2017 ATP Kitzbuhel Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
ATP Kitzbuhel is on the calendar once again, and it’s a 250 level opportunity for some of the best dirtballers in tennis.
ATP World Tour 250
July 31-August 5, 2017
Prize Money: €482,060
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: Pablo Cuevas (26)
2: Fabio Fognini (31)
3: Paolo Lorenzi (36)
4: Gilles Simon (39)
Kitzbuhel attracts a solid group of dirtballers this year.
Pablo Cuevas, 14-9 on clay this year, is on a three match losing streak that he should break against either Nikoloz Basilashvili or Sebastian Ofner. With Basilashvili playing poorly, I have Ofner pulling an upset at home before falling to Cuevas. Hamburg semifinalist Federico Delbonis should defeat Renzo Olivo. Horacio Zeballos or Rogerio Dutra Silva will follow, presuming Delbonis isn’t fatigued, he should reach the quarters before falling to Cuevas.
Paolo Lorenzi reached the final in Umag, he should beat Joao Sousa or Mikhail Youzhny in round 2. Sousa found a bit of form last week in Gstaad, but Lorenzi is the best player on clay in his section. Wild card Gerald Melzer should defeat a struggling Carlos Berlocq. Melzer comes off a challenger final, Gstaad semifinalist Robin Haase has never beaten qualifier Santiago Giraldo, but he should reach the quarterfinal with wins over Giraldo and Melzer, before falling to Lorenzi.
Gstaad champion Fabio Fognini should beat either Andrey Kuznetsov or Milijan Zekic. Kuznetsov is a dark horse, but I’ll back Fognini’s form. Jan-Lennard Struff faces a struggling Tommy Haas, Alexandr Dolgopolov could catch fire and beat him round 2, after defeating a struggling Thomaz Bellucci, but I have Struff falling to Fognini in the quarterfinals.
Gilles Simon is struggling, but he’s the favorite against Dusan Lajovic or the steadily improving Max Marterer. Jiri Vesely has reached consecutive ATP quarterfinals. Vesely opens with Gstaad finalist Yannick Hanfmann, who should be out of gas. Philipp Kohlschreiber or Facundo Bagnis await in round 2, Kohlschreiber’s health is in question, thus Vesely is my favorite to go as far as the semifinals, upsetting Simon in the quarters.
Dark Horse: Andrey Kuznetsov
Kuznetsov is talented enough to upset a tired Fognini and make a run all the way to the final, I don’t predict it, but he’s the most dangerous non-seeded player in the draw this week.
Semis Lorenzi d. Cuevas
Vesely d. Fognini
It’s anyone’s title in Kitzbuhel this week, but I favor the Italian dirtballer Lorenzi to grab a key title.
Basilashvili leads Khachanov 2-1 in the h2h but on clay the Russian will be favored. A quarterfinalist in Barcelona, Khachanov’s form is also slightly better, although Basilashvili has had a great season overall. Both of these players are rising, and this is an interesting test as to who is the better player right now.
Damir Dzumhur vs. (Q)Stefanos Tsitsipas
Greek young gun Tsitispas will get his third shot at a maiden ATP main draw win against Dzumhur who is in average form at best. Tsitsipas came through qualifying, and he has enough of a game to win this, Dzumhur can be a tough customer but I’ll back the young gun to get it done.
A winner of sixteen of his last seventeen matches, Aljaz Bedene should ease past Marton Fucsovics and then get a big match with top seed Milos Raonic. Raonic, 11-2 this year, hasn’t played since Miami, but is usually competitive on clay, although not elite. Presuming Raonic is healthy he should put away Budapest finalist Bedene and then defeat Rogerio Dutra Silva in the quarters. RDS opens with Riccardo Bellotti and neither Radu Albo or Bernard Tomic, one of whom will await in round 2, are great on clay or in good form. Raonic has a pretty easy path to the semis excluding Bedene.
Budapest semifinalist Laslo Djere should beat Daniel Brands before falling to Paolo Lorenzi, who is 9-6 on clay this year and makes his living grinding away in 250’s like this. Marcos Baghdatis is not great on clay, and Viktor Troicki should win his round 1 match against a fellow veteran and then beat the winner Basilashvili/Khachanov winner. Lorenzi is the favorite to reach the semis in this section.
Marin Cilic has struggled this year but on clay he should be good enough to reach the quarters past Tsitsipas or Dzumhur. Cilic should then run into Jiri Vesely, as Vesely is the clear favorite over Marcel Granollers, and the winner of Steve Darcis/Dudi Sela. Vesely will have a punchers chance against Cilic, but Marin is the veteran favorite for a reason.
Monte Carlo quarterfinalist Diego Schwartzman, the defending champion, looks set to defeat either qualifier Adrian Menendez-Maceiras or young gun Jordan Thompson, then edge past Borna Coric in the quarters, presuming Coric defeats Dusan Lajovic and Mikhail Youzhny or local favorite Cem Ilkel. It’s a tough call between DSS and Coric, but I back Schwartzman’s form barely right now.
If Cilic puts up another poor performance Vesely should be the player to take advantage, he has a great shot to reach at least the semifinals, and could perhaps take this title. The Czech has underperformed in his young career after entering the main tour with promise, but it’s not too late to turn that around.
Semis Raonic d. Lorenzi
Cilic d. Schwartzman
The top 2 seeds should be favorites over dirtballing specialists in the semifinals.
Final Cilic d. Raonic
On clay I give Cilic the slightest edge to take this title.
2016 Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinals Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A busy week of tennis will expand with the Davis Cup World Group quarterfinals, and ties in lower level groups starting tomorrow. Here is your preview with predictions for the final Davis Cup ties before the Olympic games in Rio.
Two recent Davis Cup champions will face off in Belgrade on clay. Serbia has a b-level squad that is anchored by the veteran presence of Janko Tipsarevic and Nenad Zimonjic, while Dusan Lajovic, and Filip Krajinovic, a pair of fringe ATP dirtballers round out their squad. Team GB is unlikely to get the services of Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, although he’s on the squad. Andy’s brother Jamie, Kyle Edmund, and DC hero Dan Evans are on Leon’s Smith team though, as team GB looks to defend their DC title.
Zimonjic and Jamie Murray should cancel each other out as doubles specialists, on clay, Edmund is credible, Evans much less so, having not played on clay in two years, and Lajovic and Krajinovic both have a chance to win the three singles rubbers out of four needed to take the tie on their own. Tipsarevic is a shell of his former self after injuries, and Krajinovic hasn’t played in weeks however, thus team GB has a puncher’s chance, but they will need the doubles rubber. Unless Andy Murray plays, Serbia is the favorite.
Italy vs. Argentina
Home court advantage should be crucial for Italy as they try to win an evenly matched tie against Argentina on clay. Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi are leading the Italian team, with veteran Paolo Lorenzi and Marco Cecchinato also on the squad. Argentina counters with a newly rejuvenated Juan Martin Del Potro, veteran performer Juan Monaco, and younger dirtballers Guido Pella and Federico Delbonis.
This is a tough tie to predict, if Del Potro plays, and plays well, Argentina has a clear advantage. Regardless, Pella, Delbonis, and Monaco are all steady on clay, while Fognini, and Seppi are more erratic in form. Italy could win, but I’m going with the more consistent Argentina.
Czech Republic vs. France
On indoor hard in the Czech Republic, veteran Radek Stepanek leads a Czech squad that also features upward rising Jiri Vesely, big hitter Lukas Rosol, and the challenger level Adam Pavlasek. France counters with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the lead, the world class doubles pairing of Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, and rising young gun Lucas Pouille.
Despite playing at home, France has a clear advantage if Tsonga is fit and plays. Pouille may not win a match, but he’s capable of playing well, Mahut and Herbert are perhaps the best doubles team in the world, and the Czech’s don’t have Tomas Berdych to rely on for this tie. Only multiple upsets would prevent France from advancing.
The Pacific Northwest will get a taste of professional tennis on outdoor hard courts as Portland hosts the USA vs. Croatia. Jim Courier opted to go with his usual squad, skipping Wimbledon hero Sam Querrey, and the in-form Steve Johnson. John Isner leads the way, with Jack Sock as the #2 singles player, and the Bryan brothers for doubles. Croatia has most of their best players, with their #1 Marin Cilic leading the way, the young Borna Coric as his #2, and Ivan Dodig and Marin Draganja for doubles.
The Wimbledon quarterfinalist Cilic should prevail in both of his singles matches against Isner and Sock. Isner and Sock aren’t in great form, but will be happy to return to outdoor hard courts. Coric isn’t in great form himself, and I see him losing both singles rubbers, which means this match is likely decided on the Saturday doubles point. The Bryans are in decline, but still a tremendous pairing, and assuming they win, the USA will advance.
Action outside of the World Group
In Americas Group 1, Thomaz Bellucci’s Brazil are favorites against Ecuador and Santiago Giraldo’s Colombia should knock off Chile on the road. In Europe-Africa Group 1, Spain are heavy favorites on the road against Romania as they have ATP regulars Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta, and Feliciano Lopez on their squad. Romania has a great doubles team with Horia Tecau and Florin Mergea, but little else. Veteran former top ATP player Jurgen Melzer is playing for Austria in Ukraine, his team are underdogs against a team led by Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Russia vs. Netherlands should be a close tie in Moscow, young gun Andrey Rublev is playing for Russia, while the Netherlands have fringe ATP veterans Robin Haase and Thiemo De Bakker on their squad. In Europe-Africa Group 2, Jarkko Nieminen is unretiring to help Finland against Denmark.
2016 Busan, Aix en Provence, Karshi and Rome Challenger Previews & Predictions Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
Busan Open Challenger Tour Tennis
ATP Challenger Tour
2-8 May 2016
Hardcourt, Rebound Ace
Prize Money: $100,000
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Ricardas Berankis (55)
2: John Millman (66)
3: Sam Groth (80)
4: Hyeon Chung (84)
5: Tatsuma Ito (104)
6: Lukas Lacko (113)
7: Yuichi Sugita (114)
8: Michael Berrer (115)
The last direct acceptance is Ti Chen, ranked 213th.
First round match-up to watch
(4) Hyeon Chung – Konstantin Kravchuk
19-year-old Chung peaked at a ranking of #51 in October, but still struggles with the transition to main tour tennis, having dropped to his current ranking of #82 and now trying to increase his ranking again by playing a Challenger. Hopefully this won’t be a recurring theme, because in the long run he will be better off facing stronger opposition in main tour events. Chung has already shown he is above Challenger level and will likely pick up another title here.
Top seed Ricardas Berankis has successfully played a lot of tennis in the past couple of weeks and one has to imagine he is starting to feel tired. He might reach the semi-final solely based on how far above the rest of his opposition he will be skill wise, but it won’t be enough to beat Chung. Like Chung, let’s hope Berankis can settle down on the main tour for good now that he has increased his ranking close to the top 50 with a lot of Challenger tennis.
Third seed Sam Groth has not returned well from foot surgery and is currently in very bad form. He is projected to meet Daniel Evans in the second round, who won a title last week, which will probably be the end of the road for Groth. Second seed John Millman is the favorite to come out of this half, but he has a very tricky draw, which might see him get upset prematurely. Millman faces Austin Krajicek in the first round, after which his projected path consists of respectively Sergiy Stakhovsky, Michael Berrer and Daniel Evans.
Chung d. Berankis
Millman d. Evans
Chung d. Millman
Open du Pays d’Aix-Trophee Caisse d’Epargne
ATP Challenger Tour
Aix en Provence, France
2-8 May 2016
Prize Money: €85,000
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Lukas Rosol (65)
2: Diego Schwartzman (87)
3: Rogerio Dutra Silva (101)
4: Stephane Robert (116)
5: Mischa Zverev (129)
6: Elias Ymer (132)
7: Daniel Brands (135)
8: Maximo Gonzalez (136)
The last direct acceptance is Tristan Lamasine, ranked 203rd. Former world #25 Julien Benneteau received a wildcard.
First round match-up to watch
Edouard Roger-Vasselin – Kimmer Coppejans
22-year-old Coppejans looked to be on the verge of breaking through many times, but can’t seem to make the step to main tour level. He cracked the top 100 almost a year ago, but has only regressed since, now being ranked 165th. He faces a tricky veteran in former world #35 Roger-Vasselin, who despite dropping to his current ranking of #190 is still a tough draw. However, if his ranking doesn’t improve soon he might retire from singles altogether and focus on his doubles career, where he is ranked 17th.
Top seed Lukas Rosol might be by far the best ranked player in this half, you can’t call him by far the most likely to advance to the final. He hasn’t been in good form lately and there will be many tricky players on his path. Sixth seed Elias Ymer is his projected quarterfinal opponent and the 20-year-old is in good form, having won the Barletta Challenger two weeks ago. The same goes for Mischa Zverev, who comes off a tournament win at the Sarasota Challenger. Although it has to be said the green clay in the United States and the red clay here are a world of difference.
Diego Schwartzman is the second seed, but I think it’s unlikely he will play here, having just won his first ATP title at Istanbul yesterday. Perhaps veteran fourth seed Stephane Robert can profit, being placed in a quarter with seventh seed Daniel Brands, who prefers faster courts. I would say Brands even is an underdog to get past his first round match against Renzo Olivo, who is likely to battle it out with Robert for a place in the semi-final. The winner of that match will be the favorite to reach the final as well.
Rosol d. Dutra Silva
Olivo d. Monteiro
Rosol d. Olivo
ATP Challenger Tour
2-7 May 2016
Prize Money: $50,000
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Dudi Sela (78)
2: Karen Khachanov (128)
3: Radu Albot (151)
4: Aleksandr Nedovyesov (197)
5: Amir Weintraub (198)
6: Denys Molchanov (224)
7: Dmitry Popko (230)
8: Aslan Karatsev (231)
The last direct acceptance is Ilya Ivashka, ranked 365th.
First round match-up to watch
(2) Karen Khachanov – Aleksandre Metreveli
Khachanov is really breaking through this year, currently ranked at a career high #128 after a great showing at the ATP 500 event of Barcelona. There he beat Aljaz Bedene, before adding an impressive top 20 victory over Roberto Bautista Agut to his résumé in the second round. Even though that was a clay event, he is equally as good on hardcourt and should be the clear favorite to reach the final here. There an interesting encounter with top seed Dudi Sela is projected, who won the Shenzhen Challenger last month and reached two other Challenger semi-finals.
I already gave away my expected final and it’s difficult to see another outcome, with Sela and Khachanov clearly being ahead of the rest of the field. This can also be seen in the rankings, with third seed Radu Albot ranked outside of the top 150, while fourth seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov is only barely ranked inside of the top 200.
Sela d. Albot
Khachanov d. Nedovyesov
Khachanov d. Sela
Roma Garden Open
ATP Challenger Tour
2-7 May 2016
Prize Money: €42,500
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Jiri Vesely (63)
2: Kyle Edmund (89)
3: Horacio Zeballos (91)
4: Adam Pavlasek (109)
5: Filip Krajinovic (110)
6: Jordan Thompson (118)
7: Kenny De Schepper (148)
8: Vincent Millot (149)
The last direct acceptance is Axel Michon, ranked 217th.
First round match-up to watch
(1) Jiri Vesely – Marsel Ilhan
Novak Djokovic will be relieved, one less thing to worry about in Madrid this week, as the man who took him out in Monte Carlo is playing a Challenger this week. Vesely is prioritizing this event over playing qualifying in Madrid, a decision certainly made before that legendary victory over the world number one. Vesely has been handed a good draw, with the players who could potentially threaten him being placed in the bottom half, so he is a big favorite to reach the final.
As said, Vesely has a comfortable draw, being placed in a quarter with mostly players who don’t even have clay as their favorite surface. In the semi-final he is likely to faced third seed Horacio Zeballos or Adrian Ungur. Ungur faces fifth seed Filip Krajinovic in the first round, a rematch of their first round match in Istanbul last week, which Ungur comfortably won 6-3 6-3. Ungur then went on to massively threaten second seed and eventual runner-up Grigor Dimitrov in the second round, with the match ending 7-5 4-6 7-5.
Second seed Kyle Edmund should be able to comfortably get through to at least the semi-final, where he is projected to face the in-form fourth seed Adam Pavlasek or sixth seed Jordan Thompson, who won the Anning Challenger last week. Pavlasek has already reached three Challenger finals this year, although he lost them all, one of which to Thompson in Cherbourg. Nevertheless, Edmund should be a decent favorite against either one of them.
2015 Davis Cup World Group Semis and Playoffs Recap Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Great Britain will face Belgium in a 2015 Davis Cup final that few predicted at the start of the DC campaign, and at the same time in the World Group Playoffs, teams defending their World Group spot went 7-1, as just Team Poland will be new to the Davis Cup World Group compared to last season.
The Scottish Murray brothers brought glory to the Union Jack in Glasgow, as they did it all in a 3-1 win over Australia. Dan Evans lost both his singles rubbers to Bernard Tomic and Thanasi Kokkinakis, but Murray beat both Kokkinakis on Friday and Tomic on Sunday without dropping a set to clinch the tie. The key result came on Saturday as Andy and his brother Jamie fought off Sam Groth/Lleyton Hewitt in a thrilling five set duel to win the doubles rubber. Australia has a bright future ahead in Davis Cup, but Lleyton Hewitt comes up just short of the final in his final season as a DC ironman player. Murray’s dedication to Davis Cup this season has put Team GB just three matches away from their first Davis Cup trophy since 1936.
Belgium lacks the star power of some of the other teams in the Davis Cup, but their team unity and chemistry helped put the small European nation into the DC final as well. David Goffin won twice in straights over Federico Delbonis and Diego Schwartzman, and Steve Darcis, a journeyman veteran, proved to be the hero as he won a live fifth rubber over Delbonis in a 4th set tiebreak to secure the Belgians the right to host the 2015 Davis Cup final.
Argentina didn’t have their best players, but Leonardo Mayer beat Darcis on Friday, and Mayer/Carlos Berlocq combined to win the doubles rubber over Ruben Bemelmans/Darcis to put them up 2-1 going into Sunday play, but they couldn’t finish the job and saw their lead quickly evaporate. Belgium has never been this excited about tennis before, and the best may be yet to come thanks to the successful Goffin/Darcis duo.
Somdev Devvarman upset Jiri Vesely after Yuki Bhambri fell to Lukas Rosol, both straight sets results in what was a good Friday showing for India, but they couldn’t keep the momentum going as Rohan Bopanna/Leander Paes were upset in straight sets in doubles by Adam Pavlasek/Radek Stepanek to give the Czechs an advantage on the road. Vesely recovered from his Friday defeat well and sent Bhambri packing in straights to keep the Czechs in the World Group in what was a solid team effort. Indian tennis is improving, but this loss shows they still have a way to go.
Switzerland d. Netherlands 3-1 (4-1 total)
The Federer/Wawrinka combo was simply too much for an underdog Dutch team to overcome as Wawrinka beat a spirited Thiemo De Bakker in five sets onFriday, and Federer swept up Jesse Huta Galung and De Bakker on Friday and Sunday to clinch the tie without dropping a set. The Dutch did show signs of life on Saturday as De Bakker and Matwe Middelkoop beat Federer/Marco Chiudinelli in a five setter, but the Dtuch never really had a chance in this one. Henri Laaksonen won the dead rubber over Tim Van Rijthoven.
Russia won the opening rubber as Teymuraz Gabashvili swept past Simone Bolelli, but in the end having home advantage did little to help them defeat a unified Italian team. Fabio Fognini helped the Italians bounce back with a routine win over Russian young gun Andrey Rublev, and then Bolelli/Fognini won the key doubles point over Evgeny Donskoy/Konstantin Kravchuk in four sets. Fognini would clinch the tie over Gabashvili in straights, continuing his good form, and Paolo Lorenzi won the dead rubber over Kravchuk in 2 sets. Next year, Italy could be a dangerous team if Fognini can perform well.
USA d. Uzbekistan 3-1
The USA survived what could have been a very tricky tie in Uzbekistan thanks to Jack Sock. Sock won twice over Farrukh Dustov and Denis Istomin, dropping just the set to Istomin, and that result clinched the tie. On Friday, Istomin won a five setter over Steve Johnson, but Johnson, a former NCAA player used to team tennis, bounced back well to win the doubles tie on Saturday with Sam Querrey over Dustov/Istomin in straights, giving the USA a strong advantage. Using some new players in Sock and Johnson, gave embattled captain Jim Courier a much needed win.
In the most competitive of the playoff ties, a pair of straight set wins for Kei Nishikori over Alejandro Falla and Santiago Giraldo put Japan into a live fifth rubber, and the young Taro Daniel proved the hero, as he was fearless in his three set victory over Falla. The Colombians were 2-1 up going into Sunday, as Giraldo had beaten Daniel in five sets, and Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah beat Yoshi Nishioka/Yasutaka Uchiyama in four sets in the doubles, but Daniel bounced back well and kept Japan in the World Group in what was a wise call up for their team.
Germany d. Dominican Republic 3-1 (4-1 total)
As expected, Victor Estrella’s form was not near good enough to defeat a better quality German team. Estrella did get an opening rubber win over Dustin Brown in four sets, but he lost the doubles rubber with Jose Hernandez-Fernandez to Philipp Kohlschreiber/Philipp Petzschner in straights, and then lost to Kohlschreiber in straights on Sunday to resolve the tie. Kohlschreiber also beat Hernandez-Fernandez on Friday, and Benjamin Becker won the dead rubber over Roberto Cid in 2 sets.
Croatia d. Brazil 3-1
Borna Coric stepped up big this weekend for a Croatia team that lacked two of its best players. On the road in Brazil, Coric beat Joao Souza and Thomaz Bellucci to clinch the tie, as Bellucci came up injured in the fourth set on Sunday. Credit also goes to Ivan Dodig/Franko Skugor who shocked Marcelo Melo/Bruno Soares by winning a pair of tiebreaks in the 3rd and fourth sets to win the doubles rubber. Bellucci did beat Mate Delic on Friday in 4 sets, but his physical condition ended up dooming the Brazilians.
Poland d. Slovakia 3-2
As expected, Poland and Slovakia went to a live fifth rubber, and the clutch play of veteran Michal Przysiezny won them the day. Przysiezny had lost on Friday to Martin Klizan in straights, but he won in straights over Norbert Gombos on Sunday and erased those demons to send his nation into the World Group. Klizan rolled past Jerzy Janowicz in straights on Sunda, after Janowicz had beaten Gombos, and Lukasz Kubot/Marcin Matkowski had won the doubles rubber over Andrej Martin/Igor Zelenay, but the Slovakians could not complete their comeback.
Action outside the World Group
Chile moved into Americas Group 1 with a 5-0 thumping of Venezuela, Pakistan beat Taiwan 3-2 to join Asia/Oceania Group 1, Rafael Nadal and Spain remained in group 1 with a dominant win over Denmark, and Portugal, which features Joao Sousa and Gastao Elias, and Hungary will join Europe/Africa Group 1 with wins over Bulgaria and Belarus respectively, both by a score of 3-2.
2015 ATP Kitzbuhel Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final ATP clay court tournament in 2015 will once again take place in Kitzbuhel, Austria. The resort town hosts a 250 level tournament as dirtballers vie for a final chance at points and cash on clay.
2015 ATP Kitzbuhel Preview
ATP World Tour 250
August 3-August 8, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: Dominic Thiem (21)
2: Andreas Seppi (24)
3: Fabio Fognini (27)
4: Martin Klizan (34)
A solid group of clay courters feature in Kitzbuhel, headlined by Austrian #1 Dominic Thiem who has won three ATP titles on clay this year (Nice, Umag, and Gstaad).
(6)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (Q)Jan-Lennard Struff
The fourth career meeting between Struff and Kohlschreiber, the h2h is split 1-1 with Kohli have a win on clay, and Struff on hard court in Doha this year. Struff jut came through qualifying in routine fashion, and is playing his best tennis in months. The 25 year old has always had baseline talent but he tends to struggle under pressure and has shown mental weakness in his career. Kohlschreiber, who is Davis Cup Teammates with Struffi has lost two straight and comes off a round 1 loss to Benoit Paire in Hamburg. He’s normally solid on clay but he’s struggled to be consistent this year, and Struff could catch him in a slump. Kohlschreiber is the favorite though.
(5)Juan Monaco vs. Robin Haase
Monaco leads the h2h with Haase 3-2, and won their last meeting in Gstaad last year on clay (1-1 on clay). That said, the Dutchman is a two-time champion in Kitzbuhel and Monaco is just 3-5 since the French Open, as the veteran Argentine seems to be struggling after having a nice Spring. Haase has been in decent form, and presumably should be rested up for this match. It should be close, but given the venue I see Haase scratching out a minor upset over the seed and reaching round 2.
(7)Jiri Vesely vs. Nicolas Almagro
Nicolas Almagro has been struggling since returning from injury, the formerly top tier Spaniard is looking to break a four match losing streak dating back to the French Open here in Kitzbuhel where he is using a protected ranking. The young gun Vesely gave both Fabio Fognini and Rafael Nadal good matches on clay over the past two weeks, and this is an easier draw for him. Almagro is a recognizable name, but Vesely seems to be the superior player right now as his steady play should see him through to round 2.
Dominic Thiem is 18-5 on clay this year and has won eight straight matches as he took back to back 250 titles in Umag and Gstaad. He may well be out of gas in front of the home fans in Kitzbuhel, but the Austrian #1 does get a bye and his round 2 opponent will be either a possibly injured Andreas Haider-Maurer, who is also Austrian, or a struggling Joao Souza, a loser of four straight matches. Thiem’s fatigue is a difficult factor to predict, but I still see him reaching the quarterfinals.
#8 seed Albert Ramos is a possible benefactor of the fatigue Thiem almost certainly is feeling. Ramos will open with Diego Schwartzman, who has lost six straight matches, and presuming the Spanish veteran lefty wins that either degraded veteran Albert Montanes, a lucky loser, or Gerald Melzer, a home Austrian, will be his round 2 opponent. Melzer is in horrid form like Schwartzman, and Ramos is simply a level above Montanes, thus a Thiem vs. Ramos quarterfinal is the pick.
Thiem and Ramos have never played before, and if Thiem is simply in form and not feeling too much fatigue he likely wins, however it’s a hard match to predict and Ramos could also win.
Hamburg finalist Fabio Fognini is always a tank risk, especially in a small tournament like this, but if his good form continues he should beat Aljaz Bedene for the second time in as many weeks. Bedene opens with wild card Dennis Novak, and has been in excellent form as of late, that said, he fell to Fognini in straight sets in the Hamburg quarters, after upsetting Roberto Bautista Agut. In the quarters, Fognini could face Kohlschreiber/Struff, or Santiago Giraldo/qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva. Giraldo beat RDS in Houston this year on clay and comes off of the quarters in Gstaad. Kohli beat Giraldo this year in Umag, but Giraldo won the previous two meetings on clay and may well be in better form, thus I have Fognini over Giraldo in the quarters.
Fognini is 1-1 on clay this year against Santi, he beat him in Madrid but lost to him in Sao Paulo. Overall Fognini leads the h2h 5-3 with a majority of their meetings taking place on clay. It’s a tough pick, but if Fognini is committed he should reach the semifinals here.
Hamburg semifinalist Andreas Seppi played his way into form on clay with a pair of wins and should cruise into the quarters over either Dusan Lajovic or nearly retired Mikhail Youzhny who hasn’t won a match in over two months. Lajovic is likewise struggling and it’s likely to be a Seppi vs. Vesely quarterfinal. Vesely will have to beat Jurgen Melzer or Daniel Gimeno-Traver after facing Almagro. DGT is in terrible form as a loser of 7 straight, while Melzer is in the twilight of his career but should do his best on home soil.
I have a hunch Vesely is a better player on clay than Seppi, as Seppi was 0-4 on clay before Hamburg this year, thus I’m going with the Czech to make a surprise semifinal this week.
The other semifinal slot could be filled by Martin Klizan, but he hasn’t been in great form as of late, with a record of six straight losses. Klizan remains 11-9 on clay this year and either Kenny De Schepper or Bastad quarterfinalist Paul-Henri Mathieu will be his round 2 opponent. PHM is in good form, and presuming the veteran has enough gas in the tank I have him upsetting Klizan to reach another quarterfinal, where he could line up across from Monaco/Haase. The winner of Monaco/Haase will face Pablo Carreno Busta or Federico Delbonis. PCB reached the quarters in Gstaad, but both he and Delbonis lost to the same player there, Dominic Thiem, the eventual champion. Look for Haase to fall to PCB, the Spaniard is 2-0 on clay against Robin and just beat him in Gstaad in straights.
PHM and PCB have never met, however I’ve been impressed by Mathieu’s form on both the challenger tour and now the main tour, he’s in great form on clay and has always had the talent, thus I have him reaching the semis in what should be a close match.
The 33 year old was once a top 15 player and has 4 ATP titles in his career, he’s been in the challenger and qualies wilderness for quite some time, but he appears to be experiencing a resurgence under the radar on European clay. He clearly has the experience to do well here, though mentality is always a question. Look for his solid game to take him to the semis and perhaps even farther.
Fognini d. Thiem
Mathieu d. Vesely
Thiem bageled Fognini in Munich on clay this year, but Fognini is a notorious tanker and is clearly far better than that. It’s hard for me to pick Thiem given how much tennis he’s played over the past couple of weeks, thus I have Fognini reaching his second straight final.
Vesely and Mathieu have never faced each other, it’s hard to predict who will perform in the bottom half, but I’m going with the qualifier to pull off a run and reach the final.
Fognini d. Mathieu
Fognini should have an edge in talent and form over PHM if this is the final, he’s always an unpredictable competitor, but he has an excellent chance to win his first title of the season and boost his ranking back up this week.
2015 French Open Week 1 Men’s Preview and Predictions (@RolandGarros) Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
It’s time for the second Grand Slam of the season, the 2015 French Open at Stade Roland Garros in Paris. This is one of the most wide open French Opens in years, as the case could be made for at least five different players to claim the title. In addition, the young guns are rising, as over a dozen players under 21 are competing in the main draw and some of them are likely to score some upsets and do well, so read on and check out what all there is offer on the men’s side of the 2015 French Open.
May 24-June 7, 2015
Prize Money: $29,500,000
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (3)
4: Tomas Berdych (4)
5: Kei Nishikori (5)
6: Rafael Nadal (7)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Stan Wawrinka (9)
World #6 Milos Raonic pulled out with a foot injury, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Tommy Haas, both injured are missing, Janko Tipsarevic, and Julien Benneteau were the other withdrawals but all of the other top players are here, including 19 of the top 20.
A rematch of an interesting encounter in Madrid, Tomic lost in a third set tiebreak to the Italian veteran Vanni, who is having a late career breakthrough and will making his grand slam main draw debut as a qualifier. Bernie has been struggling on clay as of late, and has never advanced past the second round of the French, so this match could doom the 27 seed to another early exit in Paris. Vanni is a junkballer, with a game built for clay, as he takes causes weird bounces on his shots, and utilizes the slice and drop shot to win points, rather than power hitting. Tomic has lost five straight matches, and retired in Nice, so his health is also in doubt, while Vanni may be battling fatigue after winning three straight three set matches, including one that finished 16-14 in the 3rd set.
The surprise Sao Paulo finalist will still have to work hard, but this is a winnable match for him, and while Tomic had an excellent spring hard court season, he’s been atrocious on clay, and I don’t see that changing here, thus Vanni in 4 or 5 sets is my pick.
(10)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Jack Sock
By far the best round 1 matchup, this encounter is befitting of a round of 32 or round of 16 contest with the talent that both of these under 25 year olds have at their disposal, and it’s a shame one of them will have to go home after round 1. Dimitrov is of course the favorite, though he has a relatively poor record at the French Open, and has never made it to the second week. The Madrid and Monte Carlo quarterfinalist, and Istanbul semifinalist will have to deal with Sock’s high spinning and vicious forehand that is one of the best 5 in all of men’s tennis.
Since returning from hip surgery this spring, Sock won his first ever ATP title, which came on clay in Houston, and though he is on a three match losing streak on clay, all of those matches were tough three set contests. Sock certainly seems to be improving on clay, and he’s shown tenacity this season and the ability to change the momentum of matches, while Dimitrov has been shaky at times, and really has not performed as well as his top 15 ranking would indicate. I’m still picking Dimitrov, but I see it going five sets, and you can’t count Sock out, as he’s one of the top two American men on clay, and seems to be steadily improving. He’s also fixed his fitness issues that were detrimental in best of 5 set matches.
Nicolas Almagro vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
This should be a fun match between a pair of excellent ballstrikers who can play well above their current rankings when they are on a roll. Almagro, a three time RG quarterfinalist has not played up to his formerly top 20 self since returning from injury this season, but he does have a pair of quarterfinals and a semifinal this season in ATP clay court tournaments.
Dolgopolov has tumbled down the rankings and is out of the top 50 again, but as always he’s a dangerous shotmaker, and excellent mover who always produces highlights, win or lose. He hasn’t played particularly well on clay since early last season, but you can’t count him out against anyone, as he pushed Novak Djokovic to the brink of defeat in Miami.
The head to head is an even 2-2, and 1-1 on clay, Almagro’s recent losses have been better though, an Dolgopolov lost to the horribly out of form Ernests Gulbis in the Nice warm up tournament, so with that in mind I see Almagro pulling through in 4 or 5 sets of highlight filled tennis.
(16)John Isner vs. Andreas Seppi
In theory the 16 seed John Isner should be on upset alert, as he was not given an easy round 1 matchup, that said, Seppi hasn’t played since losing round 1 in Monte Carlo, and that indicates to me the veteran Italian all-courter had some sort of injury that prevented him from playing any further tournaments until RG. Seppi was on fire early on in the season as he recorded a run to the second week at the AO where he upset Federer, and an ATP final and semifinal in between. However his results since then have been pedestrian, and there are question marks surrounding his play right now, though he has the game to defeat Isner, as he has done so before on clay in Rome.
Isner has had a solid season on European red clay by his standards, he comes off the semis in Nice, and he also reached the quarters in Madrid, overall compiling a 9-4 record, with none of those 4 losses being bad ones. He’s not going to threaten any of the top names on clay, even with that huge serve, but he still should be good enough to get past Seppi, perhaps without dropping a set, and it would be a big disappointment if he didn’t get out of the first round here after the clay season he has had, most of all staying healthy, which is a big bonus for the American #1.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Robin Haase
Cilic is 4-0 against Haase, including two wins on clay, and it’s unlikely he loses this one, but it’s a sleeper match, as Cilic has really struggled since returning from injury, and has yet to find the form that propelled him to his first Grand Slam, and a top 10 ranking. Haase by contrast is a very streaky player who has the technical talents to score big wins (he beat Stan Wawrinka this year in Indian Wells), but has one of the weakest mindsets in men’s tennis, and that weak mental portion of his game means he can lose to just about anyone.
Since reaching the quarters in Monte Carlo, Cilic is just 2-4, and he played relatively poorly in the Geneva warm up tournament prior to this. Haase recently won a challenger on clay, and also reached the quarterfinals in Estoril, so he’s in reasonable form. I’m still picking Cilic, but Haase likely snatches a set, and if Cilic is rusty and off his game, it will be interesting to see if Haase seizes the moment like he did against Wawrinka and scores another top 15 win.
A match to keep an eye because the seeded player could well go down in defeat, the Czech young gun lefty Vesely has a h2h win against Mayer on clay (2014 Casablanca), and though he’s had an erratic season, he has won an ATP title (Auckland), and reached a final, and a semifinal on clay. Mayer by contrast has been having a poor season, though he reached the final Nice, and though that shows his form is improving, it also indicates fatigue could play a factor in a best of 5 sets match.
This run in Nice is the best result Mayer has posted all season on clay, and Vesely is actually more talented, thus the match should be on his racquet. The issue for Jiri is his lack of consistency, he’s as talented as the other young guns such as Kyrgios, and Thiem that have made waves, but he hasn’t been able to put that together on a regular basis. I’m picking Vesely in 4 but this is a tough pick either way.
Rosol, who posted a pair of quarterfinals on clay this season, and has continued his typical rollercoaster form, likely wins this over the next great Swedish hope Ymer, but you can’t count the young gun out, given Rosol has the ability to play some of the best ball bashing tennis you’ll see, an also some of the worst error strewn disasters you can witness. The Czech comes off of qualifying for Geneva and then losing to Stan Wawrinka in round 2.
Ymer, a rising 19 year old who will be playing in his second Grand Slam main draw, after successfully qualifying and then losing in 5 sets at the Australian Open earlier this year. He recently moved to Barcelona to practice full time on clay, and it’s his best surface as he beat Nick Kyrgios in Barcelona, where he reached the round of 16, earlier this year, and had a relatively comfortable qualifying campaign where he didn’t drop a set in his last two matches. Long term Ymer is quite the talent, and he will have success in the future in Paris without a doubt, but winning this math is still likely to be a challenge, and I’m going with Rosol in 4 sets, as he’s a step up from Ymer’s usual level of competition.
Martin Klizan vs. (WC)Francis Tiafoe
The USTA wild card winner Tiafoe, who is just 17 years old, and is a former top junior, only turning pro in April of this year, actually has a punchers chance against the talented but inconsistent Klizan. Big Foe, as our writer Joe Craven calls him, reached the challenger final in Tallahassee, and the Maryland native, who is coached by Jose Higueras, went 12-3 on har-tru clay in those three USTA challenger events. He will be making his grand slam main draw debut, and he made his ATP debut last season in Washington D.C. at the Citi Open. He’s a talent, and he has plenty of charisma but this match represents a huge step up for the teen.
Klizan won the title in Casablanca this year, and also reached the semis in Barcelona but he has suffered two straight losses, and may be rusty, or not entirely healthy going into this match. Again, the favorite should win this, but don’t sleep on Tiafoe, as Klizan has his off days, and it’s unlikely the young American, who raised by immigrant parents and came from humble roots, literally being raised at a tennis facility, will be intimidated by the stage, or the ranking of his opponent.
(12)Gilles Simon vs. (WC)Lucas Pouille
An all French affair that should delight the locals, Simon has a higher ranking, more experience, and a positive record in Paris, but he retired in his last match in Rome, and pulled out of Nice, something that may be precautionary, or could be the sign that his back injury is serious. Simon had a non-headline making, so-so clay court season, and it’s not likely he’ll be high on confidence going into his home grand slam.
Pouille by contrast is a young gun trying to make a name for himself in his third French Open main draw appearance. It feels like Pouille has been tour for a while, but unlike some of the other players who are 21 and younger like himself, he has yet to pull off either a deep run in a big tournament, or a marquee win to put himself in the papers. He has a gifted forehand that can do damage and he’s a talented ballstriker, who can bend the ball to his whims, but his fitness, and at times his shot selection is lacking, and after reaching the semis in Auckland and pushing Gael Monfils to five sets at the AO back in January, he hasn’t done much, besides an upset of Dominic Thiem in Monte Carlo. He struggled in Nice, and also found himself dismantled by Rafael Nadal in Monte Carlo, so he’s not exactly in great form, but this is still a match worth watching as you never know if Simon will lay an egg, perhaps due to back pain, though he tends to battle and find a way in slams.
This match is a poor matchup for Pouille as Simon is a human backboard who will massage the ball and likely be able to frustrate the young Frenchman and cause his game to leak errors, as it tends to due under pressure, but the injury concerns for Simon are serious, and that’s why I’m picking Pouille. He will need to be aggressive to get the win, and it’s a risk, but I’m bold enough to pick it.
Two-time, and defending French Open finalist Novak Djokovic is unlikely to drop even a set en route to the third round. Djokovic will open with struggling veteran lefty Jarkko Nieminen, who is fast on his feet, but has declined from his peak, and the Fin is also a player Novak has beaten twice before on clay. After that the winner of Gilles Muller/Paolo Lorenzi awaits, that’s a toss-up match as Muller is not a clay courter, and Lorenzi is a career journeyman, though at his best on clay. I’d go with Muller to get through, but he’s of little threat to Novak on this surface, and Djokovic beat him at the Aussie this year without dropping a set.
In the third round, I have Thanasi Kokkinakis, the Australian teenager, as Novak’s opponent, and it will still be a good showing for him to get that far on clay, though he’s unlikely to threaten Djokovic on this surface. Kokkinakis, who is perfect in ATP qualifying this year and recently won the Bordeaux challenger on clay, will open with qualifer Nikoloz Basilashvili, in the opening round. Basilashvili, the top Georgian player on the ATP tour, has been markedly improved this season and is nearing breakthrough status, but Kokkinakis is simply more talented, and he’s been getting better and better on clay, the more practice that he gets. His movement improving with his lanky frame, and his shots still solid from both wings, especially his forehand side. I feel Kokkinakis actually has more upside than the other part of the Aussie teenage tandem, Nick Kyrgios, and this tournament is likely to increase my belief on that.
Kokkinakis will need to defeat the Vanni/Tomic winner in round 2, if Tomic were to advance, he’ll have a 2-0 h2h against Thanasi with both matches coming this season, including in a competitive match in Indian Wells, but on clay things actually favor Kokkinakis style of play, as Tomic is not a good dirtballer. Vanni, who I have winning in my own bracket, is likely to be fatigued, and his slice and dice game is a good matchup for Kokkinakis, compared to Tomic’s junkballing. Look for Djokovic to reach the second week without dropping a set, and Kokkinakis to be a pleasant surprise in the opening week.
Estoril champion and 20 seed Richard Gasquet is another who could reach the second week without dropping a set. Gasquet will open with 26 year old Belgian qualifier Germain Gigounon, who qualified with relative ease and reached a challenger final on clay earlier this season, that said, Gigounon is making his slam debut, and has never even played an ATP main draw match, so not much should be expected of him. Gasquet’s second opponent will be either Carlos Berlocq, the veteran Argentine grinder, or surprise qualifier Illya Marchenko, who rarely plays on clay, and is a journeyman, but still tour through three qualifying matches. Berlocq has lost four straight matches, with two retirements mixed in, so he may not even be healthy, regardless, neither player is a threat to Gasquet’s versatile game, and the home French fans should enjoy his smooth strokes later on into the tournament.
In the third round, Gasquet is again likely to face a weak opponent, as Blaz Kavcic/Rendy Lu/Tim Smyczek/Kevin Anderson are his options. Kavcic and Lu are both poor on clay and rarely play on the surface, Kavcic having lost three straight. Smyczek is another player who is poor on clay, and Anderson has struggled this year on the surface as well though he did reach the semis in Houston. Given that Anderson is the highest ranked player here, has a 4-0 h2h with Smyczek, and is unlikely to be troubled by Lu/Kavcic, he should be Gasquet’s third round opponent with Gasquet advancing. With only a hard court h2h, Gasquet leads it 4-2.
The Dimitrov/Sock winner will face Pablo Carreno Busta/Victor Estrella in round 2, that’s a tough match as both players have been both good and bad on clay as of late. Estrella reached the final in Quito on clay, reached the third round in Barcelona with two upset wins, and was also a quarterfinalist in Munich, while Carreno reached the semis in Estoril but has been awful otherwise. Look for Estrella to win but then lose to Dimitrov in the next round, though Dimitrov could have problems through his first two matches.
In the third round, danger should continue to loom for the Bulgarian #1, as Croatian teenager Borna Coric is lurking as a sleeper pick to do well this tournament. The 2015 Dubai, and Nice semifinalist, who also reached the quarters in Estoril on clay this season, will open with American Sam Querrey, who reached the final in Houston on clay but has been in poor form since. Presuming Coric beats Querrey, which talent wise is likely if the Croatian can keep his head on straight, he should also beat the 18 seed Tommy Robredo, who has struggled to stay healthy this season and hasn’t played since Barcelona. Robredo’s career is slowing down, but he still should beat journeyman lucky loser Andrey Golubev. Coric represents a fresher and more difficult challenge, and though Robredo is a steady veteran and a five time quarterfinalist here, expectations have to be low for this French Open. I still have Dimitrov sneaking past Coric, perhaps in a five setter to reach the second week, Coric has beaten Nadal, and Murray over the past 12 months, so he doesn’t get intimidated, but Dimitrov still has more experience and should have that extra edge to get the job done.
Below that, we have the 9 time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal, who has a 66-1 record at the tournament, but has struggled this season, and seen his ranking drop him out of the top 5, and right into the world #1’s quarter of the draw. No matter his struggles this season, Nadal should have no problem blitzing past overmatched French youngster Quentin Halys, a wild card, but the second round should be more challenging, as he’s guaranteed to face a player who has beaten him before, the Almagro/Dolgopolov winner. Presuming it’s Almagro, Nadal has blown him out twice this season, including on clay, so Rafa is still likely safe to pencil in for the third round, and probably doesn’t drop a set. Dolgopolov is the more explosive opponent, but he’s harder to predict.
Nadal’s third round opponent shouldn’t be overly difficult, as it will be one of Adrian Mannarino/Jurgen Melzer/Andrey Kuznetsov/Malek Jaziri. Kuznetsov, who qualified in Monte Carlo and Geneva, could randomly reach the third round, as Jaziri is a good ball striker with awful fitness, not to mention not overly great on clay, and neither Mannarino, nor Melzer, who is long removed from his run to the semis here in 2010, is in good form. Mannarino is the weakest seed in the draw, and Melzer has done nothing this clay court season, so I have Nadal crushing Kuznetsov to reach the second week.
The Madrid, and Munich champion AndyMurray, is undefeated on clay this year (10-0), and is having his best season since back surgery, as he also reached the AO final, and the final in Miami. Thus, even though never being known as a clay court star, the Scotsman, who spent years as a junior training in Spain on clay, is actually a bit of a dark horse favorite to win the French Open. That’s a big ask, and I’ll tell you now I don’t see that happening unless carnage happens in the Djokovic/Nadal section, but he still should have a good tournament, and could reach this third RG semifinal, after earning his second one last year. Murray will open with lucky loser Facundo Arguello, a young Argentine who takes after the fiery former French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, Arguello has struggled to see his talent translate to the main tour level, so Murray is likely to give him the runaround and beat him without dropping a set. After that, Geneva finalist Joao Sousa, or Vasek Pospisil awaits the UK #1, Pospisil is poor on clay and has had a terrible season in singles, unable to find form, and Sousa should be tired, so Murray should reach round 3 without dropping a set. Murray is 5-0 against Sousa over the past three seasons, and he’s never lost a set against the Portugese #1.
In the third round, fearless, and charismatic Aussie teenager Nick Kyrgios will be looking to give Murray all he can handle, and not only get revenge for his previous h2h loss, but also score yet another top 10 win, after NK previously beat Roger Federer this season in a Madrid thriller, and Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. Kyrgios pulled out of Nice with an injury, and he’s had back problems earlier this season, but overall he continues to show improvement and he’s seeded for the first time in a slam, after reaching the quarters at the AO, and reaching his first ATP final in Estoril. Kyrgios will open against the struggling Denis Istomin, and presuming he’s fit and wins that one he will face the winner of Kyle Edmund/Stephane Robert, both of whom are qualifiers. The South African born, English resident Edmund is another young gun in the draw, while Robert is one of the oldest active players on tour at 35, and has been a journeyman all throughout his career. Edmund has been more impressive in qualifying and this season, and he could even shock Kyrgios, but NK plays his best on big stages, so I still see him getting through to the third round.
With the form Murray is in, I actually don’t think the match will be that close, likely four sets or three as a motivated Murray is 2-0 in the h2h against Kyrgios and has yet to lose a set to him, Murray truly has performed well on clay this season, and the coaching team of Amelie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman really seems to have helped him improve on the surface, as his movement, and counterpunching is finally paying dividends. He’s had success at RG before as well, which should help, and he should be fit and rested.
The Isner/Seppi winner will take on Jeremy Chardy/Michael Berrer in round 2. Presuming Isner is fit, I’m pretty comfortable picking him to reach the third round with the favorable draw that he has. Chardy is just 2-4 in his last six matches, and Berrer is a career journeyman serve and volleyer in the last year of his career. He qualified without dropping a set, and of course beat Nadal this season, so he really has had a great year by his standards, and I do in fact have him upsetting Chardy given the h2h, but Isner’s relentless serves should do him in.
In that third round, David Goffin is big John’s likely opponent. Goffin, a quarterfinalist in both Rome, and Munich hasn’t been on fire like he was last Fall, but he’s still been good enough this season to beat Filip Krajinovic his round 1 opponent who is a fringe ATP player, and then Geneva semifinalist Santiago Giraldo, who has been worse this year compared to last year, and not much should be expected of. Giraldo has a big game, while Goffin is a steady ball striker, and the slow RG courts should favor the Belgian. Goffin and Isner have never met on clay (1-1 on hard courts), and as surprising as it is, Isner’s results have been slightly better on clay this year than D Goff, thus I have him reaching the round of 16, but I could certainly be wrong about that, and it’s a tough call either way.
David Ferrer, a former French Open finalist who reached the semis in both Barcelona, and Rome this spring, should blitz through the first two rounds without dropping a set, the underachieving Lukas Lacko is his round 1 opponent, and then he’ll be eyeing Daniel Gimeno-Traver or Joao Souza on the other side of the net in round 2. Souza is on a 7 match losing streak since losing the longest Davis Cup match in history, while DGT has had a career year on clay this year, with an ATP final in Casablanca, a semi in Bucharest, and a quarterfinal in Istanbul. That said, Souza is 3-0 against DGT, no matter neither player has the game to trouble Ferrer, an he’s 3-0 against DGT, including a win this year.
I foresee Simone Bolelli as the matchup for Ferrer in the third round, Bolelli is a talented shotmaker, but he struggles to be consistent, as evidenced by his lone ATP quarterfinal on clay this spring in Bucharest. He will open with serve and volleyer Steve Darcis, who has lost three straight and may not be healthy. In round 2, Bolelli is likely to get an interesting match, as the Viktor Troicki/JL Struff clash is intriguing. Struff is a talented, but underachieving 25 year old who has a challenger semi on clay this year, and isn’t mentally strong, while Troicki snapped a four match losing streak to win two matches in Rome. VT hasn’t been on the same tear he was when he came back from a doping suspension, and in his cooled off state, Bolelli should capitalize. The h2h is 3-3, but Troicki won both their hard court meetings this season. Ferrer is 5-0 against Bolelli and beat him at the French last year, so I don’t foresee the match being that close, same goes if he were to face Troicki.
The Cilic/Haase winner is set to face James Duckworth or Andrea Arnaboldi, Arnaboldi a 27 year old Italian dirtballer, had to battle to qualify. while Duckworth has been in good form, sneaking into the quarterfinals of Nice, and also reaching a challenger semi on clay this spring. The 23 year old Aussie isn’t one you would think to win on nationality alone, but I have him beating a tired Arnaboldi, before falling to Cilic in round 2.
Vesely/Mayer or Jerzy Janowicz/Maxime Hamou await in round 3, most likely the Vesely/Mayer winner. Hamou is another young French wild card who is likely to be overwhelmed by the situation, as he barely has any experience at the top level, as he made his ATP debut in Nice just last week. Regardless, Janowicz hasn’t won a set, much less a match on clay this year (0-3), so I give him little chance against Vesely/Mayer. Cilic just beat Vesely in Madrid in straights, so he should be the favorite for the round of 16, but don’t sleep on Vesely, he could reach the second week of a slam for the first time.
Tomas Berdych has had a tremendous under the radar season and he’s earned his own quarter of the draw. The 29 year old Monte Carlo finalist, and Australian Open semifinalist, who has performed well in every single tournament he’s entered, not losing before the quarterfinals, will open with young gun Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka. Nishioka is an undersized player with fast footwork, who packs a punch on his groundstrokes given his small frame, but Berdych is likely to blast him off the court. After Nishioka, who is making his Grand Slam main draw debut, Berdych should cruise past the winner of Ivan Dodig/Radek Stepanek, a pair of formerly solid players who haven’t been the same since injuries. Stepanek is an aging serve and volleyer on a three match losing streak, while Dodig has two ATP quarterfinals, including one on clay in Istanbul, but nothing else of note this season. Berdych is close to a lock for round 3.
In that third round, Fabio Fognini is his likely opponent, the Italian headcase, who has one ATP final, and one ATP quarterfinal on clay this season (Rio and Barcelona), but has struggled against opponents not named Rafael Nadal, will open with Tatsuma Ito, a Japanese player who is poor on, and rarely plays clay. After that, we could be treated to a headcase special, as Fognini is likely to face Frenchman Benoit Paire. Paire is just 1-4 in his last five matches on clay, but he’s still done well to work his ranking back up to this level. Benwa, and his gifted backhand, will open up against qualifier Gastao Elias, a fringe ATP player from Portugal. It wouldn’t shock me at all if Elias won, but regardless, unless Fognini implodes, which is always possible, he should beat Paire/Elias to reach the third round, as he’s a better player talent wise on clay. Fognini is 2-1 against Berdych on clay, but Berdych survived a third set tiebreak and defeated him in Rome, and given his consistency in the big tournaments this year, I’d give him the edge to reach week 2.
14 seed and former RG semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a home fan favorite will open with Swedish qualifier Christian Lindell, as Sweden has two players in a Grand Slam main draw for the first time in years. Tsonga has been pedestrian with a lack of notable results since returning from injury, but he shouldn’t have any issue with Lindell who is making his grand slam main draw debut. Tsonga will then be a heavy favorite against either Dudi Sela or Mikhail Kukushkin. Sela is poor on clay and Kukushkin has lost three straight, so I don’t see Tsonga losing a set going into round 3.
Tsonga’s round 3 opponent will be either the Philipp Kohlschreiber/Go Soeda winner, or the winner of Pablo Andujar/Albert Ramos. Kohli was a finalist in Munich, and a quarterfinalist in Barcelona, while Soeda basically never plays on clay. Andujar/Ramos is an interesting match, they have played each other a ton of times and Andujar has won the last two meetings, including in Barcelona this year. Both players have ATP quarterfinals on clay this year, while Andujar has a final in Barcelona, regardless of winner, I have Kohlschreiber advancing into the third round. Tsonga has never lost Kohlschreiber (7-0), and with that matchup difference, and Tsonga have the home fans behind him, I favor him to go into the round of 16.
5 seed Kei Nishikori, a semifinalist in Madrid, and champion in Barcelona, will open with French veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu, who should be calling it a career soon. The 33 year old is back to being a challenger, and fringe ATP player, ranked outside of the top 100, though he used to be quite solid. After a win over PHM, Nishikori should run into the in-form, but likely fatigued Thomaz Bellucci. Bellucci won the title in Geneva, and his first round opponent Marinko Matosevic is in awful form (8 straight losses). Bellucci also qualified in Madrid, and Rome, and reached the quarterfinals in Istanbul. I’d worry about Nishikori against the big hitting Bellucci, but I feel the fatigue factor, and the fact Bellucci, who took a set off of Djokovic in Rome, tends to choke under pressure, gives Nishikori enough of an advantage to get him to round 3, perhaps with difficulty.
32 seed Fernando Verdasco should be the challenge for Nishikori/Bellucci in round 3. Verdasco will open with qualifier Taro Daniel, the fifth Japanese player in the draw (Nishikori, Soeda, Ito, and Nishioka are the others). Daniel, who trains and makes his home in Spain, plays his best on clay, and he has one ATP quarterfinal on clay, this will be his second Grand Slam main draw. Verdasco, and his huge forehand, will face the winner of Benjamin Becker/Ruben Bemelmans, after defeating the lanky Daniel. Bemelmans isn’t in great form, but Becker’s form is even worse, as he has lost six straight matches, and the veteran is not good on clay, thus I have Bemelmans winning, and then losing to Verdasco. Nando was a semifinalist in Houston but hasn’t done much else this clay season, thus Nishikori should advance, perhaps again with trouble, they battled it out in Indian Wells this year and Kei was the winner.
The 11 seed Feliciano Lopez is a poor 4-5 this spring on clay, and given all of his losses are pretty bad, expectations have to be low coming into the French for him. He will open with Teymuraz Gabashvili, who is a remarkable 14-2 over his last few tournaments. Most of those wins were in qualifying or on the challenger tour, but that’s still an impressive record, as he won two challengers in a row. Lopez is 2-0 against Gabashvili, but those matches were on a hard court, and with Gabashvili getting a bit of rest, I’m actually calling an upset, and putting him through over Flopez into round 2. The winner of Juan Monaco/Federico Delbonis awaits in what will be an all-Argentine encounter. Delbonis has a h2h win over Monaco on clay, and he has an ATP semi in Geneva, and a challenger title on the surface this spring. Monaco was a quarterfinalist in both Miami and Nice. Given his experience, I’m giving Monaco the edge by a hair. Monaco has two previous wins against Gabashvili, including a three setter this year in Indian Wells, so I have the loveable Pico into the third round.
19 seed Roberto Bautista Agut is the player most likely to face Monaco/Delbonis/Gabashvili/Lopez, in that open third round section. RBA opens with Florian Mayer, who is just 2-5 since coming back to the tour from injury. The Spaniard reached the Munich semis and the Barcelona quarters, and I also favor him to defeat Rosol/Ymer. RBA has a h2h win last season against Rosol on clay. I favor RBA to reach the round of 16, no matter who his third round opponent is, and it’s RBA/Monaco in my bracket.
The 2009 Roland Garros champion, and the only player besides Nadal with over 60 wins in Paris, is Roger Federer, the Swiss legend and #2 seed will face lucky loser Alejandro Falla in round 1. He has beaten Falla twice before in Paris, and he didn’t lose a set in those matches (overall 7-0 h2h). Federer won Istanbul, and was a finalist in Rome, so it’s unlikely that he’ll have any issue against Falla or his next opponent, which will be Marcel Granollers or Matthias Bachinger. Bachinger, a journeyman, has qualified for both slams this season with ease, but he’s 0-3 against Granollers who is 4-3 in his last seven matches, after being abysmal prior to that. Federer is 3-0 against Granollers and has only lost 1 set to him, so I honestly see the Swiss maestro reaching round 3 without dropping a set.
Federer’s third round opponent should be quite easy, as he got a great early draw. Both Ivo Karlovic and Marcos Baghdatis are poor on clay, and have lost two straight matches, Baghdatis has a h2h edge over Dr. Ivo, so I have him reaching round 2. Veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny has been awful this season and is 3-5 on clay, retirement looms for him and Casablanca semifinalist Damir Dzumhur, a 23 year old, will look to aid in Youzhny being pushed out to pasture. I have Dzumhur beating both Youzhny and Baghdatis to surprisingly reach the third round in a very weak section of the draw. His form has slightly been superior, and he has the talent to pull it off. Federer should demolish him though.
13 seed Gael Monfils, a former semifinalist in Paris, and a fan favorite, will take on Edouard Roger-Vasselin. ERV has lost three straight, and he’s poor on clay, while Monfils was a semifinalist in both Monte Carlo, and Bucharest. Presuming Gael is heathy, which is always a question mark, he should beat ERV and the Diego Schwartzman/Andreas Haider-Maurer winner in round 2 to reach the third round. DSS/AHM is an interesting first round match that just missed my cut for matches to watch, mostly because AHM has lost three straight after previously reaching an ATP semi (Rio) and quarterfinal (Casablanca) on clay, and winning two matches in Monte Carlo. Istanbul semifinalist Schwartzman, who retired in his last match in Rome, and is a rising young gun, who has a steady compact game built for clay, should win that matchup, before falling to Monfils. DSS is promising, but I don’t think he has the weapons in his arsenal to beat the speedy and defensively sound Monfils.
A big second round match is likely to take place between Dominic Thiem, and 21 seed Pablo Cuevas. Thiem won the title in Nice, thus fatigue might play a factor in his performance, but he’s still likely to defeat Aljaz Bedene in round 1. Bedene did win the Rome challenger on clay, and reached a quarterfinal in Casablanca on the surface, so he’s improving, but likely not up to Thiem’s level. Thiem is 8-2 since struggling in the early part of the clay court season, as he seems to has found his rhythm, and his fitness right when he needed to do so for Paris. Cuevas won an ATP title in Sao Paulo on clay this year, and has two quarterfinals and a final, that one coming in Istanbul, on the surface in 2015. His form has been up and down, but credit to him for building up his ranking into a seed worthy player, and though he’s unlikely to threaten the top names, he’s a reliable dirtballer. Thiem and Cuevas hae never met, but with Thiem likely to be fatigued, I have Cuevas reaching the third round to face off with Monfils, Thiem is the flashier pick but Cuevas deserves his due, and Thiem has been hard to trust this season. A healthy Monfils should be favored other Thiem or Cuevas to reach the round of 16.
8 seed Stan Wawrinka will open with Turkish #1 Marsel Ilhan, Wawrinka has had a very shaky 2015 and is just 6-4 on clay this year. He comes off a bad loss to Delbonis in Geneva, a home tournament, and his only good result on clay this year was the semifinals in Rome, where he got routed by Federer, after beating Nadal. No matter the reasons for his struggles in 2015, I’m bearish on his chances in Paris, but not in his first two matches, as Ilhan and either Dusan Lajovic or Maximo Gonzalez are not difficult opponents who have the game to beat Stan the man. Lajovic was a quarterfinalist in Nice, while Gonzalez has lost three straight matches. Wawrinka really shouldn’t drop a set going in the first two rounds, but with his current poor form, he may do that.
In the third round, Wawrinka could face the opponent that shocked him in Paris last year, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The all-court, multi tool Spaniard, who has two ATP titles this year, one coming on clay, along with a semifinal in Estoril, as he has put together a solid campaign thus far, will open with American Steve Johnson. Johnson is a respectable 3-5 on clay this spring, and he’s improving on the surface, but I give him little chance against an experienced dirtballer like GGL. GGL should likewise breeze past a player who isn’t comfortable on clay in round 2, either Sergiy Stakhovsky or Ricardas Berankis. Stako has lost two straight, and is 0-3 in the h2h against Rycka, but Berankis has lost three straight and been in terrible form for a couple of months now. I have GGL over Stako for a spot in the third round in my bracket.
Wawrinka has had the edge over GGL on other surfaces, but on clay their h2h is an even 3-3, and GGL has won two of their last three meetings. Wawrinka showed no signs of improvement in Geneva, and the Rome win over Nadal feels more like an aberration than anything else, to me the writing is on the wall that he’s going to struggle here, and I have GGL booting him out again for a spot in the round of 16, this would also avenge GGL’s loss to Wawrinka the AO this January.
Pouille/Simon will take on Tiafoe/Klizan in round 2, As mentioned up at the top of the preview, I have Pouille upsetting Simon, and then Klizan edging Tiafoe, setting up that second rounder. If Simon is healthy enough, he should be fine to reach round 3, and I don’t trust Klizan’s health either, while Tiafoe and Pouille lack experience. I have Pouille making a shock run to round 3 in my bracket, but this is the hardest section to pick in my mind, with Simon and Klizan having question marks.
This is by far the worst section of the draw, as just above it, the seed is Ernests Gulbis, who only has two wins this season and a bunch of losses, he defends semifinal points, and will open with qualifier Igor Sijsling, who broke a six match losing streak to qualify, and is a known choker. Gulbis could well crash and burn, but I don’t see Sijsling beating him honestly, and thus I have him into round 2 against the winner of Nicolas Mahut/Kimmer Coppejans. Coppejans is a promising 21 year old Belgian, while Mahut is 33, outside the top 100, and nearly retired. The serve and volleyer isn’t at his best on clay, and he has two straight losses. Coppejans recently won a title, and reached a final on clay at the challenger level and was strong in qualifying.
I have Coppejans defeating Mahut, and then upsetting Gulbis to reach round 3, it’s a risky pick, and Coppejans hasn’t blossomed as much as he could results wise, though he has the skills, because his mental fortitude is lacking, but I’m giving the young Belgian his due here, in such a weak section. I have Coppejans beating Pouille to reach the round of 16 as a qualifier, because he has a h2h win against him on clay, and his recent form has been slightly better, either way I give Pouille/Coppejans/Tiafoe a better shot at reaching the second week than the seed Gulbis. Given that he was a semifinalist last year, that’s shocking, but it demonstrates how far he’s fallen, and the young guns are rising.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Borna Coric, Jiri Vesely, Thomaz Bellucci, Kimmer Coppejans/Lucas Pouille
Coric will need to rise up and find the form that pushed him to semifinal runs in Basel and Dubai, but his run to the semis in Nice shows form and promise, and Dimitrov has been shown to be beatable this season. if Grisha slips up look for Coric to seize the day and reach the second week to do battle with Rafa, who he of course has beaten before.
Vesely will have a tricky path to week 2, as he will need to defeat Mayer, and probably Cilic, but when he’s in-form he’s a great player and he can pull that off, it’s really just a matter of which Jiri shows up. Don’t count him out for the round of 16.
Bellucci has been in tremendous form in recent weeks, fatigue could play a factor, as will mentality, but if he keeps the mojo flowing, and battles past Nishikori he could go as far as the quarterfinals. It’s not likely, but he has perhaps the most range, in terms of result, of any of the non-seeded players.
I see Coppejans or Pouille reaching the second week in a weak section, would be a career result for either player, the section is theirs for the taking, depending on which one players their best. Pouille is the slightly better aggressor, while Coppejans is more defensively sound.
Week 1 Predictions (round of 16 matchups)
Djokovic d. Gasquet in 3 Nadal d. Dimitrov in 3
Djokovic dominates the h2h against Gasquet and has two wins on clay against him, I see no reason why he won’t reach the quarterfinals, and he probably doesn’t drop a set in the process. Nadal is 6-0 against Dimitrov with 3 wins on clay, and he just beat him in Madrid in routine fashion. This is Nadal at the French, and Dimitrov has not looked like a star this year, so again Rafa could reach the quarters without dropping a set.
Murray d. Isner in 3 Ferrer d. Cilic in 4
Murray is 4-0 against Isner, including a big Davis Cup win this year, this is also clay, and Murray has a great return game, so given form and matchup, Murray in 3 or 4 sets is a safe pick. Ferrer and Cilic have a split h2h on clay, but Ferrer has been in way better form this season, so he should reach the quarters, and I believe he would beat Cilic in 3 or 4 sets.
Nishikori d. Bautista Agut in 3 Berdych d. Tsonga in 3
Nishikori has beaten RBA twice this season on clay, and three times overall, if he gets this far, I don’t see him losing before the quarterfinals as it’s a bad matchup for the Spaniard. Berdych is 7-2 against Tsonga, and just beat him in Madrid on clay, these players have been entirely divergent in terms of form in 2015, and Berdych has been strong for players the caliber that Tsonga is at right now.
Garcia-Lopez d. Coppejans in 3 Federer d. Monfils in 5
GGL or Wawrinka should simply be superior to any player that gets out of the section below them, thus it’s a great shot a slam quarterfinal for Garcia-Lopez. Monfils upset Federer in Monte Carlo and has beaten him the past two times on clay without dropping a set, that said, Federer has won both of their matches at Roland Garros, and in a best of 5 format in a Grand Slam, I give him the edge for experience alone. I don’t feel Monfils can maintain his focus and consistency long enough to win a match like that, and will give up a break in the end to put Federer through.
Picking the rest of the way
Djokovic d. Nadal in 4
The final before the final will happen in the top half men’s quarterfinal if Nadal and Djokovic meet as expected. The debate since the clay court season began in earnest in Monte Carlo has been swirling as to whether Rafa or Novak would win a best of 5 match this year at Roland Garros. Djokovic beat Nadal rather routinely in Monte Carlo, a venue that Rafa has an amazing record at, and he has won two of their last three meetings on clay. That said Nadal is 6-0 at the French Open against Novak, and he’s only been pushed to five sets one time (The 2013 semifinals). Many have said that Nadal is simply a different beast at RG, and no matter his form, or how well Novak is playing, there is a mental and surface factor that will always give Nadal an edge when they meet on Chatrier.
I’m apt to disagree, as the Rafa of late 2014/2015 has been a totally different beast, a neutered beast compared to his previous self, including on clay. He has look abysmal and lost at times on the surface this year, and it’s not that his opponents have just outplayed him, it’s that he’s beaten himself, spewing errors, and lacking confidence and consistency. He showed flashes of brilliance in Monte Carlo against Novak but he couldn’t maintain that level and the defensive skills, returning and pushing of Djokovic proved too much for him. Novak has been a total machine this year, especially when it’s mattered against the big four, and late in tournaments. I have a feeling that the world #1 is unstoppable right now, and he should be rested and motivated. If he is ever to win Roland Garros, this is his time with Nadal clearly limping into the tournament and out of the top 5. This matchup is relatively even and both guys know each other well, but the form of Novak, and his tenacity should be able to edge out Rafa, and I don’t even think it will be that close, as I have Novak winning in four sets. Soderling was the only one to beat Nadal at RG, but I don’t see it staying that way this year. Djokovic has been better able to handle intense pressure in recent months, than Nadal has, and I feel the Spaniard is under more pressure with his ranking under the threat of collapse, than Djokovic is right now, given that he’s dominating the fast surfaces and winning almost every tournament that he enters, along with baffling his other rivals Federer and Murray.
Murray d. Ferrer in 4
Murray is 0-4 against Ferrer on clay, so this would be another pick that would buck the head to head trend, but again, Murray has been in excellent form as of late, and he’s performed very well in the big tournaments. He seems to be swinging freely, he’s healthy, and also in excellent spirits with his new marriage and all. Ferrer is a solid player, but against top players, his approach is more to grind and let them beat themselves, as he lacks the weapons to outright win against a big four player. Murray has reached the semis twice before, and I don’t see reason why he won’t do so for a third time this year. His clay court game seems to finally be blossoming as he beat Nishikori and Nadal on the surface in Madrid.
Berdych d. Nishikori in 5
Nishikori is 3-1 against Berdych, but Tomas won their only match on clay (Monte Carlo 2012), additionally, Berdych has not lost to a player outside of the big four except to Wawrinka in Rotterdam, he’s been incredibly reliable this year, almost machinelike, and Kei is good on clay, and he’s been fine, but he hasn’t been up to that same level, my perception is Berdych has an extra gear right now that will push him through in this battle.
Federer d. Garcia-Lopez in 3
Federer is 3-0 against GGL, and I see no reason why the Federer/Monfils winner won’t reach the quarters, even if Wawrinka gets this far, he was awful against Federer in Rome, so regardless this should be perhaps the most routine quarterfinal, as all of the quarterfinals look promising this year.
Djokovic d. Murray in 4
Federer d. Berdych in 3
Djokovic is 2-0 against Murray on clay, and hasn’t lost to him since he had back surgery, they have met three times this year, all on hard courts and the set score was 7-2, given this is clay, if Novak gets this far, I don’t see a way he loses to Murray unless Nadal simply puts him in a wheelchair in a quarterfinal grindfest. If it’s Nadal that gets to this point, I’d actually give Murray a decent chance at reaching the final, but against Djokovic, even as a Murray fan, I have no belief that he can win right now.
Federer has thrashed Berdych twice this year without dropping a set including in Rome on clay. Federer is 4-0 against Tomas on clay, and has only lost a set to him, and that was on fast and slippery blue clay in Madrid. Berdych has been excellent and tenacious against non-big four players this season, but he’s been toothless against the games elite, and I don’t see that changing here, it’s a mental block more than anything else as to why.
Djokovic d. Federer in 4
Djokovic just routined Federer in Rome, and he’s won three of their last four meetings on clay, in a best of 5 set format, Djokovic, because of his superior stamina, especially on clay where it will be harder for the older Federer to shorten points, has the advantage these days. Federer can’t be written off, but Djokovic is more likely to win his first French Open, than Federer is to win his second. He’s the oddsmakers favorite, and I’m going with Djokovic to win the 2015 French Open, if he wins it this time, it will be a well deserved and well earned victory.
2015 ATP Madrid Preview, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic’s Niall Clarke, and Adam Addicott will both be in Madrid this week as credentialed members of the press, and they will be providing us with fantastic onsite coverage of the second clay court Masters event of the season, this one of course at the Magic Box in Madrid. As an appetizer for that, here is a preview, and some predictions for the men’s draw.
2015 ATP Madrid Open Preview
Mutua Madrid Open ATP World Tour Masters 1000* Madrid, Spain May 3-May 10, 2015 Prize Money: €4,185,405
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (2)
2: Andy Murray (3)
3: Rafael Nadal (4)
4: Kei Nishikori (5)
5: Milos Raonic (6)
6: Tomas Berdych (7)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Stan Wawrinka (9)
Novak Djokovic is the notable absence here, as the world number 1 cited fatigue in skipping Madrid, and he’s never liked playing at the venue anyway. In addition, Gilles Simon, Tommy Robredo and Andreas Seppi are the only other notables missing from the draw.
First round matchups to watch:
Nick Kyrgios vs. (Q)Daniel Gimeno-Traver
Both players are in great form going into this match, Kyrgios raced to the Estoril final in a surprise, though he lost rather routinely to Richard Gasquet, and DGT was a finalist in Casablanca, a semifinalist in Bucharest, and most recently a quarterfinalist in Istanbul before qualifying for Madrid with a pair of routine wins. They have never met before, and DGT has more experience on clay, while Kyrgios has more talent, and both should be about equally fatigued. I have Kyrgios winning, but it should be close, and it’s an interesting match.
Sock and Andujar have a split hard court h2h, while Andujar won a round in Munich, only to retire in his next match (previous to that the Spaniard reached the 500 series final in Barcelona on home soil with a shock run). Sock is playing his first tournament since taking the title on har-tru clay in Houston. The outcome of this match likely hinges on Andujar’s health, but it still presents a good opportunity for Sock to beat a solid clay court opponent, who is in some level of good form. If Andujar is healthy, he’s the favorite given his experience on the surface, but Sock has plenty of potential and he could well get this win, as it’s always notable when an American can win a match on European clay.
Fabio Fognini vs. Santiago Giraldo
This time last year, Giraldo was on-fire but he’s struggling now, and he will face off with the unpredictable Fognini who crashed out in the quarterfinals of Munich last week. Giraldo beat Fognini in Sao Paulo this year, and that evened their clay court h2h 3-3. Giraldo likewise won a round in Istanbul and then lost in an upset, and over their past two tournaments Giraldo is 2-2 and Fognini is 3-2, thus everything on paper makes this seem like an open match. It’s a hard prediction to make, but when Fognini isn’t facing Nadal (who he has beaten twice this year), I don’t trust him, and thus I have Giraldo winning.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
Verdasco is 3-0 at the ATP level on clay against GGL, but he’s lost two straight matches on clay, while GGL won Bucharest, and then comes off a semifinal result in Estoril. Over the past two weeks, Garcia-Lopez has beaten notable names Gael Monfils, Kevin Anderson and Borna Coric, however he may be fatigued from playing so many matches. Both are home players so they should feel comfortable with the home cooking in Madrid, and it’s hard to predict, but you have to go with Garcia-Lopez’s form at the moment and I have him advancing in the battle of talented shotmakers.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Jiri Vesely
The Croat Cilic has never faced the Czech Vesely, and it’s an interesting matchup, as both are lanky hitters with a good amount of power but questionable movement. Cilic reached the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo with a pair of wins, but cooled off and was upset in Barcelona, while Vesely has been in good form on clay, reaching the final in Bucharest, and also a semi in Casablanca already this clay court season. He hasn’t beaten any top names on the surface this year, and he struggled in Munich, but I’d still give him an outside shot to upset Cilic if the Croat continues to be rusty coming off of injury. Cilic is the favorite, but watch out for Jiri here.
Juan Monaco vs. (WC)Nicolas Almagro
Monaco beat Almagro in a high quality contest in Buenos Aires this year, but he’s just 2-5 overall on ATP clay against the Spaniard, who will be playing on home soil of course. Monaco is 2-2 on European clay in his past four matches, while Almagro reached the quarters in both Casablanca and Estoril. Almagro has not been quite up to par with his former self, but neither has Monaco, as both were formerly reliable top 20 players who maximized their games, now with their current versions it’s a 50/50 matchup, and I’m going with Monaco as I felt Almagro did not play that well in Estoril.
3 time Madrid champion Roger Federer, who won the Istanbul title, will open with either Kyrgios or DGT and NK could catch Federer on the downswing and pull off a huge upset, though he may be too fatigued from Estoril. Federer has struggled in Istanbul, dropping a pair of sets to much lower ranked players, and those are worrying signs for the Swiss champion. That said, given this is clay, I don’t have the confidence to pick Kyrgios, and he could even lose to DGT as mentioned. Federer beat DGT in three sets in Istanbul.
Look for Federer/Kyrgios to advance to the quarters over John Isner most likely, as the American has a weak draw of Adrian Mannarino, and a qualifier Thomaz Bellucci/Jeremy Chardy. Chardy is struggling, and the qualifier Bellucci may have a shot here as well. Isner is actually 0-2 against Chardy, and they have never met on clay. Isner won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo to reach that same R16 stage though. Bellucci has beaten Isner before on clay, and he comes off quarterfinals in Istanbul.
Tomas Berdych has been on fire this year, the Monte Carlo finalist (most recently), is most likely to face Richard Gasquet, who he is just 1-2 against on clay in his opening match. Gasquet is a current finalist in Estoril, and he’s playing well, though his back has been giving him problems. Presuming he stays in the draw, Gasquet will need to defeat non-clay courter Ivo Karlovic to reach the second round. Given how well he’s played all season, Berdych should be safe to reach round 3, where he will face either Andujar/Sock or Lukas Rosol/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Munich and Bucharest quarterfinalist Rosol has played decently well as of late, while Tsonga has lost two straight. He still should win the mathc against Rosol as he beat him last year on clay, and I’ve picked him to do so, before falling to Sock in an upset, as I feel Sock is playing well enough right now to pull off a pair of upsets, before falling to Berdych in round 3. No matter, a Federer vs. Berdych quarterfinal is the most likely outcome of this interesting section of the draw.
Four time and defending champion Rafael Nadal has been struggling this season, but he still should be safe against Steve Johnson/qualifier Alejandro Gonzalez in his opening match. In the third round, his opponent is uncertain, the seed Kevin Anderson lost early in Estoril and is not a clay court player, later falling to Simone Bolelli in Sunday action. Bolelli is an unpredictable player who is decently good on clay (a quarterfinalist in Bucharest) just below Anderson in the draw. Also here is Bernard Tomic who has lost two straight on clay, but has the talent to excel in theory. I look for Tomic to beat a qualifier, and then Bolelli to beat him. Nadal should then beat Bolelli, as he has done four times previously.
8 seed Stan Wawrinka, a former finalist here, is struggling mightily and appears dazed and confused on tour right now, still Jerzy Janowicz is the type of opponent he’d like to start with, as he’s a high risk power player, not a reliably smooth ball striker, and thus should spew enough errors to give Wawrinka a chance to get his footing in the match. Janowicz will need to defeat lucky loser Joao Sousa and end a two match losing streak on clay to get the Wawrinka matchup. Wawrinka is just 3-4 since winning Rotterdam, but he’s beaten JJ on clay before and more likely I see Wawrinka going out to either Grigor Dimitrov, who beat him in Monte Carlo, or the Fognini/Giraldo winner in round 3.
Dimitrov is an interesting case, he will open with Donald Young, who is poor on clay, and he should be favored against either Fognini or Giraldo. He beat Fogna in Monte Carlo, and he’s simply better than Giraldo, that said, he lost in the semis of Istanbul in an upset, and was poor in that match, so his form is a question mark. That said, given the h2h, Dimitrov should be motivated at the Masters level to also beat Wawrinka and setup a quarterfinal against Nadal.
Andy Murray, in the hunt for his first ever clay court title in Munich still, where he is a finalist, could very well face his opponent in that Munich final, Philipp Kohlschreiber in a rematch, presuming Kohli stays in th draw coming off a busy week of long matches in Munich, and beats qualifier Alejandro Falla In that rematch, I have Murray winning, given fitness, and the fact I have him winning in Munich too. Murray could be posed with trouble in the third round as Gael Monfils lurks. Monfils pulled out of Munich, citing a knee injury, but he’s been playing well when healthy and will open with the struggling Viktor Troicki before facing Martin Klizan or Marcel Granollers. Klizan is also in good form, as the Slovak reached the semis in Barcelona, and won Casablanca (Monfils reached the semis in both Monte Carlo and Bucharest). With both players coming off a break, I’m favoring Klizan to advance, but that match could very well go either way with such unpredictable players, and I’d favor Klizan or Monfils over Murray in round 3. Murray is 2-1 on clay against Monfils but they have always battled on the surface, and Murray played a lot of tennis in Munich. Klizan and Murray have never played, but I favor the clay court form of the big hitter. Klizan is the quarterfinalist in my draw.
5 seed Milos Raonic will have a tough match right away and is in danger of exiting the tournament at the hands of the Almagro/Monaco winner. Monaco has beaten Raonic on clay (and is 2-0 in the overall h2h), while Raonic has beaten Almagro on clay, and is 2-0 against him. Raonic reached the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo before retiring in that match, and he’s deceptively a quality player on clay, that said, the retirement is a question mark, and I’m going with an upset with Monaco reaching the third round over Raonic. Raonic/Monaco/Almagro would all have the edge to reach the quarters, the seed Feliciano Lopez is struggling mightily on clay, as he’s suffered early exits as of late, though his first round opponent Benjamin Becker is not a clay courter either. Leo Mayer could be the round 2 opponent of Lopez/Becker, but he’s been pedestrian this season, and has lost two straight on clay after a great run on the surface last year. Gilles Muller reached the quarters of Estoril, winning two matches on clay for the time in multiple seasons, and Muller/Mayer is a harder match to pick than one would think. Still I have Mayer reaching the third round in a very weak section, and then falling to his countryman Monaco.
Defending finalist Kei Nishikori will face David Goffin or Ernests Gulbis in his opening match. Gulbis has lost four straight matches and has been in free fall this season, while Goffin reached the quarters in Munich but has been pedestrian as well as of late. Nishikori, the Barcelona champion, should frankly demolish either player (most likely Goffin), and he dismantled Goffin in Miami 6-1 6-2 not too long ago. Nishikori will also be a strong favorite over most likely Roberto Bautista Agut in round 3. RBA has a weak draw of Marius Copil, a wild card, and Sam Querrey/qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis. Nishikori won a 3 setter against RBA in Barcelona and RBA comes off the semis in Munich. Nishikori, the more complete player, is likely to face David Ferrer in the quarters.
Ferrer, who has only reached the semis in Madrid (twice), opens with either qualifier Albert Ramos or current Istanbul finalist Pablo Cuevas, Cuevas is in great form but could be tired, while Ramos has been unpredictable. Ferrer is 2-0 against Cuevas and he was a semifinalist in Madrid, after previously reaching the quarters in Monte Carlo. Ferrer could have a tougher matchup against either Verdasco/Garcia-Lopez or Cilic/Vesely, in round 3. GGL, presuming he beat Verdasco, just beat Vesely in Bucharest, and he’s 1-1 against Cilic. Given current form, I’m going with Garcia-Lopez into the third round before falling to Ferrer, who has beaten him three times previously on clay.
Dark Horses: Nick Kyrgios, Fabio Fognini, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Martin Klizan
Jack Sock should do well in the top half, but Kyrgios has the most upside potential, if he does play his best, he could shock Federer, and run all the way to at least the quarterfinals, on the heels of his run to the final (and perhaps a title) in Estoril. Clay is not his best surface, but the Aussie young gun is on the rise, and there is little doubt he has top 10 ability, and will eventually get there, perhaps sooner rather than later, the Madrid draw gives him a chance to notch another remarkable result for his age.
Fognini is incredibly unpredictable, and likely loses in round 1 to Giraldo, but he still has great upside potential. If he catches fire, he could beat Giraldo, upset Dimitrov and then defeat likely Wawrinka to setup another rematch with Nadal, who he has beaten twice this year (most recently in Barcelona). It’s not likely any of that happens, but he has the clay court ability if he can keep his head on straight and put in the effort to get it done.
Garcia-Lopez may be fatigued but he’s been in great form on clay as of late, and if he beats Verdasco and Cilic/Vesely, he could also upset Ferrer and reach the quarters, on home soil, anything is possible if he finds his inspiration and is fit enough to get it done.
Klizan will have tough tests in Monfils, and likely Murray in order, but if he gets past that murderers row, the draw opens up with a winnable quarterfinal against Monaco/Almagro/Raonic waiting in the wings, and a chance to reach his first ever Masters semifinal. He could even reach the final, though Nishikori/Ferrer/other would of course be the favorite.
Federer d. Berdych
Nadal d. Dimitrov
Klizan d. Monaco
Nishikori d. Ferrer
Federer has never lost to Berdych on clay, thus even though he’s playing so well this season, I don’t feel like he’ll get over the hump. Nadal is 5-0 against Dimitrov, so again I feel like he gets lucky and reaches the semis, Klizan just beat Monaco in sets in Barcelona, and Nishikori beat Ferrer in their only meeting on clay here in Madrid last year.
Federer d. Nadal
Nishikori d. Klizan
Nadal should have the edge, but I feel Federer is an actual superior player right now, and he’ll expose and take advantage of a weak Nadal, Nishikori should beat Klizan again or any other player to each the final.
Nishikori d. Federer
Nishikori won the only clay court h2h meeting against Federer, and I feel no matter who his opponent it is, be it Federer, Nadal, Berdych or another player, that he will win this title. He was solid in Barcelona, and he would have won last year if he hadn’t injured himself. Clearly it’s a venue he enjoys and he’s rising overall, so a maiden Masters 100 title would be well deserved.
Tipsarevic upsets Tomic, Pospisil comes up short against Thiem 2015 ATP Munich Tuesday Marc Imperatori for Tennis Atlantic
Photo Credit: Marc Imperatori
In my report yesterday I mentioned the great weather in Munich. Somehow I officially jinxed it. Originally, play was scheduled to begin at 11 AM but the rain made it impossible to start until 3 PM. Thereafter it was still pretty cold which is why you´ll hear a lot about the conditions in the paragraphs below.
At 3 P.M. local time, four Singles main draw matches were played simultaneously. On centre court Lukas Rosol dismantled Florian Mayer 6-2, 6-2. Even though his season was average at best so far, the Czech played a fantastic match. He was very aggressive from the beginning (an early break certainly helped) and never let Mayer come back in the match. The body language was pretty obvious in this case. While Rosol seemed as focused and concentrated as against Nadal in his breakthrough win in 2012 at Wimbledon, Mayer looked like he didn´t really want to be out there in the cold. In the post match-interview Rosol revealed that he liked the conditions since it suits his big-hitting style. Also kudos to him for just wearing a t-shirt when the crowd was full of winter jackets! In R2 he will meet Sergiy Stakhovsky who beat lucky loser Mikhail Ledovskikh 6-0, 6-0 in 36 minutes.
Rosol was a cool customer (photo credit: Marc Imperatori)
Florian Mayer explained in a short press conference that he was very happy with the way he played in Monte Carlo & Bucharest after his long injury time-out. He stated that he´s absolutely pain-free at the moment and elaborated why he didn´t commit to the Madrid Masters next week. He´s not willing to waste his protected ranking for a tournament that´s pretty bad for him anyway because of the altitude.
On Court 1 Dominic Thiem beat Vasek Pospisil 5-7 6-4 7-6(9). In the first set Pospisil broke for the set by playing a very good return game. In the second set Thiem broke at 3-3 and never gave it back. In the third set Thiem broke Pospisil in the opening game and had break points to go up a double break. However, he got tight as he admitted in the post-match presser, failed to convert them and eventually lost his serve, too. In the decisive tie-break both player saved match points until Thiem hit a great backhand down the line passing shot to finally win the match.
Pospisil played a great clay match but still came up short (photo credit: Marc Imperatori)
In R2 his opponent will be “Nadal-killer“, and defending finalist Fabio Fognini. The Italian later won against Bastian Trinker, an Austrian lucky loser, 6-2 7-6. In yesterday´s report I claimed that Trinker lacked experience against ATP level players and that he had troubles when constantly set under pressure. After watching today´s match against Fognini I stand by my opinion. After less than 30 minutes Fognini was up 6-2 2-0. Trinker broke back from 40-0 down in the fourth game of the set because Fognini was a bit more sloppy and Trinker himself started to be more confident. Yet, the Italian was too good for him and was never really in trouble.
Fognini scored a comfortable result (photo credit: Marc Imperatori)
On court 2, Janko Tipsarevic won a close encounter against Bernard Tomic 5-7 6-1 7-6(3). After being a break down in the second set Tomic more or less tanked the rest of set 2 including a beautiful monologue in which he promised to himself to never come back to this “fucking town“ of Munich again, even if they offered him money. Apparently he didn´t like to play in the cold. In the third set Tomic showed how much he changed in 2015 by upping his level again to play as well as in the opening set. At 5-4 he even had match point on Tipsarevic´ serve though the Serbian saved it with a great backhand winner down the line. Tomic may be upset now for staying too passive in this point. In the tie-break Tipsarevic got an early mini-break and dominated from then on. Tipsarevic´ opponent is Victor Estrella Burgos who already won his R1 match yesterday.
On court 3 Radek Stepanek defeated Farrukh Dustov by retirement. It must be said that Stepanek was leading 6-1, 4-1 anyway. With Roberto Bautista-Agut waiting in the next round, Stepanek will need to play his very best in R2.
In the next match on centre court (after Rosol vs. Mayer) we experienced another Germany vs. Czech Republic battle. Even though”battle“ might be slightly exaggerated. This time the German, Philipp Kohlschreiber, outplayed the Czech, Jiri Vesely, 6-1 6-2. In the post-match press conference Kohlschreiber said that he was surprised by how well he played today. Additionally, he admitted that the conditions favoured him a lot more than Vesely. Kohlschreiber´s tactical approach to use angles instead of power and to keep the ball in play instead of going for too much worked out very well. When asked about his next match against Alexander Zverev, Kohlschreiber praised Zverev´s talent and game.
Kohli was positive in press (photo credit: Marc Imperatori)
In another R1 match of the day Mischa Zverev (Alex´ older brother) edged his fellow countryman Jan-Lennard Struff out 7-6, 3-6, 6-4. In opposite to yesterday Zverev had to play with more depth and be more aggressive than against Gombos. From what I saw he still played consistent tennis from the baseline with some variety and also he attacked in the right moment. Apparently this was enough to win the match. Mischa Zverev´s next opponent is no other than Andy Murray.
Zverev had a strange return position against Struff (photo credit: Marc Imperatori)
In the remaining R1 match between Simone Bolelli and Dustin Brown, Bolelli won 6-1 7-6(2). The Italian will now face David Goffin, a player who impressed me very much in the training sessions and is my pick for reaching the final from the bottom half.
Pablo Andujar vs. Joao Souza as well as all doubles matches were shifted to tomorrow.
Barcelona continued it’s trend of not creating new champions as Kei Nishikori repeated in the Catalan heartland over surprise finalist Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-4. Nishikori only had one difficult three setter all week, as he rolled past Teymuraz Gabashvili and Santiago Giraldo, overcame Roberto Bautista Agut with a breadstick third set, and then dispatched Martin Klizan to reach the final. Even with the large field of players, he was clearly a cut above the rest this week, and continues in his quest to have top 4 Roland Garros seeding.
Pablo Andujar boosted his ranking back up to 42 with a run to the final. The unseeded 29 year old, nicknamed Picasso, reached his first 500 level final (3 250 titles on clay, and an additional three 250 level finals on clay). Pablo beat his compatriot Albert Ramos in round 1, and then got past Leo Mayer in 3 sets, to setup a match against another Spaniard Feliciano Lopez. He won that one, and then upset Fabio Fognini, and David Ferrer in consecutive matches, without dropping a set to reach the final, in a remarkable week for him. Fognini had previously beaten Rafael Nadal for the second time this season, as he continues to struggle.
Henri Kontinen and Marin Draganja beat Jamie Murray/John Peers for the doubles title in three close sets.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez won a nailbiting final over Jiri Vesely, who was playing for his second ATP title of 2015 (and the second of his young career), 7-6 7-6. The veteran Spaniard used his variety to get the win and has nearly returned to the top 30 in the rankings, with his second ATP title of the season (won Zagreb). GGL has now added three titles to his trophy case over the past two seasons, and appears to be having a late career resurgence.
GGL beat Lorenzi Giustino, Marcos Baghdatis, and Lukas Rosol without dropping a set, and then upset Gael Monfils in a three set battle reach the final. Vesely came out of the 7 seed slot in the draw and beat Diego Schwartzman, Malek Jaziri, Ivo Karlovic, and Daniel Gimeno-Traver, an in-form player who upset Gilles Simon in the previous round, to reach the final with a three set win. Vesely is rapidly improving, all be it inconsistently, and he’s a force to be reckoned with these days on tour.
Romanians won the doubles title, but it wasn’t their normal top doubles players, as the underdog team of Marius Copil and Adrian Ungur beat Artem Sitak/Nick Monroe for the title.