.@NoahRubin33 Gets Biggest Win of Career @CitiOpen; Little Brother Zverev Prevails Against Big Brother Zverev in Brother Palooza Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Noah Rubin earned a career-high scalp, besting top American player John Isner tonight in second round action at the Citi Open in Washington. Isner played poorly and Rubin seized the opportunity, stunning the appreciative crowd and most of all his mother, Melanie Rubin, who was reduced to tears of joy as she watched her son take the match 6-4, 7-6(6). The only thing stranger than Isner’s feeble serve tonight was a shoe malfunction that victimized Noah Rubin in the first set. Rubin did double duty tonight, facing Andrey Rublev two hours later for a spot in tomorrow’s quarterfinals.
Mischa Zverev, 2018 Citi Open (Photo: Mike Renz for Tennis Atlantic)
The fans in Washington got their Brother Palooza, with Little Bro Sascha Zverev eliminating Big Bro Mischa Zverev 6-3, 7-5. The match was historic as it pitted the ZBros on the same ATP tour level court for the first time.
Sascha Zverev, 2018 Citi Open (Photo: Mike Renz for Tennis Atlantic)
Sascha Zverev, 2018 Citi Open (Photo: Mike Renz for Tennis Atlantic)
An Instant Classic it was not, and the word “epic” shouldn’t be used in this paragraph. The first set breezed by as Zverev got the set’s only break at 4-3. The second set was more like Errorpalooza with both players being broken. Sascha faced more break point chances than Mischa did in the second set, but in the end, Sascha got the break at 5-all and that was all he needed for the defending champion of the event to return to the quarterfinals. After the match, the brothers made nice and hit the doubles courts to finish winning their suspended match against the top seeds, Mate Pavic and Oliver Marach. It’s fair to say that the Zverevs stole the show on Thursday…you would think. But’s there’s still time for Rubin (he’s currently down a set) or Alex de Minaur to win two singles matches in this session and that would top Brother Palooza. But that’s a tall ask.
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.
Korean star Hyeon Chung returned to the ATP tour with a second round victory at the BB&T Atlanta Open over Taylor Fritz 6-4 7-6. In a hard fought afternoon match the two next gen stars traded winners, with Chung overcoming 16 Fritz aces to win in straights.
The match opened with Fritz and Chung both saving break points before Fritz was broken at 30 in the 9th game of the match. Chung went on to hold his serve to take the set. In set 2 Chung broke right away and pressured Fritz in two more service games getting to 4-3 with relative ease. However Fritz turned things around yet again breaking a weary looking Chung to get things back on serve. From there it went to a tiebreak where from 5-5 Chung won the final two points to secure victory.
Joining Chung in the quarterfinals are John Isner, Ryan Harrison, and Mischa Zverev the singles winners on Wednesday.
Isner is looking to extend his semifinal streak in Atlanta and he moved a match closer with a 6-3 6-2 victory in just over an hour against Alex De Minaur. Showing no signs of fatigue from his run at Wimbledon Isner fired 15 aces and faced no break points, breaking De Minaur two times and avoiding even a tiebreak.
Isner’s opponent in last year’s final Ryan Harrison got past Lukas Lacko 2-6 6-2 6-3. Harrison played a poor first set as Lacko got off to a hot start on the fast Atlanta stadium court. Harrison regained his composure though. From a set down he saved three break points on his serve at 2-2 in the second set and from there he turned the amtch around. He broke Lacko twice in the second then recovered from a break down in the third to save a break point and break twice then serve out the match.
Mischa Zverev defeated a soon to be retired Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 6-2 in just over an hour. Youzhny didn’t move closer to 500 match wins as Zverev got the first break and three more over the course of two sets to win with relative ease.
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.
Grass Court Season Concludes With ATP 250 Newport Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP 250 in Newport at the Tennis Hall of Fame concludes the grass court season and begins the North American summer of tennis. Here is your look at all the action.
Adrian Mannarino will begin against James Duckworth or Jordan Thompson, Mannarino is a great grass court player so he should beat Thompson and Gilles Muller to reach the semis. Muller’s path is Marcos Baghdatis, then Marcel Granollers or a qualifier. While Muller is usually good on grass, his poor form means Mannarino has a decided edge.
Steve Johnson did not have a good grass court season, but back in the States he should get past a qualifier or Christian Harrison before running into Alex De Minaur, one of the breakthrough young guns this year and a player who did have a great grass season. De Minaur should eke past the big serving Ivo Karlovic, then defeat Dudi Sela or a qualifier, with De Minaur favored to emerge from this section.
Mischa Zverev should ease past Donald Young/Vasek Pospisil and then defeat Denis Kudla after Kudla defeats Ruben Bemelmans and Ramkumar Ramanathan/qualifier. Zverev has won a title on grass this year and he has a great shot to do it again if he can get past a tough grass court player in Kudla.
Matt Ebden faces Bjorn Fratangelo or Tim Smyczek then should run into Sergiy Stakhovsky in the quarters. Stako will face Jason Jung, coming off success on the challenger tour, then Nicolas Mahut or Ryan Harrison, with Harrison likely falling victim to a tough section full of good grass court players. Ebden vs. Zverev is my bottom half semifinal.
By a score of 6-4 6-4 Mischa Zverev, a 30 year old tour veteran and for many years an ATP Challenger Tour journeyman, stepped up and captured his first ATP title, defeating Lukas Lacko in the final. Zverev, contesting a third career final, edged Lacko after previously dropping just a set this week. In his opening match he needed 3 sets to defeat Nicolas Jarry but things got easier from there as his serve and volley game led him past Steve Johnson, Denis Shapovalov, and Mikhail Kukushkin to reach the final.
Lacko, normally a challenger player, found form at the ATP level to defeat Roberto Quiroz, Diego Schwartzman, Cam Norrie, and Marco Cecchinato, dropping just a set to Schwartzman prior to the final. Despite their success at this 250 level tournament, it would be surprise if Zverev or Lacko featured in a major way at Wimbledon.
British pairing Bambridge/O’Mara defeated the Skupski brothers in the doubles final.
#2 seed Damir Dzumhur won his third career ATP title, defeating Adrian Mannarino 6-1 1-6 6-1 in an hour and a half final on grass courts in Turkey. The 250 level title continues to confirm Dzumhur’s rise on tour as the Bosnian slipped past Marius Copil then eased past Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Jiri Vesely to reach the final.
Mannarino having never won an ATP title, was hungry but came up just short. The quirky Frenchman defeated Ricardas Berankis, Joao Sousa, and Gael Monfils, upsetting Monfils in three sets to reach the final.
Demoliner/Gonzalez defeated Dutch pairing Arends/Middelkoop in the doubles final.
Tsonga and Wawrinka Claim Titles in Run Up to Roland Garros Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga moved to an excellent 21-5 on the season and claimed his third title this year defeating Tomas Berdych 7-6 7-5 in a nip and tuck singles final that bodes well for both players chances of making deep runs at Roland Garros. The French crowd was delighted by Tsonga’s wins over Carlos Berlocq, Karen Khachanov, and Nikoloz Basilashvili this week, as Tsonga found form and recovered from dropping sets in two of those matches. He also showed he’s healthy. Berdych eased past Hyeon Chung, Gilles Simon, and the dangeorus Milos Raonic, although he’s not among the favorites in Paris he enters the tournament coming off his best tournament this year, and his first final of the season.
Andres Molteni and Adil Shamasdin defeated Marcus Daniell and Marcelo Demoliner in the doubles final.
Stan Wawrinka won his first title of the season and defended his home triumph last year in Geneva as he came back from a set down to defeat surprise finalist Mischa Zverev 4-6 6-3 6-3. Wawrinka beat Rogerio Dutra Silva, Sam Querrey, and Andrey Kuznetsov as well this week, and although he dropped a couple of sets, the former French Open champion is clearly playing some solid tennis right now. Zverev stormed through qualifying, and on his worst surface (clay), he reached a second career ATP final upsetting John Isner, Steve Johnson, and Kei Nishikori this week and also edging past Robin Haase in round 1. Zverev only had two straight set wins this week, as he was living on the edge.
Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in the doubles final.
19 year old Russian/Kazakh Alexander Bublik has an entertaining style of play, and is making his grand slam debut after qualifying against French young gun Lucas Pouille. Despite Pouille being just 22, he has significantly more tour experience than Bublik, and that alone should give him an edge in this matchup that should feature entertaining shotmaking. Pouille retired in his last match though, so Bublik may have a shot if the Frenchman is unfit.
(5)Kei Nishikori vs. Andrey Kuznetsov
A three time and defending quarterfinalist in Melbourne, Nishikori has two previous wins over Kuznetsov, and they both came in slams last season. Kuznetsov continues to improve though and coming off of the semifinals in Sydney, perhaps he can take his first set in a slam against Nishikori. Kei dropped the final in Brisbane as his pre-AO warm-up.
(14)Nick Kyrgios vs. Gastao Elias
Kyrgios has made the quarters in Melbourne before, but knee problems have prevented him from playing any warm-up matches. Expectations are down for this controversial home favorite, while Elias pushed Dominic Thiem to a third set in Sydney, and perhaps could trouble Kyrgios in this one if he’s unfit. More than likely Kyrgios will dictate play with his serve.
(27)Bernard Tomic vs. Thomaz Bellucci
Tomic is defending fourth round points after a miserable run in his Australian summer. He’s lost twice previously to the big hitter Bellucci, and is in danger of losing this match after unexpected losses in his warm-ups. Tomic is apparently struggling with his diet, and while Bellucci isn’t in great form, I see Bernie crashing out in round 1 to Bellucci, who has never made it past the second round in Melbourne.
Both players are big hitters, and their careers have taken drastically different turns. Cilic has cemented himself in the top 10 and is a former AO semifinalist and slam champion. Janowicz, once in the top 15, has fallen from the top 200 and didn’t post a tour level win last season. Janowicz has the talent to pressure Cilic with aggressive play. Despite his poor start to the season, Cilic should win though.
(6)Gael Monfils vs. Jiri Vesely
A defending AO quarterfinalist, Monfils has a loss to Vesely in their only slam meeting and didn’t opt to play warm-ups before his first round match. That said, Monfils remains an athletic and talented threat, while Vesely, a quarterfinalist in Auckland, has power, but probably lacks the movement to get past Monfils in this match.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Borna Coric
Dolgo is a one time AO quarterfinalist who continues to play well below his potential and is outside of the top 50 in the rankings. Coric won their last h2h meeting, but after knee problems, and then knee surgery, he’s been struggling to get himself back to his talent level. At age 20, Coric still has a long career ahead, but Dolgopolov will probably win this encounter.
Mikhail Youzhny vs. Marcos Baghdatis
These over 30 veterans have met seven times in their careers, with Youzhny holding a 4-3 edge in the h2h. Youzhny made the quarters in Chennai, while Baghdatis made the semis in Auckland, showing they are in good form heading into this matchup. Baghdatis is a fan favorite and former finalist here, while Youzhny once made the quarters. Baghdatis attacking style likely gives him a slight edge in this one.
The first meeting between this pair of 20 year old talents. Neither have much tour level experience, but Medvedev is coming off of his first ever tour final in Chennai, while Escobedo came through qualifying. Escobedo has enough power to win this, but Medvedev should be the better, and fresher player right now.
(21)David Ferrer vs. (WC)Omar Jasika
A two-time semifinalist in Melbourne, Ferrer has fallen on hard times at 34, and after a rough 2016, has had a miserable 1-2 start to 2017. The 19 year old Jasika, a wild card, is one of the most promising young players in tennis. He just reached a challenger final and very well could made a match of this against Ferrer. I still can’t count against Ferrer’s grinding though, despite his decline in shotmaking ability and fitness.
Muller comes off of his first ATP title in Sydney, while Fritz is still seeking his first Grand Slam win after taking part in all four Grand Slams last year. The 19 year old will likely struggle with Muller’s effective serve, but if the veteran is fatigued, Fritz could gain a confidence boosting win.
Jordan Thompson vs. Joao Sousa
Sousa dispatched Thompson in the 2015 AO when they last met, and he comes off a run to the final in Auckland. Fatigue should play a part in this match though, and with Thompson garnering home support, he’ll have a punchers chance in this one. Thompson reached the quarters in Brisbane, and after a 3-2 warm-up record, I don’t count him out in this match as the underdog.
(28)Feliciano Lopez vs. Fabio Fognini
Lopez has won both of their meetings, which happened to take place in Slams. These veterans play entertaining tennis, and this match is a bit of a toss-up. Neither are in great form, but Fognini is probably a bit worse off, and presuming Lopez is fit he should serve and volley his way to a third victory in this matchup.
(11)David Goffin vs. (Q)Reilly Opelka
The big serving Opelka, who plays like a younger version of John Isner, will make his slam debut against the talented David Goffin. Opelka towers over Goffin on the court, but Goffin has crisper groundstrokes, and will probably win this match. The Belgian is defending fourth round points, and I doubt he’s happy to get this first round matchup.
(2)Novak Djokovic vs. Fernando Verdasco
A one time semifinalist, Verdasco once again gets the misfortune of a brutal early round matchup in Melbourne. Djokovic leads the h2h 9-4 and just saved multiple match points to defeat Verdasco in a Doha three setter to start the season. I don’t see Djokovic losing this one, but Verdasco can still make for a difficult, and entertaining matchup.
For the first time, the new world #1 (Sir) Andy Murray gets the #1 seed slot in a Grand Slam. Murray will start his campaign against journeyman Illya Marchenko, and in round 2 he’ll either get the steady ball striking of Yen-Hsun Lu, or the more aggressive approach of qualifier Andrey Rublev, a hot shot young gun. Rublev could be a bit more troublesome, but either way Murray should slide into the third round, and then the fourth, as none of Sam Querrey/Quentin Halys/Gerald Melzer/Alex De Minaur is a threat to him. The 17 year old De Minaur has three wins already in 2017 and has a great shot at his first slam win against Melzer. Querrey should snap a six match tour losing streak against Halys, who isn’t as sharp on hard courts. I don’t count De Minaur to find form and reach the third round, but the veteran Querrey, who won a pair of exo matches, should fall to Murray at that stage.
John Isner is in a bit of a career decline but he still has a favorable draw early on. Isner faces Konstantin Kravchuk, who at 31, has just one tour level win in the last 3+ seasons. Mischa Zverev and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez face off below Isner, a loser of eight straight matches, GGL looks to be in no form to challenge Zverev, who should serve and volley his way into round 2, before falling to Isner. Pouille/Bublik will face Malek Jaziri or qualifier Go Soeda in round 2. This isn’t a strong section, but Pouille vs. Isner isn’t a bad third round match. Isner should have a slight edge to reach the second week due to his serve.
Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer look set for a star studded third round clash on Rod Laver, presuming Berdych handles qualifier Lucas Vanni, and serve and volleyer Nicolas Mahut or Ryan Harrison. Federer faces fellow veteran, Jurgen Melzer, a qualifier, then an American qualifier, either Bjorn Fratangelo or Noah Rubin. Federer isn’t the player he once was, especially after injury, but it can’t be discounted that the maestro has won his last five matches against the Czech. It’s not the biggest upset in the world, but I’ll go with Berdych’s form to reach round 4.
Nishikori/Kuznetsov look to be favorites to reach the second week as well, Jeremy Chardy or Nicolas Almagro await in round 2. Almagro leads the h2h 5-0, so I have him falling to Nishikori in round 2. Albert Ramos isn’t in great form, and could be troubled by qualifier Lukas Lacko, but I don’t trust Lacko at this point to make a run, and I have Ramos winning in round 1, before falling to the in-form veteran Dudi Sela in round 2. Sela opens with fellow veteran Marcel Granollers, and regardless, Nishikori should win in round 3. Sela is 8-1 to start the year with a challenger title.
Former champion Stan Wawrinka has a h2h win against his first round opponent Martin Klizan, and Klizan is in terrible form, having lost nine straight matches. Klizan is normally a tough matchup, but Wawrinka should beat him, and defeat Auckland semifinalist Steve Johnson in round 2, presuming Johnson eases past Federico Delbonis. Wawrinka faces Viktor Troicki, a Sydney semifinalist, most likely in round 3, as Troicki opens with journeyman Damir Dzhumur, with James Duckworth or Paolo Lorenzi to follow. At home I give Duckworth an edge in round 1, with Wawrinka beating Troicki in the third round for the eight time, in eight meetings (7-0 h2h).
Kyrgios or Elias will get a veteran, either Andreas Seppi or Paul-Henri Mathieu in round 2. PHM is in miserable form, so Seppi should win for the third straight time, with Kyrgios a favorite for the third round. Steve Darcis or Sam Groth are his likely third round opponent, Pablo Cuevas or Diego Schwartzman are also in this section. It’s hard to pick between Cuevas or Schwartzman, but I have Darcis serve and volleying past a struggling Groth, and then beating Schwartzman to reach round 3, before falling to Kyrgios. Darcis has been in good form as of late, and could be a dark horse if Kyrgios knee fails him.
Cilic or Janowicz will battle either Facundo Bagnis, or more likely Sydney finalist Dan Evans in round 2. Tomic or Bellucci likely await in round 3, unless Aljaz Bedene beats Victor Estrella, and then Tomic/Bellucci. This is a weak section, but I have Bedene over Bellucci, and then Cilic reaching the fourth round, despite his poor form.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has an easy early path, Thiago Monteiro, who is poor on hard courts, and neither Dusan Lajovic or Stephane Robert are likely to trouble him through the first two rounds. Both Lajovic and Robert are in poor form. The former Australian Open finalist looks set to face Jack Sock, the Auckland champion, in round 3. Sock opens with doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert in round 1, with Karen Khachanov or Adrian Mannarino to follow in round 2. Khachanov beat Mannarino at the end of last season, but either way, Sock should be the one to face Tsonga in round 3. Given the fatigue factor, I have Tsonga advancing into week 2.
The Canadian #1 Milos Raonic gets his own quarter of the draw after reaching the semifinals for the first time last year. Raonic will face fan favorite Dustin Brown to start, with Muller/Fritz to follow, and a struggling Gilles Simon most likely in round 3. Simon opens with Michael Mmoh, and Jared Donaldson or Rogerio Dutra Silva will follow. Simon is the seed, but his form hasn’t been great, I see Donaldson having a bright future,but I’m not quite sure he’s ready to beat Simon yet. Raonic should beat Simon in round 3.
Roberto Bautista Agut is a solid favorite in his own part of the draw. The Chennai champion opens with Guido Pella, with Yoshihito Nishioka or qualifier Alex Bolt to follow. RBA is defending fourth round points and will likely face a third round contest with his countryman Ferrer. I’m going with an upset though, and I have RBA facing Daniil Medvedev the third round, with Medvedev upsetting Ferrer. RBA should reach the second week.
One-time champion Rafael Nadal opens with Florian Mayer, Nadal’s form is a little shaky, but he should beat the veteran Mayer, and the Baghdatis/Youzhny winner, before facing off with talented young gun Alexander Zverev in round 3. Zverev opens with journeyman Robin Haase, and either Frances Tiafoe or Mikhail Kukushkin will follow. Nadal won his only meeting against Zverev, and the veteran should reach the fourth round. Zverev has the ability to beat Rafa, but Nadal’s quality should have an edge in best of 5.
Monfils/Vesely will face Dolgopolov/Coric, with Monfils likely to be opposite Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round. The veteran German faces Nikoloz Basilashvili, with Thomas Fabbiano or Donald Young to follow. Presuming Kohlschreiber is fit, he could test Monfils, but a healthy Monfils is the best player in his section. Monfils leads the h2h 12-2 over Kohli.
Six-time and defending AO champion Novak Djokovic will do battle with Verdasco, then will face Denis Istomin or qualifier Ivan Dodig in round 2. Djokovic should ease past Dodig with Kyle Edmund likely waiting in round 3. Edmund opens with Santiago Giraldo, with Pablo Carreno Busta or Peter Polansky to follow. Edmund continues to improve, and although I see him defeating PCB in round 2, Djokovic should be a bridge too far.
Brisbane champion Grigor Dimitrov opens with wild card Christopher O’Connell, who is making his Slam debut. Dimitrov has been playing great tennis as of late, and should ease into the third round over Hyeon Chung, after Chung beats Renzo Olivo. Richard Gasquet, who opens with qualifier Blake Mott, looks to be fit, and should beat Mott and Radu Albot or Carlos Berlocq to setup a third round clash of the one handed backhands. Gasquet leads the h2h 5-1, but Dimitrov won their last meeting, and I back the Bulgarian to reach week 2.
Goffin faces Opelka, then the oft-injured Dmitry Tursunov or more likely 38 year old qualifier Radek Stepanek in round 2. Goffin could be tripped up, but I have him reaching round 3, and then dispatching Ivo Karlovic, who opens with Horacio Zeballos. Adam Pavlasek or wild card Andrew Whittington waits in round 2. Karlovic has reached Melbourne’s second week once before, but Goffin seems reliable enough.
Dominic Thiem opens with J.L. Struff, who reached a challenger final in his last outing. Thiem has struggled a bit to open the season, but he should beat Thompson/Sousa in round 2 before running into Lopez in round 3. Chennai semifinalist Benoit Paire is also in this section, opening with the ageless Tommy Haas. Lopez should beat Fognini and Paire before falling to Thiem.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Mischa Zverev, Steve Darcis, Daniil Medvedev, Feliciano Lopez
Zverev could upset Isner and Pouille to reach the second week of a slam for the first time. His brother Alex could also upset Nadal for a big result for the whole family. Darcis, another veteran, has reached the third round of a slam once before, he has a great shot at making it at least that far, and with Kyrgios knee in question he could reach the second week for the first time.
The young Medvedev needs to upset Ferrer and RBA to reach the second week, it’s a tough task, but doable given his talent. Lopez has reached the second week of slams before, and with Thiem and Paire a bit shaky in terms of form, he could well do so again.
Round of 16 Murray d. Isner (8-0 h2h)
Nishikori d. Berdych (4-1 h2h)
Wawrinka d. Kyrgios (2-2 h2h)
Tsonga d. Cilic (3-5 h2h)
Nadal d. Monfils (12-2 h2h)
Raonic d. Bautista Agut (4-0 h2h)
Goffin d. Thiem (5-3 h2h)
Djokovic d. Dimitrov (6-1 h2h)
Murray, Djokovic, and Raonic should be pretty safe to advance into the final stages, Nishikori, Wawrinka, and Nadal should be tested, but I see them surviving. Tsonga should be in better form than Cilic, and Goffin is probably fresher than Thiem.
Quarters Murray d. Nishikori (9-2 h2h)
Wawrinka d. Tsonga (4-3 h2h)
Raonic d. Nadal (2-6 h2h)
Djokovic d. Goffin (5-0 h2h)
These four quarterfinals, if they come to fruition, should be quality matchups. Murray and Djokovic remain clear favorites, Wawrinka vs. Tsonga and Raonic vs. Nadal should be quality and tightly contested matches. Raonic and Wawrinka have had an edge in the past year, and that should continue.
Semis Murray d. Wawrinka (10-7 h2h)
Djokovic d. Raonic (8-0 h2h)
It’s hard to pick against the world’s top 2 players to reach a hard court Grand Slam final.
Final Djokovic d. Murray (25-11 h2h)
Djokovic won in Doha, Murray may be the world #1 for the time being, but Novak still has a clear edge in the h2h, and until Murray can beat him in Melbourne, I have to go with Djokovic over the five time AO finalist Murray.
2016 ATP Basel Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final ATP 500 level tournaments of the season take place this week in Basel and Vienna as the ATP World Tour Season continues to wind down. Four players, all in action this week, are competing for two ATP World Tour finals slots. Two of them, David Goffin, and Marin Cilic, are competing in Basel. Here is a preview with predictions.
Swiss Indoors Basel
ATP World Tour 500
October 24-30, 2016
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize Money: €1,701,320
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (3)
2: Milos Raonic (4)
3: Kei Nishikori (5)
4: Marin Cilic (11)
Three top 10 players will contest Basel, despite Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer being absent.
First round matchups to watch:
Taylor Fritz vs. (Q)Mischa Zverev
Fritz scored a narrow h2h win over Zverev at the start of the year. The German veteran has come on strong since then, and has qualified ten times for ATP tournaments this year. Zverev has two ATP quarterfinals in recent weeks and his serve and volley game is clicking. Fritz hasn’t been quite as sharp, and although he has more potential as a young gun, Zverev should be the favorite in this match.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Pablo Carreno Busta
Verdasco has lost three straight while his Spanish countryman just took home the title in Moscow and has proven himself as a tough competitor on hard courts. Verdasco’s decline as he ages has continued this season, and if PCB is fresh enough he should win this match.
(6)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Gilles Muller
Dimitrov and Muller have split meetings 2-2, Dimitrov has been in better form as he’s posted two semifinals and a final post US Open. Muller has a pair of quarterfinals, but indoors with his powerful serve and crisp volleys he can do a lot a damage. Presuming fatigue doesn’t weight down Dimitrov, he should break the deadlock and win this match.
US Open champion and Swiss hero Stan Wawrinka should have no problems with countryman Marco Chiudinelli, then Donald Young or Illya Marchenko in the next round. Wawrinka looks set to face Antwerp champion Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals as a struggling Guido Pella is his first opponent, followed by the Zverev/Fritz winner. At home in Basel, Wawrinka should be the favorite over Gasquet in a backhand battle.
Marin Cilic is 11th in the race for London, and the farthest out from qualifying. The Croatian #1 will be a clear favorite against veteran Mikhail Youzhny, and should also beat Verdasco or PCB in round 2. Jack Sock lies in Cilic’s path to the semifinals, the Stockholm finalist is 7-2 in his last two tournaments and opens with Adrian Mannarino. Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen could follow if he can upset veteran Marcel Granollers. Sock beat Cilic at the US Open this year, but fatigue could play a factor, and Cilic has more to play for so I’m picking him to reach the semifinals.
Milos Raonic hasn’t been healthy and he’s been struggling lately, but he should defeat qualifier Ricardas Berankis in round 1. Andrey Kuznetsov should dispatch a struggling Federico Delbonis, and he’ll have his shot at upsetting Raonic. It’s a touch match to predict, but I’m going with Kuznetsov in an upset. Dimitrov should beat Muller and Florian Mayer or Benoit Paire before beating Kuznetsov/Raonic for a spot in the semifinals. Both Paire and Mayer are struggling.
David Goffin and Kei Nishikori are in a section with Stockholm champion Juan Martin Del Potro, and as that would indicate, this is the strongest section of the draw. Goffin is 10th in the race for London, and in reality he’s just one spot out, as Rafael Nadal, currently in 7th, has already withdrawn from all tournaments this season to help heal his wrist. The Antwerp semifinalist Goffin has struggled against his first round opponent Marcos Baghdatis historically, but he’s outplaying Baghdatis right now and still is likely to get the win. I have Del Potro beating Robin Haase, and then Goffin. Del Potro played so well in Stockholm he’s the favorite to reach the semifinals.
Nishikori is coming back from injury and should defeat Dusan Lajovic, and Nicolas Mahut or Paolo Lorenzi before falling to Del Potro.
Dark Horse: Mischa Zverev
The usual suspects, Wawrinka, Del Potro, Goffin, Nishikori, Sock, and Gasquet are the favorites for the title. Zverev could cause some trouble as a qualifier though. Gasquet and Wawrinka should be wary of his place in the draw if he continues to serve and volley well. The veteran was once a promising talent, and although he’s normally made his living on the challenger tour, he still has plenty of talent.
Semis Wawrinka d. Cilic
Del Potro d. Dimitrov
Del Potro beat Dimitrov in Stockholm, Wawrinka has dominated Cilic in the h2h, and playing at home in Basel he’s the favorite for the title.
Final Wawrinka d. Del Potro
Wawrinka beat Del Potro at the US Open this year, and I’d favor him to do so again if they meet in the final.
Monday at the 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open featured a host of close matches as multiple players pulled their matches back from the brink to prevail and reach the second round. Tim Smyczek started the day with a remarkable win over Thiago Monteiro in nearly two and a half hours. Smyczek struggled to find the range on his first serve in the match, and despite breaking Monteiro back after going down a break 5-4 in the first, he was broken again in a long game that saw Monteiro convert his fourth set point opportunity on return.
Monteiro looked set to charge into the next round, and was up 7-5 5-3 but Smyczek got up 0-40 in the next game, and broke on his third break point opportunity. Smyczek would go on to serve for a third set, only to be broken himself at love to force a second set tiebreak. Monteiro never saw a match point, as Smyczek pulled it out 7-5. At this point the heat was taking its toll on the Brazilian. Smyczek got an early break, and improved his serve to take the match 5-7 7-6 6-3 an hour after he looked likely to exit in the opening round.
Joining Smyczek in round 2 are fellow Americans Reilly Opelka, Donald Young, and Jared Donaldson. Opelka won a nail biter over GA Tech’s Chris Eubanks 7-6 7-6 for his first ever ATP main draw win. Eubanks struggled to deal with Opelka’s pulverizing serve and height, as he didn’t generate a break point chance in the match, and failed to convert on his set point chances in the first set tiebreak. Opelka has shown major improvements since he played in Atlanta last year.
Atlanta’s Donald Young nearly suffered Eubanks fate, but he prevailed 3-6 7-6 7-5 over Austin Krajicek in two and a half hours. Young had chances to break Krajicek in the first set, and to break back after he went down a break, and Krajicek was serving for the first set, but he couldn’t convert. In a nip and tuck second set, only Young had a break point chance that he couldn’t convert. Krajicek had two match points in the ensuing second set tiebreak, including one on his own serve, but Young finally converted on his fourth set point to keep the match alive.
Krajicek didn’t give up the fight, and in the third set he was up 3-1 and 5-3, but he was broken serving for the match, and in his next service game, as Young narrowly came back to the match 7-5, winning the final four games of the match in the process. Despite being the favorite, it was a surprising result for Young to come back from the brink of defeat.
Jared Donaldson rolled past Sam Groth, who looks destined to be back on the challenger tour after yet another ATP main draw loss. Groth did nothing with his return games, and was shaky enough on serve to allow Donaldson to pounce on him and win 6-2 6-4, in a match that was more of a blowout than even the scoreline would suggest. Donaldson saved the only break point he faced in the match.
Last but not least, Adrian Mannarino ousted qualifier Mischa Zverev 6-3 3-6 7-6 in yet another close match that went over two hours. Mannarino had to save two break points and went on to break in the next game to eventually take the first set. His baseline rallying kept Zverev under pressure, but the German responded well, saving break points early in the second, and finally converting on his third break point chance of the set to serve for a third set at love. Zverev would have two more games with a break point chance in the third set, he broke Mannarino at love to serve for the match, but was broken on Mannarino’s fourth BP chance. Mannarino got ahead in the tiebreak, winning every point from 3-3 in the final set breaker to take it 7-3.
In ATP doubles Demoliner/Garcia-Lopez dominated Kamke/Lajovic in straight sets, and Dolgopolov/Stakhovsky defeated fan favorites Frawley/Kyrgios to reach the next round.
The singles matches tomorrow are highlighted by serve and volleyers Stakhovsky and Rogers Cup doubles champion Ivan Dodig facing off, along with Fernando Verdasco vs. Dusan Lajovic. Other matches include Garcia-Lopez vs. Zeballos, Evans vs. Nishioka, Benneteau vs. Smith, Sijsling vs. Fratangelo, and young gun Taylor Fritz vs. NCAA player Austin Smith. The winner of that match, and Fratangelo both have their chances to add more Americans to the round of 16.
Eubanks/Kennedy vs. Monteiro/Nishioka will also be contested tomorrow in doubles.