Veterans Djokovic, Berdych, and Wawrinka Contesting 2019 ATP Doha Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2019 ATP 250 in Doha, Qatar has Novak Djokovic as the star attraction (including a pairing with brother Marko for doubles), but resurgent veterans Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych are still gunning for the title and have advanced to the quarterfinals. What will the rest of the tournament hold?
Both of the seeds advanced to the quarterfinals, with world #1 Djokovic heavily favored against Georgian #1 Basilashvili. Both players have dropped sets this week, with Djokovic’s lost set to Marton Fucsovics a massive surprise. Presuming he’s motivated Djokovic should be too good in this matchup though, after beating Damir Dzumhur and Fucsovics. Basilashvili defeated Albert Ramos and Andrey Rublev.
Tennis fans would love to see a revitalized Wawrinka making waves on tour. The Swiss veteran has a great shot against steady baseliner Bautista Agut after he upset Karen Khachanov in straights and followed that upset with a win against Nicolas Jarry. RBA has been solid, dropping just 5 games in each match (wins against Matteo Berrettini and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez). Wawrinka should be highly motivated though and I have a feeling he’ll rise to the occasion and notch an upset.
Dusan Lajovic vs Marco Cecchinato
Wins against Adrian Mannarino and Ricardas Berankis have lifted Lajovic to the quarters while Marco Cecchinato eased past Sergiy Stakhovsky and then got a walkover into the quarters. Cecchinato is still learning the ropes on hard courts, and though he’s very talented, Lajovic should have a slight edge.
Both of these players have been disappointing lately, Berdych has been injured and considered retirement, but now he’s come back and earned wins against crafty veterans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Fernando Verdasco. PHH hopes to improve as a singles player this year and a stunning win against a listless Dominic Thiem, followed up by a three set tiebreak win against Max Marterer, will give him a lot of confidence heading into this matchup. Berdych is hard to read right now but he should be favored if he’s fit.
Djokovic d. Wawrinka
Berdych d. Lajovic
This is Djokovic’s title to lose, but if he loses interest Wawrinka or RBA will benefit. I expect Berdych to make a run to the final at this point and fall just short, in what would be a huge result for him.
Tour veteran Gilles Simon put together a surprising weak on home court in Metz, claiming his second title of 2018 7-6 6-1 against qualifier Matthias Bachinger. The win marks the first time Simon has won multiple ATP titles in a season since 2011. He dropped a set against Filip Krajinovic in the second round, but otherwise eased past Jiri Vesely, Richard Gasquet, and Radu Albot to reach the final.
Also a veteran, Bachinger took part in his first ever ATP final, coming through qualifying and then defeating Jaume Munar, Gregoire Barrere, Yannick Maden, and Kei Nishkori, his last two wins coming in three sets, with the stunning result over Nishikori one of the finest wins of his journeyman career.
The home nation swept the titles as Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin teamed up to defeat the Skupski brothers in the doubles final.
Austrian #1 Dominic Thiem balled out on hard courts claiming a third title for 2018 with a 6-3 6-1 routine victory against Martin Klizan in the St. Petersburg final. Thiem won four matches, dropping just a set in Russia. His wins came against J.L. Struff, Daniil Medvedev in a third set tiebreak, and Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the final.
Klizan had a good tournament as well, claiming wins against Evgeny Donskoy, Fabio Fognini, Denis Shapovalov, and Stan Wawrinka to reach the final, the final two wins coming in three set contests.
Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini teamed up to win the doubles title against Jebavy/Middelkoop.
Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka claimed his first ever ATP title 7-5 2-6 6-4 against Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert. The 23 year old has overcome a rash of injuries and in his first ATP final he was clutch against the more experienced Herbert. Like the other winner on the ATP Tour this week, Bernard Tomic, Nishioka came through qualifying to reach the main draw. In the main draw his wins came against Denis Kudla, Denis Shapovalov, Cam Norrie, and Fernando Verdasco, with Shapovalov and Verdasco taking three sets to defeat.
Herbert defeated Dusan Lajovic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Albert Ramos, and Alex De Minaur to reach the final, needing three sets in his last two victories, including a nip and tuck win against ADM. The result is Herbert’s second ever ATP final.
Salisbury/Mclachlan defeated Lindstedt/Ram in the doubles final.
It’s been a long road back to this point for 25 year old Aussie Bernard Tomic, but he finally claimed another piece of ATP hardware winning his first title since 2015 6-1 3-6 7-6(7) against Fabio Fognini. Trailing in the tiebreak, Tomic had to produce both luck and skill to comeback for the win. He is now likely set to feature again at the higher level ATP tournaments as he had to come through qualifying where he dropped sets in two of his three matches, just to reach the main draw in this 250. In the main draw he edged Bradley Klahn and Lloyd Harris, then eased past Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Joao Sousa to reach the final.
Fognini has reached 4 ATP finals this season, he had a relatively smooth path against Ruben Bemelmans, Matt Ebden, and Taylor Fritz this week, though he did drop a set to Fritz.
Croatia’s Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig defeated Nedunchezhiyan/Krajicek in the doubles final.
Six of Novak Djokovic’s record 28 Masters titles have come in Miami now, as the Serbian superstar and world #1 deftly handled Kei Nishikori 6-3 6-3 in just an hour and a half of tennis. The title also means that he’s completed the Indian Wells+Miami “double”, for the third year in a row. Novak continues to dominate men’s tennis, and has been unstoppable early this season, without a loss when in full health (27-0 with 1 retirement and four titles).
Kei Nishikori gave it his best shot in his second career Masters final, and his ninth meeting against Djokovic. The Japanese #1 is now 0-5 against Djokovic since stunning him to reach the 2014 US Open final. Nishikori was not one of the tournament favorites going in, but he surprisingly handled the Miami spring heat well to earn wins over Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Roberto Bautista Agut, Gael Monfils, and Nick Kyrgios, dropping just a set to Monfils, where he was pushed to a third set tiebreak. Nishikori’s serve was the big liability for him, as Djokovic found a way to return well enough for the easy win.
Kyrgios has now made the semifinals or better in three ATP tournaments this season. The Aussie reached his first Masters semi with wins over Milos Raonic and Andrey Kuznetsov most notably. Stan Wawrinka, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Rafael Nadal all went home early due to some combination of illness, or poor play, as the Miami bottom half was left rather barren.
Djokovic beat Kyle Edmund, Joao Sousa, Dominic Thiem, Tomas Berdych, and David Goffin without dropping a set, or so much as being threatened this week, as even Goffin’s efforts were not enough. The Belgian took advantage of Federer’s absence to defeat Gilles Simon and reach the semifinals for the second week in a row (also did so in Indian Wells).
Like Djokovic, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut completed the Masters double, capturing the Miami title, after doing so in Indian Wells. The French team is playing remarkably well at the moment and beat Rajeev Ram and Raven Klaasen to take the title.
The ATP now heads to clay, and the big question is, can anyone stop Djokovic on his “worst” surface? or will the world #1 continue his unblemished play.
The attention in Indian Wells might be focused on the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. There is however another story which often goes untold, that is the story of the qualifiers.
48 players battled against each other for just 12 places in the main draw. The qualifying competition saw a series of shocks with the top two seeds, Yuichi Sugita and Austin Krajicek, failing to qualify for the main draw. Qualifying for the main draw is a big achievement for the lower ranked players on the tour but how did they fair on the main stage in the first Masters event of 2016?
Renzo Olivo continued his positive start to the season with a hard fought three sets win over Italy’s Salvatore Caruso followed by a much more impressive straight sets triumph over top seed Sugita at Indian Wells. The 23-year-old hasn’t won a title since 2012 but has enjoyed a reasonable start to this year. After qualifying for his maiden Grand Slam draw in Melbourne, where he defeated Jiri Vesely in the first round, the Argentine defeated Fernando Verdasco to reach the quarterfinals of the Ecuador Open. Playing in his maiden Masters main draw match in Indian Wells, Renzo faced experienced Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. He was no match for the world No.44, losing 6-2, 6-4.
Another surprise qualifier was France’s Vincent Millot. Prior to this week, the 30-year-old hasn’t played in the main draw of a Masters tournament since the 2011 Monte Carlo Masters. The world No.166 ended his Masters drought wins over wildcard Nicolas Meister followed by American second seed Krajicek. Millot fired seven aces and saved 3/3 break points to defeat the second seed 6-3, 6-4, to reach the main draw. The Frenchman continued his run in the main draw with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-3, win over wildcard Mackenzie McDonald to grab his first ever win in the main draw of a Masters tournament. The Frenchman’s dream run was ended in the second round by seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga produced nine aces in his 7-5, 6-1, win over the world No.166.
Continuing the French delight was Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who was the highest seed to successfully reach the main draw in California. The top-20 doubles player eased through qualifying with a straight sets win over Benjamin Mitchell before coming through a more testing 6-3, 7-6(3), triumph over 14th seed Mischa Zverev. The run is not surprising considering the Frenchman’s start to the year. He achieved his best Grand Slam performance at the Australian Open by reaching the third round as a qualifier. He continued his promising form by winning the Bergamo Challenger in Italy last month.
Herbert’s first round opponent was another qualifier, Slovakia’s Jozef Kovalík. Kovalik reached the main draw after outlasting Ecuador’s Giovanni Lapentti 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, in a match that lasted over two hours. The first round match between the two qualifiers, which was their first meeting on the tour, saw a thrilling encounter. Kovalik had three opportunities to win the match in straight sets but failed to convert after being edged out 9-11 in the second set tiebreak. Despite the best efforts of the Frenchman, Kovalik held his nerve to clinch the victory 6-4, 6-7(9), 7-6(5). The Slovakian faced Austrian talent Dominic Thiem in the second round. Thiem has already won two ATP titles this year in Argentina and Mexico. Impressively Kovalik gave Thiem a tough match before going out 7-6(4), 7-6(3), in what was a very admirable performance from the world No.182.
Michael Berrer has happy memories of Indian Wells. Prior to this year’s tournament, the German has won four main draw matches at the event. The German has never won more than two main draw matches at any other Masters tournament in his career. Berrer continued his Indian Wells record with back-to-back wins over Jonathan Eysseric and 13th seed Andrey Rublev to book his placed in the main draw of the tournament for the sixth time in his career. Drawn against Juan Monaco in the first round, who is on the comeback from a wrist injury, the 35-year-old edged his way to a 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-4, win. Berrer’s run came to an end in the second round after losing 6-2, 6-4, to 21st seed Jack Sock.
Peter Polansky’s use of a protected ranking to enter the qualifying draw paid off. Defeating Irish 22nd seed Jame McGee in the first round, he faced El Salvador’s Marcelo Arevalo. After dropping the opening set, the Canadian battled back to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. The 27-year-old has played 12 main draw matches at Masters tournaments in his career, losing nine of them. Unfortunately for Canadian fans his losing streak increased to ten after he suffered a straight sets defeat to Fernando Verdasco in the first round.
Marco Trungelliti’s 2016 continued on a positive note after he defeated 9th seed Edouard Roger Vasselin 7-6(4), 6-4, to reach his first Masters main draw. The 26-year-old already achieved a breakthrough earlier this year by winning his first grand slam main draw match against Kovalik. Facing Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov, he subsided 6-4, 6-4.
Regarding the American interest in the qualifying tournament, five home players successfully navigate their way to the main draw. Headlining them was Tim Smyczek, who had to fight his way past two talented American teenagers to progress to the main draw. After edging past Michael Mmoh 7-6(2), 2-6, 7-5, in the first round, he battled past French Open Boys’ champion Tommy Paul in another two-hour marathon. The reward for Smyczek was a first round match against former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro, who is playing in only his second tournament since returning to the tour from injury. He was no match for the Argentine, crashing out 6-4, 6-0.
Ryan Harrison enjoyed a more straightforward route to the main draw. At the Indian Wells tournament in 2010, Harrison won his first main draw match in a Masters event against Taylor Dent. In the qualifying event at this year’s tournament, he cruised past Matthew Barton and Jason Jung in straight sets to reached the main draw for the seventh consecutive year. Since 2010, Harrison hasn’t lost in the first round and he continued that tradition with a 6-3,7-6(3), triumph over Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic. The second round saw a clash between him and tenth seed Marin Cilic, a player who he defeated two weeks ago at the Acapulco Open. Lightning failed to strike twice after Harrison succumbed 6-4, 6-3, to the Croat.
Alexander Sarkissian breezed past Sekou Bangoura in his opening qualifying match before experiencing a scare against Mitchell Krueger in the second round. The 25-year-old trailed 5-7, 0-2, before clawing his way back to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. In his first main draw match in a Masters tournament, the Californian-based player endured a nightmare after losing 6-2,6-0 to Josh Millman.
Bjorn Fratangelo dropped a total of nine games during his qualifying campaign. The 2011 French Open Boys’ champion eased his way past Joshua Milton before producing an impressive 6-3, 6-2, victory against Czech veteran and 15th seed Radek Stepanek. The next test was Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili, a player who reached the semifinals at the Sydney International earlier this year. Playing for a chance to grab his maiden main draw win on the ATP Tour, the American displayed some of his best tennis to clinch the victory 6-4, 6-4. His chance for a second ATP Tour match win seemed impossible with a second round encounter against world No.1 Novak Djokovic. As the odds mounted against him, Fratangelo stunned the tennis world when he took the first set against Djokovic after just 35 minutes of play. Becoming the fifth player this year to take a set off the world No.1, Frantangelo failed to claim one of the biggest shocks in Indian Wells history after Djokovic swiftly restored order to win 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. Despite losing, the American recieved high praise from the ten-time Grand Slam champion.
“All credit to Bjorn on playing a great match, but I wasn’t feeling comfortable at all on the court,” Djokovic said after the match.
“I was just trying to find a way, trying to hang in there and make it through.”
“He deserved every point he got. He played a great match, especially in the first set.”
Finally, 2014 Wimbledon Boys’ champion, Noah Rubin, impressed many during his qualifying campaign. Facing Dennis Novikov for a place in the main draw, he eased his way past 7-5, 6-3. Rubin’s schedule leading up to the Masters tournament has been extremely diverse with him playing a Futures, Challenger and ATP 250 tournament. The tournament selection might seem a bit unauthorized but it has done wonders to the Americans confidence. Unfortunately for the young player, he was edged out in the first round by the much more experience Rajeev Ram, losing in two tiebreakers.
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.
Novak Djokovic closed out the 2015 Grand Slam calendar on the men’s side with a resounding four set victory over world #2 Roger Federer 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-4. The victory gave the world #1 his second career US Open title, and his 10th Grand Slam overall, three of them coming this season at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, along with the title in New York. Djokovic has had an incredible season that saw him finish just a French Open final loss away from claiming the calendar year Grand Slam, as he silenced all of the critics about who the world’s best player is right now.
In the final, both players had their chances, and neither played up to the level they had in previous matches at the tournament, including their semifinal blowouts. Djokovic put the pressure on the 34 year old Federer in the very first game, but failed to convert the three break point chances he generated. Federer would later be broken to go down 3-4, and fail to convert a break point chance he had to get the match back on even terms. Though he would save a set point on his own serve, Djokovic served the opening frame out at love.
In set 2 it was Novak who dropped his level and faced pressure from Federer, he had to save five break points from 0-40 down in his opening service game of set #2, and then had to save two break point/set points on his own serve at 4-5. Federer finally got a break when he needed it, as Djokovic couldn’t force a tiebreak and the match went to 1 set each after a Federer break for 7-5.
In the third set Federer had a chance to take a resounding lead, as after a pair of early breaks, he had two break point chances to go up 5-3 in the set and serve for it. Instead, Djokovic would hold, then break, and save a pair of break points to take the decisive 2 sets to 1 lead. At this point Federer was frustrated and Djokovic started to roll, breaking twice for a 5-2 lead. Federer gave it one final fight with pride, and with nothing to lose, broke and held to get it 4-5 but he once more failed to convert his break point chances in the final game of the match, and on his first match point, Djokovic secured Grand Slam #10.
Federer was aggressive and generated plenty of return chances, as he won just two fewer points than Djokovic in the 4 set match (147-145). However he was just 4/23 on break point chances, and when it mattered he became defensive and nervous in the clutch, a far cry from his formerly lethal status as Darth Federer, the #1 player in the game, and perhaps the greatest of all time. It is still incredible can compete at such a high level at his age, and his play this summer is a remarkable feat, but Djokovic had the mental edge and was rock solid when it mattered, earning him a well deserved victory with his 6/13 break point conversion result. Judging from his reaction at the end of the match, losing meant a lot to Federer and he was emotionally invested in the result.
Djokovic and Federer were deserving finalists and by the far best two men’s performers in the second week. Djokovic needed 4 sets to get past Roberto Bautista Agut and Feliciano Lopez, but put any doubts about his form to bed with a thumping of defending champion Marin Cilic in the semifinals, as the Serbian superstar dropped just 3 games in three sets.
Federer used two tiebreak victories and a break to send American #1 John Isner packing on Labor Day, and then totally controlled play against both Richard Gasquet, and his countryman Stan Wawrinka without dropping a set. Wawrinka couldn’t conjure up the same level of play that earned him a victory over Federer in Paris at the French Open, and before losing to Djokovic, Federer hadn’t dropped a set, not to mention lost a match, since Cincinnati. Credit should also go to Kevin Anderson, who reached the quarterfinals with a four set win over world #3 Andy Murray, in the best performance of the big serving South African’s career. Overall the US Open featured career performances from both top players, and names like Anderson and Fabio Fognini.
It will be interesting to see if both Djokovic and Federer can maintain their fantastic form throughout the rest of the season and continue to battle in the remaining big tournaments on the calendar.
In doubles Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut won their first Grand Slam title together, 6-4 6-4 over Jamie Murray/John Peers. The veteran Mahut tastes Grand Slam glory after two previous final losses in doubles (Australian Open 2015 and French Open 2013).
2015 US Open Week 1 Men’s Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final slam of the season is also the final ATP level stop in the United States for 2015. All of the top names are competing for glory under the New York lights,and here is a preview of what should be two high quality of hard court tennis.
New York City, NY, USA
August 31-September 13, 2015
Prize Money: $33,017,800
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (3)
4: Kei Nishikori (4)
5: Stan Wawrinka (5)
6: Tomas Berdych (6)
7: David Ferrer (7)
8: Rafael Nadal (8)
The entire ATP top 50 will take part in the US Open this season with the lone exception of Juan Monaco as this is the strongest tournament field you can get.
Seppi, an established veteran all-courter, started the season on hard courts on fire, but has cooled off since and finished his US Open series tournaments with a record of 1-2. He could be on upset alert against the talented young gun qualifier Paul who is 40-17 below the main tour level this season at just 18. Though he lacks an ATP or Grand Slam main draw win, and is making his professional slam debut, he was solid in qualifying and has a tenacious and well-rounded game that will give him a punchers chance in this one. The crowd should be on his side, and though I see Seppi winning this, Paul could arrive into the headlines sooner than expected and score his first marquee win.
(23)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. (WC)Pierre-Hugues Herbert
The top 30 RBA has met the Frenchman Herbert just once in his career, but the big server with a crisp volley game pushed him to three sets in that match, and could well give him a headache once more in the opening round of the US Open. RBA has had a pedestrian season overall and went just 2-2 on summer hard courts, while Herbert comes off his first ever ATP final in Winston-Salem. Herbert has always had singles talent, but has lacked consistency and has performed better in doubles. PHH is a streaky player and RBA still likely wins this, but keep an eye on a potential upset if Herbert’s good form continues in Flushing.
(8)Rafael Nadal vs. Borna Coric
Rafael Nadal has never lost in the first round of the US Open in his career, and he’s a two time champion, however that streak could be snapped this year at the hands of talented and confident young gun Borna Coric. Coric beat an injured Nadal in Basel at the end of last season for one of the biggest wins of his career, so he should already have belief, and his complete all-court game will allow him to pressure Rafa and keep things close most likely. Nadal has had one of his poorest seasons in recent memory, and has not had a good time of it on hard courts this year as he went just 3-2 in the US Open series. Nadal is not the same player that he once was, but he’s still a beast in the fitness and mental toughness departments, and with that in mind he is still likely to survive the Coric challenge. We could be looking at five sets, but in best of five Nadal tends to rise the occasion as we saw in the Australian Open early in the year.
(4)Kei Nisikori vs. Benoit Paire
Nishikori was a finalist last year at the US Open, and has a 2-0 h2h over the streaky Paire, so on paper he shouldn’t have too much trouble. With that said Paire with his elite backhand has enough of a game to threaten top 10 players if he’s focused and shows passion, and Nishikori may still be dealing with a toe injury sustained this summer. The Washington champion also reached the semis in Montreal, but came down with an injury in that match, and hasn’t played since, so it’s hard to tell how Nishikori’s form and condition will be. Paire is finally getting himself back to an ATP level and has had a good season overall, however he once more demonstrated inconsistency in Winston-Salem, and a healthy Nishikori should be able to direct enough balls to his forehand side to doom his chances.
Another match with some upset potential, the two veterans have split h2h meetings on hard courts, and Berrer, fueled by the desire to compete in his final season, has had the best year of his career, while Robredo has struggled to a 5-5 record on hard courts this year. Berrer with his throwback serve and volley game was excellent in qualifying and also reached the semifinals in Bogota this summer while Robredo went 3-2 on summer hard courts. The Spaniard has an excellent record at the US Open, but I feel his level has dropped this season with age perhaps finally catching up to him, and I see Berrer, who beat Rafael Nadal at the start of the year in Doha, scoring another memorable win over a Spaniard and reaching round 2 to add more memories to an already thrilling final season.
(22)Viktor Troicki vs. (WC)Frances Tiafoe
Wild card Frances Tiafoe, making his US Open main draw debut at 17, couldn’t have asked for a better round 1 draw given his status as the seeded Serbian Troicki has lost six straight singles matches, and hasn’t won a match since Wimbledon. Troicki has had a fine season overall, but he’s in a tailspin at the moment, perhaps hurt, or simply lacking confidence, and though he has more experience than Tiafoe, the young American is a powerful talent with enough of a game to score his first Grand Slam main draw win in this one. He got experience playing the French Open this summer and just won his first main draw ATP match in Winston-Salem, so I see the teenager keeping the good vibes and momentum flowing and making headlines with a seeded upset.
This matchup will have a lot of viewers due to the star status of both of these players. Murray’s quest for a second US Open title begins against the controversial Kyrgios, who has gotten in more trouble for his behavior and his mouth, than headlines he’s made for his actual tennis this summer. NK has had a solid season but his immaturity has shown through at times. He lives for a big stage and tends to rise up in slams, though his form hasn’t been great recently. With that said Murray has beaten him twice this year in slams and is 3-0 in the overall h2h. The Scot is extremely solid from the baseline and is able to force Kyrgios errors. Murray is simply more focused and serious with his tennis right now. I really don’t see Murray slipping up here, and the Montreal champion may not even drop a set in this highly anticipated match.
(12)Richard Gasquet vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis
Gasquet just routined Kokkinakis in Cincy, but don’t sleep on the young Aussie in a best of five big time situation. Gasquet reached the quarterfinals in Cincy and has had both good and bad spurts of play this season, all throughout remaining one of the most aesthetically pleasing and graceful players to watch on tour. Kokkinakis has a bigger game and went 4-3 this summer, like Gasquet showing good and bad patches of play. This match will come down to which version of these players shows up, and a more consistent and experienced Gasquet should find a way to win over a dangerous round 1 opponent.
(29)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (Q)Alexander Zverev
A battle of Germans, the veteran Kohlschreiber scored a win over Zverev on clay this year, and over the years has demonstrated himself to be a solid hard court player. However, Zverev is a rising young talent who is building up his hard court game, and while he is on the rise, Kohlschreiber is seemingly on the decline this season. Peppo had just one warm up match on hard courts this summer, a match he lost, while the qualifier Zverev is overall 8-2 on hard courts this summer with a top 20 win over Kevin Anderson en route to the Washington quarterfinals. On paper Kohlschreiber is a favorite, but I have Zverev notching an upset against his countryman and making some waves.
World #1 Novak Djokovic has just one US Open title and was stunned in the semifinals last season, but that doesn’t stop him from being the favorite for the title this year. The Serbian superstar has about as good of a draw as he could hope for in the first week, as he will no doubt dominate journeyman dirtballer Joao Souza in round 1, and likely brush aside big server Vasek Pospisil in round 2, presuming Vasek takes care of business against dirtballer Andreas Haider-Maurer in his round 1 match. Djokovic is 3-0 against Pospisil and has never lost a set to him, so even though Vasek has built his game back up, he’s unlikely to pose a threat.
In the third round Djokovic should be able to continue his streak of sets won over either Seppi/Paul or Teymuraz Gabashvili/Pablo Andujar. Gabashvili, a journeyman with weapons, shocked Andy Murray for the win of his career in Washington, and his good form should put him past Andujar, and likely Seppi, but lighting shouldn’t strike twice against Novak who likely reaches week 2 entirely unscathed as long as his elbow issue has sorted itself out. Djokovic reached both Masters finals this summer, and is looking to make it 3/4 slams won this year after claiming the Australian and Wimbledon titles.
14 seed David Goffin has an excellent chance at reaching week 2, the undersized ball striker has put together a solid top 20 season and went 4-2 on hard courts this summer. He’ll have a potentially challenging round 1 match against Simone Bolelli, a big hitter than himself, but his superior form and consistency should see him through to face either Ricardas Berankis or Joao Sousa, both of whom are baseline ball strikers like Goffin. Berankis and Sousa have both shown inconsistency this summer, while the undersized Berankis, a quarterfinalist in Atlanta and Washington, should have more upside, and reach round 2 before falling to Goffin in a battle of two of the smallest players on tour.
In round 3 Goffin, or another player if an upset occurs, should face either the RBA/PHH winner, or Jerzy Janowicz, presuming the big serving Pole can live up to his abilities and see off surprise Winston-Salem quarterfinalist Pablo Carreno Busta, who usually much prefers clay. Janowicz beat RBA this year in Miami, and his 3-3 record this summer should be good enough to see him through to the third round. Janowicz-Goffin is a style contrast, but Goffin is the better player a this point in their careers and has a pair of h2h wins in his back pocket this season, thus the first section should be Djokovic vs. Goffin to start week 2.
Presuming Nadal gets past Coric he should win his next two matches, likely to be against qualifier Elias Ymer, another young gun, and American Steve Johnson with relative ease. Ymer opens with dirtballer Diego Schwartzman, but doesn’t have a big enough game yet to challenge Rafa. Johnson opens with Fabio Fognini, who hasn’t won a hard court match this year, and then will face the Pablo Cuevas/Dudi Sela winner. Sela recently won a hard court challenger and likely dispatches the dirtballer Cuevas in a veteran battle, but Johnson, a semifinalist in both Washington and Winston-Salem this summer, is in excellent form and could even take a set or more off of Nadal. If Coric gets through he could reach the second week, though Johnson will have a great chance to do the same.
Milos Raonic hasn’t won a match since Wimbledon, and he’s been a rusty out of form disaster this summer (0-2), that said this losses came to big servers who took the upper hand when his return game was exposed, and his serve dropped in quality. His round 1 opponent Tim Smyczek is on a seven match losing streak and a horrible matchup disadvantage, so Raonic should build confidence with a round 1 win and then defeat the Fernando Verdasco/Tommy Haas winner, because both veterans are in poor form. Haas hasn’t been the same player since returning from injury, and Verdasco is struggling but at least of ATP caliber. Raonic is 3-0 on hard courts over Verdasco should reach the third round by virtue of his weak draw.
#18 seed Feliciano Lopez will get a rematch against qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili in his first match, Niko has had a breakthrough season and upset Lopez at Wimbledon this year on the Spaniard’s best surface. With that said, the Cincinnati quarterfinalist and veteran lefty likely finds a way to win and then sends Mardy Fish into retirement in round 2. Fish is playing his final professional matches at the US Open after a summer farewell tour, and the former top 10 American gave Andy Murray a test in Cincinnati after a round 1 win. Even semi-retired his form and talent should be enough to best Marco Cecchinato who is 0-7 in his career in tour level main draw matches. The Italian much prefers clay and Fish should outskill him presuming his body holds up. Lopez with his slice serve should be too much for Mardy if focused however.
Lopez just beat Raonic in Cincinnati, and though it’s hard to predict and likely a close match, I see the veteran doing so once more and bouncing Raonic out earlier than expected. The Canadian #1 simply hasn’t been the same player since foot surgery during the clay court season, and that direct h2h result demonstrates Lopez has an edge right now, their Australian Open meeting this year was also closely contested.
As long as Nishikori is in ok shape and gets past Paire, he should have little trouble against Marsel Ilhan/Radek Stepanek as the veteran Stepanek hasn’t been able to reach a top level since returning from injury. A third round match with the talented but inconsistent Alexandr Dolgopolov could prove trouble however. Dolgo, a semifinalist in Cincy, is a top 20 player when on his game, and will have to deal with Sam Groth and his big serve in the opening round, though he has never lost to Groth (2-0 h2h). I also see him as the favorite over Berrer/Robredo, and I’m going to go out on a limb and pick him over Kei given present physical condition. The reliable and steady Nishikori is 3-0 in the h2h, but I just see Kei disappointing with the pressure on him here. Dolgopolov is one the biggest dark horses in the draw and could catch fire, or bomb out in the opening round. Dolgopolov beat Robredo earlier this year in Miami.
The draw looks open for #19 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to impress. The Frenchman’s first two opponents, the retiring Jarkko Nieminen, and Lukas Lacko/Marcel Granollers are both in poor form, having not played in recent weeks, and the Montreal quarterfinalist should move past Nieminen and Granollers into the third round. There he should meet his fellow highlight reel countryman Gael Monfils. Monfils, who went just 2-2 this summer on hard courts, faces journeyman qualifier Illya Marchenko round 1 and then most likely John Millman, who faces struggling veteran Sergiy Stahovsky in his first match. Millman has been in excellent form on the challenger tour this season and recently, and he’s a quality hard court player, so Monfils could be exposed, but more than likely he conjures up enough talent and focus to reach round 3 before falling to Tsonga, who is in better form on hard courts at the moment.
With Nishikori, Dolgopolov, Monfils, and Tsonga in this section, expect a ton of highlights to come out of it. With that said, Monfils is just 2-5 against Tsonga, though he earned the win in Miami this year.
#7 seed David Ferrer returns to tour from an elbow injury and the 33 year old grinder should see off Radu Albot, who doesn’t have a tour level main draw win this season, though he’s been good at the challenger tour level. Presuming Ferrer is healthy he’s a favorite to reach the fourth round with wins over Filip Krajinovic/qualifier Alejandro Gonzalez in round 2, and likely Jeremy Chardy in round 3. Montreal semifinalist Chardy faces NCAA champ Ryan Shane in round 1, Shane got the wild card but hasn’t done much in pro tennis to suggest he can beat a veteran like Chardy. Chardy will also be the fave against a streaky Martin Klizan. Klizan opens with funky Florian Mayer, a struggling veteran who prefers clay, in the opening round, and though he could beat Chardy, I don’t see Klizan’s form as being a benefit to him. Ferrer is 7-1 in his career against Chardy.
Defending champion Marin Cilic is unlikely to drop a set in the opening round against dirtballing qualifier Guido Pella, and in round 2 against either French young gun Lucas Pouille or qualifier Evgeny Donskoy. Pouille is a talent but prefers clay and Donskoy will have a chance at an upset, however the Washington semifinalist Cilic should have a big enough game to get to round 3. Grigor Dimitrov is a step up in caliber however, and should await the Croatian #1 at that stage. Dimitrov faces journeyman qualifier Matt Ebden in round 1 followed by a likely match with Winston-Salem quaterfinalist Rendy Lu, presuming Lu beats Mikhail Kukushkin round 1. Dimitrov has had a poor season, and he could even be shocked by Lu, with that said, Cilic seems superior to Dimitrov right now in terms of form, and is likely to be more focused, as it has been a wasted season for Dimitrov, who failed to impress this summer. Cilic also has a 1-0 h2h edge.
Presuming Murray gets past Kyrgios he’s unlikely to drop a set into the fourth round. His second round opponent will be either a struggling Adrian Mannarino or in form journeyman qualifier Konstantin Kravchuk, and then #30 seed Thomaz Bellucci is his odds on third round opponent. Bellucci faces slumping James Ward round 1 and then a qualifier, either Paul-Henri Mathieu, a veteran, or Yoshihito Nishioka, a young gun. It’s possible either Mathieu or the speed demon Nishioka could slip into the third round, but the Winston-Salem quarterfinalist Bellucci is an experienced and steady big hitter. Murray, who rapidly improved in form after a shocking early exit in Washington also has a relatively positive early draw and should excel into week 2.
Winston-Salem champ Kevin Anderson is likely to be tested against confident and talented qualifier Andrey Rublev, another of the teenage young guns dotting the draw, Anderson served up to his best over the past week though and should prove too much for Rublev and likely veteran Santiago Giraldo, presuming Giraldo beats American Austin Krajicek. Neither Giraldo or Krajicek are up to the level needed to best Anderson right now, and the South African has snapped a slump, and should reach the fourth round with a solid showing against Dominic Thiem, the struggling #20 seed. Thiem has been poor this summer, but opens with Daniel Gimeno-Traver, a clay court veteran who shows up on hard courts to cash a check, and I also see him finding his way past Denis Istomin, after Istomin beats a struggling Benjamin Becker. Neither Istomin nor Becker are playing well at the moment and Becker has lost four straight. Form and a 2-0 h2h favors Anderson over Thiem to reach the round of 16.
#5 Stan Wawrinka should meet one of the top Americans, Jack Sock, in the third round. Wawrinka, a Cincinnati quarterfinalist, isn’t in the best of form at the moment but he’s known to find himself at the Grand Slam level and should have little trouble against Albert Ramos in round 1, as Ramos prefers clay. In round 2 I don’t expect young gun Hyeon Chung, or James Duckworth, to be able to deal with Wawrinka’s backhand power and with that in mind it should be Wawrinka over Ramos and Chung without dropping a set. Big serving Atlanta semifinalist Gilles Muller isn’t in the best of form, and though the serve and volleying vet should get past challenger level player Ruben Bemelmans in round 1, I see Sock beating him on home soil after he beats Victor Estrella in round 1. The Washington quarterfinalist Sock has had a breakthrough season, but Wawrinka, presuming he can sort out his form should prove to be too much. Wawrinka has been vulnerable in slams, but I don’t see him losing early, unless Muller starts serving lights out and notches a pair of upsets.
#11 Gilles Simon is in a weak section, opening with a struggling Donald Young who he leads the h2h 5-0 with. Simon is a loser of three straight matches and in poor form, and Young upset Tomas Berdych in Montreal, but he’s lost momentum since and Simon should find a steady path given this is a slam. Many people would look to Ernests Gulbis as a potential dark horse in round 2, but Gulbis has suffered two straight bad losses after pushing Novak Djokovic to three sets in the Montreal quarterfinals, and still hasn’t escaped from his horrible season overall. The Latvian hitter has talent, but could well lose to the in-form Aljaz Bedene in round 1, and I have him losing to Simon in round 2. The h2h is 1-1 and Simon is more trustworthy than Gulbis this season. The winner of Tiafoe/Troicki should reach the third round, as neither Rajeev Ram, a veteran serve and volleyer, nor Ryan Harrison are in good form, and I have Tiafoe beat Troicki, and Harrison, just as he did in Winston-Salem, to reach the third round before falling to Simon.
The five-time US Open champion held off Andy Murray and secured the #2 ranking with a victory in Cincinnati, prepared and in-form Roger Federer should dominate his opponents and cruise into the second week. Leonardo Mayer, his first round opponent, pushed Federer to the brink last fall in Shanghai, falling in three sets, but Mayer is 2-3 this Summer and Federer is in much better form. Marcos Baghdatis, a finalist in Atlanta, also has a h2h win over Federer, but Fed leads the overall h2h 7-1 and both Baghdatis and his round 1 opponent Steve Darcis have recently been injured. Hopefully Federer vs. Baghdatis in round 2 produces some quality tennis. Federer could well face Zverev in round 3, if the youngster beats Kohlschreiber an either Lukas Rosol/Jared Donaldson in round 2. Donaldson has a winnable round 1 match and he’s had success this summer as a young gun American teen, I see Rosol winning in round 1, but an upset isn’t out of the question, and I have Zverev beating Rosol before falling to Federer.
American #1 John Isner had a successful Summer that saw capture the title in Atlanta, reach a final in Washington, and the quarterfinals in Montreal. Now rested, the big server should serve his way past Winston-Salem semifinalist Malek Jaziri,and either J.P. Smith or Mikhail Youzhny. The qualifier Smith is in good form and should reach round 2 but Isner has too much game for either of his first two opponents. In round 3 he’s likely to have a tiebreak fest against Ivo Karlovic. Dr. Ivo should see himself past Federico Delbonis and Jiri Vesely in his first two matches, presuming Vesely dispatches veteran clay courter Paolo Lorenzi. Karlovic leads the h2h 3-2 with Isner but at the US Open I give an in-form Isner the edge.
#6 Tomas Berdych has cooled off from his hot start in the spring but the Cincinnati quarterfinalist should hammer past USTA wild card Bjorn Fratangelo, who has had a solid run in challengers but has yet to translate that to the main tour level and is simply at several levels below top 10 players like Berdych. I also see Berdych powering past Denis Kudla, presuming Kudla beats veteran qualifier Jurgen Melzer in round 1. Kudla has had a career year this season and reached the semifinals in Atlanta, but Berdych should have too much power for him presuming his consistency doesn’t fail. Berdych has little chance against the big four right now, but he’s solid enough to make the second week and beat Kudla at the 2013 US Open.
American Sam Querrey has an excellent shot at reaching the third round and posting a positive result on home soil. He’ll open with veteran serve and volleyer Nicolas Mahut and then face the winner of Janko Tipsarevic/Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Both veterans have been in poor form this Summer as they try to recover from injuries, and Querrey is the favorite to reach the third round, but fall to Berdych at that stage.
Gasquet/Kokkinakis, likely Gasquet, should get past Dustin Brown/Robin Haase in round 2, neither player is in good form though the highlight worthy Brown has more upside if he catches fire. Gasquet is another player with a favorable draw that should see him into the second week, #24 seed and Bogota champion Bernard Tomic is likely to be his toughest opponent in that path. Tomic opens with undersized baseliner Damir Dzumhur, a 23 year old Bosnian in poor form, and then should move past the retiring Lleyton Hewitt, who is playing his final US Open. Tomic is inconsistent, but superior to either his veteran countryman Hewitt, or Aleksandr Nedovyesov, Hewitt’s round 1 opponent. The 2001 US Open champion will be sorely missed after he plays his final match. Gasquet is 5-1 against Tomic in the h2h and in better form.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Borna Coric, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Gilles Muller, Thanasi Kokkinakis
If the talented Coric can beat Rafa twice in two years, he’ll have a path that that could see him reach the second week, and possibly as far as the quarterfinals. It’s a tough ask for a young player, but Coric is quite confident in himself and has the varied power game that can produce results. He beat Andy Murray this year as well.
I have the streaky Dolgopolov reaching the fourth round, and he could also go as far as the quarters, he’s not seeded but he has the talent to be, and if Nishikori slips up he should take advantage. The Ukrainian speedster is a deceptive shotmaker and demonstrated his peak abilities when he reached the Cincy semis and took a set off of Novak Djokovic. Like Coric, he’s proven the ability to challenge the game’s best.
Muller would need to get past Sock, but the big server has a reliable game an his crisp volleys could frustrate Wawrinka and result in an upset. I don’t see it happening personally but the veteran is known to perform well in Grand Slams.
The bottom section has a relative dearth of dark horses, and Kokkinakis form doesn’t suggest that he’ll get past Gasquet in the first round but he’s not lacking in ability, and if he shocks Gasquet and gets past Tomic he’ll be in the second week.
Week 1 Predictions (round of 16 matchups)
Djokovic d. Goffin
Goffin gave it his all and nearly upset Djokovic in Cincinnati but failing to do there, I don’t see it happening in best of five sets barring some type of injury. Djokovic is simply a superior ball striker and has far more weapons.
Nadal d. Lopez
Lopez has won his last two meetings against Rafa, including a couple of weeks ago in Cincy, but that match was quite close, and I don’t trust Lopez in the mental department in best of five sets against his fellow Spanish lefty. Lopez could win this but I trust Nadal to find a way to reach the quarters given this is a Grand Slam.
Dolgopolov d. Tsonga
Dolgo is 2-0 on outdoor hard against Tsonga, and with the Frenchman’s recent form in question I see Dolgopolov peaking and reaching the quarterfinals.
Cilic d. Ferrer
Ferrer has a h2h edge but the elbow injury makes me go with Cilic, especially at the US Open. A healthy Ferrer probably beats Cilic, but I’m not sure he’ll be quite up to form right now.
Wawrinka dominated Simon this year on clay, and given Simon’s poor recent form, if Stan pulls his game together he’s a heavy favorite to reach the quarterfinals.
Murray d. Anderson
Murray has a pair of h2h wins over Anderson this year and dominates the h2h overall, given his current form and style of play, one of the best returners in the game should beat one of the best servers.
Berdych d. Gasquet
Berdych has won his last three matches against Gasquet, including two wins this season. Gasquet may well be in better form, but I have to go with the consistent Berdych to reach the quarters.
Federer d. Isner
The world #2 is 3-0 on hard courts against Isner, and though an in-form Isner may challenge Federer and push him to tiebreaks, with the way Federer has played this summer you have to make him the favorite at this stage.
Picking the rest of the way
Djokovic d. Nadal
Cilic d. Dolgopolov
Murray d. Wawrinka
Federer d. Berdych
Djokovic is simply a better player than Rafa right now, especially on a hard court, and the same goes for Federer as he always dominates Berdych these days, with both of the top seeds appearing favorites for the semifinals.
Murray leads the h2h with Wawrinka by a close 8-6 and Wawrinka has won the last two meetings, including at the 2013 US Open. Wawrinka could well end Murray’s quest at a second US Open, and a first Grand Slam title this season but Andy is in some of the best form of his career and I see him reaching the semis.
Regardless of who he faces in the quarters, Ferrer’s elbow injury should help Cilic defend a large amount of his points from last season, and I see him getting past Dolgopolov, Tsonga, or Monfils.
Semis: Djokovic d. Cilic
Murray d. Federer
Djokovic shouldn’t be stopped in his quest for the final, and he consistently defeats Cilic. Murray has lost his last five meetings against Federer, including two this season and a match in Cincy, but they constantly play close and competitive tennis, and in best of five, a fit and fresh Murray at the US Open should pull off a minor upset in the battle for world #2.
Final: Djokovic d. Murray
Djokovic is the worlds best player in hard court tennis at the moment, and though he fell to Murray in a competitive Montreal final, he’s consistently been able to outwork and disarm the UK #1 when they meet at Grand Slams. Djokovic isn’t a lock for the title, but he’s a strong favorite.
#2 seed Kevin Anderson boosted his ranking, broke out of a summer slump, and captured his first ATP title since 2012 with a routine 6-4 7-5 victory over qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert in Winston-Salem. Anderson came into the Winston-Salem Open with just two match wins since Wimbledon, and after a slow start in his opening match against Mikhail Kukushkin, where he had to serve his way back from a set down, he didn’t drop another set against Jerzy Janowicz, Borna Coric, and Malek Jaziri before the final. The South African moves back into the top 15, and puts himself into the dark horse conversation for the US Open as well with his powerful and steady hard court game. Anderson didn’t drop serve after his opening match through the rest of the week.
Herbert, along with Jaziri, and Steve Johnson, the other semifinalist, was a pleasant surprise this week. The talented Frenchman had seen his singles career decline and was close to becoming perhaps a doubles specialist, but at 24 he’s certainly going to be back focusing on singles after reaching his first ATP final. PHH, who also has a quality serve, didn’t drop a set in qualifying and then ousted veterans Sergiy Stakhovsky and Marcos Baghdatis, in 3 sets to reach the quarterfinals. From there he scored tough comeback wins against Pablo Carreno Busta from a set down and a second set tiebreak won, and likewise against Johnson, who came up just short in his bid to reach his first ever ATP title in front of home fans no less.
It’s hard to tell what type of player Herbert will develop into in coming seasons, but his play this week once more demonstrated his under appreciated potential.
In doubles the veteran pairing of Dominic Inglot/Robert Lindstedt scored a routine win over Eric Butorac/Scott Lipsky to go home with the title. Attention now shifts to the US Open which starts on Monday, as the Emirates Airlines US Open Series has now concluded for 2015.
Four qualifiers joined the large Winston-Salem Open field for 2015, as they demonstrated their good form in advance of the 2015 US Open.
Two of the players set to feature at the open, Martin Klizan, and young gun American Frances Tiafoe were the stars of the qualifying draw.
Klizan, a top 40 player, was a surprise entrant in the qualifying draw, and will now look to boost is below .500 hard court record this year at the main draw level with a good run in Winston-Salem. The Slovakian beat Eric Quigley in round 1 and Deiton Baughman in round 2 before finishing his sweep of American qualifying competitors with a straight set win over in-form American Bjorn Fratangelo who found his hopes of playing in an ATP main draw for the second straight week stopped in their tracks. Klizan scored a minor upset over Dominic Thiem in Cincinnati and is likely to get through round 1 given the lower ranked and less talented Marsel Ilhan is his opponent.
Frances Tiafoe failed to win a match in his main draw opportunity in Atlanta this summer, but he’ll get another crack at his first ATP main draw win as a professional against James Duckworth in the opening round in Winston-Salem. The confident 17 year old beat Patrick Daciek. Radu Albot, and fellow American Ryan Harrison to qualifying, beating the experienced baseline grinder Harrison in three sets, as he recovered from a first set breadstick to get the win. Tiafoe has already been awarded a main draw wild card for the US Open, so he gets to bypass qualifying, and he’s he has a lot of tennis ahead as he will also be playing in the US Open Juniors as he’s still 17 and got a wild card for that tournament.
Joining Klizan and Tiafoe in the main draw are a pair of Europeans, Marco Cecchinato and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Cecchinato normally prefers clay, but he has a surprisingly positive 7-6 hard court record on the season now, after blazing through qualifying without a set dropped against Andrew Carter, Skander Mansouri and Wil Spencer. He’ll open against Aljaz Bedene in round 1, another player who prefers clay.
Herbert, a 24 year old Frenchman and quasi doubles specialist, continued his success at the ATP qualifying level this season and relied on his serve to get past Kimmer Coppejans, Kevin King and Sekou Bangoura without dropping a set. Herbert had one of the tougher draws to qualify, so his results have been impressive in North Carolina and he’ll have a great chance to get a win over ATP veteran Sergiy Stakhovsky in round 1.
2015 ATP Montreal QualifyingPreview Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
photo credit: CBC
The ATP Rogers Cup for 2015 will take place in Montreal, Quebec and the strong Masters level field means that the qualifying draw is strong, and features many recognizable names both veteran and young gun, along with players in between those categories. Here is a preview of the weekend action set to come, as Tennis Atlantic is proud to have credentialed coverage of the tournament this year with our writer Leich Sinha.
Top 7 qualifying seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Nicolas Mahut (66)
2: Thanasi Kokkinakis (72)
3: Alexandr Dolgopolov (73)
4: Donald Young (75)
5: Yen-Hsun Lu (76)
6: Hyeon Chung (77)
7: Denis Kudla (79)
Seven qualifying spots are up for grabs, as all of the qualifying seeds have had ATP success this year and it makes for a competitive draw.
Gulbis, now down to #81 in the world, has endured a rough season, and he’s now reduced to having to play ATP qualifying again. The Latvian is just 5-17 this year after going 41-20 last season and he’s failed to win consecutive matches at any tournament this year. The lack of consistency and high error counts has hurt him mentally and his first round opponent isn’t an easy win.
Rola, an Ohio State product, has the ability to be top 100 and played well in Washington, beating Denis Kudla and losing to Leonardo Mayer, both in three sets. His NCAA experience built up his hard court abilities, and it’s hard to tell how this match will go. Gulbis is a name with star power, but Rola may well get the win in the end.
(2)Thanasi Kokkinakis vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Thanasi Kokkinakis has been struggling since the French Open and he put together a poor Davis Cup showing in his last outing. That said, the young Australian is still 9-12 at the tour level this year, and 21-1 below it, as he’s been fantastic in ATP qualifying. He has great skills for hard courts, and still should be a minor favorite over Herbert.
The Frenchman who has shown flashes of talent worthy of the ATP level has had more success in doubles than singles this year and he’s just 1-2 at the ATP main draw level, though he qualified for Wimbledon in his last tournament entry. It’s hard to tell how his form will be on hard courts, but he has a solid serve. I see Kokkinakis advancing from this is he can find form.
(3)Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Dudi Sela
An interesting hard court matchup that should feature solid shotmaking, Dolgopolov has been inconsistent, but he won a pair of matches in Washington and he’s clearly under ranked given his abilities. The veteran Sela reached the quarterfinals in Atlanta, but didn’t fare well in Washington losing in a blowout, and his form is thus questionable. You never know what you’re going to get with Dolgo, but he’s a likely favorite to advance.
An All-American battle that should favor the seeded Kudla over the formerly more accomplished Harrison. Kudla has been in fantastic form since the grass court season, as working with Billy Heiser seems to be paying off for him. The counterpunching ball striker who is solid from both wings reached the Semis in Atlanta to start his US Open Series, and though he lost his first match in Washington that may have been due to fatigue.
Harrison lost to Kudla in a third set tiebreak in Atlanta, in what was a tight match featuring a lot of balls hit back and forth, and though he qualified in Washington his form hasn’t been the best since the Spring. If something is up with Kudla, Harrison could win, but Kudla appears to have outpaced Harrison in development and form at this point in their careers, and I see him advancing.
Well-traveled veteran Nicolas Mahut is the top seed, but he’s 0-4 on outdoor hard courts this year and will look to improve against Canadian wild card and former Indian Hoosier Isade Junea. Junea is also 0-4 on hard courts this year and seems to prefer clay, thus Mahut is a heavy favorite over the futures level player. From there it should be Mahut against Rola/Gulbis to qualify, with Rola/Gulbis a favorite. I have Rola qualifying from section 1.
Section 2 has Kokkinakis/Herbert facing the winner of J.P. Smith/Mikhail Youzhny in the final round of qualifying. Youzhny, a loser of seven straight matches, is in awful form as he seemingly heads towards retirement. The former ATP regular who is just 1-5 on outdoor hard this year should go out to Smith who is 13-11 and qualified in Washington. In a possible battle between Aussie’s Kokkinakis has more talent, but Smith may be in better form, overall I see Kokkinakis as the favorite to qualify.
Section 3 is Dolgopolov/Sela against against Alejandro Falla or James Ward. Falla hasn’t played since Bogota but he’s 14-10 on an outdoor hard court this season. That match would be more entertaining on grass, but all the same Wardy is seeing the wheels come off his game right now and he’s lost four straight since Wimbledon. Ward tends to peak for the British part of the season on grass, and things aren’t looking up for him, so look for Dolgopolov over Falla in a shotmakers special to qualify.
Donald Young will look to break out of his funk against Edouard Roger-Vasselin in section 4. Young, after a hot start to the season, won his first ATP main draw match since Miami in Washington, where he upset Tommy Haas, but otherwise the American has been a disaster since career best results in Memphis and Delray Beach back to back (semis and final). He struggled at home in Atlanta, and though he’s a hard court player, he could well crash out here as well. ERV, now 31, isn’t a great singles player, but he’s 9-4 on outdoor hard below the tour level this year, and if his form is even halfway decent, I have the French speaker knocking out Young in Quebec.
The winner of Young/ERV will face Canadian Peter Polansky or veteran serve and volleyer Rajeev Ram in round 2. If it’s ERV vs. Ram it’ll be a battle of the doubles experts. Ram won Newport on grass and played well in Bogota but he was injured for Washington and Polansky at home may have an edge. Peter is 3-0 in the h2h and since returning from injury he’s played just two tournaments this season. This is a weak section, but I have Roger-Vasselin over Polansky to qualify.
Rendy Lu will be a strong favorite in section 5. Lu opens with 17 year old Canadian wild card David Volfson, who plays futures and has never faced an opponent up to Lu’s level. The 31 year old veteran is then likely to meet Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans in the final qualifying round. Bemelmans won a match in Washington and is a solid 18-5 below the tour level this year on indoor hard. He’ll open with Canadian wild card and NCAA player (North Carolina) Brayden Schnur. Schnur isn’t up to his level, but Lu vs. Bemelmans should be a battle. Lu doesn’t have a lot of weapons but his steadiness should see him through qualifying.
Young gun Hyeon Chung of South Korea highlights section 6, Chung should roll past Canadian futures player Kelsey Stevenson and setup a meeting with Alejandro Gonzalez/Tim Smyczek. Chung won a main draw match in Washington and was competitive against Marin Cilic, a top 10 player, in round 2. The 19 year old is solid on both hard courts and clay and has a lot of game, thus I see him qualifying. Gonzalez is a pedestrian hard court player and Smyczek is in poor form (5 straight losses). Chung has a non-traditional game in some respects, he’s a good server and he whips his backhand.
Last but not least, Kudla/Harrison will face Illya Marchenko or James Duckworth in an interesting hard court section. Duckworth has a 2-0 h2h over Marchenko, who has lost three straight, and the Aussie is in good form, as he beat Harrison in Washington and pushed top 10 player Kei Nishikori to three sets before succumbing. Kudla and Duckworth, the likely matchup, have a 1-1 h2h and both are in good form, so it’s a hard match to predict, but I’m going with Kudla to qualify.
Look for our on-site reports from the ATP Montreal Rogers Cup this week!