Andrey Kuznetsov and Ernests Gulbis Shine In Rotterdam Qualifying Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
There was success for seeded players in the qualifying draw at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.
The qualifying draw was lead by Russian world No.52 Andrey Kuznetsov. Recently Kuznetsov achieved his best performance at a Grand Slam event by reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open. Prior to his Melbourne run, Kuznetsov also reached the quarterfinals at the Doha Open.
In Rotterdam the 24-year-old started his qualifying campaign with a 6-2, 6-3, win over wildcard Jesse Huta Galung. Awaiting the top seed in the final stage of qualifying was Steve Darcis. The Belgian, who help guide Belgium to the Davis Cup final last year, edged his way past Thomas Fabbiano 7-6(1), 6-3. Kuznetsov moved into the main draw after Darcis withdrew due to injury. According to Belgian media sources, the world No.106 experienced pain in his wrist following his first round win. The pain is in the same wrist as the one he underwent surgery on last year.
Nicolas Mahut qualified for the main draw in Rotterdam for the second successive year. The 34-year-old dropped only five games in his opening win against little-known Dutch wildcard Tallon Griekspoor. Griekspoor is 19-years-old and is currently ranked 585th in the world. Mahut’s second round match was a much tougher test against fellow countryman Lucas Pouille. Pouille defeated Lukas Lacko 7-6(6),7-6(5), in his opening match. Mahut fended off 11 break points during his encounter with the world No.89, which lasted a fraction over two hours. The older Frenchman held his nerve in Rotterdam to win 7-6(5), 7-6(5).
Ernests Gulbis won back-to-back matches for the first time this year to qualify for the first round. The inconsistent former French Open semifinalist was given a scare in his opening match against Edouard Roger-Vasselin. After losing the opening set, the former world No.10 battled to win 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3). The victory set Gulbis up with a meeting with fifth seed Evgeny Donskoy. The second round match was expected to be a tough task for the Latvian. This year Donskoy has already reached the quarterfinals at an Australian Challenger tournament followed by the second round at the Australian Open. Despite this, Gulbis was never in danger during a the unexpected one-sided match. The world No.82 clinched the 6-1, 6-2, win in under an hour.
The final qualifying spot was won by Croatia’s Ivan Dodig. The 31-year-old has already experienced success in both the singles and doubles this year. At the Canberra Challenger he reached the final, losing to Paolo Lorenzi. Then at the Australian Open mixed doubles tournament, partnering Sania Mirza, he reached the semifinals. Dodig’s route to the main draw in Rotterdam started with a 6-4, 6-2, win over Kimmer Coppejans. The Croat received a boost in the second round when third seed Sergiy Stakhovsky suffered a shock three sets loss to Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff. During a close two sets match, Dodig overcame the German 6-4, 7-6(4).
First round matches:-
Q Nicolas Mahut FRA – Teymuraz Gabashvili GEO (Mahut trails the head-to-head 1-3)
Q Andrey Kuznetsov RUS – Viktor Troicki SRB (Kuznetsova trails the head-to-head 0-1)
Q Ernests Gulbis LAT – Gael Monfils FRA (Gulbis trails the head-to-head 0-1)
Q Ivan Dodig CRO – Benoit Paire FRA (Dodig trails the head-to-head 1-2)
2015 ATP Rotterdam, Memphis, Sao Paulo Previews and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The traditional Rotterdam 500 level indoor hard tournament takes place this week, along with the US indoor tournament in Memphis, and the clay court event in Sao Paulo, which got switched around on the calendar this year. Both of those tournaments are 250 level events. Here is a preview of all the action as indoor tennis heats up and the Golden Swing rolls on.
2015 ATP Rotterdam Preview
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament
ATP World Tour 500
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
February 9-February 15, 2015
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Andy Murray (4)
2: Milos Raonic (6)
3: Tomas Berdych (7)
4: Stan Wawrinka (9)
A stacked field with 6 of the top 15, there are also a host of unseeded and lower seeded players who can play great on hard courts as Rotterdam has yet again attracted a fantastic field for a 500 level event.
Vasek Pospisil vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber Pospisil hurt himself again in Australia, and he hasn’t performed as well historically indoors as he has on outdoor hard, but even still he’s a difficult opponent for the veteran Kohlschreiber in round 1. The German comes off a loss to Joao Sousa in Montpellier. He’s yet to win consecutive matches this season as his form has been up and down, that said Kohlschreiber should be the better performer indoors and having played more matches of late should help him advance to round 2.
(8)Gilles Simon vs. Joao Sousa Many would presume the Portugese number one Sousa is better on clay, but in fact he’s had some of his best career results on hard courts at the ATP level, and especially indoors. The veteran Simon comes off a loss to Jerzy Janowicz in the quarterfinals of Montpellier and has yet to do anything notable in 2015. Sousa faded against Janowicz in the semis of Montpellier and fatigue could well play a factor but he’s 5-3 in 2015, all on hard courts and none of his losses were poor, so I’m going with the upset and picking Sousa to reach R2.
(3)Tomas Berdych vs. Jerzy Janowicz The defending Champion has a difficult match scheduled in round 1, as you rarely see an early round match with both players in such great form. Berdych of course reached the semifinals at Australian Open with a notable win over Nadal, and before that he had reached the final of Doha by demolishing all opponents in his wake (including Richard Gasquet and Andreas Seppi). Janowicz is already showing signs of improvement in 2015, after a dismal 2014. He’s reached the final of Montpellier and he also reached the third round at the AO (notably beating Gael Monfils in 5). History favors Berdych though. The big hitting Czech is 3-0 in the h2h, including a win last year in Rotterdam over the big hitting Pole, and though all of those matches were tight three set encounters, Janowicz has fatigue working against him, and retired due to illness in Montpellier, while Berdych should be fresh, thus he should survive the upset alert.
(5)Grigor Dimitrov vs. (Q)Paul-Henri Mathieu
Dimitrov lost their only h2h meeting in straights (2012 Basel indoors) and he comes off quarterfinals in Melbourne. Mathieu, the mentally shaky veteran, beat Jurgen Melzer to qualify after pushing Philipp Kohlschreiber to 3 sets in Montpellier. Mathieu is a bit of an indoor hard court specialist these days, and it’s not an easy matchup for Dimitrov, I still expect him to advance but it could go three sets.
David Goffin vs. Gilles Muller Goffin, who hails from just over the border in Belgium, and is nearly playing in a home event, (like the Luxembourger Muller is a fellow Benelux), has yet to catch fire in 2015 after his rise in 2014 into a consistent ATP player. D Goff is just 3-3 in 2015 and has yet to beat a player with a top 50 ranking. Muller, who can do a lot of damage with his cracking serve indoors was shown the door by Ricardas Berankis in Zagreb in 3 sets after reaching the second week in Australia. Muller has kept himself busy thus far this year, having played every week on tour, but his gamestyle doesn’t lend himself to exhaustion, and with Goffin yet to put the pieces together this year, I’m going with an upset and have Muller into round 2. They have never met, and we’ll see if Goffin can keep his game under control under assault from Muller’s steady dose of serve and volleying.
AO finalist Andy Murray, who has won the title here before, opens with qualifier Nicolas Mahut, then the Pospisil/Kohlschreiber winner. Mahut isn’t too dangerous so Murray should be safe in that one. Murray has never played Kohli indoors, and he beat Pospisil last year in Vienna. As well he has started his season, I don’t expect the UK number one to have any problems reaching the quarterfinals to setup a meeting with most likely the Sousa/Simon winner. Julian Benneteau, who has indoor success, and Jeremy Chardy, are also possible opponents, but all the same Murray can’t really complain about his path to the semifinals. He demolished Sousa in Melbourne and has only lost once in a dozen meetings against Simon. I have Sousa into the quarters with wins over Simon and Benneteau. Sousa denied Benneteau a maiden ATP title in Kuala Lumpur indoors in 2013, taking the title himself.
Berdych/Janowicz will face Robin Haase/Andreas Seppi in round 2. Berdych beat Seppi in Doha, and the Italian, who is on a tear so far in 2015, is likely to be fatigued from his current final, and possible title in Zagreb. Haase continues to be pedestrian, so Berdych should get past Seppi for the quarters and setup a meeting with perhaps Roberto Bautista Agut. RBA opens with young gun German WC Alex Zverev, and then Gael Monfils or fellow French qualifier Edouard Roger-Vasselin are on deck. Monfils reached the semis in Montpellier while suffering from an undisclosed illness, and his health is uncertain at the moment. With that in mind, I’m playing it safe and putting RBA through even though Monfils beat him last summer in Cincy. RBA is 3-3 in 2015, but he was also ill in January and isn’t a bad indoor hard court player. Berdych and RBA have a split 2-2 h2h, with all meetings taking place since 2013, and Berdych won their only indoor meeting. That match could be close but Berdych has looked great against all but top tier competition in 2015 and he has points to defend so I expect to see him as a semifinalist this week.
Milos Raonic is making his debut in Rotterdam. The AO quarterfinalist will face Lukas Rosol or Simone Bolelli in round 2, after qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov in round 1. Bolelli, who is actually a grand slam champion now after winning the doubles title in Melbourne, has been in better form than Rosol, so he should advance to face Raonic. Raonic has appeared immune to losing to all but top 10 players on hard court as of late so he shouldn’t have any trouble banging his way to the quarterfinals. Raonic doesn’t have a difficult path to the semifinals either, as Ernests Gulbis is the seed in his section, and Gulbis has not looked good so far this season. The Latvian will likely be happy to be back indoors though and should be favored against his best pal and former hitting partner Dominic Thiem of Austria. Thiem actually beat Gulbis in 5 last year at the US Open but Thiem has appeared to be out of sorts and out of shape thus far in 2015, so now is a good time to see him on the other side of the net if you’re Gulbis, who will be looking to build his confidence. In round 2 for Gulbis/Thiem it’ll be Sergiy Stakhovsky or Marcel Granollers, two of the weaker players in this field. Stakhovsky lost in round 2 of Zagreb to Mikhail Youzhny, while Granollers reached the semifinals before falling to Seppi. With Granollers in better form I have him through against both Stako and Gulbis. The hard court h2h between Gulbis and Granollers is 1-1. Raonic should demolish whoever his quarterfinal opponent is and reach the semis.
Stan Wawrinka, who reached the semis in Australia will open with Dutch wild card Jesse Huta Galung, from there expect Wawrinka to beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez yet again, after winning in 4 sets over him at the AO. GGL is in the Zagreb final (beat Viktor Troicki notably) and may take the title there, he opens with Denis Istomin who luckily reached the quarters in Montpellier. GGL won their only indoor meeting, and should get into round 2, but I don’t expect him to have much left in the tank for for Wawrinka at that stage. Wawrinka is slated to face Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals, assuming he can get past Mathieu, and then the Goffin/Muller winner. Muller/Goffin could be trouble, but Dimitrov is still the more talented player so he should be favored. Dimitrov demolished Wawrinka on grass in their last h2h meeting but given current form, the fact this is indoors, and a 2-1 overall h2h Wawrinka should be able to get himself to the semis here and avenge that loss.
In a tournament where the top seeds should be filling out the quarterfinals and beyond, Muller represents the best chance for an unseeded breakthrough (given Janowicz’s likely fatigue). With his dangerous serve, and the fact this is a tournament close to his home. Muller plays tennis with narrow margins, when his serve is clicking he can win a bunch of matches, and when he has even a slight dip in form he’ll struggle against journeymen, but if he does start to click, he could perhaps beat Goffin, Dimitrov, and who knows, even Wawrinka if Stan has an off day, to reach the semis, it’s not likely but the chance is there on this surface.
Predictions Semis: Murray d. Berdych
Wawrinka d. Raonic
In what would be an AO rematch, Berdych is good indoors but we saw how well Murray played in their recent matchup, so the Brit has to be favored. Top 10 players Raonic and Wawrinka have a chance to meet for the fourth time here, I’m going with Wawrinka based on a gut feeling that he will be able to return well enough to beat Raonic, given he’s won all three previous meetings in that manner, but it is nearly a pure toss-up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of these names in the final given their excellent form so far this season.
Final: Murray d. Wawrinka
This match has always been a close one, Murray has a 6-3 hard court h2h edge, with Wawrinka having won their last meeting (US Open 2013). Again this is a super hard pick to make and both would be deserving champions. I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve seen from Murray since last Fall, and given that I feel he’s back, I have him as the champion this week of a stacked Rotterdam event.
Memphis Open ATP World Tour 250 Memphis, Tennessee, USA February 9-February 15, 2015
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (5)
2: Kevin Anderson (15)
3: John Isner (18)
4: Alexandr Dolgopolov (24)
In it’s second year as a 250 level, ATP only event, Memphis has three top 20 players, and a relatively quality international contingent to go with most of the top and up and coming US men.
First Round matchups to watch:
(WC)Jared Donaldson vs. (WC)Stefan Kozlov Two players who have been pegged as future leaders in US men’s tennis will meet early on in their careers as wild cards on US soil in Memphis. Donaldson, 18, just won the Maui challenger title, his first career Challenger title, after going on a tear of 17 match wins in a row last season. Kozlov, 17, who had more success at the junior level, reaching two junior grand slam finals last season (Wimbledon and the AO) won the Maui doubles title partnering with Donaldson. Both are at career high rankings (Kozlov nearing the top 400 and Donaldson inside the top 180). Donaldson at this point in his career is perhaps slightly ahead of the development curve compared to the younger Kozlov, and his recent form would make him the favorite, but I’m not sure the result of this match will mirror how their careers are going to turn out.
AO quarterfinalist Kei Nishikori has won this title twice in a row and he’s going for a three-peat this year. Malek Jaziri or a qualifier will be his first opponent, Jaziri, who has actually played well this year so far (reached the third round in Melbourne), got himself in hot water again after retiring from a set up against Denis Istomin in Montpellier. The stated reason was an “elbow injury” but Israeli player Dudi Sela had setup a meeting with the Tunisian in the next round, and Jaziri has withdrawn before to avoid facing an Israeli player. Jaziri also pulled out of doubles against an Israeli opponent in Montpellier, and this PR debacle of a situation is going to cloud him for quite some time, especially if he continues to not directly come out and address it. All the same expect to see Nishikori in the quarters, and perhaps get a rematch of last years final against Ivo Karlovic. The big serving Croat will need to defeat Lukas Lacko, who was awful in Zagreb last week, and then the Mikhail Kukushkin/qualifier winner. Kukushkin, who reached an ATP final in January in Sydney, is a rather streaky player, as is Karlovic, who lost his opening contest in Zagreb against Marcos Baghdatis in 3 sets. Kukushkin and Karlovic have never played, I’m simply picking Karlovic because of previous success and the quarterfinalist here is a toss-up. Regardless, expect Nishikori to blaze through to the semis.
John Isner has never played as well in Memphis as he has in most other US events, that said the American number one has Ivan Dodig or Teymuraz Gabashvili on his plate in round 2. Gabashvili played pretty well in the Dallas challenger, reaching the semifinals, while Dodig lost his second match in Zagreb to Marcel Granollers. This matchup could go either way, but given Gabashvili is already in the US, I have him into round 2, before falling victim to Isner. Benjamin Becker, who had his best result at a Grand Slam in a decade when he reached the third round in Melbourne this year is in this section as well as a potential quarterfinal opponent for Isner. Becker could potentially vanquish both parts of “Quisner” , as his round 1 opponent is Sam Querrey who is 0-3 in 2015. Look for Becker, who serves as well as Querrey, but is a superior ball striker and mover, to get into the quarterfinals after beating most likely Donaldson in round 2. This isn’t a bad draw for one of the young American wild cards, but more likely will serve as a learning experience with a round 2 loss against a more experienced player. Isner has a 3-0 h2h against Becker but they haven’t met since 2009 and Becker has played, perhaps the best tennis of his career into his 30s over the past 6 months or so, with that in mind, I have Becker as a surprise semifinalist this week.
Kevin Anderson reached the second week in Melbourne, and should expect to be matched serve for serve in his first match in Memphis, that is if Aussie Sam Groth, who reached the third round Melbourne, can defeat baseliner Rendy Lu in round 1. Both Groth and Anderson have had both good and bad results in 2015, and it’s a tough match to pick. Anderson, given his ranking and similar style of player, is in most cases better than Groth on the return and equal to him on serve, so the South African number one should get through with likely tiebreak sets. Groth has improved his return but Anderson was already a step ahead. American Steve Johnson has a great shot at a good result here, if he can beat Dudi Sela, and Marinko Matosevic/Dustin Brown, he’d setup a quarterfinal meeting with most likely Anderson. Johnson has yet to lose an opening round match in 2015, as he continues to show signs of improvement in his game. Brown was a point away from beating possible champion Jerzy Janowicz in Montpellier, but all the same I expect Johnson over Matosevic in round 2. Anderson is 3-0 against Johnson, including two wins last year and a win in straights this year in Auckland, with that in mind, the matchup favors Kev and he should reach the semis, even with a tricky path.
Alex Dolgopolov, who was injured in Australia with a leg problem could face Bernard Tomic in round 2, assuming the Aussie, who reached the second week in Melbourne, beats Igor Sijsling, who comes off the quarterfinals in Zagreb. Tomic is 7-3 in 2015 and appears to be focused and in the groove right now, you never know how long that will last, but he still should be the favorite to reach the quarterfinals at least here, with Dolgo in questionable physical condition and always unpredictable. Tomic and Dolgo have played some awesome h2h matches, with Tomic winning their most recent encounter last year in Sydney, and also a 5 setter at the 2012 AO (Dolgo had won three previous hc meeting before that one for a 3-2 hard court h2h edge), This is a must see match if it takes place, with talented shotmaking a given. Tomic should actually have an easier time in the quarters, Donald Young is an option, Adrian Mannarino is the 8 seed, and a pair of qualifiers are also here. This is a section a qualifier could get out of (Denis Kudla, and Thanasi Kokkinakis are potential qualifiers) but without knowing who the qualifiers will be, I have Mannarino into the quarters with wins over Young and a qualifier. Mannarino reached the final in Auckland last month and comes off a round 1 loss to Sijsling in Zagreb, while Young was a quarterfinalist in Auckland. Tomic should reach the semis out of this section that isn’t overly difficult.
Tomic should make the semis as a non seed given his draw, and one of Anderson/Johnson/Groth is also quite beatable, Tomic is 3-0 on hard courts against Anderson, including a win indoors last year in Stockholm, and thus he should be an a finalist this week if his play holds true to its current form. As usual the talent is there but the question is can Bernie remain focused and implement the game plan and discipline needed to translate that into results on a week to week basis?
Semis: Nishikori d. Becker
Tomic d. Anderson
Nishikori and Becker played one of the best regular ATP tour matches of the season last year in Tokyo, Nishikori won in a third set tiebreak, clawing back from a set down, as Becker was throwing his entire arsenal at Nishikori (and previously Nishikori beat Becker last year in Memphis). The Japanese number one should win, but this pair produce some great tennis on a consistent basis and it’s still worth watching.
As mentioned above, Tomic has a demonstrated edge against Anderson, and thus he should take advantage of his draw and make the final.
Final: Nishikori d. Tomic
Nishikori was a cut above Tomic in the Brisbane quarterfinals this year, given how that match went, I don’t expect this one to go any better, Nishikori is a strong favorite to win his third ATP Memphis title.
The 24 year old Lajovic remains poised to a breakthrough at the ATP level, though his ranking is stuck in the 60-90 no mans land right now. Meanwhile the veteran Andujar will be pleased to return to clay court tennis this week, as hard courts have once again not been kind to him this year. Lajovic pushed possible Quito champion Feliciano Lopez (a current finalist) to 3 sets in the quarterfinals, very nearly knocking him out with a 1 set lead and break point chances in the second. Andujar has experience and he’s higher ranked but I’m going with an upset and placing Lajovic into the second round, as I feel he has the ability to win this.
(8)Martin Klizan vs. Thomaz Bellucci
Bellucci beat Klizan last year in Sao Paulo, and comes off the Quito semis, where he dropped a tough match to Victor Estrella. The home player with have crowd support against the Slovak Klizan, who also lost to Estrella by a wider margin in the quarterfinals of that same event. Bellucci should be favored at home but his mentality is always a question mark, either way this should be a rowdy contest.
(5)Pablo Cuevas vs. Jiri Vesely
Cuevas had a fantastic year on the red stuff last year, going 47-9 on clay across all levels of tournament action with a pair of ATP titles to reach a career high ranking just inside the top 30. Now he will seek to repeat that showing, or even one up it this year, starting his ATP clay tournament calendar in Sao Paulo. In his first match on clay in 2015 he will face the young Czech Jiri Vesely who just won his maiden ATP title last month in Auckland. Vesely is also no slouch on clay, as he went 18-10 on the surface under the same standard as Cuevas. Vesely likely has more raw ability, but I have the experienced Cuevas, who plays some of his best tennis in these conditions, through to round 2.
Feliciano Lopez is seeking to binge his way through the Golden Swing and maintain, if not improve on his career high ranking inside the top 15. The current Quito finalist and possible champion will have his first match in SP against Juan Monaco, a former doubles partner, or a qualifier (young gun Elias Ymer and a host of second tier dirtballers are possible qualifiers). Monaco was once in the same position Lopez is in now, having reached a career high ranking of 10 in 2010, but it’s been all downhill from there for the declining Argentine, so even if he’s fatigued Flopez should flow his way into the quarters, while Monaco could struggle with a qualifier in round 1. Lopez could play a rematch of a strange, but quality semifinal match with his fellow Spanish Armada member Fernando Verdasco in the quarters. The Quito semifinalist has a qualifier first up and then the Lajovic/Andujar winner. This section presents a great chance for Lajovic to post consecutive quarters if Verdasco is exhausted. Otherwise I’m going to repeat what I picked last week, and put Verdasco into the semis, even though I was wrong on that in Quito. It was a close match and Lopez will have to play one extra match (and stay in Quito an extra day) compared to Verdasco. Something like that is enough to swing a result.
Leonardo Mayer. who went 19-10 on clay last year with an ATP title and final on the surface, both career bests, is another player that is happy to see the ATP tour return to clay. Mayer will face Spanish vet Albert Ramos or Brazilian WC Guillherme Clezar in round 1. Mayer is a cut above Ramos, and Ramos is more accomplished than Clezar, so expect Mayer to reach the quarters by defeating Ramos. Mayer vs. the Bellucci/Klizan winner is the most likely quarterfinal in this section. I favor Bellucci over Pablo Carreno Busta, assuming PCB beats Joao Souza, another Brazilian. Souza comes off a round 1 loss in Quito, while PCB will be making his 2015 clay debut after posting a 24-15 record on the surface last season in tournament play. Bellucci-PCB should be a good R2 match for a 250, with Bellucci has a home favorite. Mayer and Bellucci have a split h2h, when it comes to the slated quarterfinal (2-2), and Mayer has been better in recent career results, so I have Leo into the semis against Verdasco.
Tommy Robredo, who won this tournament in 2009 when it was in a different location, will open with Blaz Rola or Nicolas Almagro in round 2. Almagro is a three time former champion at the Brasil Open, and he’s 4-1 against Robredo on clay in his career. He’s played just a handful of matches since coming back from injury, but he looked healthy and improving in Melbourne (lost to Kei Nishikori in round 1), while Robredo is coming off his own injury and hasn’t completed any tournament matches this year. Rola hasn’t done anything special as of late, and I expect Almagro to keep improving against him, then get Robredo at a good time for that matchup to happen, and take him out as well to make the quarterfinals. At that stage Cuevas/Vesely could be his opponent, or defending champ Federico Delbonis who opens with a qualifier. Delbonis went 14-10 on clay last year in what was a breakthrough season into the top 60 for him. He has a lot of points to defend, and he’s not been gifted a lucky draw, as I feel Cuevas is superior on the surface, and will be the one to reach the quarters, though any of him, Vesely or Cuevas reaching the quarters wouldn’t shock me, as it’s a stacked section. Cuevas just beat Almagro in Sydney on HCs and has one previous H2H win against him, so for that reason I’m going with another (slight) upset and putting the Uruguayan number one into the semis from this stacked section.
Fabio Fognini is returning to clay in SP and looking to get his singles career back on track, having returned the Golden Swing he did so well in last year. Fogna will face his countryman Paolo Lorenzi or Diego Schwartzman in round 2. Lorenzi comes off quarters in Quito, while Schwartzman is ready to make his move to the next level, after an incredible 21-2 record on clay last year at the non ATP level (22-3 overall as he played almost entirely challengers to get into the top 70). I have the 22 year old making his move and defeating both Italians, Lorenzi and Fognini to reach the quarterfinals. SP is the type of tournament where rising players can have a shot to announce themselves to the tennis world, and Schwartzman is due. Fognini has been in crisis mode since the US Open and Schwartzman is good enough to at least give him a quality match, and given the current state of Fogna’s form, defeat him. Schwartzman also has a great chance at the semis, the only other seed left would be Santiago Giraldo, the Colombian who had a great year last year, dropped a bad match to Albert Montanes in Quito. He opens with WC Kimmer Coppejans, and should win, but I have Argentine grinder Carlos Berlocq beating him, given the 4-2 overall h2h in round 2. Berlocq went 18-6 on clay last year and beat Schwartzman in 3 sets to win a challenger title on clay (Porto Alegre). A quarterfinal between this is a bit of a coin flip but I have the experienced Berlocq into the semifinals against Cuevas.
I have the unseeded Berlocq in the semis this week as well, but Schwartzman gets the dark horse tag because he’s a young gun, and he could win his first ATP title this week if he rises to the occasion. Should he get through Lorenzi, Fognini and Berlocq/Giraldo, all accomplished veterans, Cuevas/Almagro/Robredo or some other player are all beatable semifinal opponents as Schwartzman would likely need to beat a bunch of veterans just to reach the final this week. It’s a relatively open tournament field and Verdasco/Mayer/Lopez aren’t unbeatable either in a possible final.
Predictions Semis: Mayer d. Verdasco
Cuevas d. Berlocq
Mayer should be fresher than Verdasco or Lopez, and you have to believe he can maintain the high level of play we saw from his last season, especially on his favorite surface.
Cuevas-Berlocq is another judgement call but Cuevas has won the last four clay court h2h meetings, so he should be favored.
Final: Mayer d. Cuevas
Mayer was slightly better last season and has a 2-1 clay h2h edge, this is a hard tournament to predict, but I have Mayer winning another ATP title, this time in Sao Paulo.
Berdych Rolls in Rotterdam, Nishikori Repeats in Memphis, Ferrer Wins 3rd Copa Claro Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
As predicted, a red hot Tomas Berdych, who is playing like one of the top 3 players in the world right now, rolled through Marin Cilic, playing his second ATP final in as many weeks, 6-4 6-2 to capture his first title of 2014.
Berdych has only lost twice this year. It was one-way traffic after a slow start for both players and Cilic simply looked like he had nothing left in the tank after so much tennis in the past couple of weeks.
Berdych beat Andreas Seppi and Nicolas Mahut in the first couple of rounds without dropping a set, then beat Jerzy Janowicz in 3 sets and beat surprise semifinalist Ernests Gulbis 3 and 2 in the semis.
Gulbis upset Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarterfinals.
Cilic beat Lukas Rosol, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray, all without dropping a set, before winning a 3 setter against surprise semifinalist Igor Sijsling. Tsonga and Murray both played poorly, while Cilic was sportsmanlike and solid.
Michael Llodra/Nicolas Mahut won the doubles title over Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau
As predicted, Kei Nishikori repeated as champion in Memphis, defeating Ivo Karlovic 6-4 7-6 in a final in which he had the upper hand throughout. Nishikori-san broke early in the first and held, and then held with ease until the second set tiebreak.
Nishikori beat Benjamin Becker in straights, Alex Bogomolov in 3 sets (coming back from a set and a break down in that one), and surprise semifinalist Michael Russell also in straights to make the final.
Karlovic, my dark horse pick for Memphis, found his way to the final, as he served well against Matt Ebden and Feliciano Lopez, taking care of them in straight sets before beating Jack Sock in 3 sets and Rendy Lu 6-1 with a retirement in the semis.
Eric Butorac/Raven Klaasen continued their career year in doubles as a team, beating the Bryan Brothers for the doubles crown.
ATP Buenos Aires
David Ferrer won his third overall and third straight Buenos Aires title, ending the 10 match clay court win streak of Fabio Fognini, 6-4 6-3. Fognini faded midway through the second set and simply appeared to be running on empty, like Cilic, as he was playing in his second final in as many weeks and had Davis Cup duty before that.
Ferrer beat Maximo Gonzalez, Santiago Giraldo, Albert Ramos and Nicolas Almagro all without dropping a set, as he made quick work of things this week. Fognini beat Julian Reister in straights, Leo Mayer in 3 sets, Pablo Andujar in straights and Tommy Robredo in 3 to reach the final, having much greater difficulty, but prevailing regardless.
Marcel Granollers/Marc Lopez are the doubles champs. They beat Pablo Cuevas/Horacio Zeballos.
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.
Predictions 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.
Raonic Shuts Off the Lights in San Jose, Nadal Returns to Glory in São Paulo and Del Potro is King in Rotterdam
ATP San Jose
Milos Raonic came into the SAP Open not having lost a set, much less a match in San Jose, and he kept that streak alive throughout the final edition of the tournament, shutting out the lights with a win over Tommy Haas 6-4 6-3.
Raonic was dominant with his serve, but also brutal and precise with his groundstrokes all week, notching wins over Michael Russell, Denis Istomin and Sam Querrey, who he plainly dismantled. Not only did he serve well, but he also broke serve quite well.
As for Haas, after an iffy start to his season, he got back to playing the kind of quality tennis we saw from his last year, navigating past Jesse Levine, Steve Johnson and John Isner without dropping a set before running into the brick wall that is Raonic in San Jose.
I’m sure Milos will join American and California tennis fans in lamenting the demise of this event, as will Xaiver Malisse and Frank Moser, who took the last doubles title over Lleyton Hewitt and Marinko Matosevic.
ATP São Paulo
Rafa Nadal won his 51st title against a fellow traveler on the comeback trail, David Nalbandian in a clean and confident straight sets 6-2 6-3. The final was much easier for Rafa than some of his other matches, including 3 set wins over Carlos Berlocq in the quarters and Martin Alund in the semis, where at times he was clearly struggling. He still isn’t at 100% but given the opponents he was playing, he relied on mental edge and his tenacity to prevail. He also beat Joao Souza in his opening match.
Nalbandian was equally compelling, having not played a tour match in 6 months yet beating Jorge Aguilar in 3, Guido Pella, Nicolas Almagro in 3 and Simone Bolelli in the semis to reach the final. He showed he still has something left in the tank in what is his 13th year on tour and time will tell if he continues this level of play in the coming weeks and months.
Also some extra credit to Alund, who hadn’t won an ATP main draw match before this tournament, yet raced out to the semis, and will be top 100 with a career high ranking at the age of 27. He’s a truly determined grinder in the game. The Golden Swing has featured a strong showing from Argentines, and not the usual suspects either.
Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares took the doubles title over Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak.
Juan Martin Del Potro did one better than last year, capping off the title in Rotterdam 7-6 6-3 over surprise finalist Julien Benneteau. Del Potro imposed himself on his opponents all week and didn’t drop a single set against his other opponents Gael Monfils, Ernests Gulbis, Jarkko Nieminen and Grigor Dimitrov (who did well for himself to make the semis).
Benneteau, meanwhile, was equally dominant until the final, beating Tobias Kamke and Victor Hanescu in the early rounds, before beating Roger Federer in a huge upset again in the quarters. He then followed that up with a victory over Gilles Simon. Unfortunately, another final defeat drops him to 0-8 in ATP finals as he continues to have the moniker of “close but no cigar”.
In the doubles, Robert Lindstedt and Nenad Zimonjic beat Thiemo De Bakker and Jesse Huta Galung.
2013 ATP Rotterdam, San Jose and São Paulo Previews Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
Two indoor hard court events and an indoor clay court event are the ATP offerings this week. Rotterdam has the strong field of a 500 series event, San Jose will play its final edition before shuttering its doors, and the Brasil Open will be held for the second time in a row in vibrant São Paulo.
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament
ATP World Tour 500
February 11-February 17, 2013
Prize Money: € 1,267,875
Top 8 seeds
1: Roger Federer
2: Juan Martin Del Potro
3: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
4: Richard Gasquet
5: Gilles Simon
6: Andreas Seppi
7: Jerzy Janowicz
8: Florian Mayer
First round matchups to watch:
Bernard Tomic vs. Grigor Dimitrov
Both guys are regarded as the future of ATP tour. Both have also been good but inconsistent recently with Tomic having not played since AO and Dimitrov coming off a 1st round loss in Zagreb. They are 4 spots apart in the rankings and Dimitrov is a year older. Should be a fun, even match indoors.
2-time champion and defending champion Roger Federer is back in action and opens against Grega Zemlja, then will face the winner of Zagreb semifinalist Mikhail Youzhny vs. wild card Thiemo De Bakker. In the quarters, Fed could get Jerzy Janowicz, who opens with Victor Hanescu, followed by the winner of Julien Benneteau vs. Montpellier semifinalist Michael Llodra. It is not a super easy draw but it is one Federer should be able to handle.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga opens with wildcard Igor Sijsling and then the winner of Martin Klizan vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu. In the quarters he should get Gilles Simon, who opens with a qualifier, and then a qualifier or Marcel Granollers. This is another very good draw for J-WT.
Defending finalist Juan Martin Del Potro will open with a possibly tricky match against Gael Monfils, before squaring off against a qualifier or Zagreb semifinalist Robin Haase in the second round. In the quarters he is slated to meet Andreas Seppi (who opens with a qualifier). Montpellier semifinalist Jarkko Nieminen, who has drawn David Goffin, is also an option.
Richard Gasquet, still in the hunt for the Montpellier final, and playing great at the moment, opens with Viktor Troicki. He might see his opponent in the Montpellier final, Benoit Paire, yet again in the 2nd round. That’s if Paire can beat Marcos Baghdatis.
Florian Mayer opens with Nikolay Davydenko, who should have an edge in that one, and then play the winner of Dimitrov/Tomic.
Dark Horse: Bernard Tomic
While Tomic might be a bit rusty, he was also gifted with a good draw assuming he can beat Dimitrov. Davydenko was not that impressive in Montpellier and Gasquet or Paire may well be tired after reaching the final there. He has a reasonable chance at the semis, though he won’t be the favorite in that section.
Federer d. Tsonga
Del Potro d. Gasquet
Federer should cruise past Janowicz and deal with Tsonga, while Del Potro hasn’t been great but doesn’t have a very hard draw. Gasquet will probably be tired at that point, but it should still be a close match though and I could see Gasquet winning.
Federer d. Del Potro
In a rematch of last year’s final, expect the same result. The Swiss Maestro should claim his 3rd in Rotterdam.
ATP San Jose
ATP World Tour 250
San Jose, California
February 11- February 17, 2013
Prize Money: $ 546,930
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: Milos Raonic
2: John Isner
3: Sam Querrey
4: Tommy Haas
1st round matchups to watch:
Benjamin Becker vs. Ryan Harrison
This match is notable. Why? Because Becker is your average aging mid level grinder who occasionally has a good run. Meanwhile, Harrison is still a talented young player but his career seems to have struck a bit of a rut as he remains outside the top 50 and really didn’t have very many great results last year. That being said, San Jose was his best result last year in reaching the semis, and if Harrison is going to get up in the rankings these are the kind of matches he needs to win.
Harrison has not played a match since Australia, meaning that there might be some rust in his game, while Becker comes off a 1st round loss in Zagreb. This one could go either way, though Harrison will have fan support and beat Becker twice last year.
Blaz Kavcic vs. Lleyton Hewitt
Zagreb quarterfinalist Blaz Kavcic is playing very well right now and will be one to watch as he takes on Hewitt. The Aussie is at an uncertain level at the moment, having not played that many matches in the first month of the year. This match could also go either way depending on Kavcic’s fatigue level and Hewitt’s activity level. Kavcic has a 2-0 H2H record against Hewitt.
(WC) Jack Sock vs. (7) Marinko Matosevic
Sock is another young American player who has been a real rollercoaster recently. He comes into San Jose having not played a match since AO qualies, and may well be ice cold to take on Matosevic, another Aussie at an unsure level. If Sock is going to improve his ranking, these are the kind of matchups he needs to win, but I don’t think you can expect him to win this one.
Ivo Karlovic vs. (WC) Steve Johnson
Karlovic is of course known for his fantastic serve and not much else, as he knocked off Grigor Dimitrov in Zagreb but then fell in the next round. As for Johnson, he fell in the opening round of the Dallas challenger and is playing questionably at the moment. This is another pick ’em matchup, almost certain to end with two or three tiebreaks and a whole lot of holding serve.
Milos Raonic is coming off Davis Cup dominance and has won this event twice in a row. He’ll open with Michael Russell or a qualifier, then likely faces 6 seed Denis Istomin (if Istomin can beat a qualifier) and the Becker/Harrison winner. Assuming Raonic is in good health, he should cruise to the semis.
Sam Querrey, also coming off a confident and successful Davis Cup showing, opens with the Hewitt/Kavcic winner. That could be a possible trip up on a bad day, but otherwise should also be in route for the semis. His quarterfinal opponent would be the Matosevic/Sock winner, Flavio Cipolla or Alejandro Falla. This is another pretty weak quarter of middling players.
John Isner will hopefully be fully rested and have his game together to take on the winner of Vasek Pospisil vs. Evgeny Donskoy in an intriguing first rounder. He would get either 8 seed Xavier Malisse or Go Soeda in the quarters, with a qualifier or the struggling Matt Ebden also options.
Tommy Haas is in his first match back from a opening round loss in Australia. Haas will start with Jesse Levine or Bradley Klahn, before a likely difficult quarterfinal matchup with Fernando Verdasco. Former finalist Verdasco opens with a qualifier followed by the Karlovic/Johnson winner. This is easily the most competitive quarter of the four.
Dark Horse: Evgeny Donskoy
This tournament is top heavy and not the most fertile spot for dark horses, but Donskoy fits the bill. If he can slide past Pospisil and Isner is still in a funk, he grabs the upset, which would really open things up and make a semifinal run feasible. The 22-year-old Russian is talented and capable, along with being at a career high ranking of 68 but it is still unlikely. Furthermore, possible quarterfinal opponent Soeda beat him in straights recently in Chennai.
Raonic d. Querrey
Verdasco d. Isner
Raonic and Querrey could really slug it out indoors in a match in which Raonic will have a slight edge. Verdasco ought to be good enough to get past a struggling Isner, who has not been at his best at all this year.
Raonic d. Verdasco
This would be a rematch of the 2011 final, in the tournaments final edition. You have to expect the result to be the same, with Raonic capping off 3 straight with another beast mode showing indoors.
ATP Sao Paulo
ATP World Tour 250
São Paulo, Brazil
February 11-February 17, 2013
Prize Money: $ 455,775
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: Rafael Nadal
2: Nicolas Almagro
3: Juan Monaco
4: Jeremy Chardy
1st round matchups to watch:
Andrey Kuznetsov vs. Carlos Berlocq
If you’ve paid attention this week, this match is a rematch of their 1st round encounter just a few days ago in Vina Del Mar, won by Berlocq easily in straight sets. Nothing has changed, except Berlocq is still in the running for the Vina title and may be a bit tired by the time he reaches this match.
(7) Pablo Andujar vs. Santiago Giraldo
Andujar hasn’t won a match this year, including an opening match loss in Vina Del Mar and is on a precarious footing as he takes on the steady eddy Giraldo. He should have just enough to hand the seeded Andujar another loss.
It is a draw eerily identical to Vina Del Mar. Rafael Nadal, who has been comfortable and confident as he seeks the title in Vina, will open with a qualifier or Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo. He could then face the “warlocq”, Berlocq again if they meet in the Vina final. Rafa could also face Vina quarterfinalist Albert Ramos, Guillermo-Garcia Lopez or Kuznetsov.
Nadal’s Vina semifinal opponent Jeremy Chardy opens with Leo Mayer or wild card Ricardo Mello and then 5 seed Thomaz Bellucci in the quarters (if Bellucci beats a qualifier and the winner of Filippo Volandri/Daniel Gimeno-Traver). Gimeno-Traver is coming off the quarterfinals in Vina.
Nicolas Almagro will return to action after a bit of a layoff, as he faces either a qualifier or current Vina semifinalist Horacio Zeballos. Looking ahead to the quarters, he could get 6 seed Fabio Fognini (coming off a confident Davis Cup showing), Guido Pella, David Nalbandian (who happens to be playing doubles with Nadal), or a qualifier.
Juan Monaco lost his opening round match in Vina Del Mar and will be looking to pick things back up against either Tommy Robredo or Simone Bolelli. The winner of that match could get the Giraldo/Andujar winner, Albert Montanes or Vina quarterfinalist Paolo Lorenzi.
Dark Horse: Fabio Fognini
Fognini should be both rested and confident compared to other players in his section. His first two rounds against Pella and Nalbandian/Qualifer should be somewhat easy and likely quarterfinal opponent Almagro may be a bit rusty having not played since Australia. Zeballos, another possibility, could be fatigued after a strong showing in Vina.
He has a good shot at at least the semis, where likely opponent Monaco has been inconsistent, as have most of the players in that section.
Nadal d. Bellucci
Fognini d. Monaco
Nadal should not have any trouble with Bellucci, who is solid enough on clay and well rested enough to beat Chardy. Fognini should be in good enough form to beat Monaco for the first time.
Nadal d. Fognini
Nadal has looked just fine in his comeback and you really can’t expect anything short of a title against a field like this. He should be undefeated at this point in his comeback.