It’s Back to Business as a Normal ATP500 for @CitiOpen
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Well, the Rafael Nadal hangover is still around, if only for a day. After Nadal’s exit from the Citi Open in Washington last night, there’s a collective sense of loss and exhaustion from the electricity he brought to this ATP 500 event. However, there are eight excellent quarterfinal matches on tap today and storylines still abound.
Let’s stat with Denis Kudla. On Monday, he said that he’d underachieved in his career. Three wins later and Kudla is looking to make his first hometown tournament semifinal today. He went through a tortuous period from 2008-2017, where the DC local went 0-8 in qualifying and first round losses. To make his first ATP Tour final in DC would be a real silver lining for him and the Citi Open. After beating Brandon Nakashima, who’d been playing near perfect tennis, I predict that he will be the semifinalist from this All-American match.
Steve Johnson has been beating the odds all week, first by taking out tournament #3 seed Alex DeMinaur and following it up with a lights-out win over Ricardas Berankis yesterday. Today, he’ll face longer odds as he tries to unseat the highest remaining seeded player, #5 Jannik Sinner, to book his third Citi Open semifinal. That may be a tall order for Johnson, as Sinner looks unbeatable.
Jenson Brooksby continues to dazzle. Jenson’s July was only a pretext of what was to come here in Washington. He has knocked off #16 seed Tiafoe and #2 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and today he faces #11 seed John Millman. Brooksby hasn’t dropped a set all week, but today I am predicting that Millman will end Brooksby’s impressive Citi Open run.
Finally, Kei Nishikori and Lloyd Harris square off for the last semifinal berth. This one is a big question mark as both players may begin to feel some exhaustion set in after last night’s three set wins. Harris looked great out there, but will there be a letdown coming off of his greatest win yet? Kei Nishikori, who has been the rockstar of Citi Opens past, is a bit of an under-the-radar player this week. That said, I’m going to tip his way to reach the semis.
The top seed Tsitsipas won his opening match against Guido Andreozzi and now faces a far tougher test against the veteran Seppi. Seppi has edged past Jeremy Chardy and Martin Klizan to reach this stage, and he’ll be highly motivated to play his best and try to win this tournament, given his AO expectations are far more muted. Tsitsipas is a rising star though and he’ll be tough to put away, I expect the favored Greek to reach the semis.
Schwartzman will be favored against Nishioka after an easy win in the last round. Nishioka qualified and has already won four matches including main draw wins against Ryan Harrison and Andrey Rublev. Both players are undersized ball strikers with punchy games. I’ll go for the upset here though, with Nishioka rising and redlining his game right now.
Millman survived a stern test against Frances Tiafoe and then eased past Marton Fucsovics to reach this stage. The home favorite will be an underdog against Gilles Simon. Simon is 3-1 to start the season and should be in good shape to reach the semifinals in what will be a contest worth watching.
Alex De Minaur vs Jordan Thompson
Thompson has been in really good form since the end of last season, but De Minaur is the more talented Aussie and will be favored in this contest. ADM is 4-1 to start the season and has a real shot at lifting this title.
Tsitsipas d. Nishioka
De Minaur d. Simon
The top seed Tsitsipas is favored to lift this title, with De Minaur coming short for the second year in a row.
Rafael Nadal showed no signs of stress or fatigue as he raced through his matches in Barcelona without dropping a set, continued his consecutive sets won streak on clay that dates back to last season. Nadal surrendered 5 games to Martin Klizan in the quarters, but was otherwise unbothered, defeating Roberto Carballes Baena, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Klizan, and David Goffin with two bagels and a breadstick thrown in prior to the final.
In that final he faced next-gen star Stefanos Tsitsipas, a rising Greek playing in his first ATP final. Tsitsipas has a great career ahead of him but he was overmatched by Rafa’s clay prowess, falling 6-2 6-1.
Tsitsipas, who has stepped up to a full time ATP schedule this year, won matches against Corentin Moutet, Diego Schwartzman, Albert Ramos, Dominic Thiem, and Pablo Carreno Busta without dropping a set, a great run to the final that saw at least three upsets in that period.
The doubles final was won by the Lopez brothers, as Marc and Feliciano beat Qureshi/Rojer, completing a Spanish sweep of Barcelona.
Marco Cecchinato had the joy of winning his first ATP title in the Budapest 250. The Italian, who had a poor record on clay at the tour level until this year, defeated John Millman 7-5 6-4 in the final. Millman, another clay struggler at tour level, also had the chance to win his first ATP title, but came up just short.
Cecchinato entered the draw as a lucky loser and went on to defeat Mirza Basic, Damir Dzumhur, J.L. Struff, and Andreas Seppi. The wins over Struff and Seppi coming in three sets. Millman reached the final with wins against Radu Albot, Lucas Pouille, Yannick Maden, and Aljaz Bedene, his final three wins all upsets, and the last two coming in tight third sets.
Inglot/Skugor won the doubles title over Middelkoop/Molteni.
2018 ATP Sydney Preview and Predictions: Simon and De Minaur Look to Continue Momentum Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Sydney International, a 250 on hard courts, is one of the final two ATP tournaments before the 2018 Australian Open. it doesn’t have an elite field by any measure but it is wide open for a new ATP champion to emerge.
It’s a great draw for wild card Jordan Thompson, Thompson faces dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi, who hasn’t won a match since the US Open last year, then he should go up against top seed Albert Ramos, who isn’t the most comfortable on hard courts either. Gilles Simon was an effective brick wall in Pune, he took home the title and presuming fitness he should defeat Jared Donaldson. Given the fatigue factor I have him falling to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarters. Kohlschreiber had a solid year on hard court last season and he should be fresher than Simon and also better than Thompson.
Alexandr Dolgopolov played very well in Brisbane, winning a pair of matches and reaching the quarters. His first round opponent Viktor Troicki is struggling so he should win that and also defeat Italy’s Fabio Fognini, another streaky player on hard courts. Adrian Mannarino had a career year in 2017 winning 33 matches at the ATP level and he should build on that in 2018. I have Mannarino making a run, beating a qualifier, Alex Bolt/qualifier, and Dolgopolov to reach the semis.
Wild card John Millman has a solid draw to look forward to, Gilles Muller continues to struggle and he’s the #2 seed. Millman should beat a qualifier and then Muller to slide into the quarters opposite Benoit Paire. I back Paire to defeat Aljaz Bedene and Mischa Zverev/Leo Mayer to reach the quarters. Paire played well in Pune reaching the semis. I’ll pick Paire to reach the semis, he certainly has the ability.
Diego Schwartzman didn’t win a match in Brisbane, but Feliciano Lopez was disappointing on hard courts last year and didn’t start the year great either. I’ll back Schwartzman to reach the quarters opposite Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco has a tough opening match against Brisbane semifinalist Alex De Minaur who will have the fans fully in his corner. Fatigue should play a factor though, and Verdasco finished 2017 strong and played solid in Doha. Look for Verdasco to defeat J.L. Struff or Damir Dzumhur in round 2, and then Schwartzman in the quarters.
Semis Mannarino d. Kohlschreiber
Verdasco d. Paire
Mannarino’s steadily improving and tricky game should earn him an ATP title this week in a wide open field. Verdasco has a great forehand against Paire’s amazing backhand and that match could go either way.
Georgia Tech Senior Chris Eubanks won the second ATP match of his career, upsetting American young gun Jared Donaldson 6-4 4-6 6-2 in the second round of the 2017 BB&T Atlanta Open. The local favorite Eubanks backed up his round 1 win against Taylor Fritz, and again showed off fantastic power on the forehand side, and excellent footwork. Eubanks pushed Donaldson around the court in the first and third set. In the first he came back from a break down, securing two breaks in total to take the set. Donaldson hung tight though, breaking and then holding serve without incident in set 2. Even though the momentum was with the top 60 player, it was Eubanks who would break early in the third set, and then after saving a break point and holding for 5-2, he broke Donaldson on his third match point to take the match, rather quickly for a three setter. Although he’s unlikely to turn pro until after he completes college, his performance this week puts him in the conversation as one of the top young American men in tennis. After the win he reacted with pure joy, running around and high fiving spectators in a victory lap.
American men had a great day on Thursday in Atlanta, in the late match Jack Sock backed up his place as the top seed 6-4 6-3. His forehand and serve were too strong for Sela, who lacked the weaponry to compete with the American #1. Sela, who kept a positive attitude throughout the contest was broken in the opening game, and although Sock faced a bit of pressure, he managed to maintain his serve for the first set. In the second set Sela was again broken from the start, and although he had chances in two different Sock service games to break back, he couldn’t take them. Losing momentum, Sock broke late to finish off the match. It wasn’t the cleanest performance for Sock, but it gets him to the quarterfinals.
Ryan Harrison also kept his seeding, defeating John Millman 6-7 7-6 7-5. Harrison was cranky through the first two sets, but finally found his mojo. The first set featured a long rain delay, as both players traded breaks and ended up in a first set tiebreak. Millman faced pressure on his serve in the first set, but Harrison choked when he had a break point on his racquet. A poor tiebreak put Harrison under the pump. He responded well though, Millman would go up a set and a break, but Harrison used his power and defensive skillset to claw back. Millman was kept behind the baseline, and was broken serving for the match after having a break point/match point at 3-5 in the second set. Harrison would take an ensuing tiebreak to take things into a third set.
Lacking weaponry, Millman was overpowered in the third set, Harrison continued to struggle on break points, but he did save two on his serve at 2-3 in the third, and finally broke through to go up 6-5 in the third, and then serve out the match. Like Sock, Harrison was sloppy at times on return in particular, but a win is a win, especially in the Atlanta heat.
On the grandstand Kyle Edmund came back from a set down to defeat Peter Gojowczyk 2-6 6-4 7-5. The match was disrupted by a rain delay, but Gojowczyk played a much better first set. In the second set Edmund saved a break point and then broke Gojowczyk in the final game of the set to force a third. Edmund would be under heavy pressure in an up and down third set, he saved three break points at 1-1, lost his serve at 2-2 but broke back, and then finally broke through, breaking Gojowczyk to take the third set 7-5 on his second match point chance. Edmund has a solid chance at claiming the title this week if he can improve his form a bit.
Georgia Tech’s Christopher Eubanks claimed his first ever ATP main draw match victory, upsetting ATP young gun Taylor Fritz 7-6 6-4. Eubanks showed his power, controlling the match against the struggling Fritz. The first set was nip and tuck, with neither player facing a breakpoint. Eubanks lost one point on serve in the ensuing tiebreak, but Fritz lost two, and with that, the set. In the second set Eubanks went up a break, and then saved the only break point Fritz created the whole match, going on to serve it out 6-4. Fritz struggling on return to make any inroads.
Joining Eubanks in the second round is Atlanta’s own Donald Young, the home favorite dominated Tim Smyczek 6-4 6-2, playing the same comfortable and smooth tennis that has seen him post one of his best seasons on tour in years, Smyczek never made inroads.
Three young Americans weren’t as lucky on day 2 of main draw action. Reilly Opelka had eight match points in the second set, but his serve fell apart in the third set and he ended up losing to veteran Malek Jaziri 5-7 7-6 6-1. The loss is yet another for Opelka, who has struggled this year to close out matches at the tour level, with just one win on tour this year.
Vasek Pospisil won a nip and tuck battle against Bjorn Fratangelo 7-5 4-6 7-6. With the ball flying in the heat, Pospisil took the first set with the only break point chance of the set, he failed to break Fratangelo despite three chances in the second set, and Fratangelo stayed alive with a late break. Pospisil faced a break point in the opening service game of the third, and three more serving 4-4, the American never saw a match point though, failing to take his chances on Pospisil’s service games, he would lose the tiebreak 7-3 in the third set.
American Frances Tiafoe hit with power and moved well for three sets, but fell to the more experienced John Millman. Millman winning 5-7 6-4 7-6 in over two hours. Millman struggled on serve in the opening set late on, he saved two break points at 4-4, but then was broken and dropped the set from 5-5. Tiafoe wasn’t able to keep up his momentum in set 2, he was broken twice, once early on, and even though he got back on serve when Millman was serving for the set, he would get broken in the next game for a third set to ensue. Tiafoe served for the match in the third set, but never had a match point. Millman would break back and then snatch the tiebreak by a narrow margin.
The other singles winners on the day were Kyle Edmund, Peter Gojowczyk, and Dudi Sela. Edmund beat a struggling Marcos Baghdatis 6-3 7-5. Edmund was the better mover, and in the heat Baghdatis wilted a bit, failing to create chances in his return games. Gojowczyk kept up his momentum from a positive week in Newport, he won a later afternoon battle with Guido Pella 4-6 6-3 7-6 even though he was down a set and a break to open the match. The tiebreak was close, but only Gojowczyk had a match point. In a match that was not serve centric, the underpowered Sela beat Konstantin Kravchuk 7-5 6-2, coming back from a break down in the opening set.
In the doubles, the Bryan Brothers avoided being knocked off by Matt Reid and J.P. Smith via a super tiebreak. Qureshi/Ratiwatana beat Donald Young and Nick Monroe in a very close nightcap match, and Koolhof/Sitak beat Cox/Reinberg in yet another super tiebreak.
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 ATP Metz and St. Petersburg Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP World Tour returns with the start of the European fall indoor hard court swing. A pair of 250s are up this week, one in Metz, France, and the other in St. Petersburg, Russia, as that event returns after being absent from the tour calendar last season.
ATP World Tour 250
September 21-September 27, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (4)
2: Gilles Simon (10)
3: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (17)
4: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (31)
Two top 10 players, and three top 20 players gives Metz a quality field for a small indoor 250 at this point in the season.
Kohlschreiber had a successful outing in Davis Cup for Germany over the weekend as he went 2-0, but the former Metz finalist has had a down season at the ATP level thsi year. Additionally, he may have to fight fatigue and jet lag as he’s coming back from the Caribbean with Davis Cup duty. Millman is a talented underachiever who won a pair of challengers over the summer and can play solid tennis at times, Peppo is still the favorite, but this match has some upset potential.
(6)Martin Klizan vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu
PHM is playing on home soil, and veteran who relies on solid ballstriking is a relatively solid player indoors. He recently reached the final in Kitzbuhel on clay over the summer, beating his opponent Klizan in the process, and qualified for the US Open. Klizan comes off a 2-0 result in Davis Cup and has an indoor h2h win over Mathieu in Rotterdam (2013, 3 sets) but he’s a streaky player who can ball bash well, or struggle mightily. Depending on what version of Klizan will show up, he’ll either advance with ease or lose in an upset in this matchup of contrasting styles.
(WC)Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky
The US Open doubles champion Herbert recently reached his first ATP title in Winston-Salem, and on home soil with a big serve, he’s a danger to the serve and volleyer Stakhovsky. Stako reached the third round of the US Open and a recent challenger final however (in Istanbul), so his form appears good. An inspired PHH could rock the boat this tournament, and with a recent h2h win over Stako, I have him winning against him again.
(8)Fernando Verdasco vs. Alexander Zverev
Verdasco is just 2-5 since Wimbledon, and he risks dropping that number to 2-6 at the hands of the young gun Zverev. The teenager had a successful summer and qualified for the US Open among other good results. His indoor game isn’t as good as his clay court game, but the big hitting Verdasco has struggled to find rhythm and I’m going to go with an upset and pick Zverev, who is on the upswing of his career, while Verdasco is clearly heading downhill.
Stan Wawrinka was pushed to five sets in his DC singles rubber against the lower ranked Thiemo De Bakker on Friday, but the Swiss #2 is unlikely to have much trouble getting past the first couple of matches in Metz. Wawrinka is 42-13 on the season and also reached the semis of the US Open most recently. Look for him to get past a serve and volleyer in his first match, either Rajeev Ram or the big serving Dustin Brown, who also comes off of DC duty, and then past Kohlschreiber for a spot in the semifinals. Stan the Man is 2-0 in the h2h, and should not only be in better form, but also be fresher than his German counterpart. Both players have elite one handed backhands and it’ll be a fun matchup if it takes place. The Kohlschreiber/Millman winner faces either Belgium’s Davis Cup hero Steve Darcis, or dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi in round 2 with the serve and volleying Darcis likely too tired to make much of an impact this tournament.
Two-time Metz champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was excellent at the US Open, where he reached the quarterfinals, and the aggressive Frenchman tends to play well indoors, and at home. The fan favorite is placed in a weak section that will feature either a qualifier or Pablo Carreno Busta in the round of 16, and by ranking #7 seed Adrian Mannarino in the quarterfinals. Nicolas Mahut, the other half of the winning US Open doubles team, could prove to be a bit of a dark horse if the serve and volleyer can get his game together and beat a struggling Federico Delbonis (a loser of 5 straight matches) and Mannarino, who has been streaky this season. All of the French players are fan favorites at home, but Tsonga is a clear favorite to reach the semis for a likely matchup against Wawrinka. I have Mahut slipping past Mannarino, though it’s hard to tell with Adrian.
Two-time Metz champion Gilles Simon, another of the French fan favorites at this tournament, will open with a qualifier and from there should advance to face the big serving and dangerous Gilles Muller in the quarterfinals. Muller opens with Aljaz Bedene as he looks to snap a 3 match losing streak. The serve and volleyer is at his best on fast surfaces and I see him slipping past the Verdasco/Zverev winner in a potentially close match. Simon beat Muller last year in Tokyo, and I see him earning a pair of wins to snap a four match losing streak and reach the semifinals.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez won a pair of matches at the US Open to improve his form, but of the four top seeds, he’s still the most likely to exit before the quarterfinals, as the Herbert/Stakhovsky winner could stymie him with their unique styles of play. The Spanish veteran has won a title on indoor hard courts this season though and he has more experience than Herbert in a tough section. The other quarterfinalist will be one of Aleksandr Nedovyesov/Vasek Pospisil/Klizan/Mathieu, with Mathieu my favorite out of the section. Pospisil also has talent but he’s inconsistent, so look for Mathieu past Pospisil, and then Garcia-Lopez over Mathieu in a wide open section.
Frenchmen Herbert, Mathieu, and Mahut could all serve as unseeded dark horses this week, but with the #2 seed Simon struggling, if Muller serves well he could reach the semifinals, and potentially the final out of the bottom half. After gaining some rest, he should be fresh and he plays well on these types of surfaces historically.
Semis: Wawrinka d. Tsonga
Simon d. Garcia-Lopez
Tsonga has a h2h win in Metz (2007) but the previous few meetings have gone in favor of Wawrinka, and the Swiss has clearly outperformed his French counterpart this year, and in recent memory. Wawrinka simply should be a cut above his semifinal opposition.
Simon is in a slump but he’s 5-0 in the h2h against GGL, so if he gets this far, he should reach another Metz final.
Final: Wawrinka d. Simon
Presuming Wawrinka devotes effort to this 250 tournament he should win it, he’s the best player in the field by a considerable margin, and a player like Simon won’t be in the form to match him toe to toe right now.
ATP St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg Open
ATP World Tour 250
St. Petersburg, Russia
September 21-September 27, 2015
Prize Money: $1,030,000
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Tomas Berdych (5)
2: Milos Raonic (9)
3: Dominic Thiem (20)
4: Roberto Bautista Agut (22)
Even without the strong contingent of home players that Metz sports, St. Petersburg returns to the ATP Tour after funding problems last season with a strong field that features two top 10, and three top 20 players in what should be an entertaining edition of the tournament.
Their teams faced each other in Davis Cup over the weekend, with Bolelli and Italy emerging victorious, but now the young gun Rublev would like to extract some personal revenge for that loss at home in St. Petersburg, where he is one of the stars of the tournament, and the future of Russian tennis at the moment. The teenager qualified for the US Open, snapping a summer of struggles, but his loss in Davis Cup to Fabio Fognini should dent his momentum a bit. Bolelli, a solid player indoors, is also the loser of three straight however and the Italian veteran is looking to gain momentum himself. Look for big hitting in this matchup, and as celebrated as Rublev is, I have Bolelli grinding out the win.
(6)Benoit Paire vs. Jerzy Janowicz
Janowicz beat Paire in three sets earlier this year on indoor hard, but Paire has had a much better season than Jerzy and has been in excellent form since the summer. The French all-courter and his one handed backhand reached the second week of the US Open while Janowicz is 2-3 over his last five, which includes Davis Cup duty over the weekend. Janowicz with his power game is also solid indoors, but I have Paire winning this matchup of talented but often underachieving players.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Ernests Gulbis
Two aggressive baseliners will face off in this one, Gulbis one the 2013 edition of St. Petersburg, while Baghdatis is 0-3 since suffering an abductor injury in the ATP Atlanta final back in July. Gulbis has lost four straight and, like Baghdatis, his last match ended in a retirement, as both guys have struggled to get healthy. A poor season for Gulbis is contrasted by a good season overall for Baghdatis, and I have the Cypriot notching the victory presuming his health has sorted itself out. Baghdatis is 3-0 in the hard court h2h.
Tomas Berdych had a poor summer by his top 10 standards, but the Czech is still 45-15 on the season and should have the inside track against Bolelli/Rublev. In the quarterfinals, look for him to face Australian young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kokkinakis opens with pedestrian Spanish veteran Marcel Granollers, and then he’ll face either Joao Sousa or a qualifier in round 2. Both Sousa and Kokkinakis come off of Davis Cup play but Sousa is in poor form, and although he’s had a lot of success on indoor hard, I have Kokkinakis winning that matchup. Berdych should power past Kokkinakis at that stage however.
#3 seed Dominic Thiem reached the third round of the US Open in a decent showing for the Austrian, and he’ll look to continue to improve on fast surfaces with a routine win over Daniel Gimeno-Traver or newlywed Andreas Haider-Maurer in round 2, as both players much prefer clay. In the quarterfinals, Mikhail Kukushkin could prove to be the dark horse, as he opens with a relatively struggling Denis Istomin and then will face a qualifier or the mightily slumping Benjamin Becker in round 2. Kukushkin played well at the US Open and beat Istomin at the start of the season, his game tends to peak for these smaller 250 events. Thiem and Kukushkin have never played one another, but Kukushkin’s hard court form is arguably better right now, and I have him scoring the rankings upset and reaching the semis.
Milos Raonic has struggled since Wimbledon with a pedestrian 2-3 record. The Canadian #1 hasn’t been the same with his rocket serve since foot surgery, but he’s playing an easy match to open in St. Petersburg against either Evgeny Donskoy or a qualifier. Donskoy, a wild card, has been in excellent form at the challenger tour level this summer but Raonic should still prove too much for him. In the quarters he’s likely to face another player in a slump, as the Baghdatis/Gulbis winner or Tommy Robredo/Mikhail Youzhny are options. The 33 year old Robredo has had a far superior season to Youzhny, so though Youzhny is playing on home soil, Robredo should get through, and likely get past Baghdatis/Gulbis as well, as they may be rusty in their own right. Raonic is 4-0 against Robredo in the h2h with all wins coming since 2013, so with that in mind the Canadian should make the semifinals.
Roberto Bautista Agut is 29-23 this season and comes off a second week showing in the US Open that should give him some good momentum in what has been a rather average year by his standards. Russian Davis Cup participant Teymuraz Gabashvili, presuming Gaba beats a qualifier, should await him in round 2, and Gabashvili is a player capable of crafting upsets, like he did against Andy Murray this summer in Washington. RBA is the section favorite, but Gabashvili could find form and reach the quarters, though he’s not my pick to do so. Paire/Janowicz or Ricardas Berankis/Lucas Pouille will await most likely ether RBA or Gabashvili at that stage. Presuming Paire continues his run of form, which is always in question, I look for him to make it that far before falling to RBA. Berankis has also been in good form as of late with his undersized game. RBA is 7-0 in the h2h against Paire.
If a non seed is going to reach the semifinals or better, Berankis is the player to watch, he’s just 5-8 but he’s always been talented and he’s one of the better pure baseline ball strikers on the ATP tour. He reached consecutive quarterfinals on the US Open Series this summer and he plays well on fast indoor surfaces. Paire/Janowicz are streaky, and RBA/Gabashvili are beatable, so it’s far from out of the question that the Lithuanian will do well at a tournament that is close to home for him.
Semis: Berdych d. Kukushkin
Raonic d. Bautista Agut
Berdych is simply better than Kukushkin and has a h2h win, so like Wawrinka in Metz, if the top seed puts his efforts into this tournament, he’s the favorite. Raonic has a h2h win over RBA last year in Paris, an indoor tournament, and he should be motivated to fight hard this fall on fast surfaces to gain some ranking points after a slow Summer.
2015 Aptos, Prague and Portoroz Challenger Recaps Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
Aptos brought us something that is only very rarely achieved, on the Challenger tour as well as the main tour. Every single seed made it to the quarterfinal. There were some close calls, however. Fifth seed Taro Daniel beat Farrukh Dustov 6-7(5) 7-5 6-0 in the second round, sixth seed Matthew Ebden beat Tommy Haas 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4 in the same round and seventh seed Austin Krajicek beat Dennis Novikov 6-7(4) 6-4 7-6(7) in the first round, to name the three closest encounters. Top seed John Millman was unbothered and barely dropped games in those rounds, continuing that trend against Daniel in the quarterfinal, 6-1 6-3. Millman was put to the test a round later, when he barely beat third seed Kyle Edmund 3-6 6-4 7-5.
You have probably seen it already since it went viral quickly, but of course I have to mention Yoshihito Nishioka’s spectacular behind the back shot during his second round victory over Jared Donaldson, which will easily go down as one of the shots of the year. Special thanks to @hotdog6969, without whom it probably wouldn’t have reached such a big audience.
In the bottom half fourth seed Bjorn Fratangelo dismissed Ebden relatively easily, 6-4 6-2, while Krajicek beat second seed Malek Jaziri with a similar scoreline, 6-3 6-4. Their semi-final encounter ended in two sets as well, with Krajicek prevailing 6-3 7-6(2). In the final Millman survived his second three-set match in a row, ousting Krajicek 7-5 2-6 6-3 to win back to back Challenger titles, having won Lexington two weeks earlier. It’s the seventh Challenger title of his career and propelled him to a new career high ranking of #71, rising fourteen spots. Krajicek gets closer to his own career high ranking of #61, rising four spots to #68.
There were four players in the draw who were far above the rest ranking wise, being the only players ranked inside of the top 70, with fifth seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov following at #92. Albert Ramos-Vinolas (#54), Andreas Haider-Maurer (#58), Simone Bolelli (#60) and Steve Darcis (#65) all failed to live up to the expectations, however, with the top two seeds crashing out in the second round, while Bolelli and Darcis only lasted one round longer. Ramos-Vinolas fell 6-4 7-5 to Filip Krajinovic, Haider-Maurer 6-4 7-6(6) to qualifier Nikola Mektic, Bolelli 6-2 4-6 7-6(4) to qualifier Axel Michon and Darcis 6-2 6-7(0) 6-4 to Adam Pavlasek. Pavlasek already handed another seed an enormous beating in the first round, trashing eighth seed Jan-Lennard Struff 6-0 6-1. Michon had a similar scalp, beating seventh seed Daniel Munoz-De La Nava 6-3 6-2 in the second round.
The player to profit the most was qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva. The 31-year-old is having a remarkable ressurection, having dropped out of the top 500 in June, but has since then reached a Challenger final and managed to qualify for two ATP events in Bastad and Kitzbühel. Here he beat Krajinovic 6-4 6-3 in the quarterfinal and Pavlasek 7-6(4) 6-4 in the following round. His opponent in the final would be sixth seed Radu Albot, who avoided the other seeds and beat Michon 7-5 7-5 in the semi-final. He couldn’t stop the Brazilian’s dream run, however, with Dutra Silva winning a hard-fought battle in the final, 6-2 6-7(5) 6-4, to win his sixth Challenger title and get back into the top 200 at #187, rising a hundred-and-one spots. Albot reached a new career high ranking of #86, rising seven spots.
Top seed Marcel Granollers got upset in the first round by Evgeny Donskoy, 7-6(4) 6-2. Third seed Kimmer Coppejans managed to do even worse, only winning three games against lucky loser Jonatan Eysseric, 6-1 6-2. Sixth seed Luca Vanni on the other hand was cruising through the draw, only dropping eleven games on his way to the semi-final, where he faced fifth seed Norbert Gombos. This was harder for the Italian late-bloomer, but he prevailed 5-7 6-4 6-3. His opponent from the bottom half was decided in a match between two unseeded players, Alexander Kudryavtsev and wild card Grega Zemlja. Kudryavtsev beat seventh seed Thiemo de Bakker in the second round and second seed Paolo Lorenzi in the quarterfinal, both in three sets. Zemlja trashed fourth seed Lukas Lacko in the second round, 6-0 6-2, and beat eighth seed Mirza Basic 6-7(5) 7-5 6-3 in the next round.
Zemlja didn’t experience a lot of problems against Kudryavtsev, beating him 6-4 6-2 for a place in the final. Here Vanni was too strong and managed to win his first ever Challenger title at the age of thirty, although it didn’t come easy in the second set, 6-3 7-6(6). Vanni hit a rough patch after his breakthrough run at Sao Paulo in February, partially because of injury, but this title puts him in sight of the top 100 again, rising twenty-three spots to #118. Zemlja rises fifty-nine spots to #231.
Introducing Your 2015 @Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Qualifiers Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
The Wimbledon qualifying draw encountered a series of shocks and surprises. It was a disastrous draw for the seeded players with none of the top ten players automatically qualifying for the main draw. Luca Vanni received a lucky loser spot in the main draw due to David Ferrer’s withdrawal. The highest seeded player to qualify was Dustin Brown, who was 12th. Despite the disappointing performance of the seeds, there are some qualifiers that have a good chance of causing a shock first round win.
Vincent Millot booked a place in his first Wimbledon main draw after an impressive qualifying competition. In the first round the Frenchman knocked out top seed Kimmer Coppejans. He then beat Marius Copil and Edouard Roger-Vasselin to book a place in the main draw. Since January Millot has reached the quarter-finals at two Challenger tournaments in Saint Brieuc and Tallahassee. In the first round, he will play Vasek Pospisil.
Titles – 3 Futures and 11 Challengers
Alejandro Falla edged out Germany’s Andres Beck in four extremely close sets to book his place in his third Wimbledon main draw. Falla recently reached the second round at the Gerry Webber Open as a qualifier. During the tournament the Colombian beat Janko Tipsarevic and Lukas Lacko. He also took a set of Jerzy Janowicz before losing to him. He has reached one ATP quarterfinal in 2015 which at the start of the year in Auckland, New Zealand. In the first round he will play Robin Haase. Falla has beaten Haase once before on grass which was in the second round of last years Gerry Webber Open in Halle, Germany.
Titles – 5 Futures and 1 Challenger
19-year-old Elias Ymer has a 100% winning record in qualifying draws for Grand Slams in 2015. Following his victory over third seed Guido Pella, he became the first player since Julian Reister (2013) to qualify for the first three Grand Slam main draws in the same year. In the main draw he will play Ivo Karlovic. The Swede currently has a main draw win-loss of 11-12 in 2015.
Hiroki Moriya’s recent run of disappointing results finally ended with him qualifying for the main draw at Wimbledon. Going into the tournament, the Japanese player exit in the first round in five out of last six tournaments. During the qualifying tournament, Moriya beat fourth seed and countryman Tatsuma Ito before producing a straight sets win over Matteo Donati. The best result of 2015 for the 24-year-old was reaching the semi final of the Batman Challenger in April. Awaiting Moriya in the main draw will be 9th seed Marin Cilic.
Age – 21
Ranking – 182 (career high 152)
Titles – 6 Futures
Double junior Grand Slam champion Luke Saville booked his place in the main draw after recovering from two sets down to beat Luca Vanni. In the lead up to Wimbledon, Saville reached the final of the Surbiton Challenger where he lost in straight sets to Sam Groth. The 2011 Wimbledon boys champion will play Richard Gasquet in the first round.
Age – 27
Ranking – 170 (ranking high 52)
Titles – 5 Futures and 6 Challenger
Igor Sijsling will play in his 9th consecutive Grand Slam following an epic five sets win over Paul-Henri Mathieu in the final round of qualifying. Since making the quarter-final of the Zagreb Open in February, the Dutch player has endured a series of early tournament losses which has contributed towards he decline to 170th in the world. In round one he will face Sam Querrey. Sijsling has played the American twice in 2012. He lost to him on both occasions.
Titles – 6 Futures and 2 Challenger.
Pierre-Hugues Herbert overcame Íñigo Cervantes in five sets in the final round of Wimbledon qualifying. The Frenchman won the Wimbledon Boys doubles title back in 2009 with Kevin Krawietz. He also achieved success in doubles on the pro circuit by reaching the final of the Australian Open earlier this year. More recently, Herbert reached back-to-back doubles finals in S-Hertogenbosch and Queen’s. He won the Queen’s title partnering Nicolas Mahut. He will play 19-year-old South Korean sensation Chung Hyeon in round one.
Age – 26
Ranking – 149 (career high 116)
Titles – 12 Future and 3 Challenger
Yuichi Sugita ended British hopes by beating Dan Evans to make the main draw. This is the second Grand Slam main draw appearance in his career after Wimbledon last year. Sugita’s best result in 2015 was runner-up at the ATP Saint Brieuc Challenger in April. He was edged out in the final by Nicolas Mahut. Awaiting the Japanese player in the main draw is world number 111 Blaž Kavčič.
Titles – 10 Future and 2 Challenger
2010 Wimbledon Boys champion Nikoloz Basilashvili enjoyed a comfortable journey into the Wimbledon main draw. After producing straight sets wins in the first two rounds, he beat Marton Fucsovics in four sets (6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2). The Georgian has claimed one title this year which was at the ATP Raanana Challenger in Israel. He will play Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis in the main draw.
Age – 26
Ranking – 160 (career high 148)
Titles – 3 Future and 21 Challenger
John-Patrick Smith knocked out 18th seed Bjorn Fratangelo in the second round to reach the main draw. In the final round, he beat Czech Republic’s Jan Mertl in straight sets. Smith won his third Challenger title earlier this year in Drummondville, Canada. More recently he reached the quarter-finals of the Surbiton Challenger in Great Britain. He will play another qualifier, Kenny de Schepper, in the first round.
Titles – 1 Future and 10 Challenger.
Veteran German player Michael Berrer endured a grilling five set match against 11th seed Adrián Menéndez-Maceiras before booking his place in the main draw. Berrer started 2015 in incredible fashion by beating Rafael Nadal at the Qatar Open. The German however, hasn’t been able to capitalize on the stunning upset with a series of unspectacular results on the tour. Except Qatar, his best performance was a semifinal appearance at a Challenger event in Israel in June. Berrer has played at SW19 five times before this year, losing in the first round of four of them. In his sixth Wimbledon first round main draw, he will play Adrian Mannarino.
Age – 30
Ranking – 102 (career high 78)
Titles – 3 Future and 6 Challenger
Dustin Brown didn’t drop a set on his way to qualifying for his fifth Wimbledon main draw.
In the final round, he beat Italy’s Andrea Arbaboldi 7-6 (1), 6-3,6-4. Prior to Wimbledon, the German participated in back-to-back grass-court tournaments in Stuttgart and Halle. Brown’s best performance on the tour this year was reaching the quarter-finals in Doha at the start of the year. More recently he reached the quarter-final at a Challenger tournament in Rome last month. He will face Lu Yen-Hsun.
Titles – 6 Futures and 3 Challengers.
Kazakhstan’s Aleksandr Nedovyesov dismissed Belgium’s Yannick Mertens in three sets in the final round of qualifying. The Ukrainian born player has enjoyed success on the doubles tour in 2015 by winning two Challenger titles. In the singles he has recently reached the last four at the ATP Prague Challenger. He will play Serbian 22nd seed Viktor Troicki in the main draw.
Clay-court specialist Horacio Zeballos upset 14th seed Ivan Dodig to reach the main draw of Wimbledon. The Argentine is yet to make a final in 2015 but he has reached the semi-finals of Challenger tournaments in Moscow, Russia and Leon, Mexico. This will be the thirteenth time he will participate in a Grand Slam main draw. He will play David Goffin in round one, a player who he beat in Miami last year.
Titles – 7 Futures and 5 Challenger
15th seed John Millman beat a trio of unseeded player to reach the main draw. In the final round Millman overcame a slow start to edge out France’s Enzo Couacaud 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. The Australian has been runner-up in two Challenger tournaments this year (Vicenza, Italy and Kyoto, Japan). He will play 16th seed Tommy Robredo.
Titles – 2 Futures and 4 Challengers.
Finally, Kenny de Schepper overcame tough resistance from countryman Stéphane Robert to set up a main draw showdown against another qualifier, John-Patrick Smith. The Frenchman achieved his best Grand Slam performance at Wimbledon by making the 4th round of the 2013 tournament. Since the start of the year, Schepper has only won seven main draw matches.