2016 ATP Memphis Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Memphis Open is the first ATP tournament in North America, and is a 250 level indoor hard court event.
ATP World Tour 250
February 8-14, 2016
Memphis, TN, USA
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize Money: $618,030
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (7)
2: Steve Johnson (29)
3: Donald Young (48)
4: Sam Querrey (58)
Memphis is primarily led by homegrown American players, while Kei Nishikori always seems to enjoy playing here as well.
First round matchups to watch:Embed from Getty Images
(Q)Jared Donaldson vs. (Q)Yoshihito Nisihoka
A battle between players who could potentially become ATP stars in the future. Both came through qualifying, and Nishioka is likely a minor favorite due to his (3 set) head to win against Donaldson last year. The speedy Nishioka has had a slightly better start to his season, and I expect him to get the best of the American this time.
(6)Sam Groth vs. Illya Marchenko
Big serving Sam Groth likes this surface, but he has just one win to start his season. Marchenko is lower ranked, but he reached his first ever ATP semifinal in Doha and could take advantage of this rather open field and post another deep run. Groth has a low margin for error if he gets broken, and Marchenko should find a way to prevail.
Dudi Sela vs. Ricardas Berankis
The undersized veteran Sela is a respectable 6-3 in 2016, and he’s another player who could grab critical ranking points with a run in this tournament. Berankis is capable of strong indoor play, and won their last meeting. Both players are undersized ball strikers with relatively clean games. Berankis talent most likely wins the day.
(WC)Taylor Fritz vs. (Q)Michael Mmoh
A battle of former top American juniors. Fritz is 9-2 to start his season, and at this point in his career likely has an edge over his teenage counterpart Mmoh. Mmoh is making his ATP debut after qualifying. He’s the son of a former Nigerian ATP pro, was born in Saudi Arabia, and represents the USA. Both have a promising future, and it will be enjoyable to check out their games in this match.Embed from Getty Images
Kei Nishikori seeks a fourth straight Memphis title, and he’s far and above the strongest player in the field. Nishikori is 5-2 to start the year, and he should move that to 6-2 with a round 2 victory over an American, either Ryan Harrison, or the young gun Frances Tiafoe. Tiafoe is off to a consistent start at the Challenger level to start the season.
Nishikori is slated to face #5 seed Denis Kudla in the quarterfinals. Kudla rarely gets ATP draws this good, so this is a great opportunity for him to make a nice run. He’ll pit his 3-3 ATP record on the season against the serve and volleyer Rajeev Ram, with either Luca Vanni, or more likely, Mikhail Kukushkin, to follow. Vanni broke through in 2015, but has struggled to replicate that success early in the 2016 season. Given Nishikori outpaces Kudla’s ball striking, and that’s the American’s best weapon, Kei should cruise into the semis.
Sam Querrey retired in Melbourne and hasn’t had a great start to his season. He’s has to be glad to be back in the states for a match against either Matt Ebden or Henri Laaksonen. Ebden is 0-3 to start the season, while Laaksonen qualified, but has limited hard court success. Querrey should be able to reach the quarters. Groth/Marchenko will face Nishioka/Donaldson for the right to face him in those quarterfinals. It’ll be an interesting match between Marchenko and Nishioka, with Marchenko a slight dark horse favorite. Querrey has the most experience in this section and should reach the semis.Embed from Getty Images
Steve Johnson won a pair of matches in Melbourne, after a very poor start to 2016, and if he can continue heading in the right direction, he has a great chance at reaching the final. Johnson gets Mmoh/Fritz first up, where his experience should be enough to reach the quarters. John Millman is his likely quarterfinal opponent. Millman, a quarterfinalist in Montpellier, is finally finding ATP success, and his first opponent is American Austin Krajicek. The winner of that match faces either veteran Benjamin Becker, or young American wild card Tommy Paul. Becker could find some momentum, but my quarterfinal pick is Johnson over Millman.Embed from Getty Images
Donald Young isn’t in great form, but on home soil he should have an edge against either Malek Jaziri or Marcel Granollers. Jaziri hasn’t won a match in 2016, while Granollers continues his steady decline in singles. Berankis/Sela will face either Damir Dzumhur or Tim Smyczek for a spot in the semis. Smyczek reached the semis at the Dallas challenger, while Dzhumur has been in Europe, making that match somewhat interesting. Berankis vs. Young is my pick for the quarters, with Berankis advancing.Embed from Getty Images
Dark Horse: Illya MarchenkoEmbed from Getty Images
In a field with few standouts besides Nishikori, it’s anyone’s tournament, and Marchenko, after his run to the semis in Doha, has showed promise this season. A relative journeyman, he prefers hard courts, and could post another ATP semifinal with a couple of upset wins.
Nishikori d. Querrey
Johnson d. Berankis
The top two seeds should reach the final.
Nishikori d. Johnson
It’s hard to see Nishikori not winning Memphis, as anyone in the field would need to post a remarkable performance to beat him.Embed from Getty Images