John Isner reached his 9th straight BB&T Atlanta Open semifinal, extending his streak of having never lost before the semifinals since the Atlanta Open began in 2010. Isner got past Mischa Zverev in the quarterfinals 7-5 4-6 6-1 in an hour and a half. The American #1 fired 21 aces and won all but two of his first serve points against the German veteran.
The opening set was a relatively swift one, Isner made a late push to break in the final game of the set, generating three break point chances and finally securing the set. Set 2 saw Zverev take advantage of his one and only opening in the match as he broke Isner for a 3-2 lead and was rock solid on serve to force a third set. Things went off the rails for Zverev though from there, Isner broke open a 5-0 lead and closed out the third set losing just three points on serve.
Isner is now slated to face Australia’s Matt Ebden in the semifinals. In the one routine match of the day Ebden took advantage of a discombobulated Marcos Baghdatis to ease into the semis 6-3 6-2. Baghdatis played a poor match similar to the ones that has characterized his late career decline. He won just 38% of his second serve points and generated just one break point chance that Ebden saved in the contest. Ebden broke for 2-0, and snuffed out a break point chance in the final game of the first set to take it 6-3. Baghdatis again surrendered an immediate break in the second set and under constant pressure from the clean hitting Ebden he was broken once more to allow Ebden an easy win.
Ryan Harrison and Cam Norrie face off in the other semifinal. Norrie upset Nick Kyrgios as Kyrgios retired to a chorus of boos down 7-5 3-0 in nearly an hour. Kyrgios struggled throughout the match and played surprisingly passively throughout the contest, eventually giving up as he loomed doomed to defeat against the fast rising Norrie. Norrie was steady on serving erasing the three break point chances he faced as things slipped away from Kyrgios after he failed to break in a pair of games where he had an opportunity in the opening set. After being broken twice in the match (first at 5-6 and second at 0-1) he shook hands with the umpire and walked off the court.
Ryan Harrison didn’t have it so easy against next gen star Hyeon Chung. Harrison dropped the first set 7-6 and had to comeback for a 6-7 6-2 7-6 victory in a match that was decided by the slightest of margins. Harrison kept hope alive of defending his finalist points from last year after a two and a half hour war where his superior serve made all the difference. Harrison wasn’t broken in the match, saving 5 chances that Chung generated, and he won 83% of his first sere points.
Despite failing to break Harrison in the opening set Chung played a better tiebreak to get off to the best start. However Harrison instantly got himself back into the contest breaking Chung in the first game of set 2 and then taking another break to finish things 6-2. In the third set it looked like Chung would take the advantage as he had three break points in the 6th game, but Harrison won that long game and then almost broke Chung in the next one. Both players would serve their way into a tiebreak where minibreaks were the order of the day. Harrison took a 6-4 lead in the breaker and finally put things away 7-5 as Chung gave up the deciding point on his serve.
In doubles Arneodo/Chardy and Harrison/Ram advanced in straight sets as Bambridge/O’Mara and Bryan/Tiafoe went down in defeat.
Saturday features Isner vs. Ebden first up with Harrison vs. Norrie to follow. The doubles semifinals are Arneodo/Chardy vs Monroe/Smith and Raja/Skupski taking on Harrison/Ram. Isner and Harrison met in the final last year, while Ebden and Norrie are seeking the first ATP titles of their career. Ebden has one previous final on his resume, while Norrie has none.
Four singles matches were completed on Thursday at the BB&T Atlanta Open as the quarterfinals were set for 2018. Cam Norrie sprung the upset of the day as the ATP #73 came back from a set down to upset the ATP #43 Jeremy Chardy 5-7 6-4 6-4 in a closely fought battle. Norrie was stronger on a serve in a match that featured few breaks. Chardy erased two break point chances early in the first then broke late to take a one set lead. Norrie finally broke Chardy in the second set then squared things up with a steady performance. In the third Chardy was broken right away and was unable to recover as the fast rising Brit showed the improvements in his game over the last few months.
Marcos Baghdatis has once again posted a good run of results in Atlanta. By a score of 7-5 6-1 Baghdatis crushed young gun American Frances Tiafoe who served up 9 double faults and had an awful serving day. Tiafoe got an early break in the first but things quickly unraveled for the young American. Baghdatis generated 13 break point chances and broke 5 times in the match.
Australians Matt Ebden and Nick Kyrgios also reached the quarterfinals. Ebden was reliable under hot, fast conditions in the noon match as he defeated local favorite Donald Young 6-4 6-4. Ebden won all but 5 of his first serve points as he got late a break in the second set to close the match out and avoid having to spend more time on court than he had to.
Kyrgios needed less than an hour to aggressively dismantle Noah Rubin 7-5 6-2. NK fired 15 aces and won over 80% of his points on serve as Rubin started well but quickly unraveled after surrendering a break in the last game of the first set. Kyrgios moved around the court with ease and was able to hit from attacking positions for most of the match.
The conclusion of the opening round of the main draw at the BB&T Atlanta Open 2018 saw five Americans advance into the round of 16, highlighted by local favorite Donald Young. Young recovered from a set down on Monday to win the second and third sets on Tuesday, saving a match point in the third, and also recovering from a break down in the third to prevail 2-6 7-6 7-6 against the veteran Croat. Karlovic’s normally steady serve failed him in the deciding set while Young was clutch to win just his second ATP match of the year.
Ryan Harrison also completed a comeback winning 4-6 7-6 6-1 over James Duckworth. With his wife cheering him on from the sidelines Harrison played a tough second set and a smooth third after struggling in the first, as Duckworth’s game melted in the heat. Taylor Fritz joins Harrison in the round of 16 after a routine 6-4 6-4 victory against Ramkumar Ramanathan. A tired Ramanathan generated no break point chances and struggled with his second serve.
Noah Rubin and Frances Tiafoe were the other Americans to win in straights. Rubin 6-3 6-4 over Thanasi Kokkinakis and Tiafoe 6-4 6-4 over Marius Copil. Neither Copil nor Kokkinakis generated a break in the match, as Rubin saved all three break points he faced.
In the other Tuesday singles matches, Cam Norrie ran away from a frustrated Malek Jaziri 7-5 6-0, Jeremy Chardy was too steady on serve against Ricardas Berankis winning 6-4 6-3. ATP veterans Marcos Baghdatis (6-4 6-1 against Alex Bolt), Mikhail Youzhny (6-2 6-0 against Emil Reinberg) and Mischa Zverev completed the R16 singles field. Zverev had match points in the second set tiebreak vs. Tim Smyczek but had to prevail in 3 sets 6-3 6-7 6-3 with his serve and volley game in a match that lasted over 2 and a half hours.
In doubles Donald Young and Chris Eubanks advanced in a third set tiebreak while Tiafoe/Bryan won in straights.
Tomorrow in singles it will be defending champion John Isner against Alex De Minaur, Hyeon Chung returning from injury against Fritz, Harrison against Lukas Lacko and veterans Youzhny and Zverev squaring off.
An afternoon rain delay sent play late into the night once again at the 2017 Citi Open, fan favorites Kei Nishikori and Juan Martin Del Potro made winning starts. Nishikori was pushed deep into the third set against Donald Young. The first set was up and down, with Young going down 1-4, and coming back a bit but dropping the first set in the end 6-3. Set 2 would go Young’s way 6-4 as he scored two breaks, and even though he missed a break point on his return game up 5-3, he served out the second set to force a third. The third set had no breaks, but Nishikori had break points in most of Young’s service games, and kept the pressure on, generating three match points. Nishikori would get three more match points in the third set tiebreak, and finally took the match 6-3 4-6 7-6.
Del Potro had an easier time of things against Lukas Lacko, winning 7-5 6-2 as Lacko went away after a close first set that featured five breaks of serve, the last one going the way of the Argentine. Del Potro really picked up his game in the second set.
Other winners on the men’s side included Dominic Thiem and Jack Sock, Thiem lost just a handful of points on his serve against Henri Laaksonen, winning 6-3 6-3, Sock defeated Marius Copil in two tiebreaks. Marcos Baghdatis put a beating on first time main draw participant Edan Leshem, Jordan Thompson dispatched Ruben Bemelmans 6-3 6-2, Kyle Edmund took advantage of Hyeon Chung’s struggles 6-3 6-1, Malek Jaziri beat Alessandro Bega 7-5 7-5.
Dmitry Tursunov won his first match of the season 6-4 6-7 6-4 over Mitchell Krueger, American Tennys Sandgren had better luck against Go Soeda winning 7-6 6-3, and Argentina’s Guido Pella upset Mischa Zverev 6-7 7-6 6-3. Zverev’s poor form on hard courts is starting to put his career best rankings as of late at risk.
A good number of WTA singles matches were cancelled because of rain, but Simona Halep, Ekaterina Makarova, Monica Puig, and Patricia Maria Tig all came away winners in straight sets. Three American women, Sloane Stephens, Jamie Loeb, and Luisa Chirico were their victims, along with Britain’s Heather Watson.
Windy Wednesday as Winners Book Quarterfinals at Tennis Hall of Fame Championships Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Put the Phone Down Low for Ivo Selfies
NEWPORT (July 13, 2016) If I don’t like Mondays at a tournament, then I love Wednesdays. Today’s Tennis Hall of Fame Championships featured six second round matches and a single first round match under cloudless skies and very breezy conditions.
Victor Estrella Burgos became the last man in the second round with a routine 7-6(3), 6-3 win over American Dennis Novikov. Meanwhile, on Stadium Court, Frank Dancevic played his fourth match in four days and came out swinging against the big-serving Ivo Karlovic. Ivo had just two aces in the first set, but settled down to win a tiebreak in the second, netting ten aces in that frame. He added another eight in the final stanza, and Dancevic gave up his only break in the match at 4-4 to set up Karlovic to serve it out. He did, and advances as the favorite to beat Marco Chiudinelli in the quarterfinals.
Asked about his slow start, Karlovic told Tennis Atlantic, “It was windy and it was early. I didn’t really wake up soon. 11:00, I normally have breakfast, and today I already had a match, so I didn’t really wake up”. On winning a title in Newport after two appearances as a finalist, he said, “Yeah, I’m ready. If not, then when? So, I’m ready. This year I got a bye, so hopefully this year four matches will be enough”.
Meanwhile, Newport regular John Patrick Smith took on Marco Chiudenelli on Court 1. No one seems to know these courts like Smith does and he over-performs here. But today, after posting an impressive 6-1 first set, it was Chiudenelli’s time to pull a rabbit out of a hat, and he did, winning 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. Following the Chiudinelli win on Court 1, a battle I had anticipated between Stefan Kozlov and Donald young never materialized. Young busted out of the gate en route to a 6-0, 6-4 victory and he will play top seed Steve Johnson in the quarters. The quiet-in-press Young was as close to elated as I’ve ever seen him as he declared, “I don’t know if I’ve won two in a row this year, so this might be the first time or the second, so this is a confidence builder at a tournament I’ve struggled at in the past.”
Johnson’s victory was also unexpectedly lopsided, as he posted a 20-minute breadstick on Sugita and cruised into the quarters, 6-1, 6-4.
Brian Baker had a wonderful ride in Newport, winning his first match since 2013 in Cinncinati. Marcos Baghdatis stood in his way of the quarterfinals, and both played very well from the start of the match. Baghdatis simply played better, winning 91% of his first service points to 81% for Baker in the first set. Baghdatis advanced, 6-4, 6-3, and will meet either Dudi Sela or defending champ Rajeev Ram tomorrow.
2016 ATP Newport Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby and Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
The only ATP tournament on Grass in the USA is at the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, where Tennis Atlantic once again has on-site coverage. Here is a preview with predictions for this ATP 250 stop in the balmy northeast.
Hall of Fame Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 250
Newport, RI, USA
July 11-17, 2016
Prize Money: $515,025
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Steve Johnson (29)
2: Ivo Karlovic (32)
3: Gilles Muller (39)
4: Marcos Baghdatis (40)
Newport lacks elite players but it does have a host of serve and volleyers, alongside Americans seeking an ATP title.
First round matchups to watch:
Benjamin Becker vs. (WC)Stefan Kozlov
Becker has eight wins on grass this year while Kozlov has struggled since reaching the quarterfinals in Den Bosch. Kozlov is a great young talent, and he does enjoy playing in Newport, but the experienced Becker likely has an edge in this one.
Defending champion Rajeev Ram has been in shockingly poor form on grass, as he has just one win, and five losses on the surface this year. Ram tends to find form in Newport however, and American Mackenzie McDonald has limited experience on tour this year, and just turned pro in June after becoming an NCAA champion at UCLA. Given McDonald’s limited experience on grass, Ram is the favorite.
With a 10-3 record on grass, an ATP title on the surface, and a second week result at Wimbledon already on his resume this year, Steve Johnson is both the tournament favorite, and the top seed. The American will open with Yuichi Sugita or a qualifier, he should win that match, then end up opposite Becker/Kozlov, or Jared Donaldson/Donald Young. Young or Becker should be the favorites for the quarters as Donaldson hasn’t played on grass this year. I have Johnson defeating Becker in my bracket.
Gilles Muller could have some opposition as he looks to reach the semifinals. Still, the seed has the most experience on grass in his section, and he posted both an ATP final and semifinal on the surface in recent weeks. Muller should beat Dennis Novikov, a Wimbledon qualifier, or Victor Estrella, with Adrian Mannarino ending up opposite him in the quarterfinals. Mannarino faces a struggling James Duckworth after a successful enough grass court season. Mannarino also has the big serving Sam Groth, or a qualifier in round 2. Groth has failed to capitalize on big serve and win notable results on grass this year. I favor Muller over Mannarino by a small margin in the quarters.
Ivo Karlovic is yet another big server in the Newport draw, the Croatian should cruise past a qualifier or Ryan Harrison, and face Vasek Pospisil in the quarterfinals. Pospisil is a big server as well, the Canadian has been struggling lately, but Marco Chiudinelli isn’t that tough of an opponent in round 1. In round 2 it will be J.P. Smith or Jordan Thompson for Pospisil. He could be troubled by Thompson, who has shown flashes of skill on grass, but I have it Karlovic over Pospisil in the quarters even though Karlovic has been average at best on grass this year.
A healthy Marcos Baghdatis looks set to have a good week in Newport after posting a pair of ATP quarterfinals this grass court season. The Cypriot ball striker will face Austin Krajicek or a qualifier in round 2, with most likely the Dudi Sela/Lukas Lacko winner to follow in the quarters, unless Ram or McDonald find form. Lacko showed a sudden burst of form as a Wimbledon qualifier, as he reached the third round. Sela was terrible in London, bowing out in round 1, but he dominates the h2h against Lacko. The flaky Lacko is my pick to reach the quarters, before falling to Baghdatis.
Lacko has always had the talent, but he has usually failed to live up to it. After qualifying and reaching the third round at Wimbledon he showed not only his overall tennis ability, but also his potential on grass. Given this wide open field, the unseeded Lacko could leave Newport a surprise winner, or lose in the first round.
Johnson d. Muller
Karlovic d. Baghdatis
Johnson is my pick for tournament champion, while Baghdatis can struggle at times against big servers, like he did against John Isner at Wimbledon.
Johnson d. Karlovic
On American soil, Johnson is the clear favorite to win this title, which would be the second ATP title of his career.
2016 Wimbledon Men’s Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
It’s been a quick transition from clay to grass for the ATP’s best, and now it’s time for Wimbledon 2016. The spotlight has been on London for political reasons as of late, and now the sporting world will focus in on one of the best sporting events in the world. Here is a preview, with predictions.
London, Great Britain
June 27-July 10, 2016
Prize Money: £13,163,000
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Andy Murray (2)
3: Roger Federer (3)
4: Stan Wawrinka (5)
5: Kei Nishikori (6)
6: Milos Raonic (7)
7: Richard Gasquet (10)
8: Dominic Thiem (8)
Former champion Rafael Nadal is the only notable player absent from Wimbledon this year.
First round matchups to watch:
Kyle Edmund vs. Adrian Mannarino
Both players have reached quarterfinals on grass this year, Edmund is the British #2 and would love a home win, while Mannarino is a steady veteran who excels on quick surfaces. Edmund could win this, but I have Mannarino finding a way to advance.
(27)Jack Sock vs. Ernests Gulbis
Neither Sock nor Gulbis had much tune up prior to Wimbledon, Gulbis has found form as of late and could pull off a surprise upset, but Sock’s forehand is likely too lethal on this fast surface.
The serve and volleyer Ivo Karlovic should have an edge to advance over his countryman Borna Coric, although he’s had a poor season overall. Karlovic won three matches on grass prior to Wimbledon, and although I see Coric taking a set, he doesn’t have the grass court experience yet to prevail.
(29)Pablo Cuevas vs. Andrey Kuznetsov
Cuevas was an unlikely finalist in Nottingham, and that sets him up to potentially win a round or more at Wimbledon. Kuznetsov is an intriguing new talent who has risen this year in the rankings, and his power tennis seems suited for fast surfaces. Fatigue may play a factor for Cuevas, but I tip him to advance in this one given his recent inspired play.
(5)Kei Nishikori vs. Sam Groth
Groth notched five wins on grass in recent weeks, although none of them were remarkable in terms of his opponents. The big server is still one of the toughest opponents to face on this surface however, and though he’s had a down season, if he serves well, he could be lethal against Nishikori. The Japanese #1 withdrew from Halle, and had little warm-up prior to Wimbledon, but he’s a great returner and I have to think he’ll still win this match given the huge gap in talent.
Mayer upset Thiem in Halle, where the oft-injured German veteran took home the title. Thiem is a better player and he’s far superior this season, he also took home the title in Stuttgart, showing his own grass court prowess. Mayer should test the young Austrian, but I see him running out of gas after the first three sets.
(14)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Jordan Thompson
The Queens quarterfinalist RBA could be tested by the Australian Thompson who has a knack for playing well on grass. This is a potential upset special if Thompson rises up and plays his best tennis, but I have Bautista Agut prevailing.
(19)Bernard Tomic vs. Fernando Verdasco
Tomic is 4-1 against Verdasco in the h2h and just defeated him at the Queens Club tournament in three sets. Verdasco has a history of success at Wimbledon, as does Tomic, and this should be a high quality contest. Tomic’s recent form is superior and he plays his best on grass, although his focus and passion continues to be in question. Verdasco could edge this match, but I favor Tomic to prevail and get one of his best wins of the season.
Wawrinka fell meekly to Verdasco at Queen’s, although his grass court record over his career has been above average. He should cruise past the young American Fritz, but this is a great test for the likely future ATP star, and we’ll see if this match develops into something less routine for the Swiss champion.
(18)John Isner vs. Marcos Baghdatis
Baghdatis has never defeated Isner (0-6) but his recent play on grass has outperformed the American #1, as he posted a pair of quarterfinals in Halle and Nottingham. Isner is the favorite, but I’m going with Baghdatis in an upset, as the wily veteran should be more consistent over the course of a likely five sets.
(15)Nick Kyrgios vs. Radek Stepanek
Kyrgios is fantastic on grass and his attacking game is well suited to make a deep run yet again at Wimbledon. Stepanek was a quarterfinalist in Stuttgart, and his serve and volley style also sets up well for Wimbledon. He could test the young Australian, but that test should improve his performance and boost his chances of having a good tournament.
Australian and French Open champion Novak Djokovic will continue his quest for a first ever Grand Slam, along with a third consecutive, and fourth overall Wimbledon title. A winner of seven straight matches, Djokovic should ease past Britain’s James Ward, a loser of three straight on grass, in round 1, and then defeat the Edmund/Mannarino winner in round 2. Sam Querrey should await round 3, as the Den Bosch semifinalist opens with a struggling Lukas Rosol, with Thomaz Bellucci or qualifier Ruben Bemelmans to follow. Rosol is capable on grass, but Querrey is in better form, and neither Bemelmans or Bellucci or in great form. All in all expect Djokovic to ease his way into the second week.
Stuttgart finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber looks set to reach the second week as well. Kohlschreiber opens with a struggling Pierre-Hugues Herbert with either Damir Dzumhur or Denis Kudla to follow. Kudla’s pure ball striking should fall short against Kohlschreiber’s crafty play, and then either David Ferrer or Nicolas Mahut await in round 3. A struggling Ferrer opens with Den Bosch quarterfinalist Dudi Sela, the Israeli veteran may wear him out enough to allow Mahut to pull off a tremendous upset, as the Den Bosch champion is a great serve and volleyer who is well suited to grass. Kohlschreiber over Mahut is my pick.
David Goffin looks set to reach the second week, the Belgian opens with a struggling Alexander Ward, with either Teymuraz Gabashvili or qualifier Edouard Roger-Vasselin to follow. After that it should be Kevin Anderson for the Belgian #1. Anderson opens with a struggling Denis Istomin, with either Nicolas Almagro or Rogerio Dutra Silva to follow. Anderson played well at Wimbledon last year, but he’s struggled this season, and Goffin should be superior.
Milos Raonic should setup a meeting with Sock in the third round, presuming Sock defeats Gulbis, and Diego Schwartzman/Robin Haase, while Raonic defeats Pablo Carreno Busta and Andreas Seppi/Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Seppi has had a great grass court season and should defeat GGL, but Raonic was a finalist in Queen’s and his power serve game is well suited for grass. Haase should get the better of Schwartzman, and then Sock should advance before falling to Raonic in round 3.
The holder of seven Wimbledon titles enters this year’s tournament without a single ATP title to his name. Roger Federer had an injured back that forced him to pull out of Paris, but he should still ease past Guido Pella and then Ricardas Berankis or Marcus Willis in round 2. Federer should face his first test against Alexandr Dolgopolov. The streaky Ukrainian isn’t as accomplished on grass as he is on other surfaces but he should still get the better of Evgeny Donskoy and Dan Evans or J.L. Struff. Given the surface, Federer should at least reach the second week before things get tougher for him.
If Frenchmen Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils are to meet in round 3 they will have to navigate a tough path. Monfils missed Paris and opens with Jeremy Chardy, his countryman. Simon was poor in pre-Wimbledon grass court action and opens with the veteran Janko Tipsarevic, who is still on the injury recovery trail. I have the Nottingham champion Steve Johnson rising up and defeating Monfils, but I have Simon slipping past a struggling Grigor Dimitrov in round 2. Dimitrov opens with qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo, while Johnson faces Malek Jaziri. Simon over Johnson is my pick in the third round.
Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic, both Croatians, should be opposite each other in the third round. Cilic, a semifinalist at Queen’s Club, opens with Brian Baker, a loser of four straight matches, with the serve and volleyer Sergiy Stakhovsky likely to follow, after Stakhovsky defeats Yoshihito Nishioka. Stakhovsky could challenge Cilic, but he’s a good grass court player, and far better overall than the Ukrainian. Karlovic will face qualifier Lukas Lacko or dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi after he does battle with Borna Coric. Cilic is 2-1 in the h2h against Karlovic, and I have him advancing into week 2.
Kei Nishikori has a challenging draw, after Groth, and either Julien Benneteau or Illya Marchenko, Gilles Muller, a finalist in Den Bosch, is his likely opponent. Both Benneteau and Marchenko are struggling and unlikely to pose much of a threat to Nishikori. Muller, a great grass court serve and volleyer, opens with Santiago Giraldo, with Cuevas/Kuznetsov to follow. Nishikori has never lost to Muller, and although he’s at risk for an upset, I’m going with Kei to prevail.
Stan Wawrinka could be in trouble, after Fritz, he’ll face off with Juan Martin Del Potro, a dangerous dark horse in the draw. Del Potro’s power tennis could knock Wawrinka back, but I have Wawrinka finding a a way to prevail and setting up a third round match against qualifier Marius Copil, who is sharp on grass and opens with Lucas Pouille, who is poor on grass. Donald Young should defeat Leonardo Mayer before falling to Copil in round 2, and then I have Wawrinka reaching week 2.
The Tomic/Verdasco winner looks well suited to advance into round 3. The winner is likely to get qualifier Radu Albot, or Gastao Elias in round 2, with Roberto Bautista Agut likely to follow in round 3, after the Spaniard defeats Jordan Thompson and Mikhail Kukushkin/Martin Klizan. Klizan is a good player but he’s been struggling as of late. Tomic should make the second week, but I’m going with Bautista Agut because I don’t trust the Australian to consistently play well.
Tomas Berdych will be in danger against the young Alexander Zverev in the third round, presuming Zverev defeats veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu and the veteran Mikhail Youzhny (who opens with Horacio Zeballos). PHM has two recent wins over Zverev, but the Halle finalist looks ready to rise, Youzhny is also a tough opponent but hasn’t shown his previous level of form in years now. Berdych opens with Ivan Dodig, with Benjamin Becker or Facundo Bagnis to follow. He lost his only Wimbledon warm-up match, and I have Zverev knocking him off in the third round.
Thiem or Mayer have Jiri Vesely or qualifier Igor Sijsling up in round 2, with Joao Sousa or Luke Saville/Dennis Novikov likely in round 3, unless Dmitry Tursunov upsets Sousa. Saville is a bit of a grass court specialist and I have him winning over Sousa in round 2, before falling to Thiem.
The former Wimbledon Champion and runner-up in the last two Grand Slams, Andy Murray, opens with wild card Liam Broady, with either Benoit Paire or John Millman likely in round 3, and Yen-Hsun Lu or Alex Kudryavtsev up in round 2. Lu has been in incredible form on the challenger tour on grass, but Murray should still demolish him, and Paire/Millman. Paire opens with qualifier Franko Skugor, while Millman has dirtballer Albert Montanes. With Paire in poor form, I have Millman has a third round surprise.
The first real test for Murray should be against the winner of Nick Kyrgios/Feliciano Lopez in the third round, Kyrgios has either Dustin Brown or Dusan Lajovic in round 2 after facing Stepanek, while Lopez opens with Rajeev Ram with Fabio Fognini or Federico Delbonis to follow. Lopez is a dangerous serve and volleyer, and Brown could upset Kyrgios, but Kyrgios is the best player in this section and should prevail.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga wasn’t fit in Paris, but he’s a good grass court player, and he should be in better shape for Wimbledon. Inigo Cervantes is an easy opening opponent, with Taro Daniel or Juan Monaco to follow. Monaco hasn’t been in great form as of late, and thus I have Tsonga in round 3, opposite Marcos Baghdatis. After Isner, a qualifier is up in round 2, either Albano Olivetti, or Matthew Barton. I have Baghdatis upsetting Tsonga, after a win over Barton, he’s one of my dark horse picks for the tournament, and Tsonga isn’t likely to be 100%.
Richard Gasquet has been playing great in recent months, Gasquet opens with Aljaz Bedene, with Marcel Granollers or Victor Estrella to follow, more than likely Granollers. Viktor Troicki opens with qualifier Tristan Lamasine, with Vasek Pospisil or Albert Ramos next, Pospisil is a tough out on grass, but Troicki should fall to Gasquet in round 3.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Nicolas Mahut, Gilles Muller, Juan Martin Del Potro and Marcos Baghdatis
Mahut has to get past Ferrer, and although Philipp Kohlschreiber stands in his way, he could go as far as the second week. Muller should get as far as round 3, and Nishikori is one of the more beatable top seeds, if he wins that match he’ll be into the second week with a shot at the quarterfinals.
Del Potro could shock Wawrinka and make a big push for the second week and beyond, although he’s still unlikely to be at the level needed to do that. Baghdatis could fall in round 1 to Isner, but if he advances, he’s set to make the second week as a veteran presence in the draw.
Round of 16 Djokovic d. Kohlschreiber
Raonic d. Goffin
Federer d. Simon
Nishikori d. Cilic
Thiem d. Zverev
Wawrinka d. Bautista Agut
Gasquet d. Baghdatis
Murray d. Kyrgios
Djokovic beat Kohli at Wimbledon last year, Raonic has a win this year over Goffin, Federer dominates Simon and beat him at Wimbledon last year, Nishikori has a clear h2h edge over Cilic, Thiem is 3-0 over Zverev, Wawrinka is a better player than RBA, Gasquet has a win over Baghdatis this year and has been in great form, and Murray should find a way over Kyrgios given his 4-0 h2h.
Quarters Djokovic d. Raonic
Nishikori d. Federer
Thiem d. Wawrinka
Murray d. Gasquet
Murray has won five straight against Gasquet, I have Thiem upsetting Wawrinka on grass to even the h2h, Federer’s level has declined thus I have Nishikori in an upset win, and Djokovic is 7-0 against Raonic.
Semis Djokovic d. Nishikori
Murray d. Thiem
Djokovic and Murray are a cut above anyone else in the draw, and on grass they appear set for a final battle.
Final Djokovic d. Murray
Murray won Queen’s in advance of Wimbledon, and he’s been playing some remarkable tennis as of late, thus he’ll have a real shot against Djokovic, but the world #1 has been the best player in the world all season and that shouldn’t change on grass.
2016 ATP Nottingham Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The grass season will have a final pit stop in Nottingham before Wimbledon gets underway. Here is a preview with predictions.
Aegon Open Nottingham
ATP World Tour 250
Nottingham, Great Britain
June 19-25, 2016
Prize Money: €648,255
Top 8 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kevin Anderson (20)
2: Pablo Cuevas (26)
3: Joao Sousa (30)
4: Alexandr Dolgopolov (31)
5: Sam Querrey (32)
6: Steve Johnson (39)
7: Andreas Seppi (40)
8: Gilles Muller (41)
A lack of top players means Nottingham is quite an open tournament.
The young Australian is 5-2 on grass in recent tournaments and he’d love to make an ATP run in this 250 to boost his ranking. Becker, a steady veteran, plays well on quick surfaces and rallies well on grass, this should be a close match, and I have Becker’s experience winning the day.
Adrian Mannarino vs. Taylor Fritz
Mannarino, another standout on fast surfaces, is 5-2 on grass in recent weeks, and he has a great chance to post another solid showing after reaching the quarters in Den Bosch. Fritz is a rising young American who showed more of his tremendous promise when he took a set off of Roger Federer in Stuttgart. He’s the underdog in this match, but don’t count him out.
Lukas Rosol vs. Kyle Edmund
Taking a set off of Andy Murray at Queen’s Club last week went a long way to showing that Kyle Edmund may finally fulfill some of his promise on grass this season. The big hitting but erratic Lukas Rosol stands in his way, and with Rosol struggling, I have Edmund pulling an upset and giving British fans some excitement before Wimbledon.
The big serving Kevin Anderson hasn’t been healthy this season but he won a pair of matches in Queens and appears to be finding a bit of form. He should roll past Ivan Dodig or Julien Benneteau before running into Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco upset Stan Wawrinka in Queen’s, and I have the Spaniard upsetting Anderson after defeating the serve and volleyer Rajeev Ram (who opens with Victor Estrella).
Vasek Pospisil is a miserable 6-15 this year, his poor form this season is looking to rebound on grass. Luckily, he’ll open with a struggling Denis Istomin, presuming Istomin dispatches Damir Dzumhur in round 1. I have Pospisil falling to Steve Johnson after the American defeats John Millman or Thomaz Bellucci, both of whom are struggling. Verdasco should have the edge on Johnson given the surface.
Joao Sousa is average at best on grass and I have him falling to Dudi Sela, an Israeli veteran who is above average on the surface and tends to get enough good results to keep his ranking up. Sela opens with a qualifier, and the Sousa/Sela winner will be opposite Becker/Thompson most likely in round 3. Guido Pella is poor on grass, and thus I have Becker over Sela for a spot in the quarterfinals.
The Mannarino/Fritz winner has a great chance of reaching the quarters as well. I have Mannarino defeating dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi, and then Andreas Seppi, after Seppi defeats James Ward or Malek Jaziri. Seppi was a quarterfinalist in Halle but he’s had a rather mediocre season. Between Mannarino and Becker I have Mannarino winning and the Frenchman reaching the semis.
Halle quarterfinalist Marcos Baghdatis is set to do well in Nottingham. His experience, and attacking abilities on fast surfaces should earn him a win over the great ball striker Denis Kudla, after Kudla beats Evgeny Donskoy. Baghdatis is then likely to matchup with Sam Querrey, after Querrey defeats Diego Schwartzman or a qualifier. Querrey was a semifinalist in Den Bosch and is also solid on grass, but I have Baghdatis strongest in this section.
The #2 seed Pablo Cuevas is poor on grass which sets up either Brydan Klein or a qualifier to defeat him and reach round 3. Ricardas Berankis will be opposite either Dan Evans or Liam Broady, both brits. This is a hard to project section, but Evans has more experience and thus I have him reaching the quarters. Baghdatis should prevail from there.
Gilles Muller, a finalist in Den Bosch, is 6-2 on grass this season and is a great serve and volleyer on grass. Muller should serve past Jiri Vesely, after Vesely defeats Horacio Zeballos, then serve past the veteran Mikhail Youzhny. Youzhny reached the quarters in Stuttgart and should have an edge against Teymuraz Gabashvili, along with dirtballer Pablo Carreno Busta in round 2.
Alexandr Dolgopolov is unpredictable, in particular on grass, he could fall to Edmund or Rosol in round 2, but if he can find form I have him reaching the quarterfinals with an additional win over Mikhail Kukushkin, before falling to Muller at that stage. Kukushkin just won a challenger on clay, and will face Alex Ward or a qualifier in round 2.
Outside of the major seeds, Mannarino is a threat to win the tournament, he has every reason to want to grab a title and the ranking points to go with it, and unlike some of the other players in the draw, he’s less likely to be focused on Wimbledon.
Semis Verdasco d. Mannarino
Baghdatis d. Muller
Verdasco is 2-0 against Mannarino, and I have Baghdatis over Muller given the 3-0 h2h.
Final Baghdatis d. Verdasco
Baghdatis is 3-0 against Verdasco in his career and he’d love to win an ATP title, this is a great chance for him to do just that at an advanced stage in his career.
Marcos Baghdatis, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Ivo Karlovic, Steve Johnson, and Defending Champion Rajeev Ram to compete in Hall of Fame Tennis Championships
NEWPORT, R.I., May 27, 2016 – When the ATP World Tour comes to Newport, R.I. in July for the first stop of the summer season in the United States, the player field will feature a Grand Slam tournament finalist, several players ranked among the world top-50, a group of the world’s brightest young stars, and Newport fan favorites who have seen success on the International Tennis Hall of Fame grass courts previously.
Marcos Baghdatis, a dynamic player from Cyprus who has been ranked as high as world No. 8 and was runner up at the 2006 Australian Open, is set to make his first appearance in Newport. Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis has recently committed to Newport, joining a previously announced group of rising stars in the player field, including Americans Taylor Fritz and Jared Donaldson. The third-highest ranked American Steve Johnson will make his third appearance in Newport, where he was a quarterfinalist in 2014. Defending champion Rajeev Ram will return to Newport, along with last year’s runner up Ivo Karlovic, a big serving pro who is currently ranked world No. 28.
Additional players for the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships are still to be named. The tournament will be played July 10 – 17. Tickets are available now on HallofFameTennisChampionships.com.
“There is a lot of variety in the player field for this year’s tournament,” commented Tournament Director and Hall of Fame CEO Todd Martin. “I think it will be a great experience for fans to see some amazing young talent competing against some of the tour’s more prolific veteran players like Marcos Baghdatis and Ivo Karlovic.”
He continued, “Also, we’re really working to build an enhanced fan experience in Newport this summer, and that combined with this player field will offer a fantastic week of tennis.”
Fans will enjoy several new amenities at this year’s tournament, notably an entirely new South Grandstand, featuring individual flip down seating rather than the previously used benches. The viewing experience of the tournament will also be significantly enhanced with the addition of videoboards in the stadium and Hawk-Eye replay – an electronic line calling system. Additionally, as a result of the Hall of Fame’s recent expansion and renovation projects, the tournament now has more space to work with and will offer an expanded fan zone featuring a tennis demo court and new on-site dining options.
Special events top off the ATP action, including tennis clinics for both juniors and adults throughout the week, Alex and Ani Ladies Day on Thursday, July 14, and a new event – PowerShares Legends Newport on Sunday, July 17. PowerShares Legends Newport offers a unique opportunity to see tennis legends back in action in a special one-day tournament. The field will feature Andy Roddick, James Blake, Marat Safin, and a fourth player to be named. It’s a particularly special weekend for Safin to compete, as the two-time Grand Slam tournament champion will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on the day prior.
Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus is currently ranked world No. 39 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. Always an exciting player to watch, Baghdatis has been a staple of the ATP World Tour since the early 2000s and he has been ranked within the top-100 in the year-end rankings for 11 straight years. Baghdatis has had some big wins this season, most notably at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where he was a finalist. In 2006, Baghdatis was the runner up at the Australian Open. That same season, he reached a career high of world No. 8 and won his first career title with a victory at the China Open. Baghdatis is one of the most successful Davis Cup players of all time, and he has been a dedicated Cyprus Davis Cup team member since he made his debut in 2000 as a 14-year-old. Earlier this year, he won his 36th straight Davis Cup match, surpassing the record for longest singles winning streak, which was previously held by Bjorn Borg at 33 matches.
Rajeev Ram returns to Newport as defending champion, having defeated Ivo Karlovic in a close final last year, 7-6(7), 5-7, 7-6(2). It was Ram’s second career title, as he also won the Newport title in 2009. Ram also won the Newport doubles title that year (w/ Jordan Kerr) – one of his eight career doubles titles. Ram is currently ranked world No. 70, and he has been ranked as high as world No. 56, which he achieved in April of this season. In February of this season, Ram was the runner up at the Delray Beach Open.
Newport fan favorite Ivo Karlovic returns for a sixth appearance at the event, where he has seen great success in recent years. Karlovic was the runner up in 2015 and 2014, and in 2013 he was a quarterfinalist. Karlovic stands at 6’11” and is known for his powerful serve which has been clocked as high as 156 mph. He has a career total of 10,624 aces to date, making him the all-time record holder for career aces and one of just two players in the sport’s history to surpass 10,000 aces. Karlovic has won six ATP World Tour titles, with his most recent victory coming at the 2015 Delray Beach Open. He is currently ranked world No. 28.
American Steve Johnson, who is the third-highest ranked American player and current world No. 34 returns to Newport for the fourth straight year. He was a quarterfinalist at the event in 2014. This season, Johnson has advanced to the third round at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, and the Miami Open. Johnson has been active on the ATP World Tour for just four seasons, following a highly successful collegiate career at University of Southern California, where he won the NCAA Singles Championship in both 2011 and 2012. This season, Johnson has advanced to the third round at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, and the Miami Open.
Rounding out the recent commitments to the Newport player field is an exciting young Australian player, Thanasi Kokkinakis, who is making his Newport debut. Kokkinakis began actively competing on the ATP World Tour in 2014, closing that first season out inside the world top-150. Last year, he broke into the world top-100, reaching a career high ranking of world No. 69, in a season that saw him qualify for six ATP World Tour events, advance to the fourth round at Indian Wells, and the third round at the French Open. Kokkinakis has notched big wins against several top-50 players including Bernard Tomic, Ernest Gulbis, and Juan Monaco. Kokkinakis has been out for the entire 2016 season to date following shoulder surgery, but is prepping to return.
Dominic Thiem continued his MEGA season with his second ATP title this month in Acapulco. The 500 level tournament is his biggest career result thus far and the 22 year old Austrian is making a push for the top 10. Thiem scored a comeback win in the final 7-6(6) 4-6 6-3 over Bernard Tomic after Tomic was up 4-1 and 5-2 in the first set. Tomic had a good tournament and showed his own flashes of greatness but the 23 year old Aussie could maintain a consistent high level compared to Thiem’s newly aggressive tennis this year.
Thiem is 18-4 on the season with room to grow as he has two titles, and two semifinals already this year. He beat Damir Dzumhur, Grigor Dimitrov, and Sam Querrey in resounding fashion without dropping a set, and also came back from a set down against Dmitry Tursunov in his second match. The former top 15 player Dimitrov was plainly outclassed by Thiem who is two years his junior.
Tomic moved to 12-6 on the season and posted his best result after a post Australian slump. He got revenge against Rajeev Ram for a loss earlier this month, and then beat Adrian Mannarino, Illya Marchenko and Alexandr Dolgopolov to reach the final. Dolgo was on fire in the opening set, and had his chances in sets 2 and 3, but somehow Tomic dealt with his shotmaking to advance. Dolgopolov upset David Ferrer early in the tournament, and the other favorite Kei Nishikori lost to Querrey.
Veteran Max Mirnyi teamed up with Treat Huey to defeat Alexander Peya and Philipp Petzschner in the doubles final. Mirnyi needs a couple more wins to make it 700 in his doubles career.
The 500 level stop in Dubai saw world #4 Stan Wawrinka capture his second ATP title of the season. Wawrinka had a surprisingly easy path to the title after world #1 Novak Djokovic withdrew with an eye infection. Against unseeded veteran Marcos Baghdatis, he dazzled with his backhand in a great display of offense against offense from the baseline for a 6-4 7-6(13) victory.
Wawrinka had to fight back from a set and a break down, and work through a tough third set to beat serve and volleyer Sergiy Stakhovsky for the second week in a row, he was looking shaky early on, but wins over Franko Skugor and Philipp Kohlschreiber gave him momentum. Nick Kyrgios met him in the semifinals, as he had another good week on tour, but a back injury forced him to retire in set 2.
The Cypriot Baghdatis reached his first tour final since Atlanta last year, and he did so with surprising wins over Viktor Troicki, Vasek Pospisil, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Feliciano Lopez, dropping just the first set to Lopez en route. Troicki and RBA had been in good form as of late, but both looked exhausted in sloppy second sets against the 30 year old.
Italians Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi won 14-12 in a third set super tiebreak against the Spanish Lopez brothers Feliciano and Marc to capture the doubles title. Lopez still had a great week overall with a semifinal in singles and a final in doubles after a slow start to 2016.
Pablo Cuevas defended his Sao Paulo title and won his second tournament in a row to move to 12-3 on the season, and cement his status as one of the best clay courters on tour. Cuevas is 10-1 on clay this year and dominated the Golden Swing with a quarterfinal in Buenos Aires, and titles in Rio and Sao Paulo.
His Sao Paulo triumph came with little signs of fatigue in a 7-6(4) 6-3 victory over Pablo Carreno Busta. He also beat Facundo Bagnis, the young upstart Thiago Monteiro, and Dusan Lajovic this week, dropping just a set to a promising Monteiro in some rather quick matches. Monteiro is 3-2 on tour this year after making his ATP main draw debut in Rio.
Carreno Busta was bageled in his opening set of the tournament against Albert Ramos but survived a third set tiebreak, and then went on to beat Daniel Gimeno-Traver in three sets, Roberto Carballes Baena, and Inigo Cervantes, in quarter and semifinal blowouts. It was the first ever ATP final for Carreno Busta, but victory was not to be had as Cuevas proved too strong. Pablo should be a threat on European clay in the spring as well.
Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos won the doubles title over Carreno Busta/David Marrero.