Fabio Fognini The Top Seed at ATP Gstaad Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP 250 in Gstaad is played on clay and will feature a host of European and South American players vying for the title. Here is your full preview, with predictions.
The champion of Bastad, Fabio Fognini, should face off with the in-form Yannick Hanfmann in a challenging round 2 match. Hanfmann has to get past fellow qualifier Jurgen Zopp first. I’ll pick Hanfmann in an upset as Fognini, if he plays, should be fatigued after winning Bastad. I also have Joao Sousa falling in an upset against qualifier Facundo Bagnis, with Bagnis defeating Nicolas Almagro or Marc-Andrea Huesler in the second round. Hanfmann should emerge from the section.
Andrey Rublev should be good enough to get past Matteo Berrettini (or Radu Albot) in round 2, with Guido Pella a player in great form in Umag, defeating Paolo Lorenzi before facing off with countryman Federico Delbonis (or Feliciano Lopez) in round 2. Delbonis is my pick to win the section with Pella likely fatigued.
Presuming he’s fit Roberto Bautista Agut should defeat Jaume Munar or Adrian Menendez-Maceiras to reach the quarterfinals. I have him facing Taro Daniel that stage, as Daniel should get past a struggling Elias Ymer and the Guillermo Garcia-Lopez/Roberto Carballes Baena winner. RBA is the favorite in this section.
Borna Coric will begin against Laslo Djere or Denis Istomin, Coric has been pedestrian on clay this year and Djere could trouble him. Robin Haase is playing well and should defeat Viktor Galovic, and the Felix Auger-Aliassime/Guido Andreozzi in the second round. Haase over Coric is my pick for this section.
Grass Court Season Kicks off With Libema Open 250 in the Netherlands Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
If you are tired of the red clay, you’re in for a treat starting Monday. The ATP grass court season begins with the 250 stop in the Netherlands that is a joint event with the WTA. Here is your look at the field with predictions for the week ahead.
The second round match between Frenchmen Adrian Mannarino and Jeremy Chardy looks to be a great one. Chardy has to defeat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez first to get there. I’ll go with Mannarino to find his form back on a faster surface and reach the quarters. At that stage Italy’s Andreas Seppi should be his opponent. Seppi will need to edge Mackenzie McDonald and Vasek Pospisil or Alex Bolt to get that far. Mannarino is my pick to reach the semis.
Matt Ebden is my dark horse pick this week. Pierre-Hugues Herbert comes off a doubles final in Paris and Gilles Muller is struggling (his round 1 and 2 opponents). Presuming he beats Muller he should defeat fellow journeyman Yuichi Sugita in the quarters. Sugita gets Nikoloz Basilashvili in round 1 (he struggles on grass), with Marius Copil or Aljaz Bedene to follow, both beatable opponents.
Tournament favorite Richard Gasquet draws Evgeny Donskoy or qualifier Franko Skugor in round 2. Gasquet should win and also defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarters. The Greek opens with local wild card Tallon Griekspoor, Malek Jaziri or Max Purcell will follow.
Ivo Karlovic vs. Robin Haase looks like a crucial round 1 match. I’ll back the struggling veteran Karlovic to win that and also defeat Marcos Baghdatis or Bernard Tomic to reach the quarters. Tomic has a great chance in theory, but he’s far from consistent these days. Look for Karlvoic to face Daniil Medvedev in the quarters. Medvedev is good on grass and should upset Fernando Verdasco in round 2 after defeating Yuki Bhambri in round 1. I’ll back Karlovic to reach the semis.
Stan Wawrinka The Star at ATP Sofia 2018 Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Here is your look at the 2018 Diema Xtra Sofia Open, an ATP 250 indoor hard court tournament in Bulgaria, one of the few ATP tour stops in Eastern Europe.
Despite struggling on his return to the tour from injury in Melbourne, Stan Wawrinka is very much the man in Sofia. Wawrinka, presuming he’s fit, should be able to fire past wild card Alexander Donski or a qualifier, and then Denis Istomin/Viktor Troicki in the quarters (wild card Adrian Andreev and a qualifier are also options).
Max Marterer reached the third round in Melbourne, Malek Jaziri and Joao Sousa/Dimitar Kuzmanov isn’t the easiest path, but I’ll still back him to reach the quarters opposite his countryman Philipp Kohlschreiber. Kohli takes on Sergiy Stakhovsky or a qualifier in round 2 after struggling to start the season. Marterer over Kohlschreiber is my upset pick for the tournament.
A couple of Davis Cup participants could reprise their matchup in the semifinals if things go according to plan. Adrian Mannarino takes on Marcos Baghdatis or Mikhail Kukushkin, who also played DC this weekend. From there he would face either Evgeny Donskoy or Lukas Lacko in the quarters. I have Lacko beating Donskoy and Radu Albot/qualifier before falling to Mannarino.
Robin Haase fell to Mannarino in the Davis Cup on the weekend, he faces Marius Copil, Blaz Kavcic/Laslo Djere will follow. He should reach the quarters but I’ll back Gilles Muller to beat Andreas Seppi/Mikhail Youzhny and Haase to reach the semis.
Muller has a great shot to take the title, but Wawrinka is the best player in the field, even at 80% of his abilities. Presuming he’s gotten enough practice in since losing in Melbourne, Wawrinka is the favorite.
2018 ATP Pune Preview and Predictions: In-Form Kevin Anderson Highlights Field Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Fresh off an exhibition victory in Abu Dhabi South Africa’s #1 Kevin Anderson is the star of the ATP Pune field. Formerly held in Chennai, India’s only ATP Tournament has 250 points up for grabs on hard courts to start the season. Here is your full preview with predictions.
Marin Cilic should be happy to be able to start the season in good shape. He should ease past either Roberto Carballes Baena or local wild card Ramkumar Ramanthan before running into Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Yuki Bhambri in the quarters. PHH will serve it up against Marco Cecchinato followed by either Bhambri or wild card Arjun Kadhe. Bhambri has been a player of promise for a wild and he posted a solid season, mostly below the ATP level, last year.Look for Cilic over Bhambri in the quarters.
Abu Dhabi finalist Roberto Bautista Agut is as steady of a contender as they come, the Spaniard will get either veteran Gilles Simon or Tennys Sandgren in round 2. Simon had a miserable 2017, while Sandgren broke out last year, starting the year off right is big for both players. RBA looks likely to face Jiri Vesely in the quarters, Spaniard Ricardo Lara is Vesely’s round 1 opponent and making his ATP main draw debut. Ilya Ivashka takes on Sumit Nagal in a battle of qualifiers in the other match in this section. Bautista Agut should put away Vesely in the quarters unless Vesely has really improved in the offseason.
The bottom half should be dominated by Anderson, who served masterfully in Abu Dhabi, he’ll face either Ruben Bemelmans or Thiago Monteiro round 2, with Mikhail Kukushkin seemingly the best choice to sneak into the quarterfinals opposite the South Afircan. Kukushkin faces Radu Albot, challenger level players Laslo Djere and Marius Copil will face off for the right to face Kukushkin/Albot round 2. Anderson should cruise into the semis.
Enigmatic shotmakers Benoit Paire and Robin Haase could be set for a quarterfinal meeting, Haase faces the grinder Blaz Kavcic in round 1, while Paire will face Nicolas Kicker or Marton Fucsovics. Hungary’s Fucsovics is the dark horse here, he showed improvement last year and could make a run, especially since Paire struggled to end 2017. Haase needs to keep building his ranking after some good performances in 2017. Haase should beat Kavcic and either Jarry or Andujar, Andujar hasn’t played a match since 2016 and is returning from injury. Haase over Fucsovics is my pick in the quarters.
It would be a rematch of the Abu Dhabi final, but a sensible one, RBA and Anderson should ride a wave of good form into the final, with Anderson the favorite. Cilic leads the h2h with RBA 4-1 and won both matches last year but I’m not sure he’ll be at his best.
France and Belgium to Meet in 2017 Davis Cup Final Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
European neighbors France and Belgium will face off in the 2017 Davis Cup final, as the depth of France will contrast with the team spirit of Belgium. The French saw off an outmatched Serbian side in the semifinals 3-1. Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut combined to take the doubles rubber, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won both his singles rubbers against Laslo Djere and Dusan Lajovic, making Lajovic’s win against Lucas Pouille in the opening rubber a moot point. Belgium had a great Sunday against Australia, winning the final 2 rubbers for a 3-2 victory in the tie. David Goffin and Steve Darcis combined to defeat Nick Kyrgios and Jordan Thompson in the Sunday rubbers, dropping just one set between them. John Peers and Jordan Thompson won the doubles rubber for Australia, Kyrgios beat Darcis on Friday, and Goffin defeated Millman in the opening rubber, as Goffin was the hero of the tie.
In the World Group Playoffs, young gun Denis Shapovalov led Canada to a 3-2 win over India, Marton Fucsovics led Hungary to a 3-1 upset of Russia, Yuichi Sugita got a pair of wins to help Japan beat Brazil 3-1, Cedrik-Marcel Stebe and Jan-Lennard Struff led a depleted Germany to a 3-2 win over Portugal, veteran Marco Chiudinelli starred for Switzerland as they defeated Belarus 3-2, Marin Cilic won two singles rubbers and the doubles rubber to help Croatia defeat Colombia 4-1. Holland and Kazahkstan were the upset victors in the playoffs. The Dutch led by Robin Haase won the doubles rubber and the last two singles rubbers for a 3-2 win over the Czech Republic. Thiemo De Bakker defeated Lukas Rosol in the decisive 5th rubber. Mikhail Kukushkin was a double victor for the Kazakh’s against Argentina in a 3-2 win.
South Africa, Sweden, Barbados, and Pakistan reached Group 1 for 2018 in their respective regions.
The qualifying competition for the men’s ASB Classic encountered a problem before proceedings got underway. Last week the organizers admitted that they was short of participants for the 16-player draw. Fortunately the crisis was resolved with the additional of five alternate players.
Headlining the field was world No.66 Robin Haase. 2016 is the fifth year that Haase has competed at the tournament but he has only been able to win one main draw match at the event (2011 against John Isner). In the first round of qualifying he faced American doubles specialist Eric Butorac. Despite playing in his first singles match since May, Butorac started the match well with a 3-1 lead before Haase battled back to win 6-4, 7-5 in less than an hour.
In the final round Haase faced fifth seed Duck-hee Lee. The South Korean enjoyed a easy first round encounter against Colombian doubles specialist Robert Farah Maksoud, winning 6-1, 6-2. Last year Hee claimed five Futures titles. Haase proved too strong for Lee as he won 6-1, 6-3, after only 45 minutes on the court.
Another Dutch triumph in Auckland occurred for Thiemo de Bakker. De Bakker opened up his campaign with a 6-2, 6-2, win over Australia’s Greg Jones. After grabbing his opening win, Bakker faced Croatian seventh seed Mate Pavic. Pavic defeated 2011 French Open doubles finalist Juan Sebastián Cabal (6-2, 6-4) in his opening match. It was a tough start to his final match after Bakker dropped the first set in exactly 30 minutes. Despite the slow start, the Dutchman battled back to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Bakker, who is a regular feature on the Challenger tour, will now be bidding to win his first main draw match on the ATP World Tour since the Rio Open in February last year.
World No.299 Matthew Barton will play in his first ATP World Tour main draw after his duo of triumphs. In the opening round Barton played Australian compatriot Artem Sitak. Sitak is a doubles specialist ranked 43rd in the world. Sitak proved troublesome for Barton during the first set before he dominated the second set to win 7-6(8), 6-0. It was expected that Barton would experience a tricky second match against second seed Denis Kudla. Kudla defeated Trey Huey in straight sets during his first match. Incredibly Barton trailed 2-0 at the start of the match before winning 12 consecutive games top stun the second seed 6-2, 6-0.
Finally Germany’s Benjamin Becker dropped only seven games during his qualifying campaign. In the first round, he dismissed alternative entrant Scott Lipsky 6-3, 6-1. Lipsky is best known for winning the 2011 French Open mixed doubles title with Casey Dellacqua. Then in the second round he played South African-born Brit Cameron Norrie. Norrie achieved a career ranking high of 637th in 2014. The inexperienced Brit was no match for Becker as the German took the match 6-1, 6-2, in under an hour.
Barton opens against American Steve Johnson, Haase has a winnable match against dirtballer Pablo Andujar, De Bakker faces another Spaniard, Albert Ramos, and Becker will face his countryman and Davis Cup teammate Philipp Kohlschreiber.
2015 Koahsiung, Izmir, Campinas, Columbus, Sibiu and Trnava Challenger Recaps Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
World #40 Jiri Vesely took a wildcard into the event, instantly making him the big favorite to win the title. He started off a bit shaky, dropping the first set against Nicolas Barrientos in the second round, but had no problems against Hiroki Moriya in the quarterfinal, 6-1 6-4. However, in the semi-final things came to an end for him. Fourth seed Yuki Bhambri won a tight opening set, 7-6(2), after which Vesely seemed to throw in the towel and pretty much gifted the match away, 6-0.
In the bottom half third seed Lukas Rosol got upset in the first round, losing 6-7(7) 6-4 6-4 to Ti Chen. The other seeds didn’t slip up, with second seed Hyeon Chung beating eighth seed Jurgen Zopp 6-2 6-4 and fifth seed Tatsuma Ito beating Tsung-Hua Yang in the quarterfinals. Chung easily advanced to the final, with Ito retiring at 6-0 2-0 citing fatigue. Chung has had a remarkable year at Challenger level and it continued here, with the 19-year-old taking down his fourth title of the year after a 7-5 6-4 victory over Bhambri. Chung rose fifteen spots to a career high ranking of #58, while Bhambri moved very close to the top 100, rising twenty-one spots to #104, also a career high.
Top seed and home player Marsel Ilhan surely had his sights on performing well here, but he couldn’t live up to the expectations. He made it to the quarterfinals, but there seventh seed Mirza Basic was too strong, 6-4 6-7(3) 6-3. Marius Copil took advantage of third seed Andrey Kuznetsov withdrawing prior to the tournament, taking over his section and reaching the semi-final. After two very tight three-set matches he crushed eighth seed Farrukh Dustov in the quarterfinal, 6-2 6-0. He continued his good run by getting rud of Basic as well for a place in the final, 6-3 6-4.
In the bottom half the two top seeds lived up to the expectations. Fourth seed Lukas Lacko didn’t drop a set on his way to the semi-final, while second seed Malek Jaziri only dropped a set in his opening round. There Lacko managed to oust Jaziri in a thrilling encounter, 6-7(3) 6-3 6-3. In the final Lacko struggled with Copil in the second set, but managed to come out on top to claim his first Challenger title of the season and his ninth overall, 6-3 7-6(5). The victory takes him to the very edge of the top 100, rising eleven spots to #101. Copil rose sixteen spots to #160.
In the doubles final a very scandalous thing happened, with Denys Molchanov and Malek Jaziri retiring for no apparent reason while 8-9 down in the deciding supertiebreak. The only explanation for this is betting related, with them having made a bet on themselves to win, which would get voided in case of a retirement. Seeing Molchanov do something like this after pulling off one of the most blatant fixes of all-time earlier in the year is a tragic sight. He shouldn’t have been able to play another professional match after that, but it went unpunished. And so will this, I’m afraid. Jaziri isn’t a first time offender either.
Top seed and world #80 Diego Schwartzman was the clear favorite to take home the title, but he knew some struggles. In the second round he dropped a set against Guido Andreozzi and in the semi-final against sixth seed Facundo Bagnis he needed a very long second set tiebreak to secure the victory, 6-3 7-6(11). In the bottom half second seed Guido Pella lost 6-2 7-5 to fifth seed Facundo Arguello in the quarterfinal. Arguello went on to reach the final, beating fourth seed Andre Ghem 7-6(5) 6-3 in the semi-final. There Arguello continued his streak of upsets, beating Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 to claim his second Challenger title of the year. He rose twenty-six spots to #120, while Schwartzman moved up a modest three spots to #77.
Dennis Novikov with Redfoo (Sorry Dennis)
A very rare event took place here. Normally it’s mandatory for Challengers to have ball kids, but since the tournament was thrown together at the last minute, the first couple of rounds had none. It was quite strange to see the players pick up their own balls and it made you realize how ball kids speed up the pace of the game. It didn’t throw off top seed Tim Smyczek and fourth seed Ryan Harrison, as they both lived up to their seeding and faced each other in the semi-final. There Harrison was too strong, although it required a titanic struggle in the first two sets, 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 6-1.
In the bottom half second seed John-Patrick Smith got upset by Chase Buchanan in the second round, 6-4 7-6(2). Buchanan wasn’t able to advance further, however, losing 6-4 6-4 to eighth seed Dennis Novikov in the next round. Novikov faced Alex Kuznetsov in the semi-final, who beat third seed Bjorn Fratangelo a round earlier, and beat him 6-3 3-6 6-3 for a place in the final. This left us with a copy of the Cary final of last week, where Novikov beat Harrison 6-4 7-5 to win his first Challenger title. In Columbus he won his second one, a remarkable achievement. It was closer this time around, but Novikov edged it out in three sets, 6-4 3-6 6-3. The win saw him move up nineteen ranking spots to #144, while Harrison moved within inches of the top 100, rising fourteen spots to #102.
This tournament was all about Adrian Ungur from beginning until the end, with the Romanian fully delivering in front of his home crowd. He first took out seventh seed Tristan Lamasine in the second round, 6-4 6-4, after which he pulled off a great win against top seed Dusan Lajovic, 6-4 2-6 6-3. In the semi-final he faced the surprise of the tournament, fellow Romanian Petru-Alexandru Luncanu, a qualifier, whom he showed no mercy during a 6-1 6-1 beatdown. It was a horrendous tournament for the seeds, with only Lajovic reaching the quarterfinal.
In the bottom half Pere Riba took out fourth seed Germain Gigounon in the second round, 6-0 6-7(0) 6-4, after which he handed out another bagel in the quarterfinal against Victor Crivoi, 6-4 6-0. In the semi-final Riba beat Miljan Zekic 6-3 7-5 for a place in the final. There Ungur continued his dominance, however, beating Riba 6-4 3-6 7-5 to claim his ninth Challenger title. He rose fifty-five ranking spots to #171, while Riba rose twenty-three spots to #236.
Adrian Ungur, campionul Sibiu Open 2015 – prezentat de Raiffeisen Bank. Rezumatul unei finale incredibile. http://t.co/pKA7CQxklY
Top seed Robin Haase was on a mission after crashing out early against world #407 Artem Smirnov in the second round of Szczecin last week, desperately wanting to show that his decision to skip the Davis Cup tie against Switzerland was the right one. It looked to head towards another disaster in the first round, but he survived another qualifier, Riccardo Bellotti, 2-6 6-2 7-6(5). In the quarterfinal against Gerald Melzer he dropped another set, but held on again, 4-6 6-3 6-3. Fourth seed Albert Montanes surely would be another tough hurdle in the semi-final, you would say. But no, Haase easily beat him 6-2 6-2 for a place in the final.
Second seed Marco Cecchinato had withdrawn, leaving a gap to be filled. Sixth seed Horacio Zeballos was the one to do so, beating Stephane Robert 6-1 6-2 for a place in the semi-final. Frank Skugor was no match for him either in the semi-final, getting dispatched with an almost identical 6-2 6-2 scoreline. Haase left no doubt in the final, however, beating Zeballos 6-4 6-1 for his second Challenger title of the year and his eleventh overall. A nice touch was that he received the trophy from former world #12 and renowned giant killer Dominik Hrbaty. Haase moved up ten ranking spots to #59, while Zeballos moved up twelve spots to #148.
2015 ATP Kitzbuhel Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final ATP clay court tournament in 2015 will once again take place in Kitzbuhel, Austria. The resort town hosts a 250 level tournament as dirtballers vie for a final chance at points and cash on clay.
2015 ATP Kitzbuhel Preview
ATP World Tour 250
August 3-August 8, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: Dominic Thiem (21)
2: Andreas Seppi (24)
3: Fabio Fognini (27)
4: Martin Klizan (34)
A solid group of clay courters feature in Kitzbuhel, headlined by Austrian #1 Dominic Thiem who has won three ATP titles on clay this year (Nice, Umag, and Gstaad).
(6)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (Q)Jan-Lennard Struff
The fourth career meeting between Struff and Kohlschreiber, the h2h is split 1-1 with Kohli have a win on clay, and Struff on hard court in Doha this year. Struff jut came through qualifying in routine fashion, and is playing his best tennis in months. The 25 year old has always had baseline talent but he tends to struggle under pressure and has shown mental weakness in his career. Kohlschreiber, who is Davis Cup Teammates with Struffi has lost two straight and comes off a round 1 loss to Benoit Paire in Hamburg. He’s normally solid on clay but he’s struggled to be consistent this year, and Struff could catch him in a slump. Kohlschreiber is the favorite though.
(5)Juan Monaco vs. Robin Haase
Monaco leads the h2h with Haase 3-2, and won their last meeting in Gstaad last year on clay (1-1 on clay). That said, the Dutchman is a two-time champion in Kitzbuhel and Monaco is just 3-5 since the French Open, as the veteran Argentine seems to be struggling after having a nice Spring. Haase has been in decent form, and presumably should be rested up for this match. It should be close, but given the venue I see Haase scratching out a minor upset over the seed and reaching round 2.
(7)Jiri Vesely vs. Nicolas Almagro
Nicolas Almagro has been struggling since returning from injury, the formerly top tier Spaniard is looking to break a four match losing streak dating back to the French Open here in Kitzbuhel where he is using a protected ranking. The young gun Vesely gave both Fabio Fognini and Rafael Nadal good matches on clay over the past two weeks, and this is an easier draw for him. Almagro is a recognizable name, but Vesely seems to be the superior player right now as his steady play should see him through to round 2.
Dominic Thiem is 18-5 on clay this year and has won eight straight matches as he took back to back 250 titles in Umag and Gstaad. He may well be out of gas in front of the home fans in Kitzbuhel, but the Austrian #1 does get a bye and his round 2 opponent will be either a possibly injured Andreas Haider-Maurer, who is also Austrian, or a struggling Joao Souza, a loser of four straight matches. Thiem’s fatigue is a difficult factor to predict, but I still see him reaching the quarterfinals.
#8 seed Albert Ramos is a possible benefactor of the fatigue Thiem almost certainly is feeling. Ramos will open with Diego Schwartzman, who has lost six straight matches, and presuming the Spanish veteran lefty wins that either degraded veteran Albert Montanes, a lucky loser, or Gerald Melzer, a home Austrian, will be his round 2 opponent. Melzer is in horrid form like Schwartzman, and Ramos is simply a level above Montanes, thus a Thiem vs. Ramos quarterfinal is the pick.
Thiem and Ramos have never played before, and if Thiem is simply in form and not feeling too much fatigue he likely wins, however it’s a hard match to predict and Ramos could also win.
Hamburg finalist Fabio Fognini is always a tank risk, especially in a small tournament like this, but if his good form continues he should beat Aljaz Bedene for the second time in as many weeks. Bedene opens with wild card Dennis Novak, and has been in excellent form as of late, that said, he fell to Fognini in straight sets in the Hamburg quarters, after upsetting Roberto Bautista Agut. In the quarters, Fognini could face Kohlschreiber/Struff, or Santiago Giraldo/qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva. Giraldo beat RDS in Houston this year on clay and comes off of the quarters in Gstaad. Kohli beat Giraldo this year in Umag, but Giraldo won the previous two meetings on clay and may well be in better form, thus I have Fognini over Giraldo in the quarters.
Fognini is 1-1 on clay this year against Santi, he beat him in Madrid but lost to him in Sao Paulo. Overall Fognini leads the h2h 5-3 with a majority of their meetings taking place on clay. It’s a tough pick, but if Fognini is committed he should reach the semifinals here.
Hamburg semifinalist Andreas Seppi played his way into form on clay with a pair of wins and should cruise into the quarters over either Dusan Lajovic or nearly retired Mikhail Youzhny who hasn’t won a match in over two months. Lajovic is likewise struggling and it’s likely to be a Seppi vs. Vesely quarterfinal. Vesely will have to beat Jurgen Melzer or Daniel Gimeno-Traver after facing Almagro. DGT is in terrible form as a loser of 7 straight, while Melzer is in the twilight of his career but should do his best on home soil.
I have a hunch Vesely is a better player on clay than Seppi, as Seppi was 0-4 on clay before Hamburg this year, thus I’m going with the Czech to make a surprise semifinal this week.
The other semifinal slot could be filled by Martin Klizan, but he hasn’t been in great form as of late, with a record of six straight losses. Klizan remains 11-9 on clay this year and either Kenny De Schepper or Bastad quarterfinalist Paul-Henri Mathieu will be his round 2 opponent. PHM is in good form, and presuming the veteran has enough gas in the tank I have him upsetting Klizan to reach another quarterfinal, where he could line up across from Monaco/Haase. The winner of Monaco/Haase will face Pablo Carreno Busta or Federico Delbonis. PCB reached the quarters in Gstaad, but both he and Delbonis lost to the same player there, Dominic Thiem, the eventual champion. Look for Haase to fall to PCB, the Spaniard is 2-0 on clay against Robin and just beat him in Gstaad in straights.
PHM and PCB have never met, however I’ve been impressed by Mathieu’s form on both the challenger tour and now the main tour, he’s in great form on clay and has always had the talent, thus I have him reaching the semis in what should be a close match.
The 33 year old was once a top 15 player and has 4 ATP titles in his career, he’s been in the challenger and qualies wilderness for quite some time, but he appears to be experiencing a resurgence under the radar on European clay. He clearly has the experience to do well here, though mentality is always a question. Look for his solid game to take him to the semis and perhaps even farther.
Fognini d. Thiem
Mathieu d. Vesely
Thiem bageled Fognini in Munich on clay this year, but Fognini is a notorious tanker and is clearly far better than that. It’s hard for me to pick Thiem given how much tennis he’s played over the past couple of weeks, thus I have Fognini reaching his second straight final.
Vesely and Mathieu have never faced each other, it’s hard to predict who will perform in the bottom half, but I’m going with the qualifier to pull off a run and reach the final.
Fognini d. Mathieu
Fognini should have an edge in talent and form over PHM if this is the final, he’s always an unpredictable competitor, but he has an excellent chance to win his first title of the season and boost his ranking back up this week.
2015 ATP Hamburg and ATP Gstaad Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2015 ATP clay court season continues with a 500 series event in Hamburg, Germany, and a 250 in Switzerland as many of the top European players are still battling away on the red clay, even as tennis action in America shifts to hard courts.
2015 ATP Hamburg Preview
Bet-At-Home Open German Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
July 27-August 2, 2015
Prize Money: €1,285,955
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (10)
2: Tommy Robredo (21)
3: Roberto Bautista Agut (23)
4: Andreas Seppi (26)
Nadal headlines a field that is dotted with Spanish players, 11 out of the 32 man singles field in total. Perhaps this tournament should be renamed the “Spanish tennis championships”.
First round matchups to watch:
(1)Rafael Nadal vs. Fernando Verdasco
Nadal dominates the h2h record but these two left handed Spaniards have played some great matches against each other, and this one could be of top-class as well. Verdasco has in fact won the last two meetings, including a win this year in Miami over Rafa, but he’s a rather pedestrian 8-7 on clay this year. Nadal struggled at Wimbledon again, and overall is having a rough season, but he’s still 21-6 on clay and I’d presume focused and fit for Hamburg, thus I give him the edge to win this one.
(3)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Borna Coric
A rematch of their match just a couple of days ago in Umag, RBA won that one 6-3 6-3 and the Umag semifinalist should be the favorite here, but Coric is a talented young gun who is improving and learning day by day on tour. Both these guys are great shotmakers when in form and this match could be close, I don’t see Coric flipping the script, you never know.
Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Benoit Paire
Kohli beat the Bastad champion Paire on clay this year in Barcelona and he comes off the quarterfinals in Umag, thus his clay court form seems to be alright. Paire, who has a talented backhand just like Kohli, just won his first ATP title in Bastad, and given that he’s notorious for having a lack of consistency and commitment, he may well be wiped out for Hamburg, giving Kohlschreiber the edge.
(2)Tommy Robredo vs. (WC)Alex Zverev
The 18 year old Zverev just lost to the veteran Robredo in the Bastad semis but she scored three solid wins there and really seems to enjoy playing in Hamburg, where he had a shocking run deep into the week last year. Robredo, a former Hamburg champion, showed good form in Bastad, but the veteran has been notoriously shaky from week to week this year, and I wouldn’t put it past Zverev to learn from his loss and best his veteran rival just a few days later.
Given this is clay, even a struggling Nadal likely has a clear path to the semifinals. He’ll face the winner of Andreas Haider-Maurer/Jiri Vesely after FerVer, AHM may well be injured while Vesely isn’t in great form and likely doesn’t have the game to deal with Rafa’s topspin. In the quarters Bastad semifinalist Pablo Cuevas likely awaits.
Cuevas will open with struggling young gun Diego Schwartzman, and then gets JerzyJanowicz (who beat qualifier Taro Daniel on Monday) in round 2. JJ i just 3-5 on clay this year, but two of those wins have come in the past two weeks, so his form may be improving, still Cuevas is an accomplished clay courter who tends to have consistency on the surface. Cuevas and Rafa played a three setter in Rio back in the spring, it was close for two sets but then Nadal put up a bagel in the third, and he likely will break his opponents resistance this time too.
Andreas Seppi looked awful in Umag, and thus the #4 seed is actually an underdog against Martin Klizan who won a round there. Klizan has a big game, but he’s streaky, while Seppi lacks a lot of weaponry, but can frustrate opponents when his game is clicking. You never know how it will go with Klizan, but if he wins Florian Mayer awaits, as the funky hitting German veteran slipped past fellow veteran Albert Montanes Monday. Mayer is just 4-9 on clay this year and hasn’t been great since returning from injury, thus Klizan has the edge to reach the quarters.
The section below Klizan/Seppi is rather weak as Lukas Rosol faces off with Simone Bolelli, while veteran Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez will face 18 year old wild card Jaume Munar, who played doubles with Nadal this tournament. Rosol is 6-8 on clay in 2015, and tends to have streaky form while the shotmaker Bolelli is slightly better on the surface, but likewise hasn’t caught fire as of late. Bolelli likely beats Rosol while the 32 year old GGL should beat Munar, who isn’t quite ready for the ATP main stage. It’s hard to pick a winner between Bolelli/GGL, but GGL has a better record on clay this season, and thus gets the edge. Klizan beat GGL in Rio on clay last year, and in this section that is up for grabs I have him reaching the semis in what would be a promising result. He has a semifinal in Barcelona and a title in Casablanca on his 2015 record.
Robredo/Zverev will face Paire/Kohlschreiber, and from that I have Kohlschreiber reaching the quarters as fatigue should factor on Paire and Robredo, while Kohli has home soil advantage. 2012 champion Juan Monaco is a strong favorite to reach the quarterfinals above that section, Pico, 13-10 on clay in 2015, opens with the continually lost and struggling Ernests Gulbis, who to his credit did win a match in Bastad, a rare sight for him this season. After that Monaco will face Lucas Pouille, who beat Inigo Cervantes on Monday. The young gun Frenchman Pouille has plenty of talent but struggles with consistency, he could reach the quarters as well, but a Monaco vs. Kohlschreiber quarter seems like the safest prediction. Kohlschreiber is 2-1 against Monaco and with his superior form should be able to survive an interesting section and reach the semis.
RBA/Coric will face Aljaz Bedene or veteran Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver, Bedene appears to be in reasonably good form, while DGT does not, and thus RBA over Bedene should be the second round result, unless Coric spoils proceedings. #8 seed and 2013 champion Fabio Fognini, an Umag quarterfinalist, opens with Jeremy Chardy, who he is 4-0 in the h2h against, and then unless he collapses, will face Albert Ramos round 2, after Ramos scored a minor upset over his countryman Nicolas Almagro on Monday. Fognini is 6-0 against Ramos, and thus the Italian should reach the quarterfinals and perhaps beyond this week.
Fognini is 2-1 on clay against RBA and both seem to be in decent form, Fognini has always had the talent but mentally he tends to float, and thus I have RBA reaching the semis in another difficult match to predict.
Zverev, Klizan, and Coric are all non-seeds who could have excellent weeks in Hamburg, but the home player Kohlschreiber should reach the semis based on the draw. He has clay court ability, veteran experience, and hopefully good form and could reach the final based on what happens in the RBA/Fognini section.
Semis: Nadal d. Klizan Bautista Agut d. Kohlschreiber
Presuming no hiccups for Nadal he’s clearly the favorite given his level on clay is above the rest of the field, Klizan shocked him in Beijing last fall,but that as on hard courts, and Nadal still owns a 2-1 h2h advantage, peak Klizan with his power can bother Rafa, but I don’t see that happening on clay, likewise RBA and Kohli have a close record, but RBA’s form should see him through to an all-Spanish final.
Final: Nadal d. Bautista Agut
Nadal beat RBA in Madrid last year, and generally RBA lacks the big game needed to beat the top 10 level players in key moments. Rafa has struggled this season, but he’s still long term the greatest clay courter of all time, and it takes a special effort to beat him. What’s interesting is both of my picks could lose in the first round, or at least have their toughest matches at that stage. Nadal should win his second ATP Hamburg title.
Swiss Open Gstaad
ATP World Tour 250
July 27-August 2, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: David Goffin (14)
2: Feliciano Lopez (18)
3: Dominic Thiem (24)
4: Pablo Andujar (35)
Two top 20 players in Gstaad as it’s a pretty solid field for a 250.
First round matchups to watch:
Robin Haase vs. Marcel Granollers
Haase comes off of a challenger semifinal and tends to play well in Switzerland, that said he’s just 2-4 on ATP clay this year (10-3 below that level) and he’ll be facing off with Spanish veteran Marcel Granollers, who owns a 2-1 h2h record against him. Granollers dropped to 6-7 in ATP main draw clay court matches this year with an opening round loss in Umag, and if Haase can keep his mental game together he should beat the loud Spanish grunter and advance to round 2.
Top seeded Belgian David Goffin has what should be a clear path to the quarterfinals as his round 2 opponent is Argentine veteran Horacio Zeballos. Zeballos got past young gun Andrey Rublev in round 1 but he lost to Goffin at Wimbledon (though clay is his best surface) and given the difference in ranking and talent, D Goff is a strong favorite, even after an opening match loss to eventual Bastad champ Benoit Paire.
Joao Sousa is likely to be Goffin’s quarterfinal opponent, the Umag finalist comes off of a fantastic week in Croatia, and the Portugese #1 has now reached two clay court finals in 2015 (Geneva and Umag). Fatigue could play a factor, but the battling baseliner will face journeyman Swiss wild card Henri Laaksonen in round 1, which hould be an easy match, and then Bastad quarterfinalist Denis Istomin awaits. Istomin already scored a round 1 win over Maxime Teixeira and is in good form, but Sousa has a h2h win against him this year, and likely has the advantage on clay. Goffin is 2-1 against Sousa in the h2h and should be fresher, thus I have the undersized ball striker reaching the semis.
Defending champion Pablo Andujar’s toughest early match towards defending his title is likely to come in the quarterfinals against Thomaz Bellucci. Andujar faces Dusan Lajovic first, after Lajovic beat qualifier Calvin Hemery in round 1 and he should move his 11-8 clay court mark in 2015 to 12-8 before facing Bellucci. Bellucci, a two time Gstaad champion, opens with the struggling Kimmer Coppejans after reaching the Bastad quarterfinals. After Coppejans he should breeze past Stephane Robert or Joao Souza, his countryman, both of whom are relative journeymen.
I have Bellucci getting past Andujar and into the semis, as he’s 4-1 on clay in the head to head, and the big hitting Spaniard appears to be in better form, along with the fact he loves Gstaad.
#2 seed and newlywed Feliciano Lopez, who hasn’t been particularly hot this season (just 7-7 on clay with 1 ATP final in Quito boosting those stats), will face Blaz Kavcic or Julian Reister in round 2. Reister qualified with ease while Kavcic tends to struggle on clay, thus Lopez over Reister is the likely round 2 result. The serve and volleying Spaniard still has enough game to beat the journeyman German.
A struggling Santiago Giraldo (11-11 on clay in 2015) will face veteran Paolo Lorenzi in round 1, presuming he still has enough big game hitting to win that he could get an interesting match with Andrey Kuznetsov, who comes off of a clay court challenger final, in round 2. Kuznetsov will need to recover quickly from that final and beat Marsel Ilhan first, and I wouldn’t put reaching the quarterfinals past him, but if fatigue is a factor, a Giraldo vs. Lopez quarterfinal is the most likely outcome, even with both players not in the best of form.
Lopez has a 2-0 h2h against Giraldo though they have never met on clay (Lopez’s worst surface and Giraldo’s best), and it could go either way but Lopez probably slices and serves into the semis.
Austria’s Dominic Thiem, the young gun champion of Umag, has a weak section he could feast on and make another deep run, but he may have trouble recovering and Federico Delbonis, his first opponent, could take advantage. Delbonis just defeated Marco Chiudinelli, Thiem is the better player, and I have him reaching the quarters, but we’ll see what kind of shape he’s in. Haase/Granollers could face him in the quarters, or Pablo Carreno Busta, who should dispatch the slumping Mikhail Youzhny in round 1. PCB, like Haase, has been in good form on challenger tour clay, and he has a h2h win over the Dutchman, thus I have a Thiem vs. PCB quarterfinal and PCB advancing (1-1 h2h on clay) due to Thiem’s fatigue.
Haase has a weak section and could break through over Granollers/PCB, then take advantage of Thiem’s fatigue to reach the semis. He’s had success at 250s like this before, and has the talent, but as always it’s his mental game that matters.
Semis: Bellucci d. Goffin
Lopez d. Carreno Busta
Bellucci’s power should bother Goffin and he appears to be in solid form, along with his previous success at this tournament. Lopez is simply a better player compared to PCB, but it’s clay so he may not do well.
Final: Bellucci d. Lopez
Bellucci and Lopez have a split h2h overall, but given record and form, look for the Brazilian to win his second ATP title of the season, he also won Geneva.
Murray, Hewitt, and Rublev Star in Weekend Davis Cup Action Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Davis Cup had some exciting ties over the weekend as young guns, veterans, and a few top players starred in the action worldwide. Here is a recap of everything worth noting that went down.
Australia, Great Britain, Belgium and Argentina Advance From World Group Quarterfinals
The most anticipated tie of the weekend was between team GB and France at London Queen’s club on grass, and it did not disappoint as an emotional Andy Murray single handedly carried his team to a 3-1 victory in the tie. Murray had a part in all three of the needed wins for the players sporting the Union Jack, he beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with ease on Friday, won a crucial doubles point with his brother Jamie in 4 sets on Saturday, and then closed out the tie with a win against Gilles Simon after dropping the first set. Simply put, the French team didn’t perform up to the level needed to defeat Murray, as their depth couldn’t beat the British star power.
James Ward lost the other rubber to Simon on Friday as he couldn’t repeat his Davis Cup heroics of previous ties.
The next opponent for the British will be their Commonwealth partners Australia, as the green and gold clawed back from 0-2 down on Friday against Kazakhstan and relied on the steady veteran presence of Lleyton Hewitt to push them into the semis. The Aussie young guns Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios both played poorly with the pressure on Friday, Kokkinakis failed to win a set against the veteran Mikhail Kukushkin on grass, while Kyrgios lost a 4 setter to Aleksandr Nedovyesov, and stated after that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be there playing DC.
Aussie captain Wally Masur, and Captain in waiting Lleyton Hewitt seemed to take that statement to heart, as Hewitt stepped up himself in his final year as a pro player. The veteran took part in the doubles rubber with the big serving Sam Groth and won it over Nedovyesov and Andrey Golubev, and then Groth beat Kukushkin in four sets, and Hewitt closed out Nedovyesov in straights to win the tie. He’s struggled all year in singles, but in what could have been his final Davis Cup match, Hewitt played fantastic, and proved why he’s one of the most tenacious battlers the game will ever see.
GB vs. Australia could well be something special with Hewitt, Murray, the Aussie young guns with a chance to redeem themselves, and a pro British crowd filling the stands in the UK as they look for a spot in the Davis Cup final.
The fatally weakened teams of Serbia and Canada both slumped to defeat against Argentina and Belgium respectively, Team Serbia lacked Novak Djokovic and on the road in Argentina on clay they clearly struggled without his talent and leadership. Leonardo Mayer and Federico Delbonis scored singles wins on Friday over Filip Krajinovic and Viktor Troicki, Delbonis’ win coming from two sets to love down, and then on Saturday Mayer and Carlos Berlocq clinched the tie with a routine win over Troicki/Nenad Zimonjic. The dead rubbers resulting in the tie ending 4-1.
Team Canada was without their injured stars Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic and without their big serving, they were whitewashed 5-0 by an undersized Belgian team on clay in Belgium. The Canadian team was uncomfortable on the slow surface, as Steve Darcis beat veteran journeyman Frank Dancevic in four sets,and David Goffin rolled young gun Filip Peliwo in straights. The tie was then clinched by Ruben Bemelmans/Kimmer Coppejans who beat the veteran rock of Daniel Nestor, and Adil Shamasdin in the doubles tie. Coppejans and Darcis beat Dancevic and Peliwo in the dead rubbers to complete the rout.
Argentina will travel to Belgium in an interesting tie that will decide the other finalist spot.
Russia, India among teams with chance at 2016 World Group Participation
Group 1 ties also took place across the globe and the biggest story was Russia toppling a B-list Spanish Armada to book their spot in the world group playoffs. The Spanish team, led by veteran Tommy Robredo, got off to a good start on indoor hard on the Pacific coast city of Vladivostok far on the Asian side of Russia. Robredo beat young gun Andrey Rublev in straights, making Rublev extremely flustered, and Pablo Andujar beat Karen Khachanov also in straights for a 2-0 lead. However it was clear the Russians had more team unity and spirit, while the Spanish, with turmoil in their federation and a recent change in coaches, couldn’t seal the deal. Evgeny Donskoy and Konstantin Kravchuk beat Marc Lopez/David Marrero, one of the top doubles teams in the world in a shocking five set Saturday upset. On Sunday Donskoy upset Robredo in 4 sets, and then Rublev was the hero, winning a surprisingly routine 5th rubber over Andujar. After some time in the wilderness, Russia, a nation with a strong history in tennis, is close to returning to the top tier of the Davis Cup, while Spain will spend another year away from the spotlight.
Also advancing from Europe’s group 1 are the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia. The Dutch upset Austria on the road and on clay, as Dominic Thiem choked away a ton of break points to hand Thiemo De Bakker an opening rubber win in five sets, and though Andreas Haider-Maurer steadied the ship with a win over Robin Haase to make the tie 1-1, Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer won the doubles over Jurgen Melzer/Oliver Marach, and then Haase beat a disoriented Thiem in straights to clinch. The tie ended 3-2 as the Austrians won the dead rubber, but all the same it was a surprisingly clutch performance from a Dutch team made up of well known headcases, while the young gun Thiem failed under pressure and now has a lot to think about.
The Poles won 3-1 over Ukraine, their team had more depth and it showed on indoor hard in Poland. Alex Dolgopolov of Ukraine won the opening rubber over Jerzy Janowicz in straights, but Michal Przysiezny scored a minor upset in straights over Sergiy Stakhovsky, Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski beat Dolgopolov and Denys Molchanov in double, and Janowicz closed out the tie with a four set win over Stakhovsky.
Slovakia went 1-0 down on the road against Romania on clay,as Marius Copil beat Norbert Gombos in a thrilling 12-10 5th set tiebreak, but then they rolled off three consecutive rubber wins to clinch the tie between the two former Eastern Bloc nations. Martin Klizan beat Adrian Ungur and Copil in singles, and in between Andrej Martin/Igor Zelejnay upset Florin Mergea/Horia Tecau, a top 5 doubles team, to win the pivotal doubles rubber, as the tie again ended 3-2 with a Romanian dead rubber win.
In Asia’s group 1 Uzbekistan and India were winners, as expected. Denis Istomin carried his Uzbek team with a doubles rubber win partnering with Farrukh Dustov, and two singles wins over South Korea, as Hyeon Chung, the young gun leading the Korean team, came down injured in the 4th and decisive rubber. India beat New Zealand despite the best efforts of Michael Venus and company, Somdev Devvarman recovered from a five set loss from two sets up on Friday in singles, and beat Marcus Daniell on Sunday, while Yuki Bhambri was key as he scored two singles wins over Jose Statham and Venus, his routine win over Venus in a live fifth rubber.
In the America’s group 1 on clay, Colombia slipped past Uruguay 3-2, and the Dominican Republic slipped past Ecuador 3-1(3-2). Alejandro Gonzalez went a key 2-0 in singles as Pablo Cuevas’s Uruguay came up just short. Pablo and his brother Martin played all the matches for Uruguay, winning the doubles rubber and the 4th rubber (P. Cuevas d. Giraldo) to force a live fifth rubber from 2-0 down at the start of Saturday, but Gonzalez closed out Martin for the win. Victor Estrella did what Andy Murray and Denis Istomin did, carrying the load for the DR even at his age as they beat a weak Ecuador team that lacked any sort of top player. Estrella won the 1st, and 4th rubbers, along with the doubles rubber.
Results from Group 2 as Dimitrov and Sousa star in wins
Chile blanked Mexico 5-0 in the Americas’ group 2, Pakistan will face Taiwan in the 3rd round of round 2 in Asia, and in Europe it will be Portugal vs. Belarus and Hungary vs. Bulgaria. Of note, Grigor Dimitrov played for Bulgaria this weekend (they won 5-0 over Luxembourg) and Joao Sousa ensured the Fins lost 4-1, they were led by veteran Jarkko Nieminen.