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.
32 year old Argentine veteran Juan Monaco won his eight ATP title overall, and his first since 2012, when he defeated Jack Sock 3-6 6-3 7-5 for his second ATP Houston title. Monaco was ranked outside of the top 100, and hasn’t been much of a factor on the ATP tour in quite some time, but he found form on a familiar clay court surface to earn wins over Gerald Melzer, Benoit Paire, Sam Querrey, and Feliciano Lopez, along with Sock. A rather tough path for just an ATP 250. It will be interesting to see if Monaco can stay in the top 100 this year, and make further waves throughout the clay court season.
Sock is now 0-2 in finals this season, but he did beat Matt Barton, Marcos Baghdatis, and American #1 John Isner in the semifinals. His win over Isner will further aid his chances of becoming the top ranked American by the year’s end.
The legendary Bryan Brothers won their sixth ATP Houston title as they defeated Victor Estrella and Santiago Gonzalez in a close match that was decided 10-8 in a third set tiebreak.
19 year old Borna Coric still has the rest of the season to claim his first ATP title before he leaves his teenage years. The young Croatian was foiled by Federico Delbonis 6-2 6-4, as the top 50 dirtballer captured his second career ATP title, the other came in 2014.
Delbonis demonstrated his superior clay court prowess and form when he defeated Thiemo De Bakker, Pablo Carreno Busta, and Albert Montanes, along with Coric, without dropping a set throughout the week.
Coric only had to win a pair of matches, as he defeated Paul-Henri Mathieu and Jiri Vesely, battling hard and pulling off a pair of clutch wins. He’ll now have to jetset to Monte Carlo for a round 1 match on a bigger stage.
Maximo Gonzalez and Guillermo Duran beat Marin Draganja and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi in the doubles final. Their win further adds to what a fantastic week it was for Argentine tennis, as Argentines really shined on clay.
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 ATP Nice and Geneva Previews, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final week on the ATP tour before the 2015 French Open in Paris will feature a pair of clay 250 level tournaments. Nice in France is back yet again with its intimate venue, and Geneva is making it’s debut on tour this year as well. The Swiss city previously hosted a quality, and successful challenger tournament, and with the success of Swiss tennis over the last decade, it’s a well deserved promotion as it takes the place of Dusseldorf, Germany on the calendar. Dusseldorf met it’s demise soon after the World Team Cup format came to an end.
2015 ATP Nice Preview
Open de Nice Cote d’Azur
ATP World Tour 250
May 17-May 23, 2015
Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP Rankings in parentheses)
1: Gilles Simon (12)
2: John Isner (17)
3: Ernests Gulbis (22)
4: Leonardo Mayer (25)
With a seed cutoff of 36 Nice has a pretty good field for a pre-slam tournament, that said, the top 4 seeds are either poor on clay or slumping, so unseeded players will have a great chance this week to excel.
First round matchups to watch:
(8)Juan Monaco vs. Benoit Paire
Both of these guys are streaky players who were formerly near the top of the ATP tour, but have slid down to being fringe to mid-tier ATP players who rarely threaten for titles, even in 250 level events. Monaco, the veteran has encountered some tough draws in the spring clay court season and thus his record stands at an even 4-4. Paire is 3-3 in main draws this spring on clay, and has bounced around qualifying as well. They have an even 1-1 h2h on clay with both matches going three sets, and any way you slice it, this is a tough match to predict. That said, Monaco seems to be the superior player in form and focus over Paire as of late, and thus he’s the favorite. Paire is likely to produce more highlights, but Monaco has the steadier groundstroke game.
Victor Estrella vs. Dominic Thiem
Estrella rolled past Thiem in straights when they met in Barcelona not too long ago, and now we will see if he can repeat that result in Nice. Thiem has been improving over his past two tournaments going 4-2 in Rome and Munich, after consecutive losses to start the European spring clay court season. The Austrian has had a streaky and unpredictable year, and it’s still a question as to what type of form he will show up to this tournament in. The remarkable veteran Estrella has far less upside than Thiem but he’s maximized the talent he does have as he’s also 4-2 over his last six on clay with a win over Marin Cilic his most notable in that span. Once again, this is a 50/50 proposition, but I’d give Thiem the slightest of edges to advance if he continues to play as he did in Rome.
Gilles Simon, the top seed, and a home favorite, is likely to get his tournament started against Thanasi Kokkinakis, as the young Aussie should dispatch his countryman James Duckworth, an opponent who struggles on clay. Kokkinakis has been on a relative roll on clay this Spring, with strong under the radar performances. The teenager is currently in the final of the Bordeaux Challenger and he qualified in both Istanbul and Madrid, all of those tournaments on clay of course. That said, he should be too fatigued to give Simon much of a problem, and thus expect the Frenchman to at least reach the quarters presuming his health has returned to him after retiring in Rome.
Bernard Tomic and Borna Coric will vie for supremacy in the section below Simon, with the Croat the likely quarterfinalist. Both will open with qualifiers as Tomic looks to snap a four match losing streak. The Aussie has cooled off after a strong start to the season, though that had to be expected given he’s not at his best on clay, while Coric continues to build up results as a young gun, and he should reach his second clay quarterfinal of the season (also did so in Estoril), with wins over a qualifier and Tomic. Presuming he faces and defeats Tomic, that would avenge his loss to him in Indian Wells on hard court this year.
I’m picking Coric over Simon to reach the semis, Simon retired in his last match in Rome, and Coric took a set off of him on indoor hard in Marseille this year. Clay should give Borna a slight edge and Simon may not be fit after a so-so spring clay season.
The partisan French crowd should be rooting for young gun Lucas Pouille, a potential dark horse in the draw, to give the 4 seed Leonardo Mayer a whipping in the second round. Pouille will open with American Tim Smyczek, who is not comfortable on clay, and should he upset Mayer, he would be grabbing the spotlight after last making waves in January where he reached his first ATP semi in Auckland. The Frenchman has put together a solid clay court record this spring on a mix of challenger and ATP events, and he notably defeated Dominic Thiem in Monte Carlo. Mayer is just 3-4 on clay this Spring, and I have Pouille notching the upset to reach the quarterfinals.
The winner of Paire/Monaco is the likely quarterfinalist in the last section on the top half, Sam Querrey/qualifier are not an imposing second round opponent, and I’d also favor Monaco over Pouille to reach the semis. Juan dispatched Pouille at the French last year without dropping a set.
John Isner may well face Steve Johnson again, if the American can beat a qualifier. Isner beat Johnson 4 and 4 in Monte Carlo this year and given he’s 7-4 on clay this year and Johnson is just 2-4, he has the decided edge to reach the quarters. He could well face American Jack Sock in that quarterfinal, if Jack continues to compete hard and impress. He’ll need a revenge win over Dusan Lajovic, who he lost to at the French last year, in the opening round, but the Houston champ, who has lost a pair of tough matches in a row to solid clay court players Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Simon, should be the favorite to do that given Lajovic, though he qualified in Rome, hasn’t done much on clay this year. The winner of Maxime Hamou, a French wild card, vs. Pablo Carreno Busta will decide who the winner of Sock/Lajovic will face. The 19 year old Hamou recently reached a challenger semi, and he’s also scored himself a Roland Garros main draw wild card while PCB was a semifinalist in Estoril, but has been abysmal most of this season. I’d give Hamou a chance, but Sock should beat Lajovic and PCB to reach the quarters.
Isner has beaten Sock twice on clay, including in Nice last year, and given the 4-1 h2h I’m pretty comfortable picking the higher ranked American to reach the semis, even though a Sock win wouldn’t come as shock.
It’s more than likely the defending champion Ernests Gulbis will see his hopes continue to be dashed, this time Gulbis is likely to lose to Alex Dolgopolov in the second round, presuming Dolgo beats his countryman Sergiy Stakhovsky. They have a split 2-2 h2h and Dolgo qualified and won a round in Rome, while Stako has been struggling. Gulbis is 2-1 in the h2h, with all of their matches on clay against Dolgopolov, and both are unpredictable but Gulbis has been having one of the worst seasons for a top 20 player in recent memory as he’s on another 5 match losing streak and is just 1-11 this year. Going back to the challenger tour still seems like the wisest option for the Latvian.
The section above Dolgopolov/Gulbis is the strongest in the draw as it features title contenders Estrella/Thiem, and also Nick Kyrgios, who will open with Mikhail Kukushkin. Kyrgios has had an extremely impressive clay court season with an ATP final, success in doubles in Rome, and a win over Federer in Madrid. That said I see a Thiem-Dolgopolov quarterfinal, as I’m unsure Kyrgios can sustain his success against the Thiem/Estrella winner. I’m going with a Thiem-Isner semifinal, simply because I trust an in-form Dom on clay more than anyone else in this section Should he fail to perform however, Estrella, Kyrgios, or Dolgo should pick up the slack and reach the semis.
He’s in the weaker top half of the draw with a questionable Simon, and a struggling Tomic thus he can very well reach the semis, and his semifinal opponent is unlikely to be that daunting of a challenge whether it’s Mayer/Pouille or Monaco/Paire. He has a solid shot at winning his first ATP title this week, and the young gun clearly has the game to do it presuming he can put it all together this week.
Monaco d. Coric
Isner d. Thiem
I’m picking Monaco simply because I feel he’s played slightly better on clay as of late, and the same goes for Isner. A reverse result wouldn’t surprise me at all, but Isner, has shockingly put together the best clay court season of anyone in this tournament.
Isner and Monaco have met twice on clay before with a split h2h, and going back to what I said previously, Isner has actually been best on clay of anyone in this tournament, thus I shockingly have an American winning a title on clay in Europe this week.
2015 ATP Geneva Preview
ATP World Tour 250
May 17-May 23, 2015
Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP Rankings in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (9)
2: Marin Cilic (10)
3: Pablo Andujar (43)
4: Benjamin Becker (44)
Geneva is strongly tilted towards the top 2 seeds as the seed cutoff is 61, and the rest of the field is pedestrian at best for this maiden tournament.
First round matchups to watch:
Federico Delbonis vs. Teymuraz Gabashvili
On paper this is not a marquee matchup, and it may even be pushed to the secondary court but these two grinders have a split 1-1 h2h on clay and both have won challenger tournaments on the surface recently. Delbonis won Sarasota, though he has failed to qualify for both Madrid and Rome. Gabashvili has been on a tear on the challenger tour as he has won 10 straight matches, and consecutive challenger titles on two surfaces. The competition hasn’t been harsh, but he’s still showing some of his best tennis, as he also reached the quarters in Houston (upset Isner) and qualified for Istanbul. Fatigue should be a factor, and that’s the main reason as to why Delbonis would have the edge, but I’m going with Gabashvili to continue the positive momentum myself.
Jarkko Nieminen vs. (WC)Andrey Rublev
Another fantastic opportunity for the young gun Russian to grab another ATP main draw win, the multi tool Rublev who has 4 ATP maindraw wins at just 17 has been given a wildcard and matched up against the veteran Nieminen, who doesn’t like clay that much. The Fin hasn’t won consecutive matches since January and he’s in the twilight of his career, thus I’m going with an upset and picking Rublev over the lefty. He’s played well under pressure this year and he’s proven he can compete at this level.
Rome semifinalist Stan Wawrinka is the shining star on home soil at this tournament and he’s unlikely to have any trouble against Rendy Lu/qualifier in his first match. Lu has been playing hard court tennis in Asia, and thus should be jetlagged and unprepared, giving the qualifier a decided edge to advance. Wawrinka has struggled at times this year, but his form picked up in Rome and he should also be favored over Gabashvili/Delbonis, or perhaps Andreas Haider-Maurer who has put together a solid 2015 campaign thus far. AHM has a h2h win over Gabashvili and he has a semi a quarterfinal on clay this year. In my own bracket I have Wawrinka defeating AHM for a spot in the semis.
Pablo Andujar will open with Carlos Berlocq or a qualifier, Berlocq is 2-1 against Andujar on clay, but he has lost three consecutive matches, Andujar made that shock run to the Barcelona final, but has done little else of note this season. I have Andujar into the quarters in a toss up match, and he’s likely to get an easy quarterfinal opponent as well, given all of the potential options are struggling right now. Joao Sousa should defeat his nearly named doppleganger Joao Souza, Souza has lost 6 straight matches while Sousa is a poor 4-6 on clay himself this spring. Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer could suffer another bad loss to a qualifier in the other match in this section, Melzer has been in abysmal form, and thus I have Andujar reaching the semis over Sousa, though a qualifier has great odds at success in this poor quality section.
Marin Cilic will open with the Nieminen/Rublev winner, the Croat is just 1-3 since reaching the Monte Carlo quarters, and Rublev could pull off a shocking result, still Cilic is the odds on favorite to reach the quarterfinals at least. Above the Cilic section is one of the weakest ATP quarters you will see on tour this year featuring Mikhail Youzhny as the seed, J.L Struff, Ricardas Berankis, and Santiago Giraldo. Youzhny is practically retired and is just 2-4 on European spring clay, Struff comes off one of his best results of a poor season with a semi in a clay challenger in Germany, Berankis is just 1-5 on spring Euro clay and Giraldo has lost three straight and continues to struggle this year. Nobody really deserves to reach a quarterfinal form this section, but I’m picking Struff to do so simply because he played well in Heilbronn. Giraldo should beat Berankis, and Struff should beat Youzhny, and then Struff should beat Giraldo, though Santi may have more upside. Even a rusty Cilic should dispatch Struff in the quarters.
Albert Ramos is the favorite for the quarterfinals in the section above that, Ramos will face Marinko Matosevic first, and then the seed Benjamin Becker, both of whom are very poor on clay, and both of whom have lost more than 5 matches in a row. Ramos qualified in both Madrid and Monte Carlo, and he’s an actual dirtballer who hits with high spin. Thomaz Bellucci is the probable favorite to be the final quarterfinalist, though Janko Tipsarevic could sneak in on his comeback tour. The Serb will open with a struggling Denis Istomin and his .500 record since returning to tour after an absence of a year and a half is admirable. Presuming he’s getting better each tournament, we’ll see what happens in Geneva. Bellucci will open with Marcos Baghdatis who is poor on clay and he’s a tremendous 9-3 over his last three tournaments. Look for Bellucci to defeat Tipsarevic, and then Ramos and reach the semis. Ramos and Bellu has never played, and Tipsy and Bellu split meetings on clay in their previous h2h. A semifinal for Bellucci would be well deserved after his great efforts over the past month, he even took a set off of Novak Djokovic in Rome.
Given Bellucci is probably the third favorite to win the tournament, if not the second, he’s the obvious choice for dark horse in Geneva. With a weak draw, that should feature a beatable semifinal opponent, be it Cilic or someone else the Brazilian could reach his sixth ATP final, and his first since 2012. He qualified in both Madrid and Rome, along with reaching the quarters in Istanbul as of late, and he took a set off Djokovic as mentioned, along with scoring a top 20 win over Roberto Bautista Agut in Rome. Wawrinka will be a tough opponent in the final, but I do have him getting that far this week.
Wawrinka d. Andujar
Bellucci d. Cilic
Wawrinka is 3-0 in the h2h against Andujar, with all of those wins coming on clay, and given his form perked up in Rome, there are fewer question marks about him going into this lower tier 250 event on home soil. The local hero should make the tournament, the fans, and his sponsors happy by reaching the final.
Bellucci has been in better recent form than Cilic, and that’s why I’m picking him to reach the final.
Wawrinka d. Bellucci
Wawrinka has previously lost to Bellucci on clay, and the prospect of losing again to him isn’t out of the question, that said, Stan was impressive in Rome, and he should be motivated to be the first champion of this tournament. He’s far from a lock, but still the above board favorite to capture this title going into Roland Garros.
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.
2015 ATP Monte Carlo Preview, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The spring European clay court season begins in earnest with the third masters event of the season, the Monte-Carlo Masters in the wealthy seaside playground of Monte-Carlo, Monaco. It’s not a mandatory masters, but all the same most of the top players are participating.
2015 ATP Monte Carlo Preview
Monte Carlo Rolex Masters ATP World Tour Masters 1000
April 12-April 19, 2014
Prize Money: €3,288,530
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Rafael Nadal (5)
4: Milos Raonic (6)
5: David Ferrer (7)
6: Tomas Berdych (8)
7: Stan Wawrinka (9)
8: Marin Cilic (10)
15 of the top 20 are in the MC field, with notable exceptions Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Feliciano Lopez.
AHM and Gulbis have a split h2h record, but shockingly AHM beat Gulbis on hard court, which is not his surface, and Gulbis has the win on clay, both matches being competitive. Gulbis is higher ranked and the seed here, but this is not as much of a mismatch as it seems on paper. AHM has had a relatively good season on clay, as he comes off a quarterfinal showing in Casablanca and also reached the semis in Rio. Gulbis has only won 1 match this year, hasn’t played on clay, and though he posted a remarkable 17-5 record on the surface last year, he’s not playing anywhere near that level at the moment, with his game entirely lacking confidence and belief at the moment. In theory a return to clay could help Gulbis post resurgent results, but I’m picking Haider-Maurer to continue Ernests misery this season and advance into round 2.
Dominic Thiem vs. (WC)Lucas Pouille
Thiem is the favorite and should win this, but both players are 21 year old young guns with great promise and it’s an intriguing matchup. Thiem started the season off slow but still has two quarterfinals, including one in Miami, and he went 16-7 in clay court tournaments last year (12-7 at the ATP level) after going 46-12 on clay in 2013 at all levels. Pouille went 23-14 on clay last year, primarily at the challenger level and has an ATP semi (Auckland) and a challenger semi from last week on his 2015 resume. He’s an intriguing talent who can hit a wide variety of shots, especially on his forehand side, and he gave Gael Monfils quite the match in Australia. Thiem likely wins in straights, but enjoy it if it goes three sets, presently he’s the more well rounded and accomplished player, and his form in Miami bodes well for his clay court season.
Viktor Troicki vs. Martin Klizan
ATP Casablanca champion Martin Klizan will take on Troicki, a player four years his senior but similar in ranking and ability. Troicki beat Klizan in Sydney this year (2-2 h2h) and they have never met on clay. Troicki went just 1-2 on the hard court masters swing in the US but he has two quarterfinals and an ATP title (Sydney) on his record this year. Klizan just posted his best tournament of the season with the title in Monte Carlo. Last year Klizan went 23-6 on clay while Troicki went 25-4, though that was almost exclusively at the challenger level. Both are accomplished and talented, and given fatigue factor, I give Troicki a slight edge to advance.
These two ATP level American men have played twice before, with a split 1-1 h2h. This will be their first meeting on clay. Johnson comes off a loss to Sam Querrey in the second round of Houston and has slowed down a bit after a strong start to his season that featured three ATP quarterfinals and a third round showing at the AO. Isner by contrast caught fire after a terrible start to his season and went 6-2 between Indian Wells and Miami, only losing to Novak Djokovic twice. He suffered a shocking hangover loss to Teymuraz Gabashvili in Houston, but still he’s been able to maintain a positive clay court record over the past two years (8-5 in 2013 6-5 in 2014). Johnson comparably is still learning the surface, and thus Isner is the favorite but I could see this match going either way.
(16)Tommy Robredo vs. Andreas Seppi
Robredo is the higher ranked seed but he has not had a particularly strong season and he comes off two match losing streak coming into Monte Carlo, after previously going just 2-3 on the clay court golden swing. That said he’s still an accomplished veteran with great acumens on clay. Seppi has slowed down after a hot start to his season where he reached the final in Zagreb and also the round of 16 at the AO with a win over Federer. He’s just 3-4 since Zagreb and hasn’t had a positive tournament record on clay since 2012. h2h wise though Seppi is 2-1 on clay with a long h2h history (Robredo has won the last three meetings, one on clay, and two on hard courts both of which were last season). Given Robredo’s relative dearth of form this season, I’m going with Seppi in an upset.
(9)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Fernando Verdasco
Dimitrov is higher ranked but he’s struggled all season long, while Verdasco has been hot as of late. The Spanish veteran lefty reached the semis in Houston and is 6-3 over his last three tournaments with a win over Nadal in Miami. The h2h is 1-1 with Verdasco havng the clay court win, and both of their prior matches went 3 sets. Verdasco went 13-7 in 2014 on clay and 14-9 in 2013, while Dimitrov went 12-4 and 11-6, as this is a hard matchup to parse.That said, with the jetlag factor from Houston, I give Dimitrov the slightest of edges to advance and find some form on the red dirt after a poor winter/spring hard court season.
Borna Coric vs. Alex Dolgopolov
The 18 year old Coric is a dangerous talent and is likely to do damage on clay this year, that said he did not get the best of draw luck when he drew the in-form Dolgopolov in the opening round. Coric went 8-8 on clay in 2014 after going 14-4 in 2013 while Dolgopolov went 9-9 and 4-8 over the past two seasons on the surface, as fast surfaces likely favor his aggressive approach to tennis. That said Dolgo is 9-4 in his last four tournaments with three of those losses coming at the hands of top 10 players Nishikori, Raonic and Djokovic. He has two ATP quarterfinals in that span and a round of 16 in Miami, where he nearly beat Djokovic. Given his gilbert’s syndrome, Dolgopolov is always unpredictable, but I give him a slight edge to advance over Coric in this must see matchup that will feature big hitting.
Novak Djokovic, one of two Monte Carlo champions not named Rafael Nadal since 2005, and the world number 1 will start off against Denis Istomin or Albert Ramos. Ramos is a qualifier, and should be favored to beat the lucky loser Istomin. He suffered a shock loss in Casablanca round 1 but qualified with relative ease in MC, and he also gave Djokovic a good match on hard court in Indian Wells. Clay is his better surface, but still its Novak Djokovic, so at minimum Novak should get a decent test before the later rounds but a miracle can’t be expected from Ramos. Similarly I expect Djokovic to roll past either the Gulbis/AHM winner or Bernard Tomic. Tomic got past Lukas Rosol in 3 sets in one of the three Sunday main draw matches. He’s had a great season but he’s not a clay courter by any means, so should he beat AHM/Gulbis (AHM actually has a good chance at the third round) I still don’t expect him to get a set off of Novak.
Marin Cilic will open with Florian Mayer, as both of these players are on the comeback from injury path. Mayer had been out for 13 months, while Cilic was out for about 4, and did not play well in his comeback match against Juan Monaco in Indian Wells. Funky Flo just beat Mikhail Youzhny, who is in a terrible slump, on Sunday and the 31 year old is an accomplished clay court player who went 18-10 on clay in 2013, after missing the 2014 clay court season. That said Cilic went 11-6 on the surface last year, and he’s a more talented player all-around, so he should advance and find his form on the dirt.
However, the winner of this section is less likely to be Cilic, compared to the action at the top of it, with 11 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a one time semifinalist in MC, and David Goffin. Goffin went a remarkable 28-5 on clay last year (mostly at the challenger level) while Tsonga went 10-5, and just played his comeback tournament in Miami where he won a round and lost to Gael Monfils. Presuming Tsonga beats current Houston finalist Sam Querrey, and Goffin beats qualifier Norbert Gombos, it will setup a marquee second round matchup. Their h2h is 2-1 in favor of Tsonga but they have never met on clay, Goffin is 3-1 in his last four matches after a slow start to his year and with Tsonga still working into things, I’m going with Goffin in an upset, as I have him beating Tsonga, and then Cilic to reach the quarterfinals. Goffin and Cilic have never met.
Rafael Nadal will open with the Thiem/Pouille winner, the 8 time MC champion hasn’t won the title since 2012, and he’s not near the player he once was as of late. No matter, he has only lost on clay since 2013 to Nicolas Almagro, David Ferrer, Novak Djokovic, Fabio Fognini (this year in Rio), and randomly, Horacio Zeballos. Though he isn’t the player he was, he’s still the king of clay, and he destroyed Thiem at the French Open last year, conceding just 7 games over three sets. Thiem is almost certain to outdo that performance, and I don’t write him off entirely, but Nadal still should be able to get the opening round win, if he doesn’t, the decline is real and worsening. After Thiem/Pouille, Nadal is likely to face Troicki/Klizan. though Isner/Johnson are also in this section. Klizan beat Nadal last year on a hard court, so this section of the draw contains danger for Nadal, but Troicki is most likely to be his opponent, and Nadal is 4-0 against him (though they haven’t met since 2010 and all the matches were on hard courts). As an aside Troicki is 3-1 against Isner and has a clay court h2h win, which is part of the reason why he should advance. Look for Nadal to beat Thiem and Troicki to reach the quarters.
David Ferrer, a one time finalist in Monte-Carlo, who has had a great season with three ATP titles, including one on clay in Rio, will open with the veteran Victor Estrella, who beat Simone Bolelli in an upset on Sunday. Ferrer should have little trouble defeating him, and also 10 seed Gilles Simon to setup a matchup with Nadal that should prove to be quite interesting. Look for Simon, a former semifinalist, to demolish wild card Benjamin Ballaret, and then get past a qualifier, either Denis Kudla or Benoit Paire. Paire, who qualified with ease, has been improving his results and working his way back up the rankings from the challenger tour, after previously losing focus and seeing his career go to ruins, but Simon is still a step up in level. Paire is actually 3-1 against Simon and will certainly have his chance, but they have never met on clay. Simon is 5-3 in his last 8 matches, and lost to Ferrer in routine fashion in Miami.
Roger Federer will open with Jeremy Chardy/Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in the opening round. Chardy comes off a quarterfinal showing on clay in Houston, while DSS qualified comfortably after a shock loss in Casablanca in the opening round. I favor the young Argentine to upset Chardy, but Federer should demolish him, like he did in Indian Wells a month ago. The four-time finalist and world number 2 should be in for a test against 14 seed Gael Monfils in the third round, presuming Monfils beats qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov and the Coric/Dolgopolov winner. Monfils against either Coric or Dolgopolov, is a must-watch match, and he’s 2-0 against Dolgopolov with both matches coming on hard court. He’s never played well in MC (4-8 career record), but he’s still in a good form and has yet to suffer an opening round loss this season, with 1 quarterfinal, a semifinal, a final and a round of 16 in Miami on his record. Monfils upset Federer in Davis Cup play last winter but Federer is 4-1 against him on clay in his career, and thus should have the advantage in what is an exciting matchup.
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka looms in the section above Federer, Wawrinka is in atrocious form at the moment with losses to non-top 20 players Robin Haase, Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Adrian Mannarino on his record in his past three tournaments. He hasn’t played a straight set match since Marseille, and was the walking dead in the spring hard court Masters tournaments.Thus, though he is 30-10 over the past two seasons on clay, and he’s the defending champion, I have him losing to Juan Monaco in a second round upset. Monaco, who is in great form, and has had a career resurgence as of late, after being left for dead rankings wise, opens with Jiri Vesely, who broke a losing streak and reached the semifinals in Casablanca. That match will be a good warm up for Wawrinka, and though he is 0-3 (0-2) on clay against the Swiss, he’s a tremendous 10-3 over his last three tournaments with a quarterfinal in Miami, a final in Buenos Aires on clay, and also before that a quarterfinal in Rio on clay. It’s one of the bolder upsets I’ve picked in a while, but Wawrinka doesn’t appear to be fixing what is wrong with his game at the moment and Monaco is an in-form player and a clean ball striker who is in the right place at the right time and should frustrate Wawrinka.
The Wawrinka/Monaco winner is due to face either Dimitrov/Verdasco or Fabio Fognini/Jerzy Janowicz in round 3. This is a stacked and interesting section, as either Dimitrov over Verdasco could make a run, as could Monaco of course. Fognini is only competent on clay these days, as the headcase hasn’t won a match on hard courts this year, but did reach the final in Rio on clay and beat Nadal. Nobody knows how he will play, and likewise Janowicz is an emotional player, who was very much struggling but did win a couple of rounds in Miami. Clay doesn’t suit his power game as well though, so Fognini should win but I have him losing to Dimitrov in the next round (and I feel Verdasco would beat him as well). Dimi and Fogna have a 1-1 h2h. Monaco and Dimitrov have a 3-1 h2h in favor of Monaco, though Dimitrov won their last meeting on clay in 2013. It’s a difficult match to pick, but again I’m going with form and picking Monaco as a quarterfinalist.
4 seed Milos Raonic, who is better on clay than he gets credit for (11-5 last year and 18-10 over the past two seasons), will face Joao Sousa or qualifier Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the second round. ERV is in great form after qualifying, as he’s 8-2 in his last 10 matches, while Sousa has lost three straight. The Portugese number one, being European, is perceived to be better on clay than he actually is (just 7-13 in 2014 on the surface), and I have ERV winning in an upset. Raonic is 2-1 against ERV and beat him on clay so thus Milos should be safe to reach the third round. After that it will be Seppi/Robredo or Adrian Mannarino/Marcel Granollers. Presuming my prediction holds, Seppi should beat Robredo, and then have an easier time against Mannarino/Granollers. Mannarino is in great form and has an ATP final, a semi, and two round of 16s in the srping hard court Masters on his resume with wins over Wawrinka, Gulbis, Fognini and Bautista-Agut this season, while Granollers is slumping and retired in his last match in Casablanca, however Granollers is far and above better on clay, and he may have enough of a surface edge to prevail. Raonic has a lone hard court h2h win over Seppi, and all the same, even though it could be close, look for the Canadian to prevail and reach the quarters, he’s proven to be able to avoid losses against all but the top players with how reliable his serve+forehand power game is, even on clay.
8 seed Tomas Berdych will open with Sergiy Stakhovsky/Pablo Carreno Busta, both players are struggling and PCB has just 1 win since the AO, though he’s a clay courter, while Stako, who prefers fast surfaces is 2-3 in his last five and went just 3-6 on clay last year. I see PCB breaking his losing streak to win that match but Berdych should crush him. Both Benjamin Becker and Roberto Bautista Agut are struggling as well, RBA has lost three straight including a loss in Houston, but still he went 13-6 on clay last year, and Becker is a fast surface player so he should win that match. Philipp Kohlschreiber has had an awful season and has yet to string together consecutive match wins, but he is still the favorite to reach the third round. His opening round opponent Mikhail Kukushkin went just 5-10 on clay last year and retired in his last match in Casablanca (though he upset Albert Ramos in the previous round), and he has a 1-0 h2h with the similarly struggling RBA. He’s an accomplished clay courter who compiled a 29-17 record on the surface over the past two seasons, still Berdych should dispatch him to reach the quarters (8-1 h2h on top of everything else). Berdych went 11-6 last year and 9-6 in 2013 on clay. The Czech has had a great season with two ATP finals (Doha and Rotterdam), the AO semis, quarters in Miami, and two semis in Dubai and Indian Wells.
Dark Horses: David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, Andreas Seppi, Juan Monaco
As mentioned if Goffin beats Tsonga he becomes a small favorite to reach the quarters over Cilic or perhaps Mayer, Djokovic should prove too much for him that but that would still be a great result. Thiem would have to stun Nadal, but I don’t count him out, and I figure he has as good of a chance as Benoit Paire does of beating Simon and Ferrer consecutively, should Thiem upset Nadal he very well could, and likely should reach his second straight Masters quarterfinal.
Seppi has to upset Robredo to get the wheels in motion, but if he does, he should reach the round of 16, and you never now with Raonic if the Italian can hang in there with his serve. Monaco has to get past Wawrinka, but I think he does that, and then also upsets the 9 seed Dimitrov to setup a match with Federer in the quarters.
Djokovic d. Goffin
Nadal d. Ferrer
Berdych d. Raonic
Federer d. Monaco
Djokovic beat Goffin in straights at the French in 2013, Ferrer upset Nadal at this same stage in Monte Carlo last year, and he very well could do so again, I want to pick that upset but I can’t bring myself to do so given Nadal has won all of their numerous other clay court meetings, given this is perhaps his best tournament, one has to think Nadal will find a way no matter the circumstance.
Berdych is better than Raonic on clay even with the 1-3 h2h (all hard court meetings), given his consistent play this season he has to be the favorite to reach another semi, and Federer should deal with Monaco (or Wawrinka/Dimitrov/Verdasco) without too much trouble.
Semis Djokovic d. Nadal
Federer d. Berdych
Nadal may be the king of clay, but he’s not the same player he was and the last four clay court matches between Djokovic and Nadal are a 2-2 split, including the 2013 final where Djokovic beat Nadal. Novak is the undisputed best player in the world right now, while Rafa has slipped from the top three and even with this being Monte Carlo, I don’t see it being an unreasonable pick to take Djokovic over Nadal at this stage in their careers, given the 2 out of 3 set format, Djokovic should be able to conjure a victory.
Federer-Berdych is another interesting matchup, and Federer is 3-0 in the clay court h2h. Berdych’s power can bother the maestro at times, but on clay, the advantage swings to the Swiss and thus he should prevail.
Final: Djokovic d. Federer
Once again Federer should fall short in the Monte Carlo final, what would be a fifth time. Djokovic just beat him in IW, and though Federer beat him in the MC semis last year, Djokovic won the previous two meetings before that on clay and their clay court h2h is just 4-3 in favor of Federer since 2006. Unless their are verifiable reasons to believe otherwise, going against the world number 1 to win a title seems like a mistake right now.
Serena wins number 700 to reach Miami Open quarterfinals, Murray staves off challenge from Thiem Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Serena Williams won a topsy-turvy encounter over in-form German Sabine Lisicki on Wednesday in Miami, as the wrorld number booked her place in the semifinals 7-6(4) 1-6 6-3. Serena did well win a nervy first set, and it was a good thing she survived the tiebreak, because Lisicki caught fire in the second set, bludgeoning Serena into a third set. Serena would recover from her daze and pull it out in the third however for her 700th WTA match win. A win that puts her behind just seven WTA greats on the all-time list, including Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf.
Simona Halep was also a winner on the day as she beat the unseeded Sloane Stephens 6-1 7-5. Stephens pressured in the opening game but quickly fell away in the first set, and in the second she fought back from a break down to extend the set into extra innings, but Halep was the superior player and her class finally shown through to break and hold her serve 7-5.
On the men’s side Dominic Thiem played a great opening set of tennis against Andy Murray, but the more experienced and higher ranked Scot would dominate the rest of the match. Thiem was firing winners and was stiff on his serve, but Murray winning over 80% of his first serve points in the match, and recovered from the disappointment of dropping the opening set to break early in the second, and though he lost that break as the match went to 3-6 4-4, he would break again to take the second set 6-4, and then he dashed the hopes of a wilted Thiem 6-1 in the third for a 3-6 6-4 6-1 victory.
Tomas Berdych dealt with hot patches of play from Juan Monaco in the late match, and won 6-3 6-4. Berdych found himself bothered by a time violation in the first set and after going 4-2 up, got broken. However, Monaco failed to consolidate, and after a very long game at 3-4, Berdych broke again and served out the set to love. In set two, the situation was somewhat similar, Monaco would come up with some great shots, showcasing superior movement, but Berdych had a larger arsenal weaponry wise, and he served just well enough to get the win, scoring a late break, and again serving out the set, and this time the match, to love at 5-4.
Quisner upset Rojer/Tecau 6-3 6-4, as John Isner has had a fantastic week in Miami, and the Bryans dealt with Anderson/Chardy 6-4 4-6 10-6. In WTA doubles, Hlavackova/Hradecka beat Niculescu/Panova 6-3 7-5, and Makarova/Vesnina sent Garcia/Srebotnik packing 6-4 3-6 10-4.
On Thursday, the Miami Open will have a very similar schedule of matches as Wednesday, as the two men’s quarterfinals remaining are Nishikori-Isner and Djokovic-Ferrer, and the WTA semifinals will be Suarez-Navarro vs. Petkovic and Williams vs. Halep.
(Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Melo/Soares will play Pospisil/Sock in an exciting doubles match, and the Bryans will have an all-American battle with Quisner.
Keep checking Tennis Atlantic for all the exciting updates from Miami, all the way until the final match is completed!
Verdasco rises to defeat Nadal, Murray, Monfils advance, while Wawrinka is ousted (Miami Open Sunday Recap) Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
(Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Yesterday was a thrilling day at the Miami Open, as once again the ATP side of the action stole the show, with a mix of upsets, and quality performances by some of the top players in the men’s game. The biggest story of course is Fernando Verdasco’s massive upset of #2 seed Rafael Nadal, but Nadal wasn’t the only top player to fall, as Stan Wawrinka suffered another early exit at the hands of Adrian Mannarino. From the first ball struck on the day, to the match point of the final match, Miami brought the spice on Sunday, and here is a review.
Fernando Verdasco d. Rafael Nadal 6-4 2-6 6-3
The Miami crowd was in for a huge upset on Sunday when they took their seats in the main Stadium to watch fan favorite Nadal take on veteran Fernando Verdasco in a battle of Spanish lefties. As subpar as Nadal has been this season, he showed glimpses of his old self in Indian Wells and a good showing in Miami would have a huge confidence boost going into the clay season. However the 31 year old Verdasco would be the one who find his form, and boost his confidence going into the clay court season.
Nadal’s compatriot is on the down side of his career steadily falling off the ranking the past few years, but has still been consistent enough to hang around in the top 50. The only good run he had this season was in Quito where he lost to Feliciano Lopez in the semifinal.
Both players held serve rather comfortably in the early proceedings quickly getting to 3-3 in the 1st. At 3-3 with Verdasco on serve, Nadal would be the first to threaten generating the match’s first break point. Verdasco however would keep his composure to win 3 straight points and hold. Verdasco was playing some inspired tennis, really getting into a good rhythm with his groundstrokes. Rafa on the other hand was on and off. Verdasco would capitalize on the very next game, getting the break thanks to an uncharacteristic Rafa double fault on break point to the shock of the crowd. At 5-3 Rafa needed to break back right away if he didn’t want to give up the set, and the crowd was right there behind him, the “VAMOS RAFA” chant could be heard a mile away. The world #3 would respond breaking at 30-40. Fernando wouldn’t be denied however, he would set up break point by winning 3 straight points on Rafa’s serve. Nadal would let his nerves get to him again as he shanks at set point to lose the 1st set to Verdasco on his own serve.
Verdasco might’ve been a little hung over on the first set falling to a 0-40 hole rather quickly on his opening service game in set 2. The veteran would keep his calm and eventually avoid the early break. Rafa seemed more focus now, starting to reduce the errors and hit his spots. At 2-2 with Fernando serving Rafa would really start to take control breaking the world #31 at 15-40. Nadal continued to build momentum closing out his service game with an ace to consolidate the break and go up 4-2. The crowd was starting to sense the pendulum swing and the “VAMOS RAFA” chants were becoming more and more frequent. Verdasco wasn’t playing his best stuff, not nearly the level of tennis that earned him the 1st set. He’d face a double break point at 2-4. Fernando would gather some of that 1st set form to rip a forehand cross court winner and save both BPs. However Rafa was on a mission, he’d win the next 2 points and put a firm grip on the 2nd set as he lined up to serve it out. He would easily hold to even things up at a set a piece as the crowd left their seats in jubilation.
Rafa improved his form to level the match up in set 2 (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Everyone was sensing the pull of the pendulum in full swing as Verdasco committed back to back double faults to put himself under pressure on his service game. However after a couple of deuces the veteran would find his form once again murdering the ball with a DTL forehand winner to pull off the tough hold. Nadal was looking particularly in the zone ripping inside out forehands winners routinely to hold. Verdasco answered with an impressive hold including an ace and an inside out winner of his own, he was toe to toe with the world #3. Fernando seemed to be dominating court position and taking advantage of the open court as he created a break point on Rafa’s serve. He’d hit another inside out screamer to convert and go up 3-1. The trend seemed to continue with Rafa starting to fade and Verdasco hitting his spots with ease as he consolidated to go up 4-1. Nadal was feeling the pressure as he double faulted on the next service game but eventually held to keep it at a single break. At 2-5 Nadal comes out to serve to stay in the match, the crowd goes absolutely berserk to get behind Rafa. Nerves would show themselves as Rafa double faulted and faced a match point on his serve. However a couple of nervy returns from Fernando would bail him out, Verdasco would have to do it the hard way and serve the match out. The 31 year old would keep his calm as he comfortably held to complete the upset over the fan favorite Rafa Nadal. Nadal had two chances to win a second serve point, and failed to convert, as that was the story of the match. Verdasco held his nerve, but Nadal failed to maintain a consistent level when given opportunities, and thus he will find his feet back on clay sooner, rather than later.
Verdasco was swinging Thor’s hammer from the forehand side (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Andy Murray d. Santiago Giraldo 6-3 6-4
Murray put up a solid performance (photo credit: Esam Taha)
Andy would kick off the day session in Miami by taking on the world #31 Santiago Giraldo. The Colombian enjoyed an excellent 2014 propelling him into the top 50. He had one good run this season making it to the Semifinal in Sao Paulo before losing to Cuevas in straight sets. Murray on the other hand has enjoyed a solid season thus far highlighted by his Australian Open final appearance. However his last loss was a humbling one to the world #1 Novak Djokovic in Indian Wells.
The condition were windy again on the day, but that didn’t seem to bother Andy one bit, as wind has always helped his counterpunching game. Murray attacked Giraldo’s serve well early in the set, and eventually would strike first to get the break. Andy was feeling little pressure on his serve and would hold to love and take a 5-2 lead. Giraldo would face a set point in the following game but battle through to force the Scot to do the job himself. He would, and with ease to claim the 1st 6-3. There were a strong Colombian presence in the crowd who were trying to get behind their guy but it didn’t seem to be working. Santiago would get broken to love to start off the 2nd, not the way he wanted to begin a comeback.
Giraldo didn’t have much mojo on the day (photo credit: Esam Taha)
Giraldo would actually play better the following game but Murray had really hit his stride, an exquisite drop shot sealed the game to consolidate the break. Murray was more consistent with his groundstrokes, Giraldo was able to keep up with the pace but he always seemed to blink first. As a result the Scot would get his 2nd break and seemed well on his way to a routine victory. Murray would take a commanding 4-0 lead in the 2nd, and despite the Colombian’s back being against the wall the crowd had not thrown in the towel just yet cheering “Santi” on. The Colombian would respond by getting on the board for the 2nd set but he still had a mountain to climb. At 2-5 Giraldo had to come up with something special to avoid getting served out. He’d take the first point to the delight of the crowd. He really rode the crowd’s support that game as he saved 2 match points and broke the Scot to extend the set. Giraldo followed that by a convincing hold, Murray’s would get another chance to advance to the next round. This time he’s succeed in an anticlimactic fashion as the net cord drop the balls too short for Giraldo at a 40-30 match point. Murray however was the better player by far, was very impressive with his groundstrokes and movement out there.
Gael Monfils d. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 7-6(4)
Gael’s defense won the day (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
The anticipated match between the two friends was finally here, and there was not an empty seat to be found in the Grandstand. Monfils was coming off a tough three set grindfest with Filip Krajinovic was looking to put in a better performance today. Tsonga on the other hand is coming off a roller coaster match with the American Tim Smyczek where we saw a mixed bag of a rusty Tsonga and classic Jo-Willy. This encounter began with the sloppy version of Jo, as double faulted and looking out of sorts, however he’d eventually find a way to hold. Gael’s defense was on display early on as he produced a sweet dipping cross court pass that Tsonga would only punch wide, 1-1 1st set. The sloppy Jo would continue to show up as he couples another double fault with a forehand UE to practically gift his friend the break, Monfils went up 2-1. Gael meanwhile had begun to find his groove, looking the sharper of the 2 as he consolidated to go up 3-1. This time the Tsonga we’re all used to would finally make an appearance with better serving and aggressive play to hold to love. He carried that over to Monfils’ service game coming close to breaking him but Gael kept his composure to hold after facing the double breakpoint.
Monfils started strong early (photo credit: Esam Taha)
The world #19 was playing exceptional defense while still going for his shots when an opportunity presented itself. Forcing Jo to hit that once extra shot really seemed to take its toll on the Frenchman. Jo meanwhile would continue to serve well as he held easily to keep the lead at a single break, 4-3 in the 1st. As the match passed the 30 minute mark both players did little to threaten their counterpart’s serve. Monfils would therefore get his first chance to serve out the set. He went for a vintage Monfils nonchalant forehand on a short ball which he missed but fortunately for him it didn’t cost him. He made amends with a clean cross court forehand winner to claim the 1st as the crowd roared him on.
There would be a bit of a lull in the beginning of the 2nd as both players held, but Tsonga didn’t not look sharp, mixing in a few lame returns. That would carry on to his 2nd service game, the rusty groundstrokes would not go unpunished by Gael as the latter broke to go up 2-1. That lead would be short-lived however as Monfils was going through a bit a funk too gifting the break right back to his friend tying things up at 2-2. The dip in Gael’s performance was noticeable now as he stuck a couple of ground strokes right into the net. At 2-3 he would tough out what would prove to be a pivotal hold for the Frenchman. Tsonga continued to display inconsistency as he followed an ace with a double fault, a microcosm of his performance thus far. The crowd would then get treated to a trademark Monfils moment. The Frenchman went for a jumping air-smash only to blast the ball into the stands, he proceed to look down at the racket that had broken, before sending it flying into the crowd turning it into a souvenir for a lucky fan, who was seen waving it around to his friends and family in celebration.
Tsonga struggled with Monfils athleticism and defense on the day (photo credit: Esam Taha)
Despite the broken racquet, Gael would avoid being on the receiving end of a similar outcome on court, as he held to even things up at 4-4. With both players serving well, the Frenchmen would continue to trade blows sending the set to within a game of a tiebreak as we passed the hour and a half mark. Tsonga would play an aggressive excellent game generating a double set point. However he’d proceed to bail Gael out by overcooking a forehand to the open court, the missed chance was crucial, as the crowd started to sense that that missed opportunity might prove costly. The tiebreak would begin with both player sticking forehands into the net to trade mini-breaks, going into the changeover at 3-3. Monfils would get the 2nd mini-break by once again playing some incredible defense and following that with a stunning DTL backhand winner. With the match on his racket at 5-4, he would create 2 MPs right away. Tsonga would save one but followed it with a very narrow miss as he went for it all on the cross court forehand return. The good friends would embrace at the net, it was a close battle but Gael was the deserving winner of the duel.
Photo credit: Esam Taha
Mannarino ousts Wawrinka, Berdych completes comeback against Tomic
Mannarino shocked Stan (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Adrian Mannarino scored a big upset over Stan Wawrinka 7-6(4) 7-6(5). Mannarino has markedly improved in his consistency and has turned himself into a top 30 player, after previously toiling away on the ATP Challenger Tour. Wawrinka was again sloppy and inconsistent, just as he was in Indian Wells, and against Carlos Berlocq in his opening match in Miami. Mannarino broke in the opening game, though Wawrinka broke back, and then he won the tiebreak with solid play compared to his opponent. In the second set Stan threw away breaks of serve twice, to be forced into a tiebreak, as he failed to level the match. Late on, Wawrinka had lost focus and was shanking returns, overall he put up a horrific 46 unforced errors compared to just 19 winners, as Mannarino proved to be a grinding, brick wall of defense. Though his game was bland, it was less porous than Wawrinka, who displayed limited shotmaking ability on the day, and finishes the opening two Masters tournaments of the year with an abysmal 1-2 record.
Wawrinka slumps to 1-2 in the first two Masters events of 2015 (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Tomas Berdych came back from the dead to defeat Bernard Tomic for the fourth time in his career. Tomic was 7-6 4-0 up, after coming back from a break down, and facing set points in the first set, and blitzing the Czech #1 in the second. However, Berdych fought hard in this one, and the wheels came off for Tomic, Tomic had four match points in the second set, including 1 serving at 5-4, but couldn’t convert any of them. Berdych’s power begin to bother him, especially when the Czech moved forward towards the net, and though Tomic’s junkballing was making Berdych have to bend and adjust his body into uncomfortable rally positions, it still didn’t seem like a good matchup for Tomic by the time the third set came around. Berdych blasted him off the court with heavy groundstrokes and clutch serves, and Tomic eventually slumped to a 7-6 6-7 1-6 defeat.
Dominic Thiem won a battle of the young guns with Jack Sock 6-4 6-3, the Austrian extended his winning streak and posted his best tournament result of the season already by defeating Sock. He pressured the American on his serve, while Sock was not a worthy foil when returning serve, eventually Sock collapsed under the weight of Thiem’s pressure, and solid baseline play.
Sock didn’t handle the pressure of Thiem well (photo credit: Esam Taha)
In the late match, Juan Monaco put his shotmaking prowess on display 7-5 6-4 over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. GGL got disheartened by the time it got late into the second, and seemed to lack the will to want to force a third set. Monaco moved well and was solid from both wings, as he tactically moved Garcia-Lopez about, and rushed forward at the right time.
Lisicki topples Ivanovic, Serena dispatches teen Bellis
Sabine Lisicki continued her good recent run of results, defeating a frustrated Ana Ivanovic 7-6 7-5 in the night session WTA match. Earlier in the day, Serena Williams destroyed 15 year old Cici Bellis 6-1 6-1, Simona Halep had a bit of trouble with Camila Giorgi’s power hitting but prevailed 6-4 7-5. Flavia Pennetta beat a struggling Victoria Azarenka 7-6 7-6, Belinda Bencic beat the qualifier Tatjana Maria 6-4 7-5, Sloane Stephens won again 6-4 6-4 over Johanna Larsson, and in the two three setters of the day on the WTA side, veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Angelique Kerber 6-3 3-6 6-3 and Sara Errani upset Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-4 6-1.
Tsonga wins comeback match, Dolgopolov, Djokovic thrill in Miami (Saturday Day 5 Miami OpenRecap) Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
The ATP side of the draw provided the primary highlights on an action packed Saturday at the 2015 Miami Open. Most of the top players advanced, as upsets were few and far between, meaning the fans will get the big name tennis that they wanted in the later rounds. With so many matches around the grounds, here is a handy synopsis.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga d. Tim Smyczek 6-4 3-6 6-3
The crowd gathered in anticipation in the main stadium to witness the return of the always entertaining Tsonga to the courts following his injury lay-off. This would be his first match in 2015, his last match was back in November of 2014 in the Davis Cup final when he lost to Stan Wawrinka in 4 sets. Tim Smyczek became a popular player this year after the amazing fight he put up against Rafael Nadal back in the Australian Open, especially related to the incredible moment of sportsmanship he displayed in a pivotal point during that match. Regardless it’s an opponent Jo would expect to beat, but of course after 4 months of not playing competitive tennis anything could happen, as the two fan favorite players met on Stadium court.
The Frenchman didn’t look rusty at all as he held with ease at the start, backed by an impressive serve that flummoxed Smyczek. Tim on the other hand didn’t look like he was dealing with pace of Tsonga’s groundstrokes very well, but regardless he would be able to hold serve the first few games. The first break would come at 3-3 in the 1st. Tim failed to keep up with the powerful Tsonga who was overpowering him in the rallies, and would get broken at 3-3. The Frenchman would continue his excellent serving as he consolidated the break to go up 5-4. A funny moment would present itself when Jo was serving for the set. the Frenchman would completely whiff a forehand on a short ball. Tsonga would then joke with the crowd as he pretended to not be able to catch the ball handed to him by the ballboy, he was in good spirits out there. The world # 13 would close out the set in style blasting a DTL backhand which Tim can only watch fly past him. The set was Tsonga’s 6-4.
Tsonga moved well in his return (Photo Credit Esam Taha)
The crowd would start to sense that Jo would continue to steamroll past the American in the 2nd, and with the way the Frenchman was serving it seemed so. The 2nd set began with both players holding serve, but Tim still didn’t look comfortable out there, as errors were flying off his racquet. He would appear to threaten Jo’s serve with a brilliant backhand pass only to follow it up with a silly unforced error, the story of the match for him at this point, all square at 2-2 in the second. Tim despite his inconsistent play was holding serve rather comfortably, he was hanging around and you could sense he just needed Jo to blink to turn things around. That’s exactly what would happen as Jo was serving at 3-2, the Frenchman would make a couple of unforced errors and just like that American would go up 4-2. At this point the pendulum was truly swinging as Tsonga was starting to lose focus and miss routine shots. Tim would hold at ease and go up 5-2, Jo was now serving to stay in the 2nd. The two players were starting to play some incredible points putting on a show in the main stadium, Tim’s lob would sail long forcing him to serve out the set himself. Jo would get a little help from the net-cord to generate a break point but Tim would save it. Jo was now uncharacteristically slicing everything back waiting for the American to make the mistake, however Tim would keep his composure and take the set at 6-3.
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
Tsonga would come out in the 3rd with a more intensity right off the bat, beautifully mixing up a cheeky drop shot with a forehand winner to the delight of the Miami crowd. The condition were unusual for Miami this time of year, relatively cold temperatures with a little bit of wind to spice things up. Both players would hold, 1-2 3rd set. Jo was definitely back to his 1st set form, playing a beauty of a cross court pass ending a marathon of a game to draw blood first in the 3rd, Tim meanwhile would let the wall behind him know how frustrated he was. Tsonga would continue serving efficiently to consolidate and go up 4-1 in the decider. At this point you got the feeling that it was all going to happen on the Frenchman’s racket, there was little Tim could do about it. Brimming with confidence, Tsonga would break again to get to just one game away from his first win in 2015. Jo would show no nerves as he serves out the match. The Frenchman was elated, jumping around waving to the crowd as the winner was announced. Even with rust, Tsonga had more raw talent than Smyczek and his serve, mixed with variety from the ground, were very effective weapons on the day.
Alexandr Dolgopolov d. Tommy Robredo 6-7(1) 6-3 7-5
Last year’s quarterfinalist in Miami, Alex Dolgopolov put on a spectacular showcase in his second round match with baselining, veteran Spaniard Tommy Robredo. Dolgo’s speed, shotmaking, and variation was on full display as he fired 33 winners and broke Robredo 6 times over the course of three long, and competitive sets. Dolgo got off to a fast start, breaking 2-0, but he couldn’t maintain the break, and likewise, Robredo failed to serve out the set 5-4 in the first, as he was broken back himself. At 6-5 Dolgo had a lone set point that he failed to convert, and then Robredo rose up, battling hard from the ground to take the first set tiebreak 7-1.
In the second, Dolgopolov recovered, securing a double break to take it 6-3, as he closed out the set with a break, something he had failed to do in the third set. The match was incredibly high quality, and positively intense throughout, as both players delighted spectators both in person, and in front of their video screens. The third set however, was something else, as both players rose to a level that made this match, the match of the tournament thus far. Similar to the previous two sets, an early break was found, as Robredo generated it and converted, but again, Dolgo would break back, and they would hold serve all the way to 4-4, as Robredo saved a lone break point to hold. The tennis from 4-4 in the third was magical, and defined everything great about the ATP game, and the sport itself. Dolgopolov committed himself to using athleticism to overcome the crafty Robredo, showing off his wheels, and his ability to create shots from all variety of court positions, as the highlight video below demonstrates. The tennis in this match was jaw dropping, and Dolgopolov broke in the final game for a 7-5 third set. It took him three match points, and on the final one, he drilled the ball from the whipping forehand side directly at Robredo who was approaching the net, drawing the error, and a match victory. These two fan favorite players were a delight to watch, and it was a must witness match.
Fans were treated to all shades of both Novak Djokovic and Martin Klizan, in their stadium court, night session clash. Djokovic got off to a fast start with the bagel, though Klizan was still showing signs of life, as none of the games within the set were love games, and he was hitting his forehand crisply. Even still, given the bakery products, it seemed Klizan might have thrown in the towel going into set 2, however, that was not the case as the Slovak recommitted himself. Klizan broke in the opening game to show he had his head in the game, and though Novak would break twice to go up 6-0 5-3, Kizan hit an amazing drop shot, and utillized power to break back at 15 against the world number 1. This sent the crowd into a frenzy, as they wanted to get more bang their buck, and though they appreciated Novak, it was clear most in the stadium wanted to see a third set.
Klizan, and Novak would give the crowd what they paid to see, as Klizan broke late, and then held, after saving two break points, for a 7-5 second set. It seemed Novak had gotten tense late in the second, and had taken his foot off the throat of his streaky opponent, who previously had beaten Rafael Nadal last fall in Beijing. Klian couldn’t conjure up that magic though, as Novak righted the ship, and was simply too firm from the baseline, redirecting the shots that Klizan wacked his way. Djokovic notched his second bakery product of the evening, taking the third 6-1, and he was pleased to have avoided a crisis in his opening match from Crandon Park.
Grigor Dimitrov d. Vasek Pospisil 6-2 6-2
Dimitrov won easily (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Dimitrov was coming off a rather disappointing early exit in Indian Wells, and clearly had the desire to make a deep run down in Miami. He would play the Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who has presently failed to matriculate into the player that many thought he could be. The 24 year olds would clash on the Stadium court, and Grigor would not waste anytime breaking the Canadian right out the gate, the Bulgarian looked like he was on a mission. He would jump to a 2-1 lead in the 1st, Pospisil meanwhile looked shaken up. Dimitov would continue putting in an efficient display of tennis with a stunning DTL backhand winner to get the 2nd break going up 4-1. As good as the Dimitrov was today Vasek looked completely out of sorts, his timing seemed to be off. Grigor would have a minor hiccup after sloppy start to the next game but would eventually string 4 points in a row to save double break point and consolidate the 2nd break. The world #11 would comfortably continue on to take the 1st set 6-2. The crowd was in a bit of lull, due to the lack of competitiveness in the match.
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
Vasek would start off the 2nd set looking just as shaky but eventually regain his composure to avoid getting broken right away. Pospisil was starting to play a bit better now but still not putting any sort of pressure on Grigor’s serve. Dimitrov was in the zone today, he was simply too good for the Canadian breaking him at 2-2 to take a 3-2 lead. That seemed to be the one that finally knocke all the fight out of Pospisil. It was one way traffic from there-on, with the Bulgarian winning all the remaining games to wrap up a convincing 6-2, 6-2 domination of VasekPospisil. He will be facing the big serving John Isner in the 3rd round which should prove to be a tougher test for him.
We caught up with Grigor after the match, he would speak about facing Isner the next round and talk candidly about the constant pressure he faces on tour.
Kei Nishikori d. Mikhail Youzhny 6-2 6-1
Kei blitzed the Colonel (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Day 6, in fact kicked off with a matchup between two players with quite contrasting career trajectories. Fans gathered in the Grandstand to watch the Japanese shotmaker Kei Nishikoti take on the veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny. Nishikori is coming off an underwhelming performance in Indian Wells and looking to at least replicate the deep run he made here in Miami in 2014 which included beating Roger Federer before withdrawing due to injury. Meanwhile, the wheels on Youzhny’s career were rusting, as he only had two wins in 2015 coming into this one.
The very first game was a sign of things to come in this encounter as Youzhny struggled to hold serve right off the bat. He would face a break point before winning 3 straight points to get avoid the early break. In contrast, Nishikori would hold easily as the Russian was struggling to hit his spots sailing a couple of forehands long. Kei would pounce quickly. Youzhny’s groundstrokes weren’t on the same level as the Japanese, he would find himself facing triple break point. The veteran would stick a volley into the net to give Kei his first break as he stared up into the bright, Miami, sun. Nishikori would once again hold easily to consolidate and go up 3-1. Mikhail would finally start serving better, to hold, and keep the lead at a single break. Nishikori’s groundstrokes were looking as good as ever, bringing back memories of the match he played against Dimitrov in this same stadium a year ago. Youzhny still wouldn’t be able to find his rhythm as he continued making silly mistakes. This time it was an ill-advised poorly executed drop shot that would open up a double break opportunity for Kei. The Japanese was in unforgiving form as he converted the break points to take a 2 break lead 5-2. Youzhny with his back to the wall would take Kei to deuce but it would prove to be a futile attempt, the latter would hold his nerve, and take the set 6-2.
The match so far has been one-sided and even though the crowd was trying to urge Mikhail on, the Russian wasn’t responding. In fact he would kick off the 2nd set with back to back double faults. Mikhail would continue making unforced errors to give Kei 2 break points, causing him to yell something to himself in Russian, seeminly not of the positive sort. Kei on the other hand would fist pump as he converted the break point to take the lead right away. Youzhny would follow that game with probably his best tennis of the match, pushing Nishikori to 4 deuces on his service game. However even that effort wouldn’t be enough to break through.
Mikhail would eventually commit a couple of unforced errors as Kei hed and consolidated the break to go up 2-0. The crowd wanted to see a more competitive match but they were starting to feel this was going to be one way traffic. Nishikori would win 4 straight points on Youzhny’s serve to take go up 2 breaks, 4-1 in the 2nd set. The outcome was inevitable when Kei hit a couple of aces to consolidate the 2nd break and go up 5-1. The final game would actually prove to be entertaining marathon of 6 deuces but just like the rest of the match the Japanese would come out on top as he break for a 3rd time and claim the victory. Nishikori won it in straight sets in just over an hour.
We caught up with Kei after the match to give his insight on how he deals with the increasing number of defensive player on tour.
Americans Sock, and Isner, Frenchmen Simon, Monfils, and Chardy score successes in ATP singles, Bellucci wins late night thriller
American and French players both had good results in second round singles action on Saturday. Jack Sock continued his good form, winning a competitive first set over slumping Italian Fabio Fognini, before, as is almost expected at this point, Fognini tanked hard in the second, as the match ended 7-6 6-1 in anti-climatic fashion. John Isner dominated the Russian teenager Andrey Rublev 6-3 6-4, as Rublev had zero familiarity with Big John’s serve. He struggled to even get a racquet on the second serve of the American #1, and thus the result was never in question. Gilles Simon played graceful tennis in the third set and took out Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-7 6-0, Kukushkin lost momentum early in the third, but Simon was brilliant from both the baseline, and the net, having lulled his opponent into a poor course of play. Jeremy Chardy won all but two games from 0-4 down in his match against Jurgen Melzer, as the Austrian may have injured himself, the final scoreline 6-4 6-1. Gael Monfils won a thriller against underdog Filip Krajinovic, 3-6 6-2 7-6. Monfils failed to convert four match point chances in the third set, but finally won the tiebreak to take out the pesky Serb.
After the match Monfils was asked about having to play his good friend Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round 3.
Thomaz Bellucci won a late night thriller over Pablo Cuevas 2-6 6-2 7-5. The grandstand court was packed with fans of the Brazilian veteran, and though he got off to a slow start, 1-4 down in a short span of time, his passion showed as he battled back to make it a match against the higher ranked Cuevas. Bellucci took a nasty fall early in the second set, twisting his ankle, and was visibly grimacing in pain as he received a medical timeout and treatment for his fall, which primarily involved stretching and testing his ankle. However, instead of retiring, he was capable of continuing, and rather than merely dragging himself the rest of the way through, he rose up and broke Cuevas to go 2-1 up. This outraged a frustrated Cuevas, who yelled at him when they were crossing sides during the changeover, with some harsh words (in Spanish or Portuguese I’m not certain). As a result of this outburst, the fans really got behind Bellucci, and started to get into Cuevas head. Bellucci broke twice more in the second to force a third as things got messy for Cuevas.
In the third set, both players battled on serve to 5-5, and then Bellucci would score a crucial break, as his heavy hitting, primarily from the forehand side with spin, was pushing Cuevas back and putting him into an uncomfortable position to generate angles with his one-handed backhand. Serving for the match at 6-5, Bellucci got tight and went 0-30 down, but he played amazingly from that point, with two go for broke forehands that just about broke the sound barrier, and two untouchable serves to convert his lone match point opportunity of the long battle. The hitting was heavy, and though both players got tight and weren’t the most accurate, Bellucci was hitting the ball, perhaps the hardest I’ve ever seen from him, as the fans danced and cheered in the stands, having traveled to Crandon Park to see their national hero play against a fellow South American.
Other mens second round winners on the day, in straight sets, included David Ferrer, who didn’t mess around today, winning 6-1 6-1 over Federico Delbonis, Lukas Rosol, who continued his uptick in recent form with a 7-6 6-3 win over Alex Zverev, Alejandro Falla, who upset Ivo Karlovic 6-4 6-2 as the Croat didn’t have much game on the day, Milos Raonic, who comfortably rode his serve to a 6-1 6-4 win over Teymuraz Gabashvili, David Goffin, who shellacked Borna Coric 6-0 6-4, in a surprising scoreline, the Croat having a poor tournament this time out, and Juan Monaco, who extended the terrible form of Ernests Gulbis 6-2 6-4.
The winners in three sets in mens singles were Fernando Verdasco, who eased past James Duckworth 4-6 6-2 6-1, Adrian Mannarino, who won the continuation match with Albert Ramos 6-4 3-6 6-2, Viktor Troicki, who grinded past Simone Bolelli 7-5 3-6 6-4, Steve Darcis, who upset Gilles Muller 6-4 6-7 6-3, and Jerzy Janowicz, who beat Roberto Bautista Agut and his injured eye, 6-1 1-6 6-4. The win is the best for Janowicz in quite some time as he was in poor form coming into Miami but is now into the third round.
Wozniacki, Radwanska and Williams sisters win, Bouchard upset
Caroline Wozniacki survived Kaia Kanepi 4-6 6-1 6-3, Aga Radwanska fended off a challenge from Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2 4-6 6-2, and the Williams sisters scored routine wins, Serena beat the junkballer Monica Niculescu 6-3 6-1, and Venus beat Sam Stosur 6-4 7-6. Fan favorite Eugenie Bouchard was not as lucky, she was listless in a shocking upset loss to German qualifier Tatjana Maria, who is ranked outside of the top 100, as Bouchard had a disappointing third round exit.
Ekaterina Makarova beat Elina Svitolina 6-0 6-4 in just over an hour, Carla Suarez Navarro beat Alize Cornet by the same 6-0 6-4 scoreline, Karolina Pliskova beat Paula Bedosa Gibert 7-5 6-1, Andrea Petkovic, who was enjoying the Cuevas-Bellucci match on twitter last night, earlier in the day had beaten Kristina Mladenovic in a 6-0 6-2 blowout. Angelique Kerber won the most competitive WTA match of the day over Heather Watson 7-5 3-6 6-4, Sara Errani beat Ana Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 7-6, and Daria Gavrilova followed up her massive win over Sharapova with a 6-0 7-6 win over Kurumi Nara.
Doubles specialists score victories
The Bryans beat Becker/Lipsky 6-2 7-6 in men’s doubles, and two other doubles specialists pairings on the men side also won. Rojer/Tecau 6-4 6-2 over Inglot/Mergea, and Cabal/Farah 7-6 6-3 over Lopez/Mirnyi. Bolelli/Fognini continued their remarkable form in doubles with a 6-4 6-2 win over the quality pairing of Klaasen/Paes, and Americans Harrison/Ram beat Mahut/Roger-Vasselin 7-5 7-6.
Chan/Jankovic beat Parra-Santonja/Soler-Espinosa 7-5 6-4, Dushevina/Martinez Sanchez beat Goerges/Groenefeld 7-6 3-6 10-7 in a battle, Hantuchova/Knapp beat Dulgheru/Halep 7-5 6-3, Niculescu/Panova beat the veteran pairing of Lisa Raymond/Sam Stosur 6-2 6-3. Hsieh/Pennetta won 6-1 6-3 over Cornet/Svitolina, Garcia/Srebotnik beat Puig/Watson 6-3 6-3, Jans-Ignacik/Klepac beat Bertens/Maria 7-5 6-4, and Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro beat Savchuk/Torro-flor 6-3 6-2.
Monfils-Tsonga headlines Miami Sunday
With action already underway in Miami on Sunday, Gael Monfils will take on good buddy Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco and Rafa Nadal will renew their rivalry, 15 year old Cici Bellis will take on Serena, and Sabine Lisicki will battle against Ana Ivanovic in some of the big matches on the day.
Thiem, Querrey regain form with round 1 wins at Miami Open (Day 2 Recap) Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
Photo Credit: Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
The first round of the men’s main draw at the 2015 Miami Open presented by Itau, got underway from the Crandon Park Tennis center in Key Biscayne, a suburb of Miami, and our journalist Esam Taha was there for action, as both Dominic Thiem, and Sam Querrey regained form and scored round 1 wins in the evening session. In addition, lots of matches took place on the WTA round 1 main draw side as well.
Dominic Thiem d. Diego Sebastian Schwartzman 7-6(0) 7-5
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
It’s fair to say that’s Dominic’s start this year has been somewhat underwhelming, he can’t afford many more early exits if he plans to live up to the hype that has been surrounding him at just 21 years of age. Today he played another young player in Diego Schwartzman (22), who is steadily moving up the rankings himself. The match took place in the Grandstand under a hot Miami sun. Both players struggled to hold serve in the 1st set as they broke each other 3 times. Thiem has the more dangerous serve but he struggled to get his 1st serve in, registering only 57% in the 1st set. Schwartzman while never known to have the most comfortable service games, was making up for it by always putting pressure on Dominic’s service games with aggressive ground strokes. The crowd, with a strong South American flavor, was pro-Diego, but he didn’t seem to be able to take full advantage of it, barely engaging them and showing little body language. Fans of the Austrian by contrast were far and few between.
Despite the struggles with his serve, Dominic had a chance to serve out the set at 5-4 but once again couldn’t find his first serve and DSS took full advantage. The set would go on to a tie break, where Thiem went after DSS with some overpowering forehands before eventually closing out the clean tiebreak with a rare ace.
Dominic was pushed hard in round 1 (Photo Credit Esam Taha)
It seemed that Dominic had all the momentum at that point and would power through DSS, however that was far from reality. The sun started to set and scorching heat subsided as the two youngsters started the 2nd. Schwartzman didn’t seem to lose belief after dropping the first set meekly, as he broke Dominic twice and jumped to an early 3-0 lead. Thiem was careless in those 1st 3 games but he gathered himself during the changeover and proceeded to string together 4 games to get back even on serve in a rollercoaster of a second set. Thiem was helped by DSS serving a measly 47% on his 1st serve. Meanwhile Dominic was starting to find his rhythm on serve, getting a lot of free points and registering 4 aces in the 2nd. Dominic serving first would eventually pay off, the pressure of serving to stay in the match would get to Schwartzman. Down 5-6 and looking to force a tiebreak, Diego would hit an unforced error on matchpoint. Thiem reacted with a confident fist pump as he escaped a tricky 1st round matchup, where his opponent outplayed him for considerable periods in the match. He’ll go on to face a tough opponent in Feliciano Lopez next round. Thiem will be bidding to win consecutive matches in a tournament for just the second time this season.
Sam Querrey d. Victor Estrella 6-4 6-3
The Dominican Community in Miami made their presence felt cheering on their man Estrella (Photo Credit Esam Taha)
Coming off 2 consecutive first round exits, Sam Querrey was hoping to quickly make amends in Miami, and return to the form that had granted him a semifinal showing in Memphis, about a month ago on US soil. His first match was against Dominican Victor Estrella Burgos, who surprised everyone by winning ATP Quito, Ecuador by beating Feliciano Lopez in the final on clay back in February. The 34 year old is peaking late as his ranking has continued to climb well into the top 100 the past 2 years, currently sitting just outside the top 50 at 55th overall.
The match started off the night session with both players comfortably holding serve, but it was clear right away that Victor was going to have home court advantage here in Miami as the Dominican crowd made their presence felt early.
The set seemed to be on fast forward as both players were playing aggressively and looking to quickly end the point, however it was clear that was Sam was much more comfortable holding serve as evidenced by his 7 aces in the first set. Victor had to save a double breakpoint midway through the first set to keep it even, and struggling to hold serve would be the theme throughout the rest of the night. Eventually Victor would bend…and actually break as Querrey finally converted his 4th break opportunity on set point to claim the 1st set.
The 2nd set got off to a shaky start for Victor, who needed every bit of the crowd cheering him on to recover from a 0-30 hole and avoid getting broken early. However his efforts would prove futile as Sam would break him the next service game while the latter continued to hold serve with ease. Querrey hit 9 aces in the 2nd set and only faced a single break point the entire match. The 2nd set was fairly routine for the American. Victor would make some noise as Sam was serving to close out the match taking him to deuce to the delight of the crowd, but a couple of big serves from Querrey and it was all over. It was quite the contrast between the mellow and nearly silent Querrey, moving like a gazelle on his returns, and the loud and undersized Estrella, who was practically screaming as he chased down the ball.
Querrey was a pleased winner on Wednesday night (photo credit: Esam Taha)
Sam will go on to face the big serving South African, Kevin Anderson in the 2nd round.
In the interim of those matches, a few of the top players were getting on the practice courts to get a feel for that nice Miami sun and the court conditions, Alexander Dolgopolov was one of the guys that seemed to enjoy it out there.
Dolgo was chill in practice (Photo Credit Esam Taha)
18 year old Chung’s maiden ATP win and a perfect sweep for American Men Headline ATP Maindraw Day 1 Results
18 year old South Korean Hyeon Chung took full advantage of his wild card and scored both his maiden ATP, and his maiden ATP Masters level main draw win today over Spanish veteran Marcel Granollers, who is rarely an easy out. Chung, who has built up his ranking near the top 100 purely due to strong results on the Challenger and Futures tour, including a challenger title and final this year already, got off to a strong start, blanking Granollers 6-0 in the opening set. Granollers proved he wasn’t ill or injured by responding in the second, forcing a much closer contest, and scoring a lone break midway 3-2 through set, to end up taking it 6-4, as Chung failed to generate any chances to break back. In the third the match became quite the battle, but Chung didn’t wilt in the slightest against the grinding Spaniard. He got an immediate break back after going 2-1 down in the third, saved another break point at 3-3 to hold serve, and broke in a game that lasted over 8 minutes for a 6-4 third set victory. Granollers got tight in the end, as errors mounted, and his serve and forehand was simply not good enough, compared to the young Korean’s raw, but powerful groundstrokes that were able to push the Spaniard back.
Americans Donald Young, Jack Sock, Tim Smyczek, and Austin Krajicek, a qualifier, were all winners and advanced into the second round, making it a perfect day for the American male contingent. Young beat Rendy Lu 5-1 via a retirement, as Lu was in poor shape going into the match, Sock rolled past Go Soeda 6-3 6-4, Smyczek had to survive qualifier Adrian Menendez-Maceiras, who was bidding for his maiden ATP main draw win at 29, 4-6 6-3 6-4, with a late break in the third set, and a hold of serve to close it out, and Krajicek got revenge over Denis Istomin, who he lost to previously in Indian Wells with a swift 6-4 6-4 victory.
Another men’s singles winner on the day was Juan Monaco, who survived multiple mentally induced collapses against Ruben Bemelmans, a qualifier, to prevail 7-5 6-7 6-4 on his fourth match point chance, and his second of the third set. What saved Monaco was the fact his opponent Bemelmans was even more fragile in the mental department than he was, throwing up tense errors when it counted in the third set, as Monaco threw away his chance to close out the match in straights.
Young guns Kyle Edmund and Thanasi Kokkinakis were denied further Masters level victories, Robin Haase and Carlos Berlocq took them out, 6-2 6-2 for Haase, and 6-4 3-6 6-2 for Berlocq. Kokkinakis, who was coming off a round of 16 showing in Indian Wells, had high expectations going into this tournament, but got off to a slow start, perhaps struggling to adjust to new conditions, and never really seemed to recover in his match.
Jan-Lennard Struff saved match points to take out Benjamin Becker 3-6 7-6(10) 6-4, the Davis Cup teammates battled it out for over two hours as Becker had three match points in the second set tiebreak, and was at one point 4-1 up in the third set, but Struff would battle back each time, converting his lone match point opportunity to break serve and finish the match off 6-4.
Nicolas Almagro, similar to Monaco avoided a mental collapse in a match he appeared to have in the bag, the final scoreline over Sergiy Stakhovsky was 6-3 6-7 6-4, but Almagro was at one point 6-3 3-1 up. Stakhovsky employed an aggressive gameplan throughout, but Almagro’s compact strokes and great passing backhands proved to be an effective foil for it, as he was returning the ball before the Ukrainian had time to properly react.
In men’s action on the outer courts, Albert Ramos won yet again on a hard court, 6-2 6-2 over Joao Sousa, dashing Portugese hopes this tournament, Jarkko Nieminen scored a comfortable 6-3 6-3 win over Marinko Matosevic, James Duckworth did better than his Aussie countryman and beat Damir Dzumhur 6-3 3-6 6-3, and fellow qualifier Filip Krajinovic got the better of his Serbian compatriot Dusan Lajovic 2-6 7-6 4-2 ret. as Lajovic came down with an arm injury.
Watson, Vaidisova, Azarenka among WTA singles winners on the day
British hope Heather Watson got past Evgeniya Rodina, the world number 96 3-6 6-1 7-5, as she saved 10/14 of the break points she faced, and nearly half of the points on Rodina’s serve.
25 year old Nicole Vaidsova of the Czech Republic continued her comeback on the WTA tour, the former Top 10 player won her first WTA level main draw match, in just her second WTA tournament since returning to tennis in 2014 after a four year absence. Vaidsova, who qualified in Monterrey recently, won 6-1 7-6 over the world number 87 Timea Babos, as her ranking will now surely rise back into the top 300.
Victoria Azarenka, who is looking to complete her own mini comeback, and surely get back into the top 20 in the world, got off to a good start in Miami with a 6-1 6-3 win over Silvia Soler-Espinosa. Other participants in the second round will include four Americans, as Christina McHale beat Sorana Cirstea 7-5 6-4, qualifier Irina Falconi beat Monica Puig 7-6 7-6, Alison Riske beat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-4 6-0 in less than an hour, and in the nightcap, Sloane Stephens dominated Yania Wickmayer 6-1 6-3, winning 70% of her service points, compared to just 45% for the Belgian.
Daria Gavrilova setup a meeting with Maria Sharapova, a fellow Russian, in round 2 as she beat Marina Erakovic 5-1 ret., Germans Annika Beck (6-4 4-6 6-4 over Shuai Zhang), Tatjana Maria (7-6 6-3 over Roberta Vinci), and Julia Goerges (6-1 6-0 over Jana Cepelova) will also be participating in round 2. American Lauren Davis continued her struggles with a loss to Sesil Karatantcheva 6-3 7-6, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat her countrywoman Vera Zvonareva 6-2 3-6 7-5 in a battle that lasted over two hours, with the 23 year old Pavs outlasting an opponent seven years her senior.
Alison Van Uytvanck added to the success of qualifiers wth a 7-5 2-6 6-0 win over Magdalena Rybarikova, Pauline Parmentier beat Kiki Bertens 4-6 6-2 6-3, Urszula Radwanska setup a meeting with Venus Williams with a 6-4 6-7 6-3 win over CoCo Vandeweghe, and Swiss Stefanie Voegele beat junkballer Kirsten Flipkens 6-2 6-2
Wonderkid Belinda Bencic beat Daniela Hantuchova 6-1 7-6, and Elina Vesnina (6-4 6-2 over Alexandra Dulgheru) and Tsvetana Pironkova (6-4 6-3 over Kateryna Kozlova) were two of the players who did have success over their qualifier opponents.