiting the tournament at the hands of the Almagro/Monaco winner. Monaco has beaten Raonic on clay (and is 2-0 in the overall h2h), while Raonic has beaten Almagro on clay, and is 2-0 against him. Raonic reached the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo before retiring in that match, and he’s deceptively a quality player on clay, that said, the retirement is a question mark, and I’m going with an upset with Monaco reaching the third round over Raonic. Raonic/Monaco/Almagro would all have the edge to reach the quarters, the seed Feliciano Lopez is struggling mightily on clay, as he’s suffered early exits as of late, though his first round opponent Benjamin Becker is not a clay courter either. Leo Mayer could be the round 2 opponent of Lopez/Becker, but he’s been pedestrian this season, and has lost two straight on clay after a great run on the surface last year. Gilles Muller reached the quarters of Estoril, winning two matches on clay for the time in multiple seasons, and Muller/Mayer is a harder match to pick than one would think. Still I have Mayer reaching the third round in a very weak section, and then falling to his countryman Monaco.
Defending finalist Kei Nishikori will face David Goffin or Ernests Gulbis in his opening match. Gulbis has lost four straight matches and has been in free fall this season, while Goffin reached the quarters in Munich but has been pedestrian as well as of late. Nishikori, the Barcelona champion, should frankly demolish either player (most likely Goffin), and he dismantled Goffin in Miami 6-1 6-2 not too long ago. Nishikori will also be a strong favorite over most likely Roberto Bautista Agut in round 3. RBA has a weak draw of Marius Copil, a wild card, and Sam Querrey/qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis. Nishikori won a 3 setter against RBA in Barcelona and RBA comes off the semis in Munich. Nishikori, the more complete player, is likely to face David Ferrer in the quarters.
Ferrer, who has only reached the semis in Madrid (twice), opens with either qualifier Albert Ramos or current Istanbul finalist Pablo Cuevas, Cuevas is in great form but could be tired, while Ramos has been unpredictable. Ferrer is 2-0 against Cuevas and he was a semifinalist in Madrid, after previously reaching the quarters in Monte Carlo. Ferrer could have a tougher matchup against either Verdasco/Garcia-Lopez or Cilic/Vesely, in round 3. GGL, presuming he beat Verdasco, just beat Vesely in Bucharest, and he’s 1-1 against Cilic. Given current form, I’m going with Garcia-Lopez into the third round before falling to Ferrer, who has beaten him three times previously on clay.
Dark Horses: Nick Kyrgios, Fabio Fognini, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Martin Klizan
Jack Sock should do well in the top half, but Kyrgios has the most upside potential, if he does play his best, he could shock Federer, and run all the way to at least the quarterfinals, on the heels of his run to the final (and perhaps a title) in Estoril. Clay is not his best surface, but the Aussie young gun is on the rise, and there is little doubt he has top 10 ability, and will eventually get there, perhaps sooner rather than later, the Madrid draw gives him a chance to notch another remarkable result for his age.
Fognini is incredibly unpredictable, and likely loses in round 1 to Giraldo, but he still has great upside potential. If he catches fire, he could beat Giraldo, upset Dimitrov and then defeat likely Wawrinka to setup another rematch with Nadal, who he has beaten twice this year (most recently in Barcelona). It’s not likely any of that happens, but he has the clay court ability if he can keep his head on straight and put in the effort to get it done.
Garcia-Lopez may be fatigued but he’s been in great form on clay as of late, and if he beats Verdasco and Cilic/Vesely, he could also upset Ferrer and reach the quarters, on home soil, anything is possible if he finds his inspiration and is fit enough to get it done.
Klizan will have tough tests in Monfils, and likely Murray in order, but if he gets past that murderers row, the draw opens up with a winnable quarterfinal against Monaco/Almagro/Raonic waiting in the wings, and a chance to reach his first ever Masters semifinal. He could even reach the final, though Nishikori/Ferrer/other would of course be the favorite.
Federer d. Berdych
Nadal d. Dimitrov
Klizan d. Monaco
Nishikori d. Ferrer
Federer has never lost to Berdych on clay, thus even though he’s playing so well this season, I don’t feel like he’ll get over the hump. Nadal is 5-0 against Dimitrov, so again I feel like he gets lucky and reaches the semis, Klizan just beat Monaco in sets in Barcelona, and Nishikori beat Ferrer in their only meeting on clay here in Madrid last year.
Federer d. Nadal
Nishikori d. Klizan
Nadal should have the edge, but I feel Federer is an actual superior player right now, and he’ll expose and take advantage of a weak Nadal, Nishikori should beat Klizan again or any other player to each the final.
Nishikori d. Federer
Nishikori won the only clay court h2h meeting against Federer, and I feel no matter who his opponent it is, be it Federer, Nadal, Berdych or another player, that he will win this title. He was solid in Barcelona, and he would have won last year if he hadn’t injured himself. Clearly it’s a venue he enjoys and he’s rising overall, so a maiden Masters 100 title would be well deserved.