2016 ATP Istanbul Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The third ATP tournament this week is a clay 250 in Istanbul, Turkey. This tournament is in the second year of its existence, and is one of the few tournaments in the Middle East.
TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open
ATP World Tour 250
April 25-May 1st, 2016
Prize Money: €426,530
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Bernard Tomic (21)
2: Grigor Dimitrov (28)
3: Ivo Karlovic (29)
4: Federico Delbonis (40)
This is the weakest ATP tournament this week with two of the top four seeds likely to exit early.
First round matchups to watch:
Facundo Bagnis vs. Diego Sebastian Schwartzman
Schwartzman leads the h2h with Bagnis 2-1, and it’s a battle of rising Argentines. Bagnis has a quarterfinal in Casablanca on his recent record, while DSS has just one win in his last five matches. I favor Bagnis to prevail in a tough battle.
Bernard Tomic is the top seed, but he’s terrible on clay and I have him losing to either DSS or Bagnis in the second round. Current Bucharest finalist Lucas Pouille has to play Monday in Romania, and then travel to Istanbul to face Illya Marchenko. He should win that match and continue his good form, but I have Damir Dzumhur beating Teymuraz Gabashvili, and then Pouille, for a spot in the quarterfinals, due to fatigue for Pouille. Dzumhur isn’t a great player, but Gabashvili is in poor form, and Bagnis is my semifinalist from an open first section.
Federico Delbonis is 10-5 on clay this season and just made the semis in Bucharest, after taking the title in Casablanca. Delbonis will open with Dudi Sela, or qualifier Andrey Rublev in round 2. Rublev is better on clay than Sela, but Delbonis has the edge to reach the quarterfinals. Albert Ramos isn’t in great form, but he’s better on clay than Adrian Mannarino, he’ll have a tough match wild card Karen Khachanov in round 2, after Khachanov defeats Aljaz Bedene. Given it’s clay, I have Delbonis defeating Ramos for a semifinal spot.
Grigor Dimitrov is the most talented player in this field, and he should roll to the quarterfinals, with a win over Filip Krajinovic, or qualifier Adrian Ungur. Jiri Vesely is 5-2 in recent clay court matches, and stands in the way of Dimitrov in the quarterfinals. Vesely opens with Thiemo De Bakker, with Roberto Carballes Baena, or wild card Marsel Ilhan to follow. Dimitrov beat Vesely on clay last year, and thus I have him reaching the semifinals of a tournament for the third time this season.
Ivo Karlovic is 0-6 on the season and thus I have qualifier Renzo Olivo defeating Dusan Lajovic, and then Karlovic for a quarterfinal spot. Monte Carlo quarterfinalist Marcel Granollers should defeat local favorite Cem Ilkel and then qualifier Carlos Berlocq, or Hyeon Chung to reach the quarterfinals. I have Granollers showing his veteran talent to reach the semis over Olivo.
Roger Federer Claims Inaugural Istanbul Open Title Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Federer claimed the crown, Cuevas was runner-up (photo credit:; Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Heavy rain stopped just before the match today, and the final of the tournament started on time without a delay in Istanbul in front of 7,000 spectators. Roger Federer didn’t make the mistake Dimitrov did yesterday and never hesitated to be in a rally against Pablo Cuevas’ BH. Federer broke the Uruguayan in his first service game, and won the first set 6-3. In the Second set, Cuevas began to play much more aggressive, while Federer was running around the balls on his BH to hit inside out forehands. Cuevas had a bad service day, also his performance was mediocre overall.
Federer was a bit better today compared to his previous matches here. The Swiss got the break in perfect time against Cuevas, and served to make it 5-3 in the second set. but failed in the crucial moment, with unusual errors. Then Federer got chances to break again in the very following game, but after some brave points from Cuevas he held the game. It went to a TB, where crazy, undefinable things occurred. Cuevas got the first minibreak, and lost it with the UE. Then, Uruguayan double faulted in 4-4, and Federer got 2 MP, after winning the next point. Cuevas saved them all, and ridiculous errors and brilliant shots followed afterwards, included an amazing BH DTL return winner on SP down by Federer -which he explained in press with the line ‘’I got lucky”.
It was a packed house (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
It was all over when Cuevas made the last UE of the match at *11-12, and Federer became the inaugural, and expected champion of Istanbul Open. This is Federer’s first ever red clay title in 6 years, since winning French Open in 2009. How the World No. 2 will transform this form to bigger tournaments, is yet to be seen. After his press conference, a few members of the press lined up for photos with the inaugural champion who graced Istanbul with his legendary presence.
It was a worthy finale in Istanbul (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Federer Will Face Cuevas in Inaugural Istanbul Open Final
Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Federer took out a pesky Schwartzman in 3 sets (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
On semifinal Saturday of the Istanbul Open, Roger Federer had to fight hard yet again, to be the first finalist of the day. Diego Schwartzman broke twice Federer in a set he moved very well in and Federer was again terrible at returning and limiting his amount of unforced errors. The world number 2 struggled get his clay game back in Istanbul, and there were also many shanks from the Swiss. During the second, Federer served in high level, and raised the pressure on DSS’s service games, which resulted in breaking him twice. Federer recovered from losing the first set 2-6, to recycle that score and force a third with a 6-2 second set.
The third set featured beautiful tennis, with DSS painting the lines with wonderful point construction, and hard work. The young guns deep hitting was an effective tactic against Federer but Federer got break point chances in 3 service games of the Argentine. DSS’s awful net play today, and considerable amount of random errors in crucial times cost him the match, as Federer finaly broke at 6-5, and won the match in the third. This will be the 4th ATP tour final for the Swiss this year. Also it was a positive week for Schwartzman, and he got a standing ovation from the crowd, after his legendary performance today, with the chants of “Diego” even though they were rooting mainly for Federer the whole match.
 R. Federer (SUI) d  D. Schwartzman (ARG) 26 62 75
The second semi final of the day, was disappointment, for the crowd, who expected much better performance from Grigor Dimitrov. Pablo Cuevas, was solid again, playing an aggressive match this time, while Bulgarian was the one who was hanging on by his fingernails. The world no:11 was not playing his high level of tennis today and got broken five times by Cuevas in a match lasted barely more than a hour, which should be worrying for Dimitrov. Cuevas was the better side, and has the better clay game between the two. After watching their Grisha’s unexpectedly abysmal performance, many Bulgarians left the stadium with much frustration and sadness. Cuevas, made his second final this year, after the win in Sao Paolo, and continued to play a game which is suited nicely to clay.
Albot/Lajovic beat Guccione/Sa 6-4 7-6(5) to setup a doubles final against Lindstedt/Melzer the top seeded team.
Tomorrow’s final should be comfortable win for Federer, if he raises his level, even a bit. The Swiss is far superior player to Cuevas in every aspect of the game. They have never played before, which is interesting. If 1st seed keeps his bad form, and doesn’t bring his A game though, it may turn to a bit tricky meeting especially on clay against the Uruguayan. Still I’d go with two close sets, like 7-6 7-5 for Federer tomorrow. The final match of the inaugural ATP Istanbul Open, starts at 5 pm local time.
Federer, Dimitrov, Schwartzman, and Cuevas reach Istanbul Open 2015 semifinals Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Federer won a thriller (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
It was sunny day at the Istanbul Open today. Due to May day demonstrations against the government, police bottlenecked public transportation, which resulted in difficulties for fans trying to reach the venue, Still, that didn’t prevent thousands of them thronging to see Federer, and Dimitrov among the big names in action.
The day started with impressive youngster Diego Schwartzman facing 4th seed Santiago Giraldo. The Colombian stormed past the first set in 20 min, and stunned both Schwartzman and the crowd. The second set, again saw a break by Giraldo in the very first game, as he capitalized to make it 2-0. Suddenly, Schwartzman raised his level, and began to play much more aggressive with the perfect movement. The Argentine won six games in a row, and made it to final set. For a third consecutive time, Giraldo broke in the first game of the set, but got broken thanks to his silly mistake, and a good fight by Schwartzman. Giraldo was serving abysmally at this point, and the first hold came for 2-2. Schwartzman saved three break points with wonderful shotmaking and point constructing as we are used to seeing from him this week. Giraldo threw his racket at this point, and started whine about crowd, resulting in him getting booed for around 2 minutes. The set was basically decided at this point, and Giraldo lost five straight games to drop the match. Giraldo was the favorite but he missed his chances, and DSS reached his first ever ATP semifinal.
Schwartzman d. Giraldo 0-6 6-2 6-2
Schwartzman reached his first ATP semi (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
The packed stadium was ready for Roger Federer meeting No: 62 Daniel Gimeno-Traver for the second QF. Federer after winning his service game, broke the Spaniard only to get broken back in following game. Then, an even set started, both players cruised in their service games with the help of their opponent putting up a multitude of unforced errors. Federer couldn’t get the break in the 4-3* game where he missed three break point chances. The set was decided by TB, which was entertaining. Federer finished it winning with beautiful points.
Federer won a tough first set (photo credit; Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
DGT was the better player in the second, with deep shots often on his forehand side, and wonderfully executed drop shots, troubling Federer unexpectedly. Federer made many mistakes when returning, also his BH didn’t work as he wished. The Spaniard despite losing the break advantage when serving for *5-3, still won the set in the TB. The Third set started tense, Federer had to save four break points in the opener with a lot of “Komm Jetz” from the world No:2, which was crucially important for both side. After Fed’s surviving, the match balanced out yet again into a classical clay court battle. Eventually, Federer broke DGT in the 4-3* game with great crowd support on his back, and served out without any incident. Swiss was the second semifinalist of the day, after the long struggling match lasted 2 hours and 27 minutes.
Federer d. Gimeno-Traver 7-6(3) 6-7(5) 6-3
During the first match of the night session, there were around 300 Bulgarian fans with their flag in the stands, to support their countryman Grigor Dimitrov for his match against Croatian veteran Ivan Dodig. The world No:11 was far superior as expected, Dodig played some good points here and there, but his level was never catching Dimitrov’s high quality. The Bulgarian played very aggressive, and made Dodig run a lot, benefiting from the No:107’s poor movement. Despite the unnecessary amount of UE’s from Dimitrov, his performance was enough to routine Dodig without much trouble. Dimitrov seemed very motivated to reach the SF at the Istanbul Open, in front of the fans from his homeland.
Dimitrov d. Dodig 6-4 6-3
Bulgarian fans were excited to see Grisha (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
In the final match of the night session, which was another late nighter, Thomaz Bellucci couldn’t continue his fairytale run against Pablo Cuevas, and let his opponent revenge the loss in Miami.The Brazilian played a high-risk match as his forehand was again very powerful, same as his shotmaking capability, but the Uruguayan grinded through the many games, while getting almost every ball back, especially after he was down 3-1 in the first. Cuevas played solid, and broke again the Brazilian in the last game, to win the set 7-5. In the second, Bellucci broke himself twice, and lost the match, despite the fact that he was the one who offered enjoyable tennis most of the time. Cuevas didn’t make many unforced errors, started to serve wonderful after the middle of the second set, and never gave a chance to lefty again. Cuevas was the last semi-finalist of the day and received standing ovation from around 100 people left in the stadium.
Cuevas d. Bellucci 7-5 6-3
Cuevas was less exciting but more effective (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Tomorrow, the semi finals day, the first match starts at 3:30 pm local time, where Federer will be the obvious favourite against Schwartzman, who he has beaten this season. Then Dimitrov faces Cuevas, a match match which is expected to be a close battle with Dimitrov the favorite.
In Mens doubles, Lindstedt/Melzer beat Daniell/Grialdo 6-2 6-1, to reach the final, with Guccione/Sa and Albot/Lajovic playing the other doubles semi on Saturday.
Federer, Gimeno-Traver setup quarterfinal clash at 2015 Istanbul Open Wednesday Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Federer captivated crowds in his Wednesday victory (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Day 3 at the Istanbul open, saw only four men’s singles matches.
Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver beat 6th seed Kukushkin, in straight sets, and made the QF of ATP 250 tournament three times in a row. The Kazakh was helpless and Gimeno-Traver was effective with his forehand.
Gimeno-Traver d. Kukushkin 6-3 6-3
Second match on the Center Court, was a beatdown, between the undersized Argentine Diego Schwartzman and veteran Jurgen Melzer. It was one of the best matches I have seen Schwartzman play, great shot-making with also enormous foot work. Melzer, on the other hand, was poor throughout the match. He earned a couple of break point chances early in the second, but failed to take it, thanks to aggressive plays from the 8th seed on those points. 52 min was enough for Schartzman for the in the end.
Schwartzman d. Melzer 6-0 6-2
In the first match of the night session, 4th seed Santiago Giraldo prevailed over Andrey Rublev in a very tight 3 setter. In the first set, after two breaks from the each, The Colombian broke again in a long game at 2-2, which decided the set. Rublev, after losing the first set, went to bathroom break, and came back calmly. The world No: 292, cruised in the second, breaking the 4th seed two times, and won the set pretty comfortably. This effort from the Russian teenager, set the first ever 3 setter at the Istanbul Open main draw. In the third set both players got chances for early breaks with, No further break point chances occurred until the 6th game of the set, where Rublev made some unforced errors, and Giraldo won the game with his experience. Then the Colombian served out and won the third set, while Rublev whined a lot to himself, and threw his racquet Still, it was a good showing from the youngster. Crowd adored the effort that the young gun put in.
Giraldo d. Rublev 6-4 1-6 6-3
The scene for Giraldo-Rublev (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
In the last match of the night session, 1st seed Roger Federer routined Jarkko Nieminen,with the mostly packed stadium cheering him on. The Swiss maestro started his first ever match in Turkey with a break, while the Finnish played poorly in the first, Federer was good enough to win the set 6-2 in a very shot time. The second was a bit tricky, with both players raising their level. Nieminen fought well with his limited game, Federer looked good on forehand, and also served worked great. It was an even set, the Finnish escaping his every service game, but he couldn’t make it to tiebreak, where he may have had a chance to force a third, and lost the 5-5 game despite having a game point.
Federer served out comfortably afterwards, and made it to QF at the Istanbul Open. The crowd went crazy with the joy of seeing him play for the first time. Federer said, it was slow and humid out there, as expected for night clay match, regarding the surface at the press conference.
Wednesday Doubles Scores:
Bury/Gabashvili d. Martin/Raja 6-2 6-3
Golubev/Istomin d. Kukushkin/Nedovyesov 6-3 6-4
Guccione/Sa d. Altuna/Basilashvili 6-3 6-2
Albot/Lajovic d. Marach/Oswald 6-7(9) 6-2 10-8
Rublev, Dodig win Tuesday at ATP Istanbul 2015, Turkish Players Crash Out Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Rublev scores another ATP md win (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Today at the Istanbul Open, was a day of minor upsets. Mikhail Kukushkin routined his opponent in all Kazakh battle as expected 6-3 6-4, despite coming back from the break down in the second. Alexandr Nedovyesov has nothing to trouble the 6th seed. Turkish WC Cem Ilkel played an okay match, especially in the second. Though, his volleys were poor and his second serves were not working at all. With the home crowd on his side, he kept the score close against a solid clay courter, No:62 Daniel Gimeno-Traver. The Spaniard dominated the first set, but crowd started to push kid, at least to get the second set. Ilkel did well for a time, until he was serving 4-5 down, where he got broken again and lost the match. It was Ilkel’s first ever ATP tour match, so it was still a good showing, with DGT advancing 6-1 7-5.
DGT beat one of the Turkish MD players (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Turkish No:1 Marsel Ilhan played a miserable match later in the day, unforced errors were flying off his racket, and he was very impatient with his play, likely partially influenced by the immense pressure of being the home favorite. The Turk was everything but clutch, missing 8 break points in 3 different games. On the other hand, Jarkko Nieminen was not special today, the lefty used his BH slices very well, Ilhan never responded well to these shots. The Flying Finn played deep balls, with a limited number of UEs. His serves were weak, but it was enough for Nieminen to keep the ball in play and wait for an error from Ilhan. A crowd of about 1,000 watched the home favorite slump to a 6-3 6-4 defeat.
The night match on Center Court, was between Andreas Haider-Maurer and Ivan Dodig. TheCroatian revenged his loss in Bucharest, in a meeting where he served extremely well, and took his chances in the key moment of the match. The 5th seed AHM, lacked intensity, and lost fighting spirit after dropping the first set. Dodig played a really solid match and pleased remaining crowd which was reduced after Ilhan lost. The scoreline was 7-5 6-3
Dodig pushed past AHM (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
On the outside courts, Andrey Rublev was on top of his game against Damir Dzumhur 6-3 6-3, the young Russian executed his game well, with using wonderful forehands as his main weapon. Rublev dominated the match in straight sets, which resulted in Dzumhur grumbling and cursing at himself for its entirety. The Bosnian Dzumhur whined about the court size to chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani, asking his opinion whether could Rafael Nadal play here or not. It was a high tension match with both players exchanging unkind words after a net point. Overall, Rublev was the one who focused on his job, and impressed the crowd with his great performance. The only hiccup he faced, was getting broken after Dzumhur’s Medical timeout, but he answered well in the following game with breaking back. He seemed so promising on clay, though his net game needs improvement.
Other results from today
 Diego Schwartzman (ARG) d [Q] Blaz Kavcic (SLO) 62 61
Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d Steve Darcis (BEL) 52 Retired
Denis Istomin (UZB) d Benoit Paire (FRA) 63 64
[Q] Teymuraz Gabashvili (RUS) d Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) 76(1) 64
Dusan Lajovic (SRB) d [Q] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 64 75
We have yet to see a 3 setter in the main draw at the Istanbul Open.
Tomorrow, Day 3 starts with second round matches on Center Court. Mikhail Kukushkin and Gimeno-Traver will face early in the day, which will be also their second meeting this year on clay. The Kazakh will be looking to get the win this time, and even the their H2H. Additionally Austria’s Jurgen Melzer will take on Diego Schwartzman, who beat woeful Blaz Kavcic. The Argentine dirtballer should be the favorite.
In the night session, 4th seed and Sao Paolo semi finalist Santiago Giraldo will be up against Andrey Rublev. This will be the best match of the day, one could say. Given form and ability, that is fair to say Russian has a great chance to make the quarterfinals. Nevertheless, I’d expect an entertaining match which goes to 3rd set. In the last match of the night session, world No:2 Roger Federer will face Jarkko Nieminen, whom he has a clear match-up advantage, as well as the game superiority. Beside their 14-0 H2H, the Finnish never got more than 5 games, in any of their clay meetings. Also Nieminen played really a mediocre match today, which declined the expectations even lower. Federer, though, coming off the shock loss to Monfils in Monte Carlo, will not be tested here until semi finals, if not the final, it seems.
Kokkinakis qualifies, Golubev, Bellucci advance to round 2 at the ATP Istanbul Open Monday Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Today at the Istanbul Open, the qualifying tournament was concluded and the main draw started with two matches. On qualifying side, after 6/8 seeds made the final round, the top 4 seeds advanced to the main draw. Blaz Kavcic (d. Marton Fuscovics 6-0 6-1) has been drawn against Argentinian youngster Diego Schwartzman, Teymuraz Gabashvili (d. Radu Albot 7-5 6-2) will face countryman Andrey Kuznetsov, Australian young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis (d. Lorenzi Giustino 6-0 1-0 ret.) will face Serbian Dusan Lajovic, and Aleksandr Nedovyesov (d. Evgeny Donskoy 6-7 7-5 6-3) will be up against another countryman Mikhail Kukushkin for a place in the second round of the Istanbul Open.
Two of the qualifiers escaped from the seeds and got kind draws, while the others have 6th and 8th seed to beat to go further.
For the main draw action, there was no suprise, even with the seed losing. The first match on center court, Andrey Golubev and Wildcard Nikoloz Basilashvili played a very dull match. Basilashvili played poorly and proved that he is not ready for the ATP Tour main draws yet. The Georgian made many unforced errors during the whole match which was barely more than a hour. Also 27 year old Kazakh escaped from all BPs with quality serves and winning approaches on his first serve.The more solid player and the one with better clay game won the match comfortably. A crowd of around 300 did not seem particularly pleased with the quality of the contest.
Golubev was far superior on the day (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
In the second ATP main draw match of the day, no:74 Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci. playing on his best surface, beat the out of form 7th seed Russian Mikhail Youzhny, recording his second clay win against the veteran. Youzhny started to match surprisingly well, his caused was helped by Bellucci’s careless play early in the set. The Russian was leading 5-3 with the only break in the set, but eventually lost the advantage with some crucial errors. There was a huge scream from Bellucci after his maiden break of the match, then, both players won their service games, and the tiebreak decided the set. Belluci got the first mini-break with impossible winner down the line, only to lose it with an UE next point. At 6-5 in the TB, Brazilian capitalised his set point in his first attempt. Second set was much comfortable for the lefty, who used his powerful FH and grinded through the victory. It was an hardly upset in the end.
Bellucci stormed past Youzhny (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Tomorrow, the first match on Center Court will be the all-Kazakh matchup. 6th seed Mikhail Kukushkin, will take on Aleksandr Nedovyesov who he beat in their only clay meeting, in 3 sets last year. I expect a similar scenario between the two, anything other than Kukushkin win, would be a suprise, after the Nedovyesov’s not impressive performances in last 3 days.Then, two Turkish players will be in action on Center Court. 19 year old Cem Ilkel takes on Casablanca finalist, and Bucharest semi finalist Daniel Gimeno-Traver, while the Spaniard is the obvious favorite, he may be a bit tired after a large number of matches over the past weeks, and his inconsistency generally may be an advantage for the youngster to keep it close.
Nedovyesov will face Kukushkin (photo credit :Ahmet Fevzi Guclu
Marsel Ilhan on the other hand, home favourite and Turkey’s best player ever, will start his campaign against the veteran Jarkko Nieminen, who hasn’t played since an early exit in Monte Carlo. Following the loss against Feliciano Lopez in the second round of Barcelona, the Turk will be motivated to get back his good form on home soil. Their close ranking, also suggests quite a battle. Still, with the experience on his side, the Finnish will be the slight favourite, to make the second round. Ilhan will desperately need the crowd support tomorrow to be able win and setup a marquee match against Roger Federer in round 2. The final match on Center Court willl be the rematch of Bucharest first round, 5th seed Andreas Haider-Maurer will be again the favourite, though Dodig’s victory after a tough fight shouldn’t suprise anyone. Also the Austrian played a lot lately so his body may let him down, an unpredictable match lies ahead.
On the outside courts, some good matches are scheduled. Suprise kid of Barcelona, young Russian prospect Andrey Rublev, who just beat Fernando Verdasco last week, will be looking to keep his momentum going against the Bosnian hope Damir Dzumhur. This will be really close, but another solid performance from Rublev following week, wouldn’t be that easy. I’d go with 3 sets win for the Bosnian.
Next match on Court 1, Jurgen Melzer will play against Steve Darcis, both have bad reputations as of late on clay, it will be a toss-up, while Darcis win is much likely in the end. Last match on Court 1, Andrey Kuznetsov will be fighting against Teymuraz Gabashvili for a place in the second round of Istanbul Open. Despite the fact that Gabashvili being a qualifier, he has the better ranking and clay game, making him the favorite to advance.
Blaz Kavcic and Diego Schwartzman will open the Court 2 tomorrow, an easy win for the Argentinian should be the safe pick, The latter is the far better clay courter, and Slovenian always has had some trouble on the dirt. The following match on this court, will be between Denis Istomin and Benoit Paire. Uzbek is having bad clay season, and the young Frenchman came back from injury with good wins on his belt, the most recent one was against ErnestsGulbis in Barcelona. Paire has really a good clay game and may be a dangerous player on the day, if he wants. The momentum is on his side, hence is the obvious favorite of this meeting.
Finally the last match on Court 2, impressive Australian teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis will face Dusan Lajovic, though Kokkinakis is not tested here against important names yet, he has the clay game needed to beat the Serbian. Lajovic beat the 19 years old in Acapulco in 2 sets two months ago on hard, but the fate of popular youngster may change this time, if he shows his best against a very mediocre player like Lajovic.
2015 ATP Istanbul Preview Steen Kirby and Ahmet Fevzi Guclu, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic is pleased to have credentialed media coverage of the inaugural ATP Istanbul tournament, held in the suburbs of diverse, and modern city of Istanbul, Turkey. For years, Turkey has done the tennis world a service by having a variety of futures and challenger tour events, and now they have the ATP event they deserve, and this one of course is on clay, part of the European spring clay court season. We will have daily reports and interviews from the tournament all week long.
2015 ATP Istanbul Preview
TEB BNP Paribas Open
ATP World Tour 250
April 27-May 3, 2015
Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (2)
2: Grigor Dimitrov (11)
3: Pablo Cuevas (23)
4: Santiago Giraldo (31)
Istanbul has two top players, and the seed cutoff is 61, not bad for a maiden ATP event.
Ilhan, the top Turkish ATP player, who reached a career high ranking this year inside the top 80, has a chance to score a win against Nieminen, an accomplished but struggling veteran at the moment. Ilhan reached a clay court final at a challenger in Turkey, and also won a round in Barcelona before losing to Feliciano Lopez in a third set tiebreak. He has a positive record on clay at a lower level than ATP, and also reached the quarters in Dubai this year on hard court. Nieminen has lost two straight, and has yet to win consecutive matches since the AO. Given his experience, Nieminen is a slight favorite, but he’s not at his best on clay, and Ilhan should have home support that should be a boost to him.
Damir Dzumhur vs. (WC)Andrey Rublev
A battle of young guns, the 22 year old Dzumhur was a semifinalist in Casablanca, and also has a challenger title on clay this year. Rublev shocked Fernando Verdasco as a qualifier in Barcelona and is in good form, he also pushed Fabio Fognini to 3 sets in the next round. This year, the 17 year old already has 3 ATP main draw wins, and he’s rising up the ranks. Dzumhur has more experience, but Rublev has a higher ceiling, and I see him advancing from this matchup.
AHM just beat Dodig in 3 sets in Bucharest (6-4 in the third), and they will get a rematch a few days later. As expected, their matchup in Bucharest was quite the battle, and both guys should be itching to go at it again. AHM has seen some of the best results of his career this season, while Dodig continues to struggle, though he’s foguth hard in most of his matches this season. AHM should be the fave but I again expect it to be close.
Roger Federer is a strong favorite here, even though he lost in Monte Carlo to Monfils, and he will open with the Ilhan/Nieminen winner. If Ilhan wins, our on-site reporter Ahmet Fevzi Guclu expects the crowd to be split between the home favorite Turk and the fan favorite Federer, that said, Federer should ease into the quarters, and also dispatch most likely Daniel Gimeno-Traver to reach the semis.
DGT opens with 19 year old Turkish wild card Cem Ilkel, and similar to the journeyman Haider-Maurer, he’s had a surprise career year, late in his career. He reached the final in Casablanca, and the semis in Bucharest, and has wins over Jiri Vesely, Viktor Troicki, and Gilles Simon in the past few weeks. After Ilkel, his opponent will be either Mikhail Kukushkin, or a qualifier, and Thanasi Kokkinakis is lurking in the qualifying draw. Kukushkin is just 2-3 in his last five matches on clay, so he’s vulnerable to a defeat, DGT has won their last two meetings on clay, and hence he’s the favorite for the quarters, in this weak section.
4 seed Santiago Giraldo will be vulnerable to defeat against the Dzumhur/Rublev winner, after a career year last year, he’s been average at best this season, even on clay. I still have him going through in my own bracket, but that round 2 match should be competitive. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman will open with a qualifier, and then the Steve Darcis/Jurgen Melzer winner. Neither Melzer nor Darcis are in good form, Darcis may have the slightest of edges though as Melzer has struggled for quite a while. Schwartzman qualified in Monte Carlo but has been forgettable on clay this year, with just 1 main draw win on the surface (1-6), again he may be vulnerable to being upset by a qualifier. Giraldo may well make the semis if he can survive his round 2 match, simply because the section below is so unreliable, thus I have him in the semis over Darcis.
2 seed Grigor Dimitrov has not had a good season in 2015, but he still should be good enough to beat Nikoloz Basilashvili or Andrey Golubev in his opening match. Golubev is on a three match losing streak, and Basilashvili, who won his first ATP match earlier this year, has lost two straight, he’s primarily a challenger player though he’s been rising onto the fringe of the ATP level. Golubev is a slight fave to win that match, but should have little chance against Dimitrov. Look for Andreas Haider-Maurer to reach the quarters, with wins over Dodig and Dusan Lajovic/qualifier. Lajovic is 5-5 on clay this season, but he’s just 1-2 in his last three matches on the surface. AHM and Dimitrov have never played before, but the Monte Carlo quarterfinalist Dimitrov should advance to the semis given the talent discrepancy.
Pablo Cuevas will face Andrey Kuznetsov or a qualifier in round 2, he lost in round 2 of Barcelona, as did Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov, who qualified in Monte Carlo as well, should beat the qualifier, but Cuevas will be the favorite in their first head-to-head meaning, again given the difference in ranking and ability. In the quarters, Cuevas could face a difficult opponent, either Thomaz Bellucci or Benoit Paire. Bellucci will open with Mikhail Youzhny, who won a match in Bucharest before falling in round 2. Bellucci has won their last two meetings, and given how poor Youzhny has been this season, I expect him to do so for a third consecutive time. The Brazilian also won a round in Barcelona. Benoit Paire, who qualified in Monte Carlo, won a round, and then won two matches in Barcelona as well, will open against the struggling Denis Istomin. Bellucci and Paire have never met, but given current form, I have Paire winning to reach the quarters, and then upsetting Cuevas to reach the semis. They have never met before.
Dark Horse: Benoit Paire
Paire has always had the talent, and he’s reached two previous ATP finals (former top 30), however his mental side has been what is unreliable, along with a poor forehand. He’s rounding back into form this year and is nearly back in the top 70, with recent improvement in results, this 250 level event is where he can finally shine and announce his return to the main tour spotlight. Istomin, Bellucci, and Cuevas are all beatable in order, and Dimitrov is a weaker seed than Federer, in the bottom half. That would be a monumental upset ranking wise, but Paire has beaten Dimitrov twice before (2-1 h2h), giving him a dark horse shot at an ATP final.
Semis: Federer d. Giraldo
Dimitrov d. Paire
Federer is 2-0 against Giraldo, though they have never met on clay, and as mentioned, Dimitrov has a negative h2h against Paire, but still has to be the favorite to prevail, as he’s developed better in the past couple of years.
Final: Federer d. Dimitrov
Fed routined Dimitrov in Brisbane this year, and is 3-0 against him, Dimitrov has never taken a set against a more accomplished player of a similar style, and thus he should take this 250 title.