2017 ATP Marseille Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The second of five ATP Tour stops in France is the 250 in Marseille, where a host of Frenchmen, and a crop of talented young guns will take to the indoor hard courts looking to make their mark on a still young season.
Open 13 Marseille
ATP World Tour 250
February 20-26, 2017
Surface: Indoor Hard
Prize Money: €620,660
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Gael Monfils (10)
2: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14)
3: Nick Kyrgios (15)
4: Lucas Pouille (17)
Despite being a 250, Marseille boasts the strongest and most intriguing field on the ATP Tour this week.
Having lost four straight, Greek teen Tsitsipas could be suffering from a crisis of confidence in his still young career. That said, Youzhny doesn’t seem fit, and this is a tremendous opportunity for the Greek to get his first ever ATP win. Tsitispas is a solid young gun, he had his chances against Tsonga in Rotterdam but failed to take them due to a lack of aggression. Youzhny may still win this unless Tsitsipas plays with confidence.
Daniil Medvedev vs. (8)Benoit Paire
Medvedev has a quarterfinal and an ATP final already this year, Paire has reached two semis and almost scored a big win against Marin Cilic in Rotterdam. Medvedev when healthy is a threat to Paire, but in addition to playing at home, Paire should be fitter and in better form, giving him an edge.
(7)Gilles Simon vs. Karen Khachanov
Twice a former champion, the 32 year old Simon badly needs to find some form in Marseille. Khachanov is a talented young gun but has struggled under the weight of expectations thus far in 2017, and is also looking to get back on track. Simon is likely to grind his way to a round 1 win.
Playing at home, the veteran Benneteau is a clear favorite. Benneteau has flirted with returning to the ATP level after injuries, and has mostly played on the challenger tour. Shapovalov is still lacking in ATP experience, and became infamous after sending a chair umpire to the hospital due to an errant ball he hit in frustration during the Davis Cup. Shapovalov is talented, and it will be interesting to see where his head is against a crafty veteran in Benneteau.
Gael Monfils has played just one tournament in 2017, and it’s hard to predict what form the French flyer will show up in. He should defeat a pedestrian Jiri Vesely or a qualifier in round 2 though, to setup a match with his countryman Richard Gasquet. Gasquet will look to stave off an upset bid by Robin Haase, then teach the young Tsitsipas a lesson, presuming the Greek defeats Youzhny. Monfils leads the h2h with Gasquet 7-5, but Gasquet won their last meeting. Gasquet has been playing more this season and reached the final in Montpellier, I have him finding continued success in France and defeating Monfils in the quarters.
Lucas Pouille has been struggling mightily, and thus I have him falling to his experienced countryman Paul-Henri Mathieu in round 2, after PHM puts away Aljaz Bedene. Paire will face Jeremy Chardy (or J.L. Struff) in round 2 meanwhile, look for Paire over Mathieu in the quarterfinals to break a 1-1 h2h, as long as Paire is focused.
I have a third all French quarterfinal in my bracket, as Rotterdam champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, twice a champion in Marseille, should ease past Illya Marchenko/Qualifier, while Gilles Simon should defeat Khachanov and Benneteau/Shapovalov to reach the quarterfinals. Tsonga leads Simon 8-3 in the h2h, and with the bye giving him some rest, Tsonga should make the semifinals this week.
Defending champion Nick Kyrgios will serve it up against Andrey Kuznetsov or Malek Jaziri, with a matchup against fellow young gun Alexander Zverev looming in the quarterfinals. Kyrgios hasn’t played much in 2017, but neither Kuznetsov or more Jaziri are a threat to his serve. Zverev opens with home favorite Nicolas Mahut, with a qualifier to follow. The extra match should be enough to boost Zverev’s form enough to defeat Kyrgios and reach the semifinals. He’d love a second ATP title in France already in 2017. The pair have never met at the pro level before but are players full of promise.
Dark Horse: Paul-Henri Mathieu
A four-time ATP champion, PHM reached a tour final as recently as last year. The veteran is a shell of the player he once was, but he’s still a solid enough ballstriker to make a run at least once or twice a year in a tour level event. His focus has always failed him in tight moments though, and he’ll need to defeat Pouille and Paire to reach the semifinals, two opponents with more weapons than he possesses.
Semis Gasquet d. Paire
Zverev d. Tsonga
Gasquet leads Paire 4-0 in the h2h, Zverev just beat Tsonga in Montpellier and should be fresher. If these are the semis, it will be a complete repeat of 2017 Montpellier a couple of weeks ago.
Final Zverev d. Gasquet
It would be a reprisal of the other French ATP final this year, Zverev won that one, and I don’t see any particular reason why he can’t win himself another title in this 250.
2016 ATP Estoril Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic will once again have on-site reporting from the 2016 Millennium Estoril Open, Portugal’s only ATP tournament. It’s a 250 level clay court tournament.
Millennium Estoril Open
ATP World Tour 250
April 25-May 1, 2016
Prize Money: €463,520
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Gilles Simon (18)
2: Nick Kyrgios (20)
3: Benoit Paire (22)
4: Joao Sousa (34)
First round matchups to watch:
Gastao Elias vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu
Mathieu is 3-0 against Elias, but the Portugese home player comes off a great run in clay court challengers, featuring a semifinal, a quarterfinal, and a title. PHM was a quarterfinalist in Casablanca, and is looking to get into winning form. It’ll be a tough match, but I have the French player advancing.
Paolo Lorenzi vs. (Q)Elias Ymer
Bucharest quarterfinalist Paolo Lorenzi faces the young qualifer Ymer, who recently took a challenger title on clay. Lorenzi is a steady, and experienced dirtballer, while Ymer has a lot more upside and potential. This should be a good match for fans of clay court tennis, and I have Lorenzi advancing.
Gilles Simon will seek to give Estoril it’s second straight French champion, but to get that far he’ll need to defeat Elias or PHM, and then either Pablo Carreno Busta or Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals to get started. Simon is 10-5 on clay over the last two seasons, and he should reach the semifinals and move to 12-5. PCB is 4-3 over his last three clay court tournaments. He’s not in great form, but he should defeat current Bucharest finalist Verdasco, or a lucky loser, if Verdasco drops out of this draw after having to play a rain delayed Bucharest final on Monday. Monte Carlo qualifier Taro Daniel looks set to defeat qualifier Steven Diez before falling to PCB, who is the superior clay courter. Simon over PCB is my pick.
Barcelona semifinalist Benoit Paire has found form with just a pair of top ten losses in recent weeks, along with five wins. Paire should send either Daniel Gimeno-Traver or Kyle Edmund home, as neither player is in great form at the moment, then defeat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez for a spot in the semifinals. The Bucharest semifinalist GGL opens with serve and volleyer Michael Berrer, with either Thomas Fabbiano or qualifier Stephane Robert on deck, neither of whom are top players, or in good form. Paire is 2-1 against GGL in the head to head, and if he can stay focused, he has the edge.
Defending finalist Nick Kyrgios was 8-6 on clay last year, and is 14-4 on the season, making his clay debut this year in Estoril. Kyrgios is on track for a young gun battle with Borna Coric in the quarterfinals, as long as the Casablanca finalist defeats qualifier Andrea Arnaboldi and either Benjamin Becker or Rogerio Dutra Silva. Kyrgios has to beat either Daniel Munoz or Inigo Cervantes in round 2, both Spaniards are struggling. Coric and Kyrgios have never played, but I have Kyrgios advancing as he’s likely the better player at this point in their careers.
Portugese #1 Joao Sousa is in poor form and could really use a string of wins on home soil. Sousa should move to 2-3 on clay this season with a win over fellow struggler Nicolas Almagro. Almagro opens with Portugese local Frederico Ferreira Silva. Leonardo Mayer is good on clay, and should defeat local wild card Pedro Sousa, and the Lorenzi/Ymer winner to reach the quarterfinals in his first clay tournament of the season. Mayer over Sousa seems like the safe pick given Sousa’s poor play recently.
Non-seeds are unlikely to do well in Estoril, but if PHM can upset Simon, he’ll have a great shot at not only reaching the quarterfinals, but moving to the semis and beyond. He’s an experienced veteran who can find form and make a run from time to time.
Semis Simon d. Paire
Kyrgios d. Mayer
Simon has won his previous three meetings against Paire, and Kyrgios is likely a sharper player than Mayer at the moment.
Final Kyrgios d. Simon
Simon and Kyrgios have never met, and it’s tough to pick a winner, but Kyrgios reached the final here last year, and he should be hungry for another ATP title this season, with a great chance to take one here.
Richard Gasquet successfully defended his Montpellier title, taking a third trophy at the French tournament, and showing no signs of back problems in the process. Gasquet had a relatively easy path, but had to survive a tough semifinal match against Dustin Brown, where he was 1-6 0-3 down, before the wheels came off for the streaky Brown, and Gasquet ended up winning in three.
It was an all French final, as the veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu posted his best result in some time to reach the final, falling 7-5 6-4 to Gasquet. PHM beat Elias Ymer, Benoit Paire, and then John Millman in three sets, and Alexander Zverev in a tough two setter to reach the final. Zverev posting his best ever ATP result by reaching the semis.
Gasquet beat powerful ball strikers Ernests Gulbis, and Marcos Baghdatis, in addition to Brown.
Mate Pavic and Michael Venus beat the Zverev brothers, Alex and Mischa, to win the doubles title.
Victor Estrella surprisingly repeated as champion in Quito. The 35 year old upset Thomaz Bellucci 4-6 7-6(5) 6-2, as he ground down his opponent, for a second career ATP title.
Estrella beat Guido Pella, Andrej Martin, Renzo Olivo, and Albert Ramos en route to the final, losing just a set to Olivo. Bellucci needed three sets against Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarters, beat Albert Montanes prior to that, and surviving Paolo Lorenzi in a three set semifinal. Lorenzi scored his first ever top 20 win when he defeated Bernard Tomic in the quarterfinals.
Carreno Busta and Guillermo Duran played doubles for the first time together and captured the title, defeating Bellucci and Marcelo Demoliner in the final.
Roberto Bautista Agut continued his streak as the hottest Spanish player right now with his second ATP title of the season in Sofia. He’s the first ever champion of the Bulgarian tournament as he defeated Serbia’s Viktor Troicki 6-3 6-4. RBA only had three matches this week, as Filip Krajinovic granted him a walkover, and then Adrian Mannarino and Gilles Muller in the quarters and semifinal to reach the final.
Troicki reached his second final of the season, dropping just one set in his first three matches. He handled Daniel Brands and Philipp Kohlschreiber with ease, and then had to battle past Martin Klizan in 3 sets.
Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop defeated Philipp Oswald and Adil Shamasdin in the doubles final, saving match points in the process. It was a tense week for the Dutch tandem.
2015 ATP Metz and St. Petersburg Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP World Tour returns with the start of the European fall indoor hard court swing. A pair of 250s are up this week, one in Metz, France, and the other in St. Petersburg, Russia, as that event returns after being absent from the tour calendar last season.
ATP World Tour 250
September 21-September 27, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (4)
2: Gilles Simon (10)
3: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (17)
4: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (31)
Two top 10 players, and three top 20 players gives Metz a quality field for a small indoor 250 at this point in the season.
Kohlschreiber had a successful outing in Davis Cup for Germany over the weekend as he went 2-0, but the former Metz finalist has had a down season at the ATP level thsi year. Additionally, he may have to fight fatigue and jet lag as he’s coming back from the Caribbean with Davis Cup duty. Millman is a talented underachiever who won a pair of challengers over the summer and can play solid tennis at times, Peppo is still the favorite, but this match has some upset potential.
(6)Martin Klizan vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu
PHM is playing on home soil, and veteran who relies on solid ballstriking is a relatively solid player indoors. He recently reached the final in Kitzbuhel on clay over the summer, beating his opponent Klizan in the process, and qualified for the US Open. Klizan comes off a 2-0 result in Davis Cup and has an indoor h2h win over Mathieu in Rotterdam (2013, 3 sets) but he’s a streaky player who can ball bash well, or struggle mightily. Depending on what version of Klizan will show up, he’ll either advance with ease or lose in an upset in this matchup of contrasting styles.
(WC)Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky
The US Open doubles champion Herbert recently reached his first ATP title in Winston-Salem, and on home soil with a big serve, he’s a danger to the serve and volleyer Stakhovsky. Stako reached the third round of the US Open and a recent challenger final however (in Istanbul), so his form appears good. An inspired PHH could rock the boat this tournament, and with a recent h2h win over Stako, I have him winning against him again.
(8)Fernando Verdasco vs. Alexander Zverev
Verdasco is just 2-5 since Wimbledon, and he risks dropping that number to 2-6 at the hands of the young gun Zverev. The teenager had a successful summer and qualified for the US Open among other good results. His indoor game isn’t as good as his clay court game, but the big hitting Verdasco has struggled to find rhythm and I’m going to go with an upset and pick Zverev, who is on the upswing of his career, while Verdasco is clearly heading downhill.
Stan Wawrinka was pushed to five sets in his DC singles rubber against the lower ranked Thiemo De Bakker on Friday, but the Swiss #2 is unlikely to have much trouble getting past the first couple of matches in Metz. Wawrinka is 42-13 on the season and also reached the semis of the US Open most recently. Look for him to get past a serve and volleyer in his first match, either Rajeev Ram or the big serving Dustin Brown, who also comes off of DC duty, and then past Kohlschreiber for a spot in the semifinals. Stan the Man is 2-0 in the h2h, and should not only be in better form, but also be fresher than his German counterpart. Both players have elite one handed backhands and it’ll be a fun matchup if it takes place. The Kohlschreiber/Millman winner faces either Belgium’s Davis Cup hero Steve Darcis, or dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi in round 2 with the serve and volleying Darcis likely too tired to make much of an impact this tournament.
Two-time Metz champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was excellent at the US Open, where he reached the quarterfinals, and the aggressive Frenchman tends to play well indoors, and at home. The fan favorite is placed in a weak section that will feature either a qualifier or Pablo Carreno Busta in the round of 16, and by ranking #7 seed Adrian Mannarino in the quarterfinals. Nicolas Mahut, the other half of the winning US Open doubles team, could prove to be a bit of a dark horse if the serve and volleyer can get his game together and beat a struggling Federico Delbonis (a loser of 5 straight matches) and Mannarino, who has been streaky this season. All of the French players are fan favorites at home, but Tsonga is a clear favorite to reach the semis for a likely matchup against Wawrinka. I have Mahut slipping past Mannarino, though it’s hard to tell with Adrian.
Two-time Metz champion Gilles Simon, another of the French fan favorites at this tournament, will open with a qualifier and from there should advance to face the big serving and dangerous Gilles Muller in the quarterfinals. Muller opens with Aljaz Bedene as he looks to snap a 3 match losing streak. The serve and volleyer is at his best on fast surfaces and I see him slipping past the Verdasco/Zverev winner in a potentially close match. Simon beat Muller last year in Tokyo, and I see him earning a pair of wins to snap a four match losing streak and reach the semifinals.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez won a pair of matches at the US Open to improve his form, but of the four top seeds, he’s still the most likely to exit before the quarterfinals, as the Herbert/Stakhovsky winner could stymie him with their unique styles of play. The Spanish veteran has won a title on indoor hard courts this season though and he has more experience than Herbert in a tough section. The other quarterfinalist will be one of Aleksandr Nedovyesov/Vasek Pospisil/Klizan/Mathieu, with Mathieu my favorite out of the section. Pospisil also has talent but he’s inconsistent, so look for Mathieu past Pospisil, and then Garcia-Lopez over Mathieu in a wide open section.
Frenchmen Herbert, Mathieu, and Mahut could all serve as unseeded dark horses this week, but with the #2 seed Simon struggling, if Muller serves well he could reach the semifinals, and potentially the final out of the bottom half. After gaining some rest, he should be fresh and he plays well on these types of surfaces historically.
Semis: Wawrinka d. Tsonga
Simon d. Garcia-Lopez
Tsonga has a h2h win in Metz (2007) but the previous few meetings have gone in favor of Wawrinka, and the Swiss has clearly outperformed his French counterpart this year, and in recent memory. Wawrinka simply should be a cut above his semifinal opposition.
Simon is in a slump but he’s 5-0 in the h2h against GGL, so if he gets this far, he should reach another Metz final.
Final: Wawrinka d. Simon
Presuming Wawrinka devotes effort to this 250 tournament he should win it, he’s the best player in the field by a considerable margin, and a player like Simon won’t be in the form to match him toe to toe right now.
ATP St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg Open
ATP World Tour 250
St. Petersburg, Russia
September 21-September 27, 2015
Prize Money: $1,030,000
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Tomas Berdych (5)
2: Milos Raonic (9)
3: Dominic Thiem (20)
4: Roberto Bautista Agut (22)
Even without the strong contingent of home players that Metz sports, St. Petersburg returns to the ATP Tour after funding problems last season with a strong field that features two top 10, and three top 20 players in what should be an entertaining edition of the tournament.
Their teams faced each other in Davis Cup over the weekend, with Bolelli and Italy emerging victorious, but now the young gun Rublev would like to extract some personal revenge for that loss at home in St. Petersburg, where he is one of the stars of the tournament, and the future of Russian tennis at the moment. The teenager qualified for the US Open, snapping a summer of struggles, but his loss in Davis Cup to Fabio Fognini should dent his momentum a bit. Bolelli, a solid player indoors, is also the loser of three straight however and the Italian veteran is looking to gain momentum himself. Look for big hitting in this matchup, and as celebrated as Rublev is, I have Bolelli grinding out the win.
(6)Benoit Paire vs. Jerzy Janowicz
Janowicz beat Paire in three sets earlier this year on indoor hard, but Paire has had a much better season than Jerzy and has been in excellent form since the summer. The French all-courter and his one handed backhand reached the second week of the US Open while Janowicz is 2-3 over his last five, which includes Davis Cup duty over the weekend. Janowicz with his power game is also solid indoors, but I have Paire winning this matchup of talented but often underachieving players.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Ernests Gulbis
Two aggressive baseliners will face off in this one, Gulbis one the 2013 edition of St. Petersburg, while Baghdatis is 0-3 since suffering an abductor injury in the ATP Atlanta final back in July. Gulbis has lost four straight and, like Baghdatis, his last match ended in a retirement, as both guys have struggled to get healthy. A poor season for Gulbis is contrasted by a good season overall for Baghdatis, and I have the Cypriot notching the victory presuming his health has sorted itself out. Baghdatis is 3-0 in the hard court h2h.
Tomas Berdych had a poor summer by his top 10 standards, but the Czech is still 45-15 on the season and should have the inside track against Bolelli/Rublev. In the quarterfinals, look for him to face Australian young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kokkinakis opens with pedestrian Spanish veteran Marcel Granollers, and then he’ll face either Joao Sousa or a qualifier in round 2. Both Sousa and Kokkinakis come off of Davis Cup play but Sousa is in poor form, and although he’s had a lot of success on indoor hard, I have Kokkinakis winning that matchup. Berdych should power past Kokkinakis at that stage however.
#3 seed Dominic Thiem reached the third round of the US Open in a decent showing for the Austrian, and he’ll look to continue to improve on fast surfaces with a routine win over Daniel Gimeno-Traver or newlywed Andreas Haider-Maurer in round 2, as both players much prefer clay. In the quarterfinals, Mikhail Kukushkin could prove to be the dark horse, as he opens with a relatively struggling Denis Istomin and then will face a qualifier or the mightily slumping Benjamin Becker in round 2. Kukushkin played well at the US Open and beat Istomin at the start of the season, his game tends to peak for these smaller 250 events. Thiem and Kukushkin have never played one another, but Kukushkin’s hard court form is arguably better right now, and I have him scoring the rankings upset and reaching the semis.
Milos Raonic has struggled since Wimbledon with a pedestrian 2-3 record. The Canadian #1 hasn’t been the same with his rocket serve since foot surgery, but he’s playing an easy match to open in St. Petersburg against either Evgeny Donskoy or a qualifier. Donskoy, a wild card, has been in excellent form at the challenger tour level this summer but Raonic should still prove too much for him. In the quarters he’s likely to face another player in a slump, as the Baghdatis/Gulbis winner or Tommy Robredo/Mikhail Youzhny are options. The 33 year old Robredo has had a far superior season to Youzhny, so though Youzhny is playing on home soil, Robredo should get through, and likely get past Baghdatis/Gulbis as well, as they may be rusty in their own right. Raonic is 4-0 against Robredo in the h2h with all wins coming since 2013, so with that in mind the Canadian should make the semifinals.
Roberto Bautista Agut is 29-23 this season and comes off a second week showing in the US Open that should give him some good momentum in what has been a rather average year by his standards. Russian Davis Cup participant Teymuraz Gabashvili, presuming Gaba beats a qualifier, should await him in round 2, and Gabashvili is a player capable of crafting upsets, like he did against Andy Murray this summer in Washington. RBA is the section favorite, but Gabashvili could find form and reach the quarters, though he’s not my pick to do so. Paire/Janowicz or Ricardas Berankis/Lucas Pouille will await most likely ether RBA or Gabashvili at that stage. Presuming Paire continues his run of form, which is always in question, I look for him to make it that far before falling to RBA. Berankis has also been in good form as of late with his undersized game. RBA is 7-0 in the h2h against Paire.
If a non seed is going to reach the semifinals or better, Berankis is the player to watch, he’s just 5-8 but he’s always been talented and he’s one of the better pure baseline ball strikers on the ATP tour. He reached consecutive quarterfinals on the US Open Series this summer and he plays well on fast indoor surfaces. Paire/Janowicz are streaky, and RBA/Gabashvili are beatable, so it’s far from out of the question that the Lithuanian will do well at a tournament that is close to home for him.
Semis: Berdych d. Kukushkin
Raonic d. Bautista Agut
Berdych is simply better than Kukushkin and has a h2h win, so like Wawrinka in Metz, if the top seed puts his efforts into this tournament, he’s the favorite. Raonic has a h2h win over RBA last year in Paris, an indoor tournament, and he should be motivated to fight hard this fall on fast surfaces to gain some ranking points after a slow Summer.
Nishikori claims another 500, Kohlschreiber Wraps up Clay Season with KitzbuhelTitle Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Kei Triumphs in Washington
The Citi Open wrapped up Sunday for 2015 with an exciting three set final between Kei Nishikori and John Isner. The Japanese #1 won a tight one 4-6 6-4 6-4. As expected, Isner was strong on serve, but quite poor on return, and Nishikori upped his game after surrendering a first set break. Kei’s serving had the edge through sets 2 and 3, and after a break early in the third, Isner had no opportunities to get back in the match.
Nishikori has now won 10 ATP titles, 3 of them coming in 2015, including a pair of 500s, the other coming in Barcelona. Nishikori has been won the best players on tour at the 500 level, winning Barcelona, Tokyo, Memphis when it was a 500, and now Washington.
Isner had another fantastic week in North America, and padded his record in both the US Open Series and in Washington. His serve and game appears back on track and he’s dominating all but the toughest opponents. Big John is continuing to assert himself as the American #1, and he clearly doesn’t want anyone to take his crown away.
Bob and Mike Bryan won the doubles over Ivan Dodig/Marcelo Melo, their second title in as many weeks, as they won Atlanta previously and have been on fire during this US Open Series in Men’s doubles.
The 2015 ATP clay court season came to an end with Philipp Kohlschreiber claiming the sixth title of his career, his fourth on clay, with a 2-6 6-2 6-2 victory in the final over fellow veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu, a qualifier who caught fire, but couldn’t maintain his momentum from the first set.
Kohlschreiber got better as the week in Austria progressed, following up a three set win in round 1 over J.L. Struff with solid wins over Santiago Giraldo and Fabio Fognini without dropping a set.In the semis Kohli beat a red-hot, but clearly fatigued Dominic Thiem, who finished the clay court season with a great record and made his home fans proud.
Mathieu beat Kenny De Schepper and Martin Klizan without dropping a set then beat Federico Delbonis after a second set bagel and fellow veteran Nicolas Almagro in the semis. The 33 year old moves up to 78 in the rankings with his best performance at the ATP level in quite some time, as it appears he may still have some great performances left in him.
Nicolas Almagro/Carlos Berlocq slipped past Robin Haase/Henri Kontinen in a third set tiebreak to capture the doubles title.
2015 ATP Kitzbuhel Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final ATP clay court tournament in 2015 will once again take place in Kitzbuhel, Austria. The resort town hosts a 250 level tournament as dirtballers vie for a final chance at points and cash on clay.
2015 ATP Kitzbuhel Preview
ATP World Tour 250
August 3-August 8, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: Dominic Thiem (21)
2: Andreas Seppi (24)
3: Fabio Fognini (27)
4: Martin Klizan (34)
A solid group of clay courters feature in Kitzbuhel, headlined by Austrian #1 Dominic Thiem who has won three ATP titles on clay this year (Nice, Umag, and Gstaad).
(6)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (Q)Jan-Lennard Struff
The fourth career meeting between Struff and Kohlschreiber, the h2h is split 1-1 with Kohli have a win on clay, and Struff on hard court in Doha this year. Struff jut came through qualifying in routine fashion, and is playing his best tennis in months. The 25 year old has always had baseline talent but he tends to struggle under pressure and has shown mental weakness in his career. Kohlschreiber, who is Davis Cup Teammates with Struffi has lost two straight and comes off a round 1 loss to Benoit Paire in Hamburg. He’s normally solid on clay but he’s struggled to be consistent this year, and Struff could catch him in a slump. Kohlschreiber is the favorite though.
(5)Juan Monaco vs. Robin Haase
Monaco leads the h2h with Haase 3-2, and won their last meeting in Gstaad last year on clay (1-1 on clay). That said, the Dutchman is a two-time champion in Kitzbuhel and Monaco is just 3-5 since the French Open, as the veteran Argentine seems to be struggling after having a nice Spring. Haase has been in decent form, and presumably should be rested up for this match. It should be close, but given the venue I see Haase scratching out a minor upset over the seed and reaching round 2.
(7)Jiri Vesely vs. Nicolas Almagro
Nicolas Almagro has been struggling since returning from injury, the formerly top tier Spaniard is looking to break a four match losing streak dating back to the French Open here in Kitzbuhel where he is using a protected ranking. The young gun Vesely gave both Fabio Fognini and Rafael Nadal good matches on clay over the past two weeks, and this is an easier draw for him. Almagro is a recognizable name, but Vesely seems to be the superior player right now as his steady play should see him through to round 2.
Dominic Thiem is 18-5 on clay this year and has won eight straight matches as he took back to back 250 titles in Umag and Gstaad. He may well be out of gas in front of the home fans in Kitzbuhel, but the Austrian #1 does get a bye and his round 2 opponent will be either a possibly injured Andreas Haider-Maurer, who is also Austrian, or a struggling Joao Souza, a loser of four straight matches. Thiem’s fatigue is a difficult factor to predict, but I still see him reaching the quarterfinals.
#8 seed Albert Ramos is a possible benefactor of the fatigue Thiem almost certainly is feeling. Ramos will open with Diego Schwartzman, who has lost six straight matches, and presuming the Spanish veteran lefty wins that either degraded veteran Albert Montanes, a lucky loser, or Gerald Melzer, a home Austrian, will be his round 2 opponent. Melzer is in horrid form like Schwartzman, and Ramos is simply a level above Montanes, thus a Thiem vs. Ramos quarterfinal is the pick.
Thiem and Ramos have never played before, and if Thiem is simply in form and not feeling too much fatigue he likely wins, however it’s a hard match to predict and Ramos could also win.
Hamburg finalist Fabio Fognini is always a tank risk, especially in a small tournament like this, but if his good form continues he should beat Aljaz Bedene for the second time in as many weeks. Bedene opens with wild card Dennis Novak, and has been in excellent form as of late, that said, he fell to Fognini in straight sets in the Hamburg quarters, after upsetting Roberto Bautista Agut. In the quarters, Fognini could face Kohlschreiber/Struff, or Santiago Giraldo/qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva. Giraldo beat RDS in Houston this year on clay and comes off of the quarters in Gstaad. Kohli beat Giraldo this year in Umag, but Giraldo won the previous two meetings on clay and may well be in better form, thus I have Fognini over Giraldo in the quarters.
Fognini is 1-1 on clay this year against Santi, he beat him in Madrid but lost to him in Sao Paulo. Overall Fognini leads the h2h 5-3 with a majority of their meetings taking place on clay. It’s a tough pick, but if Fognini is committed he should reach the semifinals here.
Hamburg semifinalist Andreas Seppi played his way into form on clay with a pair of wins and should cruise into the quarters over either Dusan Lajovic or nearly retired Mikhail Youzhny who hasn’t won a match in over two months. Lajovic is likewise struggling and it’s likely to be a Seppi vs. Vesely quarterfinal. Vesely will have to beat Jurgen Melzer or Daniel Gimeno-Traver after facing Almagro. DGT is in terrible form as a loser of 7 straight, while Melzer is in the twilight of his career but should do his best on home soil.
I have a hunch Vesely is a better player on clay than Seppi, as Seppi was 0-4 on clay before Hamburg this year, thus I’m going with the Czech to make a surprise semifinal this week.
The other semifinal slot could be filled by Martin Klizan, but he hasn’t been in great form as of late, with a record of six straight losses. Klizan remains 11-9 on clay this year and either Kenny De Schepper or Bastad quarterfinalist Paul-Henri Mathieu will be his round 2 opponent. PHM is in good form, and presuming the veteran has enough gas in the tank I have him upsetting Klizan to reach another quarterfinal, where he could line up across from Monaco/Haase. The winner of Monaco/Haase will face Pablo Carreno Busta or Federico Delbonis. PCB reached the quarters in Gstaad, but both he and Delbonis lost to the same player there, Dominic Thiem, the eventual champion. Look for Haase to fall to PCB, the Spaniard is 2-0 on clay against Robin and just beat him in Gstaad in straights.
PHM and PCB have never met, however I’ve been impressed by Mathieu’s form on both the challenger tour and now the main tour, he’s in great form on clay and has always had the talent, thus I have him reaching the semis in what should be a close match.
The 33 year old was once a top 15 player and has 4 ATP titles in his career, he’s been in the challenger and qualies wilderness for quite some time, but he appears to be experiencing a resurgence under the radar on European clay. He clearly has the experience to do well here, though mentality is always a question. Look for his solid game to take him to the semis and perhaps even farther.
Fognini d. Thiem
Mathieu d. Vesely
Thiem bageled Fognini in Munich on clay this year, but Fognini is a notorious tanker and is clearly far better than that. It’s hard for me to pick Thiem given how much tennis he’s played over the past couple of weeks, thus I have Fognini reaching his second straight final.
Vesely and Mathieu have never faced each other, it’s hard to predict who will perform in the bottom half, but I’m going with the qualifier to pull off a run and reach the final.
Fognini d. Mathieu
Fognini should have an edge in talent and form over PHM if this is the final, he’s always an unpredictable competitor, but he has an excellent chance to win his first title of the season and boost his ranking back up this week.
There was a double French celebration during the qualifying round of the Generali Open in Austria. The tournament is the final clay court event on the 2015 ATP Tour calendar.
Headlining the qualifying field was French world No.111 Paul-Henri Mathieu. The Frenchman entered the competition in impressive form following his successful run in Bastad, Sweden last month where he reached the quarter-final as a qualifier. In the main draw he produced wins over Jeremy Chardy and Ernests Gulbis. During the Kitzbuhel qualifying rounds, he beat Czech Republic’s Marek Michalička to set up a showdown with Spanish teenager Jaume Munar. The 18-year-old recently receive a wild-card entry into the ATP Hamburg German Open and reached the second round due to his opponent retiring. During his time in Hamburg, Munar demonstrated some impressive play to justify his wild-card, however he was unable to tame Mathieu in Austria. The top seed eased himself to a 6-4, 6-3, victory.
Accompanying Mathieu in the main draw will be his fellow countryman Kenny De Schepper. After two straightforward wins in the first two matches of qualifying, the 28-year-old endured an epic encounter against Spanish second seed Albert Montanes in the final round. Leading up to Kitzbuhel the Spaniard has lost to players ranked lower than him in the four previous tournaments. De Schepper was on the brink of exit as Montanes had two match points in the second set but failed to convert them. His failure was a catastrophe as Kenny valiantly battled to take the second set in the tie-break before edging his way to the win 3-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5.
Jan-Lennard Struff’s troublesome 2015 received a boost following his 6-2, 7-5, win against Jozef Kovalík. The German has played 22 main draw matches this year, but has only won 5 of them. Before his win over Kovalik, Struff defeated world No.197 Jordi Samper-Montana and Austrian wild-card Lenny Hampel. This is the second time this year that the German has produced three successive wins at the same tournaments. The first was at the ATP Heilbronn Challenger in Germany, where he reached the semi-final.
Finally, Brazilian world No.302 Rogerio Dutra Silva stunned sixth seed Carlos Berlocq to reach his second successive ATP Main draw. The Brazilian knocked out 4th seed Norbert Gombos in the first round followed by local player Pascal Brunner in the second. Despite a second set blip in which Silva trailed 4-0, the underdog held his nerve as he battled to the shock 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (3) victory after two hours and 40 minutes.
Rogerio Dutra Silva vs. Santiago Giraldo: Giraldo leads the head-to-head 3-2. Their most recent meeting was in the first round of Houston this year where Giraldo won 6-2,6-2. Despite playing five previous meetings, in the past seven years they have only played each other twice.
Jan-Lennard Struff vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber: They have played each other three times since 2014 with Struff leading the head-to-head 2-1 due to Kohlschreiber retiring in one of their matches. Their latest meeting was at the start of the year in Doha where Struff won in three sets. They are also Davis Cup teammates for Germany.
Kenny de Schepper – Paul-Henri Mathieu: This is the first meeting between the two Frenchmen, Mathieu’s strong recent form likely gives him an edge.
Former NCAA star Sarkissian to make ATP Main Draw debut in Bogota (Weekend Qualifying Wrap Up Bogota/Bastad) Steen Kirby and Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
ATP Bogota Qualifying
2015 Claro Open Colombia Qualifying Recap
2014 NCAA championship runner-up Alexander Sarkissian, a graduate of Pepperdine University, highlights the list of qualifiers for the ATP Bogota main draw. Three other players booked their spots in the draw via qualifying on Monday alongside him.
Sarkissian, who has been fantastic this season, posting a 43-15 record at primarily the futures level, with a few challengers mixed in, including Gimcheon where he took the title on hard courts, beat Juan Montes and Facundo Mena by a combined score of 24-7 in games. The California native will now face the unseeded John Millman in a winnable round 1 match, as he makes his ATP main draw debut. Given his results since turning pro, and his success in college, I’m sure we will see more of him in the future at the ATP level.
26 year old doubles specialist Marcelo Demoliner,a Brazilian, will also be making a surprise appearance in an ATP main draw. Demoliner beat Jesus Francisco Felix, Marco Chiudinelli, a Swiss veteran, and former GA Tech product Kevin King to qualify. His first round match will be against Illya Marchenko, another unseeded hard courter.
23 year old Alejandro Gomez will be making his ATP main draw debut in front of supportive home fans, Gomez beat Andres Molteni in a close three setter in round 2, and prior to that beat Felipe Rojas in straights. He completed qualifying with a routine win over Juan Ignacio Londero. Gomez is unlikely to find much success in his debut as his first round opponent is the accomplished veteran Marcos Baghdatis.
Last but not least, qualifying top seed and grass court specialist Matt Ebden also found success on the quick courts in Bogota. He beat doubles specialist Colin Fleming in three sets, and then beat Juan Sebastian Gomez to qualify. Ebden will get a winnable round 1 match against Tatsuma Ito to start off with.
Top seed Paul-Henri Mathieu was one of four men to successfully qualify for the main draw of the 68th Swedish Open, which takes place on clay.
The Frenchman was impressive throughout the three rounds as he didn’t drop a set. After beating wild card Daniel Windahl and Australia’s Peter Luczak, who came out of retirement to play qualifying for fun, Mathieu set up a final round match against 5th seed Giovanni Lapentti. The Ecuadorian player is currently ranked 75 places below Mathieu. Lapentti, who hasn’t played in a Grand Slam since the 2009 US Open, best result of 2015 was a runner-up position at the ATP Cali Challenger last May. Mathieu experienced little difficulty as he cruised to a 6-2, 6-3, victory after an hour and 13 minutes.
31-year-old Rogério Dutra Silva qualified for his first ATP tournament main draw since April following a 6-2,6-4, win against Stéphane Robert. The Brazilian is yet to win a title in 2015 but came close in the ATP Milan Challenger, where he was runner up to Federico Delbonis. Prior to Robert, Silva also produced a solid win against tricky opponent Mischa Zverev. Zverev stunned Dominic Thiem and Andreas Seppi last month in Stuttgart but has recently encountered some disappointing results. Silva hasn’t won a main draw ATP level match since Sao Paulo in February 2014.
Andrea Arnaboldi endured a tough final match against Belarus’s Maxim Dubarenco to progress to the main draw. After a close opening set, which consisted of two breaks of service for the Italian, Arnaboldi battled to win 7-6(5), 6-3. The Italian was full of confidence coming into Bastad following his run to the last eight of a Challenger event in Todi, Italy. The 27-year-old justified his wild-card into the Italian event by defeating Victor Hanescu and Andrej Martin before prevailing to Matteo Donati.
Finally Julian Reister was the only man to beat two seeded players during the qualifying competition. In the second round, he produced a 6-3,6-4 win over 4th seed Renzo Olivo to set up a final match with 8th seed Constant Lestienne. World No.334 Lestienne reached his first ATP main draw in Estoril earlier this year. The Frenchman was however no match for Reister as the German won 6-4, 6-3.
Julien Reister GER v Alexander Zverev GER – First meeting
Rogerio Dutra Silva BRA v Federico Delbonis ARG – Rematch of the 2015 Milan Challenger final. On that occasion Delbonis won 6-1, 7-6 (6).
Andrea Arnaboldi ITA v Jerzy Janowicz POL – Janowicz won their only previous meeting which was at the 2010 Trani Challenger.
Paul-Henri Mathieu FRA v Jeremy Chardy FRA – Chardy leads the head-to-head 3-1, however, their most recent meeting was in 2012.
Grass court qualifying in two places, both 500 level events with two rounds of qualifying action, took place over the weekend, as some interesting names booked their place in the main draw.
ATP Halle Qualifying
In Halle, defending finalist Alejandro Falla is the strongest of the qualifiers. Last year Falla made a surprise run to that final and he’s also reached the 3rd round at Wimbledon previously in his career. The veteran lefty has a game built for grass and he comfortably defeated Janko Tipsarevic and Tim Puetz, without dropping a set, to qualify.
Another of the four qualifiers in total is lefty Jarkko Nieminen who beat Filip Krajinovic and Tatsuma Ito without dropping a set. Nieminen isn’t a grass court specialist by any stretch of the imagination but he’s fast on his feet and plays aggressively.
A pair of talented but underachieving players also qualified, Slovak Lukas Lacko, now 27,has an aggressive and powerful game built for grass and he beat two solid opponents, Peter Gojowczyk and Jurgen Melzer in three sets to qualify. Lacko faces Falla in round 1. 24 year old Ricardas Berankis upset Austin Krajicek in three sets, and Vasek Pospisil 6-3 6-3 to qualify. The undersized ball striker was a top junior but has been a bust as a pro.
Berankis will have a winnable round 1 match against Tommy Robredo in round 1, while Nieminen could also advance as he faces Alexander Zverev, a wild card, in round 1.
ATP London Queens Qualifying
Sixteen players participated in the qualifying competition at the Aegon Championships, which is held at the Queen’s Club in London.
Italian world number 56 Simone Bolelli was the top seed in the qualifying draw and experienced little trouble. After a straight sets win over Lucas Pouille in the first round, he faced France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin. The Frenchman produced an impressive performance at the tournament last year when he reached the third round in the singles draw as well as the semi-final in the doubles. Bolelli however, experience no trouble as he dropped his service once on his way to winning 7-6 (4), 6-3.
In the main draw the Italian faces a tough encounter against Richard Gasquet. Bolelli has played Gasquet on five previous occasions and has lost all of them. Their most recent match was earlier this year at the Doha Open where Gasquet eased his way to a 6-3, 6-2, win. Gasquet could face pressure but I presume he’ll prevail.
Rendy Lu was pushed hard during his match against Denis Istomin. The second seed produced a straight sets win over the talented Luca Vanni in the first round whilst Istomin edged his way past Go Soeda. During the match there was only two breaks of serve, one each, as both sets went into tie-breaks with Lu winning 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5).
The reward for Lu is a first round showdown against top seed Andy Murray. He has beaten Murray once before which was in the first round of the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. Since then, Murray has won their two most recent encounters (both in 2013) without dropping a set. Murray should blast through the weaponless Lu to reach round 2.
The biggest surprise was the impressive run by 18-year-old wild card Jared Donaldson. The American knocked out third seed and fellow countryman Tim Smyczek in the first round to face Tobias Kamke. Kamke has experienced a disastrous 2015 so far with only one main draw win to his name. His sole win was against Vincent Millot in Montpellier last February. The misery continued for the German as Donaldson cruised to take the match 7-5, 6-3. Donaldson is currently at a ranking high of 152 in the world and won his first Challenger title in Maui at the start of the year.
Donaldson, the American number 12, will play America’s number 1 John Isner in the first round. Given Isner’s experience, he should win comfortably.
Finally hopes of a British winner in the qualification draw were ended after Paul-Henri Mathieu beat Brydan Klein during the battle of the wild card’s. The former world number 12 produced a three sets win over 4th seed Chung Hyeon in the first round. Mathieu, who hasn’t won a title since 2007, required just over an hour on the court to break the British world number 188 6-3,6-2.
Mathieu will play Stuttgart finalist Viktor Troicki in the first round. Troicki’s run to the final in Germany has clearly demonstrated that the Serbian is currently in impressive shape, especially with his serve. On the other hand, there will be questions about how tired he will be coming into Queen’s. The two players have been drawn to play each other on three previous occasions but none of the matches got completed with one of the retiring (Troicki twice and Mathieu once). Presuming Troicki doesn’t retire and keep up the trend, his superior form should win him the day.
2015 Indian Wells ATP Qualifying Headliners Include Young Guns Coric, Nishioka, Veterans Melzer, Mathieu, and Sela Adam Addicott and Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Whilst the top stars of the ATP World Tour will make their final preparations for the first Masters event of 2015 at Indian Wells on the practice courts. The competitive action in the men’s draw will begin today with the start of the qualifying event. 48 players will battle against each other on court during two rounds in order to win one of the 12 qualification slots in the main draw. The 12 qualifiers will also get a guaranteed $10,485 for playing in the first round.
Heading the seeds will be teenage sensation Borna Coric. The 18-year-old comes into the event will a huge amount of confidence following his impressive run at the ATP Dubai Open where he beat Andy Murray to reach the semi final of the tournament. His Dubai performance has elevated him to a career ranking high of 60 in the world. In the first round, he will play Artem Smirnov from the Ukraine and could potentially face Gastão Elias in the next round if all goes to plan. If the Croatian qualifies for the main draw, it will be the first Master event that he has participated in. Look for Coric, if he can avoid a hangover from Davis Cup in Europe, to qualify as he’s the strongest player in his section by far.
Second seed Go Soeda has so far experienced a very average start to 2015. He reached the second round of the Australian Open after beating Elias Ymer in the first round and also reached the second round of the ATP Zagreb Open. Despite being ranked 84 in the world, the Japanese player is yet to beat a top 100 played in 2015. The highest ranked player he has beaten so far this year was Matthias Bachinger (119) last month. In the first round, he will player world 164 Alex Bolt. Soeda comes off Davis Cup for Japan, and may be fatigued, giving Bolt a decent shot an upset, however the Aussie is 1-2 with a retirement in his last four matches, and that does not bode well for his chances. I expect Alejandro Falla to be the round 2 opponent for Soeda, as the veteran ball striker is in better form than James McGee, even though he’s struggled all year himself. McGee has lost four straight, while Falla has at least managed some wins at a lower level. I also favor Falla over Soeda to qualify.
Jurgen Melzer (3) is bidding to play in the Indian Wells main draw for the 12th consecutive year. Melzer, who reached the fourth round of the tournament back in 2010, is hoping to regain some solid form in his game after a poor month. The former world number 8 has lost 5 out of his last 6 matches played. The veteran player will open up his qualifying campaign against another veteran player Danai Udomchoke. 33-year-old Udomchoke is currently ranked 326 in the world, however he has been ranked high as 77 back in 2007. On paper this sound be a straight forward encounter for Melzer and could potentially face 2014 Australian Open junior champion Alexander Zverev in the final round.Given his poor showing in Davis Cup, I see Melzer winning his round 2 match but losing to either the young gun Zverev, or American veteran Michael Russell, who always plays his best on home soil.
Completing the top five seeds are Damir Džumhur and Spainiard Daniel Gimeno-Traver. Dzumhur, who rose to media spotlight last year where he reached the third round as a qualifier at the Australian Open, will play Frank Dancevic in their first ever meeting. Meanwhile Gimeno-Trove will play Jason Jung from America in what will also be their first ever meeting. Dzumhur played well in Davis Cup, so he should be able to defeat Dancevic and veteran Philipp Petzschner or Marco Cecchinato thereafter to qualify.
As for DGT, if he wins his first match over Jung, he will not be favored, given he much prefers clay, against Aljaz Bedene who has had a strong 2015 thus far. Bedene has American Dennis Novikov as his first opponent.
6 seed Tobias Kamke has an interesting round 1 match against Nikoloz Basilashvili of the Republic of Georgia. Basilashvili started the year off strong and won his first ever ATP main draw match, but he’s cooled off since then with three straight ATP qualifying losses. Kamke is to some extent a declining veteran so I have him falling to Basilashvili, and then the Georgian regaining form and qualifying with a win over either Alex Kuznetsov or Victor Hanescu, both steady veterans.
7 seed Farrukh Dustov, who has a challenger title this season, should defeat struggling young American Mackenzie McDonald, but he’s not the favorite in his section, that title goes to the retiring serve and volleyer Michael Berrer, who will face young gun Taro Daniel (who he beat this year in AO qualies). Berrer should qualify given his good form this year, that included a win over Rafael Nadal in Doha, though this is an unpredictable section.
Look for Aussie J.P. Smith to upset Filip Krajinovic, the 8 seed. Krajinovic played Davis Cup this weekend and he’s not as formidable on hard courts, while Smith is perhaps nearing a major breakthrough. Either Smith or Polish veteran Lukasz Kubot are most likely to qualify in this section, as Kubot also comes off DC duty and faces another Aussie, Luke Saville in round 1.
9 seed James Duckworth does not have an easy matchup with rapidly improving American Jared Donaldson who will have the home fans behind him. I believe in Donaldson this time around to qualify on home soil, with wins over Duckworth and American Rajeev Ram, who faces Marco Trungelliti in round 1.
10 seed Paul-Henri Mathieu, who has been up and down this season, faces USC standout Yannick Hanfmann, a wild card, and then he is likely to face his struggling countryman Edouard Roger-Vasselin in round 2 (ERV faces dirtballer Guido Andreozzi in round 1). ERV has plenty of talent but he’s been poor for quite some time, and PHM should be the one to qualify.
Davis Cup Hero James Ward also has a good shot at qualifying as he continues his quest to break into the top 100, Ward Faces Mitchell Krueger of the USA in round 1, and then the winner of Yoshito Nishioka vs. the veteran Mischa Zverev (the older brother of Alex), in round 1. I have Nishioka qualifying, as he did in Delray, but Ward is also playing well so it’s a tough call.
12 seed Dudi Sela struggled in Davis Cup action for Israel, but he’s still favored to beat young American Taylor Harry Fritz. Look for a relatively in-form Thiemo De Bakker to beat Emilio Gomez and then Sela to qualify, as he could pose a threat to the main draw entrants if he does qualify. De Bakker has always had the talent, but his effort and desire has been lacking at times.