QArgentina Claims First Ever Davis Cup with Photo Finish Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Davis Cup final, hosted in Zagreb, was going team Croatia’s way until disaster on Sunday spelled a photo finish comeback for Argentina, as they claimed their first ever Davis Cup 3-2. The Argentinians, led by a rejuvenated and triumphant Juan Martin Del Potro lost a crucial doubles rubber and were a set away from runner-up status early on Sunday, but they won the final five sets of play in the 2016 Davis Cup final to earn a hard fought victory.
In Friday action Croatian stalwart Marin Cilic eased his way past Federico Delbonis in a fifth set. Delbonis fought hard to make it a match after going two sets down, but Cilic was simply too strong on hard courts. Del Potro evened up the tie though with a narrow four set victory over veteran Ivo Karlovic. The Tower of Tandil withered Dr. Ivo’s serve, and avoided tiebreaks in the three sets he won, dropping the only tiebreak played in the match.
Croatia was riding high when Cilic and Ivan Dodig dominated Del Potro and Leonardo Mayer in the doubles, but they were caught staring at the trophy when Cilic went two sets up against Del Potro on Sunday, and from that point the Argentine’s were able to turn everything around. Del Potro got breaks in the final three sets of his match with Cilic, and with his forehand clicking, he set up Delbonis in the decisive fifth rubber.
Delbonis didn’t disappoint, despite losing a tough match on Friday he was steady against Karlovic, who offered little on return, and was off on his own serve, dooming Croatia’s chances. In straight set fashion, Delbonis and his countryman claimed Davis Cup glory on the road. Argentina had made Davis Cup finals in recent history, but captain Daniel Orsanic was the one able to lead them to glory. The last three editions of the Davis Cup have now featured a different champion and next year’s could be no different.
Oliver Anderson produces the win of his life during ATP Brisbane qualifying Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
As the world embarks on the new tennis season, many have spoken about the teenagers that could make a name for themselves on the tour this year. One of these names not on the list is 17-year-old Oliver Anderson who has produced a massive upset at the Brisbane International qualifying draw.
Wildcard entrant Anderson is currently ranked 813th in the world and has only won eight main draw matches so far in his career. Despite having the odds against his, he upset 8th seed Denis Novikov in three sets (3-6, 6-4, 6-4) to set up a meeting with Tim Smyczek. Smyczek defeated Matt Reid in three sets in his first round match. Placed 709 places below the American in the ATP rankings, Anderson played the tennis of his life to stun the fourth seed 6-7(3), 7-6(1), 6-2. The win comes two weeks after the teenager started working with former tennis player Wayne Arthur. The Queenslander player spoke of his shock during his after match press conference.
Top seed Ernests Gulbis kicked-off his 2016 season in disappointment following a straight sets loss to Yoshihito Nishioka (6-3, 6-4). The former French Open semifinalist started qualifying in solid fashion with a 6-4, 6-2, win over Romania’s Marius Copil in the opening round. Facing the Japanese 20-year-old Gulbis had difficulty handling Nishioka’s serve. Throughout the match, the 5th seed faced one break point, which he saved, compared to Gulbis who faced six. Nishioka is currently at a career ranking high of 117th in the world. Last year he ended his season by winning the ATP Toyota Challenger.
Germany’s Tobias Kamke reminded everybody of his talent during his successful qualifying campaign. Kamke has been ranking as high as 64th in the world back in 2011, however, a inconsistent 2015 resulted in him falling down the rankings to 277th in the world. During the off-season, he reportedly spent time working with Sascha Nensel and Dusan Lajovic. The training seemed to have paid off when he defeated 7th seed Norbert Gombos 6-2, 7-5 in the first round. In the final round, he faced unseeded Estonian Jurgen Zopp. Zopp defeated third seed Thiemo de Bakker in his first round match. During the match, which consisted of some lengthy games, Kamke eased himself to a 6-3, 6-2, win after an hour and 12 minutes on the court.
Finally, Ivan Dodig was the highest ranked player to qualify for the main draw. The second seed opened up with a 6-1, 6-3, win over 2014 US Open boys’ champion Omar Jasika. Jasika will play in the upcoming Australian Open after being awarded a wildcard from Tennis Australia. Awaiting him in the last round was talented American 19-year-old Jared Donaldson. Last year Donaldson won his first Challenger title in Maui. The match was a tightly contested match with Dodig breaking the American’s serve in the final game of the match to book his place in the main draw, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
Main draw matches for the qualifiers
(Q) Tobias Kamke vs. (WC) Benjamin Mitchell
(Q) Yoshihito Nishioka vs. Lucas Pouille
(Q) Ivan Dodig vs. (Q) Oliver Anderson
It was a three-peat in Paris for world #1 Novak Djokovic who captured his sixth Masters 1000 title, and tenth overall title of the season, with a routine 6-2 6-4 victory over Andy Murray, the current world #3. It’s been the year of Novak as he moves to 78-5 on the season with one tournament left to play (the World Tour Finals in London), and reached the final of every tournament he entered, save the ATP Doha tournament at the start of the season. Djokovic also reached eight Masters 1000 finals (6-2 record in those finals), and is the first player to accomplish that momentous feat.
Djokovic faced a pair of tough matches before the final, winning his quarterfinal over Tomas Berdych in a pair of tiebreaks, and defeating his rival Stan Wawrinka with a third set bagel after a pair of hard fought sets. The win over Berdych was the first time Djokovic had won an ATP match without breaking his opponents serve. He also notched routine wins over Thomaz Bellucci and Gilles Simon in his first two matches.
Murray posted his best ever result in the Paris Masters with a pair of crushing wins over Borna Coric and David Goffin, followed by a nip and tuck three set win over home Frenchman Richard Gasquet and a straight set victory over an outmatched David Ferrer. Murray is now 9-0 after the US Open against opponents other than Novak Djokovic. The Brit will be leading his country in the Davis Cup final against Goffin and Belgium in just a couple of weeks.
Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo stopped the World Tour Finals qualification bid of Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil 2-6 6-3 10-5, as the veteran pairing made it three titles together on the season.
The singles players qualifying for the World Tour Finals in London are Djokovic, Murray, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, and Kei Nishikori with Richard Gasquet as the first alternate in the #9 race to London spot. The youngest player is 25 (Nishikori) and four of the eight contestants are over the age of 30.
The doubles teams qualifying are Bob and Mike Bryan, Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau, Jamie Murray/John Peers, Dodig/Melo, Simone Bolelli/Fabio Fognini, Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut, Marcin Matkowski/Nenad Zimonjic and Rohan Bopanna/Florian Mergea, with Pospisil/Sock and Bruno Soares/Alexander Peya coming up just short. Only Bolelli and Fognini are top tier ATP singles players, and the rest of the contestants are best at doubles.
Few believed in Stan Wawrinka, myself included, at the start of the second week of Roland Garros 2015, but he dazzled all comers with his array of powerful, spinning forehands and backhands, and captured his second career Grand Slam title over the world #1 Novak Djokovic, who was gunning for a career grand slam, and his second slam of 2015.
Wawrinka came out rather cagey against Djokovic, who took the first set with superior execution, it was a close 6-4 with Wawrinka earning just one break point chance, and after the first set it was clear this match had all the makings of a classic just like their other five setters at the US Open and at the Australian Open. Wawrinka would fire back to win the next three sets, his backhand damaged Djokovic, making him stretch out and throwing off of his rhythm, as Novak was hitting shots that sat up into the hot zone for Wawrinka.
The Djokovic serve slipped up as he started to surrender break point opportunities (14 over the last three sets), while he broke just one other time in the match, a break Wawrinka clawed back in the 4th set. The match seemed destined for a fifth, even after Stan won the second and third sets, but Djokovic collapsed under pressure, and Wawrinka rose to the occasion, playing his peak game of power hitting baseline to baseline. It worked on the Roland Garros clay, and after coming in as a huge underdog, Wawrinka leaves Paris as a well deserved champion, having turned around his 2015 season and made it into something memorable.The final scoreline was 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-4, as Wawrinka mostly dominated the last three frames in a surprise.
Prior to that, Wawrinka routined Gilles Simon on home soil in straight sets, and then he shocked his countryman Roger Federer, who came out cold, and never got hot in their quarterfinal. Wawrinka’s power flummoxed Federer and he never seemed comfortable against his good friend, Fed certainly tried, but he was lacking passion and spirit in his game, unlike in the previous round where he beat his rival Gael Monfils in 4 sets. In the semis Wawrinka surrendered a multitude of break point chances to surprise semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who was gunning for his second career grand slam final, but Tsonga failed to convert them as he won just won set off the Swiss and lost in four sets.
Prior to that, Jo had upset both Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori, ending their hopes in four and five sets respectively. Against Nishikori, Tsonga came out hot and won the first two sets, only to face a delay after a portion of the scoreboard in the stadium fell in the stands, he then lost the next two sets but rebounded to take the fifth.
The path for Djokovic went through Richard Gasquet as he beat the Frenchman with ease, and then he went through Rafael Nadal like a hot knife through butter, coming out hot, and playing unrelenting tennis against the king of clay. Rafa never really had a chance after losing the first set, and a disappointing 2015 clay court season ended with a whimper for him in the quarterfinal, as he lost for just the second time at Roland Garros.
In the semis Djokovic beat Andy Murray, who was in his third career RG semi, and playing his best ever tennis on clay. Djokovic was up two sets to love rather routinely, like most of their h2h meetings before Murray came alive, he started to win the long baseline rallies, and he took the third set. They went into the fourth neck and neck before the match was called due to impending thunderstorms. Saturday morning it resumed, and Murray promptly took the fourth set, but Djokovic redlined his game and slammed the door in the 5th, winning it 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1, as it was a tale of two days of tennis. Murray previously beat Jeremy Chardy and David Ferrer to reach the semis, both in four sets.
Djokovic has to be questioning himself right now, after an incredibly strong 2015 where hardly anyone could beat him, he collapsed under pressure and fell to the blitzing power of Wawrinka, even after getting past Nadal, and Murray on clay. When it mattered, gunning for a title he had never won before, he couldn’t get the job done, and one has to wonder if his results could suffer the rest of the season out of mental anguish. He still is the world #1, and the probable favorite for Wimbledon, and the US Open, not to mention the remaining masters, but Wawrinka, Murray, and even Federer and Nishikori are still going to give him all he can handle and try to push him.
Wawrinka cemented that he’s been a totally different player since 2013, and with his second slam, he’s moved himself into the pinnacle of great players, rather than just a one-hit wonder. He always had the ability, and he remains a streaky player, but he showed once again he has the tenacity and the fire in the belly to win a two week tournament, that is best of five sets, not to mention he has won slams on two surfaces now.
Given Federer’s legendary status, he will never outgrow his shadow, but he deserves respect of his own, not as an also-ran anymore, but as a true star on the ATP tour, his backhand is a remarkable weapon, and the effortless power he hits with is envious. He’s far from a spring chicken at 30 years old, but he should have at least two, possibly 3-4 good years left on tour where his ranking should stay in the top 10.
Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo, a successful veteran pairing upset the Bryan brothers for the doubles title. In mixed doubles American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who won the women’s doubles title as well, won the title with her partner Mike Bryan over Lucie Hradecka/Marcin Matkowski.
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.
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.
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.
2015 ATP Barcelona and Bucharest Preview/Prediction Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The European spring journey continues for the players of the ATP world tour with clay court events in both Barcelona, Spain, and Bucharest, Romania, with Barca a 500 series event, and Bucharest, one of the few ATP events in Eastern Europe, a 250.
2015 ATP Barcelona Preview
Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell
ATP World Tour 500
April 20-April 26, 2015
Prize Money: €1,993,230
Top 8 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (4)
2: Rafael Nadal (5)
3: David Ferrer (7)
4: Marin Cilic (10)
5: Feliciano Lopez (12)
6: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14)
7: Roberto Bautista Agut (16)
8: Ernests Gulbis (18)
Four of the top 10 will be playing in Barcelona, and the top 8 seeds are all top 20 players for a strong 500 level field.
First round matchups to watch:
Alex Dolgopolov vs. Joao Sousa
Dolgopolov has played relatively well in the past few weeks, but he remains a streaky highlight reel generator, he’s the favorite against the streaky Portuguese player Joao Sousa, who can struggle for weeks, but puts together a great tournament from time to time. Both these players hit the ball relatively hard from the ground, and they are solid movers, thus creating an interesting matchup, I have Dolgo winning in straights but upset potential is there.
Thiem is the favorite without a doubt, but don’t count the veteran Estrella out, as he’s known for the ability to put up the occasional heroic performance. He’s a great mover, while Thiem, though he rounded into form in Miami, lost his opening match in Monte Carlo on clay, and has been unpredictably poor this year. Estrella retired in his last match in Monte Carlo against David Ferrer, so his physical condition is in question. As I said, I expect Thiem to prevail, but it’s still an interesting matchup.
Benoit Paire vs. (Q)Jaume Munar
Benoit Paire, who used to be considered a young gun, will take on one of the unheralded young guns coming onto the tour slowly but surely, 17 year old Spaniard Jaume Munar, who qualified to reach the main draw. Munar just recently turned pro, and was a former top 5 junior who reached the French Open Junior final in 2014, I’m interested to see what he can do against the technically talented but mentally weak Paire, who has a world class backhand, but a futures level forehand. It’s a winnable matchup for sure, though Paire has played well on the challenger tour in 2015.
Fernando Verdasco vs. (Q)Andrey Rublev
Former Barcelona champion Fernando Verdasco will take on the player Munar lost to in that RG junior final in 2014, Andrey Rublev, a more recognizable young gun who won ATP matches in both Delray Beach and Miami, and then qualified to reach the main draw here. At 17, the combustible Rublev may be less mentally stable than even Verdasco, but he has all the weapons to make this a match, and he could at least take a set. Verdasco of course has the world class forehand and he reached the semis in Houston, along with a round 1 loss to Grigor Dimitrov in Monte Carlo. Once again, look for the favorite to win but the challenger to put up a more competitive contest than expected.
Kei Nishikori snapped Rafael Nadal’s chokehold on this tournament last year, as the defending champion, who is also ranked higher than the king of clay, will begin his clay court season in Barcelona and work on keeping his ranking trending upwards. It should be a relatively easy start for Nishikori, who went 10-2 on clay last year, as he will open with Pablo Carreno Busta or Teymuraz Gabashvili, both of whom have struggled in 2015. After that, Nishikori could get a shotmakers match with Alex Dolgopolov in the round of 16.
Dolgo will need to beat Sousa, and then defending finalist Santiago Giraldo, who has struggled in 2015 to set that up. Giraldo has their lone clay h2h win, but is 1-3 in the overall h2h, and he comes off quarterfinals in Houston, while Dolgopolov won a round in Monte Carlo before losing to the in-form Gael Monfils in a close contest. Regardless, Nishikori beat Giraldo in the final here last year, and he is a perfect 3-0 with no sets dropped against Dolgopolov, including a win this year in Acapulco against the man from Ukraine.
In the quarters the road is unlikely to get easier for Nishikori to defend his title, as Pablo Cuevas and Roberto Bautista Agut are the primary contenders in the section below. Cuevas won an ATP title on clay in Sao Paulo earlier in the year, and is making his European debut this year, he should be able to ease past either the struggling JL Struff or the struggling Roberto Carballes Baena, a wild card in the second round. RBA won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo, and appears to be playing a bit better than he was earlier this year, where deficiencies in his game were evident. He will open with most likely Thomaz Bellucci, one of the dangerous non-seeds in this draw who beat RBA on clay in Davis Cup last year.
Bellucci will need to beat qualifier Yuichi Sugita in round 1, and is a poor 3-6 on clay in 2015, that said, hes a streaky player who can catch form, so though I picked RBA to face off with Cuevas, Bellucci has a chance here. In that match between Cuevas-RBA, I’m going with an upset and have Cuevas into the quarters, he makes his living on clay and his game has steadily been improving over the past few months.
As for the match between Cuevas-Nishikori, Nishikori has a h2h win on clay, and he’s the better player, nothing indicates to me he will struggle presently, even though he hasn’t been red hot, and I don’t think Cuevas will have the weapons and skill needed to win that matchup, thus putting Kei into the semis.
4 seed Marin Cilic, who reached the quarters in a Monte Carlo surprise, will open with the Estrella/Thiem winner, if he struggles, Thiem could very well pull an upset and give him trouble, however his solid play in Monte Carlo gives me the confidence to say he will win that, given Thiem has likewise been erratic this season, and one would have to think Cilic, who is coming off of injury, can only improve as he gets more matches under his belt.
Casablanca champ Martin Klizan could stop Cilic in his tracks in the third round though, Klizan will need to beat Juan Monaco, who cooled down in Monte Carlo, and lost in the second round after previously showing good form. Monaco should defeat the struggling Alejandro Gonzalez however in round 1. What bodes well for Cilic’s chances is he’s 3-0 against Klizan, but they have never met on clay, and that’s a swing matchup to me, but I’m picking Cilic to go into the quarters.
Cilic/Klizan/Monaco/Thiem are almost certain to face either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Tommy Robredo in the quarters, as the section below Cilic is a weaker one. Robredo will face either Joao Souza or Mikhail Kukushkin, neither of whom are in good form, in round 2, while Tsonga has Marinko Matosevic or Marcel Granollers, two more out of form players. Tsonga is 3-2 this year, while Robredo won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo but has overall not played that great this year, it’s a hard match to pick, but Tsonga has more upside potential, and thus I’m going with him to reach the quarters and face Cilic in a rematch of their Monte Carlo match that Cilic won, given that result, a Nishikori vs. Cilic semifinal seems most likely in the top half.
Rafa Nadal is the undisputed king of Barcelona with a 42-2 record at the tournament, and 8 titles, but he lost here last year and right off the bat he has a chance to get revenge against the player he lost to, Nicolas Almagro, who opens with journeyman Paolo Lorenzi in round 1. Nadal comes off the semis in Monte Carlo, where he did well against all of his opponents except the world number 1 Djokovic, while Almagro was last a quarterfinalist in Casablanca. Nadal beat Almagro in Miami 4 and 2, and as I said should be hungry for revenge, so I really don’t expect that to be much of a match, given that the performance Almagro turned in 2014 was once in a lifetime.
Look for Nadal against Verdasco/Rublev in round 3, the seed is Fabio Fognini, but his singles game is challenger level right now (1-6 since reaching the Rio final), and Verdasco is solid enough to win especially given the 3-1 h2h. Verdasco of course shocked Nadal in Miami, and he will do his best to try do it again, however, on clay the advantage should swing further towards Nadal, and thus he should be able to reach the quarters at one of his best events.
Feliciano Lopez will player either qualifier James Ward or Marsel Ilhan, though he’s not elite on clay, he still should be good enough to win that round 2 match and setup a match with either Leo Mayer or Albert Ramos/Pablo Andujar. Ramos has been in good form in the past few tournaments, while Mayer has been struggling. Ramos leads the h2h with Mayer 3-2, but Mayer beat him in Sao Paulo this year.
Andujar has beaten Ramos before as well and they are similar ball spinning dirtballers as an aside and Ramos has been in better form, giving him the edge. I have Ramos beting Mayer, and then Lopez to reach the quarters, Ramos has a 2-0 h2h edge with Lopez, and he is a better clay court player, so given the surface, the lower ranked Spaniard has to be the favorite. Nadal has beaten Ramos twice before in Barcelona, and he should do so again to reach the semis.
David Ferrer will face wild card Albert Montanes, a journeyman veteran, or Ricardas Berankis, a former top junior turned journeyman, in the opening round. He has never won in Barcelona but he’s reached the final four previous times, and he comes off a quarterfinal loss to Nadal in Monte Carlo. Ferru has been peak this season and I expect him to blow past Montanes/Berankis and also Nick Kyrgios, the 16 seed, to reach the round of 16. Kyrgios is returning to tour from a back injury, and has limited experience on clay. In fact, the young gun may well lose to qualifier Thiemo De Bakker, or fellow young gun wild card Elias Ymer in round 2, De Bakker has been reliable in ATP qualifying this season an seems breakthrough ready. I have Ferrer beating Montanes, and De Bakker to reach the round of 16.
12 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber is the favorite for the quarterfinals in the weakest section of the draw. The wheels have come off for the 8 seed Ernests Gulbis, who badly needs to be back gaining confidence and form with his new coaching team on the challenger tour, rather than continuing to self-destruct at the ATP level. He was a cacophony of errors in a blowout loss in Monte Carlo, and I don’t see the bleeding stopping against the Munar/Paire winner, though it could. The 17 year old Munar actually has a realistic path to the third round, but I have it Paire vs. Kohlschreiber, after Kohli beats Andrey Kuznetsov, who will face Marton Fucsovics, a qualifier, in round 1. Kuznetsov qualified in Monte Carlo, while Kohli is 2-2 in his last four matches, and won a round in Monte Carlo.
Paire and Kohli have a 2-2 h2h, though Paire won the last two meetings, and Paire has a dark horse chance to reach the quarters if his game is on, he qualified in Monte Carlo and has played well at the challenger level, as mentioned. No matter if it’s Kohlschreiber or Paire in the quarters, Ferrer should reach the semis, he’s 2-0 against Kohli on clay (8-2 overall), and 3-0 overall against Paire.
Dark Horse: Benoit Paire
Albert Ramos, who I have reaching the quarters, is another dark horse candidate, but Paire gets the official designation because his run would be less likely, but more interesting. He has all the talent and the tools, but with his weak mental approach to the game, he slipped down the rankings, and now newly focused he seems to be working his way back, a run to the quarters in a weak section would be a great way to announce to the rest of the tennis world that he’s back in the game.
Cilic famously won the US Open final over Nishikori, but Kei won their clay court meeting in Barcelona, and he’s an overall 5-3 h2h leader, given the fact Nishikori is stroking the ball, while Cilic is just returning from injury, Kei is the fave.
Nadal just beat Ferrer in Monte Carlo, and almost always has, so again he’s the pick.
Nadal d. Nishikori
This is the matchup just about everyone wants this week, and I have a feeling they will get it, Nadal has a 7-0 h2h on his side, though their only clay court meeting was basically a draw as Nishikori took the first set and then hurt himself and had to retire midway through the third set in Madrid. He also has all the positive history in Barca on his side, and home fans, but Nishikori has been rising while Nadal has been in decline over the past 18 months, and Nishikori is now ranked higher than the Spanish veteran. Both players are pure ball strikers, while Nadal hits with tons more spin of course, and both fly movement wise, it’s a more even matchup than the h2h would suggest, but I feel like Nadal, who showed signs of improvement in Monte Carlo, will find a way to get it done and take the title this week.
Troicki is more accomplished than Gimeno-Traver, who just reached his first ATP final in Casablanca and he has a 5-0 head to head edge (3-0 on clay including 2-0 last year), but still DGT playe some surprisingly good tennis to reach that Casablanca final, and should have some positive momentum. Troicki is an even 2-2 in his last four, and that pretty much sums up his 2015 season thus far, some good results with losses mixed in, and he’s still looking to do better. He should win, but an upset is possible.
Borna Coric vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky
Stako crushed a listless Coric in Zagreb 2 and 4 earlier this season, but Coric has been improving since that loss, and he comes off a tough loss to Alex Dolgopolov in 3 sets in Monte Carlo. Stako lost to Tomas Berdych and is 1-3 in his last four, though he was playing some of the best tennis of his career earlier in the year. Given this is clay, Coric should win, but who knows if that h2h will hang over his head.
(7)Jiri Vesely vs. Diego Schwartzman
Vesely and Schwartzman, two young guns, have never met, and both can play their best tennis on clay. Vesely snapped an atrocious losing streak an reached the semis in Casablanca, but he promptly lost in Monte Carlo to Juan Monaco, while Schwartzman qualified and lost to Jeremy Chardy in the opening round. Vesely is favord, and more accomplished, but DSS has a great chance and I have him winning this matchup personally.
Ivan Dodig vs Andreas Haider-Maurer
AHM is nearly a top 50 player now, as the Austrian journeyman has been outdoing himself, primarily on clay, this year. Dodig, who has won twice, and lost twice to the Austrian, is still languishing just inside the top 100, though he has the skill to be much better than that. AHM is 4-2 in his last six, while Dodig is playing his first tournament since a gut wrenching loss to David Ferrer in an Indian Wells thriller. Dodig showed flashes of renewed top 50 ability in that match, and it will be intriguing to see if that shows up in Bucharest,even with AHM the favorite.
Three time champ Gilles Simon is likely to get an interesting opening match with Janko Tipsarevic, who gets a wild card for this tournament, his second since returning to the tour after a lengthy injury layoff. Tipsarevic will need to beat a qualifier, but if the reaches the second round, just as he did in Houston, he’ll have a shot at upsetting Simon for just the third time in what would be their eleventh meeting. The clay h2h is 1-1, but Simon leads 8-2 in the overall h2h, and given form, Simon will be a strong favorite. Simon is 6-3 in his last three tournaments, and has only lost to top 10 players (Ferrer x2 including Monte Carlo, and Nadal) in that span. Look for Simon to beat another Serb, Viktor Troicki, who he has a 5-0 h2h with, in the quarters. Troicki will need to beat DGT and the struggling Denis Istomin or a qualifier.
3 seed Ivo Karlovic isn’t the favorite to reach the semis in his section, that would be Borna Coric most likely, presuming he can beat Stakhovsky. While he isn’t going to be used to the Karlovic serve, as one would expect, clay slows it down to some extent, and thus it’s Dr. Ivo’s worst surface, and the one Coric is most likely to beat him on. Below Coric/Stakhovsky/Karlovic is Vesely/Schwartzman, along with former champ Florian Mayer, and Malek Jaziri. Mayer won his comeback match against Mikhail Youzhny in Monte Carlo before losing to Marin Cilic in 3 sets, and given he played pretty well, I have him beating both Jaziri an Schwartzman to setup a quarterfinal with Coric. It will be youth and form against experience, and wit, as funky flo is a difficult player to deal with given his wonky, tactically smart gamestyle. I’m going with the youth and talent of Coric to shine through at this 250, and have him reaching the semis.
Monte Carlo semifinalist Gael Monfils, who beat both Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov in the rich man’s paradise will start his Bucharest campaign against a player in terrible form, either the should be retired Mikhail Youzhny, or the challenger player Marius Copil awaits. Even if he’s fatigued, as it seems he was in his Monte Carlo semi, I still expect him to win that. Either AHM/Dodig or Simone Bolelli/Andrey Golubev await in the quarters. Given this is clay, Bolelli should prevail over Golubev. Bolelli and AHM have a 1-1 h2h, but Bolelli lost to Victor Estrella in Monte Carlo and is playing poorer than AHM at the moment, so I have a Haider-Maurer vs. Monfils quarter, with Monfils advancing unless he injures himself or is too tired to stand.
Former champ Lukas Rosol will open against Dusan Lajovic or a qualifier, with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez likely in the quarters. Rosol beat GGL in the 2013 final and he comes off a round 1 loss in Monte Carlo. GGL was shocked by Lamine Ouahab in Casablanca and is on a two match losing streak, in fact hes just 2-5 since winning the Zagreb title. GGL will need to snap that losing streak an beat a qualifier, then Steve Darcis/Marcos Baghdatis to reach the quarters. In an interesting stats note, Baghdatis hasn’t won a clay match since 2012, and Darcis, though he’s a serve and volleyer, is actually relatively solid on the surface. GGL is 3-1 against Darcis, and thus he’s still the fave even with his struggles. Rosol is streaky and very unreliable, but I’m going with the h2h and have him beating GGL for a spot in the semis.
Coric could take the title this week, Stakhovsky, a serve and volleyer, Karlovic, a big server, and possibly Mayer, a funky finesse technician all present unique matchup challenges, but Coric has a well rounded game, and the youthful energy to confront ech challenge and at least reach the semis. The reliability, yet blandness of Simon, is its own frustrating challenge, and he’s had such success at the tournament before, but you never know with Gillou, and likewise, Monfils, or anyone else on the bottom half is beatable if Borna plays well and his opponents do not, we could well see a teenage ATP champion this week.
Simon d. Coric
Monfils d. Rosol
As mentioned, Coric will need to be patient against Simon, and I’m not sure he can manage that quite yet, in their Marseille h2h meeting, Coric struggled at the start, took the second, but then lost in three, plus he should be more fatigued, thus I give Simon the edge.
Monfils won a Davis Cup match against Rosol, and this tournament is on his racquet given how well he played in Monte Carlo, if he shows interest, he should be a near lock to reach the final, as nobody is near his level on the bottom half.
Simon d. Monfils
Simon beat Monfils in Marseille this year, and also won their clay court meeting (5-1 h2h), they play what is one of the highest average rally length matchups in tennis, and though Monfils should win Bucharest this week given his level, I don’t trust him enough, and I’m going with the more reliable Simon, especially given the h2h, and the win this year.
2015 ATP Delray Beach Open Preview Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic will have on site reports on the site from local journalist Jessica Luzadas, reporting for us from the 2015 Delray Beach Open. Jessica’s main draw reporting starts today, and we will also have coverage next weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Delray Beach is the US outdoor hard court stop on the ATP World Tour this week and a 250 level event. Here is a preview of the singles main draw.
ATP Delray Beach
2015 ATP Delray Preview
Delray Beach Open by The Venetian Las Vegas
ATP World Tour 250
Delray Beach, FL, USA
February 16-February 22, 2015
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kevin Anderson (15)
2: John Isner (19)
3: Alex Dolgopolov (24)
4: Ivo Karlovic (29)
Delray has two top 20 players in the field this week, that is quite balanced.
(4)Ivo Karlovic vs. Dustin Brown Brown beat Karlovic twice last season, and both players come off disappointing losses in round 2 of Memphis. Brown lost to Steve Johnson in 3 sets after beating Marinko Matosevic, and Karlovic lost to Austin Krajicek in 3, after beating Lukas Lacko in round 1. This is a matchup of big servers, and it is likely to come down to a tiebreak or two, I have Brown advancing in a slight upset, but Karlovic’s matches against non top players are always difficult to predict.
Ivan Dodig vs. Donald Young A first meeting is on tap between these two, Dodig lost in round 2 of Memphis to John Isner after beating Teymuraz Gabashvili, while Young roared the semifinals with wins over Bernard Tomic among others before falling to Kevin Anderson. This match could go either way, and Young may be fatigued, but I still give him a slight form edge to advance to round 2 here.
Memphis finalist Kevin Anderson, a former champion in Delray, opens with a qualifier, and then should face Sam Groth, who he defeated in Memphis, yet again. Groth plays Rendy Lu in a rematch of a match he just played in Memphis, and won. Given Anderson’s style of play, he should be fine to reach the quarters over a qualifier and Groth. Denis Kudla has a nice chance at the quarterfinals as a wild card, Kudla, who qualified in Memphis, opens with Lukas Lacko, who isn’t in good form right now having lost three straight, and then a qualifier or Adrian Mannarino. Mannarino comes off a round 1 loss in Memphis to Young. Kudla will have his chance to defeat Anderson as well and reach the semis, but Kev should be the favorite to reach the semis at least this week week as the top seed.
The Karlovic/Brown winner will face a qualifier or Filip Krajinovic in round 2, I have Brown through to the quarterfinals to face American Steve Johnson. Johnson, a quarterfinalist in Memphis, opens with Mikhail Kukushkin who is up and down with his form and has lost 4 straight. After that Dudi Sela, the veteran Israeli, or young gun Andrey Rublev awaits in round 2, Rublev, a wild card, likely isn’t ready for prime time yet, even though he has a bright future ahead and is improving at the challenger level. Johnson just beat Brown in 3 sets in Memphis, and with that in mind, I have him into the semifinals this week against Anderson.
John Isner, who has never reached the final here but has three previous semifinal showings, he beat his first round opponent Marinko Matosevic 3 times last season, coming off the quarterfinals in Memphis, he should be able to reach at least the quarterfinals here in Delray, beating Matosevic, and then Igor Sijsling or a qualifier in round 2. Sijsling comes off a round 1 loss in Memphis to Bernard Tomic in 3 sets. In the quarters, look for Isner against Viktor Troicki. Troicki opens with Stephane Robert, a journeyman veteran, and then Memphis quarterfinalist Bernard Tomic, or Malek Jaziri should await. Troicki comes off the quarterfinals in Zagreb, and the h2h between Tomic and Troicki is 1-1, that should be a great round 2 contest if it comes true, Tomic shouldn’t have too much trouble with Jaziri, but the Sydney champion Troicki should have the slightest of an edge. Troicki is 3-1 in the hard court h2h against Isner, and his form is better thus far this season, so Troicki is my pick for one of the semifinal slots.
Alex Dolgopolov opens with Teymuraz Gabashvili in round 1, Dolgo has lost three straight, and Gabashvili can at times play well, but the Ukrainian should be talented enough to reach round 2, and set up a meeting with Tim Smyczek. Smyczek is in great form thus far this season (he won the Dallas Challenger), and he opens with young American Stefan Kozlov, who lost in round 1 of Memphis last week and is still seeking his maiden ATP main draw win. Look for Smyczek to upset Dolgopolov and reach the quarterfinals, to face perhaps Memphis semifinalist Sam Querrey, or the Young/Dodig winner. Querrey opens with Alejandro Gonzalez. It’s hard to predict between Querrey and Young, but Querrey was quite impressive in Memphis and thusly I have him into the quarterfinals against Smyczek. Querrey is 3-0 in his career against Smyczek on hard courts, and as a result of that, I have Querrey as a semifinalist against Troicki this week.
Smyczek could perhaps even capture his maiden ATP title this week with his improvements in play since the start of the year, his draw of Kozlov, Dolgopolov/Gabashvili and then Querrey/Young/Dodig is a reasonable path to the semifinals, after that Troicki/Tomic/Isner are also beatable, and in a wide open field, there isn’t anyone in Delray that I can say an in form Smyczek playing at peak form would lose to, that said I have him as a quarterfinalist this week in my own bracket.
Anderson d. Johnson
Troicki d. Querrey
Anderson could meet Johnson for the third time this year, he has beaten him twice before on hard courts, including in Memphis, and with that in mind I have him through to the final. Querrey and Troicki have a 2-2 h2h, I’ve been impressed with Troicki’s consistency and solid play since his comeback, and feel the Serbian is due to capture another ATP title, thus I have him winning this semi.
Troicki d. Anderson
Troicki has 1 career h2h win over Anderson, and at this point in the tournament he should be fresher than the South African if they meet, with that in mind I have Troicki capturing his second ATP title of the season this week in Delray Beach.
2015 ATP Montpellier, Zagreb and Quito Previews/Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The traditional European indoor 250 level events in France and Croatia will be on the tennis calendar this week, with players fresh from the Australian swing. In addition, a new event in Ecuador is making its debut on the ATP 250 series this week. It starts off the South American clay court golden swing.
2015 ATP Montpellier Preview
Open Sud de France
ATP World Tour 250
February 2-February 8, 2015
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Gael Monfils (19)
2: Gilles Simon (20)
3: Philipp Kohlschreiber (24)
4: Richard Gasquet (28)
A balanced field that is made up almost entirely of Europeans, as is to be expected. The seed cutoff is inside the top 60.
Struff and Nieminen have both had success at the ATP level indoors, and this should be a quality contest between two great ball strikers. Nieminen reached the third round in Melbourne, and appears to be in slightly better form, so I’d give him an edge to advance, but either of these players is a dark horse threat in the tournament overall.
(6)Denis Istomin vs. Malek Jaziri
Istomin went 0-3 in January, though two of his losses came to in-form players Tomas Berdych and Andreas Seppi as he hasn’t had the best draws. Jaziri remarkably reached the third round in Melbourne, and he’s now working with Marin Cilic’s coach, former ATP great Goran Ivanisevic, on a part time basis. Ivanisevic recently discussed in this interview that Jaziri had previously not put in much effort in regards to practicing, having a coach, working on his fitness, and so forth. Ivanisevic believes Jaziri can move beyond journeyman status with renewed effort and focus, and it will be interesting what he can do here in Montpellier, I have him upsetting the seeded Istomin.
(5)Jerzy Janowicz vs. Dustin Brown
Brown has twice beaten Janowicz indoors (at the challenger level), and JJ reached the third round in Melbourne before falling to Feliciano Lopez (scoring a notable win over Gael Monfils en route). I would expect Janowicz to win this match indoors over the erratic highlight maker Brown, but it should be a quality contest, and perhaps go 3 sets.
Defending champ Gael Monfils opens his title defense against Marsel Ilhan or Kenny De Schepper, I don’t expect Monfils to be bothered so he should slide into the quarterfinals against the Struff/Nieminen winner, with Tatsuma Ito or a qualifier also options in this section. I see Nieminen getting through to the quarters, and Monfils is 4-0 against him, including 2-0 in Montpellier, so he should be favored heavily to reach the semifinals.
Richard Gasquet appears to be on track for a huge clash with young Frenchman Lucas Pouille. Gasquet, who went 4-2 in January, and has a strong record with two titles and a final last year in Montpellier, could be ousted by the rising Pouille, who has started to come into his own after floating around with wild card status for a while on tour. Pouille has a gifted forehand, while Gasquet of course has that magical backhand, so the clash of styles should be quality. Pouille nearly took out Gael Monfils in Australia and he was a semifinalist in Auckland, still it’s a tough ask to pick him over the much more established Gasquet, who has such a good record here, so Gasquet into the quarters is the pick. Pouille opens with Alexander Kudryavtsev in round 1. Expect Gasquet against the Jaziri/Istomin winner in the quarters, with Dudi Sela, who reached the third round in Melbourne shockingly, and a qualifier also options in this open section. If Sela and Jaziri end up facing off in round 2, there could be some interesting political implications.
Gilles Simon has reached the semis multiple times, but never the final here, and he’s yet another well known Frenchman playing on home soil after the AO. Simon had an up and down January, but he should have little trouble against Andreas Beck/Edouard Roger-Vasselin in round 2, and his first test should come against Janowicz in the quarters. Benoit Paire and a qualifier are also options, and the formerly promising Paire, failed to even qualify for the Aussie Open, as his career has taken a nose dive after knee problems. Janowicz is 1-0 indoors against Simon, but I see that result reversing itself if they meet again, Simon’s pushing should frustrate Janowicz into enough errors to gift him the match.
Philipp Kohlschreiber, who appeared to be playing much better in Melbourne than he has been for quite some time, opens with a qualifier or the veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu in round 2. I expect Kohli, barring a blast from the past for PHM, to reach the quarters, and then take out one of Joao Sousa/Laurent Lokoli/Tobias Kamke/Vincent Millot in the most open section of the draw. Kamke isn’t playing well right now, so Sousa, who has also had indoor success, and reached the third round in Melbourne, should reach the quarters but fall to the German at that stage.
Pouille would need to defeat Gasquet, but the ceiling for this talented young Frenchman is quite high, as he seems to be the next great player hailing from that country to burst onto the ATP scene. Pouille has all the shots, it’s just going to be a matter of him gaining experience at the highest level, and working on things like his shot selection and fitness. Should he upset Gasquet, he certainly has a chance to get to the semis and play Monfils with a chance for revenge. He’s an enjoyable player to watch no matter how far he goes here.
Monfils beat Gasquet three times last year, including in the Montpellier final, so he should have an advatage going into a possible semifinal encounter. By picking Kohli over Simon i’m going against the h2h by a sizeable margin (Simon 2-0 indoors, 4-0 on hard courts) and both have been known to be inconsistent at times, it’s a hard pick to make, and the reason why I’m going with Kohli is because he played well against Tomic in Australia and seems motivated to better himself.
Final: Monfils d. Kohlschreiber
Monfils has had success here before, and additionally he’s 4-0 on indoor hard against Kohli, thus he has to be the favorite to take the title in Montpellier, though you never really know with his form.
PBZ Zagreb Indoors
ATP World Tour 250
February 2-February 8, 2015
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Ivo Karlovic (27)
2: Adrian Mannarino (36)
3: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (37)
4: Gilles Muller (42)
One of the weaker fields for a tour event this year most likely, it’s truly wide open in Zagreb. Marin Cilic was supposed to headline but he pulled out of this tournament still recovering from injury.
First Round matchups to watch:
Borna Coric vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky
One of the home favorites who the crowd will be rallying behind in Zagreb, the young Croat Coric went just 1-3 in January, and will be looking to improve on his record this month, boosted by home cooking and home soil. If he is to have a 2015 season where he gets inside the top 50 and stays there, he will need to win matches like this one against Stakhovsky, he’s a better player than the Ukrainian number two who plays splotches of good tennis mixed in with a lot of journeyman results. To add to the intrigue, Stakhovsky won the title in 2008 here. That said, without weather being a factor, and with crowd support, Coric should rise to the occasion and win this one.
Ivo Karlovic could get a tough test right off the bat against Marcos Baghdatis, who reached the third round in Melbourne shockingly, and is a former champion here. Baghdatis will need to beat wild card Toni Androic to get to round 2. Karlovic and Baghdatis split meetings in 2008, I’ve been impressed by Baghdatis over the past month, and I have him through to the quarterfinals. The Coric/Stakhovsky winner will have a shot at the quarters, with Blaz Kavcic and Mikhail Youzhny also in this section. Youzhny is a former champion in Zagreb as well, but he’s playing incredibly poorly right now, he’s 2-0 against Kavcic but both their meetings were competitive, so I have Kavcic through to round 2 in an upset, and then Coric over him for a spot in the quarters, with Baghdatis eventually making the semis.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who reached the second week of Melbourne, just his second week 2 appearance in singles in a slam, opens with Damir Dzumhur/qualifier. The dangerous name here is Sydney champion Viktor Troicki, who has been rising back up the rankings since returning to tour, and should be able to feast on a weak draw like this. GGL is good enough to reach the quarters, but Troicki should demolish a qualifier, then Go Soeda/qualifier to setup a meeting with him, and then I have Troicki winning that match to reach the semifinals.
Auckland finalist Adrian Mannarino will face Igor Sijsling or a qualifier in round 2, that’s not going to be an impressive match, but Mannarino should reach the quarters to meet perhaps Croatian Ivan Dodig. Dodig seems to be improving and his first match against countryman Mate Delic is winnable. Likewise he’s better than Marcel Granollers or Jurgen Melzer presently on an indoor hard court, though Melzer did qualify in Melbourne surprisingly. Melzer is 2-0, with two 3 set wins in his career against Dodig, one of which came indoors. Dodig is my pick for the semis in this section as I have him taking out Mannarino.
Gilles Muller, who reached the round of 16 in Melbourne, will open with Ricardas Berankis or Lukas Lacko, Lacko has had success here before but Muller is serving well right now so he should comfortably make the quarterfinals. Lurking in this section is Andreas Seppi, a quarterfinalist in Melbourne, and semifinalist in Doha who has really been hitting his shots well this past month. Seppi opens with a struggling Robin Haase, then has Antonio Veic or James Ward in his way, that shouldn’t be much of a contest, and I have Seppi, who is 2-1 indoors against Muller, through to the semifinals in a tight contest.
Dark Horse: Marcos Baghdatis
When it comes to an unseeded player who can have a surprising result, Baghdatis fits the bill, if he makes the semis, a match against Troicki will be difficult but winnable and likewise Muller/Seppi are beatable all be it tough in a potential final. Baghdatis is seeking a career resurgence in his later years and winning an ATP title would be a massive step towards that.
Baghdatis is 4-1 in his career, and 3-1 on indoor hard against Troicki, that said I feel the Serbian has been the better player, and playing better tennis as of late, so I still have him through.
Seppi is 4-1 against Dodig on hard courts in his career, and with how well he played in January, signs are good that he will reach the final. He just beat Dodig in Doha.
Final: Seppi d. Troicki
Seppi beat Troicki once on hard courts, and this is a difficult match to predict, however I have the Italian winning the ATP title here off of his good momentum and balanced approach over the past month.
Ecuador Open Quito
ATP World Tour 250
February 2-February 8, 2015
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Feliciano Lopez (14)
2: Santiago Giraldo (32)
3: Fernando Verdasco (33)
4: Martin Klizan (34)
Just one top 20 player in the field for this tournament, but it’s full of an interesting set of clay courters really and lots of Latin American flair at this maiden event.
Feliciano Lopez, who did well in Melbourne is the marquee name here, he had a poor January before the AO and had to drag himself into the second week, but he appears to be playing better tennis at the moment, and will shift onto clay against Alejandro Gonzalez or Facundo Bagnis. I have Lopez over Gonzalez (who beat Bagnis twice on clay last year) for a spot in the quarters, with 7 seed Dusan Lajovic in line to take the other spot. Lajovic will need to avoid upsets against Luca Vanni, and qualifier/Gonzalo Escobar but he’s got a really lucky seedline here with no serious competition. Expect Lopez over Lajovic in the quarters.
Fernando Verdasco, who reached the third round in Melbourne, will also be shifting his powerful game to clay, his first match will come against either a qualifier or Andreas Haider-Maurer, and then veteran clay courters are in the section below him competing to meet him in the quarterfinals. Joao Souza will face Alejandro Falla in R1, and Paolo Lorenzi will face Adrian Menendez Maceiras. Souza is 3-1 on clay against Falla, and Falla has been struggling so I have Souza into round 2, I have Lorenzi over AMM (3-0 including 2 wins last year in the h2h). Then I have the Brazilian into the quarterfinals, Lorenzi has won their last three meetings, but Souza has won twice on clay against him and appears to be playing slightly better right now. Verdasco should take out Souza and reach the semis.
Santiago Giraldo, who got off to a rough start in 2015, will face veteran Spaniard Albert Montanes or young Argentine Facundo Arguello in round 2. Even with Giraldo just 1-2 in 2015, he beat an aging Montanes last year on clay, and twice overall, and he’s 4-1 in the career H2H so he should be heavily favored to reach the quarterfinals here (Arguello has only played one tournament match this year and it was a bad loss in a clay court challenger). Awaiting Giraldo should be Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, Bellucci will face formerly established Ecuadorian player Giovanni Lapentti in round 1, and then the Horacio Zeballos/Austin Krajicek winner. Though Zeballos capable of random bursts of form, Bellucci is the relatively more accomplished name and he should get to the quarters here. Bellucci bested Giraldo twice last year, and hasa a 4-1 clay h2h against him, so he may be the favorite, but I feel this pair have careers going in the opposite direction right now, with Giraldo having a breakthrough 2014, and Bellucci seemingly stagnated around the top 100. In my own bracket I have Giraldo in the semis.
Martin Klizan opens with Daniel Gimeno-Traver or wild card Marton Fuscovics in round 2. Klizan is one of the rare European players that isn’t playing in Europe this week, and instead prefers his tennis South American style. Klizan should reach the quarters, and the inspiring veteran story Victor Estrella should await him. The unsung grinder Estrella faces a qualifier, then stagnated Russian Evgeny Donskoy, or a qualifier in round 2. Klizan is more accomplished and skilled than Estrella, but in these conditions Estrella will certainly have a shot at the semis, I put Klizan through in my own bracket though.
Bellucci is the type of player who could acquire a burst of form, and streak his way into perhaps an ATP title. He has an easy path before Giraldo in the quarters, and Giraldo is in a beatable condition right now, especially given the favorable H2H. Likewise Klizan/Estrella are beatable opponents on a good day for him and this entire field is beatable given it’s not that strong.
Verdasco and Lopez have pretty much split h2h meetings and it could go either way, that said, Lopez gives me the feeling that he’s setup to not win the title here, and Verdasco has the game to be able to take him out.
Giraldo has won clay win against Klizan, and the altitude should help him, it could go either way but Giraldo should be slightly favored.