Thiem Warms Up for Roland Garros with Title, Fucsovics Makes Hungary Proud Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Elite player Dominic Thiem squared off with home favorite Gilles Simon in the Lyon final, Thiem emerging the winner 3-6 7-6 6-1, as he recovered from a slow start to power past the defensively minded Simon. Presuming he’s fresh for Roland Garros, this week should prove a great warmup for the Austrian star he dropped sets against Dusan Lajovic and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the semifinals and quartefinals respectively, but won those matches in the end. His first win game against Roberto Carballes Baena.
Simon also looks good for Paris as he found form and defeated Jordi Samper-Montana, Joris De Loore, Mikhail Kukushkin, and Cam Norrie to reach the final, his only set dropped coming against Kukushkin.
Nick Kyrgios and Jack Sock won the doubles final against Jebavy/Middelkoop.
Marton Fucsovics looks to be finally fulfilling his promise as he claimed his first ever ATP title with a 6-2 6-2 drubbing of Peter Gojowczyk. Fucsovics has put together the best season of his career in 2018 and earned wins against Albert Ramos, Frances Tiafoe, home hero Stan Wawrinka, and Steve Johnson (in 3 sets) to reach the final.
Gojowczyk has also put together a career best year with wins against Ivo Karlovic, David Ferrer, Andreas Seppi, and Fabio Fognini in Switzerland. He beat Seppi and Karlovic in 3 sets, and his win against Fognini was a major upset. Now he hopes to be a factor at Roland Garros.
Marach/Pavic defeated Dodig/Ram in the doubles final.
Russia’s Karen Khachanov won his second career ATP title, taking the championship in Marseille 7-5 3-6 7-5 over Lucas Pouille. Khachanov beat Frenchman Julien Benneteau, veteran Tomas Berdych, Mischa Zverev, and Ruben Bemelmans on the week, dropping just a set against Pouille.
Pouille couldn’t make it 2/2 in French finals this year, but he did score tough wins over Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Filip Krajinovic. He beat Ilya Ivashka in the semis, Ivashka playing in his first ever semifinal at the ATP level after benefiting from drawing an injured Stan Wawrinka in the round of 16.
Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus defeated Marcus Daniell and Dom Inglot in the doubles final.
Frances Tiafoe lived up to the hype this week in Delray. The 20 year old defeated Peter Gojowczyk 6-1 6-4 in the final, capturing his first ATP title in what was an amazing week for the young American. He began his winning streak against Matt Ebden in the opening round, then upset Juan Martin Del Potro in 3 sets. In the quarterfinals and semifinals he beat fellow young guns Hyeon Chung and Denis Shapovalov, dropping a set to Chung but recovering well. Tiafoe’s game was more solid this week than it had been previously.
Germany’s Gojowczyk defeated Lukas Lacko, John Isner, Reilly Opelka, and Steve Johnson to reach the final, his second at the ATP level. Despite defeating three Americans, he couldn’t defeat a fourth in the final.
Jackson Withrow and Jack Sock beat Nick Monroe and J.P. Smith in the doubles final, completing an All-American sweep at the Delray 250.
Diego Schwartzman wrapped up a 500 level title in Rio with a routine 6-2 6-3 win against Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco. It’s the biggest title of the Argentine’s career and his second ATP title overall. He defeated Casper Ruud, Federico Delbonis, Gael Monfils, and Nicolas Jarry without dropping a set in any of his matches this week.
Verdasco turned back the clock a bit. The 34 year old showed his forehand range against Leonardo Mayer, Nicolas Kicker, Dominic Thiem, and Fabio Fognini. His wins against Thiem and Fognini, both in straight sets, was the best results he’s posted on tour in quite some time.
David Marrero joined with singles finalist Verdasco to win the doubles final against Nikola Mektic/Alexander Peya.
Maiden ATP Titles for Gojowczyk and Dzumhur in Metz and St. Petersburg Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Qualifier Peter Gojowczyk came back from a set down in his opening match, and went on to win his maiden ATP title 7-5 6-2 over home favorite Benoit Paire in Metz. Gojowczyk beat Norbert Gombos, Gilles Simon, Marius Copil, and Mischa Zverev to reach the final, showcasing career best form. Paire beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, Marcel Granollers, David Goffin, and Nikoloz Basilashvili to reach the final, it was his first final since 2015. Frenchmen Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin defeated Koolhof/Sitak in the doubles final.
ATP St. Petersburg
Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur has been rapidly rising up the ATP rankings this season, and in his second ATP final of the season, he came away a victor over Fabio Fognini 3-6 6-4 6-2 to claim his maiden ATP title. Dzumhur dropped a set against Liam Broady in St. Petersburg, but eased past Paolo Lorenzi, Marcos Baghdatis, and Jan-Lennard Struff. Dzumhur is an undersized ball striker who seems to be getting closer to maximizing his potential.
Fognini reached his second final of the season by defeating Mikhail Youzhny, Ricardas Berankis, and Roberto Bautista Agut, two of those wins coming in three sets. Jebavy and Middelkoop won the doubles title over Peralta/Zeballos.
Georgia Tech’s Christopher Eubanks claimed his first ever ATP main draw match victory, upsetting ATP young gun Taylor Fritz 7-6 6-4. Eubanks showed his power, controlling the match against the struggling Fritz. The first set was nip and tuck, with neither player facing a breakpoint. Eubanks lost one point on serve in the ensuing tiebreak, but Fritz lost two, and with that, the set. In the second set Eubanks went up a break, and then saved the only break point Fritz created the whole match, going on to serve it out 6-4. Fritz struggling on return to make any inroads.
Joining Eubanks in the second round is Atlanta’s own Donald Young, the home favorite dominated Tim Smyczek 6-4 6-2, playing the same comfortable and smooth tennis that has seen him post one of his best seasons on tour in years, Smyczek never made inroads.
Three young Americans weren’t as lucky on day 2 of main draw action. Reilly Opelka had eight match points in the second set, but his serve fell apart in the third set and he ended up losing to veteran Malek Jaziri 5-7 7-6 6-1. The loss is yet another for Opelka, who has struggled this year to close out matches at the tour level, with just one win on tour this year.
Vasek Pospisil won a nip and tuck battle against Bjorn Fratangelo 7-5 4-6 7-6. With the ball flying in the heat, Pospisil took the first set with the only break point chance of the set, he failed to break Fratangelo despite three chances in the second set, and Fratangelo stayed alive with a late break. Pospisil faced a break point in the opening service game of the third, and three more serving 4-4, the American never saw a match point though, failing to take his chances on Pospisil’s service games, he would lose the tiebreak 7-3 in the third set.
American Frances Tiafoe hit with power and moved well for three sets, but fell to the more experienced John Millman. Millman winning 5-7 6-4 7-6 in over two hours. Millman struggled on serve in the opening set late on, he saved two break points at 4-4, but then was broken and dropped the set from 5-5. Tiafoe wasn’t able to keep up his momentum in set 2, he was broken twice, once early on, and even though he got back on serve when Millman was serving for the set, he would get broken in the next game for a third set to ensue. Tiafoe served for the match in the third set, but never had a match point. Millman would break back and then snatch the tiebreak by a narrow margin.
The other singles winners on the day were Kyle Edmund, Peter Gojowczyk, and Dudi Sela. Edmund beat a struggling Marcos Baghdatis 6-3 7-5. Edmund was the better mover, and in the heat Baghdatis wilted a bit, failing to create chances in his return games. Gojowczyk kept up his momentum from a positive week in Newport, he won a later afternoon battle with Guido Pella 4-6 6-3 7-6 even though he was down a set and a break to open the match. The tiebreak was close, but only Gojowczyk had a match point. In a match that was not serve centric, the underpowered Sela beat Konstantin Kravchuk 7-5 6-2, coming back from a break down in the opening set.
In the doubles, the Bryan Brothers avoided being knocked off by Matt Reid and J.P. Smith via a super tiebreak. Qureshi/Ratiwatana beat Donald Young and Nick Monroe in a very close nightcap match, and Koolhof/Sitak beat Cox/Reinberg in yet another super tiebreak.
2017 ATP Atlanta Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic is happy to provide week long credentialed coverage of the 2017 BB&T Atlanta Open, as ATP tennis again returns to the biggest city in the South.
BB&T Atlanta Open
ATP World Tour 250
July 24-30, 2017
Atlanta, GA, USA
Prize Money: $642,750
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Jack Sock (18)
2: John Isner (19)
3: Gilles Muller (22)
4: Ryan Harrison (49)
With so many Americans in the field, and three of the four top seeds Americans, it’s likely the BB&T Atlanta Open will produce another American champion.
Jack Sock has been great on hard courts this season and will be happy to return to the surface where his forehand can shine. Presuming a healthy Dudi Sela defeats Konstantin Kravchuk he should face off with Sock. Sock should overpower the Israeli battler to reach the quarters. Marcos Baghdatis serves a bit of a dark horse in this section of the draw, he could catch fire with his shotmaking, but Kyle Edmund is the favorite to defeat Baghdatis round 1. I’ll pick an in-form Peter Gojowczyk to defeat dirtballer Guido Pella, and Edmund before falling to Sock in the quarters.
It looks like Ryan Harrison‘s time to return to form in the second section of the draw. The athletic Frances Tiafoe isn’t in good enough form, even if he defeats John Millman, and although Jared Donaldson should beat Ernesto Escobedo, Harrison is the most accomplished player in this section for a reason. Young gun Taylor Fritz plays local favorite Chris Eubanks and could get knocked off, as he’s struggled this year on tour. Harrison over Donaldson is the pick for the quarters.
With three ATP Atlanta titles in his trophy case, and a new trophy from Newport all in the back of his mind, local favorite John Isner looks set to take out fellow big server Vasek Pospisil, and then Donald Young in the quarters. Young opens with Bjorn Fratangelo, Lukas Lacko and Thomas Fabbiano are also in this section, while Pospisil opens with Bjorn Fratangelo.
Fresh off his run at Wimbledon, Gilles Muller returns to the ATP tour as a favorite against either Stefan Kozlov or Quentin Halys, both young qualifiers. Look for the talented young gun Hyeon Chung to run past Tommy Paul, and either Malek Jaziri or big server Reilly Opelka to setup a big quarterfinal match. Muller’s serve and volley should be good enough to earn him the win.
Dark Horse: Hyeon Chung
Chung is quite talented, but hasn’t quite put all the pieces together yet. This tournament presents a great opportunity for him to make a big breakthrough, as he has a reasonable path to the final if he can return big servers well.
Semis Sock d. Harrison
Isner d. Muller
In what should be an all-American final, America’s two best players should face off in the Atlanta final. Isner loves playing in Atlanta and should be able to keep up his pace from Newport to get another title.
Tomic Back in the Groove, Coric Shelled Tuesday at ATP Stuttgart 2015 Andreas Thiele for Tennis Atlantic
Tomic back in the groove (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
It was the fourth day of this year’s ATP Stuttgart tournament and it was the coldest and windiest day yet. It’s always the worst what can happen here in Germany in terms of weather, with dark clouds, strong winds, and no rain: A winter day during summer. Many players had problems today, especially muscular problems. We witnessed the first retirement in a main draw match and many tennis players moving poorly. Conditions were a challenge today, but matches were completed in full.
Difficult wind created the highest amount of unforced errors per match today, yet very beautiful winners which were powered by the wind. Even in the press centre it was quite cold. In the cold, fans gathered around Rafael Nadal, Gael Monfils and Dustin Brown seeking an interaction with their favorites. Nadal had to call the security team to get through the crowds, when he played doubles with Feliciano Lopez.
Main Draw Round 1
The schedule looked promising on Tuesday, especially for the German crowd. as German was featured in 8 out of 11 matches. Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki led off the day.
Borna Coric’s father was quite optimistic this could be the day he wins his first match on grass, before the match began. With Croatian journalists in the stands Borna just absolutely disappointed his countrymen and couldn’t end his negative run of four losses in a row on grass (0-4 career record). His first service game looked promising, though he had problems holding it. He still doesn’t know how to move on grass and gets too passive during rallies. Troicki was the way more aggressive player and hit some great winners, but some funny unforced errors. While the beginning of the first set was competitive, Borna lost his second serve with a fight, it seemed he wasn’t up for the match entirely. The second serve game he lost was on him and Troicki didn’t even have to play well.
The second set was just pathetic, Coric only won nine points out of 36 and just won a lone return point during the whole set. I stopped watching it after the first break which was very hard-fought (three times deuce) and Troicki won it a few minutes later. Troicki’s forehand didn’t look that bad at all, in contrary to Coric’s which can’t be even called a weapon. Given he’s a young gun, Coric will have the time to develop his game on grass, but in the present day Troicki rolled 6-2 6-0 in a blowout.
Jan-Lennard Struff struggled on the day, though he offered some great forehand-shots and even nicer volleys. Bernard Tomic was out of his league, he offered up great variation in his serve and delivered what he needed, to win, throwing in some great winners. The first set was very one-sided, Tomic won the very first game which was a break to love and broke him at the end of the first set again. However, like is often the case with his matches. Bernie wasn’t consistent enough to close out the match routinely, leading a set and a break ahead.
Struff started to hit one good return after another, and dictate the rallies – He almost always won the point at the net and almost always lost the points on longer rallies, as he hit many forehand unforced errors under pressure. After Tomic broke his serve with a fantastic forehand down-the-line winner, he immediately was broken bakc after serving two double faults and committing a very easy backhand ue after a poor return. The set built up its tension because of the fact both served very well till the second set breaker, when the Borussia Dortmund-fan suddenly led 3-0. Two long forehands later, and Tomic took a decisive advantage, eventually closing out the breaker 7-5 for a 6-3 7-6 victory. Tomic’s game looked quite sharp today, although there was room for improvement. Bernie has to face now another German he lost to in Halle three years ago, Tommy Haas.
Another German moving on here is Mischa Zverev who’s showing great grass tennis as a veteran. The underrated grass specialist had many problems at the beginning against Dominic Thiem and lost even his serve, but he managed to catch himself and rebroke, converting his first break point of the match. As the match progressed, both started to serve better and the breaker had to decide the set. After three consecutive mini-breaks Zverev held his serve to get set point and Thiem failed to save another set point, as he didn’t serve well under pressure. Zverev looked fresher, though he played every day in the last three days, and could break him again. Thiem broke himself with a lot of unnecessary errors. The German served well in set 2, broke Thiem again returning and moving very well to hit one forehand after another in his last service game to close the match 7-6 6-2.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Lukas Rosol looked like a great match on paper, but Rosol played poorly on the outer court. Baghdatis lost the first game and his serve, but Rosol couldn’t maintain the advantage and ended up losing the first set with a double break. Rosol moved poorly and showed signs of rust. He didn’t have the fortune to trust in his first serve, it was either too long or into the net in big moments and Baghdatis even started to return well when given the chance. The veteran Baghdatis had very good and strong groundstrokes, made Rosol run, and in this way the Cypriot hit many winners. His form looked excellent, throwback in a way and could have some great results in the next week overall like today where he won 6-3 6-4. Depending on Rafael Nadal’s form on the day he could come even through in their match.
Baghdatis was smooth in Stuttgart (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Benjamin Becker came back to Germany in good form after some wins at Roland Garros, and was excited to start the grass court season, his best surface, but unfortunately the shoulder-problem he had in Paris discomforted him again and he was in pain. Therefore he slumped in defeat against Andreas Seppi. After the first set he asked for a medical timeout and it went better afterwards. He held twice his serve, and he had signs of a comeback, but after Seppi served again his should flaired up once more. The German let the match slide and wants to focus now on getting completely recovered again. Wish you all the best, Benjamin, and a speedy recovery! Seppi defeated injured Becker 6-1, 6-2.
Similar to Becker Sergiy Stakhovsky had medical problems against Sam Groth. The first set Stakhovsky won with a classic grass court serve and volley game, often chipping and charging with brilliant volley winners. Groth, famous for his fastest serve ever recorded at a Challenger in South Korea, served again very well, but was too slow to reach Stakhovsky’s volleys. Especially the second serves were attacked by Stako, till the Australian let off steam and yelled
“he always gets my 2nd serve” after 0-30, *3-5 in the first set. Bit by bit Stakhovsky started to play more passively and gave Groth some opportunities at the net that he could approach.
Groth and Stakhovsky volleyed away (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Nothing changed in the second set and Stakhovsky’s serve lessened in effectiveness, he had to save seven break points in the second set alone, as Groth wasn’t always attentive at his chances. On the eight break point chance in set 2, a set point as well, Groth finally won it. Stako lost his serve at the beginning of the third set, and then retired 5-3 down in the third. At the end his serves were a shadow of the his serving in the 1st set, so Groth won it 4-6, 7-5, 5-3. Wish you a speedy recovery as well, Stako!
Matthias Bachinger again displayed great tennis against Peter Gojowczyk. Gojo dictated with his forehand in very good rallies and the Bavarian Bachinger ran left and right to get the balls. Both were serve-and-volleying very well and little things decided this match. One of these things was Bachinger’s fighting spirit, and his poison slices which were a hazard for Gojowczyk. He committed unforced errors and many forehands landed at the net after Bachinger’s slices.
Bachinger was very clutch on important points and didn’t give up any game. Gojowczyk was leading in his last service game in before a theoretical breaker 40-0, but many forehand unforced errors and an incredible forehand smash into the net after a long slice-rally and a well played lob gave Bachinger a break. The Bavarian served the match out, just like in the first set he did after winning the break and will face #2 seed Marin Cilic. Bachingers win was 7-5 7-5.
Alexander Zverev was the better player against Mate Pavic and deservedly won after losing the first set 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. It was a bad start at the beginning facing a break point, and he eventually got broken and lost the first set. In the second set the young German improved his serve on break points, and his forehand was very sharp against Pavic, who likes to attack at the net with his backhand volley. Zverev was aware of that and could read his serve-and-volleys, as he stood meters behind the baseline and didn’t give Pavic many free points.. All in all Zverev played with a very good strategy and kept his head cool, against a nervous Pavic. He finally won the match with a very strong forehand triggering a Pavic error.
Both Zverev brothers advanced on the day (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
The old German master Tommy Haas returned finally to the tour! His win over Mikhail Kukushkin was a graet match, based on good serve and offensive forehands. Kukushkin didn’t have any clue how to react and it says a lot about his tennis on grass when he gets dominated by the rusty Haas. In the second set Haas lost his rhythm and started to gift Kukushkin games he never would have been able to win. Giving that Kukushkin at the end couldn’t hold the break and Haas was able to raise his level again to finished it in two 6-4 7-5.
The last German who played today, Dustin Brown lost in three to Jerzy Janowicz. Both were rock solid on serve, and Brown lost some points due to easy unforced errors he hit. The first set went quickly as Dreddy took it in a tiebreak but Janowicz was able to break him in the second and third sets, while Brown wasn’t able to convert break points. Janowicz completed the comeback 6-7 6-4 6-3. It was still a successful tournament for Brown as he qualified for an ATP event for the first time since Munich.
Janowicz vs. Brown was a quick match (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
In the other singles match on the day, Andreas Haider-Maurer dashed the hopes of young German wild card Max Marterer 7-6 6-3.
Tuesday Doubles Scores
Lopez/Nadal d. Junaid/Shamasdin 7-6 6-2
Cabal/Farah d. Rosol/Thiem 7-6 7-6
Matkowski/Zimonjic d. Monfils/Simon 6-3 6-4
Kohlschreiber Wins with ease at Mercedes Cup, Kraijinovic Displeased, Sugita Couldn’t Handle the Breeze, ATP Stuttgart 2015 Monday Report Andreas Thiele for Tennis Atlantic
Rain Hampered Monday’s Schedule in Stuttgart (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
We expected the first day of the main draw matches and qualifying’s last round today, Monday, but what did we get? Of course, rain! Either drizzling or heavy rain, it never stopped. It thundered Sunday evening, so bad weather was already approaching and the last hours showed signs of constant rain. All journalists hid in the press center and talked about anything and everything. Players who were scheduled to play today were hidden like us in the players’ lounge. My heart went out to the fans and spectators who stood outside. Everybody had to wait five and a half hours to see the first ball struck, so I decided to explore what’s outside of the venue before the games started.
Rafael Nadal’s press conference
For starters, a press conference with Rafael Nadal was routine, standard questions and standard answers. However, one question was interesting: Asked if he watched the Roland Garros’ final this year. His answer was he had to train (in the center court at 5 pm), journalists guffawed. Even though it wasn’t asked, he talked about Stan’s success and said he’s a great player, ‘playing well’. Stan has very good strokes “hits the ball with the most power on the tour”, so he can dictate the game ‘everywhere’.
Another interesting thing he said is he doesn’t like to play down tournaments like Stuttgart or Halle as preparation tournaments for Grand Slams. Grand Slams matter, but not in the fashion of other tournaments being unimportant. What does he aim at in the next months? “Trying to be healthy, trying to finish inside the top 8 to compete at the World Tour Finals” and “to get self-confidence for next season”. It seems he still doesn’t have the confidence of previous years, and it serves as an explanation for why he lost to Djokovic at the French in straights (and talked this defeat down). He’s still not there, where he wants to be, but still wants to compete to raise his current level and reach his prior world beater status. A big step forward would be to win this year’s grass tournament in Stuttgart, his last title on grass was the Wimbledon Championship against Berdych in 2010.
As I mentioned earlier, it took a very long time to see a tennis match. Ten matches should have been played today, among others Nadal and Feliciano Lopez in doubles against an alternate, since Radek Stepanek withdrew due to a back injury (He could neither move nor serve well during practice on Saturday). In the end five matches took place, the last four qualifying-matches and Philipp Kohlschreiber against Alexandr Dolgopolov.
The surface of the courts got really wet, so preparation took even longer than it normally does and it even took longer on the non-center court. Hence the match between the two Germans Dustin Brown and Michael Berrer was the first one on Center Court. Brown loves playing on the main stage, and he displayed why today, hitting some awesome winners and lobs. Besides that, he found his serve and offered some great volley winners in the first set, except his second service game, when Berrer didn’t convert two break points.
Berrer served very well in the first set till his last service game. The hometown boy lead 30-0, but still managed to lose the control after three wonderful winners Brown hit. The first one was a smash winner at the net, the second one a lob winner as Berrer played serve and volley and he got his first break point over a volley winner after chip & charge. The Stuttgart home player got too passive and lost his serve finally, as he was at the end overchallenged by Brown and committed some risky shots which went out.
Brown’s problem in the second was inconsistency on break point chances against Berrer, he knew how to extort him and didn’t apply his abilities to their potential. Berrer got more confident and hit some great shots too, whereas Dreddy lost his focus and even almost lost his serve before tiebreaker. A serve winner and a volley winner closed his service game. Like the second set, the tiebreaker was very even with neither player taking an advantage. Berrer served at 7-7, but committed a very easy forehand cross UE after a moderate return, so the North-German could close the match with a serve winner again with the scoreline 6-4, 7-6(7). “It’s never easy to play against Dustin” Berrer said after the match at the on-court-interview. Berrer played well enough to snatch a set but it was not to be.Bachinger against Mischa Zverev was the next match between two German qualifiers. They had to wait a while for their match, since the chair umpire wasn’t pleased about the grass condition and wanted to have the surface dry. Both looked a bit tense before the match, perhaps the rain delaying adding to their nerves. First set was very even at the beginning, suddenly Bachinger lost his service game to love. He didn’t well at this point, had a taped knee, and he was surely tired because of the two matches played over this very hot weekend.
Zverev looked fresher, but as he won the break, he also suddenly lost his serve, though he had two game points. His younger brother Alex (Sascha) Zverev was in the stands to motivate him, both held their serves with ease. Even the tiebreaker was very even, till Bachinger lost twice his service and Zverev didn’t miss. Zverev moved on with his flow, didn’t give Bachinger any break chance and the Bavarian struggled every time with his serves. Zverev broke him again to love at 3-4 and served the match out (7-6(3), 6-3). Bachinger looked very disappointed, yet he’s still as Lucky Loser in the tournament and will face another German qualifier.
Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated the human highlight reel from Ukraine Alex Dolgopolov in routine fashion 6-3, 6-3. Dolgopolov, who has been very inconsistent this season, hit his typical slice shots and played his exciting varied game, but again lacked the consistency to beat the sixth seeded Kohlschreiber. Inspired by the crowd he posted a solid showing and can now save his energy for later stages in the tournament.
Dolgopolov was broken just twice on his serve and one of these he lost with two double faults. Though he came back again, served to love and reached almost a re-break point, Kohlschreiber couldn’t close so easily he did it in the first for the set. After a beautiful volley winner on the line, he hit another forehand cross winner like in good old days. However, reality overcame him, returned twice poorly and the German closed the match with a beautiful forehand down-the-line winner past another poorly played slice. So no problem for Kohlschreiber who can have a deep run here, though Dologpolov’s form is currently poor.
Another one who could feel pain is definitely Filip Krajinovic. He played very well in the first two qualifying rounds, but he was very annoyed by the rain and the delay. He began very poorly, losing his second service game to love, since he couldn’t hit any heavy first serves. The Serb committed many forehand errors, and couldn’t manage the wind. His opponent Peter Gojowczyk knew Krajinovic’s flaws well. When he was inattentive, the Krajinovic failed to conver his two break point chances. He didn’t grasp how he blew them, and his mind overwhelmed him with doubts, he grew very passive and Gojowczyk could do what he wanted. Except for that service game, it was a lop-sided set, the cooler player won the set.
Second set was a bit more even, though the German led with an invisible small edge, as he played the better tennis. Krajinovic still complained about weather or the rain delay, but in especially about himself and never stopped committing unforced errors. Gojowczyk started even to serve aces and it got more and more superior, until he had three match points on Krajinovic’s serve. The first one was saved due to a serve-winner, the next one was a return unforced error and the last one was very clutch by Krajinovic, he played a very strong forehand down-the-line and Gojo’s backhand slice not good enough. Diego Nargiso’s charge could hold finally hold his serve and raised his level to get three break points, when Gojowczyk served for the match. It seemed to be the turning point, the German was very nervous. His serve wasn’t good, but Filip’s return was even poorer, and Gojo saved the first match point with a strong forehand winner. The next ones were saved again with serve winners and Gojowczyk converted his first match point with a classy ace.
Gojowczyk a winner on the day (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Besides these two service games Gojowczyk had always the control of the match and though it was lop-sided, the last service game was the only one with drama. Krajinovic was irritated off the wall, and couldn’t keep cool at the interview I conducted. He responded to a question ‘I don’t know, I really don’t know, why do you ask me? Why do you ask me?’. He was very emotional and almost ran to the players’ restaurant. The final scoreline was 6-2 6-4.As for the last match of the day, I chatted a bit with Yuichi Sugita’s coach. “Mate Pavic can play very good on grass” he said and expected a good match from both. Yuichi has to play “with big strokes and good serves” because “these will be the keys for today”. He performed well in regards to those factors, frustrating the Croatian talent who dropped his racket and went to the umpire to chat, twice during the first set.
The umpire was a young German guy who was gentle towards him and the crowd here in Stuttgart had empathy, he didn’t face a reign of boos as he might have in Paris. Anyway, Sugita got very tired after the first set was decided in the tiebreaker and Pavic began to serve way better than Sugita, reversing the result of the first set tiebreak to win the second set tiebreak and force a third set.
It was the last match, and thus all the tennis fans remaining in the venue started to watch this match. The winds became stronger and darkness loomed. Sugita committed so many unforced errors in the decider, baseline shots were a lottery. The Croat managed it, broke him and served for the match at 5-3. Amusingly the Japanese started to goat and hit some unreal passing shots, a very big difference compared with his last service game, when his lob hit the linesman’s seat or Pavic was behind the baseline and Sugita tried to aim the crowd with his volley. Pavic’s serve and volleys were practically unbreakable before.
At the end of the match, Sugita converted to the erratic player he was before his break and lost four points in a row. The match point was a hard fought rally with a beautiful smash winner at the end. Both played wonderful and entertaining tennis and in the end Pavic won 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-4.
2015 ATP Stuttgart Day 1 Qualifying Report Andreas Thiele for Tennis Atlantic
Day 1 at the 2015 Mercedes Cup (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
The first ATP grass tournament takes place in Stuttgart and begins at the first June weekend just like the ATP tournament in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. First of all, welcome to Stuttgart! The city of the eternally lasting building lots, cranes form the skyline here and political demonstrations fill the streets.
Far away from the noise of the city, the whole tennis complex Weißenhof is behind small forests on a mountain. ATP Stuttgart’s tennis tournament, after its official sponsor called Mercedes Cup, was held for the first time in 1898. Hence it is very famous for its tradition and is popular among tennis professionals because of the friendly atmosphere and the good organization. Though the surface was traditionally clay, this year they changed it to grass as another preparation tournament for Wimbledon to have a more stellar field. It worked, as Cilic, Monfils, and Rafa Nadal are confirmed to play.
Qualifying Day 1
It was a very hot day, the hottest after quite a while here in Germany, so fitness and stamina were very important. However, a lot of matches demonstrated many players, even ball kids couldn’t handle the heat. Robin Kern for example, who was 0-6 and 0-4 down, gave up and could barely move due to a minor injury, sending Jan Choinski into the second round.
A lot of matches were played between Germans at the first qualifying round, one of them was the opening match between Peter Gojowczyk and Andreas Beck. Both players have good resumes and it should have been a good match, but unfortunately it wasn’t. Gojowczyk was dominant in the points and his serve was strong. Beck created just one break point chance, while Gojowczyk broke him twice and he could have broken him even more than that. However, these two breaks decided the whole match. Beck struggled with many service games, in contrast to Gojowczyk. So Gojowczyk won the match deservedly 7-5, 6-4 and he remains a favorite to reach the main draw.
Dustin Brown played right after Gojowczyk likewise on the Mercedes Court, the second biggest court here, and didn’t have any problem against Sebastian Sachs. The young German is outside of the top 2000 currently and hadn’t any chance to threaten Brown’s next victory on his beloved grass (6-2, 6-1). Germany’s new Davis Cup member Brown didn’t display his best tennis, though his groundstrokes were constantly good and he hit some great winners. His serve-and-volley was very sharp today and he has very good chances to get one of the qualifiers spot apart from some inattentive unforced errors.
Brown won his first match at a picturesque venue (photo credit Andreas Thiele)
Way more hairsbreadth was Filip Krajinovic’s victory. As today’s top-match between the first seed and an in-form Daniel Brands featured highlights as expected. Brands won the first tiebreaker in clutch fashion, though he served for the set at 5-4 and wasn’t clutch there. He was more often at the net and hit some great volleys, while Krajinovic was too passive at the deciding moments and stood on the baseline. Both played very well in the second set, too. Service games were held with ease, just Brands had a few problems with his last service game in this set. Both played some great Serve-and-Volleys and both hit many aces. A typical good grass-tennis match, details decided the second set’s tiebreak.
Brands destroyed his hopes of winning the set with a Double fault at 5-5 and Krajinovic could win his first set with a cross forehand winner after his opponent’s short shot. The tension rose from there, Brands broke Krajinovic’s serve after a very long and intense rally with a beautiful forehand-volley right to the baseline’s corner, just to get re-broken because of so many forehand UEs. Brands was obviously very disappointed and couldn’t raise his level. Krajinovic broke Brands’ hard fought service game (four times deuce) and end the game with a service winner (6-7(3), 7-6(5), 7-5). Brands got very disappointed by this match he almost won and walked as fast as he could back to the players’ restaurant.
Krajinovic won the match of the day (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Another one who has to be mentioned here is Matthias Bachinger who surprised me a lot with his tennis. He defeated Somdev Devvarman 6-2, 7-5. Bachinger was very dominant in the first set, not giving Devvarman many opportunities and especially his forehand troubled the Indian too much. Bachinger held his service games with ease after he lost his first one in the first set. However, Devvarman lost three times his serve in the first set and didn’t have any clue how to stop the German. Bachinger’s key was his fitness: He moved very well on the baseline, he could defend a lot of dangerous shots and could combine it with good volleys and even better serves. The second set featured longer rallies (a bit rare for grass) and Devvarman was at least on eye-level with the German. Though he lost his first service game, Devvarman could raise his level to break the Bavarian again.
Devvarman played more offensively and was more often at the net with his superior volley game. Bachinger struggled with Devvarman getting better and better, had many problems to hold his last service, but managed to win it with some impressive passing shots. As everyone expected a tiebreaker, Devvarman suddenly lost the control of the game, had some mishits. 30 all, Devvarman served very well, hit a very good forehand down-the-line Bachinger barely reached, hit a forehand-volley to the other side, but the German reached the ball running very fast and won the match with an overwhelming backhand-dtl-passing shot, amazing. Facing the matchpoint Bachinger returned Devvarman’s second serve with a beautiful backhand down-the-line-winner to end the match.
Michael Berrer defeated Frank Dancevic in a very close match 6-7 (7), 6-0, 7-6 (3). Dancevic hit many great shots and his forehand worked today quite well, his problem was the inconsistency. He explained his loss due to lack of grass matches, just started to train at the same day on grass and stated Berrer served too well. He’s right, especially in the second set Berrer served very well after a short rain delay during the second set and Dancevic made mistakes you normally don’t do if you know how to play on this surface. Still, the Canadian raised his level again, could compete on a high level and called Berrer out, but the hometown boy was too clutch especially in the tiebreaker and had even opportunities to close the match earlier.
The veteran Berrer eased into Q R2 (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Mischa Zverev had to play against Tim Puetz and Sascha’s older brother managed to win the match after he lost the first set 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Tim Puetz didn’t play very well in the first set, though Zverev couldn’t do better. Right after Tim lost his first serve in the second set (0-2), it began to rain and that helped Mischa. Zverev hit winners after intensive rallies (especially cross) and Serve-and-Volley worked in contrary to the first set, when he hit some unforced errors. “Grass courts are fine and well-prepared” he told me after the match and “the [weather-]conditions here were fair for us”. Talked about his next opponent, Grega Zemlja, he emphasized he really looks forward to it, as “it will be the first meeting and [I] never played him”. A self-confident Zverev could certainly beat Zemlja who won in two close sets against Farrukh Dustov 7-6 7-5.
The last match I watched, that was moved to another court was between Nikoloz Basilashvili and Alejandro Falla. I only caught the third set in full, but it was already enough! A roller-coaster. The Colombian seemed to have everything under control in the match, but the Georgian discovered the power he has in his forehand and broke Falla’s service game while he served very poorly. In the third set it was a match on eye-level, some great net approaches and some fantastic winners; one of them was a very long and intensive rally, Falla played as a leftie with angles and Basilashvili couldn’t leave the backhand-side till the Colombian hit a beautiful down-the-line forehand winner after a too short bh-shot to the middle of the court.
Everything was fine for Alejandro, but he suddenly lost his serve again at 4 all due to a poor backhand error. Those who stood behind his wife (just like I did), witnessed the meltdown the Falla-clan had. Thanks God they said, Basilashvili couldn’t hold the game, as he served for the match and Falla broke him to love after three genuine unforced errors and a double fault. Falla held his serve, Basilashvili had even game point when serving, but a fh dtl-ue, a double fault and a forehand into the net sealed his fate. Falla didn’t even earn his match point, but I have to say it was very windy and not easy to play. Problem was Basilashvili still tried to overpower the Colombian with his forehand; it often worked, but at the end didn’t. This match would be the classical definition of a choke. Falla’s wife didn’t care and vamosed her husband over and over, Falla’s coach was just relieved.
Basilashvili told me after the match: “I didn’t play well today, made too much errors.” Having the impression he tries to say he did everything wrong he added: “My next step is London (Queen’s), hope it will be better”. Hanging his head when he walked very slowly back to the players’ lounge, he ignored my positive comments on his play. I couldn’t fathom then why he was so disappointed, but being at home I just start to understand why and wish him the best. Match ended 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 for Falla.
Other Round 1 Qualifying Results
Remi Boutillier def. Aslan Karatsev 6-3, 6-4.
Ilija Bozoljac def. Adrien Bossel 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Dmitry Zhyrmont def. David Vega hernandez 7-6(1), 7-5.
Yuichi Sugita def. Ante Pavic 7-5, 6-2.
Mate Pavic def. Philipp Petzschner 6-2, 7-6 (6).
Michal Przysiezny def. Vijay Prashanth 6-3, 6-2.
Martin Fischer def. Jimmy Wang 6-2, 6-4.
2015 Australian Open Week 1 Men’s Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
2015 Australian Open Men’s Preview
January 18-February 1, 2015
Prize Money: $40,000,000
It’s one of the more open Grand Slam draws in a while when it comes to the Men’s Aussie Open. The traditional “big four” of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, and Murray are all competing for the title, while other names could also put up great showings including defending champion Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, and Milos Raonic. Here is a preview of all that could take place down under come Monday.
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Rafael Nadal (3)
4: Stan Wawrinka (4)
5: Kei Nishikori (5)
6: Andy Murray (6)
7: Tomas Berdych (7)
8: Milos Raonic (8)
Notable players missing in the draw include US Open champion Marin Cilic, former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, former top 10 player Tommy Haas, Juan Martin Del Potro, who came back last week but needs to rest his wrist again and pulled out of the draw, and young American Jack Sock, who are all injured.
RBA reached the round of 16 last year, his best result ever in a slam, and even with his top 15 seeding he likely won’t be pleased by his round 1 opponent Dominic Thiem. Thiem appears to be struggling with his fitness early in the season, as he was sick and lost weight in the offseason, thus RBA will be a favorite, but the young Austrian still has talent, and given RBA crashed out of Auckland with flu like symptoms, he may also not be feeling so hot himself. RBA should advance but it’s not a lock by any measure.
(12)Feliciano Lopez vs. (WC)Denis Kudla
Lopez lost his opening match in Chennai, and played poorly in both the Abu Dhabi and Kooyong Exos in preparation for the AO. He’s a top 15 seed but his form appears to be awful, and the USTA WC winner Kudla will have a chance of grabbing an upset win in this one. Lopez is the more talented player but he recently lost to lower ranked players Aljaz Bedene and Jordan Thompson, thus I’m making a gutsy pick and going with Kudla to advance. He’s 4-2 in 2015 and his form appears to be reliable enough to win this one.
One of the few R1 matches to watch that has any sort of h2h record: Querrey won a 4 setter over Pospisil on grass at Wimbledon in 2012, and Vasek is defending his best ever result in a slam, as he reached the third round here last year before injuring his back. Both players played well at times last year but only Pospisil has won a match this season, as he beat Andreas Seppi in Sydney. I give Vasek a slight edge to advance but this match is almost a pure toss-up.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez vs. Peter Gojowczyk
GGL appears to be in poor form going into this match, as he has lost a pair of matches to lower ranked players, given he slumped at the end of last season, the German Gojowczyk will have a good chance to advance. He’s a talented player who hasn’t reached his potential yet, having mostly played challenger level tennis, and I expect this one to go four or five sets as well.
(5)Kei Nishikori vs. Nicolas Almagro
The h2h for this matchup is split 1-1, and both times they met at the ATP level, the match went a full three sets. Nishikori is playing under the pressure of being the top Asian player in the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific while Almagro is returning from injury and still has rust. Nishikori is favored to advance and likely will, but it’s not the easiest R1 match-up for a number 5 seed in a slam and we could be looking at a four or five setter. Also watch out if this is a day match for Nishikori possibly wilting in the heat.
Victor Estrella vs. (Q)Jurgen Melzer
The almost 35 year old Estrella will face off with the 33 year old Melzer in round 1. Estrella is making his Aussie Open debut, as he reached a career high ranking inside the top 70 in 2014 and got himself into the main draw by the end of the season. Melzer once reached the second week in Melbourne but he struggled mightily last season and his ranking dropped low enough he had to qualify to get into the main draw. Both these guys are at the twilight of their careers, though Melzer has accomplished considerably more in his, and this will be a fun match to watch veterans do battle. Estrella isn’t a pushover on hard courts, but given Melzer is more talented and apparently rounding into some form, I have him winning this one.
A match between players who won ATP titles in Sydney and Auckland last week, which is quite rare in terms of occurrence, both are in great form, but given they won those titles as qualifiers, are likely very fatigued going into the AO. Vesely is a promising young gun who just broke into the top 40, while Troicki is a passionate competitor who has had a tremendous comeback. This match could be great, but at the same time, if they meet during the day in difficult conditions, I would almost expect a retirement if the match starts swinging one way or another depending on the physical condition of the players coming into the match. It’s a hard pick with all that in mind, but I feel Troicki is actually the better player right now, and I have him winning this one.
(26)Leonardo Mayer vs. (WC)John Millman
A match with great potential for an upset, Mayer is a top 30 player but he is far superior on clay than on hard courts, and though he made the semifinals in Sydney, I still think the Aussie wild card Millman will notch the upset. Millman is a talented player who is 11-1 in his last twelve tournament matches, with that lone loss coming to Roger Federer. Given this is hard courts, and Millman will have support from the home crowd, he should feed off that and use it to fuel him to a victory.
(11)Ernests Gulbis vs. (WC)Thanasi Kokkinakis
Gulbis has lost three straight tournament matches going back to least season and he struggled mightily in his only warm up test this year against Jiri Vesely in Auckland. He rarely plays well at the AO and he will be facing a home young gun player in Kokkinakis. The lanky Kokkinakis lost to his countryman Bernard Tomic in the second round of Brisbane in his only tournament tune up. Once again Gulbis is a top 15 seed, but upset potential exists depending on the type of form the Latvian is in. I’m not over confident in Kokkinakis but he’s due for a big win and I have him through to round 2 in my own bracket.
The only time this pair met, on clay in 2012, it went 3 sets, and though Dimitrov reached the quarters in Brisbane, he wasn’t super impressive there. Brown is an erratic player who play lights out tennis on rare occasion, and otherwise is a challenger level player, I still feel Dimitrov will win, possibly in straight sets, but I don’t feel enough people are looking at this matchup as one to watch. If Dreddy shows up playing like a human highlight reel, and Dimitrov gets off to a slow start, we could at least be looking at a four or five setter. Expect some talented shotmaking by both players here.
(25)Jeremy Chardy vs. Borna Coric
Chardy, a former quarterfinalist here, will take on the confident young gun Coric who is 1-2 in his ATP tune up matches this season, while Chardy is 2-2. Coric has a lot of talent but his pedestrian performance against clay courter Pablo Carreno Busta in Auckland demonstrates he’s far from reliable at this stage in his career, thus Chardy, the veteran Frenchman, is probably a slight favorite. This one could go either way depending on which Coric shows up, but I personally have Chardy going through to round 2.
The four time Australian Open champion Djokovic will open with an in-form Aljaz Bedene who qualified for the AO after reaching the Chennai final, then should get another easy match against Andrey Kuznetsov/Albert Ramos before a likely third round meeting with former AO semifinalist Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco, who comes off a pair of wins in the Kooyong exhibition, will need to defeat journeymen James Ward and Go Soeda/qualifier Elias Ymer to get that far. Ymer is a promising young Swede and he should beat Soeda but I don’t feel he has enough ability to beat Verdasco. Djokovic is 3-1 against Verdasco on outdoor hard courts in his career and I don’t see any particular reason why Novak won’t make the second week based upon his potential draw. Bedene is in great form but he’s played so much tennis as of late Novak should wear him down.
The RBA/Thiem winner will face Gilles Muller or Pablo Carreno Busta in round 2. The big serving Muller comes off the semis in Sydney and he’s 5-2 in 2015. With that in mind, given the surface, and RBA in questionable form coming off illness, I’m calling an upset in this section and putting Muller through to the third round. He’s had a great comeback over the past year and he’s due for a solid slam result. Muller/RBA/Thiem will face most likely John Isner in round 3. Isner has a good draw if he doesn’t lay an egg here, with qualifier Jimmy Wang, and qualifier Laurent Lokoli or Andreas Haider-Maurer on tap in the first two rounds. Isner is 3-0 in his career against Muller, with all of those wins coming on hard courts and given their similar styles of play, with Isner being better at the one two serve/return combo, the American should make the second week, even with poor history in Melbourne. If RBA were to be fit and healthy and get to the third round, I would have him beating Isner but that’s a big if.
Milos Raonic, who comes off the final in Brisbane, will be trying to break through in a slam this year, and he should at least make the second week, as his path is qualifier Ilya Marchenko, Donald Young or qualifier Tim Puetz, and one of Julian Benneteau/Benjamin Becker/Lleyton Hewitt/Ze Zhang to get to the round of 16. Raonic is 2-0 against Auckland quarterfinalist Young, while Benneteau should beat Becker, who he is 2-0 against, with Becker not having won a match in 2015. Lleyton Hewitt is struggling but he’s still a strong favorite against the Chinese wild card Zhang and given Benny won their H2H meeting last year, I expect home hero Hewitt to be ousted in round 2, and a Benneteau vs. Raonic third round match. Raonic is 3-1 in his career against Benneteau, and in good form, so he should reach the round of 16.
The Lopez/Kudla winner is slated to face Blaz Rola, or Auckland finalist Adrian Mannarino. Mannarino has been in great form in 2015, but Rola has talent and they are similar level players as a general rule. With Mannarino likely fatigued, even with Rola in poor form, I have a Kudla vs. Rola round 2 matchup, with a great opportunity for third round points for the winner. Kudla and Rola have never met, but Kudla is playing better tennis right now, so I have him into round 3 in my own bracket. Jerzy Janowicz, or Hiroki Moriya, who took Del Potro’s place in the draw as a lucky loser will face Gael Monfils or wild card Lucas Pouille in round 2. Pouille was a semifinalist in Auckland as a lucky loser while Monfils hasn’t had any match prep before the AO. I expect Pouille to be fatigued, but he did play some great tennis in Auckland, so perhaps that match will stretch out, that said I have Monfils over Janowicz in round 2. Monfils beat JJ last year, and I feel that style matchup favors the acrobatic Frenchman, after that Monfils should beat Kudla/Rola or someone else in round 3 to reach the round of 16 from this section. Janowicz has been decent this year, but not good enough to get past round 2.
The defending champion Stan the man will face Marsel Ilhan in his first match on his quest to repeat as the champion. After Ilhan it will be qualifier Marius Copil or Pablo Andujar, and then most likely Jarkko Nieminen or a qualifier in round 3, in what is very weak early draw for Wawrinka, as he should face little in the way of tough competition. Nieminen, who qualified in Sydney, will need to dispatch Andrey Golubev, and then Pablo Cuevas or qualifier Matthias Bachinger to reach the third round. Cuevas much prefers clay, so Bachinger, who is 5-1 in 2015, will also have a nice chance at round 2, but regardless Wawrinka should defeat Nieminen in round 3, as he comes off taking the Chennai title and is in great form. Also look for an in form Copil to defeat Andujar, the Romanian is 6-1 in 2015 and qualified by beating Aussie teen Omar Jasika in straight sets.
Fabio Fognini is slated to face Alejandro Gonzalez in round 1, the Italian is seeded 16th but has been playing well below the level of a top 50 player for quite some time. Thus Gonzalez, even though he prefers clay, may have just enough ability to notch an upset victory, given that unlike Fognini, he’s known for fighting hard in matches. The winner of Fognini/Gonzalez will face Garcia-Lopez/Gojowczyk in round 2, and I have Gojowczyk getting into the third round as a surprise. At that stage, expect the Pospisil/Querrey winner to defeat him, or another opponent, to reach the round 16. The winner of Pospisil/Querrey is slated to face Alex Dolgopolov or dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi in round 2. With Dolgopolov coming off an injury, though he should still defeat Lorenzi, who mostly plays hard court tournaments to collect a check. Dolgo has great talent but with that injury in mind, Pospisil/Querrey, most likely Pospisil should beat him, and eventually reach the second week. It’s possible Dolgopolov may withdrawal, and it’s a shame he’s not healthy because otherwise this would be a great draw for him all in all, if he withdraws and one of the lucky losers replaces him, I still favor that LL over Lorenzi.
Nishikori/Almagro will face Ivan Dodig or Joao Souza in round 2, with neither of those players being in particularly impressive form, I expect Nishikori to setup a round 3 encounter with American Steve Johnson. Johnson, an Auckland quarterfinalist, has qualifier Kyle Edmund first up, and then Santiago Giraldo or qualifier Jan Hernych, with Giraldo in poor form right now (He was rolled over in his first Auckland match) Johnson has the advantage, as he’s also more accomplished than Edmund. Nishikori beat him in Brisbane, and I expect the same result, with Nishikori making the round of 16.
Doha champ David Ferrer will face the laggard Thomaz Bellucci, with Dusan Lajovic or Sergiy Stakhovsky on deck, Ferrer is a near lock for the fourth round, as his third round opponent is most likely Gilles Simon, who appears to be struggling with a knee injury. Simon has had AO success before, and he still should reach the third round as the legendary choker Robin Haase, and then the Stephane Robert/Marcel Granollers winner are his path, with Granollers in awful form in his own right. Overall this section is weak and Ferrer is far superior to anyone else here.
Nadal is another player that is in terrible form going into the AO, but he has a round 1 opponent who is in even worse shape than he is, that being the veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny. Youzhny has four career hard court wins against Rafa but none since 2008, he’s lost four straight matches going back to last season. Even though Nadal is 4-4 in his last eight with losses to the likes of Michael Berrer in Doha, Martin Klizan in Beijing, and Borna Coric in Basel, he still should beat Youzhny given this is a slam. After Youzhny, Nadal will face qualifier Tim Smyczek or Luke Saville, an Aussie wild card. In the third round, Lukas Rosol, who famously beat him at Wimbledon, is a possible opponent but I personally have JL Struff getting through to that stage instead to be Nadal’s opponent. Struff opens with Israeli veteran Dudi Sela, Sela hasn’t played any warm up events in 2015, while Struff is 2-2 in 2015 with wins over solid competitors Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Dominic Thiem. Rosol faces Kenny De Schepper first up, the Frenchman qualified and won a round in Auckland, while Rosol is on a four match losing streak.there may be some upset potential there but De Schepper is a one dimensional player built around his serve so I’m not sure he has enough to win. Struff beat Rosol last year on grass, and given current form, I have Struff over Rosol as I mentioned earlier. I’m deeply tempted to pick Struff over Nadal, but that would be quite a shocking pick, and I’m not confident enough to make it. Smyczek should defeat Saville as he’s the more accomplished veteran and plays some of his best tennis at the AO, Saville has yet to win a match in 2015 while Smyczek has won four and has more confidence.
The fourth round opponent for Nadal/Struff/Rosol is most likely to be either Auckland semifinalist Kevin Anderson, or Richard Gasquet, who made the quarterfinals in Doha. Anderson faces off with Argentine Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in round 1, Schwartzman much prefers clay, so it is almost certain to be Anderson against Igor Sijsling or Ricardas Berankis in round 2. Berankis has had some success in Australia, while Sijsling qualified in Sydney, I favor Berankis getting through over the one dimensional Sijsling. His match with Anderson is quite interesting, he is 2-0 in the h2h record with both those matches taking place at the challenger level, and Anderson may have some level of fatigue, with that in mind I’m going with an upset and placing Berankis in the third round. Richard Gasquet should safely defeat Carlos Berlocq, and then either Blaz Kavcic or home Aussie James Duckworth to reach the third round. Duckworth and Kavcic played a legendary match at the 2013 Australian Open, Kavcic won in five sets, 10-8 in the fifth, and had to get an IV after the match because it was played in white hot conditions. Kavcic qualified in Doha, and Duckworth made the quarters in Brisbane most recently, with home support, I feel like Ducky will get through to round 2. Expect Gasquet to take out Berankis in round 3 to reach the round of 16.
Doha finalist Tomas Berdych will face Alejandro Falla in round 1, then the winner of Estrella/Melzer, Berdych should safely reach the third round and face either Troicki/Vesely or the Millman/Mayer winner at that stage. I’m predicting a great tournament for Millman, as I have him beating Mayer, and then a fatigued Troicki/Vesely in round 2 to reach round 3, before falling to Berdych, who occasionally has lapses in form, but appears to be in good form.
The Gulbis/Kokkinakis winner is slated to face Filip Krajinovic/Sam Groth in round 2, Groth has a great shot at the third round, he plays well at home in Australia and Gulbis isn’t in great form here, while Kokkinakis still hasn’t fully matured, while the big serving, one dimensional Groth made the quarters in Brisbane. I have a Groth vs. Bernard Tomic third round matchup slated, Tomic just beat a struggling Kohlschreiber who has lost three straight, in Sydney and he is likely to face him again in the second round. Assuming Kohli beats Paul-Henri Mathieu and Tomic beats Tobias Kamke. Tomic and Groth have yet to play each other, but with Tomic being more well rounded and normally playing well on home soil, Bernard should reach the round of 16 to face off with Berdych.
Four time AO champ Federer will open with Rendy Lu, who is a solid hard court player but doesn’t have near enough weapons to take out the Swiss, who most recently won the Brisbane title. Federer is likely to face Simone Bolelli in round 2 as Bolelli faces a slumping Juan Monaco in round 1. Though he recently made the quarters in Sydney, it’s highly unlikely Federer will face any trouble in his first two matches. In round 3 it will be Chardy/Coric or Denis Istomin/Andreas Seppi as the opponent for Federer. Seppi and Istomin have a back and forth h2h history and Seppi leads it 2-1 on hard courts with a pair of Grand Slam wins that went five sets. The recent Doha semifinalist Seppi should beat Istomin who hasn’t won a match in 2015. Chardy beat Seppi at the 2013 AO and I feel he will do so again before losing to Federer who he famously beat on clay last year but is 0-2 against otherwise.
The fourth round opponent for Federer is most likely to be Ivo Karlovic, Karlovic upset Novak Djokovic in Doha and reached the semifinals. If his serve is clicking, he should defeat qualifier Ruben Bemelmans, then dirtballer Federico Delbonis or Nick Kyrgios, the promising young Aussie who seems to be struggling with a shoulder injury. Kyrgios probably has enough talent to beat Delbonis on a hard court, but with an injury, Karlovic should defeat him as Kyrgios may have trouble reading the Croats serve. Tommy Robredo has an abductor injury but he plans on playing anyway. The Spaniard will face Edouard Roger-Vasselin in Round 1 and perhaps Mikhail Kukushkin, who was a finalist in Sydney, in round 2. Kukushkin would need to defeat Malek Jaziri. I have Kukushkin into the third round before falling to Karlovic. ERV could also upset Robredo but the Frenchman isn’t playing well right now so I’m not risking it in my own bracket, even with Robredo less than 100%.
Andy Murray, who hasn’t lost a match in 2015 (Hopman Cup and Abu Dhabi exo singles) faces qualifier Yuki Bhambri, then qualifier Alexander Kudryavtsev or Marinko Matosevic in his first two matches. I don’t expect much trouble for the three time former AO finalist in the first two rounds, especially given Matosevic is slumping. Brisbane quarterfinalist Martin Klizan could be trouble in the third round though. Klizan, who opens with Tatsuma Ito, has been in great form recently, and his round 2 opponent will be either Aussie wild card Jordan Thompson or Joao Sousa. Thompson is a promising young player who took Jerzy Janowicz the distance last year at the AO, but I don’t feel he has matured enough to deal with the powerful shotmaker Klizan. Murray and Klizan have never met, but it will be a high quality third round matchup if it takes place, and isn’t likely to be straight sets. Murray has been in good form since the second half of 2014 and he is working hard to get back into the top 5. Given Murray is best at defense and returning the ball, while Klizan is a bit of a ballbasher, the matchup favors Murray.
Murray/Klizan are set to face either the Dimitrov/Brown winner or David Goffin in the round of 16. Goffin, a semifinalist in Chennai, who has played some high quality tennis since the second half of 2014, will need to beat qualifier Michael Russell who continues to grind away on tour, then Marcos Baghdatis or Teymuraz Gabashvili to reach the third round. I expect him to do so and set up a highly anticipated clash with Dimitrov, that should have basically even odds. However, Dimitrov beat Goffin at last year’s US Open and is 4-0 overall against him in the h2h. That h2h record gives me enough reason to pick Dimitrov to reach the round of 16. Dimitrov’s path to round 3 is Brown, and Lukas Lacko or Maximo Gonzalez in round 2.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Gilles Muller, Peter Gojowczyk, Bernard Tomic, and David Goffin
Muller has a potential path to the round of 16. He will need to beat an inconsistent Bautista Agut, and Isner, who can tire and do poorly in slams, to get there. I don’t see him having a shot against Djokovic, but a second week showing for a player who has a great comeback story from injury is still inspiring.
Gojowczyk has a great path to the third round, and could also make the round of 16. To do that he will likely need to defeat Pospisil/Querrey but that is a doable proposition given they aren’t known for being the most reliable players.
Tomic could even reach the quarterfinals, but on home soil he should at least be good enough for the round of 16. The seeds in his section, Gulbis and Kohlschreiber, are both in poor form and he would face Berdych in the round of 16. He must be pleased with his draw as he seeks to prove to his home country that’s he’s truly serious and committed to being successful at the top level of tennis.
Goffin will have his big test against Dimitrov in round 3. If he can pull that upset off, he can also make the second week, and this is still a good draw for him to make a run.
Djokovic d. Isner
Raonic d. Monfils
Wawrinka d. Pospisil
Ferrer d. Nishikori
Berdych d. Tomic
Nadal d. Gasquet
Murray d. Dimitrov
Federer d. Karlovic
Isner has won twice against Novak on hard courts, and the Serb does tend to struggle with big servers, but Novak plays some of his best tennis at the AO and thus should advance, perhaps dropping a set or two. Monfils is 2-0 in his career against Raonic but I feel the Canadian is clicking right now, and he’ll be able to pull through in a best of five sets format. Monfils tends to get distracted at points in matches, and if Raonic can maintain his serve that should be enough.
Wawrinka was slated to meet Pospisil last year at the AO but Vashy hurt his back and had to withdraw. Wawrinka is the better player, and though Vashy may trouble him, I don’t expect an upset. Ferrer-Nishikori should be a great matchup and I could see it going either way. Nishikori has an overall h2h edge but on outdoor hard courts they are split 2-2, and Ferrer won the only time they met in Australia back in 2013. Ferrer is one of the fittest players on tour and appears to be in great form. I have a feeling if this is a daytime match, that Nishikori, who struggles with heat, could be negatively impacted, and that will be enough of a difference to give Ferrer the edge.
Berdych has beaten Tomic in consecutive years at Wimbledon, and on a hard court. Berdy should be favored and anything is possible but Berdych is likely to overpower Tomic. Nadal could lose to Gasquet depending on his health, and form, but Rafa has destroyed Gasquet every time they have met including three times since 2013. With that in mind, I have to play it safe and pick Nadal into the quarters.
Murray is 3-0 against Dimitrov on an outdoor hard court, and 4-2 overall in the h2h. They tend to play exciting, competitive matches yet I feel like Murray has more motivation right now and is playing better recently thus I have him through. Federer has won his last six meetings against Karlovic and given he looked good in Brisbane, I don’t expect him to have any trouble reaching the quarterfinals.
Picking the rest of the way
Quarters: Djokovic d. Raonic
Wawrinka d. Ferrer
Berdych d. Nadal
Murray d. Federer
Djokovic is 4-0 against Raonic. he tends to struggle against big servers, but still I don’t feel Milos has enough game to beat him. Wawrinka-Ferrer is a highly anticipated matchup in my estimation, Nishikori-Wawrinka likewise, the business end of the tournament will put a lot of pressure on Wawrinka as he seeks to defend his title, but I feel he’s talented enough to beat Ferrer as he has the last three times they have met.
Berdych hasn’t beaten Nadal since 2006 and always plays poorly against him, but even though I feel Rafa will be weakened enough to lose this match, it’s a random guess, and I would never pick Berdy over Nadal in a neutral situation, but something appears wrong with Nadal. Federer is 2-1 against Murray at the AO alone, and both players have had success against each other, again this match could go either way, but I’m backing a motivated Murray who appears to want to prove the doubters wrong and get back into the Grand Slam discussion.
Semis: Djokovic d. Wawrinka
Murray d. Berdych
Wawrinka and Djokovic have played multiple classic matches, and I have Novak winning this one given the 16-3 overall h2h and the fact Novak is 5-1 since 2013 in their h2h meetings. Wawrinka shockingly beat Djokovic last year here, 9-7 in the 5th en route to the title and five sets is certainly possible, but I feel the winning trend will return again in favor of Djokovic.
Berdych actually has a 6-4 h2h edge against Murray and he won their last two meetings in 2013. That said, I still feel Murray is the better player and will get through given current form.
Final: Djokovic d. Murray
Murray went 0-4 against Djokovic last year and is 0-3 against him in Australia, including losing two finals. With that in mind, Djokovic is a clear favorite to win yet another AO title.
Gabashvili shocked Verdasco at the Aussie Open last year and the Spaniard will be looking to avenge that loss in the opening round of Doha. Gabashvili reached a career high ranking in 2014 at 52 in the world but he still finished a sub .500 19-25 on the season at the ATP level with his best results being a trio of ATP quarterfinals. Gaba has always been a journeyman and is far less accomplished than Verdasco who went 26-20 on the year with one ATP title and a pair of ATP semifinals his most notable results in 2014. Even with that h2h upset, Verdasco is favored to advance and I expect him to do so.
(5)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Jan-Lennard Struff
Kohli finished the year 37-25 with one ATP title in 2014. It wasn’t his best season on tour, but the German veteran held his own and finished the year in the top 25 yet again. Struff broke into the top 50 for part of 2014, and the German who is seven years younger than his countryman reached three ATP semifinals in 2014. Struff is talented across surfaces, but has yet to reach the consistency level needed to keep himself as a full time competitor on the main tour. He will have a shot at upsetting Kohli here, and this is a toss-up match for me.
Simone Bolelli vs. Benjamin Becker
Bolelli had a resurgent season in 2014, finishing up in the top 60, which was powered by four challenger titles. The Italian found himself last season after starting the year outside the top 300 and is back to being a full time ATP competitor. Becker is another veteran who had a resurgent season in 2014. He peaked at a career high of 35 in the world, and finished ranked inside the top 40. He went 27-26 at the ATP level last year reaching an ATP final and two ATP semifinals. He finished the year strong with semis in Tokyo and a trio of quarterfinal appearances in Kuala Lumpur, Basel, and Vienna. The two veterans have never met, and this match could go either way. I’m picking the powerful ball striker Becker myself.
Doha paid big bucks to convince the world number one Djokovic to start his 2015 ATP campaign off in the Middle Eastern nation. Novak will be making his debut in Qatar and faces his countryman Dusan Lajovic first up. Given Lajovic and Novak are Davis Cup teammates, they should be very familiar with each others games. I don’t expect the top Serb to have any trouble with his countryman, and he also should ease past Sergiy Stakhovsky in round 2, assuming Stako avoids a shock defeat to Qatari wild card Jabor Mohammed Ali Mutawa, who doesn’t even have an ATP ranking. In the quarters, Novak should cruise past the big serving Ivo Karlovic, with the hard hitting Lukas Rosol, or the crafty veteran Mikhail Youzhny, who opens with a qualifier, also options to reach the quarters. Youzhny had a very poor 2014 that saw him drop out of the top 40 with an 18-23 record. Rosol peaked inside the top 30 in 2014 but finished the year just 1-9, Karlovic has beaten him twice before including last fall in Basel. Karlovic and Djokovic haven’t met since 2008, and surprisingly Karlovic has won both hard court meetings, but that was quite some time ago.
David Ferrer had a down season in 2014, though he still won an ATP title and finished 54-24 on the season. Ferrer is in danger of dropping out of the top 10 for the first time in almost five years. At 32 he may be slowing down but I still expect the hard working Spaniard to beat a qualifier, and then Verdasco or Gabashvili. He has won the last seven meetings against Verdasco including both meetings in the fall of 2014 without dropping a set. He was upset by Gabashvili on clay last year but that would once again be a very unlikely result. Look for a Ferrer vs. Kohlschreiber or Struff quarterfinal, as one of the Germans just needs to be the exciting but inconsistent Dustin Brown, or dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi in round 2. Ferrer is 6-0 against Kohli since 2009, so I tip him to reach the semis, Struff could also challenge but Ferrer would have to be favored.
2014 Doha champ Rafa Nadal will be defending his title with the cloud of his appendix surgery in the off-season hanging over him. Nadal was dominated by Andy Murray in the Abu Dhabi exhibition a couple of days ago, looking to be in very poor form, but still he won’t have to face an opponent the caliber of Murray in his route to the semifinals. He opens against a qualifier, then will face Ivan Dodig or wild card Mohamed Safwat of Egypt in round 2, Dodig is looking to get himself back to a consistent ATP level, but it is still unlikely he has enough game to get past even a rusty Nadal. In the quarterfinals, the toughest opponent for Nadal would be either 8 seed Leo Mayer, who plays his best on clay, or the Italian veteran Andreas Seppi who declined in 2014, posting a sub .500 24-30 record. Joao Souza, another clay courter, and Tunisian wild card Malek Jaziri are also options. Jaziri plays some of his most inspired tennis when in the Middle East, but he’s still a career journeyman. Look for Mayer, who had a breakthrough 2014, and reached the top 30 in the rankings with an ATP title and a 28-20 record, to reach the quarterfinals before falling to Nadal who is 4-0 in his career against him.
Tomas Berdych, who won an exhibition in Thailand to start off his 2015, opens with Denis Istomin in round 1. Istomin is a tough opponent for the number 3 seed in a 250 level event, but that said Berdych is 3-0 in his career against the Uzbek number one, and has a superior skillset, so he should advance. Look for Berdy to also cruise past Juan Monaco or a qualifier in round 2, before facing off with Bolelli/Becker or Richard Gasquet/Pablo Andujar in the quarterfinals. Gasquet fell from the top 20 in 2014, while Andujar finished inside the top 45 and took an ATP title. I expect the 2013 Doha champion Gasquet to defeat Andujar. Bolelli or Becker could give him trouble, but he’s 5-0 in his career against Bolelli, and 2-0 against Becker, so past results are very much in his favor. Berdych won his only meeting against Gasquet in 2014, but they have split their last four hard court meetings 2-2. Given Berdych performed better last year, and recently, I expect the Czech to get through to the semifinals.
Becker will have a tough path if he is going to put up a good result to start the year in Doha, given his first match is against Bolelli, who could be a dark horse in his own right, and then Gasuet/Andujar and almost certainly Berdych. That said if he can pull off three big wins, he would be in the semis against Nadal or a weaker opponent with a punchers chance to reach the final. I’d also consider JL Struff a dark horse this week.
Semis: Djokovic d. Ferrer
Berdych d. Nadal
Djokovic has won seven consecutive meetings against Ferrer, including both meetings last year, and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t win the matchup again.
Berdych hasn’t beaten Nadal since 2006, and has been dominated by the Spaniard in almost every head to head meeting, that said I have a hunch Rafa still has some ailments and may not even want to play all the way through to the final.
Final: Djokovic d. Berdych
Djokovic beat Berdych both times last year and the total set score in those meetings was 24-6, thus Novak has to be a heavy favorite to win the Doha title in his debut.
2015 ATP Chennai Preview
Aircel Chennai Open
ATP World Tour 250
January 5-January 11, 2015
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (4) 2: Feliciano Lopez (14) 3: Roberto Bautista Agut (15) 4: David Goffin (22)
Three top 20 players highlight the Chennai field, as all of the seeds are ranked within the top 50 in the world. Chennai isn’t near as star studded as the other two events on tour this week, but it’s far from a weak tournament.
First Round matchups to watch:
Borna Coric vs. Robin Haase
The 18 year old Coric reached the top 100 in 2014 and after primarily posting great results on the challenger tour, he qualified for the US Open, reaching the second round, and upset Ernests Gulbis and Rafael Nadal in Basel, en route to the semifinals. Haase finished 2014 strong with a challenger title, but he still finished ranked outside the top 80, and Coric will have a great shot at an upset win over an ATP regular. The match could go either way but I’m going with Coric to rise to the challenge and get himself to round 2.
Peter Gojowczyk vs. Alejandro Falla
Falla beat Gojowczyk in Halle last year, but the 31 year old Colombian appears to be in a decline as he finished 2014 ranked outside the top 80, and went just 11-17 at the ATP level. Gojo meanwhile is rising, at 25, he’s at a career high ranking of 79 and he will be looking to play more ATP main draw level matches in 2015. The German won 2 challenger titles, posted an ATP semifinal in Doha, and qualified for the USO and AO. His best results have been on hard courts, and he appears poised for a breakthrough. I favor him to dispatch the Colombian veteran to reach round 2.
Tatsuma Ito vs. (WC)Ramkumar Ramanathan
The 20 year old Indian Ramanathan, who (almost) exclusively played challengers and futures in 2014, shocked the tennis world last year by qualifying in Chennai and defeating his higher ranked, and more accomplished countryman Somdev Devvarman to reach the second round. This year he gets a wild card, and he’ll have another chance to surprise against Tatsuma Ito, who is ranked just inside the top 100. Ito finished the year with a challenger final and he’s had most of his success at that level. Ito shocked Stan Wawrinka in Tokyo last year, for the best win of his career, but he rarely plays up to that level, I expect Ito win but Ramanathan will certainly have the crowd behind him.
Defending and two time champ Stan Wawrinka will take the first step to trying to retaining his top 5 ranking in Chennai, where he will start his 2015 campaign after a breakthrough 2014 that saw him win a Grand Slam and a Masters Title, along with reach the top 5 for the first time in his career. He will have a target on his back, most likely against Coric, in round 2, but barring another shocking upset, he should get through to the quarterfinals where 8 seed Gilles Muller, or perhaps Igor Sijsling/Edouard Roger-Vasselin/Elias Ymer, a wild card, await. Muller had a resurgent 2014 that saw him return to the top 50 after winning five challenger titles. Sijsling and ERV had pedestrian years in 2014, and Ymer has yet to emerge, even though he’s a young talent, so I expect a Wawrinka over Muller quarterfinal. ERV is a defending finalist, and he faced Wawrinka in that final, he has a lot of points to defend this week.
David Goffin reached the top 25 for the first time in his career in 2014, going on an incredible tear in the second half of the season to finish the year 25-15 with two ATP titles. He also reached the final in Basel and won four challenger titles. Goffin won’t be near as much of an underdog this season, and will be taking on a full time ATP schedule one would expect. His first match should be a win against a qualifier or Ricardas Berankis, a formerly promising young star who has yet to live up to his potential. After that, I expect Goffin to cruise to the semis, whether he faces fellow young gun Jiri Vesely, who opens with a qualifier, or Marcel Granollers/Andreas Haider-Maurer. Granollers went just 19-28 at the ATP level last year, and along with AHM, he plays his best tennis on clay. Vesely is at a career high ranking of 66, and went 16-17 at the ATP level last year. The 21 year old hasn’t done as well for himself as Goffin has though so I expect the Belgian to win their first career meeting.
Feliciano Lopez, burst into the top 15 in 2014, and at 32 years old, going on 33, he posted a 39-26 record with 1 ATP title, an ATP final and two Masters semifinals. The left handed Spaniard, whose tennis lived up to his popular appearance in 2014, will open against Lukas Lacko, or a qualifier in round 1, and I expect him to get through to the quarters and dispatch most likely Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the five seed, at that stage. GGL will need to beat the Ramanathan/Ito winner, along with a qualifier in round 1. GGL finished 25-26 in 2014, with an ATP title but he slumped hard at the end of the year, finishing 0-5 after the US Open. He has the ability to play skillful, and exciting tennis, but he struggles with consistency. He should be good enough to win his first couple of matches but I favor Lopez to reach the semis.
Roberto Bautista Agut broke through to the top 15 in 2014, and will now be gunning for the top 10 in 2015. He went 45-23 with 2 ATP titles last year and performed well across surfaces. He’s a former finalist in Chennai and assuming he can beat Gojowczyk/Falla for a winning start in 2015, he should be able to ease through to a semifinal against Lopez by defeating Rendy Lu, the six seed. Lu opens with Indian favorite Somdev Devvarman, a wild card, and assuming he wins, will face the Pablo Carreno Busta/Alejandro Gonzalez winner.
Coric has the talent to make a breakthrough, and if Wawrinka wilts under the pressure of expectations, as happened at times last year, he could pull off another top 5 upset. If he does that, Goffin, who he lost to in Basel, would be a tough semifinal opponent (and that’s if he wins the quarterfinal match), but even the semis would be a great result for the teenager.
Semis: Goffin d. Wawrinka
Bautista Agut d. Lopez
I’m projecting an upset in the semifinals, as I feel Goffin will shock Wawrinka, it’s just a hunch but I have a feeling Stan won’t be able to live up to expectations as the biggest star at this tournament, while Goffin will have a less stressful tournament.
Lopez beat RBA in Toronto last year, but I feel RBA is a slightly better player, and given he’s had success in Chennai before, I put him through to the final my bracket.
Final: Bautista Agut d. Goffin
Any of the top four seeds could take the title in Chennai, but I’m going with RBA because he’s 2-0 in his career against Goffin, and has the forehand to deal with the crafty Belgian. Goffin is also likely to be more fatigued at this stage, and no matter who wins, Chennai looks to be a very interesting way to start off the 2015 season.