2014 ATP Rotterdam, Memphis, Buenos Aires Previews, Picks
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
Three continents will play host to ATP World Tour Action this week with the marquee tournament being a 500 series event on indoor hard in Rotterdam. Other events include an indoor hard 250 in Memphis and a clay court 250 on the Golden Swing in Buenos Aires.
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament
ATP World Tour 500
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
February 10-February 16, 2014|
Prize Money: € 1,369,305
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Juan Martin Del Potro (4)
2: Andy Murray (6)
3: Tomas Berdych (7)
4: Richard Gasquet (9)
Half of the top 10 will be playing in Rotterdam but none of the top three.
First Round matchups to watch:
(1)Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Gael Monfils
The only meeting between these two star players occurred last year in Rotterdam and Del Potro escaped with a straight set victory. However, Monfils is in great form, having only lost twice this year. Those two losses came from world #1 Rafael Nadal.
Gael comes off the title in Montpellier, where he was shaky at times but finished very strong and Del Potro returns to the tour after some time off after the AO. He’s been dealing with recurring wrist problems. However, he should be ok to play as he has been medically cleared and is in the field here.
Monfils’ fatigue and Del Potro’s wrist are the two big question marks coming in, and though rankings-wise Del Po is a huge favorite, it really doesn’t feel like that at all when it gets down to it. If Gael plays like he did in the Montpellier final, he has a very good chance of grabbing the upset win. I will pick him, even though Del Po is the defending champion.
Ernests Gulbis vs. Denis Istomin
Ernests Gulbis continues to confound, as he always seems close to making a big breakthrough but then starts to struggle with his tennis again. He’s another one who is returning to the tour after a break, having last played in Melbourne. He’ll need to have his game sharp for Istomin, who is playing well right now.
Denis the Menance has 2 ATP quarterfinals and a third round at the AO on his record this season and he has a good chance of pulling off an upset in this one if Gulbis isn’t sharp.
(8)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Dmitry Tursunov
Dimitrov returns to the ATP tour after reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, and he’s a good player indoors, making him a favorite against the veteran Dmitry Tursunov. Dmitry is trying to return to form after struggling in this early part of the season, posting a 4-5 ATP match record on the year.
Tursunov did beat Dimitrov on indoor hard 3 years ago, but it a was a tight 3 set match.
Grigor should get his revenge.
(6)Tommy Haas vs. Fernando Verdasco
A battle of veterans with some starpower, Verdasco isn’t playing that well right now, as he struggled in Davis Cup doubles and in January. Haas made his way to the final in Zagreb, finally playing himself into some better form after looking really bad in January. Haas and his aging body may be tired out, and Verdasco could pounce. He plays aggressive indoor tennis. The h2h favors Haas 2-1, with all their meetings coming on outdoor hard, but they haven’t met since 2009 and are very different players now.
I expect Tommy to advance but this is a shaky match either way.
Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (Q)Sergiy Stakhovsky
A matchup I was anticipating last week in Zagreb but didn’t occur because both players were bounced out early.
Kohli and Stako will meet in the opening round this week, also indoors, and Stako still has that 1-0 head to head advantage and appears to be in pretty good form (having qualified). Kohlschreiber has been struggling to find his mojo all year. Peppo will likely still be a slight favorite, but I’ll go with Stako pulling the upset.
(5)Jo Wilfried Tsonga vs. Florian Mayer
Tsonga is 4-0 career against funky Flo, including a 3 set win on indoor hard courts last year.
But the German is in tremendous form so far this year posting a 7-3 record going into this event and thus this match is one to watch.
Tsonga also appears to be playing well right now, and he is the favorite, but I don’t think this one will be straight sets.
Jarkko Nieminen vs. (Q)Dominic Thiem
Montpellier semifinalist and talented indoor player Jarkko Nieminen will do battle with the rising young Austrian Dominic Thiem. Thiem has been very impressive in these past 2 months, closing in on a top 100 ranking with an 8-2 match record on the year. Nieminen has more experience and he plays well indoors, but he showed signs of fatigue in Montpellier, and if Thiem is on point, he has a nice chance at scoring a quality win and reaching round 2.
Del Potro/Monfils will inherit the winner of qualifier Paul-Henri Mathieu vs. Zagreb quarterfinalist Ivan Dodig. He then could face one of Dimitrov/Tursunov Istomin/Gulbis in the quarters, the most likely opponent being Dimitrov in what would be a great quarterfinal match.
3 seed Tomas Berdych, who is playing take-no-prisoners-tennis right now, opens with Andreas Seppi and then the winner of Nicolas Mahut/Gilles Simon. Both Mahut and Simon are in terrible form at the moment. It should be Berdych vs. Haas/Verdasco in the quarters, though Montpellier semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz is a good indoor player, and is playing his way back into form after an awful January where he played very out of sorts.
Janowicz opens with an always dangerous but struggling Julien Benneteau and a likely Janowicz/Haas round 2 will be a big showdown. I expect a Berdych vs. Janowicz quarter, and Tomas to advance in the battle of the big imposing hitters.
Former Rotterdam champion Andy Murray will face Edouard Roger-Vasselin, who isn’t the easiest of round 1 opponents, coming off quarterfinals in Montpellier. It should be Murray vs Thiem/Nieminen in round 2, as Murray will get a quality opponent again, and Thiem will perhaps get a chance to test himself against one of the best. Murray played well in Davis Cup and his form continues an upward trend from January. Quality opponents will do him well, and it is likely why he is playing Rotterdam this year, something he doesn’t normally do.
Murray vs. Tsonga/Mayer is a possible quarter, but Zagreb champion Marin Cilic is also returning to top 20 form, is also in this section and faces a struggling Lukas Rosol round 1.
I’ll go with Murray vs. Tsonga in the quarters, that one should be a great match as well.
Montpellier finalist Richard Gasquet faces Dutch wild card Thiemo De Bakker round 1, then Kohlschreiber/Stakhovsky in round 2. He has the weakest quarterfinal section, as his opponent will be one of Mikhail Youzhny/Igor Sijsling/Jesse Huta Galung/Michael Berrer. Youzhny and Huta Galung had bad weeks in Zagreb, though Youzhny has won Rotterdam before. Sijsling has been struggling all year and Berrer is a journeyman, though he plays well indoors. Assuming Gasquet is not fatigued, he is almost a lock for the semis as he has a great draw for a 500.
Dark Horse: Gael Monfils
Monfils could either crash out in the opening round against a solid opponent in Del Potro or continue his great form into either the quarter or semifinals, with Dimitrov or Berdych/Janowicz/Haas being possible land mines. As mentioned in the opener, he has only lost twice this year, both times to Nadal, He showed flaws in his game in Montpellier though, especially in his opening round match. By the end of the week, he was firing the ball all over the court, serving and moving well, as he continues to be a very talented player if he is healthy and focused. Both appear to be the case at the moment. It’s not a gutsy dark horse pick at all, but he has the best chance as an unseeded player to make a deep run, assuming he can get past the tower of Tandil.
Berdych d. Dimitrov
Murray d. Gasquet
Going with Berdych over Janowicz/Haas, as he has a h2h and form edge, and then over Dimitrov, who I think will get past Monfils/Del Potro. Though he doesn’t have a h2h win against them yet, Berdych continues to improve. He’s fresh and he plays well indoors.
Dimitrov beat Berdych in Rotterdam 2009 in 3 sets, and also beat him 2 years ago on outdoor hard in Miami. Berdych earned one indoor hard win in between those meetings for a 1-2 h2h.
Grigor will have a great chance, but I think Berdych will win and even up the head to head.
Murray has won 7 straight ATP/Grand Slam meetings against Tsonga and I have him in the semis against Gasquet, who surprisingly enough has a 2-1 hard/indoor court h2h record against him. That said, Murray won their meeting last year in Miami in 3 sets. I think he’ll take care of Reeshy again, though again perhaps needing 3 sets.
Berdych d. Murray
Berdych was 2-0 against Murray last year, including a hard court win. On indoor hard, the h2h is split 1-1, but with Berdych in great form, and Murray still not at the top of his game perhaps, I think Tomas has a slight edge to win this title. He has just 2 losses on the year in tournament match play.
U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 250
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
February 10-February 16, 2014
Prize Money: $ 568,805
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (17)
2: Feliciano Lopez (26)
3: Lleyton Hewitt (40)
4: Yen-Hsun Lu (53)
Memphis was demoted from a 500 to a 250 this year, and also lost the WTA joint event status, leaving this as another run-of-the-mill American 250 event with one top 20 player participating.
First Round matchups to watch:
(SE)Bjorn Phau vs. Ryan Harrison
A match I find to be intriguing that others may not: Phau was a great comeback story on the ATP last week, as he qualified and reached the semifinals in Zagreb out of nowhere. The veteran German hasn’t been anywhere near the ATP level for months, but he is one of the quickest players in tennis and he plays well indoors, his best win coming against Mikhail Youzhny last week. He has overcome injury issues to return to competitive ATP tennis and gets the seeded entry ranking exemption this week, though he will have to fly halfway across the globe and may be worn out by the time he gets to Memphis.
Ryan Harrison, meanwhile, has been posting abysmal results for months and he lost in the second round of the Dallas Challenger last week. It fair to say that’s he’s very frustrated with his tennis right now. Harrison is out of the top 100 and he will be going for his first ATP main draw win since Cincinnati last summer. Phau beat him in 3 sets in Memphis 3 years ago in their only head to head meeting, and this is a clash of the old vs the young for sure. This one is a toss up for me, but I’ll go with Phau, as he moves so well that it neutralizes Harrison’s own excellent mobility.
If the German can bait the American into errors and get him frustrated, he should escape with the win.
(5)Marinko Matosevic vs. Jiri Vesely
Matosevic is a solid hard court player, and Vesely is a rising young Czech who also plays well on indoor hard. Vesely will be going for his second career ATP main draw win here, and in order to get his ranking into the top 60/70 range and get direct entry into most main tour level events, these are the type of matches he needs to win, against solid but beatable opponents.
Vesely comes off semis at an indoor hard court challenger, and is well rested, while Matosevic is defending semifinal points in Memphis and has pressure on this week. Marinko will be a slight favorite but Vesely could do well.
Defending champion Kei Nishikori will face Benjamin Becker/Lukas Lacko in his opening match, then Phau/Harrison or Sam Querrey/Alex Bogomolov in the quarterfinals.
Kei really has a draw that should allow him to cruise into the semis without dropping a set.
Querrey is a former Memphis Champion as well, but he played poorly in the Davis Cup and does not look to be in great form right now. Nishikori is 7-2 on the year and his new coaching partnership with former top American player Michael Chang seems to be paying off.
Lleyton Hewitt will face a qualifier or wild card Marcos Baghdatis, who has been struggling mightily for quite sometime. He and Hewitt have rivalry history, but Lleyton has continued to compete at a high level with age, while Baghdatis is fading. In fact, I expect Hewitt vs. the qualifier in round 2. Hewitt already has an ATP title this year in Brisbane and he awaits one of Tim Smyczek/Nick Kyrgios/Michael Russell/Michal Przysiezny in the quarterfinals.
Kyrgios, his Davis Cup teammate, gets a wild card here, and he has made a lot of noise between his Australian Open and Davis Cup showings. He has a real chance at the quarterfinals here, while Americans Smyczek and Russell, along with the improving Pole Przysiezny also see a chance to snatch up some ranking points.
Defending finalist Feliciano Lopez, who is 3-3 this year in match play, will play Matt Ebden or Ivo Karlovic in round 2. Karlovic is always dangerous on indoor hard with his bombing serve. The winner of all that will get Matosevic/Vesely or Jack Sock/Adrian Mannarino in the quarters.
This is another very open section and Sock is defending quarterfinal points from last year here. A case can again be made for every player in this section reach the quarters.
Rendy Lu, who made an ATP final in Auckland at the start of the year, and hasn’t played since the AO, is the number 4 seed here. He will face Donald Young or a qualifier in round 2, and the winner will get Mikhail Kukushkin/Teymuraz Gabashvili or one of two qualifiers in the quarters. Kukushkin is 2-0 on hard courts against Gabashvili, and the qualifier or he, has to be the quarterfinal favorite. Yet again, this is another open section.
If Lu plays like he did in Auckland, he will be in the semis, but if he plays like his normal self, Kukushkin will be a favorite. Young is already known for his streaky form.
Dark Horse: Ivo Karlovic
Every player in the field besides Nishikori might as well be a dark horse in this toss-up event, but Karlovic gets the official designation given his powerful serve and propensity for high quality indoor tennis. He could lose in any of his matches, or win the title, it is really that much of a toss-up.
Nishikori d. Hewitt
Lopez d. Kukushkin
Hewitt just beat Nishikori in Brisbane last month, but I think indoors the advantage swings to Kei, who plays a similar style of counter punching tennis. He should advance to defend his title.
Lopez just beat Kukushkin, also in Brisbane last month, and I believe that he will find a way through to the final again.
Nishikori d. Lopez
A rematch of last year’s final. Overall, they met three times last year and Nishikori went 2-1. I expect him to continue that trend and repeat as champion.
ATP Buenos Aires
ATP World Tour 250
Buenos Aires, Argentina
February 10-February 16, 2014
Prize Money: $ 488,890
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: David Ferrer (5)
2: Fabio Fognini (15)
3: Tommy Robredo (16)
4: Nicolas Almagro (18)
4 top 20 players, all accomplished clay courters, highlight the field of what is a very solid 250 event in Argentina.
First Round matchups to watch:
Albert Montanes vs. Santiago Giraldo
Giraldo and Montanes have split clay court head to heads, while Giraldo comes off semis in Vina Del Mar. Montanes is on a 9 match losing streak dating back to last year and will be happy to return to his beloved red clay and seek to restabilize his performance. Assuming Giraldo isn’t fatigued, he has to be favored to win this, but this is a form test for Montanes.
(7)Juan Monaco vs. Albert Ramos
Two struggling players try to return to form, as former Copa Claro champion Monaco, who has lost 8 straight dating back to last year, takes on Ramos, who has lost 3 straight matches himself.
Ramos comes off an opening round loss in Vina De Mar and Monaco really needs a win to begin to restore his confidence in front of the home fans.
Don’t expect a lot of quality in this one.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez vs. (WC)Guido Pella
The first meeting between these players, GGL comes off quarters in Vina Del Mar, and will be favored against the dirtballer Pella. The young Argentine wild card is 2-2 on clay this year and will need to improve if he is to upset the veteran Spaniard. However, Pella is talented and thus this is one to watch in a home match for him.
(3)Tommy Robredo vs. Pablo Carreno Busta
Former Copa Claro champion Robredo was shocked in the opening round of Vina Del Mar by Leo Mayer, the eventual finalist, and will seek to recover against Carreno Busta, who lost in the second round of the same event. Tommy has to be the favorite, but PCB has talent and an upset is possible.
Federico Delbonis vs. Pablo Andujar
Delbonis, an Argentine playing at home, lost in the 2nd round of Vina Del Mar, and nominally he should be favored over Andujar. His form in general and clay form is better, but Pablo is 4-0 career against Delbonis and all of their meetings came on clay, meaning a Delbonis win would be going against the history of this matchup.
David Ferrer is going for his third straight Copa Claro, and he opens with a qualifier, then Giraldo/Montanes, and one of Ramos/Monaco/Qualifier/Filippo Volandri in the quarters.
He should be able to cruise his way there.
Vina Del Mar semifinalist Nicolas Almagro, another former Copa Claro champion, will face a struggling Horacio Zeballos in round 1, then a qualifier or VDM quarterfinalist Daniel Gimeno-Traver in round 2. In the quarterfinals, it will be one of Jeremy Chardy/Alejandro Gonzalez/Alex Dolgopolov/Pablo Cuevas. Chardy made the quarters in VDM, while Dolgopolov is struggling on clay right now.
VDM champion Fabio Fognini will face Julian Reister round 1 and then could get a VDM final rematch with Leo Mayer, if Mayer can beat Argentine wild card Facundo Arguello. I expect Fognini vs. one of Delbonis/Andujar or Marcel Granollers/Aljaz Bedene in the quarters in what is an open section.
Robredo/PCB will take on GGL/Pella in round 2, followed by one of Joao Sousa/Carlos Berlocq/Robin Haase/Qualifier in the quarters. Yet again(!), this section is open.
Dark Horse: Pablo Carreno Busta
PCB will have to get past Robredo. But if he does, the talented Spaniard will have a nice chance against GGL/Pella and whatever quarterfinalist emerges from the other section, meaning he could make the semis.
Semis:Ferrer d. Almagro
Fognini d. Robredo
Ferrer has beaten his fellow Spaniard 14 times in a row, and I don’t see any reason why he can’t make it 15-0 against Nico.
In what I expected to be the final in VDM last week that did not transpire because Robredo was upset, I’ll repeat my pick in that one: Fognini to reverse his 0-4 clay court h2h against Robredo and grab the win.
Ferrer d. Fognini
Ferrer is 6-0 career against Fognini and 3-0 on clay, thus he should win his third straight Copa Claro, even though Fognini continues to trend upward.