Dennis Novikov Stuns, Tatsuma Ito Progresses In Delray Beach Qualification Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
The 24th Delray Beach Open will see the highly anticipated return of Juan Martin Del Potro. As the Florida crowd waits for the main draw to get underway, they were treated to some spectacular battles during the qualifying rounds.
Qualifying was headlined by Italy’s Luca Vanni. The 30-year-old is currently three places from returning back into the top 100, however, so far this year he has only won two out of his five main draw matches. First up for the lively Italian was Ukraine’s Artem Smirnov. Vanni encountered little difficulty against the world No.254 by clinching the win 7-5, 6-2, after 96 minutes. Next up for the Italian was America’s Dennis Novikov in what was a titanic battle. Vanni gave a solid performance with 18 aces and he even won six more points in the match than Novikov (116-110). Despite his best efforts, the top seed prevailed in three sets to the world No. 150. The 22-year-old American won 7-6(0),3-6,7-6)6), after two hours and 18 minutes of intense play on the court.
Second seed Tatsuma Ito endured two marathon matches to secure a place in the main draw at Delray Beach. Ranked 118th in the world, the 27-year-old defeated American talent Francis Tiafoe to reach the semifinals of the ATP Dallas Challenger at the start of February. Ito’s first match in Delray Beach was against Ireland’s James McGee. The second seed was on course to a straight sets win after leading 6-3, 5-3, before McGee staged an impressive comeback to force a final set. The deciding set consisted of nine breaks of serve as Ito survived the scare to win 6-3,6-7(5),7-5. The marathon win set the world No.118 up with a second round clash with 2011 French Open Boys’ champion Bjorn Fratangelo. Fratangelo defeated little-known Italian wildcard Edoardo Tessaro 6-2,6-3, in his opening match. Emulating his opening match, Ito lead by a set and a break before coming undone towards the crucial point of the match. The vulnerability allowed his American rival to grab a double break and seal the second set. Ito then trailed 0-2 in the final set, before staging an impressive comeback to win 6-3, 4-6,6-4, after almost two hours of play.
Moldovan player Radu Albot was another player to encounter difficulty during his journey into the main draw. Kicking-off against world No.297 Eric Quigley, the third seed faced 15 break points throughout the match (saving ten of them). Despite dropping the first set and being broken three times in the second, Albot held his nerve to win 5-7, 6-4,6-1. Fortunately for Albot there was no repeat of tricky situations during his second match against Yoshihito Nishioka. Nishioka defeated 2015 French Open Boys’ champion Tommy Paul in his first match (6-4, 5-7,6-4). In the decisive showdown, Albot won 62% of his service points and saved 5/7 break points to win 6-4,6-3.
Finally, Australia’s John-Patrick Smith progressed to his first ATP main draw outside of his home country since August of last year. Smith is currently ranked 136th in the world, down from hisr ranking best of 108 that was achieved last September. In the first round he faced a tricky match against former junior world No.1 Andrey Rublev. The highly publicized 18-year-old has only won one main draw match this year (Chennai Open against Somdev Devvarman). Dropping the opening set, Smith won 12 out of the next 15 games to take the match 4-6, 6-4, 6-0. Next up for smith was Colombian fourth seed Alejandro Falla. Falla defeated Devvarman 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, in his first match. In what was a mixed match, Smith came out on top against Falla, winning 6-2, 2-6, 6-1, to book his place in the main draw.
2015 Caltanissetta, Moscow, Prague and Surbiton Challenger Recaps Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
Where a week prior to this event Elias Ymer seemed to struggle with a hand injury, it clearly wasn’t a serious one, as he marched through the field convincingly in Caltanissetta. He took out fifth seed Maximo Gonzalez 7-6(1) 7-6(6) in the second round, after which fourth seed Guido Pella fell 6-3 3-6 7-5 a round later. In the semi-final he faced top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who had only dropped twelve games so far in the tournament. In yet another close encounter, Ymer managed to beat him as well, 7-6(9) 3-6 6-4. In the bottom half a remarkable match happened in the quarterfinal, with sixth seed Marco Cecchinato handing Guilherme Clezar a double bagel, 6-0 6-0. In the semi-final he was ousted by Bjorn Fratangelo, however. Fratangelo knew a similar path to the final as Ymer, with all matches he played being tight. 7-6(6) 7-6(4), 3-6 6-3 6-2, 3-6 7-5 6-1 and eventually 4-6 6-3 6-3 against Cecchinato. In the final the pattern was broken, with Ymer comfortably beating Fratangelo 6-3 6-2 to take down his first Challenger title. It also meant a new career high ranking for Ymer, rising forty-one spots to #130. A new career high ranking for Fratangelo as well, rising twenty-two spots to #122.
Top seed Marcel Granollers already struggled during his first round match against Jules Marie, 6-2 4-6 6-4, and couldn’t survive his second long match in the quarterfinal against Daniel Munoz-De La Nava, with the older Spaniard winning 6-3 5-7 6-4. In the second section Horacio Zeballos finally posted a good win again, beating third seed Damir Dzumhur 7-6(4) 6-3 in the quarterfinal. Munoz-De La Nava ousted him in the semi-final, however, winning 6-7(9) 6-4 6-1. In the bottom half a lot of controversy spurred, as Renzo Olivo claimed to have been threatened by spectators and his opponent Andrey Rublev during their second round encounter, which he lost. He complained that the umpire failed to do anything, while the rules state that the match should have been suspended.
Rublev went on to reach the semi-final, where he lost 6-4 6-7(6) 6-3 to fifth seed Radu Albot, who beat second seed Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-3 6-4 in the previous round. A remarkable final then took place, with Munoz-De La Nava completely tearing Albot apart, 6-0 6-1, to win his third Challenger title. Rising twenty-seven spots to #107, this means a new career high ranking for the 33-year-old, who joins the list of players in their thirties playing their best tennis. It would be quite an achievement if he manages to reach the top 100 for the first time, practically out of nowhere, as he started the year outside of the top 200. A new career high ranking for Albot as well, rising ten spots to #119.
After a rough year, 34-year-old Albert Montanes has started to find some of his old form as of late. He continued that trend here in Prague, beating fourth seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov 1-6 6-3 6-2 in the semi-final to set up his second final in a row, after losing the final of Fürth to Taro Daniel last week. Daniel competed here as well, but lost to Nedovyesov in the quarterfinal. In the bottom half Kimmer Coppejans continued his march to the top 100, reaching the semi-final after a three-set victory over Marton Fucsovics, 6-4 5-7 6-1. Despite his loss to Norbert Gombos, 7-6(4) 6-2, in the next round, it was enough to reach the top 100 for the first time, entering at #98. The final between Montanes and Gombos was an absolutely titanic struggle, with Montanes failing to come out on top in consecutive weeks. After a 7-6(5) 5-7 7-6(2) win, Gombos secured his second Challenger title. Quite a contrast to last week, when he missed eight match points against Martin Klizan in his opening round. He also rose ten ranking spots to #127. Montanes is very nearby, rising eleven spots to #125.
Top seed Luca Vanni is very inexperienced on grass and it showed, falling 7-6(2) 6-2 in the first round to the 2011 Wimbledon Juniors champion Luke Saville., who reached the final of Manchester last week. In this half it was Matthew Ebden who was by far the most impressive player, not dropping more than three games in a set on his way to the final, only losing seventeen games in four matches, including a 6-0 6-2 win against third seed Ryan Harrison in the quarterfinal. In the final he faced Denis Kudla, who knew pretty much a similar tournament trajectory, dropping twenty-one games on his way to the final. The final was a spectacular one, with Ebden just edging out the important points in the end and saving two match points in the process, eventually winning 6-7(4) 6-4 7-6(5). Ebden is now nearing the top 150 again, rising thirty-five spots to #154. Kudla rose eight spots to #131.
Day 4 Qualifying Report From Roland Garros 2015 Stefano Berlincioni for Tennis Atlantic
My last day at Roland Garros, an unbelievable experience for me.
Started the day at Marco Cecchinato- Michael Berrer. The Italian was dictating every rally at the beginning of the match but as soon as he took the lead for 4-2 he had to face an improved Berrer. Cecchinato suddenly lost the plot and on 4-4 literally mentally checked-out and regrouped a bit only at 4-6 0-3. He kept shouting to his box “He is not missing a single ball”.
I greatly enjoyed Gasparyan’s one handed backhand and Glatch’s classy tennis.
Elias Ymer played another solid match even if he almost choked in the end, here is the short video of final point
I watched for a while Gastao Elias-Facundo Arguello. Elias was very nervous from 7-5 5-2, he started being less aggressive and Arguello sensed his opponent choking. They went to the tiebreak where Arguello played terrible tennis and at changeover over made a sign to his box miming “We can go home now”. He double faulted on mp. Arguello will not be going home however, as he reached the main draw as a lucky loser, and his reward is Andy Murray. Elias will face Benoit Paire.
Arguello at 1-5 changeover made a sign to his box….like we can go home
I moved to Luca Vanni-Andrey Golubev for their third set. Vanni was always the second best in rallies and had to save 0-30 on 0-0 and on 1-1 and also 15.40 on 3-3. He broke from nowhere Golubev on 4-3 and managed to hold without risks. He saved all the key points with his huge serve. At the end of the match as usual was very kind with everyone asking him an autograph or a selfie.
Last ATP matches that I attended was Jared Donaldson-Nikoloz Basilashvili. It has been a great match, the best I watched in 4 days. Both played at great level and intensity, it is a pity that one of them could not qualify, both deserved. Donaldson lost 3 tough games from *2-1 to 2-4 in the third set and then he surrended.
I watched for a couple of other WTA matches: completely unimpressive Teliana Pereira (playing defensive and moonballing tennis, with also the bad habit of shouting a couple of seconds later than her shots) qualified over Laura Pous-Tio and Andrea Hlavackova won over Anatasia Rodionova in a match where you could smell the reciprocal “hate” in the air. In their last meeting they didn’t shake hands at the end of the match. I had to go to airport in the middle of second set
2015 French Open Week 1 Men’s Preview and Predictions (@RolandGarros) Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
It’s time for the second Grand Slam of the season, the 2015 French Open at Stade Roland Garros in Paris. This is one of the most wide open French Opens in years, as the case could be made for at least five different players to claim the title. In addition, the young guns are rising, as over a dozen players under 21 are competing in the main draw and some of them are likely to score some upsets and do well, so read on and check out what all there is offer on the men’s side of the 2015 French Open.
May 24-June 7, 2015
Prize Money: $29,500,000
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (3)
4: Tomas Berdych (4)
5: Kei Nishikori (5)
6: Rafael Nadal (7)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Stan Wawrinka (9)
World #6 Milos Raonic pulled out with a foot injury, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Tommy Haas, both injured are missing, Janko Tipsarevic, and Julien Benneteau were the other withdrawals but all of the other top players are here, including 19 of the top 20.
A rematch of an interesting encounter in Madrid, Tomic lost in a third set tiebreak to the Italian veteran Vanni, who is having a late career breakthrough and will making his grand slam main draw debut as a qualifier. Bernie has been struggling on clay as of late, and has never advanced past the second round of the French, so this match could doom the 27 seed to another early exit in Paris. Vanni is a junkballer, with a game built for clay, as he takes causes weird bounces on his shots, and utilizes the slice and drop shot to win points, rather than power hitting. Tomic has lost five straight matches, and retired in Nice, so his health is also in doubt, while Vanni may be battling fatigue after winning three straight three set matches, including one that finished 16-14 in the 3rd set.
The surprise Sao Paulo finalist will still have to work hard, but this is a winnable match for him, and while Tomic had an excellent spring hard court season, he’s been atrocious on clay, and I don’t see that changing here, thus Vanni in 4 or 5 sets is my pick.
(10)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Jack Sock
By far the best round 1 matchup, this encounter is befitting of a round of 32 or round of 16 contest with the talent that both of these under 25 year olds have at their disposal, and it’s a shame one of them will have to go home after round 1. Dimitrov is of course the favorite, though he has a relatively poor record at the French Open, and has never made it to the second week. The Madrid and Monte Carlo quarterfinalist, and Istanbul semifinalist will have to deal with Sock’s high spinning and vicious forehand that is one of the best 5 in all of men’s tennis.
Since returning from hip surgery this spring, Sock won his first ever ATP title, which came on clay in Houston, and though he is on a three match losing streak on clay, all of those matches were tough three set contests. Sock certainly seems to be improving on clay, and he’s shown tenacity this season and the ability to change the momentum of matches, while Dimitrov has been shaky at times, and really has not performed as well as his top 15 ranking would indicate. I’m still picking Dimitrov, but I see it going five sets, and you can’t count Sock out, as he’s one of the top two American men on clay, and seems to be steadily improving. He’s also fixed his fitness issues that were detrimental in best of 5 set matches.
Nicolas Almagro vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
This should be a fun match between a pair of excellent ballstrikers who can play well above their current rankings when they are on a roll. Almagro, a three time RG quarterfinalist has not played up to his formerly top 20 self since returning from injury this season, but he does have a pair of quarterfinals and a semifinal this season in ATP clay court tournaments.
Dolgopolov has tumbled down the rankings and is out of the top 50 again, but as always he’s a dangerous shotmaker, and excellent mover who always produces highlights, win or lose. He hasn’t played particularly well on clay since early last season, but you can’t count him out against anyone, as he pushed Novak Djokovic to the brink of defeat in Miami.
The head to head is an even 2-2, and 1-1 on clay, Almagro’s recent losses have been better though, an Dolgopolov lost to the horribly out of form Ernests Gulbis in the Nice warm up tournament, so with that in mind I see Almagro pulling through in 4 or 5 sets of highlight filled tennis.
(16)John Isner vs. Andreas Seppi
In theory the 16 seed John Isner should be on upset alert, as he was not given an easy round 1 matchup, that said, Seppi hasn’t played since losing round 1 in Monte Carlo, and that indicates to me the veteran Italian all-courter had some sort of injury that prevented him from playing any further tournaments until RG. Seppi was on fire early on in the season as he recorded a run to the second week at the AO where he upset Federer, and an ATP final and semifinal in between. However his results since then have been pedestrian, and there are question marks surrounding his play right now, though he has the game to defeat Isner, as he has done so before on clay in Rome.
Isner has had a solid season on European red clay by his standards, he comes off the semis in Nice, and he also reached the quarters in Madrid, overall compiling a 9-4 record, with none of those 4 losses being bad ones. He’s not going to threaten any of the top names on clay, even with that huge serve, but he still should be good enough to get past Seppi, perhaps without dropping a set, and it would be a big disappointment if he didn’t get out of the first round here after the clay season he has had, most of all staying healthy, which is a big bonus for the American #1.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Robin Haase
Cilic is 4-0 against Haase, including two wins on clay, and it’s unlikely he loses this one, but it’s a sleeper match, as Cilic has really struggled since returning from injury, and has yet to find the form that propelled him to his first Grand Slam, and a top 10 ranking. Haase by contrast is a very streaky player who has the technical talents to score big wins (he beat Stan Wawrinka this year in Indian Wells), but has one of the weakest mindsets in men’s tennis, and that weak mental portion of his game means he can lose to just about anyone.
Since reaching the quarters in Monte Carlo, Cilic is just 2-4, and he played relatively poorly in the Geneva warm up tournament prior to this. Haase recently won a challenger on clay, and also reached the quarterfinals in Estoril, so he’s in reasonable form. I’m still picking Cilic, but Haase likely snatches a set, and if Cilic is rusty and off his game, it will be interesting to see if Haase seizes the moment like he did against Wawrinka and scores another top 15 win.
A match to keep an eye because the seeded player could well go down in defeat, the Czech young gun lefty Vesely has a h2h win against Mayer on clay (2014 Casablanca), and though he’s had an erratic season, he has won an ATP title (Auckland), and reached a final, and a semifinal on clay. Mayer by contrast has been having a poor season, though he reached the final Nice, and though that shows his form is improving, it also indicates fatigue could play a factor in a best of 5 sets match.
This run in Nice is the best result Mayer has posted all season on clay, and Vesely is actually more talented, thus the match should be on his racquet. The issue for Jiri is his lack of consistency, he’s as talented as the other young guns such as Kyrgios, and Thiem that have made waves, but he hasn’t been able to put that together on a regular basis. I’m picking Vesely in 4 but this is a tough pick either way.
Rosol, who posted a pair of quarterfinals on clay this season, and has continued his typical rollercoaster form, likely wins this over the next great Swedish hope Ymer, but you can’t count the young gun out, given Rosol has the ability to play some of the best ball bashing tennis you’ll see, an also some of the worst error strewn disasters you can witness. The Czech comes off of qualifying for Geneva and then losing to Stan Wawrinka in round 2.
Ymer, a rising 19 year old who will be playing in his second Grand Slam main draw, after successfully qualifying and then losing in 5 sets at the Australian Open earlier this year. He recently moved to Barcelona to practice full time on clay, and it’s his best surface as he beat Nick Kyrgios in Barcelona, where he reached the round of 16, earlier this year, and had a relatively comfortable qualifying campaign where he didn’t drop a set in his last two matches. Long term Ymer is quite the talent, and he will have success in the future in Paris without a doubt, but winning this math is still likely to be a challenge, and I’m going with Rosol in 4 sets, as he’s a step up from Ymer’s usual level of competition.
Martin Klizan vs. (WC)Francis Tiafoe
The USTA wild card winner Tiafoe, who is just 17 years old, and is a former top junior, only turning pro in April of this year, actually has a punchers chance against the talented but inconsistent Klizan. Big Foe, as our writer Joe Craven calls him, reached the challenger final in Tallahassee, and the Maryland native, who is coached by Jose Higueras, went 12-3 on har-tru clay in those three USTA challenger events. He will be making his grand slam main draw debut, and he made his ATP debut last season in Washington D.C. at the Citi Open. He’s a talent, and he has plenty of charisma but this match represents a huge step up for the teen.
Klizan won the title in Casablanca this year, and also reached the semis in Barcelona but he has suffered two straight losses, and may be rusty, or not entirely healthy going into this match. Again, the favorite should win this, but don’t sleep on Tiafoe, as Klizan has his off days, and it’s unlikely the young American, who raised by immigrant parents and came from humble roots, literally being raised at a tennis facility, will be intimidated by the stage, or the ranking of his opponent.
(12)Gilles Simon vs. (WC)Lucas Pouille
An all French affair that should delight the locals, Simon has a higher ranking, more experience, and a positive record in Paris, but he retired in his last match in Rome, and pulled out of Nice, something that may be precautionary, or could be the sign that his back injury is serious. Simon had a non-headline making, so-so clay court season, and it’s not likely he’ll be high on confidence going into his home grand slam.
Pouille by contrast is a young gun trying to make a name for himself in his third French Open main draw appearance. It feels like Pouille has been tour for a while, but unlike some of the other players who are 21 and younger like himself, he has yet to pull off either a deep run in a big tournament, or a marquee win to put himself in the papers. He has a gifted forehand that can do damage and he’s a talented ballstriker, who can bend the ball to his whims, but his fitness, and at times his shot selection is lacking, and after reaching the semis in Auckland and pushing Gael Monfils to five sets at the AO back in January, he hasn’t done much, besides an upset of Dominic Thiem in Monte Carlo. He struggled in Nice, and also found himself dismantled by Rafael Nadal in Monte Carlo, so he’s not exactly in great form, but this is still a match worth watching as you never know if Simon will lay an egg, perhaps due to back pain, though he tends to battle and find a way in slams.
This match is a poor matchup for Pouille as Simon is a human backboard who will massage the ball and likely be able to frustrate the young Frenchman and cause his game to leak errors, as it tends to due under pressure, but the injury concerns for Simon are serious, and that’s why I’m picking Pouille. He will need to be aggressive to get the win, and it’s a risk, but I’m bold enough to pick it.
Two-time, and defending French Open finalist Novak Djokovic is unlikely to drop even a set en route to the third round. Djokovic will open with struggling veteran lefty Jarkko Nieminen, who is fast on his feet, but has declined from his peak, and the Fin is also a player Novak has beaten twice before on clay. After that the winner of Gilles Muller/Paolo Lorenzi awaits, that’s a toss-up match as Muller is not a clay courter, and Lorenzi is a career journeyman, though at his best on clay. I’d go with Muller to get through, but he’s of little threat to Novak on this surface, and Djokovic beat him at the Aussie this year without dropping a set.
In the third round, I have Thanasi Kokkinakis, the Australian teenager, as Novak’s opponent, and it will still be a good showing for him to get that far on clay, though he’s unlikely to threaten Djokovic on this surface. Kokkinakis, who is perfect in ATP qualifying this year and recently won the Bordeaux challenger on clay, will open with qualifer Nikoloz Basilashvili, in the opening round. Basilashvili, the top Georgian player on the ATP tour, has been markedly improved this season and is nearing breakthrough status, but Kokkinakis is simply more talented, and he’s been getting better and better on clay, the more practice that he gets. His movement improving with his lanky frame, and his shots still solid from both wings, especially his forehand side. I feel Kokkinakis actually has more upside than the other part of the Aussie teenage tandem, Nick Kyrgios, and this tournament is likely to increase my belief on that.
Kokkinakis will need to defeat the Vanni/Tomic winner in round 2, if Tomic were to advance, he’ll have a 2-0 h2h against Thanasi with both matches coming this season, including in a competitive match in Indian Wells, but on clay things actually favor Kokkinakis style of play, as Tomic is not a good dirtballer. Vanni, who I have winning in my own bracket, is likely to be fatigued, and his slice and dice game is a good matchup for Kokkinakis, compared to Tomic’s junkballing. Look for Djokovic to reach the second week without dropping a set, and Kokkinakis to be a pleasant surprise in the opening week.
Estoril champion and 20 seed Richard Gasquet is another who could reach the second week without dropping a set. Gasquet will open with 26 year old Belgian qualifier Germain Gigounon, who qualified with relative ease and reached a challenger final on clay earlier this season, that said, Gigounon is making his slam debut, and has never even played an ATP main draw match, so not much should be expected of him. Gasquet’s second opponent will be either Carlos Berlocq, the veteran Argentine grinder, or surprise qualifier Illya Marchenko, who rarely plays on clay, and is a journeyman, but still tour through three qualifying matches. Berlocq has lost four straight matches, with two retirements mixed in, so he may not even be healthy, regardless, neither player is a threat to Gasquet’s versatile game, and the home French fans should enjoy his smooth strokes later on into the tournament.
In the third round, Gasquet is again likely to face a weak opponent, as Blaz Kavcic/Rendy Lu/Tim Smyczek/Kevin Anderson are his options. Kavcic and Lu are both poor on clay and rarely play on the surface, Kavcic having lost three straight. Smyczek is another player who is poor on clay, and Anderson has struggled this year on the surface as well though he did reach the semis in Houston. Given that Anderson is the highest ranked player here, has a 4-0 h2h with Smyczek, and is unlikely to be troubled by Lu/Kavcic, he should be Gasquet’s third round opponent with Gasquet advancing. With only a hard court h2h, Gasquet leads it 4-2.
The Dimitrov/Sock winner will face Pablo Carreno Busta/Victor Estrella in round 2, that’s a tough match as both players have been both good and bad on clay as of late. Estrella reached the final in Quito on clay, reached the third round in Barcelona with two upset wins, and was also a quarterfinalist in Munich, while Carreno reached the semis in Estoril but has been awful otherwise. Look for Estrella to win but then lose to Dimitrov in the next round, though Dimitrov could have problems through his first two matches.
In the third round, danger should continue to loom for the Bulgarian #1, as Croatian teenager Borna Coric is lurking as a sleeper pick to do well this tournament. The 2015 Dubai, and Nice semifinalist, who also reached the quarters in Estoril on clay this season, will open with American Sam Querrey, who reached the final in Houston on clay but has been in poor form since. Presuming Coric beats Querrey, which talent wise is likely if the Croatian can keep his head on straight, he should also beat the 18 seed Tommy Robredo, who has struggled to stay healthy this season and hasn’t played since Barcelona. Robredo’s career is slowing down, but he still should beat journeyman lucky loser Andrey Golubev. Coric represents a fresher and more difficult challenge, and though Robredo is a steady veteran and a five time quarterfinalist here, expectations have to be low for this French Open. I still have Dimitrov sneaking past Coric, perhaps in a five setter to reach the second week, Coric has beaten Nadal, and Murray over the past 12 months, so he doesn’t get intimidated, but Dimitrov still has more experience and should have that extra edge to get the job done.
Below that, we have the 9 time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal, who has a 66-1 record at the tournament, but has struggled this season, and seen his ranking drop him out of the top 5, and right into the world #1’s quarter of the draw. No matter his struggles this season, Nadal should have no problem blitzing past overmatched French youngster Quentin Halys, a wild card, but the second round should be more challenging, as he’s guaranteed to face a player who has beaten him before, the Almagro/Dolgopolov winner. Presuming it’s Almagro, Nadal has blown him out twice this season, including on clay, so Rafa is still likely safe to pencil in for the third round, and probably doesn’t drop a set. Dolgopolov is the more explosive opponent, but he’s harder to predict.
Nadal’s third round opponent shouldn’t be overly difficult, as it will be one of Adrian Mannarino/Jurgen Melzer/Andrey Kuznetsov/Malek Jaziri. Kuznetsov, who qualified in Monte Carlo and Geneva, could randomly reach the third round, as Jaziri is a good ball striker with awful fitness, not to mention not overly great on clay, and neither Mannarino, nor Melzer, who is long removed from his run to the semis here in 2010, is in good form. Mannarino is the weakest seed in the draw, and Melzer has done nothing this clay court season, so I have Nadal crushing Kuznetsov to reach the second week.
The Madrid, and Munich champion AndyMurray, is undefeated on clay this year (10-0), and is having his best season since back surgery, as he also reached the AO final, and the final in Miami. Thus, even though never being known as a clay court star, the Scotsman, who spent years as a junior training in Spain on clay, is actually a bit of a dark horse favorite to win the French Open. That’s a big ask, and I’ll tell you now I don’t see that happening unless carnage happens in the Djokovic/Nadal section, but he still should have a good tournament, and could reach this third RG semifinal, after earning his second one last year. Murray will open with lucky loser Facundo Arguello, a young Argentine who takes after the fiery former French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, Arguello has struggled to see his talent translate to the main tour level, so Murray is likely to give him the runaround and beat him without dropping a set. After that, Geneva finalist Joao Sousa, or Vasek Pospisil awaits the UK #1, Pospisil is poor on clay and has had a terrible season in singles, unable to find form, and Sousa should be tired, so Murray should reach round 3 without dropping a set. Murray is 5-0 against Sousa over the past three seasons, and he’s never lost a set against the Portugese #1.
In the third round, fearless, and charismatic Aussie teenager Nick Kyrgios will be looking to give Murray all he can handle, and not only get revenge for his previous h2h loss, but also score yet another top 10 win, after NK previously beat Roger Federer this season in a Madrid thriller, and Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. Kyrgios pulled out of Nice with an injury, and he’s had back problems earlier this season, but overall he continues to show improvement and he’s seeded for the first time in a slam, after reaching the quarters at the AO, and reaching his first ATP final in Estoril. Kyrgios will open against the struggling Denis Istomin, and presuming he’s fit and wins that one he will face the winner of Kyle Edmund/Stephane Robert, both of whom are qualifiers. The South African born, English resident Edmund is another young gun in the draw, while Robert is one of the oldest active players on tour at 35, and has been a journeyman all throughout his career. Edmund has been more impressive in qualifying and this season, and he could even shock Kyrgios, but NK plays his best on big stages, so I still see him getting through to the third round.
With the form Murray is in, I actually don’t think the match will be that close, likely four sets or three as a motivated Murray is 2-0 in the h2h against Kyrgios and has yet to lose a set to him, Murray truly has performed well on clay this season, and the coaching team of Amelie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman really seems to have helped him improve on the surface, as his movement, and counterpunching is finally paying dividends. He’s had success at RG before as well, which should help, and he should be fit and rested.
The Isner/Seppi winner will take on Jeremy Chardy/Michael Berrer in round 2. Presuming Isner is fit, I’m pretty comfortable picking him to reach the third round with the favorable draw that he has. Chardy is just 2-4 in his last six matches, and Berrer is a career journeyman serve and volleyer in the last year of his career. He qualified without dropping a set, and of course beat Nadal this season, so he really has had a great year by his standards, and I do in fact have him upsetting Chardy given the h2h, but Isner’s relentless serves should do him in.
In that third round, David Goffin is big John’s likely opponent. Goffin, a quarterfinalist in both Rome, and Munich hasn’t been on fire like he was last Fall, but he’s still been good enough this season to beat Filip Krajinovic his round 1 opponent who is a fringe ATP player, and then Geneva semifinalist Santiago Giraldo, who has been worse this year compared to last year, and not much should be expected of. Giraldo has a big game, while Goffin is a steady ball striker, and the slow RG courts should favor the Belgian. Goffin and Isner have never met on clay (1-1 on hard courts), and as surprising as it is, Isner’s results have been slightly better on clay this year than D Goff, thus I have him reaching the round of 16, but I could certainly be wrong about that, and it’s a tough call either way.
David Ferrer, a former French Open finalist who reached the semis in both Barcelona, and Rome this spring, should blitz through the first two rounds without dropping a set, the underachieving Lukas Lacko is his round 1 opponent, and then he’ll be eyeing Daniel Gimeno-Traver or Joao Souza on the other side of the net in round 2. Souza is on a 7 match losing streak since losing the longest Davis Cup match in history, while DGT has had a career year on clay this year, with an ATP final in Casablanca, a semi in Bucharest, and a quarterfinal in Istanbul. That said, Souza is 3-0 against DGT, no matter neither player has the game to trouble Ferrer, an he’s 3-0 against DGT, including a win this year.
I foresee Simone Bolelli as the matchup for Ferrer in the third round, Bolelli is a talented shotmaker, but he struggles to be consistent, as evidenced by his lone ATP quarterfinal on clay this spring in Bucharest. He will open with serve and volleyer Steve Darcis, who has lost three straight and may not be healthy. In round 2, Bolelli is likely to get an interesting match, as the Viktor Troicki/JL Struff clash is intriguing. Struff is a talented, but underachieving 25 year old who has a challenger semi on clay this year, and isn’t mentally strong, while Troicki snapped a four match losing streak to win two matches in Rome. VT hasn’t been on the same tear he was when he came back from a doping suspension, and in his cooled off state, Bolelli should capitalize. The h2h is 3-3, but Troicki won both their hard court meetings this season. Ferrer is 5-0 against Bolelli and beat him at the French last year, so I don’t foresee the match being that close, same goes if he were to face Troicki.
The Cilic/Haase winner is set to face James Duckworth or Andrea Arnaboldi, Arnaboldi a 27 year old Italian dirtballer, had to battle to qualify. while Duckworth has been in good form, sneaking into the quarterfinals of Nice, and also reaching a challenger semi on clay this spring. The 23 year old Aussie isn’t one you would think to win on nationality alone, but I have him beating a tired Arnaboldi, before falling to Cilic in round 2.
Vesely/Mayer or Jerzy Janowicz/Maxime Hamou await in round 3, most likely the Vesely/Mayer winner. Hamou is another young French wild card who is likely to be overwhelmed by the situation, as he barely has any experience at the top level, as he made his ATP debut in Nice just last week. Regardless, Janowicz hasn’t won a set, much less a match on clay this year (0-3), so I give him little chance against Vesely/Mayer. Cilic just beat Vesely in Madrid in straights, so he should be the favorite for the round of 16, but don’t sleep on Vesely, he could reach the second week of a slam for the first time.
Tomas Berdych has had a tremendous under the radar season and he’s earned his own quarter of the draw. The 29 year old Monte Carlo finalist, and Australian Open semifinalist, who has performed well in every single tournament he’s entered, not losing before the quarterfinals, will open with young gun Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka. Nishioka is an undersized player with fast footwork, who packs a punch on his groundstrokes given his small frame, but Berdych is likely to blast him off the court. After Nishioka, who is making his Grand Slam main draw debut, Berdych should cruise past the winner of Ivan Dodig/Radek Stepanek, a pair of formerly solid players who haven’t been the same since injuries. Stepanek is an aging serve and volleyer on a three match losing streak, while Dodig has two ATP quarterfinals, including one on clay in Istanbul, but nothing else of note this season. Berdych is close to a lock for round 3.
In that third round, Fabio Fognini is his likely opponent, the Italian headcase, who has one ATP final, and one ATP quarterfinal on clay this season (Rio and Barcelona), but has struggled against opponents not named Rafael Nadal, will open with Tatsuma Ito, a Japanese player who is poor on, and rarely plays clay. After that, we could be treated to a headcase special, as Fognini is likely to face Frenchman Benoit Paire. Paire is just 1-4 in his last five matches on clay, but he’s still done well to work his ranking back up to this level. Benwa, and his gifted backhand, will open up against qualifier Gastao Elias, a fringe ATP player from Portugal. It wouldn’t shock me at all if Elias won, but regardless, unless Fognini implodes, which is always possible, he should beat Paire/Elias to reach the third round, as he’s a better player talent wise on clay. Fognini is 2-1 against Berdych on clay, but Berdych survived a third set tiebreak and defeated him in Rome, and given his consistency in the big tournaments this year, I’d give him the edge to reach week 2.
14 seed and former RG semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a home fan favorite will open with Swedish qualifier Christian Lindell, as Sweden has two players in a Grand Slam main draw for the first time in years. Tsonga has been pedestrian with a lack of notable results since returning from injury, but he shouldn’t have any issue with Lindell who is making his grand slam main draw debut. Tsonga will then be a heavy favorite against either Dudi Sela or Mikhail Kukushkin. Sela is poor on clay and Kukushkin has lost three straight, so I don’t see Tsonga losing a set going into round 3.
Tsonga’s round 3 opponent will be either the Philipp Kohlschreiber/Go Soeda winner, or the winner of Pablo Andujar/Albert Ramos. Kohli was a finalist in Munich, and a quarterfinalist in Barcelona, while Soeda basically never plays on clay. Andujar/Ramos is an interesting match, they have played each other a ton of times and Andujar has won the last two meetings, including in Barcelona this year. Both players have ATP quarterfinals on clay this year, while Andujar has a final in Barcelona, regardless of winner, I have Kohlschreiber advancing into the third round. Tsonga has never lost Kohlschreiber (7-0), and with that matchup difference, and Tsonga have the home fans behind him, I favor him to go into the round of 16.
5 seed Kei Nishikori, a semifinalist in Madrid, and champion in Barcelona, will open with French veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu, who should be calling it a career soon. The 33 year old is back to being a challenger, and fringe ATP player, ranked outside of the top 100, though he used to be quite solid. After a win over PHM, Nishikori should run into the in-form, but likely fatigued Thomaz Bellucci. Bellucci won the title in Geneva, and his first round opponent Marinko Matosevic is in awful form (8 straight losses). Bellucci also qualified in Madrid, and Rome, and reached the quarterfinals in Istanbul. I’d worry about Nishikori against the big hitting Bellucci, but I feel the fatigue factor, and the fact Bellucci, who took a set off of Djokovic in Rome, tends to choke under pressure, gives Nishikori enough of an advantage to get him to round 3, perhaps with difficulty.
32 seed Fernando Verdasco should be the challenge for Nishikori/Bellucci in round 3. Verdasco will open with qualifier Taro Daniel, the fifth Japanese player in the draw (Nishikori, Soeda, Ito, and Nishioka are the others). Daniel, who trains and makes his home in Spain, plays his best on clay, and he has one ATP quarterfinal on clay, this will be his second Grand Slam main draw. Verdasco, and his huge forehand, will face the winner of Benjamin Becker/Ruben Bemelmans, after defeating the lanky Daniel. Bemelmans isn’t in great form, but Becker’s form is even worse, as he has lost six straight matches, and the veteran is not good on clay, thus I have Bemelmans winning, and then losing to Verdasco. Nando was a semifinalist in Houston but hasn’t done much else this clay season, thus Nishikori should advance, perhaps again with trouble, they battled it out in Indian Wells this year and Kei was the winner.
The 11 seed Feliciano Lopez is a poor 4-5 this spring on clay, and given all of his losses are pretty bad, expectations have to be low coming into the French for him. He will open with Teymuraz Gabashvili, who is a remarkable 14-2 over his last few tournaments. Most of those wins were in qualifying or on the challenger tour, but that’s still an impressive record, as he won two challengers in a row. Lopez is 2-0 against Gabashvili, but those matches were on a hard court, and with Gabashvili getting a bit of rest, I’m actually calling an upset, and putting him through over Flopez into round 2. The winner of Juan Monaco/Federico Delbonis awaits in what will be an all-Argentine encounter. Delbonis has a h2h win over Monaco on clay, and he has an ATP semi in Geneva, and a challenger title on the surface this spring. Monaco was a quarterfinalist in both Miami and Nice. Given his experience, I’m giving Monaco the edge by a hair. Monaco has two previous wins against Gabashvili, including a three setter this year in Indian Wells, so I have the loveable Pico into the third round.
19 seed Roberto Bautista Agut is the player most likely to face Monaco/Delbonis/Gabashvili/Lopez, in that open third round section. RBA opens with Florian Mayer, who is just 2-5 since coming back to the tour from injury. The Spaniard reached the Munich semis and the Barcelona quarters, and I also favor him to defeat Rosol/Ymer. RBA has a h2h win last season against Rosol on clay. I favor RBA to reach the round of 16, no matter who his third round opponent is, and it’s RBA/Monaco in my bracket.
The 2009 Roland Garros champion, and the only player besides Nadal with over 60 wins in Paris, is Roger Federer, the Swiss legend and #2 seed will face lucky loser Alejandro Falla in round 1. He has beaten Falla twice before in Paris, and he didn’t lose a set in those matches (overall 7-0 h2h). Federer won Istanbul, and was a finalist in Rome, so it’s unlikely that he’ll have any issue against Falla or his next opponent, which will be Marcel Granollers or Matthias Bachinger. Bachinger, a journeyman, has qualified for both slams this season with ease, but he’s 0-3 against Granollers who is 4-3 in his last seven matches, after being abysmal prior to that. Federer is 3-0 against Granollers and has only lost 1 set to him, so I honestly see the Swiss maestro reaching round 3 without dropping a set.
Federer’s third round opponent should be quite easy, as he got a great early draw. Both Ivo Karlovic and Marcos Baghdatis are poor on clay, and have lost two straight matches, Baghdatis has a h2h edge over Dr. Ivo, so I have him reaching round 2. Veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny has been awful this season and is 3-5 on clay, retirement looms for him and Casablanca semifinalist Damir Dzumhur, a 23 year old, will look to aid in Youzhny being pushed out to pasture. I have Dzumhur beating both Youzhny and Baghdatis to surprisingly reach the third round in a very weak section of the draw. His form has slightly been superior, and he has the talent to pull it off. Federer should demolish him though.
13 seed Gael Monfils, a former semifinalist in Paris, and a fan favorite, will take on Edouard Roger-Vasselin. ERV has lost three straight, and he’s poor on clay, while Monfils was a semifinalist in both Monte Carlo, and Bucharest. Presuming Gael is heathy, which is always a question mark, he should beat ERV and the Diego Schwartzman/Andreas Haider-Maurer winner in round 2 to reach the third round. DSS/AHM is an interesting first round match that just missed my cut for matches to watch, mostly because AHM has lost three straight after previously reaching an ATP semi (Rio) and quarterfinal (Casablanca) on clay, and winning two matches in Monte Carlo. Istanbul semifinalist Schwartzman, who retired in his last match in Rome, and is a rising young gun, who has a steady compact game built for clay, should win that matchup, before falling to Monfils. DSS is promising, but I don’t think he has the weapons in his arsenal to beat the speedy and defensively sound Monfils.
A big second round match is likely to take place between Dominic Thiem, and 21 seed Pablo Cuevas. Thiem won the title in Nice, thus fatigue might play a factor in his performance, but he’s still likely to defeat Aljaz Bedene in round 1. Bedene did win the Rome challenger on clay, and reached a quarterfinal in Casablanca on the surface, so he’s improving, but likely not up to Thiem’s level. Thiem is 8-2 since struggling in the early part of the clay court season, as he seems to has found his rhythm, and his fitness right when he needed to do so for Paris. Cuevas won an ATP title in Sao Paulo on clay this year, and has two quarterfinals and a final, that one coming in Istanbul, on the surface in 2015. His form has been up and down, but credit to him for building up his ranking into a seed worthy player, and though he’s unlikely to threaten the top names, he’s a reliable dirtballer. Thiem and Cuevas hae never met, but with Thiem likely to be fatigued, I have Cuevas reaching the third round to face off with Monfils, Thiem is the flashier pick but Cuevas deserves his due, and Thiem has been hard to trust this season. A healthy Monfils should be favored other Thiem or Cuevas to reach the round of 16.
8 seed Stan Wawrinka will open with Turkish #1 Marsel Ilhan, Wawrinka has had a very shaky 2015 and is just 6-4 on clay this year. He comes off a bad loss to Delbonis in Geneva, a home tournament, and his only good result on clay this year was the semifinals in Rome, where he got routed by Federer, after beating Nadal. No matter the reasons for his struggles in 2015, I’m bearish on his chances in Paris, but not in his first two matches, as Ilhan and either Dusan Lajovic or Maximo Gonzalez are not difficult opponents who have the game to beat Stan the man. Lajovic was a quarterfinalist in Nice, while Gonzalez has lost three straight matches. Wawrinka really shouldn’t drop a set going in the first two rounds, but with his current poor form, he may do that.
In the third round, Wawrinka could face the opponent that shocked him in Paris last year, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The all-court, multi tool Spaniard, who has two ATP titles this year, one coming on clay, along with a semifinal in Estoril, as he has put together a solid campaign thus far, will open with American Steve Johnson. Johnson is a respectable 3-5 on clay this spring, and he’s improving on the surface, but I give him little chance against an experienced dirtballer like GGL. GGL should likewise breeze past a player who isn’t comfortable on clay in round 2, either Sergiy Stakhovsky or Ricardas Berankis. Stako has lost two straight, and is 0-3 in the h2h against Rycka, but Berankis has lost three straight and been in terrible form for a couple of months now. I have GGL over Stako for a spot in the third round in my bracket.
Wawrinka has had the edge over GGL on other surfaces, but on clay their h2h is an even 3-3, and GGL has won two of their last three meetings. Wawrinka showed no signs of improvement in Geneva, and the Rome win over Nadal feels more like an aberration than anything else, to me the writing is on the wall that he’s going to struggle here, and I have GGL booting him out again for a spot in the round of 16, this would also avenge GGL’s loss to Wawrinka the AO this January.
Pouille/Simon will take on Tiafoe/Klizan in round 2, As mentioned up at the top of the preview, I have Pouille upsetting Simon, and then Klizan edging Tiafoe, setting up that second rounder. If Simon is healthy enough, he should be fine to reach round 3, and I don’t trust Klizan’s health either, while Tiafoe and Pouille lack experience. I have Pouille making a shock run to round 3 in my bracket, but this is the hardest section to pick in my mind, with Simon and Klizan having question marks.
This is by far the worst section of the draw, as just above it, the seed is Ernests Gulbis, who only has two wins this season and a bunch of losses, he defends semifinal points, and will open with qualifier Igor Sijsling, who broke a six match losing streak to qualify, and is a known choker. Gulbis could well crash and burn, but I don’t see Sijsling beating him honestly, and thus I have him into round 2 against the winner of Nicolas Mahut/Kimmer Coppejans. Coppejans is a promising 21 year old Belgian, while Mahut is 33, outside the top 100, and nearly retired. The serve and volleyer isn’t at his best on clay, and he has two straight losses. Coppejans recently won a title, and reached a final on clay at the challenger level and was strong in qualifying.
I have Coppejans defeating Mahut, and then upsetting Gulbis to reach round 3, it’s a risky pick, and Coppejans hasn’t blossomed as much as he could results wise, though he has the skills, because his mental fortitude is lacking, but I’m giving the young Belgian his due here, in such a weak section. I have Coppejans beating Pouille to reach the round of 16 as a qualifier, because he has a h2h win against him on clay, and his recent form has been slightly better, either way I give Pouille/Coppejans/Tiafoe a better shot at reaching the second week than the seed Gulbis. Given that he was a semifinalist last year, that’s shocking, but it demonstrates how far he’s fallen, and the young guns are rising.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Borna Coric, Jiri Vesely, Thomaz Bellucci, Kimmer Coppejans/Lucas Pouille
Coric will need to rise up and find the form that pushed him to semifinal runs in Basel and Dubai, but his run to the semis in Nice shows form and promise, and Dimitrov has been shown to be beatable this season. if Grisha slips up look for Coric to seize the day and reach the second week to do battle with Rafa, who he of course has beaten before.
Vesely will have a tricky path to week 2, as he will need to defeat Mayer, and probably Cilic, but when he’s in-form he’s a great player and he can pull that off, it’s really just a matter of which Jiri shows up. Don’t count him out for the round of 16.
Bellucci has been in tremendous form in recent weeks, fatigue could play a factor, as will mentality, but if he keeps the mojo flowing, and battles past Nishikori he could go as far as the quarterfinals. It’s not likely, but he has perhaps the most range, in terms of result, of any of the non-seeded players.
I see Coppejans or Pouille reaching the second week in a weak section, would be a career result for either player, the section is theirs for the taking, depending on which one players their best. Pouille is the slightly better aggressor, while Coppejans is more defensively sound.
Week 1 Predictions (round of 16 matchups)
Djokovic d. Gasquet in 3 Nadal d. Dimitrov in 3
Djokovic dominates the h2h against Gasquet and has two wins on clay against him, I see no reason why he won’t reach the quarterfinals, and he probably doesn’t drop a set in the process. Nadal is 6-0 against Dimitrov with 3 wins on clay, and he just beat him in Madrid in routine fashion. This is Nadal at the French, and Dimitrov has not looked like a star this year, so again Rafa could reach the quarters without dropping a set.
Murray d. Isner in 3 Ferrer d. Cilic in 4
Murray is 4-0 against Isner, including a big Davis Cup win this year, this is also clay, and Murray has a great return game, so given form and matchup, Murray in 3 or 4 sets is a safe pick. Ferrer and Cilic have a split h2h on clay, but Ferrer has been in way better form this season, so he should reach the quarters, and I believe he would beat Cilic in 3 or 4 sets.
Nishikori d. Bautista Agut in 3 Berdych d. Tsonga in 3
Nishikori has beaten RBA twice this season on clay, and three times overall, if he gets this far, I don’t see him losing before the quarterfinals as it’s a bad matchup for the Spaniard. Berdych is 7-2 against Tsonga, and just beat him in Madrid on clay, these players have been entirely divergent in terms of form in 2015, and Berdych has been strong for players the caliber that Tsonga is at right now.
Garcia-Lopez d. Coppejans in 3 Federer d. Monfils in 5
GGL or Wawrinka should simply be superior to any player that gets out of the section below them, thus it’s a great shot a slam quarterfinal for Garcia-Lopez. Monfils upset Federer in Monte Carlo and has beaten him the past two times on clay without dropping a set, that said, Federer has won both of their matches at Roland Garros, and in a best of 5 format in a Grand Slam, I give him the edge for experience alone. I don’t feel Monfils can maintain his focus and consistency long enough to win a match like that, and will give up a break in the end to put Federer through.
Picking the rest of the way
Djokovic d. Nadal in 4
The final before the final will happen in the top half men’s quarterfinal if Nadal and Djokovic meet as expected. The debate since the clay court season began in earnest in Monte Carlo has been swirling as to whether Rafa or Novak would win a best of 5 match this year at Roland Garros. Djokovic beat Nadal rather routinely in Monte Carlo, a venue that Rafa has an amazing record at, and he has won two of their last three meetings on clay. That said Nadal is 6-0 at the French Open against Novak, and he’s only been pushed to five sets one time (The 2013 semifinals). Many have said that Nadal is simply a different beast at RG, and no matter his form, or how well Novak is playing, there is a mental and surface factor that will always give Nadal an edge when they meet on Chatrier.
I’m apt to disagree, as the Rafa of late 2014/2015 has been a totally different beast, a neutered beast compared to his previous self, including on clay. He has look abysmal and lost at times on the surface this year, and it’s not that his opponents have just outplayed him, it’s that he’s beaten himself, spewing errors, and lacking confidence and consistency. He showed flashes of brilliance in Monte Carlo against Novak but he couldn’t maintain that level and the defensive skills, returning and pushing of Djokovic proved too much for him. Novak has been a total machine this year, especially when it’s mattered against the big four, and late in tournaments. I have a feeling that the world #1 is unstoppable right now, and he should be rested and motivated. If he is ever to win Roland Garros, this is his time with Nadal clearly limping into the tournament and out of the top 5. This matchup is relatively even and both guys know each other well, but the form of Novak, and his tenacity should be able to edge out Rafa, and I don’t even think it will be that close, as I have Novak winning in four sets. Soderling was the only one to beat Nadal at RG, but I don’t see it staying that way this year. Djokovic has been better able to handle intense pressure in recent months, than Nadal has, and I feel the Spaniard is under more pressure with his ranking under the threat of collapse, than Djokovic is right now, given that he’s dominating the fast surfaces and winning almost every tournament that he enters, along with baffling his other rivals Federer and Murray.
Murray d. Ferrer in 4
Murray is 0-4 against Ferrer on clay, so this would be another pick that would buck the head to head trend, but again, Murray has been in excellent form as of late, and he’s performed very well in the big tournaments. He seems to be swinging freely, he’s healthy, and also in excellent spirits with his new marriage and all. Ferrer is a solid player, but against top players, his approach is more to grind and let them beat themselves, as he lacks the weapons to outright win against a big four player. Murray has reached the semis twice before, and I don’t see reason why he won’t do so for a third time this year. His clay court game seems to finally be blossoming as he beat Nishikori and Nadal on the surface in Madrid.
Berdych d. Nishikori in 5
Nishikori is 3-1 against Berdych, but Tomas won their only match on clay (Monte Carlo 2012), additionally, Berdych has not lost to a player outside of the big four except to Wawrinka in Rotterdam, he’s been incredibly reliable this year, almost machinelike, and Kei is good on clay, and he’s been fine, but he hasn’t been up to that same level, my perception is Berdych has an extra gear right now that will push him through in this battle.
Federer d. Garcia-Lopez in 3
Federer is 3-0 against GGL, and I see no reason why the Federer/Monfils winner won’t reach the quarters, even if Wawrinka gets this far, he was awful against Federer in Rome, so regardless this should be perhaps the most routine quarterfinal, as all of the quarterfinals look promising this year.
Djokovic d. Murray in 4
Federer d. Berdych in 3
Djokovic is 2-0 against Murray on clay, and hasn’t lost to him since he had back surgery, they have met three times this year, all on hard courts and the set score was 7-2, given this is clay, if Novak gets this far, I don’t see a way he loses to Murray unless Nadal simply puts him in a wheelchair in a quarterfinal grindfest. If it’s Nadal that gets to this point, I’d actually give Murray a decent chance at reaching the final, but against Djokovic, even as a Murray fan, I have no belief that he can win right now.
Federer has thrashed Berdych twice this year without dropping a set including in Rome on clay. Federer is 4-0 against Tomas on clay, and has only lost a set to him, and that was on fast and slippery blue clay in Madrid. Berdych has been excellent and tenacious against non-big four players this season, but he’s been toothless against the games elite, and I don’t see that changing here, it’s a mental block more than anything else as to why.
Djokovic d. Federer in 4
Djokovic just routined Federer in Rome, and he’s won three of their last four meetings on clay, in a best of 5 set format, Djokovic, because of his superior stamina, especially on clay where it will be harder for the older Federer to shorten points, has the advantage these days. Federer can’t be written off, but Djokovic is more likely to win his first French Open, than Federer is to win his second. He’s the oddsmakers favorite, and I’m going with Djokovic to win the 2015 French Open, if he wins it this time, it will be a well deserved and well earned victory.
What a long day once again! As tennis was played at Roland Garros for over 12 hours on court from 10 am to 9.30 pm when last match was suspended due to darkness.
I will begin by discussing a match played at the end of the day: Andrea Arnaboldi – Pierre-Hugues Herbert has been (and still is!) a pretty epic match. Arnaboldi started playing great attacking tennis (*5-2 up), I left on 6-4 and it was clear that the Frenchman had stepped up his level. I came back later on 5-5 third set and players kept holding quite easily. Arnaboldi missed a really feasible passing shot when he had the one and only match point. Match will be resumed tomorrow from 15-14 Arnaboldi.
I didn’t watch many other men’s matches, just the end of Norbert Gombos-Yoshihito Nishioka (The Japanese saved 2 mps, the second one with an incredible dropshot, and after that Gombos lost his compsure, and the match in abrupt fashion), and the third set of Radu Albot- Liam Broady with the Moldavian being more consistent and pulling out a win. I also caught the the end of Aleksandr Nedovyesov-Yuki Bhambri, as Bhambri won again, forcing his opponent to play too many risky shots.
Nishioka d. Gombos 2-6 6-2 8-6 Albot d. Broady 6-7 7-6 6-2 Bhambri d. Nedovyesov 6-3 3-6 9-7
Luca Vanni against Thomas Fabbiano was a strange match, until the beginning of second set Fabbiano looked like he would bet the winner, but then some clouds helped Vanni, because without the sun he looked fresher, and started playing more aggressive. Fabbiano was just defending and Vanni had an easy time winning the match from a set down.
I don’t follow WTA that much but I know women’s tennis is famous for being full of drama, and today we had at least two epic matches.
First one was Michelle Larcher De Brito against Clothilde De Bernardi. I admit that I went to this match just because some Portuguese fans asked me on Twitter. To my pleasant surprise it was a great match with both players hitting hard and looking for winners! I didn’t expect De Bernardi being so good and I thought she was done when she went from *2-1 40-15 to 2-4 during third set. The great support fo the public helped the Frenchwoman who refused to give up and managed to go *5-4 up when it started raining. Larcher De Brito was desperate for the De Bernardi comeback and started crying, asking the umpire to stop the match for the rain. The umpire rejected her request and a few seconds later the Portuguese woman was crying again but going off the court.
De Bernardi d. De Brito 4-6 6-2 6-4
Out of focus but I love this pic. That commiserating look could have been mine. Sad to watch girls crying on court pic.twitter.com/SM8rvbGPLE
Kania obviously won and here is a short video that shows how that happened
Kania d. Kudryavtseva 7-5 6-4
Earlier I watched Anett Kontaveit against Kat Stewart and I have to say I was very very impressed by the Estonian Kontaveit. She has stunning power and Stewart was outplayed there. When I was on the stands I heard a guy telling to Kontaveit’s coach “It’s over” on 6-3 3-0, the coach replied “Never say that!”. That was pure jinxing because Stewart fought and came back but Kontaveit managed to win the second set tiebreak.
I watched also first set of the 16 yo Tessah Andrianjafitrimo and the girl has been quite impressive: short and with a pretty weak serve but she moves very well and from baseline is dangerous. Surely one to watch in the future, she beat Patricia Mayr-Achleitner in straights.
Quick impressions also in regards to Nastassja Burnett (outpowered Lin Zhu), Elizaveta Kulichkova (far from being impressive against Yi-Fan Xu), and Naomi Broady (great performance on serve against Cagla Buyukakcay).
Burnett d. Zhu 6-2 6-1
Kulichkova d. Xu 6-2 6-2 Broady d. Buyukakcay 6-1 7-6
I watched the second set of Veronica Cepede Royg-CiCi Bellis and that set was surprisingly a bagel. Bellis didn’t play bad tennis at all but on clay she didn’t manage to find a way to hit through the short girl from Paraguay. Cepede Royg played an excellent match, perfect from baseline.
My first day ever at Roland Garros. My first day ever at a Slam. A dream come true for a tennis fanatic like me.
The weather forecast was poor, and in fact we had a lot of showers that due to high winds, blew over relatively quickly.
I had some personal favorites to watch and none of them disappointed me: win or lose if you give everything on court and you are nice with fans at the end of the match you will have my appreciation.
The most expected match of the day was probably Hyeon Chung-Jared Donaldson and the American young gun trashed his opponent. It has to be said that Chung was probably tired and surely not enough trained on clay but Donaldson played a superb attacking tennis. I think I watched the match near to Chung’s father, a Korean man dressed with a suit cheering for him (today was Chung’s birthday). Donaldson d. Chung 6-0 6-1
I was looking forward to watch the talent of Lamine Ouahab and he didn’t disappoint me: from the very first games firing sick winners and untouchable dropshots. He was up a break in the third set against the Colombian veteran Alejandro Falla, and missed by 2 centimetres a break point for *4-1 then he collapsed due to tiredness: in last game he only served and volleyed. Falla d. Ouahab 6-3 3-6 7-5
On the same court Taro Daniel and Dustin Brown played an intense match with Dreddy playing his usual great to watch no margin tennis and Daniel being very solid from baseline, in the end also here the more consistent player, Daniel, won the match. Daniel d. Brown 6-3 5-7 7-5
Filippo Volandri and Alex Zverev won both a first set tiebreak and an easy second set but at least Austin Krajicek fought until the en against Volandri, an Italian veteran, while Horacio Zeballos tanked especially the last game serving on 6-7 0-5. The Argentinean ripped his T-shirt on 6-7 0-4 and kept on playing without changing it. Zverev d. Zeballos 7-6 6-0, Volandri d. Krajicek 7-6 6-1
I was curious to watch the 16 year old Corentin Moutet as I had a good impression from him last year during an Under 18 ITF event in Italy and he performed quite well in last months ITF Pro Tour. He disappointed me because he played with very childish attitude, complaining with himself after every point and was on the verge of crying. He even got a penalty point after he destroyed his racquet. His tennis is quite good considering his age but the attitude is surely to be improved. Michael Berrer d. Moutet 6-2 6-2
The most epic match of the day was Luca Vanni- Adrian Ungur. I watched the first games and Vanni was playing extremely well as he went two breaks up. He won the first set and I came back for the second set tiebreak where he played horrible tennis from 3-3. The third set was full of drama. The rain stopped the match a couple of times and both players could not convert easy chances with opponent serving 15-30. Until the first rain break I would have picked Ungur to win the match as Vanni looked quite fatigued but especially after the second break Vanni played very aggressive. Ungur lost the match because he framed 3 shots when serving 40-15 on 14-15. The players were cordial towards each other on court, trusting each other on calls and applauding the great shots of their opponent. The funniest moment of the day was when Vanni served on 6-6 third set, he won the point and he went for return: he thought he was 1-0* up in the final tiebreak but was just 15-0 because at RG they don’t have final set tiebreak and he didn’t know. Everyone laughed. Vanni d. Ungur 6-4 6-7 16-14
I watched the end of the match between Luke Saville and Farrukh Dustov with Australian players close to me (Daria Gavrilova and Thanasi Kokkinakis): was amazing to see them cheering so much…and they helped! Saville managed to win from break down in third set. Saville d. Dustov 3-6 7-6 6-4
I am from Italy and I have to say a lot of Italians played solid matches today: Volandri, Thomas Fabbiano, Marco Cecchinato, Matteo Viola, Andrea Arnaboldi…just Roberto Marcora lost to Elias Ymer who is a great young talent and played an aggressive match.
Another possible epic match was Mathias Bourgue against Brydan Klein but when I arrived on 7-7 third set Bourgue failed to convert two break points and after that Bourgue started cramping and Klein held and broke for the match. Klein d. Bourgue 3-6 6-2 9-7
Award for loudest cheering of the day is for Constant Lestienne’s fans: I didn’t manage to watch a single point of that manage but I could hear his fans from every court.
I loved every single moment there (well, apart from the 10 euros hotdog menu!) and I can’t wait to go again tomorrow.
2015 Roland Garros Men’s Qualifying Preview and Predictions Chris de Waard, Tennis Atlantic
The start of the Roland Garros men’s main draw is nearing, but first we will have 128 players competing in the qualifying draw, who will be battling it out for sixteen coveted spots in that main draw.
2015 RG Men’s Qualies Predictions
Top 16 seeds (of 32 total)
1: Hyeon Chung
2: Alexander Zverev
3: Facundo Bagnis
4: Blaz Rola
5: Dustin Brown
6: Luca Vanni
7: Norbert Gombos
8: James Ward
9: Alejandro Gonzalez
10: Kimmer Coppejans
11: Alejandro Falla
12: Adrian Menendez-Maceiras
13: Guido Pella
14: Aleksandr Nedovyesov
15: Tobias Kamke
16: Austin Krajicek
First round match-ups to watch:
(4) Blaz Rola – Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo
Ramirez Hidalgo is 37, but has only improved since the start of this year. Almost out of the top 250 in February, he now is ranked inside of the top 200 again after two semi-finals and two quarterfinals on the Challenger circuit. He is also exactly the type of player Rola might struggle with at this moment. Rola is coming off bad losses against world #515 Rogerio Dutra Silva and #250 Giovanni Lapentti in his last two tournaments.
This is the biggest chance of one of the highest seeds getting knocked out. Brown has been struggling the entire year, first one the main tour and recently even at the Challengers. Daniel knew a rocky start to the year, changing his schedule in an attempt to become more capable on hardcourts, but ever since switching back to clay his results have improved, with the highlight being his title at Vercelli last month.
(11) Alejandro Falla – Lamine Ouahab
Ouahab very nearly made the cut and it will be interesting to see how he will perform here. He is obviously infamous for only bringing his best tennis when he plays in Morocco, repeating that this year with three Futures titles, a Challenger title and a quarterfinal at the ATP 250 of Casablanca, where he beat world #24 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the second round.
(14) Aleksandr Nedovyesov – Yuki Bhambri
An unfortunate draw for Nedovyesov, drawing a Bhambri who is arguably playing the best tennis of his career, after struggling with injury for a long time. Bhambri comes off a clay final in Samarkand, where he lost to Teymuraz Gabashvili.
Edmund has shown good consistency on clay in recent times, reaching three Challenger quarterfinals in a row, but it’s clear that it’s not his best surface. This is not the case for Melzer, who just comes off a dream run at the ATP 250 event of Munich, where he beat #42 Pablo Andujar (by retirement), #44 Dominic Thiem and took a set off #26 Philipp Kohlschreiber in the semi-final.
18-year-old top seed Hyeon Chung is currently ranked #69 and came into the qualifying event after missing the entry deadline due to a misunderstanding from the Korean tennis association, with the Roland Garros organization making a very unique exception in handing him a wildcard. Naturally, Chung is the big favorite to qualify, with perhaps Nikoloz Basilashvili being the only player that can threaten him on a good day.
The second section knows a similarly big favorite in Alexander Zverev, also 18. Up until recently this might not have been the case due to Zverev’s results being seriously lacking, but recently he has really picked up his game. This saw him winning the Heilbronn Challenger and entering the top 100 last week. He faces Horacio Zeballos in the first round, who is a shadow of his former self and lost 6-4 6-2 to Zverev in the first round last week. The other players in this section don’t have clay as their favorite surface and perhaps Marius Copil is the only one who can threaten Zverev, in the final qualifying round.
Third seed Facundo Bagnis has been playing on green clay in the United States in the lead-up to Roland Garros, with very mixed results. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him go out against one of Renzo Olivo, Andrea Arnaboldi or Denis Kudla in the final qualifying round. Arnaboldi and Kudla face off in a very interesting first round clash, in which Arnaboldi has to be marked the slight favorite, despite Kudla being the seeded player (#30).
The fourth quarter is a highly interesting one, with a bunch of players who could go through. As said, Rola and Ramirez Hidalgo face off in the first round, but Roberto Carballes Baena, Elias Ymer and Thiemo de Bakker are placed in this section as well and might be more likely than fourth seed Rola to go through, with De Bakker coming off a final in Bordeaux last week. Although the Dutchman is highly inconsistent and might well return to mediocrity this week. Carballes Baena plays Peter Gojowczyk in the first round, but the German is just coming back from a lengthy injury lay-off and it’s far from certain if he is healthy enough to be a factor here. Carballes Baena might just have the consistent game to come through this section.
To qualify from this quarter: (1) Chung, (2) Zverev, Arnaboldi and Carballes Baena
As mentioned, fifth seed Brown has a horror draw against Daniel, with the Japanese clay court specialist actually being the slight favorite in their match. The main draw spot will highly likely be reached by someone in the top section, with Marton Fucsovics also being in the mix. The bottom section is headed by Michal Przysiezny and is unlikely to produce someone who can threaten the three candidates from the top half.
Sixth seed Luca Vanni has been one of the revelations this season, making a breakthrough out of virtually nowhere at Sao Paulo, where he reached the final and almost took down the title, but eventually fell to Pablo Cuevas after a long battle. He has a tricky opening round against Adrian Ungur, but should come through and reach the main draw after beating the highly unpredictable Andrey Golubev in the final qualifying round.
Seventh seed Norbert Gombos heads a section that could go either way. Outside of him, Yoshihito Nishioka and Guilherme Clezar all have a fair shot at qualifying as well. #23 seed Farrukh Dustov is in atrocious form at the moment and is unlikely to play a role. Given that Gombos and Clezar aren’t in the best form of their lives either, this might be a golden opportunity for 19-year-old Nishioka to come through.
The eighth section is very hard to predict, with a wide variety of players having a shot at going through. James Ward and James McGee don’t have clay as their best surface, with with highly unpredictable players like Christian Lindell, Christian Garin and Daniel Munoz-De La Nava being their competition, being solid might just prove to be enough.
To qualify from this quarter: Daniel, (6) Vanni, Nishioka and (28) Munoz-De La Nava
Ninth seed Alejandro Gonzalez heads this section, but he comes off a demolition job in the first qualifying round of Rome, where he lost 6-2 6-0 to Thomaz Bellucci. The other seed here, Albert Montanes, seems to be heading towards retirement, which makes this an interesting opportunity for Andre Ghem or Antonio Veic, who face off in the first round. With Ghem being the more consistent of the two, this might be a golden opportunity for the 32-year-old to qualify for his first Roland Garros, although Gonzalez will still be the favorite to go through.
Tenth seed Kimmer Coppejans is hard to ignore in the next section, playing the tennis of his life. Last month he reached two Challenger finals on clay, winning one of them and it’s unlikely that anyone in his section will trouble him. Radu Albot might come close, but he is more at home on hardcourts.
As mentioned, eleventh seed Alejandro Falla faces off against cult hero Lamine Ouahab in the first round. If we pretend that Ouahab is a normal player this is a draw from heaven for him, if he beats Falla he is projected to play Niels Desein/Maxime Authom and Rui Machado/Alexander Kudryavtsev, but since Roland Garros isn’t played in Morocco it’s just as likely he will lose 6-2 6-2 to Falla. Nevertheless, given that this section has no other stand-out favorite, I might as well let my hopes guide me and predict him to go through.
Closing this quarter is a section headed by Adrian Menendez-Maceiras, the 29-year-old Spaniard who is making an unexpected rise and is playing the tennis of his life, nearing the top 100. Based on recent form I have to go with Gerald Melzer, however, who is also a lot more at home on clay than Menendez-Maceiras. Nicolas Jarry, Potito Starace and Kyle Edmund are dangerous outsiders in this section.
To qualify from this quarter: (9) Gonzalez, (10) Coppejans, Ouahab and Melzer
Thirteenth seed Guido Pella has been in more than excellent form, taking down titles in San Luis Potosi and Sao Paulo, plus reaching a final and semi-final in Heilbronn and Santos, making him the big favorite to advance from this section. Pella has an interesting rivalry with Facundo Arguello, the other seed here and the only one who could potentially threaten him, with their head to head being 3-3. They have met twice this year, remarkably with Pella taking the first meeting 6-4 6-3 and Arguello the second one 6-2 6-3. Nevertheless, Pella should be marked the favorite.
The next section might go between two unseeded players, Yuki Bhambri and Jason Kubler, with Bhambri having the edge. Bhambri is severely underranked after coming back from injury, which he showed by reaching the Samarkand final last week. He is a favorite against fourteenth seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov in the first round and against the other players in this section as well, which includes Jurgen Zopp and Matthias Bachinger.
Fifteenth seed Tobias Kamke heads the by far weakest section of this draw, which also includes Evgeny Donskoy, Iliya Marchenko and Somdev Devvarman. Not only is Kamke on an eleven-match losing streak, none of the other players is strong on clay. Normally Pere Riba would be the favorite here, but he hasn’t played all year due to injury and is far from certain to be match fit. No matter who goes through, he will likely be a very easy opponent in the first round of the main draw.
The final section should be a prey for Marco Cecchinato, who won the Turin Challenger two weeks ago and is in excellent form. He has a very favorable draw against players who don’t favor clay, with the only competition perhaps coming in the final qualifying round, where he is projected to face Austin Krajicek or Filippo Volandri, both of whom will be a solid underdog against Cecchinato.
2015 ATP Rome Preview, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
After the excitement of the Madrid Masters, the ATP heads to the third and final Masters event of the clay court season in Rome, where the intimate venue tends to create late night drama and bring out passionate fan support. This clay court season continues to be one of the most wide open in years, with multiple top players in feasible contention for the title going into this tournament.
2015 ATP Rome Preview
Internazionali BNL d’Italia
ATP World Tour Masters 1000*
May 10-May 17, 2015
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: Andy Murray (3)
4: Rafael Nadal (4)
5: Kei Nishikori (5)
6: Tomas Berdych (7)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Stan Wawrinka (9)
Milos Raonic pulled out but Djokovic is back in action, in terms of other names missing from the top 20, Tommy Robredo (injury), and Gael Monfils are both missing in action. Other players missing include Fernando Verdasco, and Italy’s Andreas Seppi.
The Italian wild card Vanni is unlikely to win over the much more accomplished Almagro, but he has a better chance than people are predicting. The slice and dicer on clay reached his first career ATP final at 29 in Sao Paulo, and he’s followed that up well as he qualified in Madrid, and then upset Bernard Tomic before falling in round 2 of the main draw. Vanni hits a lot of slice and has variety in his game, but not much power, and he’s on track to reach the top 100 and be able to compete at the ATP level on a regular basis. Almagro is still working back from injury problems and he comes off a round 1 loss in Madrid, though he has reached a pair of clay quarterfinals this Spring (Casablanca and Estoril). His power is likely to overwhelm Vanni matchup wise, but you never know if Vanni can work him into errors.
(11)Feliciano Lopez vs. Nick Kyrgios
With Lopez’s struggles on clay continuing unabated, Kyrgios is the favorite to score yet another top 15 win. The Aussie young gun is regularly battling hard against the ATP’s best these days, as he shocked Roger Federer in a Madrid thriller before falling in he round of 16. Prior to that, he reached the final in Estoril, his first on the ATP tour. It’s also notable he’s doing this on clay, which is his worst surface (likewise for Lopez). At this point it’s clear NK has arrived, and he’s earned the respect that a top player deserves, his rapid rise should continue with a win here as Lopez hasn’t won consecutive matches since March, he’s also one of the easier seeds to face on clay.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
An intriguing matchup of unpredictable players, the heavy hitting Cilic has yet to return to the form that saw him reach top 10 status, while Garcia-Lopez is having the best year of his career, while at the same time being inconsistent from week to week, as you never really know what you are going to get with him. The h2h is an even 1-1 and this is their first meeting on clay. The style contrast will be a joy as GGL brings variety and Cilic brings brute force. GGL won Bucharest and reached the Semis in Estoril, but lost early in both Casablanca and Madrid. Cilic reached the quarters in Monte Carlo but is just 1-2 since then, as the pressure is starting to build on the Croat if he is to keep his ranking up. This is another 50/50 match, but I’m going with Garcia-Lopez in an upset, he should be rested by now and appears to be playing better.
A quality matchup featuring clean ballstrikers, both have been in erratic form this season, but have the ability to play some of their tennis on clay. Thiem comes off the quarters in Munich but he’s just 2-3 on red clay this year, with 3 bad losses to lower ranked opponents. Bolelli, who reached the quarters in Bucharest, won a pair of matches before falling to Rafael Nadal in Madrid. The home court Italian is 5-4 on spring red clay in Europe, and playing in Rome is a big deal for him. This one could go either way, but given home soil, and a slight edge in form to Bolelli, I have him winning this one and continuing the pedestrian showings for Thiem.
(12)Gilles Simon vs. Jack Sock
A matchup of interest for American tennis fans, Houston champ Jack Sock, who upset Pablo Andujar in Madrid, and then pushed Tsonga to 3 sets, will take on the pusher Simon who is 3-2 on clay this year, and did not play in Madrid. Sock, who may be the best American clay courter right now (John Isner is the only other player in the conversation), will of course bring his aggressive forehand centric game to the table, against Simon’s defensive rallying and massaging of the ball. If Sock can keep his errors down and avoid frustration, he should be able to upset Simon, but that can be a tall task.
Three time, and defending champion Novak Djokovic should be well rested as he begins his quest to win yet another Masters title. It’s unlikely he’ll have much of a problem stretching his 18 match win streak to 20 matches as his first two opponents Vanni/Almagro and probably Roberto Bautista Agut, aren’t world beaters at the moment. RBA is 8-4 on clay this year, with all of those losses coming to top 8 opponents. He has a weak draw of Marcel Granollers, and a qualifier to start, but he doesn’t have the game to trouble Djokovic (0-2 h2h with no sets won). I don’t see Novak dropping a set en route to the quarterfinals.
Kei Nishikori, a semifinalist in Madrid, and the winner in Barcelona, will open with the winner of Ernests Gulbis/Jiri Vesely, and in theory either of those opponents could give him trouble if he’s fatigued. That said, Gulbis continues his disastrous form (5 straight losses), and Vesely has lost three straight himself, so though they have the ability, it’s unlikely they will show it. Nishikori could be in more trouble in the round of 16 though, if Kyrgios continues his fine form and beats Lopez and then the Bernard Tomic/Viktor Troicki winner. Kyrgios-Tomic is a good matchup on paper, but Bernie is not a clay courter and he’s failed to impress this year on the surface (3 straight losses), likewise Troicki is in a slump (4 straight losses), so Kyrgios is actually a favorite in the section. Kyrgios-Nishikori is hard to predict, and stamina will be a factor, but given this is clay, I see Nishikori getting through to the quarters.
AndyMurray, who has a poor record in Rome (8-9),will open with the Jeremy Chardy/Lukas Rosol winner. Murray has been in solid form as of late, he’s currently a finalist in Madrid, and won Munich, but with so much tennis over the past two weeks, he could be fatigued going into this tournament. Chardy has lost three straight, while Rosol has a pair of quarterfinals on clay this season, Chardy has a 2-0 clay h2h, but I still see Rosol winning a toss-up match. Murray just beat Rosol in a three setter in Munich, and presuming he does play in Rome, I still see him getting through his opening match, given his elite level of fitness. The next round should pose a problem however, as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Goffin are both solid clay court threats. Goffin pushed Nishikori to three sets in Madrid while Tsonga is 4-3 on the surface this year. Tsonga won the h2h match with Goffin on clay in Monte Carlo this year, and thus he should advance in another hard to predict matchup. Tsonga faces Sam Querrey round 1, and Goffin will face a qualifier. Tsonga and Murray have never played on clay, though Murray has a decisive h2h edge on other surfaces. I made the mistake last week of picking Murray to go out early, but I’m going to do it again anyway, and pick Tsonga to go through to the quarters, allowing Murray to get much needed rest before the French Open, where he could pose a threat given his play in Munich and Madrid.
David Ferrer will get a tough round 2 matchup will Richard Gasquet, barring Reeshy loses to a qualifier. Ferrer is 2-0 on clay against Gasquet, but lost their last two h2h meetings. The Barcelona semifinalist and Madrid and Monte Carlo quarterfinalist has been steady but not in peak form on clay this year. Gasquet won the title in Estoril then fell in round 2 of Madrid. It’ll be an interesting match, and fun to watch, but Ferrer has to be the favorite on clay to advance to the round of 16. There he is likely to face the winner of Garcia-Lopez/Cilic. Martin Klizan, who has played good tennis this season, was injured in Madrid, and it’s uncertain if he’s healthy again, he will open with a qualifier, and then the winner of that will be the next opponent for GGL/Cilic. Klizan has a h2h win on clay over GGL, and if he’s healthy, he could reach the round of 16, but for now GGL has to be the pick in this interesting section. Ferrer is 3-0 on clay against his countryman, and thus should reach the quarters, though he may drop a set or two en route.
Roger Federer, the champion in Istanbul, comes off a shock loss to Kyrgios in Madrid, and he’s never won the title in Rome (three previous finals). That said, he still should be able to recover his form and beat Pablo Cuevas, who he beat in Istanbul, in round 2. Cuevas will open with Italian journeyman Paolo Lorenzi. After Cuevas, the rather pedestrian draw for Federer will continue, as Philipp Kohlschreiber is his toughest possible round 3 opponent. Kohli will need to beat an injured Donald Young, and the winner of Florian Mayer/Kevin Anderson. Mayer is just 2-4 in his comeback, and Anderson has lost three straight. Kohlschreiber reached the final in Munich and the quarters in Barcelona (his last two losses in Madrid and Munich have come at the hands of Andy Murray), still Federer is a big step up in competition level and in 7 h2h matches, Kohlschreiber has won just a single set off the Swiss legend. Thus look for Federer to blitz through a pair of weak matches to reach the quarters.
Madrid semifinalist, and Monte Carlo finalist Tomas Berdych has been in fine form all season, and that should continue against Santiago Giraldo in round 2. Giraldo will open with Italian wild card Matteo Donati. He’s been in poor form, but he still should have enough game to beat the 20 year old who has 1 challenger final on his resume in 2015. Berdych should get a more interesting test against Grigor Dimitrov, a semifinalist in Istanbul, and a quarterfinalist in both Monte Carlo and Madrid. Dimitrov started the year off slow but he’s found a better run of form on clay, and thus should have little trouble dispatching Jerzy Janowicz, who has lost two straight, and Fabio Fognini who he just beat in 3 sets in Madrid. Fognini opens with American Steve Johnson, who is slowly getting used to playing on red clay it seems. The Italian will have fan support, but he’s still extremely moody and unpredictable. When it comes to Berdych-Dimitrov, the clay h2h is 1-1 and Dimitrov won their Rome meeting last year. That said, Berdych has been dare I say the most consistent player on tour this year, and his machinelike consistency gives him the edge to reach the quarters in yet another Masters event.
7 time Rome Champion, and current Madrid finalist Rafael Nadal should be able to blow past Adrian Mannarino/qualifier in round 2, and also defeat either John Isner or Leo Mayer in the round of 16. It’s a rather weak draw for the Spanish star. Isner will open with Joao Sousa, as he comes off the quarters in Madrid, a great result for him given it’s clay, while Mayer, who won a pair of matches in Madrid, faces Italian wild card Federico Gaio, a 23 year old with good results in futures. Isner should be able to reach the round of 16, but Nadal is 5-0 against him, with three wins on clay, including in Monte Carlo this year. Even when not at his best, Rafa has the edge against Isner, especially on clay.
Stan Wawrinka will take on Juan Monaco or a qualifier in his opening match, Stan the man continues to struggle, as he lost round 2 in Madrid, but he’s 4-0 against Monaco, including a win on clay this year, so regardless he should win his opening contest. After that Sock/Simon is likely to beckon in the round of 16, though Bolelli/Thiem are also options. All four of those players are very capable opponents and solid. Personally I’m backing Sock’s superior form to buzzsaw through to the round of 16, where he could upset Wawrinka. It’s perhaps unlikely, but Wawrinka is struggling, and appears mentally checked out, so the possibility is there. He’s the top 8 seed most likely to lose before the quarters but I still have him winning. Thiem, Bolelli, and Simon have all beaten Wawrinka before, while Thiem is the only player to do so on clay.
Dark Horses: Nick Kyrgios, David Goffin, Jack Sock, Fabio Fognini
Kyrgios is a rather obvious dark horse choice, as he should reach the round of 16, and then we’ll see what kind of shape Nishikori is in. I wouldn’t give him much of a chance against Novak in the quarters, but he’s beaten Federer and Nadal, so who’s to say he can’t add another big four scalp to his list.
Goffin would need to beat Tsonga to get anywhere but if he does, like Jo, he has a great chance to benefit from Murray’s fatigue, and should he do so, beating Ferrer isn’t out of the question in the quarters. It’s an outside chance, but believable all the same.
Sock would have a great tournament just by beating Simon and Bolelli/Thiem, but if he upsets Wawrinka that would take the result to an even higher level of magnitude. All of those players would be tough opponents, but he has the game to do it, and can cement himself as the American #1 on clay if he runs the ringer.
Fognini could be a threat on home soil, the talent is there, but he’s incredibly hard to predict. He did push Dimitrov to three sets in Madrid, so if he can switch that result around you can’t entirely count him out against Berdych on clay, and given the circumstances.
Djokovic d. Nishikori
Ferrer d. Tsonga
Nadal d. Wawrinka
Berdych d. Federer
Djokovic won his only clay court match with Nishikori, and given he’s been the best player in the world all season, and he’s rested, I have little doubt he’ll at least reach the semifinals in Rome. Ferrer is 2-0 on clay against Tsonga, and no matter who he faces (Murray/Tsonga/Goffin), he should benefit from the draw and reach the semis due to how its structured.
I don’t see Nadal losing before the semis either, as Wawrinka, in his current form, is extremely unlikely to pose a threat, especially with Nadal rounding into form. Nadal is 5-0 on clay against Wawrinka. I’m going with an upset in Berdych vs. Federer, Federer has never played as well in Rome compared to other tournaments, and he was shaky in Istanbul and Madrid. By contrast Berdych’s game has been reliable and a threat to everyone on tour this year. Federer is 3-0 on clay, and beat Berdych this year at IW, but I don’t feel he’s the same player at the moment.
Djokovic d. Ferrer
Nadal d. Berdych
Djokovic actually tends to have to fight against Ferrer on clay (2-3 h2h) but he’s won the last two meetings on clay, he beat Ferrer this year on a hard court, and he’s been on fire all year. Nadal just beat Berdych in Madrid (he consistently does so with a 7-0 clay court h2h), thus it seems pretty inevitable that we’re headed for a Djokovic vs. Nadal final in Rome.
Djokovic d. Nadal
Djokovic defeated Nadal in Monte Carlo this year 7-5 6-3, and though Nadal is slightly better since that loss, he’s still not up to the same level he was, thus Djokovic should have the edge in a best 2/3 sets format. Nadal is capable of flashes of brilliance and plenty of hotshots in this classic rivalry, but Djokovic has the consistency to earn the win right now.
The ATP quality player heavy Mutua Madrid Open qualifying concluded Sunday with five seeded players, and two unseeded players filling out the qualifying spots, while a lucky loser was also placed in the draw, due to Tommy Robredo pulling out of the tournament with an injury.
Aussie young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis improved to a remarkable 13-0 in qualifying at the ATP level this year as he scored big wins over Matteo Viola and Janko Tipsarevic to qualify. Tipsarevic has been improving his results since returning from injury, and he’s had success in Madrid before, but Kokkinakis was clutch and won a third set tiebeak 7-4 to advance in three sets, after dropping the second set.
Daniel Gimeno-Traver continued his tremendous run of form over the past few weeks on clay, the 29 year old Spanish grinder, who reached the final in Casablanca, the semis in Bucharest, and the quarters in Istanbul, will now have a chance to improve his results at the Masters level. He rolled over Javier Marti and Marsel Ilhan, as neither were a challenge compared to Roger Federer, who he took a set against in Istanbul.
Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia was 1-4 in his last five matches on clay going into the Madrid qualifying, but he scored a pair of quality wins, as he defeated Kenny De Schepper in 3 sets, and then upset Joao Sousa in 3 sets as well. Sousa would later be placed in the draw as a lucky loser though, so his day wasn’t entirely ruined. Gonzalez has struggled this season, but perhaps this run in qualifying can be the spark he needs to carry him into the summer.
Albert Ramos will be another Spanish player in the main draw of Madrid, the 27 year old lefty with his spinning shots beat Ivan Dodig via 3rd set retirement and then rolled over Ricardas Berankis to qualify. He’s actually struggled on clay this year, but historically it’s been his best surface, and he’s looking to make some noise in the main draw. Right now he’s been very unpredictable.
Thomaz Bellucci, is another left handed qualifier, the Brazilian beat Michael Berrer, and then Federico Delbonis (in a nailbiting third set tiebreak), to qualify, he comes off the quarterfinals in Istanbul and he’s a threat on clay as well.
The unseeded qualifiers were Alejandro Falla, a Colombian veteran (and lefty), and Luca Vanni, an Italian veteran having his career best year in pro tennis. Falla, who has been poor on ATP main draw clay over the past three seasons (4-13 since 2012), will have a chance to improve that record. He upset Sergiy Stakhovsky, and then beat Roberto Carballes Baena, a Spaniard, to qualify. Vanni, who had a miracle run to the Sao Paulo final as a qualifier not that long ago, beat Carlos Berlocq and then Nicolas Mahut in three sets to snap a four match losing streak and place himself in his first ever Masters 1000 main draw.
Gimeno-Traver has been drawn against Nick Kyrgios in a highly anticipated round 1 clash of in-form warriors, Bellucci has been given a winnable match against Jeremy Chardy in round 1, Gonzalez will face American Steve Johnson, Vanni will do battle with non-clay courter Bernard Tomic, Falla will face a fatigued Philipp Kohlschreiber, Kokkinakis will have a great chance to beat Sam Querrey, Ramos will face Istanbul finalist Pablo Cuevas, a possibly fatigued opponent, and Sousa will face Jerzy Janowicz as the lucky loser.
Stan Wawrinka survived some tough matches, including a three set final against Tomas Berdych, to win his first 500 level title in Rotterdam, which is also his first title at that tournament, and his second ATP title of the season. Wawrinka had to claw his way back from a set down against Berdych, as he was broken in the opening set, after failing to break Berdych in the previous game. Wawrinka broke Berdych once in the second set, and twice in the third set to win the match, as Berdych served under 40% first serves in set 2. Wawrinka was much stronger on serve throughout the match, which means Berdych had fewer chances to grab leads throughout the match. It went back and forth but the elite Wawrinka’s mental fortitude shown through to topple the defending champion. The final scoreline was 4-6 6-3 6-4.
This week Stan was the man, beating Jesse Huta Galung in 3 sets, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in 3 sets, and then he improved and beat Gilles Muller and MIlos Raonic, a pair of huge servers, in straight sets, with the win against Raonic coming in two tiebreaks. JHG and GGL gave it their best shots as underdogs, and Raonic was again impressive on serve, leaving Wawrinka often flailing on return, but his rallying wasn’t good enough to pull off a sustained victory, as Wawrinka survived trial by fire and never faded this tournament.
Berdych, who continues to make deep runs in tournaments so far this season, came close to defending his title, the Czech beat Tobias Kamke without dropping a set, an in form Andreas Seppi in 3 sets, and Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon in routine straight sets. It was a much easier path for Berdych to the final, but perhaps that didn’t prepare for an opponent of Wawrinka’s caliber, once again, under pressure the top Czech folded. Notably Simon upset Andy Murray in a total beatdown in the quarterfinals.
Dutchman Jean-Julien Rojer won on home soil with his partner Horia Tecau, they beat the lucky loser team of Jamie Murray and John Peers, who are off to a great start with their season, in the doubles final.
Kei Nishikori won his third consecutive title in Memphis, he was the top player throughout the week, though a host of competitors gave their best shot trying to defeat him. The last to try was Kevin Anderson who fell to Nishikori 6-4 6-4 in the final.
Nishikori scored wins over three Americans this week, all in three sets, he beat Ryan Harrison first, then Austin Krajicek, who won his second and third career ATP main draw matches in Memphis (over Mikhail Kukushkin and Ivo Karlovic) as a qualifier, and last but not least over Sam Querrey, who he defeated 7-5 in a third set tiebreak, after Querrey had upset his friend John Isner in the quarters in two tiebreaks.
Kevin Anderson also had to beat some US men to reach the final, the South African number one, who has had a good start to his season, beat Sam Groth in straights, then defeated Steve Johnson in straights, and surprise semifinalist Donald Young in 3 sets, coming back from a set down. It was Young’s best result in months as he upset Bernard Tomic in 3 sets in the quarterfinals.
Young also had great success, all be it without a trophy, in doubles this week, as and his partner Artem Sitak fell to Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Santiago Gonzalez, who won their first doubles title as a pairing, both players are accomplished doubles specialists, and they formed a new partnership this season.
Sao Paulo was the place for unheralded players to have success on tour this week, Pablo Cuevas won his third ATP title over the past two seasons, as the Uruguayan will be at a new career high top 30 ranking when the new ATP rankings are released. Cuevas won a third set tiebreak in the final, defeating qualifier Luca Vanni 6-4 3-6 7-6 for the title.
Vanni was perhaps the biggest story on the ATP tour this week, he had never before won an ATP main draw match at the age of 29. The Italian will also be at a career high ranking, as he has never before been ranked in the top 140. Vanni took over Feliciano Lopez’s spot in the draw, as the Spaniard withdrew before the start of the tournament, he beat fellow qualifier Thiemo de Bakker in 3 sets, and then beat Dusan Lajovic in 2 tiebreaks, and Joao Souza in 3 sets to reach the final.
Cuevas beat Jiri Vesely in 3 sets, in a close match, then Facundo Bagnis via retirement, and Nicolas Almagro in 3 sets to reach the semis, at that stage he beat Santiago Giraldo in straights to reach the final, in a tournament full of grinding, close 2 and 3 set matches.
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah beat Paolo Lorenzi and Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in the doubles final, as doubles specialist pairings had success on the ATP World Tour this week.