For the Ukrainian, this title win could serve as kick starter to her season. After going through the opening two months mostly out of form, Svitolina edged Eugenie Bouchard in a rain delayed final in Kuala Lumpur to claim her first title of the season.
The second seed let slip a break advantage in the opening set where she failed to serve it out. Bouchard rallied to take the tiebreaker 7-5.
Svitolina, who has never lost to the Canadian, found herself 4-2 behind in the second set but soon caught fire to win the next four games and level the match at one set all.
After another rain delay, Bouchard had the momentum and serve for the match at 5-4, but Svitolina did not give up. In a dramatic turn around, the 2nd seed broke back and then again to seal the match in the BMW Malaysian Open title (5)6-7, 6-4, 7-5.
“Thank you very much for staying that late to watch our final,” Svitolina said in her victory speech. “I want to thank Genie for a great final, it was a really tough one.”
“Hopefully I can come back next year!”
The Ukrainian had recently hired former world number one Justine Henin as a coach, and after making the semi finals in Dubai, they will now enjoy their first title together. Svitolina will also move to a career high ranking of 14 in the new WTA rankings.
For Bouchard it was a positive week and signs are there that she is returning to good form after a disastrous 2015.
Watson wins in Monterrey
Watson came from a set down to cap off a great week for British tennis as she claimed the Monterrey title.
The Brit claimed her third career title by outlasting Kirsten Flipkens 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in just under two hours in Sunday’s final.
The Belgium had control of the opening set, taking it 6-3. Watson however was not done, and she rallied to find the form that brought her to the final to level the scores.
She carried the momentum into the third set where she took a 3-0 lead, but Flipkens came back to level it 3-3. Watson kept her composure and broke serve again before rounding off the victory for the title.
“I don’t know where to start,” the Brit said in her post-match interview.
“I’m extremely happy today. I was nervous coming into the match, and I’ve never beaten Kirsten before – she’s a great player who really makes you work for it.
“I thought Kirsten was pretty flawless in the first set, and I was getting frustrated with myself. I just had to stay calm and try my best. I never looked past the next point.”
Double Delight for Japanese Tennis in Kuala Lumpur Qualifying Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
There was double Japanese joy as Yuichi Sugita and Yasutaka Uchiyama qualified for the main draw of the 7th ATP Malaysian Open. The tournament is in its seventh edition and is headlined this year by David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez.
Top seed Sugita didn’t drop a set during three qualifying matches to qualify for the main draw. After beating Thailand’s Congsup Congcar in the first round 6-2, 6-2 he faced German doubles specialist Andre Begemann. The 31-year-old is currently ranked 55thin the doubles and was playing in his first singles qualifying draw since Geneva last May. The lack of singles play was a factor as Sugita eased past the German, dropping just three games. His biggest test was in the final against Italy’s Matteo Donati. Since reaching the semifinals at the Granby Challenger in July, Donati has suffered a series of early tournament exits. Serving for the first set at 5-4, Sugita endured a marathon game, which consisted of five set points and four break points, before taking the opening set. The Japanese player also had to recover from a 0-2 deficit in the second set to fight his way into the main draw, winning 6-4, 7-6 (2). Sugita’s successful qualifying campaign followed his triumph in Thailand at the start of September. He defeated Argentina’s Marco Trungelliti to claim his fourth challenger title.
Uchiyama was two points from going out in the final round of qualifying before edging his way past 2nd seed Luca Vanni. The 7th seed defeated Malaysian wild card Christian Oliver Lee and compatriot Takao Suzuki before his encounter with Vanni. During the lengthy encounter, which lasted two hours and nineteen minutes, the world No. 226 came back from a set down to win 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5. Uchiyama will play in the main draw of an ATP tournament for the first time in his career. The 23-year-old has claimed three Future titles in 2015 and reached the final of the Lexington Challenger in August.
Besides the duo of wins for Japan, Mischa Zverev continued his recent upsurge in form by producing three straight set victories in his qualifying campaign. Prior to Malaysia, the world No.248 qualified for the main draw of the Moselle Open in Metz. He upset Spanish world No.60 Pablo Carreno Busta in the first round before losing to eventual champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. During qualifying in Kuala Lumpur, the German got a boost when third seed Yoshihito Nishioka crashed out in the first round of his quarter. The shock result meant that he faced fellow German Philipp Petzschner in the second round. During the closely contested match, Zverev edged his way into the last round 7-6 (6), 6-4. In the final round, he faced New Zealand’s Artem Sitak, who upset Italian sixth seed Thomas Fabbiano. Russian-born Sitak hasn’t won a singles title since 2012 and concentrates on the doubles circuit where he is currently ranked inside the top 50. Zverev endured another close match before winning in an almost identical score-line to his second round triumph – 6-4, 7-6 (5).
Competing the four qualifiers is Polish world No. 159 Michał Przysiężny. The 31-year-old encountered his toughest match at the start of the draw against Indonesia’s Christopher Rungkat. Rungkat reached the final of the US Open boys doubles competition in 2008. Battling against a player ranked almost 300 places below him, Przysiezny took the match 6-4, 7-6 (2). After his testing first round match, the Pole charged into the main draw by dropping 3 games in his last two matches of qualifying. In the second round, he beat Wild card Ahmed Deedat Abdul Razak 6-1,6-1, followed by another emphatic win against 8th seed Daniel Nguyen (6-0,6-1).
Bacsinszky Completes Mexican Double, Wozniacki Wins Kuala Lumpur Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
With the Indian Wells and Miami double just around the corner, many of the top players decided to take a week off to prepare for two of the biggest tournaments on the WTA tour.
The lack of star power didn’t hinder the excitement though, as the tournaments in Monterrey and Kuala Lumpur provided some tense and dramatic matches, with the two best players of the week coming out on top.
WTA Monterrey Embed from Getty Images
Timea Bacsinszky can now call herself the queen of Mexico, as she claimed the Monterrey title to go with her Acapulco crown from last week.
It felt like deja vu in Mexico, but the stars were Timea Bacsinszky and Caroline Garcia this time, not Denzel Washington. In a rematch of the Acapulco final a week prior, Garcia and Bacsinszky took to the court for the right to be called Monterrey champion. On the previous occasion, the Swiss was too strong for Garcia as she romped to an easy 6-3,6-0 victory in Acapulco. This time, it would be the same result, albeit a hell of a lot closer.
Fresh off her upset victory over Ana Ivanovic in the previous round, Garcia looked like she was ready to extract revenge on her opponent. Despite being broken in the opening game of the match, The French woman rallied back to take the first set 6-4; breaking the Swiss’ serve to seal it.
Garcia couldn’t carry that momentum into the second set, as Bacsinszky started to find her range. An early break for the world number 31 had the Swiss on a roll, but a rain delay soon halted the momentum. Four wet hours passed before play was allowed to resume, meaning this one was going to carry on after midnight. When play restarted, it seemed like the fourth seed never left the court. Bacsinszky swung freely from both wings, and soon leveled the match by taking the second set 6-2.
Unlike Garcia though, The Swiss was able to carry the momentum into the next set, breaking at 1-1. The number three seed continued to fight towards the back end of the match, having numerous opportunities to break back at 4-3. Despite having six attempts at leveling the match, Garcia couldn’t convert, allowing Bacsinszky to roll on and closeout the match 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
The Monterrey title is her second in as many weeks, and third overall as Bacsinszky’s amazing comeback continues. After an injury plagued start to the decade, the 25 year old is happy to be back and playing her best tennis.
“I’m just really happy to play so well at the beginning of the year,” a tearful Bacsinszky said in her post-match press conference. “I’m going to keep trying to push my limits in the next tournament I’m playing. I hope to keep improving all parts of my game, doesn’t matter if I’m winning or losing. I always just want to be a better tennis player, and be a better person too.”
Garcia’s runners-up efforts over the past few weeks shouldn’t get her down. The French woman has shown why she is one of the brightest rising stars on the WTA tour. She’ll be hoping to go one better next time around.
In the doubles, fourth seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Alicja Rosolska defeated third seeds Anastasia Rodionova and Arina Rodionova 6-3, 2-6, 10-3 to claim their first doubles title together.
WTA Kuala Lumpur
Caroline Wozniacki has finally won her first title of 2015 at the BMW Malaysian Open, coming from behind to defeat Alexandra Dulgheru 4-6,6-2,6-1.
Wozniacki was the pre-tournament favourite but people (including myself) wondered if the top seed would preserve her energy for Indian Wells and Miami. The Dane did aim to preserve her energy, but she went about it in a different way; not dropping a set on the road to the final.
Her opponent Dulgheru had upset second seed Sabine Lisicki in the opening round and had used the momentum to carry herself all the way to the final.
That momentum got the Romanian off to a great start, as she broke early to establish a 3-1 lead. The break advantage was soon relinquished, but the heavy top spin strokes of the world number 72 proved tough to deal with. Dulgheru broke at 4-4 and served out the set to give herself a 1-0 lead.
If anything, dropping the first set seemed to motivate Wozniacki further. The world number five was on fire in the second set, breaking in the second game and then again to seal the set. The former world number one only dropped three points on serve throughout the set.
It was all Wozniacki in the third set, as she began to show the world why she is a former world number one player. Wozniacki raced into a 5-0 lead in the third and had match point on the Dulgheru serve, but couldn’t convert. The Romanian avoided a bagel, but couldn’t avoid the break stick, as Wozniacki easily served out the match to take the Kuala Lumpur title.
Despite the lopsided second and third set, Wozniacki praised her opponent’s approach.
“I think she played well the whole match,” Wozniacki said. “She tried to play aggressive and take the ball early. But I knew she had a tough match yesterday, so I just kept playing my game and kept trying to put pressure on her. I think I stepped it up in the second and third sets, and it paid off.”
This was Wozniacki’s 23rd WTA title, and the latest triumph has put her in good form heading into Indian Wells, a tournament she won back in 2011.
“I think things have been going my way. Things are great,” Wozniacki said. “I’m excited for Indian Wells. It’s one of my favourite tournaments of the season, so hopefully I can play well there.”
The doubles title went to Liang Chen and Wang Yafan, who beat third seeds Yuliya Beygelzimer and Olga Savchuk in the final, 4-6, 6-3, 10-4.
That wraps up the WTA tour of the Asia-Pacific. Now we will head to North America and Europe until the summer. You can follow it all on Tennis Atlantic.
WTA Monterrey and Kuala Lumpur Previews Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The WTA stays in Mexico and continues its tour of the Middle East for a pair of international events leading up to the Indian Wells and Miami double.
WTA Kuala Lumpur
The tour of the Middle East moves from Doha to Kuala Lumpur for the BMW Malaysian open. With its inaugural staging being in 2010, the BMW Malaysian open is one of the youngest events on the WTA tour. Since its inception we have seen 5 different winners including rising stars Karolina Pliskova and Donna Vekic.
The 18 year old Czech became the youngest title winner in seven years when she overcame Dominka Cibulkova in the final last year.
BMW Malaysian Open
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Prize Money: $250,000
Date: March 2nd- March 8th 2015
As you would expect a week before two big events, there’s not a lot of higher ranked players. Therefore it’s a big opportunity for a lower ranked player to win a tournament.
First round matches to watch
(3) Casey Dellacqua vs Su-Wei Hsieh
Wild card Su-Wei Hsieh is a former top 30 player, and at one point was close to the top 20. It seems however, that the Chinese Taipei representative has her attention on the doubles. Don’t let that fool you though, because she is still capable of a big performance as she’s a former champion at this event. Hsieh brings an unusual game to the table, which has potential to cause big problems for her opponents as her rival on this occasion Casey Dellacqua knows all too well. The 30 year old has had an indifferent year in 2015, finding herself with a 3-3 win-loss record so far. However these two met at this event 3 years a go, and Hsieh won 6-1, 7-5. Since then though Hsieh has dropped off considerably, therefore making Dellacqua the favourite.
(6) Kurumi Nara vs Stefanie Voegele
Kurumi Nara (Photo: Chris Levy @Tennis_Shots for TennisEastCoast.com)
Sixth seeded Kurumi Nara faces tough opposition in the form a Stefanie Voegele in the opening round. Nara isn’t in good form heading into the event, as she hasn’t been able to put together victories since Hobart. Voegele however qualified for Doha, and pushed rising star Karolina Pliskova in the opening round, so she’ll come into this match in good spirits. The pair met 3 years a go in an ITF tournament, and Nara came through in straight sets. With the respective form of both players an upset shouldn’t be counted out. Expect a close match here, and a potential upset.
The top half has the main event player Caroline Wozniacki headlining it. With the former world number one so far ahead of everyone else in the draw, she will automatically be made the favourite. The big ‘if’ however is the potential of Wozniacki pulling out during the tournament. With Indian Wells and Miami coming up, the Dane will want to remain fresh and therefore don’t be surprised to see her pull out of the tournament after the quarter finals. Her journey to the semi finals should be fairly easy however, with her biggest threat being Klara Koukalova. The Czech is on the decline though, so it should be easy pickings for Wozniacki.
The second quarter is a little more interesting with third seed Casey Dellacqua and seventh seed Bojana Jovanovski headlining it. Dellacqua has a potentially tricky round one against Su-Wei Hsieh, but it’s a match she should win without too much trouble. From there Dellacqua should make the quarter finals at least, as I don’t see Mestach or Eguchi challenging her. Jovanovski should get past her qualifier opponent in round one to set up a match against Yulia Putintseva. The 20 year old Kazkah is currently outside the top 100 and is 2-5 for the year thus far. Jovanovski hasn’t played since the Australian Open, so she might be a little rusty heading into this match. The Czech should win this, but with the WTA surprises are many. With that little rust and lack of form, Jovanovski will find this one tough but by this time she might have played herself into a bit of form. Still with roughly 30 places separating them, Dellacqua will be the favourite to advance.
Heading into quarter three we get the second first round match to watch as sixth seed Kurumi Nara faces Stephanie Voegele. I feel an upset here, and with that a decent run to the quarter finals for Voegele. Jarmila Gajdosova should meet the Swiss at that stage. The fourth seed faces Cagla Buyukakcay in round one. The Turk made the second round in Dubai, so she isn’t a slouch, but Gajdosova should be too strong for her, and Luksika Kumkhum in round two. That will set up an interesting quarter final showdown with Voegele. They met at Wimbledon last year, and Gajdosova was a straight set victor on that day. I don’t see it being too different this time around.
Second seed Sabine Lisicki took a wildcard into this tournament hoping to build some form into the big events. The German is known for her exploits on grass, but when her game clicks she is dangerous on any surface. She faces Alexandra Dulgheru in the opening round. This could be a tough one for the inconsistent Lisicki, as her Romanian opponent is a former top 30 player, and she beat Alize Cornet last week. I believe Lisicki at this point in time might be a little too much for her however, and I will be surprised if the German doesn’t make the quarter finals at least. Her opponent at this stage will likely be Julia Goerges, but that is far from set in stone. The eighth seed is in good form despite losing in round one to Flavia Pennetta in Dubai, as she boasts a 6-4 winning record in 2015. In her current form, Goerges should beat Alla Kudryavtseva in round one, and Kateryna Kozlova or Saisai Zheng in round two, but with Goerges you can’t be too sure. A battle of inconsistent German’s will make up the quarter final from this section, and I am unsure which way it will go. Both possess big serves and groundstrokes, and can be very dangerous on their day. It’s hard to predict, but I will go with the higher ranked Lisicki.
Dellacqua def. Wozniacki W/O
Lisicki def. Gajdosova in w
Lisicki def. Dellacqua in 3
I have been boring for the second week in a row and predicted the projected seeds to make the semi finals. However, I don’t see Wozniacki playing the full week here with the Indian Wells and Miami tournaments coming up, so an early retirement, walkover or tank will let Dellacqua advance to the final. If Lisicki gets a good run of form, she’ll do huge damage, and that’s exactly what I have predicted. Lisicki to build form throughout the tournament and take her first title of 2015.
Like the BMW Malaysian open, the Abierto Monterrey Afirme is a young tournament on the calendar, after only being established in 2009. The tournament was first won by Marion Bartoli, before the Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova dominance began. The Russian won three titles here in 2010, 2011, and 2013. Ana Ivanovic is the current defending champion.
Abierto Monterrey Afirme
Location: Monterrey, Mexico
Prize Money: $500,000
Date: March 2nd- March 8th 2015
A stronger field than Kuala Lumpur, but that may be down to the bigger prize money on offer. Defending champion Ana Ivanovic is here, as well as three time champion Pavlyuchenkova.
First round matches to watch
(7) Daniela Hantuchova vs Monica Puig
What is it with Monica Puig, and these interesting first round matches? She has featured a lot in my first round matches to watch, and here she is again. This time the young Puerto Rican faces Daniela Hantuchova in Monterrey. Puig looked to have found some form in Acapulco when she disposed of Sara Errani 6-1,6-1, but in the next round she lost a narrow match to world number 156 Sesil Karatantcheva. Hantuchova decided not to play last week, but her form this year has been very good, even picking up a title in Patteya. The form book says Hantuchova, but the head to head tells a different story with Puig winning their only meeting last year in Rome. Hantuchova is the slight favourite, but Puig can strike at any time, so don’t be shocked to see her defeat the Slovak.
(5) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Anna Schmiedlova
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Photo:Chris Levy @Tennis_Shots for TennisEastCoast.com)
Pavlyuchenkova loves these courts more than anyone- after all she has won it three times! However, youngster Anna Schmiedlova will provide a stern test for the inconstant Russian. It’s interesting to know that Pavyluchenkova is only 23 years old as it feels like she’s been on the tour for a while. But 2015 hasn’t been a good year, as the Russian has only played two matches and she’s lost both of them. Schmeidlova however reached her first WTA final in Rio two weeks a go, but she failed to carry that form into Acapulco, where she lost in the opening round. It may have been fatigue, but her game didn’t click last week, so the 20 year old will be hoping to re-capture her Rio form here. No head to head to go by, making this the first meeting between the two players. Despite winning the title three times, Pavlyuchenkova will no doubt be rusty heading in, so she could be there for the taking.
Top seed Ana Ivanovic headlines the top half of the draw, with 6th seed Alison Riske joining her in the top quarter. One must question how committed she must be to the event due to the big Indian Wells and Miami events coming up. If the Serb is committed to going all the way however, it’s hard to see anyone stopping her in this quarter. The first test of any sort, should come in the quarter finals whether it would be in the form of Alison Riske, Vera Zvonareva, or Kristina Mladenovic. If Zvonareva channel her old form, then she should make it, but with the recovery still in progress it’s hard to predict where she’ll finish in this tournament. Riske hasn’t played since the Australian Open so she could potentially be a little rusty, and there she lost to the world number 183 Oceane Dodin in the opening round. Mladenovic lost to an even lower ranked opponent in the Doha qualifiers, so she won’t be in good spirits either. I feel Zvonareva may take advantage of that and make the quarter finals before losing to Ivanovic in the quarter finals.
Third seed Caroline Garcia made the final of Acapulco last week, but lost convincingly to Timea Bacsinszky. The Frenchwoman will be looking to have another deep run here, as she bids to maintain a seeding spot for Roland Garros. Her section is full of wildcards and qualifiers, but Magdalena Rybarikova is projected to meet her at the quarter finals. The Slovak pushed Maria Sharapova to three sets last week in the quarter finals of Acapulco, but that was her first good tournament to date. Garcia however is vastly inconsistent and she could lose to Karin Knapp or Fran Schiavone before she even makes it to Rybarikova. It will depend on how much her final loss last week has taken it’s toll, but I believe Garcia will meet Rybarikova and the Slovak will come through.
The Acapulco champion, Timea Bacsinszky is the number four seed and has been drawn into the third quarter of the draw. The Swiss has been playing incredibly well this year, which has seen her just shy of the top 30 in the singles rankings, and in the top 15 in the race rankings. Bacsinszky will be in good form, so she’ll be a big favourite to make it to the semi finals. Yania Wickmayer offers a stern round one test, but it should be passable for the fourth seed. I have Hantuchova reaching the quarter finals to face Bacsinszky. The Slovak is in pretty good form this year, and I don’t see her losing in the second round should she beat Puig. However, with the form Bacsinszky is showing lately it’s hard not to back her living up to her seeding.
Three time champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has been drawn in the bottom half with second seed Sara Errani, but they must come through some tough tests before meeting each other in the quarter finals. Pavlyuchenkova must overcome rising star Anna Schmiedlova in the opening round. The Russian loves this tournament, but the form is with her opponent, and Schmiedlova will look to use that form to cause somewhat of an upset. However, with Pavlyuchenkova’s record at this tournament, it will likely be her that pulls through to the quarter finals. Lauren Davis will entertain Sara Errani in the first round. The head to head is tied at 1-1, with Errani winning their only hard court meeting last year. The Italian is consistent but her game style is vulnerable to being completely destroyed if her opponent is on form. Davis isn’t in good form though, so it should be Errani making It through round one, and round two as well. Errani vs Pavlyuchenkova will be an interesting clash of consistent tennis vs dangerous yet inconsistent tennis. Errani is in the better form in 2015, but Pavs has won three titles here and leads the head to head 2-0. With that in mind, I will predict the Russian to overcome the world number 12 and make the semi finals.
Ivanovic def. Rybarikova in 2
Bacsinszky def. Pavlyuchenkova in 2
Ivanovic def. Bacsinszky in 3
Timea will continue her good form, but this time I don’t see the top seeded player tanking. Therefore Ivanovic pulls through to claim the title and play herself into good form heading into the Indian Wells and Miami double.
Murray Wins First Title of 2014 in Shenzhen, Nishikori Starts Asian Swing With a Bang in Malaysia
Andy Murray has had his most disappointing season in years, but he did finally win a title in Shenzhen, becoming the first champion in the history of the tournament. The best player in the field this week earned a well-deserved victory in the final over Tommy Robredo 5-7 7-6 6-1. The final was a highly entertaining affair as Murray saved four consecutive match points in the second set tiebreak, and a total of five match points overall. Robredo would physically wilt after dropping the second set, as Murray gained momentum and rolled through the third set.
Murray showed further signs of turning the corner as he bids to qualify for the year end World Tour Finals. He beat Somdev Devarrman and Lukas Lacko early on without dropping a set, then topped surprise semifinalist Juan Monaco in 3 sets to reach the final.
Robredo continued his strong season. The Spaniard needed consecutive 3 set wins over Sam Groth and Andreas Seppi to reach the semis, but then he easily handled an erratic Santiago Giraldo, who was contesting yet another ATP semifinal this season.
Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau beat the Aussie duo of Sam Groth and Chris Guccione for the doubles title. The top doubles seeds now have six ATP titles together this season.
ATP Kuala Lumpur
I didn’t see anyone in the draw to stop a red hot Kei Nishikori from winning in Malaysia, and he proved me right, obtaining a 7-6 6-4 victory over Julien Benneteau, who dropped his third consecutive Malaysian Open final and falls to 0-10 overall in career ATP finals.
The top Asian player on tour was untroubled by Rajeev Ram and Marinko Matosevic before facing stiffer competition in the semis from Jarkko Nieminen. He survived that in 3 sets and his returning and speedy pace redirection were just too good this week for any opponent.
Benneteau extended his perfect record outside of finals in KL. He beat Filip Krajinovic in straights, Pablo Cuevas in 3 sets from a break down in the third, and Ernests Gulbis, the number 2 seed, in straight sets in the semifinals.
Marcin Matkowski and Leander Paes beat Jamie Murray and John Peers for the doubles title, denying the Murray family multiple titles this week on tour.
2014 ATP Shenzhen & Kuala Lumpur Previews, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
The ATP tour will begin the Asian swing with a pair of 250 level tournaments. The first is a new tournament in Shenzhen, China, on outdoor hard court that begins three weeks of ATP tournaments in China. Shenzhen replaces the indoor hard court Bangkok tournament on the calendar. Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur continues its traditional calendar spot with indoor hard court action from the East Indies.
ATP World Tour 250
September 22-September 28, 2014
Prize Money: $590,230
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: David Ferrer (5)
2: Andy Murray (12)
3: Richard Gasquet (21)
4: Tommy Robredo (22)
A solid field for the maiden 250 event. Four household names as the top seeds and all eight seeds are quality ATP players both in and out of form. As an aside, keep an eye out for Viktor Troicki. He’s been red hot since returning to professional tennis and he has a chance to qualify here. Formerly a solid ATP player, he’s a dangerous lurker in the draw if he qualifies and could go on a tear.
First Round matchups to watch:
(7)Vasek Pospisil vs. Teymuraz Gabashvili
Pospisil is looking to finish his tumultuous season strong while Gabashvili is looking to continue to build one of the best seasons in his career. Vashy lost in the opening round of the US Open, but he won a match in Davis Cup play on indoor hard, and he is looking to avenge his loss at the French Open this season to Gabashvili. The veteran grinder reached the third round of the US Open and is looking to get his ATP record back to .500 on the year with a solid fall swing. Given the talent discrepancy and the hard court surface, I think Pospisil will survive and get into round 2.
(5)Gilles Simon vs. Ricardas Berankis
This one has some upset potential if a talented but underachieving Berankis can show up, or if Simon fails to show, as he often has this season. The Frenchman surprisingly reached the fourth round of the US Open but he’s just .500 at the ATP level this season and only 9-8 on hard courts. He has losses to considerably lower-ranked players Marius Copil, Marc Gicquel, Gabashvili, Lukasz Kubot, and Pablo Andujar this season, and Berankis would love to add his name to that list.
The Lithuanian number one, who is beloved in his home nation, is an overall positive 13-6 on hard courts this season, with a majority of his matches and his wins coming on the challenger circuit. He won a challenger on hard courts before the US Open and nearly qualified for that tournament. He also has an ATP quarterfinal appearance on his resume and has always been right on the cusp of making a name for himself as an ATP regular, though he is yet to do so. The formerly talented junior should give Simon trouble, and though I am going with Gilles in my own bracket, there is, as I mentioned, some serious upset potential here.
The usually consistent David Ferrer will open with a qualifier in round 2, then should ease into the quarterfinals against, most likely, 6 seed Santiago Giraldo. Giraldo opens with a qualifier, and then wild card Egor Gerasimov or a qualifier, in his first two matches. Giraldo has had a good season overall but he’s lost six straight matches, all on hard courts. Even with that poor form, the level of competition makes me believe he will reach the quarterfinals only to get rolled by Ferrer, who has beaten him three times previously, including once this season on clay without dropping a set. Gerasimov is not a bad hard court player for what it’s worth, but he is making his ATP debut and has no experience with this level of competition.
Tommy Robredo, who is a solid 14-7 on hard courts this season, should open with the big serving Sam Groth for his first match. Groth must beat his countryman James Duckworth to reach round 2, but he’s fully expected to do so. I could see Groth giving Robredo trouble, but Tommy likely advances in two or three tiebreak sets into the quarterfinals. There, we could get a rematch of an excellent US Open clash featuring Robredo against Simone Bolelli. Bolelli has had an excellent comeback season and he’s an underrated player with lots of shot-making talent. His first match will be against pedestrian Aussie Matt Ebden, and his second should be against the out of form Andreas Seppi, his countryman and Davis Cup teammate, assuming Seppi avoids defeat against Maximo Gonzalez in round 1. Bolelli was beating Robredo for the first half of the US Open match before Robredo came back and won in 5, and in this case I have Bolelli pulling off an upset in the best of 3 sets format and reaching the semifinals. Their overall h2h is 3-2 in favor of Robredo with matches on indoor hard, hard and clay since 2007.
Andy Murray has no points to defend this Fall and he’s fighting to get back into the top 10, perhaps sneaking into the World Tour finals at the end of the year. He made non-tennis headlines by backing Scottish independence before their historic vote on the matter last week, and he will look to get back to making positive tennis headlines against Somdev Devvarman or Xin Gao, a Chinese wild card. The 20 year old Gao has little experience, while the inconsistent hard court player Devvarman is also of little threat, so Murray should safely reach the quarterfinals. Murray should face Simon/Berankis in the quarterfinals, though Lukas Lacko/Evgeny Donskoy are also options. Donskoy, formerly considered a rising young gun, has stagnated into an inconsistent hard court challenger level player, while Lacko has been a chronic underachiever for years. It’s a toss-up section for the quarters but Simon likely has the edge. Murray and Simon have met 13 times and Murray has won the last 12 meetings, including a 3 setter in Acapulco on outdoor hard this season. I think it’s clear who will reach the semifinals: Murray. As an aside, if Berankis sneaks into the quarters, he and Murray played an entertaining Aussie Open match a couple of years ago that Murray won.
Richard Gasquet is in danger of being bounced early. He will likely open with Gilles Muller, who has beaten him the last two times they played. Muller opens with Marco Chiudinelli and that should be a routine match. It’s hard to judge the Frenchman’s form and he hasn’t had the best of seasons. Though he is 14-8 on hard courts, I’m picking the underappreciated Muller to go through to the quarterfinals. Look for Gasquet/Muller to face Pospisil/Gabashvili in the quarters, Federico Delbonis and Juan Monaco are the other players in this section, and they are quite poor on hard courts presently. When it comes to a semifinalist out of this section, Pospisil is 2-1 against Gasquet, with all three meetings taking place on hard courts between this season and last, while Muller is 1-0 against Pospisil though that match was on clay. I feel Vashy struggles with big servers, so I like him over Gasquet in the quarters, but I have him losing to Muller if that is the matchup. My own bracket has Muller in the semis.
Dark Horse: Gilles Muller
The big server continues to impress as an underdog, and he lost a close match to top 15 player Tsonga in Metz. He has a great chance to do well on outdoor hard, and I have him making the semis, as mentioned going through seeds Gasquet and Pospisil en route. I also have Bolelli in the semis and he’s also unseeded, so he also deserves dark horse status.
Ferrer d. Bolelli
Murray d. Muller
Ferrer is 5-0 against Bolelli and beat him this season on clay at the French, while Murray is 2-0 career against Muller. Look for the top two seeds to reach the final.
Murray d. Ferrer
Murray has a decided career edge against Ferrer on hard courts, 5-0 against him on outdoor hard, and that should be extended as I believe Murray is focused and primed to perform right now.
ATP Kuala Lumpur
Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur
ATP World Tour 250
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
September 22-September 29, 2014
Prize Money: $910,520
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (8)
2: Ernests Gulbis (13)
3: Leonardo Mayer (25)
4: Julien Benneteau (29)
Though Kuala Lumpur has nearly twice the prize money on offer compared to Shenzen, the field is far weaker with just two top players participating.
First Round matchups to watch:
Rajeev Ram vs. (WC)Omar Jasika
The journeyman serve and volleyer Ram will do battle with US Open junior champion (singles and doubles) Omar Jasika, another Aussie young gun who is 17 years old and will be making his ATP main draw debut in Kuala Lumpur as a wild card. Nobody is sure what to expect from the inexperienced left handed Aussie right now, but perhaps he could surprise and win his debut. Ram is a serviceable player and he is certainly beatable on a good day.
(8)Nick Kyrgios vs. Marinko Matosevic
The young Kyrgios will take on his compatriot Matosevic, who is 10 years his senior. Kyrgios performed well in Davis Cup for team Australia, while Matosevic is just 8-9 on indoor hard courts since 2010. We have not really seen Kyrgios play indoors, at least at the ATP level, but he has a game designed well for it, with his big serve and forehand combo. This will be his last tournament of the season no matter what, as per a statement, he is burned out right now both physically and mentally after an excellent debut season on the ATP tour. With that in mind, Matosevic may roll over him. It’s really hard to predict what will happen, and I might be reading too much into it, but pronouncements like that don’t sound good at all.
(WC)Filip Krajinovic vs. (WC)Taro Daniel
Two young players who have rapidly improved their games and rankings this season, Krajinovic has earned his wild card with a tremendous 39-17 record between ATP, Challenger and Davis Cup play across both hard and clay court surfaces. Daniel is 30-25 this year across surfaces and has played primarily at the challenger level. It is hard to fathom who will win this match and Krajinovic retired in his last match at a challenger in Turkey after playing and winning a pair of Davis Cup singles rubbers. Krajinovic is a favorite with the oddsmakers and I think he wins this one in 3 sets.
US Open finalist Kei Nishikori will open with the Ram/Jasika winner and should smoothly reach the quarterfinals to face Matosevic/Kyrgios. A Nishikori-Kyrgios quarterfinal would be must see tennis but with the question mark about Kyrgios right now, I have Nishikori into the semifinals without dropping a set.
Kyrgios/Matosevic will need to defeat Go Soeda/qualifier to reach the quarters.
Leo Mayer has a breakthrough year, but he is just 5-3 on hard courts this season, and almost all of his big results have come on clay. He is likely to go out early, and his first match will come against Jarkko Nieminen/qualifier in round 2. Nieminen is unreliable because he’s aging, but he’s always been a good player indoors and thus I have him in the quarters over Mayer. Look for Nieminen/Mayer to face one of Malek Jaziri/Michal Przysiezny/Gregoire Burquier/Pablo Andujar in the quarters.
Burquier is an intriguing case: He is just 1-8 since Wimbledon, but he is making his ATP main draw debut nonetheless, at age 30, after spending years grinding away at the futures and challenger level. He has put up some good challenger level results indoors, while Andujar is just 5-15 since 2010 on indoor hard courts. Meanwhile, Przysiezny is an absolutely pathetic 2-19 at the ATP level this season, and he’s just 1-6 on indoor hard. He broke a long losing streak that stood at 15 ATP main draw matches with a win in the first round of Metz where he qualified, perhaps finally finding some decent form. Jaziri is a superior 32-27 overall between the ATP and challenger tour levels, and he’s 29-13 on indoor hard since 2010. He also reached the final of a hard court challenger in Turkey the previous week. If he’s not exhausted, he is the favorite for the quarters but this section is a true toss-up between four weak players.
Ernests Gulbis, who hasn’t won consecutive matches at any tournament since reaching the semifinals of the French Open (4-5 record since), will be looking to extend his 19-6 record indoor hard courts between this year and last year. The top Latvian, who is still contending for a spot in the World Tour Finals, along with Nishikori, Ferrer and Murray, who are all in action this week, will open with a qualifier, then perhaps Bernard Tomic in the quarterfinals. The rejuvenated Aussie, who thus far is 20-15 on the year between ATP main draw action and qualifying, opens with Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who was shocked in Metz by Przysiezny in round 1. I’d expect Tomic, assuming his hip is healthy, to handle the big server and slide into round 2 against Benjamin Becker or Metz finalist and defending champ Joao Sousa. Sousa is a good player indoors and he is in form, having played some excellent tennis in Metz, but he appeared gassed in his final there and jetlag should further ruin his chances of reaching the quarterfinals. Becker has lost three straight matches but he has a good serve and should be good enough indoors to dispatch Sousa and meet Tomic who he is 3-0 career against, including a win this year on clay. Becker has never played Tomic on hard courts, though, and given the form and talent difference, I have Tomic through. Tomic has a lone win against Gulbis on clay in 2012, and given Ernie’s shaky form at the moment, I have Bernard in the semifinals as an underdog pick.
Julian Benneteau has lost two consecutive finals in Kuala Lumpur, as he always plays well in Malaysia outside of finals. The veteran Frenchman is on a three match losing streak and is just 1-4 on indoor hard this year, but I do think he gets past the Krajinovic/Daniel winner and reaches the quarterfinals to face one of Ivan Dodig/Hiroki Moriya/Pablo Cuevas/Jurgen Melzer. Dodig has another chance at a good week with this draw, but he played poorly in Metz. I predict he beats the challenger level Moriya, and I also have him getting past Melzer/Cuevas simply because Cuevas isn’t that great on hard courts and Melzer is continually-struggling-but-formerly-good on indoor hard. It’s a tough section to call, and Krajinovic is also a threat here, but I have Benneteau over Dodig for the semifinal spot.
Dark Horse: Bernard Tomic
There are at least three choices for dark horses this week. Jarkko Nieminen could very well make the semis, but he would surely lose to Nishikori/Kyrgios, one would think. Jaziri, Dodig and Krajinovic/Daniel can also make believable cases to do well, but Tomic has the most talent of the bunch and if he’s healthy and focused he could reach the final and maybe even win the tournament. Becker/Sousa and Gulbis aren’t easy outs, but they are beatable at the moment, and Benneteau or someone else are not threatening potential semifinal opponents.
Nishikori d. Nieminen
Tomic d. Benneteau
Nishikori ought to dominate everyone in the field this week if he plays anything like he did in New York.
I’m trusting Nieminen to find some of his former talent indoors and make a run this week. I went through the opportunities for Tomic, and Benneteau simply plays well in Malaysia, though I question his form.
Nishikori d. Tomic
Nishikori has a lone win on grass over Tomic and that was a close match, but since that match took place two years ago Nishikori has risen to top 10 heights while Tomic has struggled with consistency and focus. On indoor hard, the advantage is in Kei’s favor and this is his tournament to lose. He’s far and above the best player in the tournament field.
Sousa Wins 1st Title In Kuala Lumpur, Raonic Improves World Tour Finals Standing in Bangkok
ATP Kuala Lumpur
Joao Sousa is at a career high ranking of 52 after taking his first career ATP title 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 over Julian Benneteau. The title is also the first ATP title for a Portuguese player. Benneteau is once again a runner-up, dropping to 0-9 career in ATP finals. He had a match point in this one, but unraveled shortly after.
Sousa has had a tremendous year and a great past couple of weeks: he beat Ryan Harrison, Pablo Cuevas, David Ferrer and Jurgen Melzer as an SE here. Benneteau beat Michal Przysiezny, Pablo Andujar, Adrian Mannarino and Stanislas Wawrinka.
Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen took the doubles title over Pablo Cuevas/Horacio Zeballos.
Milos Raonic helped his chances to qualify for the world tour finals with a 7-6, 6-3 final victory over Thomas Berdych in Bangkok.
Raonic beat Marinko Matosevic and Feliciano Lopez, then Richard Gasquet in the semis to reach the final. Berdych beat Roberto Bautista-Agut, Rendy Lu and Gilles Simon.
With his 5th ATP title, Raonic is now just 180 points behind Jo Wilfried Tsonga for 10th place in the World Tour Finals.
Jamie Murray and John Peers took the dobules title over Tomasz Bednarek/Johan Brunstrom.
2013 ATP Bangkok & Kuala Lumpur Previews & Predictions
The Asian swing of the ATP world tour starts with strong fields for 250s in Bangkok, Thailand and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, both on indoor hardcourts.
ATP World Tour 250
September 23-September 29, 2013
Prize Money: $567,530
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes)
1: Tomas Berdych
2: Richard Gasquet
3: Milos Raonic
4: Gilles Simon
The original top seed, Andy Murray, withdrew earlier this week and will probably be out the rest of the year due to much-needed back surgery.
First round matchups to watch:
Ivo Karlovic vs. Bernard Tomic
Not a whole lot of first round showdowns for this tournament, but this one could be interesting. Karlovic lost to Sam Querrey in Metz, while Tomic comes off helping the Aussies make the DC world group. He has had a poor year, dogged by personal issues, and this one could honestly go either way based upon the unpredictable form of both players.
Tomas Berdych starts against Roberto Bautista Agut or a qualifier. Assuming he wins that, a probably easier match against one of Rendy Lu, Evgeny Donskoy, Lukas Rosol or Lukasz Kubot will be in order. Rosol was finally able to win back-to-back matches in St. Petersburg.
Metz champion Gilles Simon faces the Tomic/Karlovic winner and then most likely Jarkko Nieminen in the quarters, assuming the Fin beats a slumping Igor Sijsling, and Robin Haase/Daniel Gimeno-Traver.
Defending champ Richard Gasquet will play Lukas Lacko or a qualifier. Mikhail Youzhny awaits in the quarters, as the Russian needs to beat Paolo Lorenzi and Denis Istomin or Suk-Young Jeong, an up and coming wildcard from Korea.
Milos Raonic will face Marinko Matosevic or wild card Wishaya Trongcharoenchaikul. In all likelihood, Raonic will duel Feliciano Lopez in the quarters. Lopez just has to get wins over wildcard Laslo Djere and a qualifier.
Dark Horse: Roberto Bautista Agut
Bautista Agut beat Berdych in Chennai at the start of this year and played well in St. Petersburg. His punchy style can force the Czech into errors if his form is off and he opens with a qualifier. If he upsets Berdych, the field is weak until the semis, where Simon/Nieminen would be his likely opponent, another winnable match.
Berdych d. Nieminen
Raonic d. Gasquet
Nieminen beat Berdych once indoors, but Berdych has won every other meeting, and I have Nieminen in the semis. Although his form wasn’t great before the US Open, he has had a break and plays well indoors. Simon will probably be tired. Gasquet beat Raonic at the US Open a few weeks ago, but indoors, I think the pendulum swings in favor of the Canadian with his serve.
Raonic d. Berdych
Raonic won their only head to head meeting in Cincy last year, and I just think he has a slight edge indoors, though this could go either way. Raonic is also fighting for a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals.
ATP Kuala Lumpur
ATP World Tour 250
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
September 23-September 29, 2013
Prize Money: $875,500
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: David Ferrer
2: Stanislas Wawrinka
3: Nicolas Almagro
4: Jurgen Melzer
First round matchups to watch:
(WC)Ryan Harrison vs. Joao Sousa
Harrison needed a wild card to enter the field here, as his ranking is back outside the top 100. He will get an interesting match against Sousa, who has had a great year and made the semis indoors in St. Petersburg. Depending on Sousa’s fatigue level, he may be a slight favorite.
(WC)Pablo Carreno-Busta vs. Alex Bogomolov
Carreno-Busta has had an amazing year and will begin transitioning to consistent ATP tour tennis at this point, starting with a wild card here to face Bogomolov. Bogey has inconsistent form while PCB is mostly known for his clay court prowess with no idea how his game will hold up indoors.
David Ferrer opens with a qualifier, then one of Harrison/Sousa, Nikolay Davydenko/Pablo Cuevas in the quarters. Davydenko could be streakily dangerous, but otherwise not a bad start for Ferrer.
Jurgen Melzer will face Horacio Zeballos or a qualifier, then one of Vasek Pospisil/Victor Hanescu/Federico Delbonis/Hyeon Chung in the quarters. Pospisil has a nice underdog chance to make a run here, otherwise it should be Melzer.
Stan Wawrinka will face Carlos Berlocq or Marcos Baghdatis to start. He beat Baghdatis at the US Open. In the quarters, Carreno-Busta/Bogomolov or Dmitry Tursunov/Qualifier await. Not the easiest draw, but not the worst either.
Nicolas Almagro was a sad sack 0-3 during the US Summer swing and is back for indoors in the fall against Daniel Brands or Adrian Mannarino, both of whom can be dangerous. The winner gets one of Julien Benneteau/Michal Przysiezny/Grega or Zemlja/Pablo Andujar in the quarters. Przysiezny comes off semis in St. Petersburg and Benneteau is struggling.
Dark Horse: Vasek Pospisil
Daniel Brands could also qualify for this honor, but I will give it to Pospisil. Let’s assume he can beat Hanescu and Delbonis/Chung, both of whom will be favored indoors. His test with Melzer would be big but is also winnable. Pospisil has the talent. The consistency is still lacking. His quality play in Canada’s Davis Cup ties indoors cannot be discounted. Melzer is unpredictable himself and has lost 3 straight matches.
For the Canadian, the semis are quite possible. They met last year In Kuala Lumpur, but Melzer retired early in set 2.
Ferrer d. Pospisil
Wawrinka d. Brands
Ferrer should probably cruise his way to the final. Wawrinka doesn’t have that tough of a draw and the other section is weak. I say Brands will get out of it.
Wawrinka d. Ferrer
Ferrer won their only indoor meeting, and has a solid edge in the h2h, but Wawrinka seems to be in great form and I think he will continue that and notch a title here.