ATP Rome qualifying for 2015 was stacked as numerous players who regularly feature in ATP main draw competition were forced to enter the qualifying tournament to try and earn a place in the Masters main draw.
While ATP regulars such as Denis Istomin, Daniel Gimeno-Traver, Jurgen Melzer, and Pablo Carreno Busta failed to qualify, Alex Dolgopolov and Thomaz Bellucci were the highlights of the qualification field. Dolgopolov, who has slipped to 73 in the rankings, after formerly being a top 20 player, defeated Roberto Marcora, and then Federico Delbonis without dropping a set. Martin Klizan, a beatable opponent, awaits him in round 1.
Bellucci, who qualified in Madrid, and reached the quarters in Istanbul as well, will open with another qualifier, Diego Schwartzman, in the main draw. He defeated Alejandro Gonzalez with a bagel, and then beat Ivan Dodig, who continues to struggle, in straight sets. Schwartzman, a semifinalist in Istanbul, beat Andrey Kuznetsov, then scored a minor upset over Benoit Paire in three sets, as he won the first and third sets.
A pair of Italians qualified on home soil in Rome, Andrea Arnaboldi, a 27 year old ranked just outside the top 200 with extremely limited ATP experience upset Mikhail Kukushkin in round 1, in three sets, and then beat his countryman Stefano Napolitano on Rome’s famed red clay to qualify. He’ll have a tough opponent in the form of David Goffin in round 1 of the main draw. Thomas Fabbiano, a 25 year old who is also just outside the top 200 in the rankings, added to the home fan’s delight as he qualified with an upset victory over young gun Andrey Rublev. Fabbiano in fact scored a pair of upsets as he beat Joao Souza in the previous round. His first round opponent Richard Gasquet will be a big step up however.
Last but not least, Dusan Lajovic and Marsel Ilhan both joined the main draw. Lajovic, a 24 year old Serb nearing the top 70, beat Marco Cecchinato, an Italian, and then upset Borna Coric, as the young guns have not fared well in Rome thus far. He won both of those matches without dropping a set, and he’ll look to improve his clay court record in the main draw now, as he will face the accomplished Juan Monaco. Ilhan, the great Turkish hope, did one better than his loss in the final round qualifying of Madrid, as he defeated Gianluca Mager to qualify, and prior to that, he upset the in-form Daniel Gimeno-Traver in straight sets. Ilhan has a very winnable round 1 match with Adrian Mannarino next up.
Rublev, Dodig win Tuesday at ATP Istanbul 2015, Turkish Players Crash Out Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Rublev scores another ATP md win (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Today at the Istanbul Open, was a day of minor upsets. Mikhail Kukushkin routined his opponent in all Kazakh battle as expected 6-3 6-4, despite coming back from the break down in the second. Alexandr Nedovyesov has nothing to trouble the 6th seed. Turkish WC Cem Ilkel played an okay match, especially in the second. Though, his volleys were poor and his second serves were not working at all. With the home crowd on his side, he kept the score close against a solid clay courter, No:62 Daniel Gimeno-Traver. The Spaniard dominated the first set, but crowd started to push kid, at least to get the second set. Ilkel did well for a time, until he was serving 4-5 down, where he got broken again and lost the match. It was Ilkel’s first ever ATP tour match, so it was still a good showing, with DGT advancing 6-1 7-5.
DGT beat one of the Turkish MD players (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Turkish No:1 Marsel Ilhan played a miserable match later in the day, unforced errors were flying off his racket, and he was very impatient with his play, likely partially influenced by the immense pressure of being the home favorite. The Turk was everything but clutch, missing 8 break points in 3 different games. On the other hand, Jarkko Nieminen was not special today, the lefty used his BH slices very well, Ilhan never responded well to these shots. The Flying Finn played deep balls, with a limited number of UEs. His serves were weak, but it was enough for Nieminen to keep the ball in play and wait for an error from Ilhan. A crowd of about 1,000 watched the home favorite slump to a 6-3 6-4 defeat.
The night match on Center Court, was between Andreas Haider-Maurer and Ivan Dodig. TheCroatian revenged his loss in Bucharest, in a meeting where he served extremely well, and took his chances in the key moment of the match. The 5th seed AHM, lacked intensity, and lost fighting spirit after dropping the first set. Dodig played a really solid match and pleased remaining crowd which was reduced after Ilhan lost. The scoreline was 7-5 6-3
Dodig pushed past AHM (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
On the outside courts, Andrey Rublev was on top of his game against Damir Dzumhur 6-3 6-3, the young Russian executed his game well, with using wonderful forehands as his main weapon. Rublev dominated the match in straight sets, which resulted in Dzumhur grumbling and cursing at himself for its entirety. The Bosnian Dzumhur whined about the court size to chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani, asking his opinion whether could Rafael Nadal play here or not. It was a high tension match with both players exchanging unkind words after a net point. Overall, Rublev was the one who focused on his job, and impressed the crowd with his great performance. The only hiccup he faced, was getting broken after Dzumhur’s Medical timeout, but he answered well in the following game with breaking back. He seemed so promising on clay, though his net game needs improvement.
Other results from today
 Diego Schwartzman (ARG) d [Q] Blaz Kavcic (SLO) 62 61
Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d Steve Darcis (BEL) 52 Retired
Denis Istomin (UZB) d Benoit Paire (FRA) 63 64
[Q] Teymuraz Gabashvili (RUS) d Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) 76(1) 64
Dusan Lajovic (SRB) d [Q] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 64 75
We have yet to see a 3 setter in the main draw at the Istanbul Open.
Tomorrow, Day 3 starts with second round matches on Center Court. Mikhail Kukushkin and Gimeno-Traver will face early in the day, which will be also their second meeting this year on clay. The Kazakh will be looking to get the win this time, and even the their H2H. Additionally Austria’s Jurgen Melzer will take on Diego Schwartzman, who beat woeful Blaz Kavcic. The Argentine dirtballer should be the favorite.
In the night session, 4th seed and Sao Paolo semi finalist Santiago Giraldo will be up against Andrey Rublev. This will be the best match of the day, one could say. Given form and ability, that is fair to say Russian has a great chance to make the quarterfinals. Nevertheless, I’d expect an entertaining match which goes to 3rd set. In the last match of the night session, world No:2 Roger Federer will face Jarkko Nieminen, whom he has a clear match-up advantage, as well as the game superiority. Beside their 14-0 H2H, the Finnish never got more than 5 games, in any of their clay meetings. Also Nieminen played really a mediocre match today, which declined the expectations even lower. Federer, though, coming off the shock loss to Monfils in Monte Carlo, will not be tested here until semi finals, if not the final, it seems.
2015 ATP Istanbul Preview Steen Kirby and Ahmet Fevzi Guclu, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic is pleased to have credentialed media coverage of the inaugural ATP Istanbul tournament, held in the suburbs of diverse, and modern city of Istanbul, Turkey. For years, Turkey has done the tennis world a service by having a variety of futures and challenger tour events, and now they have the ATP event they deserve, and this one of course is on clay, part of the European spring clay court season. We will have daily reports and interviews from the tournament all week long.
2015 ATP Istanbul Preview
TEB BNP Paribas Open
ATP World Tour 250
April 27-May 3, 2015
Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (2)
2: Grigor Dimitrov (11)
3: Pablo Cuevas (23)
4: Santiago Giraldo (31)
Istanbul has two top players, and the seed cutoff is 61, not bad for a maiden ATP event.
Ilhan, the top Turkish ATP player, who reached a career high ranking this year inside the top 80, has a chance to score a win against Nieminen, an accomplished but struggling veteran at the moment. Ilhan reached a clay court final at a challenger in Turkey, and also won a round in Barcelona before losing to Feliciano Lopez in a third set tiebreak. He has a positive record on clay at a lower level than ATP, and also reached the quarters in Dubai this year on hard court. Nieminen has lost two straight, and has yet to win consecutive matches since the AO. Given his experience, Nieminen is a slight favorite, but he’s not at his best on clay, and Ilhan should have home support that should be a boost to him.
Damir Dzumhur vs. (WC)Andrey Rublev
A battle of young guns, the 22 year old Dzumhur was a semifinalist in Casablanca, and also has a challenger title on clay this year. Rublev shocked Fernando Verdasco as a qualifier in Barcelona and is in good form, he also pushed Fabio Fognini to 3 sets in the next round. This year, the 17 year old already has 3 ATP main draw wins, and he’s rising up the ranks. Dzumhur has more experience, but Rublev has a higher ceiling, and I see him advancing from this matchup.
AHM just beat Dodig in 3 sets in Bucharest (6-4 in the third), and they will get a rematch a few days later. As expected, their matchup in Bucharest was quite the battle, and both guys should be itching to go at it again. AHM has seen some of the best results of his career this season, while Dodig continues to struggle, though he’s foguth hard in most of his matches this season. AHM should be the fave but I again expect it to be close.
Roger Federer is a strong favorite here, even though he lost in Monte Carlo to Monfils, and he will open with the Ilhan/Nieminen winner. If Ilhan wins, our on-site reporter Ahmet Fevzi Guclu expects the crowd to be split between the home favorite Turk and the fan favorite Federer, that said, Federer should ease into the quarters, and also dispatch most likely Daniel Gimeno-Traver to reach the semis.
DGT opens with 19 year old Turkish wild card Cem Ilkel, and similar to the journeyman Haider-Maurer, he’s had a surprise career year, late in his career. He reached the final in Casablanca, and the semis in Bucharest, and has wins over Jiri Vesely, Viktor Troicki, and Gilles Simon in the past few weeks. After Ilkel, his opponent will be either Mikhail Kukushkin, or a qualifier, and Thanasi Kokkinakis is lurking in the qualifying draw. Kukushkin is just 2-3 in his last five matches on clay, so he’s vulnerable to a defeat, DGT has won their last two meetings on clay, and hence he’s the favorite for the quarters, in this weak section.
4 seed Santiago Giraldo will be vulnerable to defeat against the Dzumhur/Rublev winner, after a career year last year, he’s been average at best this season, even on clay. I still have him going through in my own bracket, but that round 2 match should be competitive. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman will open with a qualifier, and then the Steve Darcis/Jurgen Melzer winner. Neither Melzer nor Darcis are in good form, Darcis may have the slightest of edges though as Melzer has struggled for quite a while. Schwartzman qualified in Monte Carlo but has been forgettable on clay this year, with just 1 main draw win on the surface (1-6), again he may be vulnerable to being upset by a qualifier. Giraldo may well make the semis if he can survive his round 2 match, simply because the section below is so unreliable, thus I have him in the semis over Darcis.
2 seed Grigor Dimitrov has not had a good season in 2015, but he still should be good enough to beat Nikoloz Basilashvili or Andrey Golubev in his opening match. Golubev is on a three match losing streak, and Basilashvili, who won his first ATP match earlier this year, has lost two straight, he’s primarily a challenger player though he’s been rising onto the fringe of the ATP level. Golubev is a slight fave to win that match, but should have little chance against Dimitrov. Look for Andreas Haider-Maurer to reach the quarters, with wins over Dodig and Dusan Lajovic/qualifier. Lajovic is 5-5 on clay this season, but he’s just 1-2 in his last three matches on the surface. AHM and Dimitrov have never played before, but the Monte Carlo quarterfinalist Dimitrov should advance to the semis given the talent discrepancy.
Pablo Cuevas will face Andrey Kuznetsov or a qualifier in round 2, he lost in round 2 of Barcelona, as did Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov, who qualified in Monte Carlo as well, should beat the qualifier, but Cuevas will be the favorite in their first head-to-head meaning, again given the difference in ranking and ability. In the quarters, Cuevas could face a difficult opponent, either Thomaz Bellucci or Benoit Paire. Bellucci will open with Mikhail Youzhny, who won a match in Bucharest before falling in round 2. Bellucci has won their last two meetings, and given how poor Youzhny has been this season, I expect him to do so for a third consecutive time. The Brazilian also won a round in Barcelona. Benoit Paire, who qualified in Monte Carlo, won a round, and then won two matches in Barcelona as well, will open against the struggling Denis Istomin. Bellucci and Paire have never met, but given current form, I have Paire winning to reach the quarters, and then upsetting Cuevas to reach the semis. They have never met before.
Dark Horse: Benoit Paire
Paire has always had the talent, and he’s reached two previous ATP finals (former top 30), however his mental side has been what is unreliable, along with a poor forehand. He’s rounding back into form this year and is nearly back in the top 70, with recent improvement in results, this 250 level event is where he can finally shine and announce his return to the main tour spotlight. Istomin, Bellucci, and Cuevas are all beatable in order, and Dimitrov is a weaker seed than Federer, in the bottom half. That would be a monumental upset ranking wise, but Paire has beaten Dimitrov twice before (2-1 h2h), giving him a dark horse shot at an ATP final.
Semis: Federer d. Giraldo
Dimitrov d. Paire
Federer is 2-0 against Giraldo, though they have never met on clay, and as mentioned, Dimitrov has a negative h2h against Paire, but still has to be the favorite to prevail, as he’s developed better in the past couple of years.
Final: Federer d. Dimitrov
Fed routined Dimitrov in Brisbane this year, and is 3-0 against him, Dimitrov has never taken a set against a more accomplished player of a similar style, and thus he should take this 250 title.
Round 1 of the 2015 Davis Cup World Group was filled with drama as it brought out the best parts of the Davis Cup, with upsets, comebacks from 2 sets down, and passionate fan support at sites around the globe as players donned the national colors and put in their best effort on behalf of their country. Here is a review of all the action over this past weekend.
Argentina clawed back from 2-1 down in the tie as they were pushed to extra time at home against Brazil. The Friday singles rubbers were split, with Joao Souza winning the first rubber in five sets over Carlos Berlocq, and Leo Mayer claiming the second rubber for Argentina with a four set win over Thomaz Bellucci. Brazil won the doubles as expected as Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares took out Berlocq and Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in straights.
On Sunday, Mayer led the Argentinian battle back, he avoided a collapse from 2 sets up and beat Souza in the second longest match in tennis history, it went over 6 hours as he triumphed on his twelfth match point chance 15-13 in the fifth set. Every set went to at least 5-5 as both players were, as to be expected, exhausted at the end, with Mayer having just that extra edge.
Due to that 6 hour+ match, the final decisive rubber between Federico Delbonis and Bellucci was pushed into extra time on Monday morning, and Delbonis, inspired by Mayer’s triumph, defeated Bellucci in 4 sets, as the Brazilian veteran was the weak link for the team this time.
Kazakhstan d. Italy 3-2
The biggest upset of the weekend came in Astana, as Mikhail Kukushkin inspired his lower ranked Kazakh teammates to a victory over an erratic Italian team that proved to be in disarray by Sunday. Kukushkin beat Simone Bolelli in straights on Friday though Andreas Seppi evened up the tie with a win over Andrey Golubev in 4 sets. The Italians won the doubles rubber as Bolelli and Fabio Fognini beat Alex Nedovyesov and Golubev in four sets, giving them a 2-1 lead.
On Sunday, the Italian choke job was on however, Seppi lost to Kukushkin in a very poor showing, as he failed to take even a set, and then Fognini made matters worse losing in five sets to Nedovyesov from 2 sets to 1 up, after he gotten it back to 5-5 in the fifth set.
It wasn’t the best attended tie of the weekend, but the fans who were in attendance were greatly pleased to see their home boys advancing as Italy will have to fight off relegation now.
The one-two punch of Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil was too much for Kei Nishikori and Japan. Though Kei performed well, beating Pospisil in straights on Friday, and Raonic in 5 sets on Sunday, the rest of the Japanese team fared poorly. Raonic beat Ito in a straight set drubbing on Friday, Daniel Nestor teamed with Pospisil to win the doubles point in five sets over Go Soeda and Yasutaka Uchiyama, and Pospisil dispatched Soeda in a live fifth rubber without dropping a set.
As mentioned in my preview, one has to wonder what might have been for team Japan if they had selected their young guns, Yoshihito Nishioka and Taro Daniel, rather than journeyman veterans Soeda and Ito, in my mind it would have increased their chances to win the tie.
Belgium d. Switzerland 3-2
The highest ranked player on the Swiss team, Yann Marti, stormed off and quit the team after he was not selected to play on Friday singles, and his selfish behavior may have cost his nation the tie, as the severely underdog, and shorthanded Swiss performed admirably, forcing a live fifth rubber to be played on the road in Liege, Belgium.
Henri Laaksonen deserves great credit for the fact the Belgians had to sub in their number one David Goffin, who originally wasn’t planning to play, in order to finish off that fifth rubber. Laaksonen was responsible for both Swiss rubber wins, as he beat Ruben Bemelmans on Friday from 2 sets to love down, Bemelmans collapsing down the stretch, and then beat Steve Darcis in the fourth rubber, also in five sets, as he outlasted the veteran serve and volleyer.
The Belgians earned wins from Darcis over Michael Lammer on Friday, from Bemelmans and Niels Desein over Adrian Bossel and Lammer in Saturday doubles, and as mentioned from Goffin over Bossel in straights, as Belgium had to scratch and claw against a journeyman team to book their place in the quarterfinals.
Australia d. Czech Republic 3-2 (3-1 live rubbers)
Team Australia did have to play live rubber tennis on Sunday, but they were the better team all weekend against the Czechs. Thanasi Kokkinakis added yet another massive accomplishment in his burgeoning career, the young Aussie was selected to open the tie for the Aussies, and he pulled off a brilliant fight back against Lukas Rosol from 2 sets to love down, to give Australia a 1-0 start. Kokkinakis struggled to deal with Rosol’s ballbashing for the first two frames, but won the final three sets 7-5 7-5 6-3, with late breaks sets 3 and four, to grab the victory, never losing belief in himself, as Rosol’s own belief eventually wilted. Bernard Tomic followed up the Kokkinakis triumph with a routine win over fellow young gun Jiri Vesely to put Australia 2-0 up.
The Czechs forced the Aussies to close off the tie on Sunday with an upset win in the doubles by Vesely and Adam Pavlasek over Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt in five sets, but Tomic secured the tie, defeating a struggling Rosol in straight sets in the fourth rubber.
The dead rubber was won by Jan Mertl to conclude the tie at 3-2 in favor of Australia, Mertl dispatching Sam Groth, who appeared to be ready to board his airplane.
France d. Germany 3-2 (3-0 live rubbers)
France got off to a great start and won their tie on Saturday against Germany, Gilles Simon had to survive an onslaught against Jan-Lennard Struff in the opening rubber, finally sneaking past the pesky Germany 10-8 in the fifth, but it was much easier for Gael Monfils, who beat Philipp Kohlschreiber in straights, and also for Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau, who secured the tie with a win in Saturday doubles over Benjamin Becker and Andre Begemann.
Kohlschreiber and Struff beat Simon and Mahut in the dead rubbers to conclude the tie at 3-2 in favor of the French.
Borna Coric lost a 2 sets to love lead against Viktor Troicki in the second Friday singles rubber, and that was the primary contributing factor to the Serbian sweep over the Croatian team. Novak Djokovic beat Mate Delic, and as mentioned, Troicki beat Coric in 5 sets. Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic locked the result of the tie on Saturday with a win over Marin Draganja and Franko Skugor in doubles.
Filip Krajinovic and Troicki won the dead rubbers over Skugor and Delic.
The quarterfinals in the World Group will feature France traveling to face Great Britain, Kazakhstan traveling to face Australia, Serbia going to Argentina and Canada heading to Belgium.
Action Outside The World Group
Santiago Giraldo and Colombia beat Pablo Cuevas and Uruguay 3-2, the inspiring Victor Estrella led the Dominican Republic past Barbados with a pair of wins and a 3-2 overall result, Michael Venus and New Zealand beat China 4-1.
In Europe, Russia beat Denmark 4-1 as Andrey Kuznetsov won two singles rubbers, Austria scratched past Sweden 3-2, from 1-2 down going into play on Sunday. Elias Ymer shocked Jurgen Melzer for a Friday singles win, but he couldn’t defeat Andreas Haider-Maurer on Sunday, and Gerald Melzer secured the tie with a fifth rubber win. Gerald chosen to start over his older, more accomplished brother Jurgen.
Martin Klizan went 3-0 between singles and doubles as Slovakia blanked Slovenia 5-0, Romania demolished Israel 5-0, as Marius Copil and Adrian Ungur both won twice, and Poland beat Lithuania 3-2, as Jerzy Janowicz scored two singles wins.
In group 2 action, the young Chilean squad swept Peru 5-0, Turkey beat South Africa 3-2 as Cem Ilkel, a 19 year old ranked outside of the worlds top 400 beat Ruan Roelofse 6-4 in the fifth set, and Marsel Ilhan scored two wins in singles. Last but not least, Joao Sousa led Portugal to a 4-1 win over Morocco.
Borna Coric stunned as James Ward and Lucas Pouille move into the 2015 ATP Dubai main draw Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
World 349 Fabrice Martin caused the biggest shock of the entire qualification tournament at the 2015 ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a 6-3 6-7(5-7) 7-6(7-5) win over second seed Borna Ćorić in their final round qualifying encounter. Going into the final qualification round Martin had beaten 7th seed Evgeny Donskoy in straight sets. At the start of the match Martin swiftly took control of things as he took the first set 6-3 after only 30 minutes against world number 85 Coric. Coric, one of the most promising young players on the ATP tour, responded more positively in the second set as he charged to a 4-1 lead. The lead was then gradually evaporated by Martin as he clawed his way back to level the set at 5-5 before forcing it into a tie-break. The tie-break consisted of a series of lost of service points for both players (7/12 points played) before Coric was finally able to take the tie-break with his second set point. Fortunately the serving issues in the tie-break wasn’t prevalent in the final set as both players remained solid on their serve throughout to force it into yet another tie-break. In the final tie break there was one break of serve, however, it was the most vital point. Serving 3-4 down Coric was broken by Martin to open up a mini lead. Coric was unable to narrow this lead as the Frenchman went on to take the match. This is now the first time in Martin’s career that he has qualified for the main draw of any ATP event (250 and over) at the age of 27. He also broke a 7 match losing streak in all tournament matches going into the tournament.
The UK’s James Ward continued his quest to reach the top 100 in the ATP rankings for the first time in his career with a hard fought win over Marius Copil. The British number two had to come from a set down before edging Copil out 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-4 during a match lasting just over two hours. After being edged out in the first set tie-break, Ward remained consistent on his serve as he didn’t drop a single service game in the following two sets. Ward is currently ranked 106 in the world and is edging tantalizingly close towards his top 100 goal.
Like Ward, 20-year-old Frenchman Lucas Pouille also had a testing match against world 256 Laslo Djere. In the first round Djere stunned the top seed, Jürgen Melzer, in three sets to set up a showdown against Poullie. Djere looked once again on course to produce another upset as he took the first set in a tie-break and was 3-1 up in the second set. Things then started to rapidly unravel for the Serbian as Pouille broke back and won five consecutive games to force the match into a deciding set. In the final set both players serves were fragile with three consecutive breaks of serves (two for Djere and once for Pouille). Pouille finally held his serve as he edged to a 3-1 lead to at last get a strong foothold in the match. Then yet another falter on the Djere serve gave the Frenchman yet another break as he cruise to take the match 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-2.
Finally joining Martin, Ward and the in-form Pouille in the main draw will be Marsel İlhan. Ilhan is the only player to have qualified for the main draw without dropping a single set. In the final round Ilhan faced 35-year-old Jan Hernych. The Turkish tennis player dropped his serve only once as he took the match 6-4 6-4.