Mannarino, Janowicz Surge Into @_Swiss_Indoors Main Draw Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
The 2015 Swiss Indoors tournament has a star-studded field with eight out of the world’s top 16 players participating in the event. Headlining the strong field is Roger Federer, who will be bidding to claim a historic seventh title in Basel. Ahead of the main draw, two rounds of qualifying took place with 16 men battling for four places in the main draw.
French top seed Adrian Mannarino endured a bumpy ride into the main draw. In his first round of qualifying he defeated Australia’s John-Patrick Smith (6-4, 6-4), to set up a meeting with American fifth seed Denis Kudla. Kudla moved into the second round after his opponent, Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic, retired at the start of the third set. Mannarino was in danger of losing to Kudla as he trailed 4-0 in the deciding set of the match. Despite the odds being in Kudla’s favour, he failed to maintain the lead as Mannarino clawed his way back to win 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, after an hour and forty-eight minutes.
Mannarino will play in the main draw of the tournament for the second time of his career. The first was in 2013 where he lost in the opening round to Roger Federer. The 27-year-old will be aiming to reach his third ATP final this year after Auckland, New Zealand in January and Bogota, Colombia in July. In the first round Mannarino will play Serbia’s Viktor Troicki for the first time in his career. At 42 in the world, Mannarino is currently ranked 18 places lower than Troicki.
There was consolation for Kudla after he received a lucky loser place in the main draw following the withdrawal of Marcos Baghdatis. In the main draw he will play fellow American Jack Sock. Kudla has played sock on four previous occasions, losing in three of them. Their most recent meeting was in the first round of the Canadian Open where Sock won in three sets.
Former Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz was more convincing in his qualifying campaign. The world No.65 recently underwent surgery on his left knee when he had stem cells injected into it. In the first round, he brushed aside Spanish wild card Jaume Munar (6-1,6-3). The fourth seed faced a potentially tricky match against former top 10 player Minhail Youzhny, who beat Georgian sixth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in straight sets. The Russian was no match for Janowicz as the Polish player defeated Youzhny 6-4,6-1 after 65 minutes.
Janowicz will play Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round. The Pole will be hoping to repeat his form displayed during last week’s Vienna Open where he stunned fifth seed Dominic Thiem in the first round. It is this second time this year that Janowicz has played the German. Their first encounter was in the second round of the Stuttgart Open where Kohlschreiber won in straight sets.
Robin Haase overcame a testing second round match to reach the main draw. In the first round, he Defeated Swiss wild card Adrien Bossel (6-2,6-4) to meet Benjamin Becker. Becker dropped just three games in his opening match against Swiss qualifier Antoine Bellier. Despite being broken four times in the second set by the German, Haase edged past Becker 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Haase’s first round opponent will be Austrian 22-year-old Dominic Thiem. The Dutch player currently has a 100% winning record against Thiem after winning their two previous meetings (2014 Vienna Open and 2015 Davis Cup).
Completing the lineup is Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic, who survived a marathon encounter. After a straight sets win over France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu, he faced Belgium Ruben Bemelmans. The Belgian stunned second seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the first round. Lajovic was two points away from defeat but held his nerve as he edged his way past Bemelmans 7-6 (3), 6-7 (5), 6-4, after two hours and eleven minutes.
Lajovic’s reward for surviving his marathon match will be a clash with Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov. The Serbian will be seeking revenge after losing in three sets to Dolgopolov in the third round of the 2014 Miami Masters.
2015 ATP Metz and St. Petersburg Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP World Tour returns with the start of the European fall indoor hard court swing. A pair of 250s are up this week, one in Metz, France, and the other in St. Petersburg, Russia, as that event returns after being absent from the tour calendar last season.
ATP World Tour 250
September 21-September 27, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (4)
2: Gilles Simon (10)
3: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (17)
4: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (31)
Two top 10 players, and three top 20 players gives Metz a quality field for a small indoor 250 at this point in the season.
Kohlschreiber had a successful outing in Davis Cup for Germany over the weekend as he went 2-0, but the former Metz finalist has had a down season at the ATP level thsi year. Additionally, he may have to fight fatigue and jet lag as he’s coming back from the Caribbean with Davis Cup duty. Millman is a talented underachiever who won a pair of challengers over the summer and can play solid tennis at times, Peppo is still the favorite, but this match has some upset potential.
(6)Martin Klizan vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu
PHM is playing on home soil, and veteran who relies on solid ballstriking is a relatively solid player indoors. He recently reached the final in Kitzbuhel on clay over the summer, beating his opponent Klizan in the process, and qualified for the US Open. Klizan comes off a 2-0 result in Davis Cup and has an indoor h2h win over Mathieu in Rotterdam (2013, 3 sets) but he’s a streaky player who can ball bash well, or struggle mightily. Depending on what version of Klizan will show up, he’ll either advance with ease or lose in an upset in this matchup of contrasting styles.
(WC)Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky
The US Open doubles champion Herbert recently reached his first ATP title in Winston-Salem, and on home soil with a big serve, he’s a danger to the serve and volleyer Stakhovsky. Stako reached the third round of the US Open and a recent challenger final however (in Istanbul), so his form appears good. An inspired PHH could rock the boat this tournament, and with a recent h2h win over Stako, I have him winning against him again.
(8)Fernando Verdasco vs. Alexander Zverev
Verdasco is just 2-5 since Wimbledon, and he risks dropping that number to 2-6 at the hands of the young gun Zverev. The teenager had a successful summer and qualified for the US Open among other good results. His indoor game isn’t as good as his clay court game, but the big hitting Verdasco has struggled to find rhythm and I’m going to go with an upset and pick Zverev, who is on the upswing of his career, while Verdasco is clearly heading downhill.
Stan Wawrinka was pushed to five sets in his DC singles rubber against the lower ranked Thiemo De Bakker on Friday, but the Swiss #2 is unlikely to have much trouble getting past the first couple of matches in Metz. Wawrinka is 42-13 on the season and also reached the semis of the US Open most recently. Look for him to get past a serve and volleyer in his first match, either Rajeev Ram or the big serving Dustin Brown, who also comes off of DC duty, and then past Kohlschreiber for a spot in the semifinals. Stan the Man is 2-0 in the h2h, and should not only be in better form, but also be fresher than his German counterpart. Both players have elite one handed backhands and it’ll be a fun matchup if it takes place. The Kohlschreiber/Millman winner faces either Belgium’s Davis Cup hero Steve Darcis, or dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi in round 2 with the serve and volleying Darcis likely too tired to make much of an impact this tournament.
Two-time Metz champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was excellent at the US Open, where he reached the quarterfinals, and the aggressive Frenchman tends to play well indoors, and at home. The fan favorite is placed in a weak section that will feature either a qualifier or Pablo Carreno Busta in the round of 16, and by ranking #7 seed Adrian Mannarino in the quarterfinals. Nicolas Mahut, the other half of the winning US Open doubles team, could prove to be a bit of a dark horse if the serve and volleyer can get his game together and beat a struggling Federico Delbonis (a loser of 5 straight matches) and Mannarino, who has been streaky this season. All of the French players are fan favorites at home, but Tsonga is a clear favorite to reach the semis for a likely matchup against Wawrinka. I have Mahut slipping past Mannarino, though it’s hard to tell with Adrian.
Two-time Metz champion Gilles Simon, another of the French fan favorites at this tournament, will open with a qualifier and from there should advance to face the big serving and dangerous Gilles Muller in the quarterfinals. Muller opens with Aljaz Bedene as he looks to snap a 3 match losing streak. The serve and volleyer is at his best on fast surfaces and I see him slipping past the Verdasco/Zverev winner in a potentially close match. Simon beat Muller last year in Tokyo, and I see him earning a pair of wins to snap a four match losing streak and reach the semifinals.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez won a pair of matches at the US Open to improve his form, but of the four top seeds, he’s still the most likely to exit before the quarterfinals, as the Herbert/Stakhovsky winner could stymie him with their unique styles of play. The Spanish veteran has won a title on indoor hard courts this season though and he has more experience than Herbert in a tough section. The other quarterfinalist will be one of Aleksandr Nedovyesov/Vasek Pospisil/Klizan/Mathieu, with Mathieu my favorite out of the section. Pospisil also has talent but he’s inconsistent, so look for Mathieu past Pospisil, and then Garcia-Lopez over Mathieu in a wide open section.
Frenchmen Herbert, Mathieu, and Mahut could all serve as unseeded dark horses this week, but with the #2 seed Simon struggling, if Muller serves well he could reach the semifinals, and potentially the final out of the bottom half. After gaining some rest, he should be fresh and he plays well on these types of surfaces historically.
Semis: Wawrinka d. Tsonga
Simon d. Garcia-Lopez
Tsonga has a h2h win in Metz (2007) but the previous few meetings have gone in favor of Wawrinka, and the Swiss has clearly outperformed his French counterpart this year, and in recent memory. Wawrinka simply should be a cut above his semifinal opposition.
Simon is in a slump but he’s 5-0 in the h2h against GGL, so if he gets this far, he should reach another Metz final.
Final: Wawrinka d. Simon
Presuming Wawrinka devotes effort to this 250 tournament he should win it, he’s the best player in the field by a considerable margin, and a player like Simon won’t be in the form to match him toe to toe right now.
ATP St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg Open
ATP World Tour 250
St. Petersburg, Russia
September 21-September 27, 2015
Prize Money: $1,030,000
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Tomas Berdych (5)
2: Milos Raonic (9)
3: Dominic Thiem (20)
4: Roberto Bautista Agut (22)
Even without the strong contingent of home players that Metz sports, St. Petersburg returns to the ATP Tour after funding problems last season with a strong field that features two top 10, and three top 20 players in what should be an entertaining edition of the tournament.
Their teams faced each other in Davis Cup over the weekend, with Bolelli and Italy emerging victorious, but now the young gun Rublev would like to extract some personal revenge for that loss at home in St. Petersburg, where he is one of the stars of the tournament, and the future of Russian tennis at the moment. The teenager qualified for the US Open, snapping a summer of struggles, but his loss in Davis Cup to Fabio Fognini should dent his momentum a bit. Bolelli, a solid player indoors, is also the loser of three straight however and the Italian veteran is looking to gain momentum himself. Look for big hitting in this matchup, and as celebrated as Rublev is, I have Bolelli grinding out the win.
(6)Benoit Paire vs. Jerzy Janowicz
Janowicz beat Paire in three sets earlier this year on indoor hard, but Paire has had a much better season than Jerzy and has been in excellent form since the summer. The French all-courter and his one handed backhand reached the second week of the US Open while Janowicz is 2-3 over his last five, which includes Davis Cup duty over the weekend. Janowicz with his power game is also solid indoors, but I have Paire winning this matchup of talented but often underachieving players.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Ernests Gulbis
Two aggressive baseliners will face off in this one, Gulbis one the 2013 edition of St. Petersburg, while Baghdatis is 0-3 since suffering an abductor injury in the ATP Atlanta final back in July. Gulbis has lost four straight and, like Baghdatis, his last match ended in a retirement, as both guys have struggled to get healthy. A poor season for Gulbis is contrasted by a good season overall for Baghdatis, and I have the Cypriot notching the victory presuming his health has sorted itself out. Baghdatis is 3-0 in the hard court h2h.
Tomas Berdych had a poor summer by his top 10 standards, but the Czech is still 45-15 on the season and should have the inside track against Bolelli/Rublev. In the quarterfinals, look for him to face Australian young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kokkinakis opens with pedestrian Spanish veteran Marcel Granollers, and then he’ll face either Joao Sousa or a qualifier in round 2. Both Sousa and Kokkinakis come off of Davis Cup play but Sousa is in poor form, and although he’s had a lot of success on indoor hard, I have Kokkinakis winning that matchup. Berdych should power past Kokkinakis at that stage however.
#3 seed Dominic Thiem reached the third round of the US Open in a decent showing for the Austrian, and he’ll look to continue to improve on fast surfaces with a routine win over Daniel Gimeno-Traver or newlywed Andreas Haider-Maurer in round 2, as both players much prefer clay. In the quarterfinals, Mikhail Kukushkin could prove to be the dark horse, as he opens with a relatively struggling Denis Istomin and then will face a qualifier or the mightily slumping Benjamin Becker in round 2. Kukushkin played well at the US Open and beat Istomin at the start of the season, his game tends to peak for these smaller 250 events. Thiem and Kukushkin have never played one another, but Kukushkin’s hard court form is arguably better right now, and I have him scoring the rankings upset and reaching the semis.
Milos Raonic has struggled since Wimbledon with a pedestrian 2-3 record. The Canadian #1 hasn’t been the same with his rocket serve since foot surgery, but he’s playing an easy match to open in St. Petersburg against either Evgeny Donskoy or a qualifier. Donskoy, a wild card, has been in excellent form at the challenger tour level this summer but Raonic should still prove too much for him. In the quarters he’s likely to face another player in a slump, as the Baghdatis/Gulbis winner or Tommy Robredo/Mikhail Youzhny are options. The 33 year old Robredo has had a far superior season to Youzhny, so though Youzhny is playing on home soil, Robredo should get through, and likely get past Baghdatis/Gulbis as well, as they may be rusty in their own right. Raonic is 4-0 against Robredo in the h2h with all wins coming since 2013, so with that in mind the Canadian should make the semifinals.
Roberto Bautista Agut is 29-23 this season and comes off a second week showing in the US Open that should give him some good momentum in what has been a rather average year by his standards. Russian Davis Cup participant Teymuraz Gabashvili, presuming Gaba beats a qualifier, should await him in round 2, and Gabashvili is a player capable of crafting upsets, like he did against Andy Murray this summer in Washington. RBA is the section favorite, but Gabashvili could find form and reach the quarters, though he’s not my pick to do so. Paire/Janowicz or Ricardas Berankis/Lucas Pouille will await most likely ether RBA or Gabashvili at that stage. Presuming Paire continues his run of form, which is always in question, I look for him to make it that far before falling to RBA. Berankis has also been in good form as of late with his undersized game. RBA is 7-0 in the h2h against Paire.
If a non seed is going to reach the semifinals or better, Berankis is the player to watch, he’s just 5-8 but he’s always been talented and he’s one of the better pure baseline ball strikers on the ATP tour. He reached consecutive quarterfinals on the US Open Series this summer and he plays well on fast indoor surfaces. Paire/Janowicz are streaky, and RBA/Gabashvili are beatable, so it’s far from out of the question that the Lithuanian will do well at a tournament that is close to home for him.
Semis: Berdych d. Kukushkin
Raonic d. Bautista Agut
Berdych is simply better than Kukushkin and has a h2h win, so like Wawrinka in Metz, if the top seed puts his efforts into this tournament, he’s the favorite. Raonic has a h2h win over RBA last year in Paris, an indoor tournament, and he should be motivated to fight hard this fall on fast surfaces to gain some ranking points after a slow Summer.
2015 Davis Cup Semifinals and World Group Playoffs Preview Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A pair of semifinals take place starting Friday in the 2015 Davis Cup, along with the entire World Group Playoffs, with teams looking to move up to the world group or hang on to a coveted world group spot after an early exit in the world group main draw earlier on in the season.
Tennis Atlantic will have onsite coverage as Australia travels to Glasgow, Scotland a raucous Emirates Arena for a commonwealth battle with team GB. The British have Andy Murray once more on indoor hard courts, and presuming he’s in shape, it’s likely he’ll be able to win his pair of singles rubbers over Thanasi Kokkinakis and likely Bernard Tomic on Friday and Sunday. This tie should come down to the doubles, as Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt, the veteran rock of the Australian team, are set to do battle with either Dominic Inglot/Jamie Murray, or perhaps the Murray brothers, or Inglot/Andy Murray depending on what team GB captain Leon Smith decides.
Challenger tour level player Dan Evans was an interesting choice for this tie, and is likely to be an afterthought against Tomic/Kokkinakis in singles. With all that said, we could well be looking at Evans in a live 5th rubber, and I give Australia a slight edge in this tie with a strong doubles pairing as long as their team doesn’t implode with so many combustible personalities. Tomic, of course, has his problems with Tennis Australia for starters.
The Belgians get home court advantage and thus get to hold this tie on a favorable indoor hard court surface in Brussels. That fact alone makes them the favorite in this tie, as David Goffin and his veteran teammate Steve Darcis should be able to manage three wins in singles alone against the Argentina pairing of Federico Delbonis and Leonardo Mayer that is scheduled for the singles rubbers.
Goffin has been in good form as of late, and Delbonis is poor on hard courts, though Mayer can play solid tennis at times and may have an edge over Darcis. In doubles it’s scheduled to be Kimmer Coppejans/Ruben Bemelmans against Carlos Berlocq/Diego Schwartzman, and given the surface, the Belgians also have an advantage there. In a surprising result, Belgium should see itself in the Davis Cup final, though they aren’t a powerhouse tennis nation.
India gets home court on outdoor hard but they face a Czech team with stronger players and more experience in Davis Cup. Yuki Bhambri and his teammate Somdev Devvarman, both of whom rank outside the ATP top 100 are expected to play singles against top 100 Czechs Jiri Vesely and Lukas Rosol while the veteran pairing of Leander Paes/Rohan Bopanna should have a minor edge over Radek Stepanek/Adam Pavlasek in doubles.
Vesely should be able to win both his singles matches, but look for Bhambri to potentially rise coming off of a challenger title. He’s a talented player and could shock Rosol in the opening rubber. With that said, the Czechs have a rankings and talent edge here and I have them pulling out a win.
At home on indoor hard it would be a shock if the Swiss won by anything less than a 3-0 sweep. That is due to the fact that the fearsome tandem of Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka are playing to keep them in the World Group against a Dutch squad lacking a top 100 player. The Dutch have underachievers Thiemo De Bakker, Jesse Huta Galung, Matwe Middelkoop, and Tim Van Rijthoven on their squad and they are facing a Swiss Goliath in this one. Barring an injury or change in the Swiss lineup, they should win this with ease, and Marco Chiudinelli and Henri Laaksonen will be able to get experience in the dead rubbers.
Italy has a solid veteran team but they do have to travel to Russia for this indoor hard court battle. Fabio Fognini, coming off his first hard court wins of the season in a strong US Open showing will look to continue the momentum against Russia’s Andrey Rublev and Teymuraz Gabashvili, and if he wins those matches, the pressure will fall on either Simone Bolelli or Andreas Seppi/Paolo Lorenzi to provide the tie clinching victory.
Rublev is a gutsy young gun battler and Gabashvili is a talented shotmaker at times, but outside of the combustible Fognini, the Italian team seems to have a consistency advantage on their side. Evgeny Donskoy and Konstantin Kravchuk round out the Russian team that will need a true team effort to pull this off. Bolelli could falter, but Seppi and Fognini should be good enough to get the job done and keep Italy in the World Group.
Uzbekistan has the huge advantage of getting to face team USA on red clay at home, and they could be facing a jet lagged USA due to the sheer difference in location. This is a tough test for American tennis which could see itself exiled from the World Group once more, if Denis Istomin and Farrukh Dustov can pull off an upset.
Team USA captain Jim Courier is going with some new faces on the team this time, with Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, and Donald Young joining veteran presence Sam Querrey. A lot of pressure will ride on Sock, who is the best clay court player on this team (he won an ATP title on clay this year in Houston) but is coming off of a heat stroke at the US Open, which could factor into his fitness. Istomin is a streaky player and Dustov is a challenger level player in poor form, so most likely Dustov will lose twice, and it may come down to Johnson/Querrey doubles to decide the tie. We could be looking at a live fifth rubber, but some how, some way, a unified Team USA should survive.
Outdoors on clay team Colombia will have a chance against Kei Nishikori and Japan, but presuming Nishikori has resolved the injury that hurt him at the US Open, the team from the land of the rising sun are favorites in this tie. The veteran pairing of Santiago Giraldo and Alejandro Falla, along with doubles specialist tandem Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah are back for Colombia, while Japan has Nishikori, the young Yoshihito Nishioka, Yasutaka Uchiyama for doubles, and Taro Daniel, who is solid on clay, for singles.
The Colombians with a specialist doubles tandem should win that rubber, and pressure will fall on an out of form Giraldo to snap his slump and get past the still challenger level Daniel, who poses a threat to him. Presuming Nishikori is raring to play, look for him to beat Falla/Giraldo, and a live fifth rubber could be quite interesting in this one, especially in regards to which player, besides Nishikori, Japan will nominate for it. Cases can be made for the speedy Nishioka, or Daniel, based on how Daniel plays on Friday, but in the end I don’t feel Colombia is in good enough form to win this tie at the moment.
Germany, even on the road on hard courts in the Dominican Republic, are heavy favorites in this rubber simply because the DR has no top 200 players outside of veteran wonder Victor Estrella, who isn’t in world beating form at the moment. The German team has veterans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Benjamin Becker, with Philipp Petzschner and Dustin Brown for doubles. while the DR rounds out their team with Jose Hernandez-Fernandez, Roberto Cid, and Jose Olivares, an 18 year old.
Becker is in horrible form for this tie, and may lose his rubber, but Kohlschreiber and the German doubles tandem should be enough on their own to get the job done, as Estrella in his current form is not going to be able to do it all. I’m surprised Germany didn’t nominate Brown for singles over Becker.
Brazil gets home clay for this tie against European tennis power Croatia and if the veteran Thomaz Bellucci can step up, they may just pull off a big win over a weakened Croat team. Joining Bellucci are Joao Souza, a dirtballer, and Marcelo Melo/Bruno Soares for doubles. Croatia matches with the young gun Borna Coric, Ivan Dodig, and Franko Skugor for doubles, and Mate Delic as a second singles player.
Bellucci is in good form and should cruise past the challenger level Delic, while Coric presents a tougher test, but a winnable one all the same. Along with that, Brazil has a clear edge in doubles with their specialist pairing, and Delic should prove the weak link that sends Brazil through even though Souza is in abysmal form.
This closely matched European battle matches former Eastern Bloc nations on indoor hard court in Poland. Jerzy Janowicz, Michal Przysiezny, Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, the latter two for doubles, make up the Polish squad, while Slovakia counters with Martin klizan, Norbert Gombos, Andrej Martin, and Igor Zelenay, a doubles specialist.
Like a couple of the other WG playoff ties, this one could go either way and the potential Janowicz vs. Klizan Sunday clash may be what swings the tie. Klizan should be able to beat challenger level Przysiezny, and Gombos is a close match for him, while Janowicz is the wild card depending on his streaky form. The Polish team likely has an edge in doubles, so if Janowicz plays well, Poland should win, if he fails however, the advantage shifts to Slovakia. Given home court advantage, I’m favoring Poland by a hair in this one.
Action Outside of the World Group
Relatively few notable matches will take place outside of the World Group semis and playoffs this weekend, but Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer have gotten the Spanish Armada back together again and should steamroll a weak Danish team in Denmark to hold onto group 1 status. Likewise Ricardas Berankis and Lithuania are sure to have an edge at home against a Ukrainian team that lacks their best two players. Joao Sousa and Portugal face Belarus, and Gonzalo Lama and Chile face Venezuela.
2015 ATP Cincinnati Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final Masters stop on the Emirates Airlines US Open Series is in Cincinnati as most of the top players in the men’s game will attempt to “do the double” and play back to back in Montreal and Cincy. The joint event is one of the best tournaments in the USA and this years Western and Southern Open also promises to be special.
2015 ATP Cincy Preview
Western and Southern Open
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
Cincinnati, OH, USA
August 16-August 23, 2015
Prize Money: $3,826,655
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (3)
4: Kei Nishikori (4)*
5: Stan Wawrinka (5)
6: Tomas Berdych (6)
7: Marin Cilic (8)
8: Rafael Nadal (9)
Of top names, only David Ferrer is absent due to an elbow injury. Kei Nishikori was injured in Montreal and also pulled out, replaced by Alexandr Dolgopolov.
First round matchups to watch:
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Fernando Verdasco
Tsonga has a 3-1 h2h advantage in this matchup of power baseliners. Verdasco is currently on a four match losing streak, but the big hitting Spaniard played a solid match against Nick Kyrgio and may be turning a corner. Jo won three matches at the Rogers Cup and reached the quarterfinals, with that in mind, his form should carry him to a win here, but this match should feature some great ball striking on both sides of the net.
(10)Gilles Simon vs. Ivo Karlovic
A close h2h (3-2 in favor of Simon) should make this match more interesting than it looks on paper. Simon is higher ranked, but Karlovic has had a solid summer overall and scored a pair of quality wins in Montreal. The Frenchman by contrast suffered an early round 2 exit, and his bland counterpunching game, may not be well suited for the wam-bam thank you ma’am tennis of Karlovic. The styles of play are totally opposite, and if the surface plays fast enough here, I see the veteran Karlovic scoring an upset.
(14)Gael Monfils vs. Jerzy Janowicz
JJ beat Monfils this year at the Australian Open (1-1 h2h), and with that in mind this matchup could also result in an upset, though I’d still say Monfils is the favorite. Janowicz is just 6-6 on hard courts this year, while Monfils exited round 2 in Montreal, and both guys are looking to find some form headed into the US Open. Janowicz is a power hitter, and Monfils is a great mover and defensive player, I favor his skills to find him a win, but it could go to three sets.
(12)Richard Gasquet vs. Nick Kyrgios
Gasquet and Kyrgios will meet for the 5th time in just two seasons as they have a knack for finding each other in draws. Richard won both their meetings this year and overall leads the h2h 3-1, that said Kyrgios, who drew fire for his insults aimed at Stan Wawrinka in the Rogers Cup, is actually playing good tennis right now on hard courts and continues to be a dangerous non-seeded lurker in ATP draws. Kyrgios has a lot of baggage surrounding him, and people are having to take sides either for or against him, but that shouldn’t distract from his actual abilities as a tennis player as the young Aussie reached the third round in Montreal. He may be distracted, but Gasquet pulled out of the Rogers Cup before his first round match, so his health has to be somewhat in doubt. A healthy Gasquet likely has an edge, but I’m picking Kyrgios because Gasquet is in question.
(9)Milos Raonic vs. Feliciano Lopez
Raonic has a 3-2 edge over Lopez as both players are big servers who are comfortable coming to net to finish points. Milos, who has lost two straight matches and was bounced round 1 at his home tournament in Canada, isn’t in great form at the moment and is playing well below what his ranking would suggest. Lopez likewise has struggled this year and has lost two straight matches, as the veteran has been dogged by inconsistent and sloppy play, especially in clutch moments. I doubt this match will feature either player at their best, Lopez will have an upset chance, but I see Raonic surviving and reaching round 2.
Djokovic, a four time finalist who has never won in Cincy, will try once more as the top seed and world #1 to get a trophy he has long sought. He lost in the Montreal final, and though he had some shaky matches in Montreal, and possible elbow problems, he’s still in good form and the best player in the world. First up for Novak is likely to be Gilles Muller (who faces qualifier Benoit Paire, who is in good form, round 1), Djokovic is 2-0 against Muller this year without dropping a set and thus he should win that over the big server. The Tsonga/Verdasco winner could be a danger in his second match though, presuming they win over David Goffin/qualifier Rendy Lu. The Belgian ballstriker is just above .500 on hard courts this year but won two matches in Montreal. Tsonga leads the h2h over Goffin 3-2 and they split meetings this year, given the surface, Tsonga should earn a win and reach round 3.
Tsonga actually won his last meeting over Novak (Toronto 2014), though Novak overall has a h2h edge. The winner will likely come down to Novak’s physical condition, especially with his elbow, Tsonga will have a chance, though I have Djokovic reaching the quarterfinals.
Stan Wawrinka did not perform well in Montreal and he’s just 10-8 in his career in Cincy, with that in mind, expectations have to be low for a player who retired in the third set of his heated match against Nick Kyrgios. I see Wawrinka being bounced out in round 2 at the hands of Borna Coric, presuming the young gun Croatian beats fellow young gun qualifier Alexander Zverev in round 1. Coric is 9-9 on outdoor hard (lost to Wawrinka early in the year) and upset Andy Murray this year on the surface in Dubai, he comes off a close loss to Tsonga in Montreal, and Wawrinka is vulnerable to his abilities, thus look for Coric to get another top 10 win in his young career. The Simon/Karlovic winner will have the inside track to face Coric/Wawrinka round 3 as neither Dominic Thiem nor Martin Klizan (a loser of three straight), are in good form. Thiem should hopefully be rested and adjusted from clay now, but I see him falling to Karlovic in round 2.
I see Karlovic beating either Coric/Zverev or Wawrinka, as he’s in good form, the surface favors him, and he should be able to eke out a win and reach the quarterfinals, in what would be a nice dark horse run for the well traveled veteran. Karlovic beat Coric on clay this year.
Kei Nishikori pulled out due to injury and was replaced by Alexandr Dolgopolov, who is likely to face Bernard Tomic in his first match. Tomic upset Marin Cilic in Montreal, reaching the third round, and also won a title this Summer in Bogota, his form is well-known to be inconsistent, but I see the junkballing Aussie beating Sergiy Stakhovsky and then beating the streaky Dolgopolov in a shotmakers special. Tomic vs. Monfils/Janowicz is the likely third round match, Monfils should be able to avoid the upset against Jared Donaldson/qualifier Nicolas Mahut as long as he beats Janowicz, though this tournament will be a good opportunity for the teenage American Donaldson to play against the ATP’s best.
Monfils and Tomic have played just one time at the ATP level (Stockholm 2011), and thus it’s hard to predict a winner, that said if Tomic is in form I see him reaching the quarterfinals as another under the radar threat.
Tomas Berdych, who suffered a shock loss to Donald Young in Montreal, will look to recover and build upon his 19-6 hard court record this season. Presuming nothing is physically wrong with Berdych he should have a decided edge over Jiri Vesely/Thomaz Bellucci in his first match. Vesely has a better outdoor hard court record than Bellucci this year, but Bellucci got some match play in in Montreal, thus I have him beating the Czech before falling to Berdych. John Isner is the likely third round opponent for Berdych in a weak section. Isner has been in fantastic form this summer (Atlanta title, Washington final, Montreal quarterfinals), and he’ll face his countryman Sam Querrey in round 1. Isner is just 1-3 against Querrey and lost to him this year in Memphis, but his form is better, and thus I see him getting his second win in the matchup of long time American top 100 players. Isner should also have the edge over Tommy Robredo, presuming Robredo beats Pablo Andujar round 1 in a clash of Spaniards, these days Isner is the better hard court player.
Berdych is 6-2 against Isner in the h2h, but Isner’s two wins have come on North American hard courts, presuming bg John isn’t overly fatigued I see him scoring the upset over what may be a shaky Berdych to reach the quarterfinals. Isner is a former finalist in Cincy and seems to play hard and enjoy this tournament.
The two-time Cincy and current Rogers Cup champion Andy Murray will look to continue his excellent run of form in Southern Ohio. Murray has a chance to secure world #2 with a good result here and his first match against Mardy Fish/Viktor Troicki isn’t likely to trip him up. Fish will be saying goodbye to Cincy, and though he is 0-2 in his singles matches this year, he could get out of round 1 given Troicki has four straight pedestrian losses. Regardless Murray should cruise over either opponent, and an inspired Fish could rise over Troicki. Grigor Dimitrov is the favorite to face Murray round 3, Dimitrov opens with Lukas Rosol, and though the Bulgarian is struggling right now, he should be good enough to win that one. Dimitrov is 2-2 this summer, while Rosol upset Kevin Anderson in Montreal before losing to Ernests Gulbis round 2. Dimitrov/Rosol will face a qualifier round 2, and a qualifier could also reach round 3. The qualifiers are Denis Kudla and Vasek Pospisil, and they will face off round 1 as Denis looks to continue his good form.
Look for Murray to beat Dimitrov as he’s better than the Bulgarian with a similar style of play, his form is also superior, in fact I don’t even expect it to be a close match like their 2015 AO meeting.
Marin Cilic should be on a path to face Murray in the quarters. The Washington semifinalist got some rest after an early Montreal exit and he’s the favorite against Philipp Kohlschreiber/Joao Sousa round 2. Both players are coming off of European clay and neither have good outdoor hard court records this seasn, though Kohli’s form may be slightly better. Cilic should then face Kyrgios/Gasquet round 3. Kyrgios/Gasquet should face a qualifier round 2, as Fabio Fognini still has yet to win hard court match this season and opens with a qualifier.
Given Kyrgios streaky form, I think Cilic will find a way to win and reach the quarterfinals, an injured Gasquet weakens this section.
Six time and defending Cincy champ Roger Federer will open with Roberto Bautista Agut or Pablo Cuevas. The Swiss maestro has played a somewhat limited schedule this year but he’s 16-2 on hard courts and has two titles, well-rested and focused, he should do well here as he competes to try and maintain the #2 ranking. RBA is in poor form but should have enough game to beat the dirtballer Cuevas, from there Federer should roll through to round 3, where he could meet Jack Sock. Sock was a quarterfinalist in Washington and won two matches in Montreal, thus his form is good. In round 1 he will face Bjorn Fratangelo who has two challenger semis and a challenger final on his resume this summer on the USTA Pro Circuit.
Fratangelo is a rising talent, but Sock should be a cut above as he’s an ATP caliber player right now. I look for Sock to get past Leo Mayer/Kevin Anderson as well since Anderson is in poor form (two consecutive early exits this summer) and Sock beat him in Houston this year, also Mayer is not a great hard court player. Federer beat Sock this year in Indian Wells, and he has a better forehand than even Jack does, giving him an edge.
Rafael Nadal, the 2013 champion in Cincy, will open with Rajeev Ram/Jeremy Chardy round 1, as he continues his efforts to build his ranking back up to top 5 status. Chardy caught fire this week in Montreal, scoring a random deep run to the semifinals, while Ram is struggling since his Newport title. Chardy is likely fatigued, thus I don’t see him as a threat to Nadal, but he should get out of round 1. Rafa improved to 10-5 on hard courts this year with a run to the quarters in Montreal where he played poorly in a loss to Nishikori.
Look for Nadal to beat Lopez/Raonic in round 3, likely Raonic. Adrian Mannarino should be Raonic’s round 2 opponent, presuming he beats a struggling Andreas Seppi. Mannarino has had some good play this season, but Raonic’s big serving should prove to be too much. Nadal is 5-1 against Raonic and his only loss was a close three setter in Indian Wells this year. Raonic’s form is worse than it was then, and thus Rafa should move to 6-1 with his strong defensive play.
Dark Horses: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Bernard Tomic, Nick Kyrgios, Jack Sock
If Tsonga can get to the third round, he’ll have a chance to upset Djokovic and go as far as the final, he has the talents, it’s just putting it all together for a week long run. Tomic should take advantage of Nishikori’s injury and reach the quarterfinals, presuming he can find consistency and focus at a big tournament, he could even get as far as the semis.
Kyrgios will have to get past Gasquet and likely Cilic, but if he does he’ll be in the quarterfinals with a punchers chance against Andy Murray. The media will be watching, as will the fans given his recent behavior.
Sock continues to rise and on home soil he may well get another shot at Federer in round 3. I don’t see him winning that, but even putting up a good effort would be a good sign for his upcoming US Open campaign.
Quarterfinals: Djokovic d. Karlovic
Isner d. Tomic
Murray d. Cilic
Federer d. Nadal
Djokovic has always struggled with Karlovic (1-3 h2h including a loss this year), and I could well see Dr. Ivo pulling off another win over the world #1 if the conditions are right and Novak’s elbow gives him problems. That said I don’t have the boldness to pick that result.
Isner has a lone h2h win over Tomic and should continue his good run of form on the US Open Series, Murray has a 10-2 h2h over Cilic and is simply outplaying everyone except Djokovic and possibly Federer on tour right now.
Nadal has a good h2h record and matchup advantage vs Fed but his hard court form still isn’t great at the moment and given this is Cincy I see his run ending at the hands of the Swiss.
Semifinals: Isner d. Djokovic Federer d. Murray
Djokovic is 7-2 (2-0 this year) against Isner, but one of those losses came in Cincy (2013) and something tells me Isner is going to rise up and grab a win this time if they meet, due to his good form and motivation at home, while Novak may well want a break before the Open. This tournament is a great chance for the American #1 to reach another Masters final.
Federer outplayed Murray at Wimbledon with masterful tennis, and Murray may be somewhat worn out at this point, it could be a great match, but like the above matchup, something tells me Federer finds a way to win in Cincy.
Final: Federer d. Isner
Federer is the better player and has dominated the history of this tournament in his career, I see him taking the title as long as he gets past Murray, whether he faces Djokovic, Isner, or some other opponent in the final.
Murray, Hewitt, and Rublev Star in Weekend Davis Cup Action Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Davis Cup had some exciting ties over the weekend as young guns, veterans, and a few top players starred in the action worldwide. Here is a recap of everything worth noting that went down.
Australia, Great Britain, Belgium and Argentina Advance From World Group Quarterfinals
The most anticipated tie of the weekend was between team GB and France at London Queen’s club on grass, and it did not disappoint as an emotional Andy Murray single handedly carried his team to a 3-1 victory in the tie. Murray had a part in all three of the needed wins for the players sporting the Union Jack, he beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with ease on Friday, won a crucial doubles point with his brother Jamie in 4 sets on Saturday, and then closed out the tie with a win against Gilles Simon after dropping the first set. Simply put, the French team didn’t perform up to the level needed to defeat Murray, as their depth couldn’t beat the British star power.
James Ward lost the other rubber to Simon on Friday as he couldn’t repeat his Davis Cup heroics of previous ties.
The next opponent for the British will be their Commonwealth partners Australia, as the green and gold clawed back from 0-2 down on Friday against Kazakhstan and relied on the steady veteran presence of Lleyton Hewitt to push them into the semis. The Aussie young guns Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios both played poorly with the pressure on Friday, Kokkinakis failed to win a set against the veteran Mikhail Kukushkin on grass, while Kyrgios lost a 4 setter to Aleksandr Nedovyesov, and stated after that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be there playing DC.
Aussie captain Wally Masur, and Captain in waiting Lleyton Hewitt seemed to take that statement to heart, as Hewitt stepped up himself in his final year as a pro player. The veteran took part in the doubles rubber with the big serving Sam Groth and won it over Nedovyesov and Andrey Golubev, and then Groth beat Kukushkin in four sets, and Hewitt closed out Nedovyesov in straights to win the tie. He’s struggled all year in singles, but in what could have been his final Davis Cup match, Hewitt played fantastic, and proved why he’s one of the most tenacious battlers the game will ever see.
GB vs. Australia could well be something special with Hewitt, Murray, the Aussie young guns with a chance to redeem themselves, and a pro British crowd filling the stands in the UK as they look for a spot in the Davis Cup final.
The fatally weakened teams of Serbia and Canada both slumped to defeat against Argentina and Belgium respectively, Team Serbia lacked Novak Djokovic and on the road in Argentina on clay they clearly struggled without his talent and leadership. Leonardo Mayer and Federico Delbonis scored singles wins on Friday over Filip Krajinovic and Viktor Troicki, Delbonis’ win coming from two sets to love down, and then on Saturday Mayer and Carlos Berlocq clinched the tie with a routine win over Troicki/Nenad Zimonjic. The dead rubbers resulting in the tie ending 4-1.
Team Canada was without their injured stars Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic and without their big serving, they were whitewashed 5-0 by an undersized Belgian team on clay in Belgium. The Canadian team was uncomfortable on the slow surface, as Steve Darcis beat veteran journeyman Frank Dancevic in four sets,and David Goffin rolled young gun Filip Peliwo in straights. The tie was then clinched by Ruben Bemelmans/Kimmer Coppejans who beat the veteran rock of Daniel Nestor, and Adil Shamasdin in the doubles tie. Coppejans and Darcis beat Dancevic and Peliwo in the dead rubbers to complete the rout.
Argentina will travel to Belgium in an interesting tie that will decide the other finalist spot.
Russia, India among teams with chance at 2016 World Group Participation
Group 1 ties also took place across the globe and the biggest story was Russia toppling a B-list Spanish Armada to book their spot in the world group playoffs. The Spanish team, led by veteran Tommy Robredo, got off to a good start on indoor hard on the Pacific coast city of Vladivostok far on the Asian side of Russia. Robredo beat young gun Andrey Rublev in straights, making Rublev extremely flustered, and Pablo Andujar beat Karen Khachanov also in straights for a 2-0 lead. However it was clear the Russians had more team unity and spirit, while the Spanish, with turmoil in their federation and a recent change in coaches, couldn’t seal the deal. Evgeny Donskoy and Konstantin Kravchuk beat Marc Lopez/David Marrero, one of the top doubles teams in the world in a shocking five set Saturday upset. On Sunday Donskoy upset Robredo in 4 sets, and then Rublev was the hero, winning a surprisingly routine 5th rubber over Andujar. After some time in the wilderness, Russia, a nation with a strong history in tennis, is close to returning to the top tier of the Davis Cup, while Spain will spend another year away from the spotlight.
Also advancing from Europe’s group 1 are the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia. The Dutch upset Austria on the road and on clay, as Dominic Thiem choked away a ton of break points to hand Thiemo De Bakker an opening rubber win in five sets, and though Andreas Haider-Maurer steadied the ship with a win over Robin Haase to make the tie 1-1, Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer won the doubles over Jurgen Melzer/Oliver Marach, and then Haase beat a disoriented Thiem in straights to clinch. The tie ended 3-2 as the Austrians won the dead rubber, but all the same it was a surprisingly clutch performance from a Dutch team made up of well known headcases, while the young gun Thiem failed under pressure and now has a lot to think about.
The Poles won 3-1 over Ukraine, their team had more depth and it showed on indoor hard in Poland. Alex Dolgopolov of Ukraine won the opening rubber over Jerzy Janowicz in straights, but Michal Przysiezny scored a minor upset in straights over Sergiy Stakhovsky, Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski beat Dolgopolov and Denys Molchanov in double, and Janowicz closed out the tie with a four set win over Stakhovsky.
Slovakia went 1-0 down on the road against Romania on clay,as Marius Copil beat Norbert Gombos in a thrilling 12-10 5th set tiebreak, but then they rolled off three consecutive rubber wins to clinch the tie between the two former Eastern Bloc nations. Martin Klizan beat Adrian Ungur and Copil in singles, and in between Andrej Martin/Igor Zelejnay upset Florin Mergea/Horia Tecau, a top 5 doubles team, to win the pivotal doubles rubber, as the tie again ended 3-2 with a Romanian dead rubber win.
In Asia’s group 1 Uzbekistan and India were winners, as expected. Denis Istomin carried his Uzbek team with a doubles rubber win partnering with Farrukh Dustov, and two singles wins over South Korea, as Hyeon Chung, the young gun leading the Korean team, came down injured in the 4th and decisive rubber. India beat New Zealand despite the best efforts of Michael Venus and company, Somdev Devvarman recovered from a five set loss from two sets up on Friday in singles, and beat Marcus Daniell on Sunday, while Yuki Bhambri was key as he scored two singles wins over Jose Statham and Venus, his routine win over Venus in a live fifth rubber.
In the America’s group 1 on clay, Colombia slipped past Uruguay 3-2, and the Dominican Republic slipped past Ecuador 3-1(3-2). Alejandro Gonzalez went a key 2-0 in singles as Pablo Cuevas’s Uruguay came up just short. Pablo and his brother Martin played all the matches for Uruguay, winning the doubles rubber and the 4th rubber (P. Cuevas d. Giraldo) to force a live fifth rubber from 2-0 down at the start of Saturday, but Gonzalez closed out Martin for the win. Victor Estrella did what Andy Murray and Denis Istomin did, carrying the load for the DR even at his age as they beat a weak Ecuador team that lacked any sort of top player. Estrella won the 1st, and 4th rubbers, along with the doubles rubber.
Results from Group 2 as Dimitrov and Sousa star in wins
Chile blanked Mexico 5-0 in the Americas’ group 2, Pakistan will face Taiwan in the 3rd round of round 2 in Asia, and in Europe it will be Portugal vs. Belarus and Hungary vs. Bulgaria. Of note, Grigor Dimitrov played for Bulgaria this weekend (they won 5-0 over Luxembourg) and Joao Sousa ensured the Fins lost 4-1, they were led by veteran Jarkko Nieminen.
Serve and Volleyer Groth Reaches Quarters @MercedesCup ATP Stuttgart 2015 Andreas Thiele for Tennis Atlantic
Groth volleys into quarters (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Wednesday in Stuttgart wasn’t as windy as the previous main draw days, yet almost as cold as we had yesterday, maybe a bit warmer. However, conditions weren’t relevant for the first time at this tournament and many players didn’t want to forfeit their chance to have some good practice on the practice courts.
Almost every player was practicing today, even those who lost their matches in singles and doubles. Grass season recently started and not everyone feels comfortable with the grass. Dominic Thiem for example practiced a lot with Lukas Rosol who was also his doubles partner. They were joking a lot and talked about tennis, while working on their forehands. Thiem’s forehand looks a bit better, backhand was a bit worrying though. Thiem really didn’t look happy with his progress at the beginning, but he cheered up with every backhand cross which went on the line. I reckon Rosol is a bit injured, since he didn’t move as well. Dustin Brown and Gilles Simon also practiced in front of fans. Just like Rosol and Thiem they laughed a lot and put on a show with some great shots.
Dreddy and Gillou (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Next to them on the same court were Alejandro Falla and Mikhail Kukushkin training, though the Colombian got defeated by Sugita on Sunday. Falla worked on sharpening his game on grass and his backhand got more effective now, he really displayed a much better tennis than he did on the weekend. Especially his backhand slice looks pretty good. Kukushkin on the other side wasn’t as inspiring as the Colombian and appeared frustrated.
Rafael Nadal was practicing today and expected his second doubles match. Unfortunately Robert Farah had wrist problems and had to call off (wish you a speedy recovery). His forehand was looking very solid with depth and power. However, his backhand didn’t improve a lot and he needs time to fix it.. He looked very pleased about his training and smiled, he really enjoys the grass-practice in Stuttgart. Francisco Roig looked happy too, as he watched Rafa’s down-the-line forehands land in again and again. Still, one has to admit the conditions made the grass courts very slow and the grass here doesn’t have a low bounce.
Marin Cilic got the biggest court to train on, Court 1! He hit many backhands at practice, trying to fix the shot that bedeviled him in doubles. His cross-court forehand looked to be a strong weapon, but he wasn’t clicking on down the line shots.
Cilic on the practice courts (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Wednesday Second Round Matches
Alexander Zverev was up in the first match against Viktor Troicki on Center Court and I’m certain that a member of his team watched Troicki’s match yesterday. Zverev employed a strategy more suited to clay than grass, but his gameplan was to stay in rallies and to attack Viktor’s flaws (his almost careless shot selection and his poor groundies). Though the scoreline would indicate otherwise, Viktor didn’t play great Tuesday against Borna Coric hitting many forehand unforced errors, so it wasn’t a bad idea to be more defensive for your second grass match ever if you’re Zverev.
Problem was his shots lacked depth and Troicki was able to dictate the rallies like he wanted. Zverev started very bad in the first set losing his serve and having many problems on his second serve. He didn’t find his rhythm at first, and by the time he did, the first set was in the books in favor of Troicki. Second set started similar, problems holding his serve and lost his service again. Troicki hit the balls very well and moved quickly on grass. He was very often at the net, Zverev almost never and he got too passive during rallies, the Serb toyed with him playing the balls back and forth. The young German couldn’t always yield an advantage of his serve today to be more competitive. Troicki served a bit better and returned very much better than Zverev who had problems anticipating the Troicki serve.
Troicki had a very good depth today, hence Zverev the younger had to move very often on the baseline and slipped and fell quite often. After a while Troicki lost his focus and was inattentive, he started to prefer the worst option and his shot selection was awful. He lost his two match points in the breaker due to this, and lost the second set with a stab volley right into the net. Once again, in the third set, Zverev had many problems with his serves as he didn’t aim to hit a winner and let Troicki dictate the game. This match was full of very long rallies, seemed to be more a clay event than a grass match in reality. Zverev failed to break Troicki again, and the Serb served it out though with some silly UEs 6-3 6-7 6-3.
Gael Monfils routined Andreas Haider-Maurer 7-6(6), 7-6(5), a typical scoreline for a match on grass. Both served very well in the first set, Monfils couldn’t convert the first break point at the first game thanks to an ace the Austrian hit and Haider-Maurer couldn’t convert his break point (which was a set point too) because of a very strong forehand cross winner Monfils hit. Breaker had to decide the first set and the Austrian had a very rare problem: His two foot faults cost him greatly as he double faulted twice. Monfils couldn’t hold the edge with the first mini-break, but converted his next set point on his serve. Second set started like the first one with lots of service winners due too good serves. The Frenchman lost again his concentration and couldn’t break the Austrian. He put up on a show to amuse the crowd after he started to return well. Haider-Maurer had more problems returning, so Monfils didn’t have many problems with his serve apart from a service game. Just like Zverev before Haider-Maurer, a dirtballer, played like on clay, very defensive and cautious. He wasn’t as often at the net with serve-and-volley as Monfils was, but when he decided to take over the rally, he went forward and won it. In contrast to his rival who tried many hot shots and serve-and-volleys, some of them enchanting the crowd.
Monfils won in two tiebreaks (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Furthermore, both had problems volleying, since Haider-Maurer waits for these net approaches to pass Monfils and the Austrian went forward after a very harmless shot. Many volleys landed at the net. Gael played very well when he needed to and had an eye on the clear space for the winners. However, breaker had to decide the second set again and the Austrian led with a mini-break, but gifted it right back to Monfils. Then he again committed the first UE to lose his serve after a good return while the Austrian played serve-and-volley. Monfils closed the match of course with an ace. Monfils has promised his fitness trainer the new Mercedes-Benz car if he wins the title.
Against Feliciano Lopez, a grass court expert, big serving Aussie Sam Groth notched a huge win. After losing a service game in the first set in routine fashion, he didn’t lose another service game. His match would have been easier if he converted all the volleys and smash opportunities that Lopez offered up. Both were serving fantastically without any big problems they couldn’t handle. Lopez began suddenly to play less slice and more top-spin which helped the Australian a lot and his returns became less hazardous. The Spaniard lost his confidence as the match continued, whereupon Groth gained more confidence in his groundgame which got more threatening as the games went by. Lopez’ surprising slice shots vanished Groth’s rhythm during the second set and so it got very difficult to break him. The Spaniard’s usual return position was a few meters behind the baseline, His distance was even farther away from that line returning in the 2nd set.
This wasn’t the best approach against Groth, as Flopez’s passivity in the second set resulted in a losing result unlike in the first. When Lopez failed to get amazing return winners he was going for, Groth didn’t have any problem with his serve-and-volley to win the points on serve. Lopez hit slice and topspin body shots at Groth when the Australian went forward, but Lopez couldn’t repeat this strategy to success execution wise. The second set tiebreaker seemed to be very even for a long time, but after a very good return on the line and a long slice rally Groth hit a miraculous and lucky bh slice in front of Lopez’ feet. Furthermore the ball had a rare bounce, rendering it unreachable. Groth served fantastically well and Lopez didn’t have the ghost of a chance to break him. The third set tiebreaker was more of a nailbiter than even the second set tiebreak, and after Groth’s incredible forehand on the line Lopez’ backhand slice reached the net. Groth served it out without problems and won the match after losing first set 3-6 7-6(5) 7-6(6).
Philipp Kohlschreiber posted another routine win in round 2, defeating Jerzy Janowicz 6-4, 6-4. Kohli played very well today and Janowicz couldn’t keep up the level he had in his match against Brown. Kohlschreiber moved very well and anticipated Janowicz’ shot selection well. As a contrast to the Pole, Kohli served with accuracy not just power. Kohlschreiber often played the ball in to stay in the rally, expecting an UE from Janowicz and JJ had no clue how to handle this approach. It was a very one-sided match as Kohlschreiber dominated the whole match and didn’t lose the control of it. Janowicz didn’t have his serve today, so his groundies were even worse, as he didn’t have much confidence during the match. He had a very negative body language as well.
Kohli served well (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
The German did everything right: He stood a few meters behind the baseline to return weak Janowicz serves, and pulled surprising returns out of his hat. Jerzy, who moved poorly on the day, struggled with the fact Kohli didn’t give him a chance to gather rhythm. Kohli was able to trigger forehand and baseline shanks out of Janowicz. The Bavarian counter attacked with his power, very clever shot-selection and very good movement. A big quarterfinal match with Gael Monfils will be next for him.
Tomic Back in the Groove, Coric Shelled Tuesday at ATP Stuttgart 2015 Andreas Thiele for Tennis Atlantic
Tomic back in the groove (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
It was the fourth day of this year’s ATP Stuttgart tournament and it was the coldest and windiest day yet. It’s always the worst what can happen here in Germany in terms of weather, with dark clouds, strong winds, and no rain: A winter day during summer. Many players had problems today, especially muscular problems. We witnessed the first retirement in a main draw match and many tennis players moving poorly. Conditions were a challenge today, but matches were completed in full.
Difficult wind created the highest amount of unforced errors per match today, yet very beautiful winners which were powered by the wind. Even in the press centre it was quite cold. In the cold, fans gathered around Rafael Nadal, Gael Monfils and Dustin Brown seeking an interaction with their favorites. Nadal had to call the security team to get through the crowds, when he played doubles with Feliciano Lopez.
Main Draw Round 1
The schedule looked promising on Tuesday, especially for the German crowd. as German was featured in 8 out of 11 matches. Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki led off the day.
Borna Coric’s father was quite optimistic this could be the day he wins his first match on grass, before the match began. With Croatian journalists in the stands Borna just absolutely disappointed his countrymen and couldn’t end his negative run of four losses in a row on grass (0-4 career record). His first service game looked promising, though he had problems holding it. He still doesn’t know how to move on grass and gets too passive during rallies. Troicki was the way more aggressive player and hit some great winners, but some funny unforced errors. While the beginning of the first set was competitive, Borna lost his second serve with a fight, it seemed he wasn’t up for the match entirely. The second serve game he lost was on him and Troicki didn’t even have to play well.
The second set was just pathetic, Coric only won nine points out of 36 and just won a lone return point during the whole set. I stopped watching it after the first break which was very hard-fought (three times deuce) and Troicki won it a few minutes later. Troicki’s forehand didn’t look that bad at all, in contrary to Coric’s which can’t be even called a weapon. Given he’s a young gun, Coric will have the time to develop his game on grass, but in the present day Troicki rolled 6-2 6-0 in a blowout.
Jan-Lennard Struff struggled on the day, though he offered some great forehand-shots and even nicer volleys. Bernard Tomic was out of his league, he offered up great variation in his serve and delivered what he needed, to win, throwing in some great winners. The first set was very one-sided, Tomic won the very first game which was a break to love and broke him at the end of the first set again. However, like is often the case with his matches. Bernie wasn’t consistent enough to close out the match routinely, leading a set and a break ahead.
Struff started to hit one good return after another, and dictate the rallies – He almost always won the point at the net and almost always lost the points on longer rallies, as he hit many forehand unforced errors under pressure. After Tomic broke his serve with a fantastic forehand down-the-line winner, he immediately was broken bakc after serving two double faults and committing a very easy backhand ue after a poor return. The set built up its tension because of the fact both served very well till the second set breaker, when the Borussia Dortmund-fan suddenly led 3-0. Two long forehands later, and Tomic took a decisive advantage, eventually closing out the breaker 7-5 for a 6-3 7-6 victory. Tomic’s game looked quite sharp today, although there was room for improvement. Bernie has to face now another German he lost to in Halle three years ago, Tommy Haas.
Another German moving on here is Mischa Zverev who’s showing great grass tennis as a veteran. The underrated grass specialist had many problems at the beginning against Dominic Thiem and lost even his serve, but he managed to catch himself and rebroke, converting his first break point of the match. As the match progressed, both started to serve better and the breaker had to decide the set. After three consecutive mini-breaks Zverev held his serve to get set point and Thiem failed to save another set point, as he didn’t serve well under pressure. Zverev looked fresher, though he played every day in the last three days, and could break him again. Thiem broke himself with a lot of unnecessary errors. The German served well in set 2, broke Thiem again returning and moving very well to hit one forehand after another in his last service game to close the match 7-6 6-2.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Lukas Rosol looked like a great match on paper, but Rosol played poorly on the outer court. Baghdatis lost the first game and his serve, but Rosol couldn’t maintain the advantage and ended up losing the first set with a double break. Rosol moved poorly and showed signs of rust. He didn’t have the fortune to trust in his first serve, it was either too long or into the net in big moments and Baghdatis even started to return well when given the chance. The veteran Baghdatis had very good and strong groundstrokes, made Rosol run, and in this way the Cypriot hit many winners. His form looked excellent, throwback in a way and could have some great results in the next week overall like today where he won 6-3 6-4. Depending on Rafael Nadal’s form on the day he could come even through in their match.
Baghdatis was smooth in Stuttgart (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Benjamin Becker came back to Germany in good form after some wins at Roland Garros, and was excited to start the grass court season, his best surface, but unfortunately the shoulder-problem he had in Paris discomforted him again and he was in pain. Therefore he slumped in defeat against Andreas Seppi. After the first set he asked for a medical timeout and it went better afterwards. He held twice his serve, and he had signs of a comeback, but after Seppi served again his should flaired up once more. The German let the match slide and wants to focus now on getting completely recovered again. Wish you all the best, Benjamin, and a speedy recovery! Seppi defeated injured Becker 6-1, 6-2.
Similar to Becker Sergiy Stakhovsky had medical problems against Sam Groth. The first set Stakhovsky won with a classic grass court serve and volley game, often chipping and charging with brilliant volley winners. Groth, famous for his fastest serve ever recorded at a Challenger in South Korea, served again very well, but was too slow to reach Stakhovsky’s volleys. Especially the second serves were attacked by Stako, till the Australian let off steam and yelled
“he always gets my 2nd serve” after 0-30, *3-5 in the first set. Bit by bit Stakhovsky started to play more passively and gave Groth some opportunities at the net that he could approach.
Groth and Stakhovsky volleyed away (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Nothing changed in the second set and Stakhovsky’s serve lessened in effectiveness, he had to save seven break points in the second set alone, as Groth wasn’t always attentive at his chances. On the eight break point chance in set 2, a set point as well, Groth finally won it. Stako lost his serve at the beginning of the third set, and then retired 5-3 down in the third. At the end his serves were a shadow of the his serving in the 1st set, so Groth won it 4-6, 7-5, 5-3. Wish you a speedy recovery as well, Stako!
Matthias Bachinger again displayed great tennis against Peter Gojowczyk. Gojo dictated with his forehand in very good rallies and the Bavarian Bachinger ran left and right to get the balls. Both were serve-and-volleying very well and little things decided this match. One of these things was Bachinger’s fighting spirit, and his poison slices which were a hazard for Gojowczyk. He committed unforced errors and many forehands landed at the net after Bachinger’s slices.
Bachinger was very clutch on important points and didn’t give up any game. Gojowczyk was leading in his last service game in before a theoretical breaker 40-0, but many forehand unforced errors and an incredible forehand smash into the net after a long slice-rally and a well played lob gave Bachinger a break. The Bavarian served the match out, just like in the first set he did after winning the break and will face #2 seed Marin Cilic. Bachingers win was 7-5 7-5.
Alexander Zverev was the better player against Mate Pavic and deservedly won after losing the first set 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. It was a bad start at the beginning facing a break point, and he eventually got broken and lost the first set. In the second set the young German improved his serve on break points, and his forehand was very sharp against Pavic, who likes to attack at the net with his backhand volley. Zverev was aware of that and could read his serve-and-volleys, as he stood meters behind the baseline and didn’t give Pavic many free points.. All in all Zverev played with a very good strategy and kept his head cool, against a nervous Pavic. He finally won the match with a very strong forehand triggering a Pavic error.
Both Zverev brothers advanced on the day (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
The old German master Tommy Haas returned finally to the tour! His win over Mikhail Kukushkin was a graet match, based on good serve and offensive forehands. Kukushkin didn’t have any clue how to react and it says a lot about his tennis on grass when he gets dominated by the rusty Haas. In the second set Haas lost his rhythm and started to gift Kukushkin games he never would have been able to win. Giving that Kukushkin at the end couldn’t hold the break and Haas was able to raise his level again to finished it in two 6-4 7-5.
The last German who played today, Dustin Brown lost in three to Jerzy Janowicz. Both were rock solid on serve, and Brown lost some points due to easy unforced errors he hit. The first set went quickly as Dreddy took it in a tiebreak but Janowicz was able to break him in the second and third sets, while Brown wasn’t able to convert break points. Janowicz completed the comeback 6-7 6-4 6-3. It was still a successful tournament for Brown as he qualified for an ATP event for the first time since Munich.
Janowicz vs. Brown was a quick match (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
In the other singles match on the day, Andreas Haider-Maurer dashed the hopes of young German wild card Max Marterer 7-6 6-3.
Tuesday Doubles Scores
Lopez/Nadal d. Junaid/Shamasdin 7-6 6-2
Cabal/Farah d. Rosol/Thiem 7-6 7-6
Matkowski/Zimonjic d. Monfils/Simon 6-3 6-4
2015 ATP Stuttgart and Den Bosch Previews and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The grass season begins anew for 2015 with a pair of 250 level events. Stuttgart is switching to grass from clay this year, and Den Bosch in the Netherlands is a joint ATP/WTA event again this year. After a spring on the dirt, ATP World Tour stars will feel the blades of green grass under their feet. Stay tuned to Tennis Atlantic for on-site ATP Stuttgart coverage all week.
ATP World Tour 250
June 8-June 14, 2015
Prize Money: € 574,965
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (10)
2: Marin Cilic (9)
3: Feliciano Lopez (14)
4: Gael Monfils (16)
Stuttgart switching to grass gave them a stronger field than usual, Nadal is the top seed because he was ranked higher than Cilic at the time the seeds were drawn, though that has changed now with the new rankings. The seed cutoff is 28, as this is a strong field for a 250.
Rosol has a h2h win on grass in this matchup, Queen’s 2012, but that was a three set match. Rosol comes off a third round showing in Paris, while Baghdatis won a round at the grass Manchester challenger. Both of these guys are solid on the green stuff, as Rosol famously ball bashed to beat Nadal on this surface, and Baghdatis with his aggressive ball striking has shown his prowess before as well. I’d give Rosol a slight edge to advance with his power, but this one probably goes three sets again.
(WC)Tommy Haas vs. Mikhail Kukushkin
Tommy Haas is making his return from shoulder surgery one year since he last played a match on the ATP tour. The 37 year old remains an ageless wonder, and it was surprising after he elected to come back after another injury, in a career marked by injuries, rather than retiring. On home soil, and on grass, a surface his all court game is well suited for, he should feel comfortable, but one has to wonder how much he has left in the tank at this point in his career, coming off an injury. Kukushkin is struggling mightily, and has for most of the season, so he’s a beatable round 1 opponent.
Brown has a 2-1 h2h over the higher ranked Janowicz and he qualified without dropping set here, well recognized as a solid grass court player, as he beat Rafa Nadal on this surface in Halle previously. Janowicz, a former Wimbledon semifinalist has been struggling this season, but he will look to grass to kickstart his game. This should be a close match, but I’m going with Brown in an upset victory.
Stakhovsky with his serve and volley game can be lethal on grass, as his famous Wimbledon win over Roger Federer proved, Groth comes off of a title in the Manchester challenger, and with his massive serve, he’s likewise a dangerous player on a quick surface. This is their first meeting, and it’s a hard match to pick, I give Groth a slight edge to advance.
Rafael Nadal, struggling this season by his standards, will open with the winner of Baghdatis/Rosol in what could be a tricky opening round test on the heels of his quarterfinal defeat at the French Open. Nadal’s worst surface is grass, and he hasn’t played well on it since 2011. Rafa has a strong h2h record, including a grass win over Baghdatis (06 Wimbledon semis), while he is 1-1 on grass against Rosol, losing to at Wimbledon 2012, but winning in four sets in 2014 at the same venue. Rosol is likely to be a tougher opponent, but either way I could well see Nadal losing that, the winner is likely to face the Bernard Tomic/Tommy Haas winner in the quarterfinals. Haas/Kukushkin will face Tomic or JL Struff. Tomic is an excellent grass court player who was having a great season before he hit clay, his worst surface. I expect grass to be a rebound for him as he should beat Struff, Haase, and then Nadal to reach the semis. Nadal is not trustworthy on grass right now if you ask me, and Haas is just coming off of injury, so Tomic doesn’t seem like that bold of a pick to me.
4 seed Gael Monfils will open with Andreas Haider-Maurer or Max Marterer a 19 year old German wild card. Marterer will have a shot at a win if he can play on grass, as AHM is a clay courter, either way, Monfils should cruise into the quarters, but he will get a tough opponent there. Philipp Kohlschreiber routined Alex Dolgopolov today, and he will face the Janowicz/Brown winner. All three of these guys are dangerous on grass and given given Kohli has a 2-0 h2h over Brown, I have him facing Monfils in the quarters. Kohlschreiber has a poor h2h against Monfils overall, but one of his two wins came on grass, meaning this meeting should be exciting if it takes place. Monfils has been in pretty good form as of late, and I’m going with him to advance to the semis.
Marin Cilic will open with either Peter Gojowczyk or Matthias Bachinger in the opening round, both Germans enter via qualifying, Bachinger was a lucky loser, and Gojowczyk qualified without dropping a set. Gojo has always been a talented underachiever in my mind but Cilic, who is improving in form and reached the second week at the French, will be a strong favorite to reach the quarters. There he probably faces the Benjamin Becker/Andreas Seppi winner. 7 seed Dominic Thiem is the seed, and opens with qualifier Mischa Zverev. Thiem is extremely inexperienced on grass, and prefers clay, thus the veteran Zverev will have a shot in that one. Becker is an excellent grass court veteran, while Seppi’s all court game can be dangerous as well, I’m going with Becker to beat Seppi, and Zverev to reach the quarters, where he will likely fall to Cilic.
3 seed Feliciano Lopez, who had a remarkable season on grass last year and is at his best on the surface opens with the Groth/Stakhovsky winner, a difficult task. Lopez has been in very poor form on clay, and he’ll be under pressure to preserve ranking points now, I still think he wins that match, and beats Viktor Troicki or Borna Coric in the quarterfinals. Wild card Alex Zverev, the younger brother of Mischa and an ATP young gun more suited for clay, opens with qualifier Mate Pavic. Look for Pavic to beat Zverev, and Troicki to slip past the inexperienced young gun Coric on grass, then beat Pavic to reach the quarters.
The German with American ties, Becker, reached a grass court final last year in Den Bosch (a tournament he won in 2009), and if he can get past Seppi, Cilic could slip up in the quarters, and he could upset him as well for a spot in the semis. He’s not the only possible dark horse in the draw, but with his good serve and quality baseline game, the crafty veteran could impress.
Semis: Monfils d. Tomic Cilic d. Lopez
Tomic vs. Monfils could go either way, I’m going with Monfils based off of form though, Tomic winning this title wouldn’t surprise me. Cilic has a h2h win on grass over Lopez, his form is better, and he’s done better on fast surface h2h meetings.
It’s been a slow road back for Cilic, and Monfils has struggled to stay healthy as well. I’m finally comfortable picking Cilic to perform like the top 10 player he is capable of as he seems fit, and the rust is starting to fade. Look for him to win in Stuttgart this week.
ATP World Tour 250*
s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
June 8-June 14, 2015
Prize Money: € 537,050
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga*/(5) Ivo Karlovic (27)
2: David Goffin (15)
3: Roberto Bautista Agut (21)
4: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (34)
*Top seed Tsonga pulled out after a run to the French Open semis, thus the 5 seed Ivo Karlovic becomes the 1 seed in terms of the draw.
Den Bosch isn’t as strong of a field as Stuttgart, but it’s not bad for a 250, the lack of a top 10 player makes this an open draw.
First round matchups to watch:
(WC)Lleyton Hewitt vs. (Q)Nicolas Mahut
A pair of veterans who are retiring soon, Mahut, the champion of this tournament in 2013, qualified with relative ease and he’s a solid grass court player with his serve and volley skills, while Hewitt is of course a legend who counterpunches at his best on grass, though he has played an extremely light schedule so far this year. These players met in the 2013 Newport final on grass, and Mahut prevailed in three sets, prior to that Hewitt won a pair of h2h meetings on other surfaces. It’s a tough pick in regards to the winner of this, Mahut has played more recently, and Hewitt is in serious decline at this point in his career, thus I’m going with Nico, likely in three sets.
(6)Adrian Mannarino vs. Rendy Lu
Mannarino’s versatile game is well suited for fast surfaces like grass, while Lu is a steady flat hitting baseliner who excels on fast surfaces, especially hard courts. Mannarino beat Lu this year in three sets at Delray Beach, and as the higher ranked player, he should be the favorite, having performed well on hard courts this year, that said, Lu can rise to the occasion at times though he lacks weaponry, and this should be a good match. I have Mannarino winning it.
The big serving Karlovic will face Ricardas Berankis or Tatsuma Ito in round 2, Ito qualified with ease, so I’d expect him to win that round 1 match, before falling to Karlovic who has been struggling mightily for a while, but should find some form on grass. 7 seed Fernando Verdasco should be the favorite in the top section, he opens with dirtballer Daniel Gimeno-Traver and I’d also expect him to get past Robin Haase, who beat Blaz Kavcic in straights today. Haase beat Verdasco at Wimbledon 2011, but he’s not exactly a top player these days, plus he tends to struggle on home soil under pressure. Verdasco has lost twice to Karlovic on grass, but given recent form, this time I’m picking him to advance to the semis.
Defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut will get a tough R2 match against Hewitt/Mahut, if Mahut advances, RBA should still have an edge, as he beat him in Den Bosch last year (in 3 sets). RBA hasn’t been a world beater as of late but I favor him to reach the quarters. The Mannarino/Lu winner should also reach the quarters, unless Benoit Paire or Marco Chiudinelli, one of the qualifiers, is a surprise. Chiudinelli qualified in just his second tournament of 2015, while Paire has limited abilities on grass, though his form has been improved as of late. I have Mannarino over Paire, and then RBA over Mannarino for a spot in the semis.
David Goffin will face the winner of Kenny De Schepper/Jurgen Melzer in round 2. De Schepper is a lucky loser, but he still should defeat Melzer, the struggling veteran, and he’ll have a good chance against Goffin as well, given his game isn’t as well built for grass, while De Schepper’s big serve should help him find success. The section above De Schepper/Goffin is interesting, Joao Sousa/Denis Istomin is a toss-up match, while Mikhail Youzhny was formerly good on grass, and will open with qualifier Illya Marchenko who has been in good form as of late. Sousa has been better than Istomin this year, but Istomin has a better record on grass. I have Sousa beating Youzhny in the second round, Youzhny has been in awful form this year, and even with that previous success on grass I don’t see him getting far. Goffin over Sousa is my pick in the quarters, he has a 2-1 h2h edge.
4 seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez will face Marius Copil, the Romanian wild card defeated Jarkko Nieminen in 3 sets on Monday. GGL should defeat Copil, though he comes off an opening round shock defeat at the French, but the winner of Vasek Pospisil/Gilles Muller could trouble him in the quarters. Pospisil routined the poor playing Marinko Matosevic in straights on Monday, while Muller blitzed Turkish #1 Marsel Ilhan with a bagel. Muller with his big serve is a threat on grass, as he also volleys well, and I see him defeating both Pospisil, and Garcia-Lopez to reach the semis. GGL has been a streaky player but I don’t feel his game is clicking right now.
The veteran serve and volleyer plays some of his best tennis on grass, and he looked strong today in his match. He has a draw that should open up if he can defeat Garcia-Lopez, and he well could win this tournament, as I have him reaching the final at a minimum with wins over Pospisil, Garcia-Lopez, and Goffin.
Semis: Bautista Agut d. Verdasco
Muller d. Goffin
It’s a coin flip between RBA and Verdasco if they meet in the semis, a 1-1 h2h and both have been streaky on grass before, RBA is higher ranked, both have huge forehand, and I’m going with RBA in my own bracket. Muller should defeat Goffin given this is grass.
Going with a non-seed to take the title in Den Bosch, it’s happened previously and RBA lost to Muller in the AO this year. On a slick fast surface, Muller’s serve and volley should be a deadly combination, and I have the veteran winning a title this week.
Tsonga wins comeback match, Dolgopolov, Djokovic thrill in Miami (Saturday Day 5 Miami OpenRecap) Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
The ATP side of the draw provided the primary highlights on an action packed Saturday at the 2015 Miami Open. Most of the top players advanced, as upsets were few and far between, meaning the fans will get the big name tennis that they wanted in the later rounds. With so many matches around the grounds, here is a handy synopsis.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga d. Tim Smyczek 6-4 3-6 6-3
The crowd gathered in anticipation in the main stadium to witness the return of the always entertaining Tsonga to the courts following his injury lay-off. This would be his first match in 2015, his last match was back in November of 2014 in the Davis Cup final when he lost to Stan Wawrinka in 4 sets. Tim Smyczek became a popular player this year after the amazing fight he put up against Rafael Nadal back in the Australian Open, especially related to the incredible moment of sportsmanship he displayed in a pivotal point during that match. Regardless it’s an opponent Jo would expect to beat, but of course after 4 months of not playing competitive tennis anything could happen, as the two fan favorite players met on Stadium court.
The Frenchman didn’t look rusty at all as he held with ease at the start, backed by an impressive serve that flummoxed Smyczek. Tim on the other hand didn’t look like he was dealing with pace of Tsonga’s groundstrokes very well, but regardless he would be able to hold serve the first few games. The first break would come at 3-3 in the 1st. Tim failed to keep up with the powerful Tsonga who was overpowering him in the rallies, and would get broken at 3-3. The Frenchman would continue his excellent serving as he consolidated the break to go up 5-4. A funny moment would present itself when Jo was serving for the set. the Frenchman would completely whiff a forehand on a short ball. Tsonga would then joke with the crowd as he pretended to not be able to catch the ball handed to him by the ballboy, he was in good spirits out there. The world # 13 would close out the set in style blasting a DTL backhand which Tim can only watch fly past him. The set was Tsonga’s 6-4.
Tsonga moved well in his return (Photo Credit Esam Taha)
The crowd would start to sense that Jo would continue to steamroll past the American in the 2nd, and with the way the Frenchman was serving it seemed so. The 2nd set began with both players holding serve, but Tim still didn’t look comfortable out there, as errors were flying off his racquet. He would appear to threaten Jo’s serve with a brilliant backhand pass only to follow it up with a silly unforced error, the story of the match for him at this point, all square at 2-2 in the second. Tim despite his inconsistent play was holding serve rather comfortably, he was hanging around and you could sense he just needed Jo to blink to turn things around. That’s exactly what would happen as Jo was serving at 3-2, the Frenchman would make a couple of unforced errors and just like that American would go up 4-2. At this point the pendulum was truly swinging as Tsonga was starting to lose focus and miss routine shots. Tim would hold at ease and go up 5-2, Jo was now serving to stay in the 2nd. The two players were starting to play some incredible points putting on a show in the main stadium, Tim’s lob would sail long forcing him to serve out the set himself. Jo would get a little help from the net-cord to generate a break point but Tim would save it. Jo was now uncharacteristically slicing everything back waiting for the American to make the mistake, however Tim would keep his composure and take the set at 6-3.
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
Tsonga would come out in the 3rd with a more intensity right off the bat, beautifully mixing up a cheeky drop shot with a forehand winner to the delight of the Miami crowd. The condition were unusual for Miami this time of year, relatively cold temperatures with a little bit of wind to spice things up. Both players would hold, 1-2 3rd set. Jo was definitely back to his 1st set form, playing a beauty of a cross court pass ending a marathon of a game to draw blood first in the 3rd, Tim meanwhile would let the wall behind him know how frustrated he was. Tsonga would continue serving efficiently to consolidate and go up 4-1 in the decider. At this point you got the feeling that it was all going to happen on the Frenchman’s racket, there was little Tim could do about it. Brimming with confidence, Tsonga would break again to get to just one game away from his first win in 2015. Jo would show no nerves as he serves out the match. The Frenchman was elated, jumping around waving to the crowd as the winner was announced. Even with rust, Tsonga had more raw talent than Smyczek and his serve, mixed with variety from the ground, were very effective weapons on the day.
Alexandr Dolgopolov d. Tommy Robredo 6-7(1) 6-3 7-5
Last year’s quarterfinalist in Miami, Alex Dolgopolov put on a spectacular showcase in his second round match with baselining, veteran Spaniard Tommy Robredo. Dolgo’s speed, shotmaking, and variation was on full display as he fired 33 winners and broke Robredo 6 times over the course of three long, and competitive sets. Dolgo got off to a fast start, breaking 2-0, but he couldn’t maintain the break, and likewise, Robredo failed to serve out the set 5-4 in the first, as he was broken back himself. At 6-5 Dolgo had a lone set point that he failed to convert, and then Robredo rose up, battling hard from the ground to take the first set tiebreak 7-1.
In the second, Dolgopolov recovered, securing a double break to take it 6-3, as he closed out the set with a break, something he had failed to do in the third set. The match was incredibly high quality, and positively intense throughout, as both players delighted spectators both in person, and in front of their video screens. The third set however, was something else, as both players rose to a level that made this match, the match of the tournament thus far. Similar to the previous two sets, an early break was found, as Robredo generated it and converted, but again, Dolgo would break back, and they would hold serve all the way to 4-4, as Robredo saved a lone break point to hold. The tennis from 4-4 in the third was magical, and defined everything great about the ATP game, and the sport itself. Dolgopolov committed himself to using athleticism to overcome the crafty Robredo, showing off his wheels, and his ability to create shots from all variety of court positions, as the highlight video below demonstrates. The tennis in this match was jaw dropping, and Dolgopolov broke in the final game for a 7-5 third set. It took him three match points, and on the final one, he drilled the ball from the whipping forehand side directly at Robredo who was approaching the net, drawing the error, and a match victory. These two fan favorite players were a delight to watch, and it was a must witness match.
Fans were treated to all shades of both Novak Djokovic and Martin Klizan, in their stadium court, night session clash. Djokovic got off to a fast start with the bagel, though Klizan was still showing signs of life, as none of the games within the set were love games, and he was hitting his forehand crisply. Even still, given the bakery products, it seemed Klizan might have thrown in the towel going into set 2, however, that was not the case as the Slovak recommitted himself. Klizan broke in the opening game to show he had his head in the game, and though Novak would break twice to go up 6-0 5-3, Kizan hit an amazing drop shot, and utillized power to break back at 15 against the world number 1. This sent the crowd into a frenzy, as they wanted to get more bang their buck, and though they appreciated Novak, it was clear most in the stadium wanted to see a third set.
Klizan, and Novak would give the crowd what they paid to see, as Klizan broke late, and then held, after saving two break points, for a 7-5 second set. It seemed Novak had gotten tense late in the second, and had taken his foot off the throat of his streaky opponent, who previously had beaten Rafael Nadal last fall in Beijing. Klian couldn’t conjure up that magic though, as Novak righted the ship, and was simply too firm from the baseline, redirecting the shots that Klizan wacked his way. Djokovic notched his second bakery product of the evening, taking the third 6-1, and he was pleased to have avoided a crisis in his opening match from Crandon Park.
Grigor Dimitrov d. Vasek Pospisil 6-2 6-2
Dimitrov won easily (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Dimitrov was coming off a rather disappointing early exit in Indian Wells, and clearly had the desire to make a deep run down in Miami. He would play the Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who has presently failed to matriculate into the player that many thought he could be. The 24 year olds would clash on the Stadium court, and Grigor would not waste anytime breaking the Canadian right out the gate, the Bulgarian looked like he was on a mission. He would jump to a 2-1 lead in the 1st, Pospisil meanwhile looked shaken up. Dimitov would continue putting in an efficient display of tennis with a stunning DTL backhand winner to get the 2nd break going up 4-1. As good as the Dimitrov was today Vasek looked completely out of sorts, his timing seemed to be off. Grigor would have a minor hiccup after sloppy start to the next game but would eventually string 4 points in a row to save double break point and consolidate the 2nd break. The world #11 would comfortably continue on to take the 1st set 6-2. The crowd was in a bit of lull, due to the lack of competitiveness in the match.
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
Vasek would start off the 2nd set looking just as shaky but eventually regain his composure to avoid getting broken right away. Pospisil was starting to play a bit better now but still not putting any sort of pressure on Grigor’s serve. Dimitrov was in the zone today, he was simply too good for the Canadian breaking him at 2-2 to take a 3-2 lead. That seemed to be the one that finally knocke all the fight out of Pospisil. It was one way traffic from there-on, with the Bulgarian winning all the remaining games to wrap up a convincing 6-2, 6-2 domination of VasekPospisil. He will be facing the big serving John Isner in the 3rd round which should prove to be a tougher test for him.
We caught up with Grigor after the match, he would speak about facing Isner the next round and talk candidly about the constant pressure he faces on tour.
Kei Nishikori d. Mikhail Youzhny 6-2 6-1
Kei blitzed the Colonel (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Day 6, in fact kicked off with a matchup between two players with quite contrasting career trajectories. Fans gathered in the Grandstand to watch the Japanese shotmaker Kei Nishikoti take on the veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny. Nishikori is coming off an underwhelming performance in Indian Wells and looking to at least replicate the deep run he made here in Miami in 2014 which included beating Roger Federer before withdrawing due to injury. Meanwhile, the wheels on Youzhny’s career were rusting, as he only had two wins in 2015 coming into this one.
The very first game was a sign of things to come in this encounter as Youzhny struggled to hold serve right off the bat. He would face a break point before winning 3 straight points to get avoid the early break. In contrast, Nishikori would hold easily as the Russian was struggling to hit his spots sailing a couple of forehands long. Kei would pounce quickly. Youzhny’s groundstrokes weren’t on the same level as the Japanese, he would find himself facing triple break point. The veteran would stick a volley into the net to give Kei his first break as he stared up into the bright, Miami, sun. Nishikori would once again hold easily to consolidate and go up 3-1. Mikhail would finally start serving better, to hold, and keep the lead at a single break. Nishikori’s groundstrokes were looking as good as ever, bringing back memories of the match he played against Dimitrov in this same stadium a year ago. Youzhny still wouldn’t be able to find his rhythm as he continued making silly mistakes. This time it was an ill-advised poorly executed drop shot that would open up a double break opportunity for Kei. The Japanese was in unforgiving form as he converted the break points to take a 2 break lead 5-2. Youzhny with his back to the wall would take Kei to deuce but it would prove to be a futile attempt, the latter would hold his nerve, and take the set 6-2.
The match so far has been one-sided and even though the crowd was trying to urge Mikhail on, the Russian wasn’t responding. In fact he would kick off the 2nd set with back to back double faults. Mikhail would continue making unforced errors to give Kei 2 break points, causing him to yell something to himself in Russian, seeminly not of the positive sort. Kei on the other hand would fist pump as he converted the break point to take the lead right away. Youzhny would follow that game with probably his best tennis of the match, pushing Nishikori to 4 deuces on his service game. However even that effort wouldn’t be enough to break through.
Mikhail would eventually commit a couple of unforced errors as Kei hed and consolidated the break to go up 2-0. The crowd wanted to see a more competitive match but they were starting to feel this was going to be one way traffic. Nishikori would win 4 straight points on Youzhny’s serve to take go up 2 breaks, 4-1 in the 2nd set. The outcome was inevitable when Kei hit a couple of aces to consolidate the 2nd break and go up 5-1. The final game would actually prove to be entertaining marathon of 6 deuces but just like the rest of the match the Japanese would come out on top as he break for a 3rd time and claim the victory. Nishikori won it in straight sets in just over an hour.
We caught up with Kei after the match to give his insight on how he deals with the increasing number of defensive player on tour.
Americans Sock, and Isner, Frenchmen Simon, Monfils, and Chardy score successes in ATP singles, Bellucci wins late night thriller
American and French players both had good results in second round singles action on Saturday. Jack Sock continued his good form, winning a competitive first set over slumping Italian Fabio Fognini, before, as is almost expected at this point, Fognini tanked hard in the second, as the match ended 7-6 6-1 in anti-climatic fashion. John Isner dominated the Russian teenager Andrey Rublev 6-3 6-4, as Rublev had zero familiarity with Big John’s serve. He struggled to even get a racquet on the second serve of the American #1, and thus the result was never in question. Gilles Simon played graceful tennis in the third set and took out Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-7 6-0, Kukushkin lost momentum early in the third, but Simon was brilliant from both the baseline, and the net, having lulled his opponent into a poor course of play. Jeremy Chardy won all but two games from 0-4 down in his match against Jurgen Melzer, as the Austrian may have injured himself, the final scoreline 6-4 6-1. Gael Monfils won a thriller against underdog Filip Krajinovic, 3-6 6-2 7-6. Monfils failed to convert four match point chances in the third set, but finally won the tiebreak to take out the pesky Serb.
After the match Monfils was asked about having to play his good friend Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round 3.
Thomaz Bellucci won a late night thriller over Pablo Cuevas 2-6 6-2 7-5. The grandstand court was packed with fans of the Brazilian veteran, and though he got off to a slow start, 1-4 down in a short span of time, his passion showed as he battled back to make it a match against the higher ranked Cuevas. Bellucci took a nasty fall early in the second set, twisting his ankle, and was visibly grimacing in pain as he received a medical timeout and treatment for his fall, which primarily involved stretching and testing his ankle. However, instead of retiring, he was capable of continuing, and rather than merely dragging himself the rest of the way through, he rose up and broke Cuevas to go 2-1 up. This outraged a frustrated Cuevas, who yelled at him when they were crossing sides during the changeover, with some harsh words (in Spanish or Portuguese I’m not certain). As a result of this outburst, the fans really got behind Bellucci, and started to get into Cuevas head. Bellucci broke twice more in the second to force a third as things got messy for Cuevas.
In the third set, both players battled on serve to 5-5, and then Bellucci would score a crucial break, as his heavy hitting, primarily from the forehand side with spin, was pushing Cuevas back and putting him into an uncomfortable position to generate angles with his one-handed backhand. Serving for the match at 6-5, Bellucci got tight and went 0-30 down, but he played amazingly from that point, with two go for broke forehands that just about broke the sound barrier, and two untouchable serves to convert his lone match point opportunity of the long battle. The hitting was heavy, and though both players got tight and weren’t the most accurate, Bellucci was hitting the ball, perhaps the hardest I’ve ever seen from him, as the fans danced and cheered in the stands, having traveled to Crandon Park to see their national hero play against a fellow South American.
Other mens second round winners on the day, in straight sets, included David Ferrer, who didn’t mess around today, winning 6-1 6-1 over Federico Delbonis, Lukas Rosol, who continued his uptick in recent form with a 7-6 6-3 win over Alex Zverev, Alejandro Falla, who upset Ivo Karlovic 6-4 6-2 as the Croat didn’t have much game on the day, Milos Raonic, who comfortably rode his serve to a 6-1 6-4 win over Teymuraz Gabashvili, David Goffin, who shellacked Borna Coric 6-0 6-4, in a surprising scoreline, the Croat having a poor tournament this time out, and Juan Monaco, who extended the terrible form of Ernests Gulbis 6-2 6-4.
The winners in three sets in mens singles were Fernando Verdasco, who eased past James Duckworth 4-6 6-2 6-1, Adrian Mannarino, who won the continuation match with Albert Ramos 6-4 3-6 6-2, Viktor Troicki, who grinded past Simone Bolelli 7-5 3-6 6-4, Steve Darcis, who upset Gilles Muller 6-4 6-7 6-3, and Jerzy Janowicz, who beat Roberto Bautista Agut and his injured eye, 6-1 1-6 6-4. The win is the best for Janowicz in quite some time as he was in poor form coming into Miami but is now into the third round.
Wozniacki, Radwanska and Williams sisters win, Bouchard upset
Caroline Wozniacki survived Kaia Kanepi 4-6 6-1 6-3, Aga Radwanska fended off a challenge from Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2 4-6 6-2, and the Williams sisters scored routine wins, Serena beat the junkballer Monica Niculescu 6-3 6-1, and Venus beat Sam Stosur 6-4 7-6. Fan favorite Eugenie Bouchard was not as lucky, she was listless in a shocking upset loss to German qualifier Tatjana Maria, who is ranked outside of the top 100, as Bouchard had a disappointing third round exit.
Ekaterina Makarova beat Elina Svitolina 6-0 6-4 in just over an hour, Carla Suarez Navarro beat Alize Cornet by the same 6-0 6-4 scoreline, Karolina Pliskova beat Paula Bedosa Gibert 7-5 6-1, Andrea Petkovic, who was enjoying the Cuevas-Bellucci match on twitter last night, earlier in the day had beaten Kristina Mladenovic in a 6-0 6-2 blowout. Angelique Kerber won the most competitive WTA match of the day over Heather Watson 7-5 3-6 6-4, Sara Errani beat Ana Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 7-6, and Daria Gavrilova followed up her massive win over Sharapova with a 6-0 7-6 win over Kurumi Nara.
Doubles specialists score victories
The Bryans beat Becker/Lipsky 6-2 7-6 in men’s doubles, and two other doubles specialists pairings on the men side also won. Rojer/Tecau 6-4 6-2 over Inglot/Mergea, and Cabal/Farah 7-6 6-3 over Lopez/Mirnyi. Bolelli/Fognini continued their remarkable form in doubles with a 6-4 6-2 win over the quality pairing of Klaasen/Paes, and Americans Harrison/Ram beat Mahut/Roger-Vasselin 7-5 7-6.
Chan/Jankovic beat Parra-Santonja/Soler-Espinosa 7-5 6-4, Dushevina/Martinez Sanchez beat Goerges/Groenefeld 7-6 3-6 10-7 in a battle, Hantuchova/Knapp beat Dulgheru/Halep 7-5 6-3, Niculescu/Panova beat the veteran pairing of Lisa Raymond/Sam Stosur 6-2 6-3. Hsieh/Pennetta won 6-1 6-3 over Cornet/Svitolina, Garcia/Srebotnik beat Puig/Watson 6-3 6-3, Jans-Ignacik/Klepac beat Bertens/Maria 7-5 6-4, and Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro beat Savchuk/Torro-flor 6-3 6-2.
Monfils-Tsonga headlines Miami Sunday
With action already underway in Miami on Sunday, Gael Monfils will take on good buddy Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco and Rafa Nadal will renew their rivalry, 15 year old Cici Bellis will take on Serena, and Sabine Lisicki will battle against Ana Ivanovic in some of the big matches on the day.
Round 1 of the 2015 Davis Cup World Group was filled with drama as it brought out the best parts of the Davis Cup, with upsets, comebacks from 2 sets down, and passionate fan support at sites around the globe as players donned the national colors and put in their best effort on behalf of their country. Here is a review of all the action over this past weekend.
Argentina clawed back from 2-1 down in the tie as they were pushed to extra time at home against Brazil. The Friday singles rubbers were split, with Joao Souza winning the first rubber in five sets over Carlos Berlocq, and Leo Mayer claiming the second rubber for Argentina with a four set win over Thomaz Bellucci. Brazil won the doubles as expected as Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares took out Berlocq and Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in straights.
On Sunday, Mayer led the Argentinian battle back, he avoided a collapse from 2 sets up and beat Souza in the second longest match in tennis history, it went over 6 hours as he triumphed on his twelfth match point chance 15-13 in the fifth set. Every set went to at least 5-5 as both players were, as to be expected, exhausted at the end, with Mayer having just that extra edge.
Due to that 6 hour+ match, the final decisive rubber between Federico Delbonis and Bellucci was pushed into extra time on Monday morning, and Delbonis, inspired by Mayer’s triumph, defeated Bellucci in 4 sets, as the Brazilian veteran was the weak link for the team this time.
Kazakhstan d. Italy 3-2
The biggest upset of the weekend came in Astana, as Mikhail Kukushkin inspired his lower ranked Kazakh teammates to a victory over an erratic Italian team that proved to be in disarray by Sunday. Kukushkin beat Simone Bolelli in straights on Friday though Andreas Seppi evened up the tie with a win over Andrey Golubev in 4 sets. The Italians won the doubles rubber as Bolelli and Fabio Fognini beat Alex Nedovyesov and Golubev in four sets, giving them a 2-1 lead.
On Sunday, the Italian choke job was on however, Seppi lost to Kukushkin in a very poor showing, as he failed to take even a set, and then Fognini made matters worse losing in five sets to Nedovyesov from 2 sets to 1 up, after he gotten it back to 5-5 in the fifth set.
It wasn’t the best attended tie of the weekend, but the fans who were in attendance were greatly pleased to see their home boys advancing as Italy will have to fight off relegation now.
The one-two punch of Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil was too much for Kei Nishikori and Japan. Though Kei performed well, beating Pospisil in straights on Friday, and Raonic in 5 sets on Sunday, the rest of the Japanese team fared poorly. Raonic beat Ito in a straight set drubbing on Friday, Daniel Nestor teamed with Pospisil to win the doubles point in five sets over Go Soeda and Yasutaka Uchiyama, and Pospisil dispatched Soeda in a live fifth rubber without dropping a set.
As mentioned in my preview, one has to wonder what might have been for team Japan if they had selected their young guns, Yoshihito Nishioka and Taro Daniel, rather than journeyman veterans Soeda and Ito, in my mind it would have increased their chances to win the tie.
Belgium d. Switzerland 3-2
The highest ranked player on the Swiss team, Yann Marti, stormed off and quit the team after he was not selected to play on Friday singles, and his selfish behavior may have cost his nation the tie, as the severely underdog, and shorthanded Swiss performed admirably, forcing a live fifth rubber to be played on the road in Liege, Belgium.
Henri Laaksonen deserves great credit for the fact the Belgians had to sub in their number one David Goffin, who originally wasn’t planning to play, in order to finish off that fifth rubber. Laaksonen was responsible for both Swiss rubber wins, as he beat Ruben Bemelmans on Friday from 2 sets to love down, Bemelmans collapsing down the stretch, and then beat Steve Darcis in the fourth rubber, also in five sets, as he outlasted the veteran serve and volleyer.
The Belgians earned wins from Darcis over Michael Lammer on Friday, from Bemelmans and Niels Desein over Adrian Bossel and Lammer in Saturday doubles, and as mentioned from Goffin over Bossel in straights, as Belgium had to scratch and claw against a journeyman team to book their place in the quarterfinals.
Australia d. Czech Republic 3-2 (3-1 live rubbers)
Team Australia did have to play live rubber tennis on Sunday, but they were the better team all weekend against the Czechs. Thanasi Kokkinakis added yet another massive accomplishment in his burgeoning career, the young Aussie was selected to open the tie for the Aussies, and he pulled off a brilliant fight back against Lukas Rosol from 2 sets to love down, to give Australia a 1-0 start. Kokkinakis struggled to deal with Rosol’s ballbashing for the first two frames, but won the final three sets 7-5 7-5 6-3, with late breaks sets 3 and four, to grab the victory, never losing belief in himself, as Rosol’s own belief eventually wilted. Bernard Tomic followed up the Kokkinakis triumph with a routine win over fellow young gun Jiri Vesely to put Australia 2-0 up.
The Czechs forced the Aussies to close off the tie on Sunday with an upset win in the doubles by Vesely and Adam Pavlasek over Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt in five sets, but Tomic secured the tie, defeating a struggling Rosol in straight sets in the fourth rubber.
The dead rubber was won by Jan Mertl to conclude the tie at 3-2 in favor of Australia, Mertl dispatching Sam Groth, who appeared to be ready to board his airplane.
France d. Germany 3-2 (3-0 live rubbers)
France got off to a great start and won their tie on Saturday against Germany, Gilles Simon had to survive an onslaught against Jan-Lennard Struff in the opening rubber, finally sneaking past the pesky Germany 10-8 in the fifth, but it was much easier for Gael Monfils, who beat Philipp Kohlschreiber in straights, and also for Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau, who secured the tie with a win in Saturday doubles over Benjamin Becker and Andre Begemann.
Kohlschreiber and Struff beat Simon and Mahut in the dead rubbers to conclude the tie at 3-2 in favor of the French.
Borna Coric lost a 2 sets to love lead against Viktor Troicki in the second Friday singles rubber, and that was the primary contributing factor to the Serbian sweep over the Croatian team. Novak Djokovic beat Mate Delic, and as mentioned, Troicki beat Coric in 5 sets. Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic locked the result of the tie on Saturday with a win over Marin Draganja and Franko Skugor in doubles.
Filip Krajinovic and Troicki won the dead rubbers over Skugor and Delic.
The quarterfinals in the World Group will feature France traveling to face Great Britain, Kazakhstan traveling to face Australia, Serbia going to Argentina and Canada heading to Belgium.
Action Outside The World Group
Santiago Giraldo and Colombia beat Pablo Cuevas and Uruguay 3-2, the inspiring Victor Estrella led the Dominican Republic past Barbados with a pair of wins and a 3-2 overall result, Michael Venus and New Zealand beat China 4-1.
In Europe, Russia beat Denmark 4-1 as Andrey Kuznetsov won two singles rubbers, Austria scratched past Sweden 3-2, from 1-2 down going into play on Sunday. Elias Ymer shocked Jurgen Melzer for a Friday singles win, but he couldn’t defeat Andreas Haider-Maurer on Sunday, and Gerald Melzer secured the tie with a fifth rubber win. Gerald chosen to start over his older, more accomplished brother Jurgen.
Martin Klizan went 3-0 between singles and doubles as Slovakia blanked Slovenia 5-0, Romania demolished Israel 5-0, as Marius Copil and Adrian Ungur both won twice, and Poland beat Lithuania 3-2, as Jerzy Janowicz scored two singles wins.
In group 2 action, the young Chilean squad swept Peru 5-0, Turkey beat South Africa 3-2 as Cem Ilkel, a 19 year old ranked outside of the worlds top 400 beat Ruan Roelofse 6-4 in the fifth set, and Marsel Ilhan scored two wins in singles. Last but not least, Joao Sousa led Portugal to a 4-1 win over Morocco.