Reilly Opelka Beats Qualifier Jared Hiltzik To Advance To Quarterfinals At Las Vegas Tennis Open ATP Tour Challenger $50,000 Men’s Tournament
LAS VEGAS (Oct. 19, 2017) – Six-foot, 11-inch Reilly Opelka took advantage of what he described as perfect court conditions to advance to the quarterfinals of the Las Vegas Tennis Open as the No. 8-seeded Floridian beat qualifier Jared Hiltzik, 7-6 (5), 6-4, at the ATP Challenger Tour $50,000 Men’s tournament taking place at the Fertitta Tennis Complex on the campus of UNLV.
“There is altitude and the courts are playing pretty fast,” said the 20-year-old Opelka. “They are using a Penn ball which tends to be a little more livelier than Wilson. The ball is jumping and it’s a condition that definitely promotes big serves here. It’s easy for everyone to hold.”
Opelka will next meet Britain’s Liam Broady, who scored a solid win over No. 2-seeded and fellow countryman Cameron Norrie by the same exact score at Opelka, 7-6 (5), 6-4, on Friday as the final eight spots have been determined in singles.
Opelka described Broady as a “scrappy lefty” who hits a lot of slice balls “and tries to make you play an extra ball.”
Down 5-4 with Hiltzik serving in the first-set tiebreaker, Opelka hit a nice backhand crosscourt winner to even things up and then served out the first set with an ace.
Opelka spent the summer playing regular ATP-level tournaments, but said “coming back down to the Challenger level” was just what he needed.
“I lost a ton of matches this summer, maybe five of them, 7-6 in a third set and I think four of them I had match points,” he said. “What could have been a great summer ended up being brutal for me. I haven’t had too any main-draw wins consecutively for a while. This is perfect and just where I need to be right now.”
Opelka is rooming this week with fellow ATP “Next Gen” player and quarterfinalist Stefan Kozlov and the pair are staying in a house 20 minutes away from the Strip and UNLV in Henderson.
“Last night was the first night we got out and had dinner on the Strip,” Opelka said, adding that fellow American Michael Mmoh has also joined them for some basketball watching and playing during the week.
Defending champion Sam Groth of Australia was forced to retire down 2-1 in the first set against qualifier Jan Choinski of Germany because of a hip flexor. Top-seeded Tennys Sandgren continued his strong play, beating Lucas Miedler of Austria, 7-5, 6-4.
RESULTS – OCTOBER 19, 2017 Men’s
Singles – Second Round
 T. Sandgren (USA) def. L. Miedler (AUT) 7-5, 6-4
L. Broady (GBR) def.  C. Norrie (GBR) 7-6(5), 6-4
[Q] J. Choinski (GER) def.  S. Groth (AUS) 2-1 Retired
 R. Opelka (USA) def. [Q] J. Hiltzik (USA) 7-6(5), 6-4
Doubles – Quarterfinals
 B. Klein (GBR) / J. Salisbury (GBR) def. B. Kozlov (USA) / S. Kozlov (USA) 7-6(0), 4-6, 10-3
K. King (USA) / R. Roelofse (RSA) def. [WC] B. Lock (ZIM) / C. Lock (ZIM) 6-3, 7-5
ORDER OF PLAY – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2017 COURT 1 start 11:00 am
 S. Kozlov (USA) vs K. King (USA)
[PR] B. Klahn (USA) vs E. King (USA)
 H. Hach Verdugo (MEX) / D. Novikov (USA) vs  J. Chaplin (AUS) / M. Libietis (LAT)
COURT 7 start 11:00 am
 T. Sandgren (USA) vs [Q] J. Choinski (GER)
 R. Opelka (USA) vs L. Broady (GBR)
Rain Doesn’t Slow Down Mannarino at Tennis Hall of Fame Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Adrian Mannarino Wins on Bastille Day!
NEWPORT, R.I.–Rain hit the Tennis Hall of Fame Championships for the first time in 2016 today, but it didn’t slow down Adrian Mannarino. The Frenchman won the first set tiebreak just before play was suspended. After a delay of nearly three hours, he came out and closed it out against Sam Groth, 7-6(6), 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals on Bastille Day.
The rain delay was the hardest part of the match for Mannarino.
“Today, we didn’t know if it was going to be a little break like 15-20 minutes or a long one”, he said. “Just trying not to change your mind too much. You have to eat a little bit, but not too much if you don’t want to get a little bit tired. This is really tough, actually. So you just try to stay focused. You could get a little bit disconcentrated”.
No time for ‘disconcentration’ now: he faces Gilles Muller for a trip to the semifinals tomorrow.
Murray Brothers Give Team GB a 2-1 Lead in Davis Cup Action vs. Australia Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
With the tie between Great Britain and Australia poised at 1-1, many thought that doubles could be the deciding factor. Originally it was scheduled to be Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt vs Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot. But as expected Andy Murray was drafted in to partner his brother again the Aussies.
The Brits were the team to earn the first break point opportunities on the Hewitt serve, but they were well saved the Australian pair. Instead it would be Jamie’s serve that would be broken, as a Groth inspired Australia dealt the first blow.
The crowd rallied behind the Brits to get a break back, but they were fast running out of chances with Groth serving for the set. After a controversial call to award the point to after hawk eye ruled a Groth serve in, GB found themselves with two break back points. But a few big serves later, including a 141MPH unreturnable, Australia took the first set 6-4.
The second set was tight in the opening stages with neither team offering up an early break point. However, GB would find themselves with an opportunity in the sixth game of the set, and it would be taken as the big serve of Groth was finally broken. It would be left to Andy to serve out the set, and so he did as his brother Jamie buried an easy volley to level the score.
The Aussies would bounced back early in the second with an early break to establish a 2-0 lead. A Groth backhand was too much to handle for Andy after an excellent return by Hewitt set up the break point opportunity. The lead was whipped out though as Australia were made to rue some mistakes in the seventh game. It was back on serve at 4-3.
Soon the pressure was on the Aussie’s as GB earned break point at 4-4, but Andy missed a backhand and the chance went begging. After a missed volley from Hewitt, the Murray’s would receive a second chance at a break, and this time they would not be denied. Jamie put away the smash and all of a sudden the tide had turned in favour of Great Britain. Andy would successfully serve out the set to give Great Britain a 2-1 lead.
In the fourth, Australia would once again strike early. Jamie was broken after a half volley hit the net. The lead wouldn’t last long however as Britain were able to break back straight away. Australia would earn two opportunities to re-take the lead in the fourth set, getting to 15-40 on the Jamie serve. But both break points were saved and Great Britain held under the pressure. The older brother would continue to struggle on serve at 4-5 and the Aussies would soon find themselves with three set points to level the match. They were all saved by Great Britain who levelled the score at 5-5 taking us to the deep waters.
Instead it would be Great Britain who would make the crucial breakthrough at 5-5 to put themselves within one service game of taking a 2-1 lead in the tie. However, Hewitt’s fighting spirit came to the fore and Australia kept their hopes alive by breaking back from 30-0 down to take us to a tiebreak. It was a tense and nervy tiebreak that saw Great Britain lead 5-4 on serve, but it was Australia that would take the set after saving match point after a missed volley by the Murray’s.
The Brits opened the final set with a hold, and after a poor game from Groth which saw him miss three volleys and double fault, the brothers Murray were back ahead. It wasn’t over yet though as the Groth/Hewitt combination broke back to 15. Australia were put back under pressure immediately and faced more break points with Groth screaming ‘I can’t hold’. But the 27 year old did manage to hang on to his serve and we were even again at 3-3.
The Murray’s managed to get to 5-4 to put some scoreboard pressure on the already tight Groth serve, and it proved to be all too much for the Aussie’s who lost serve to lose the match in five sets.
Great Britain pulled through in three hours and 56 minutes to defeat Australia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 and give themselves a vital 2-1 lead heading into the final.
The younger of the Murray brothers will now turns his attentions to the fourth singles rubber, or will he?
“I think I’ll let Dom play the singles tomorrow… see how it goes,” The world number three joked.
“The longer the match, the less time to recover and the harder to recover. Physically it’s tough but also emotionally matches like that are draining as well.
“I don’t think enough is made of that, they are very tough matches to play, lots of ups and downs, and chances for both teams, but try and recover as best as I can.”
Hewitt spoke of the up’s and downs of doubles tennis.
“You know all Davis Cup doubles are a lot of ebbs and flows in a five set match, especially on that kind of surface,” said the former world number one.
“It’s on the slower side court, so there’s gonna be ups and downs, there’s gonna be breaks of serves. You know we obviously fought off some break points early in the first set, was able to get that set.
“Second set, we couldn’t quite get into their service games as much then obviously had an early break in the third. Got a little bit unlucky actually to give the break back, where they hit some net cords and then you know obviously we just kept fighting and digging deep when they served for the match in the fourth, really close tiebreak.
“In the fifth again we were down a break, came back and then obviously got broken again. So especially Davis Cup doubles over five sets, it sometimes can only rely on one or two points.”
Tennis Atlantic is live in Glasgow, Scotland for the Davis Cup semi-final between Great Britain and Australia over the weekend of the 18th-20th of September. The Brits are searching for their first Davis Cup success for nearly 80 years when they take on the Aussies at the Emirates Arena this weekend. Confidence is high around the UK that this could be the year Team GB breaks into the final, and with recent victories over France and USA there is little reason to doubt them.
Leon Smith’s team is spearheaded by world number three Andy Murray, whose heroics at Queens in July earned GB a 3-1 victory over France. The Scot played all three days despite physical struggles, and earned key victories over Jo Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon in the single rubbers.
Lleyton Hewitt claimed that all the pressure will be on Andy this weekend as the clear number one British player, but Murray insists that it is not all on him and it will come down to the entire team. “I would say [The Pressure] is all on me.” The 28 year old said. “We got into this position by everyone on the team playing their part, and there is pressure on everybody.
Murray will be joined by his brother Jamie Murray, Dominic Inglot, and Dan Evans, as they try replicate the success that dates back to the days of Fred Perry. Both Kyle Edmund, who had an ankle injury concern earlier in the week, and James Ward are alternates for Team GB but were not included in the formal nominations. “I went for a scan last night” The British number three Edmund said. “And when it came back it showed nothing, just a little bit of a bump, that’s it.” Despite the results, Smith went for a player nobody expected to be drafted in. Dan Evans was chosen over Ward and Edmund as the second singles player.
“It wasn’t an easy one but having thought about it a lot, the fact that Dan has played an awful lot of tennis this summer, won a lot of matches, I said the other day it’s obvious at Futures level that winning really helps, and he comes with a lot of confidence.” The GB captain said. “Obviously Kyle, although he’s almost fit, he still had a fall the other day and I think at this stage it was wasn’t worth risking anything happening over the weekend especially when you go in with the make-up of two singles players and two doubles players, if anything had happened with Kyle Friday we would have been up against it. “For James, the tie came maybe the wrong time for him after a summer that’s been quite tough results wise, but he’s played a big, big part in the team to date and I’m sure he’ll play a big part in the future as well, but I felt that Dan was in the best place to win for the weekend.”
Australia are bidding for their first title in 12 years, and one man remains from that victories team back in 2003. Hewitt is making his final appearance in the Davis Cup this year, and boy he would love to go out on a bang. The former two time grand slam champion is joined by Bernard Tomic, Sam Groth and Thanasi Kokkanakis as they look to combine youth and experience to take down the Brits. “Yeah it obviously means a lot [to play his last Davis Cup]” Hewitt said. “It is my last year playing, and it is a great opportunity. “With my experience and the other boys’ youth, I think we have really mixed it up well this year” “I think as a team we have gotten stronger as the year has gone on, which is a really good sign. We are here to put our best foot forward and we won’t be leaving anything in the locker room that’s for sure.”
The noticeable omission is their number two player, Nick Kyrgios. The 20 year old ‘bad boy’ of tennis recently was surrounded in controversy after comments made about Stan Wawrinka’s girlfriend. The Aussie is serving a one month suspension from the ATP, but he still eligible to play Davis Cup, so he was just left out of the squad. “After Nick played Andy at the US Open we sat down two days later. Nick has had a really full year in more ways than one, so we just kind of felt mutually that this was the best fit for him and the team.” Said Aussie captain, Wally Masur.
The draw to see who will play who was made on Thursday, and here is how it came out.
The British number one, Murray, will face Aussie youngster, Kokkanakis in the first rubber tomorrow afternoon. The pair know each other well due to practicing a lot together and playing doubles in Miami. However this is their first competitive meeting. “Yeah it will be a tough match obviously.” Murray said of the Kokkanakis challenge “I practiced with him a lot and have spent a lot of time watching him as well, and speaking to him. So I know for one of the younger guys, I know his game better than most. “You know we have practiced together at the French Open and the US Open, we obviously played doubles together as well in Miami, so I know his game well and obviously it will be a tough match. But at the same time it’s a tough match-up for him as well, you know the atmosphere is going to be challenging for them as well, and that’s something that will hopefully give us a big boost.
The Aussie meanwhile is relishing the opportunity to play one of the world’s best players on this big of a stage. “Yeah should be a great challenge up ahead, great player and to play him in his home ground in Glasgow will be a huge opportunity for me. I like the courts here, boys have been training really well, and it’s going to be a huge honour to play. Thank you guys for picking me again, and to play first up, I’ll be ready to go.” Kokkanakis said.
The only time these two met was two years ago at the US Open when Evans shocked Tomic with a four sets win. The Australian number one will now look to avenge that loss in the second rubber tomorrow evening. “Honestly? I was up 6-1 3-0 and couldn’t make a ball after that, and that’s all I remember.” Tomic said in recollection of that match in New York. “It was a very windy day, it was tough, he was very confident at the moment and he beat Nishikori prior to me. So he was playing well, I had a chance, I was comfortable I was cruising, obviously he started playing more free, and he beat me so it’s not an easy match, it’s very tough for me.”
“My game matches up pretty well to him, and that’s what I’ve got to try and do on Friday, play that way again.” Evans said. “Everyone, they do remember when you’ve played someone before, like I remember when I’ve lost to someone before – that’s always in someone’s head as well.” “I think coming back to Scotland is nice, I mean the atmosphere last time when I watched it on television sounded very good but it was obviously better in the stadium so yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”
You can catch all the Davis Cup action on Tennis Atlantic.
2015 ATP Winston-Salem Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Winston-Salem, the final stop for the ATP tour on the 2015 Emirates Airlines US Open Series is also the final 2015 US Open tune up for the men’s players opting to participate this week and get in matches just before the final slam of the year, the US Open. Here is a preview of ATP tennis, Carolina style.
ATP World Tour 250
August 23-August 30, 2015
Prize Money: $616,210
Top 8 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Gilles Simon (11)
2: Kevin Anderson (15)
3: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (19)
4: Viktor Troicki (20)
5: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (29)
6: Thomaz Bellucci (33)
7: Sam Querrey (34)
8: Borna Coric (38)
Four top 20 players in the field this week, as Winston-Salem has a relatively strong field for a 250.
The big serving Groth has missed two weeks this summer, after reaching the quarterfinals in Washington, and thus his form should be in question. Donaldson,a rising American, has yet to suffer a first round defeat this summer, and the teenager has a chance to continue that streak in this one. Dealing with Groth’s serve is always a challenge, but Donaldson competes well and tends to play clutch tennis, that should suit him in match that is likely to feature tiebreaks, and I have JD pulling off an upset and reaching round 2 with a win over the Australian.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis
Dolgopolov had another random hot streak of run that showcased his inconsistent talent as he reached the semifinals in Cincinnati, his best result this season. After pushing Novak Djokovic to three sets in that semifinal, he should be full of confidence, and he also helped boost his ranking back up. That said, the human highlight reel is likely fatigue after a long week in Ohio, and may not transition well here. Kokkinakis continues to improve his standing on tour and qualified for Cincy, reaching round 2. This should be a showcase first round match, and I have Kokkinakis getting through because I see Dolgopolov as being fatigued.
Lukas Rosol vs. Ernests Gulbis
Gulbis just beat Rosol in three sets in Montreal, and now the defending champion of Winston-Salem will have to try to get past him, as he seeks to defend his ranking points. Gulbis had his best result of the season in Montreal, reaching the quarterfinals, but he struggled in the Vancouver challenger, and he’s been horrid overall this year. With a strange travel schedule, I’m not sure he’ll acclimate well to the matches here, and I see Rosol getting revenge and snapping a two match losing streak to reach round 2. This match should feature a lot of ball bashing as both of these guys are power baseliners.
Gilles Simon, who is a pedestrian 1-2 this summer, will start his Winston-Salem campaign against either a qualifier or Aljaz Bedene, who hasn’t played a hard court match since the spring. Bedene was in good for, this summer, but the qualifier will likely have an edge given the surface, and Simon should be able to get a win and push himself into the round of 16. There, he could face trouble, as Marcos Baghdatis, a finalist in Atlanta, is his likely opponent. Baghdatis will need to beat Sergiy Stakhovsky or a qualifier to get that far. Stako is in poor form, and presuming he’s healthy, I’d give a fit and aggressive Baghdatis an edge over his round 2 opponent. Baghdatis is 2-0 on outdoor hard against Simon, and if healthy, I see him scoring an upset over the out of form Frenchman, in what could be a great week for the ball striking veteran. Baghdatis should reach the quarters from the first section.
Sam Querrey will face either Simone Bolelli or Federico Delbonis first up, Bolelli is 10-9 on a hard court this year but hasn’t played much recently, Delbonis is a dirtballer, so the Italian should win that one, but Querrey is likely to win against Bolelli. The American comes off an upset win over John Isner in Cincy, and his form appears improved, home soil should suit him well. In the third round look for Querrey against Tommy Haas or Joao Sousa. Haas is just 1-3 on US soil this season, but he’s still a veteran talent and should defeat dirtballer Pablo Carreno Busta. Sousa upset Philipp Kohlschreiber in Cincy to improve his hard court record to 4-7 outdoors this season, and that should be good enough for the Portugese #1 to earn a win and face Querrey in the third round, presuming his opponent is a rusty Haas. Given Querrey is normally a superior hard court player, I’d give him the edge over Sousa to reach the quarters.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will collide against either Donald Young or Denis Istomin in his first match. Young hasn’t had a good season but he qualified in Montreal and Istomin has a poor outdoor hard court record this year, thus I have him winning in round 1 but losing to the superior Tsonga in round 2. The Montreal quarterfinalist could get a difficult third round match against American Steve Johnson, presuming Johnson dispatches the Groth/Donaldson winner in round 2. Groth and Donaldson are also possible dark horses. Johnson reached the semis in Washington but has struggled since then, and Tsonga has the most talent here, so he should be able to put some wins together and reach the quarters.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is returning from injury and playing for the first time on hard courts this summer. The Spaniard is 6-6 outdoors this year on hard courts but he still may struggle against either Rendy Lu or Robin Haase. Lu qualified for Montreal and Cincy, and given he’s at his best on this surface and his form appears good for his limited skillset, he could well have a great tournament this week. I see Taiwan’s #1 scoring a win over Haase and an upset over an out of form GGL to reach the third round, where he should face the in-form Benoit Paire. The talented but underachieving Paire won an ATP title on clay not long ago and qualified in Cincy, he’s playing some of his best tennis in years. Presuming he’s dialed in, the Frenchman should have limited difficulties against either James Ward, or more likely young gun Hyeon Chung in round 2, and then I see him getting past Lu with his talented backhand and shotmaking to reach a hard court ATP quarterfinal. Paire is all flair, and Lu is all business in a style contrast.
Presuming he’s healthy, Kevin Anderson has a venue and conditions that could create a great week for him, but he’ll have to find his form before the US Open to do that. Big Kev snapped a summer losing streak and won a pair of matches in Cincy, that bodes well for him, and I see him getting a win over Mikhail Kukushkin/Nicolas Mahut in his first match. In the third round he could well have to battle against Rosol/Gulbis, though Jerzy Janowicz is also an option. Janowicz also won a pair of matches in Cincy, and I see him winning a ball bashers battle if he can focus in against Gulbis/Rosol, though it’s a hard section to predict. Anderson with his big serve and strong forehand is the best player in this section for the surface, and thus I see him reaching the quarters, but another player could take his place, as his form has been inconsistent this summer. This section features some big hitters.
Borna Coric has played solid tennis this summer on the US Open Series, though he’s had some tough draws, as he dropped closed matches to Tsonga and Stan Wawrinka in Montreal and Cincy. With that in mind, the young Croatian should defeat either Santiago Giraldo or Steve Darcis in round 2, given how pedestrian both of those veterans have been as of late. He’ll also be a strong favorite in round 3, as one of Pablo Andujar/Diego Schwartzman/Daniel Gimeno-Traver will reach the third round in one of the weakest hard court sections possible at the ATP level. All of those players prefer clay, and Coric has a great opportunity to excel on hard courts right before the US Open, reaching at least the quarterfinals (over Andujar in my bracket).
Viktor Troicki doesn’t have a difficult first match against Malek Jaziri/Joao Souza, but the Serbian #2 is in horrible form and is playing well below his top 20 ranking at the moment. I see Jaziri, who reached the quarterfinals in a pro circuit challenger last week, getting revenge on the dirtballer Souza for his loss in Doha earlier in the season, and then extending Troicki’s losing streak to six matches. With Troicki not much of a threat, and Jaziri a journeyman, the section opens up for Thanasi Kokkinakis most likely. Teymuraz Gabashvili is slated to face the winner of Kokkinakis/Dolgopolov, but besides the fact he beat Andy Murray in Washington, the underachieving Russian has a poor record on ATP level hard courts this year. The young gun Kokkinakis should join his fellow young gun Coric in the quarterfinals this week.
Thomaz Bellucci will face off with either James Duckworth or a qualifier in his first match. Both Bellucci and Duckworth are 2-3 this summer on hard courts, though Bellucci has had tougher draws. The big hitting Brazilian should win his first match before a likely face off with Jiri Vesely, who won an ATP title on hard courts at the start of the season in Auckland. Vesely is 8-6 on outdoor hard this year and has to beat Marsel Ilhan or a qualifier first, Bellucci just beat Vesely last week in Cincy, and thus he should reach the quarterfinals with a weak draw.
I have Thanasi Kokkinakis as a semifinalist, but Baghdatis has a chance to walk away with the title this week as a veteran, though he’ll need to beat Simon, Sam Querrey, and possibly Tsonga/Anderson to do so. Marcos showed renewed vigor, stamina, and passion in his run to the Atlanta final, a similar surface and venue, and he showed his aggressive ball striking was well-suited for hot conditions. An abductor injury is a concern, but if he’s healthy don’t count Baghdatis out to have another remarkable week on the US Open Series.
Quarters Querrey d. Baghdatis
Tsonga d. Paire
Kokkinakis d. Bellucci
Anderson d. Coric
Querrey on home soil should have an edge over Baghdatis, who may not be 100%, though I don’t count Marcos out to even win the title. Tsonga is 2-0 against Paire and better on a hard court, Anderson should also have a surface edge in his match, as Coric may struggle with his big serve, and Kokkinakis is also likely superior on hard court to Bellucci in a difficult match to predict.
Semis Tsonga d. Querrey
Anderson d. Kokkinakis
Tsonga has a win over the mentally weak Querrey this year,and Anderson has a h2h win over Kokkinakis from Toronto last year, They are the best two players in terms of talent and form in this draw for the surface, and thus should meet in the final.
A great chance for either player to get an ATP title this week, they have only met once on clay and Tsonga prevailed, but on hard court I feel the advantage shifts to Anderson, who is hoping to walk away with at least one title on the US Open Series this summer.
One of the strangest matches of the 2015 ATP World Tour took place today in Atlanta, as a cramping Vasek Pospisil pulled off a minor miracle to beat Yen-Hsun (Rendy) Lu 6-4 6-7(3) 6-4. Pospisil was suffering greatly in the brutal heat after the first set. In that first set he held his serve with ease, and broke Lu once for 4-3, going on to serve the set out 6-4 without facing a break point thanks to his booming serve and quality forehand.
In the second Pospisil was broken and went down 4-1 and 5-2, but Lu, who was steady from the baseline but too passive in rallies, had trouble closing the set out. Lu was broken for 5-4, and then Pospisil saved a set point to get it to 5-5. At this point signs of cramping began to show in Pospisil, with the 90 plus degree temps wilting him. The second set went to a close tiebreak but Lu took four straight points from 3-3 to take it. At this point it looked as if Vasek may well retire with the match at one set each, as he was struggling to move and serve.
However, after taking a bathroom break and getting out of the sun, the Canadian #2 seed decided to trudge on, and what unfolded was a dangerous, but tenacious third set. Pospisil amazingly got through four holds of serve without facing a break point, as Lu was totally thrown off his rhythm. The veteran appeared bewildered as to what to do to force Pospisil to throw in the towel, perhaps assuming Vasek would simply beat himself or retire, Pospisil saved three break points even while he felt like lying down on the court in agony to go up 5-4, at one point falling down on his serve and laying on the ground, along with feeling his shoulder cramping.
Pospisil’s serving was incredible and Lu frankly played a terrible third set against an opponent who looked like his soul melting in the heat. Lu was broken in the next game, going down 0-40 and with that, Pospisil shockingly advanced to the quarterfinals with a limp, though it’ll take an incredible recovery for him to be able to perform well in the next round.
One has to question whether Pospisil was wise for continuing on in a medical sense, but his fight was a classic ATP world tour performance. Stats wise he popped 24 aces and faced just five break points while Lu has to be kicking himself for squandering a chance at another ATP quarterfinal.
Veteran Marcos Baghdatis also showed tremendous fight as he joins Pospisil in the quarters, the Cypriot played an excellent first set against serve and volleyer Sam Groth and took it 7-5, after failing to break Groth from 0-40 at 2-2. Groth was clearly the player in worse form in the first set but his massive serve kept him in it, and he actually had three break point chances of his own at 3-4, which he likewise failed to convert with a poor ground game. Baghdatis would break for 6-5 at 15, and then serve the set out, as he appeared to be well on his way to a win.
Groth flipped the script in set 2 however as Baghdatis level of play dropped a bit, Marcos got broken after saving two break points to go 3-1 down, and Groth held serve after saving a break point to go up 4-1. The final game for 6-3 Groth was a battle, but the Australian did force a third set and seemed to have the momentum.
Baghdatis appeared to coming off the tracks going into the third, he got broken at love and nearly was broken again serving 0-2, but suddenly he flipped the script and engineered a surprising comeback. Groth was broken at 15 in the next game, throwing his hat to the ground, and from there he totally came off the rails, winning just one more game as Baghdatis broke and held once more to capture the match in a hard fought three sets. It’s always high risk tennis with Groth, and when his serve failed him, he lacked the game to compete with Baghdatis. Presuming he can recover from the three setter Baghdatis has played solid tennis through two matches.
Two more quarterfinalists were determined in routine fashion, Gilles Muller dispatched an exhausted Jared Donaldson 6-3 6-2, as he’s played excellent tennis this week, returning especially well, and Go Soeda took advantage of Adrian Mannarino’s fatigue and won 6-2 6-4, as Mannarino played poorly in both singles and doubles this tournament.
Georgia Tech’s Chris Eubanks also proved to be of no threat to veteran Czech Radek Stepanek, though hopefully it was a good learning experience for the soon to be Sophomore. In the other round 1 match, Ricardas Berankis saved two break points in the first set, and didn’t face any break points in the second as he beat Tim Smyczek 6-4 6-4, breaking at the end of the second to seal the win.
The Bryan Brothers rolled past Groth/Guccione 6-2 6-1 in the night session, as Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick joined them as winners 7-6(2) 6-4 over Lu/Marray. Additionally Krajicek/Monroe beat Daniell/Demoliner 13-11 in the third set tiebreak, Baghdatis/Jaziri beat Becker/Lacko 7-6(3) 6-3 as Marcos won twice on the day, and Huey/Johnson crushed Martin/Raja 6-1 6-3.
Isner to Begin Title Defense Thursday, Joined by Three Other Americans in Singles Matches
John Isner will begin his quest for a third consecutive Atlanta title as he’ll serve it up under the lights at Atlantic Station against the well-traveled veteran serve and volleyer Radek Stepanek. Isner dropped his last two hard court meetings against Stepanek and is on a two match losing streak, so he’s far from a lock to win.
The fifth professional meeting between Jack Sock and Denis Kudla will take place earlier on in the day, Sock, like Isner is higher ranked, and he comes off the semis in Newport but Kudla won their last two hard court h2h meetings and he’s been in excellent form in the past month.
Steve Johnson, the fourth American who will play singles Thursday will face Ricardas Berankis for the first time, and Benjamin Becker (34) will take on Dudi Sela (30) hoping to avenge his loss to Sela last year in the Atlanta semis. Prior to that Becker won four meetings and presuming his back is healthy he’s likely a small favorite.
Marcos Baghdatis will return to court for the third consecutive day as he and Jaziri will play Fleming/Muller, and the Bryans will be back at it against Huey/Johnson, as Johnson will have to pull double duty on the day.
Americans Kudla, Johnson, and Donaldson Reach 2015 BB&T Atlanta Open Round 2 (Tuesday Recap) Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Kudla advances over Harrison
Tuesday at the 2015 BB&T Atlanta Open saw three American men book their spots into round 2, while four more in total were sent packing on a day in which all but one singles match featured at least one American player.
Denis Kudla narrowly survived Ryan Harrison 3-6 6-4 7-6(5), but all the same he continues his good form from Wimbledon and appeared happy to get the win coming from behind. Harrison got off to a strong start in the first set and was winning the baseline rallies with pace going 5-1 up before Kudla could start playing himself into the match.
Kudla started steadily improving as both players, but especially Kudla, who at times was rolling in 70 mph second serves, were leaving points to be won on rallies. The American rivals slapped the ball back and forth on the baseline, with Harrison mixing in the occasional 130+ mph plus serve when he could. Harrison was a fantastic counterpuncher on his best points of the match, lulling Kudla to sleep with his defensive slice and then delivering a stunning accelerating winner, but unfortunately he couldn’t maintain that level and had issues with his shot selection.
Given the difficult conditions it seemed both players were content to let their rival hold serve if they didn’t win the opening point of the service game as a returner. A pair of breaks in set 2 saw it go to 5-4 Kudla, and then Harrison was promptly broken under pressure to be forced into a third set 6-3 4-6.
The third set remained competitive and close, and though it went by quickly, Kudla had to save a break point and Harrison had to save two, as Kudla had a point to go 5-3 up in the third and serve for the match, but was quite unclutch in that moment. Eventually the match ground itself to a third set tiebreak and it was Kudla who was slightly steadier from the ground who won it.
Harrison’s footwork tended to be lacking and he slapped an easy forehand into the net on a crucial point as Kudla needed just 1 match point to close things out. All in both both players showed a relative lack of inventive shotmaking, and Harrison with his footwork troubles demonstrated why his ranking has slipped from where it used to be.
Steve Johnson played a sloppy second set tiebreak, but otherwise had the better of Lukas Lacko as he advanced 6-1 6-7(3) 6-2 in close to 2 hours. Johnson, who was effective with his serve, dominated a slow starting Lacko in the first set, going up 5-0 with minimal effort required before Lukas even woke up from his slumber. The talented but underachieving Lacko did wake up though, holding it together in set 2 after saving four break point chances at 2-2, and one more at 3-3 to eventually force a second set tiebreak. Johnson was tight and tense in that tiebreak, and Lacko forced a third set 7-3, after the tiebreak went to 3-3 even, the Slovak railed off four straight points.
Johnson serving against Lacko
Lacko, who hit some nice forehand winners, showed the ability to hit through and past Johnson, but Johnson was simply more consistent from both wings, as Lacko would hit a nice winner followed by multiple errors. The wheels really came off for Lacko at 2-3 in the third set, and he failed to win another game (though he had one more break point), as Johnson escaped what could have been a longer and more competitive battle.
Though pushed to three sets Kudla and Johnson both survived and advanced and appear to be in solid shape going into the next round.
This can also be said of Jared Donaldson, as the American teen moved his win streak to four matches in a row with a main draw win over Somdev Devvarman 6-1 3-6 6-4. Donaldson played incredible tennis in the first set against the steady but relatively weaponless Devvarman. The wheels came off for the Taylor Dent coached Californian in set 2, and he was dealing with cramping in the hot conditions, but in the end the fans seemed to pull him through. In the third set after a bunch of routine holds Donaldson had two match points from 15-40, Devvarman got lucky and saved one of them in incredible fashion with a defense to offense running forehand winner, but Donaldson won the next point, and earned a big win for his new career.
The composure that Donaldson showed in an ATP main draw match was not demonstrated by his fellow American teenager Frances Tiafoe, to the chagrin of Tiafoe’s many fans at Atlantic Station. Tiafoe fell to Sam Groth 7-6(3) 6-4 in a little under an hour and a half. As is to be expected Groth’s massive serve was present from the beginning of the match, and since it never left him, Tiafoe found himself frustrated and neutralized when returning. The D.C. area resident was solid on his own serve as Groth lacked much of a ground stroke game and moved poorly, but when it came down to crunch time Groth saved the only break point he faced serving 5-5 in the first set, and then slipped through the tiebreak.
Groth rocketed first serves past a stunned Tiafoe, while he used kick on his second serve to either finish points at the net, or force Tiafoe to concede an ace or reply with an error of a return. The 17 year old’s body language was awful, especially after losing the first set, he was slumping and moping about, and it was visible to everyone that his inability to mount any sort of a return game had infected his mind with doubts.
Tiafoe checked out in the second as he quickly went down 7-6 2-0 to Groth. He did avoid the double break and stayed in touch with Groth the rest of the match, but Groth appeared content to just hold serve like a silent assassin while Tiafoe, with his lost focus, slammed his racquet late in the second, and before you knew it it was Groth who was into round 2.
Groth vs. Tiafoe
Tiafoe showed promise with his abilities but he still has a lot to learn and improve upon in coming years, hopefully the challenger tour will help mold his game, including self-belief, and the mentality side of the pro game. His shot selection, with questionable drop shots, and his ability to pass a net-rusher like Groth also came accross as holes in his game.
Veterans Baghdatis, Sela Earn Wins
The match performance of the day goes to Marcos Baghdatis, the Cypriot veteran was given a noon time match, and it was clear he had little interest in staying on court for an extended period of time. Baghdatis comfortably went about his business dispatching qualifier Austin Krajicek 6-4 6-0. Krajicek simply lacked the weaponry to deal with a creative and aggressive shotmaker in Baghdatis. Marcos broke in the opening game with crafty play, and then held serve through the first set without facing a break point, even though he missed a chance to go up two breaks.
In the second Krajicek was broken in the opening game again, but had two break points to even things back up, he failed to do so, and from there it was routine one-way traffic for Baggy who had some great angles on his forehand and also played some quality drop shots.
Krajicek was forced to hit weak slices well behind the baseline as Baghdatis appears to be in great form for his next match. It’s also worth noting he appears to be fit, after previously lacking fitness in recent years, and he seems serious about playing tennis these days.
Baghdatis was in good spirits
Joining Baghdatis in round 2 is fellow veteran Benjamin Becker, Becker won the first set over Michael Berrer and then Berrer, who had spent the week in Bogota the week prior, retired 7-5 down. It appears that Becker is past the back injuries that were ailing him in recent weeks.
Last but certainly not least in Tuesday singles, Dudi Sela and Mardy Fish played the night session singles match, a match that would prove to be Fish’s final singles match in Atlanta as he lost 6-4 6-4. The defending finalist Sela was shaky at times in what was a sloppy error-strewn match from both players, but at the end of the day Fish, who hadn’t played an ATP match since March, was the rusty one.
Fish vs. Sela
The fan-favorite Fish found himself broken to go down 3-1 at the start, he broke back for 4-4, but then got broken once more as Sela held on to take the first 6-4. Very few rallies went longer than five shots as it was a serve+ short rally type of match with break points peppered throughout, as neither player featured a particularly strong serve, Fish simply rusty with his first serves, and Sela lacking weaponry.
Sela saved four break points in the second set in clutch fashion, while Fish saved two before again being broken late for 5-4 and then surrendering the match as he couldn’t break Sela in his final service game. Both players got ovations from the crowd post match, while Sela mused he wasn’t a big fan of the court conditions. It’s also worth noting Fish showed spark, even on his farewell tour, as he had a rather lengthy argument with the chair umpire during the second set.
Fish exchanged words with the chair
Pospisil/Sock Shocked in Doubles
In doubles, surprising results were the norm, the #4 seeds Pavic/Venus fell to Atlanta’s Young/Eubanks 6-2 3-6 10-5, Mannarino/Ebden were run out of the building by Butorac/Sitak 6-2 6-0, and the defending champion team of Pospisil/Sock were stunned by Fleming/Muller 6-4 4-6 10-6 as the draw opens up for that interesting pairing.
Pospisil to Feature on Wednesday in Singles, Big Servers Groth, Muller Return to Court
Matches on Wednesday include Vasek Pospisil against Rendy Lu in their first head to head meeting, Baghdatis against Groth in a battle of baseline attack against serve and volley, Ricardas Berankis and Tim Smyczek in a first round match, Chris Eubanks against Radek Stepanek in the other remaining round 1 match, Go Soeda, who appears to be rounding into form, against Adrian Mannarino, who may struggle in these conditions, and an in-form Gilles Muller against Jared Donaldson who may lack the ability to recover after four matches in four days this week.
A whole host of doubles matches will also take place as the first round gets going in earnest with the doubles draw as well.
2015 ATP Atlanta (@BBTAtlantaOpen) Preview and Prediction Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic is pleased to have live coverage all week from the BB&T Atlanta Open, the first stop on the Emirates Airlines US Open Series, and an ATP 250 hard court event located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia at the live/work/play community of Atlantic Station. This American heavy field features young guns, and a variety of accomplished veterans all looking for an ATP title, ranking points, and prize money. Here is a preview
2015 BB&T Atlanta Open Preview
BB&T Atlanta Open
ATP World Tour 250
Atlanta, GA, USA
July 27-August 2, 2015
Prize Money: $585,870
Top 4 seeds (who all recieve first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: John Isner (19)
2: Vasek Pospisil (29)
3: Adrian Mannarino (27)
4: Jack Sock (35)
One top 20 player in what should be a rather wide open week with a lot of hard court specialists in the draw.
Mardy Fish has officially announced he will retire at the 2015 US Open after a lengthy absence from the ATP tour due to both a heart condition and anxiety disorder. Atlanta is the first tournament on his summer goodbye to American fans on US soil, and his first match in Atlanta, where he won the first two titles (2010 and 2011) will come against defending finalist Dudi Sela, a fellow veteran.
Fish played an exciting and long three setter in Indian Wells, losing to Ryan Harrison in a third set tiebreak, but otherwise hasn’t played an ATP singles match since 2013. Sela qualified for ATP Nottingham and won a challenger some time ago, but otherwise has been playing a light schedule, and may be rusty. Both players are comfortable here, and Fish will certainly have a shot to get out of the first round if Sela comes into this match unprepared.
(8)Benjamin Becker vs. Michael Berrer
Two Germans will battle, and both are well past 30 and nearing the end of their careers. Becker, 34, has a 2-1 h2h edge over his 35 year old rival though he’s in poor form since injuring his back at Roland Garros (where he reached the third round). Besides third round results at the AO and French, Becker has had a rough season, as his powerful serve and forehand baseline game may well be declining with age after having a great 2014, which included a semifinal in Atlanta.
Berrer is retiring at the end of the year but has had a great send off season. The German is 33-16 in tournament matches and comes off the semifinals in Bogota where he played great serve and volley tennis. He also upset Rafael Nadal in Doha this year, the win of his life, and appears to be playing with joy and passion in his final season. Berrer should be the favorite, pending Becker’s health, but he had to put in effort in Bogota and given the altitude difference and condition changes, he may be dealing with fatigue.
(7)Gilles Muller vs. Donald Young
Former Atlanta finalist Gilles Muller will face Atlanta native Donald Young in what should prove to be an interesting Monday evening match. Muller has had a solid season at 32 years of age. The big serving veteran has two ATP semis (Sydney and Den Bosch) along with four ATP quarterfinals on his resume this year, and has proven himself across the surfaces, though his serve and volley game excels on quick ones. This is his first tournament since Wimbledon, but he seems to enjoy Atlanta and I expect his form to be good entering the tournament.
Young is in poor form as he returns home, the European portion of the season was tough on his spirits and he hasn’t won an ATP main draw match since Indian Wells. The talent has always been there for DY, but I’m not sure playing at home particularly improves his game, and thus Muller is a strong favorite to advance into round 2.
Sam Groth vs. (WC)Frances Tiafoe
Formerly top junior, and now an ATP young gun on future star watch, Frances Tiafoe gets a deserved wild card on US soil for a hard court tournament. Tiafoe turned pro in the spring at 17 and promptly went on to earn the USTA French Open Wild card. Since his stint on clay he hasn’t played a ton of matches and his form hasn’t been great, but he should be pumped up and have his game face on for a match against big serving ATP regular Sam Groth.
Groth has risen into the top 70 and has had a fantastic ATP season, he has helped Australia reach the Davis Cup semis, has two ATP quarterfinals on his record, and also a solid challenger tour record with a couple of titles. His serve is massive and he’s improved other parts of his game as he’s still a serve and volleyer by style. Tiafoe has a lot of talent and has a bright future ahead, but Groth’s rocket of a serve should dent his hopes of winning this match, as the more experienced Aussie is likely to get through.
Tiafoe prepping for Atlanta weather early
2x defending champion John Isner gets a bye, and he’ll face the winner of Christopher Eubanks/Radek Stepanek in round 2. Eubanks is a star on the Georgia Tech tennis team and gets a wild card for his local ATP event. He’s a big player size wise and may well have an ATP future ahead of him while Stepanek comes off the quarterfinals in Bogota (and doubles final) but has struggled since returning from injury this year. The Czech veteran plays an effective serve and volley style, and he likely gets past Eubanks, but Isner should prove to be too much for him in the next round. He had a decent grass court season (quarterfinal at Queens and Wimbledon third round) and always enjoys coming back to the US to play on hard courts. He’s had some bad losses this year but he’s still a top 20 player.
An All-American quarterfinal is likely for Isner, as #6 seed Steve Johnson is in a section that slates him to face Lukas Lacko round 1, and Ricardas Berankis/Tim Smyczek round 2 Johnson beat Lacko at Wimbledon as the Slovak is in poor form, and Stevie J is clearly happy to be back on North American hard courts, his best surface where he has posted three ATP quarterfinals already this season. Smyczek who had a good start to the year has been in awful form as of late and will be looking to improve his play here, Berankis comes off of a challenger final, and may be fatigued, thus this section plays into Johnson’s racquet.
Stevie J on the move
#3 seed Jack Sock gets a bye and will face Ryan Harrison or a qualifier in round 2, Sock with his big forehand captured the ATP title in Houston this year and also comes off the semis in Newport. He’s excelled since returning from hip surgery this season and will have a solid chance to repeat his run to the semifinals. Harrison has been stuck in the challenger trap most of this season though he had a rare run of form to the semis in Acapulco back in the spring. He recently reached a challenger semifinal in Winnetka, but Sock will be a clear favorite against the former young gun American, as their careers have diverged in recent years.
Sela/Fish and Berrer/Becker is the section below Sock, Berrer is likely a slight favorite unless fatigue gets him down, Becker’s health remains a question, and Sela/Fish will have rust, but Fish with his talent level could actually reach the quarters. Regardless Sock is a strong favorite to reach the semis out of his section, as his abilities far outweight any of the alternatives.
Wimbledon quarterfinalist Vasek Pospisil is playing his first tournament since his shocking run there, as the Canadian with his big serve and aggressive game hasn’t had a particularly strong season, but Wimbledon was a revitalization for his career, and we may be seeing Vasek 2.0 in Atlanta, The Canadian will open with the Malek Jaziri/Rendy Lu winner as those two streaky baseliners will battle. Jaziri reached the quarters in Bogota while Lu reached the quarters in Nottingham for his best result as of late. Lu will likely deal better with the hot, difficult conditions, and if he catches form he could also trouble Pospisil, though Vasek is the favorite.
Groth/Tiafoe, likely Groth, will face Marcos Baghdatis or a qualifier in round 2. The 30 year old Baghdatis has been fighting hard to stay in shape and build up his game back to what was top 15 level tennis with his quick strike offensive baselining. That said, he struggled in a loss in Bogota to an unknown Colombia and hasn’t posted good results on hard courts as of late, though he greatly enjoyed the short grass court season. Baghdatis could struggle in these conditions and don’t count a qualifier out, I have Groth upsetting him in round 2 with his steady serve to fill another quarterfinal sport.
Bogota finalist Adrian Mannarino is in terrific form (19-8 on hard courts in 2015), and hasn’t lost an opening round match since London Queens, that said the Bogota matches likely wore him down with his finesse game and he’s extremely vulnerable to an upset by Go Soeda, a defensive Japanese baseliner, or more likely the talented shotmaker and speedy magician Alexandr Dolgopolov. Soeda isn’t in great form, while Dolgopolov has two quarterfinals, and one ATP semifinal this year, as he continues to demonstrate his streaky talent. A fresh Mannarino could well take this title, but on paper Dolgopolov has the advantage, pending his fitness and acclimation to the sport at its top levels. His ranking of 76 severely undersells his ability to play top 20 tennis at its peak.
Muller/Young or a qualifier will await Dolgopolov/Mannarino in the quarters, Muller have a great shot at reaching the semis as either opponent looks beatable and Dolgo is vulnerable to big servers who can match his aggression.
Isner d. Johnson
Sock d. Berrer
Muller d. Dolgopolov
Pospisil d. Groth
Isner is 3-1 against Johnson and all of their meetings have come since 2014, both have been in only somewhat decent form but Isner in Atlanta tends to rise up to some of his best tennis, and thus I have him through
A fresher Sock should advantage over a tired Berrer, and Muller likely has an edge consistency wise with his serve against Dolgopolov, who can lose momentum quickly. Overall it’s an open field but experienced and steady seeds will have the advantage to go deep into the week.
Isner beat Sock in Atlanta last year and has a 4-1 overall h2h edge, both have talent, and Sock is likely the future American #1, but h2h Isner’s huge serve and consistent blows seem to bother Sock and throw him off his game.
Muller is 2-0 against Pospisil in the h2h and won a great match against him this year on grass in Den Bosch, it went to a third set tiebreak, but Muller held his nerve, and given his previous Atlanta results I have a feeling he will do the same to setup an all big serving final.
If this is the final we get, there is some h2h history as Isner beat Muller Twice in Atlanta, both times in three sets, and one more time in Memphis before Muller beat Isner this year at the AO (3-1 h2h). Atlanta tends to favor big servers, and tall players normally feature in the final, thus former champ and defending champ Isner, and former finalist Muller are realistic picks. Isner simply loves Atlanta and always finds the energy to do well during the key summer hard court season, with that in mind I’m going with him to win his third tournament in a row in Atlanta.
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.
The most famed slam of them all is here, as the best men’s and women’s tennis players in the world will take to the crisp grass courts of Wimbledon in a show of skills, as they begin the quest for points and glory at SW19. Now that the draw is out, here is a preview, with predictions.
Wimbledon 2015 Preview
June 29-July 12, 2015
Prize Money: 26,750,000
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (3)
4: Stan Wawrinka (4)
5: Kei Nishikori (5)
6: Tomas Berdych (6)
7: Milos Raonic (8)
8: David Ferrer (7)*
Even with the more complex Wimbledon seeding system, the top 8 seeds, are the top 8 players in the world presently, with Raonic and Ferrer switching spots.
All of the top names are here except for David Ferrer, who withdrew with an elbow injury after the draw was made.
First round matchups to watch:
(1)Novak Djokovic vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber
Novak Djokovic will have to face the toughest round 1 opponent he’s faced at a Grand Slam in years, as the unseeded Kohlschreiber is a dark horse on grass in his own right, and even though he is 1-6 in the h2h, he’ll surely give this match his best effort. Djokovic, the defending, and two time, Wimbledon champion, didn’t play any of the ATP warm up tournaments on grass prior to this years tournament, and he went 1-1 in the Boodles challenger exhibition on grass. (losing to Alex Zverev, beating Richard Gasquet). After a disappointing Roland Garros result, Djokovic is showing signs of vulnerability, and the former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kohlschreiber has to have hope of at least taking a set, and quite possibly making this a match. Kohlschreiber pushed Roger Federer to the brink of match point in their Halle match, eventually losing in three sets. I expect Djokovic to survive due to Kohlschreiber’s mental liabilities, but it won’t be easy.
(24)Leonardo Mayer vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis
Mayer, an Argentine, tends to prefer clay, and thusly he’s not a “Top 25” player on grass, as his seed would indicate. That said, he’s no slouch either as he comes off the quarterfinals in Nottingham after a pair of wins, and a third set tiebreak loss to Denis Istomin. Opposing him will be the young Australian Kokkinakis. Last year Nick Kyrgios was the one who made his breakthrough at Wimbledon, and now Kokkinakis will try to seize his moment. He’s still adjusting to grass but he’s a solid competitor with a good fast court game, meaning this match is about even odds in my mind. It’s a tough pick, but I’m going with the spirited Australian in 4 or 5 sets over Mayer.
(5)Kei Nishikori vs. Simone Bolelli
Last year they battled for five sets with Nishikori coming out on top at Wimbledon. The Japanese #1 comes off the semis in Halle, and hopefully he’s healthy and ready to make a push in London. Bolelli. a talented shotmaker is 5-2 on grass with a Nottingham quarterfinal on his resume in 2015. This one could well go five also, but Nishikori should be able break Bolelli down into errors and grab a win.
Stan the man beat Sousa at Wimbledon in straights last year, and now as a defending quarterfinalist and the French Open champion, he will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to do well this year. Wawrinka slumped in a defeat to Kevin Anderson at Queens club, and could be vulnerable to a shocking upset, I don’t expect it to happen as Sousa went just 2-3 on grass in 2015, but he did beat Denis Istomin and Sam Groth, a pair of good grass courters, so the ability is there, though consistency is lacking for the streaky Portugese. Wawrinka is most likely to win in straights.
Dustin Brown vs. Yen-Hsun Lu
A great grass court battle of unheralded players. The powerful serve and volleyer Brown qualified for Wimbledon with ease, and did the same in Stuttgart, as his game is at its peak on quick surfaces. Lu upset Halle finalist Andreas Seppi and Feliciano Lopez to reach the quarterfinals in Nottingham, he also qualified at Queens and appears to be in good form with his baseline oriented weaponless game. Brown will provide more spark and excitement, but Lu should be the more reliable of the pair, and thus I have him advancing.
(13)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Gilles Muller
My pick for the most notable seeded victim of round 1 is Tsonga. He played a close encounter with Muller last year on indoor hard, and he’s apparently not been healthy since the French Open semis. JW is fine on grass, but Muller is also excellent with his staunch serve and aggressive volley play. It should be 4 or 5 sets, but look for Muller to win some tiebreaks and get through this match in an upset.
Robin Haase vs. (Q)Alejandro Falla
A matchup with great grass court potential, Falla beat Haase last year in Halle on grass , and he qualified in Halle this year, and for Wimbledon, proving his forehand centric lefty game is still effective on the surface. Haase reached the semis in Den Bosch and can produce great varied tennis on grass, though his mental fortitude is continually lacking. This one could go either way, but I give Falla a slight edge to get through, perhaps in 5 sets.
You can’t beat this match if you like serve and volley tennis on grass, Lopez is 1-1 against Darcis, a fellow veteran with a similar style, though Flopez has more power, and flopez did get a win at Queens when they met on grass in 2012. Darcis famously beat Rafa here, and the otherwise journeyman Belgian simply loves the venue. That said is currently on a five match losing streak. Lopez has had a pedestrian grass court season, going 2-3, but he still has previous success at Wimbledon, and thus I give him the edge to advance.
(31)Jack Sock vs. Sam Groth
Sock will take on a player five years his senior, in the form of the big serving serve and volleyer Groth. The young gun American with a great forehand should have an advantage in this match given his well rounded game, but Groth will be able to apply constant pressure by holding his serve and if he can keep the error count down on his racquet he’ll have his shot in this one. The Australian reached the quarters in Stuttgart and won a challenger in title on grass this year. Sock elected not to play any of the ATP tournaments on grass as warm-up but presumably he’s healthy. I have Jack winning this but a Groth upset wouldn’t shock me.
The winner of Djokovic/Kohlschreiber will face Jarkko Nieminen or Lleyton Hewitt in round 2, as Djokovic could face two talented grass courters in consecutive matches. The former Wimbledon champion Hewitt is playing his final Wimbledon, and surely the legend wants to leave a final mark on the All-England Club center court against Djokovic. Hewitt has been in sharp decline and has been both mentally and physically struggling this year, but he’s still 5-0 against the speedy Nieminen, and thus I’m going with him to snap a losing streak and get to round 2, before bowing out against Novak, who is superior in every way at this point in their respective careers.
The draw does not get easier for Djokovic after Kohlschreiber and Hewitt/Nieminen, as a tough first week will conclude against former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Bernard Tomic in all likelihood. Tomic, a Stuttgart quarterfinalist, will need to defeat JL Struff, who is in the midst of a losing streak, and then Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Hyeon Chung in round 2. Herbert, a big server. qualified for Wimbledon and should have the inside track against Chung, who has talent but is inexperienced on the surface. Look for Bernie to beat them both, and then fall to Djokovic as he has in the three previous times they have met, including the 2011 Wimbledon quarters.
14 seed Kevin Anderson, a finalist in Queens, should be able to cruise past young dirtballer Lucas Pouille. who has lost five straight, and likewise pass a stiffer test against Jerzy Janowicz, a former Wimbledon semifinalist in round 2. JJ reached the quarters in Halle but has failed to be consistent this year , I don’t see him dropping a set against journeyman Marsel Ilhan (5 straight losses), but Anderson with his strong serve+forehand combo is a much more challenging opponent, and given the 2-0 h2h, the South African should advance to round 3.
Thanasi Kokkinakis will have a great shot at the third round, and should make it, presuming he defeats Mayer. Marcel Granollers or Janko Tipsarevic, both struggling vets, will be his round 2 opponent, and it’s difficult to tell which Tipsy will show up for that match. Granollers isn’t great but at least he’s been able to play competitive tennis, and thus I have him as the one losing to Kokkinakis round 2. Anderson beat Kokkinakis last year, and given this is grass with the South Africans good form, look for Djokovic vs. Anderson in the round of 16, as Kev’s good form in Queens should carry him into the second week at Wimbledon.
The winner of Nishikori/Bolelli, presumably Kei unless we get carnage in the first quarter, will almost certainly face Santiago Giraldo in round 2, unless the Colombian is shocked by Joao Souza. who has almost never played on grass. Giraldo has struggled this season, and thus even with his power forehand game maxed, Nishikori is likely to advance to round 3 presuming he can get past the round 1 match.
In that third round, any of the four options could await. Denis Kudla, the-all court American wild card with a good grass game is here, and will have an upset chance against dirtballer Pablo Cuevas. Kudla is on a hot streak with a challenger final and a title on grass in consecutive weeks, he’s always been on the cusp of a breakthrough, so a third round run would be huge for his confidence. Teymuraz Gabashvili and Alex Zverev are also both unseeded players in good form, Gabashvili won a challenger recently, while Zverev beat Djokovic in an exhibition, and is 4-3 in ATP grass court tournaments this season. It’s a tough call between Zverev and Gabashvili, but I’m going with Zverev, and then Kudla over Zverev, before Nishikori beats Kudla in the third round, simply given the difference in talent and performance in their careers, and this season.
Marin Cilic and John Isner could be on a third round collision course, Cilic a Stuttgart semifinalist, appears to be finally getting back into top 10 form after coming back from injury, and he should blitz outgunned qualifier Hiroki Moriya in round 1. After that Cilic will also be a heavy favorite against Ricardas Berankis or Andreas Haider-Maurer. AHM much prefers clay, while Berankis qualified in Halle, I have Berankis winning the round 1 match, but losing routinely to Cilic.
Isner will face another Japanese qualifier, Go Soeda, in round 1, and the Queens semifinalist should also outgun his opponent. In round 2, Isner is likely to face Matt Ebden, a formerly top 100 Aussie who is a bit of a grass court specialist these days like Kudla, Ebden and Kudla have torn up the grass court challenger circuit in the UK this year (1 title, 1 final each) and Matty should roll past Blaz Rola, a former college tennis standout. Ebden could challenge Isner if the American can’t get off the blocks well, but in all likelihood it will be Cilic vs. Isner round 3.
Cilic dominates the h2h (4-0) against Isner, and with the exception of serve, is a better player than Isner in each of the important categories. It could be a battle, but Cilic should be the player who reaches the second week.
Wawrinka/Sousa will open with with Benjamin Becker or Victor Estrella. Becker is a good grass courter but hasn’t been healthy recently, while Estrella is on a five match losing streak. If Becker is healthy he should get through that round 1 match, but Wawrinka, barring a shocking collapse, has a safe path to the third round. Former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Fernando Verdasco could await there, he will open with Martin Klizan, who has power but not really a game built for grass. Verdasco should be able to defeat Klizan and then defeat Dominic Thiem or Dudi Sela in round 2. Sela is a career journeyman but the undersized Israeli is good on grass, while Thiem is adjusting to the surface and was a poor 1-3 this year. Thiem has more talent than Sela, but upset potential is there.
Verdasco vs. Wawrinka should be a great third round match, Verdasco actually leads the h2h 2-1 but they have never met on a fast surface, the match should be on Stan’s racquet regardless, as both players can play erratic or brilliant tennis depending on the day. Wawrinka’s backhand will collide with Verdasco’s forehand, and I see Wawrinka surviving that match to reach the round of 16.
The section below Wawrinka/Verdasco is wide open, the 16 seed is David Goffin, who reached the final in Den Bosch, his best ever result on grass. Goffin should cruise past dirtballer Horacio Zeballos and then defeat either Marinko Matosevic or British wild card Liam Broady in round 2. Matosevic has lost 11 matches in a row, Broady has lost 6 in a row in one of the most out of form grand slam matches you will witness. Broady should ride the home crowd to an upset win over the hapless Matosevic, before falling to Goffin. Nottingham semifinalist Marcos Baghdatis, who tends to peak on grass, even late in his career, with his aggressive quick strike game, will open with struggling Donald Young who is on a four match losing streak. Presuming Baghdatis is healthy and fit, he should win that one, and setup a meeting with either qualifier John Millman or Tommy Robredo. Millman has always been a talent but he’s been an underachiever , while Robredo has struggled this year and went 1-1 on grass in 2015. Millman upset Robredo in Sydney in 2013, and I have him doing so again, and upsetting the 19 seed. Baghdatis should beat Millman or Robredo for a spot in the third round.
Goffin-Baghdatis should be another great match, Baghdatis has a 3-0 h2h edge including two wins this year, and I give him the advantage if he’s healthy. Look for the veteran Baghdatis to advance to the second week given his previous semifinal result at Wimbledon years ago.
7 seed Milos Raonic will open with Daniel Gimeno-Traver, a dirtballer, Raonic has been slow returning from a foot injury, but he has a good draw to reach the second week. After DGT, Tommy Haas or Dusan Lajovic will be next. Haas has, as expected, been slow returning from injury as well, with a 1-2 record on grass, and though he should beat Lajovic, who is poor on grass, Raonic should prove to be too stiff of a test for the veteran German, Raonic beat Haas in 2013 on indoor hard in straights.
Look for Nick Kyrgios to also reach the third round, after his run to the quarterfinals last year. Kyrgios has been struggling under the pressure of being the top young gun in the game at the moment, but Diego Schwartzman, his round 1 opponent, is a dirtballer, and neither Juan Monaco, nor a struggling Florian Mayer should be able to oust him in round 2. Monaco is another South American relatively allergic to grass, while Mayer reached the quarters in Halle, but the veteran has otherwise struggled. Kyrgios-Mayer could be good but presuming NK is healthy he should be fine, he tends to peak for slams.
Raonic-Kyrgios could be a great match, and NK shouldn’t be counted out, especially with Raonic having the lingering effects of a foot injury, but his relentless serve should baffle Kyrgios just like it did at Wimbledon last year, where Kyrgios was in better form. The Queens quarterfinalist Raonic should reach the second week.
11 seed Grigor Dimitrov opens with Federico Delbonis, and the winner of Lukas Lacko/Steve Johnson will follow that. Dimitrov is struggling, a winner of just two of his last six matches but he reached the semis here last year and should at least get to round 2. Johnson and Lacko are both inconsistent, but if on, could trouble Dimitrov, that said I have Grisha reaching round 3 and setting up a match against Richard Gasquet, the versatile French veteran. Gasquet opens with qualifier Luke Saville, who could trouble him given his previous junior success at Wimbledon (2011 boys champion). Gasquet should win that though and then beat either qualifier JP Smith or qualifier Kenny De Schepper, more likely De Schepper, to get that match against Dimitrov.
Gasquet is 4-0 in the h2h against Dimitrov, that said the match should still be a battle if they meet in round 3. Gasquet should advance though given Dimitrov’s poor form, and thus reach the second week.
The former Wimbledon champion, and current Queens club champion Andy Murray once again has the hopes of a nation on him at Wimbledon. His form has been fantastic all season, across the surfaces, and he should blitz into the fourth round with relative ease. Mikhail Kukushkin, who is struggling, is an easy out in round 1, and then Haase/Falla would challenge him given this is grass, but it’s unlikely they will be able to maintain the level needed to oust the UK #1. In the third round, Andreas Seppi, the Halle finalist, should await. Seppi with his varied game should be able to dispatch Brydan Klein, a UK wild card, and the winner of Sergiy Stakhovsky/Borna Coric. Coric/Stako have split meetings this year, Stakhovsky is superior on grass and thus he’s the favorite with his serve and volley game. Stako could also give Seppi problems but he hasn’t been entirely healthy. Murray is 6-1 in his career vs Seppi.
Tsonga/Muller will face Denis Istomin or Albert Ramos in round 2, Istomin won the title in Nottingham and he’s a good grass courter so he could trouble either Muller or Tsonga, but given the fatigue factor I have Muller into the third round. Ivo Karlovic will face Elias Ymer, a qualifier, in round 1, Dr. Ivo should win that with his big serve, andthen Kyle Edmund, a wild card, or Alexandr Dolgopolov will await. Dolgopolov is in good form and has two previous h2h wins over Ivo, thus I have him advancing into the third round. The Ukrainian shotmaker defeated Rafael Nadal at Queens and reached the semis in Nottingham while Karlovic reached the semis in Halle, and upset Tomas Berdych.
Muller-Dolgopolov (or Tsonga/Karlovic/Istomin) here should make for an interesting third rounder, Dolgo, if on, is a top 20 player in terms of talent, but he tends to have lapses in his game, while Muller is steady but doesn’t have as much of a peak. Either serve as a dark horse, and I have Dolgopolov getting past the two servebots Karlovic and Muller to reach the second week.
Rafael Nadal,the champion in Stuttgart, will be looking to avoid an early exit against Thomaz Bellucci. Nadal tends to be boom or bust on grass these days, and Bellucci has power, but he’s not great on grass, thus Nadal should win that, and beat Brown or Lu in round 2. Brown could trouble Nadal, as he has beaten Rafa before on grass, but I don’t see that resulting repeating itself unless Dreddy can redline his game. In the third round, Viktor Troicki, the player he faced in the Stuttgart final, is his likely opponent. Troicki opens with Alex Nedovyesov, a qualifier, and then the winner of Radek Stepanek/Aljaz Bedene. Stepanek is a declined veteran, though formerly good on grass, and with Troicki in red hot form, he shouldn’t have issue reaching the third round.
Nadal is 5-0 in his career against Troicki, so barring a shot he should dispatch the Stuttgart finalist and Queens semifinalist to reach the second week.
After the Ferrer withdrawal, lucky loser Luca Vanni will be an underdog against British wild card James Ward, as Ward has a great chance to go as far as the fourth round on grass. At a minimum, Wardy should rise and defeat Vanni in front of home fans. After that Jiri Vesely, who opens with grass allergic Paolo Lorenzi awaits. Ward isn’t in great form, while Vesely isn’t great on grass, that said, Vesely has more talent so I see him reaching the third round.
30 seed Fabio Fognini opens with a struggling Tim Smyczek, Fognini is volatile and not great on grass, thus Smyczek will have his chance, but Fognini is more likely to be ousted by a hopefully healthy Vasek Pospisil in round 2. Pospisil opens with qualifier Vincent Millot, a French journeyman veteran. He’s showed signs of improvement though he’s struggled, from time to time this year and in a weak section, I have him upsetting Fognini to reach round 3.
It’s amazing that any of the players in this section would reach the fourth round, Pospisil-Vesely is my pick for the third round matchup, and that’s a coin flip to me. I have Pospisil advancing based upon the surface, but he hasn’t showed the form needed to reach the second week of a slam in quite some time, so perhaps this is Vesely’s time to rise.
The 7 time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer will again serve it up at SW19, in what is perhaps his last realistic chance to win another Grand Slam and add to his record setting total. A finalist last year, the Swiss should roll past Damir Dzumhur, and either Nottingham finalist Sam Querrey, or qualifier Igor Sijsling to reach the third round. Sock/Groth should await him in round 3, and I don’t see them giving him too much trouble given this is grass. Sock/Groth faces the winner of Malek Jaziri/James Duckworth in round 2.
Lopez/Darcis will face Nikolosz Basilashvili, a qualifier, or dirtballer Facundo Bagnis round 2. Lopez presuming he gets past Darcis shouldn’t have a problem reaching the third round. Roberto Bautista Agut could await there for an all-Spanish battle, presuming RBA beats all courter Ruben Bemelmans, and then Benoit Paire or Mikhail Youzhny. Paire hates grass, while Youzhny is nearing retirement and in poor form. I actually have RBA losing to Bemelmans in an upset, but I may be too bullish on that. The Belgian qualified for Nottingham while RBA has lost three straight. Bemelmans should also defeat Paire or Youzhny, and I have Bemelmans over Youzhny in my bracket.
Given this is grass, Lopez should reach the second week and defeat Bemelmans or another opponent, even though his season has been poor thus far.
Tomas Berdych will open with Jeremy Chardy, who he has a 3-0 h2h advantage against. Berdych reached the quarters in Halle and the former Wimbledon finalist should be able to get past that one. Wild card Nicolas Mahut, the Den Bosch champion, is a dangerous grass court serve and volleyer in round 2, presuming he rolls past Filip Krajinovic, but Berdych should have too much power for Mahut, and also one of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez/Pablo Andujar/Ernests Gulbis/Lukas Rosol in round 3. Gulbis has been awful this year, and Rosol can be a powerful ball basher on grass, thus look for Rosol to beat Gulbis, and also Garcia-Lopez given this is grass to reach round 3. GGL reached the quarters in Queens and beat Andujar there.
Rosol is to some extent a poor man’s Berdych, given their similar styles, and the fact Berdych does everything better than Rosol, Tomas should reach the round of 16 in the battle of Davis Cup teammates. He has a 2-0 h2h edge on hard courts.
12 seed Gilles Simon opens with Nicolas Almagro, with the winner of qualifier Yuichi Sugita/Blaz Kavcic to follow. The Queens semifinalist and Nottingham quarterfinalist Simon, who has been steady this year, should advance through those matches with ease to reach round 3. Sugita is good on grass and should beat Kavcic.
18 seed Gael Monfils opens with dirtballer Pablo Carreno Busta, and then Adrian Mannarino or Michael Berrer in round 2. Berrer qualified, while Mannarino, a Den Bosch quarterfinalist, is a good all-courter. Mannarino should give Monfils a test, but the Stuttgart semifinalist and Halle quarterfinalist should come through and reach round 3 to setup an all-French battle with Simon.
Simon-Monfils has previously given us some of the most exciting, yet boring tennis known to man, that said, Simon dominates the h2h 5-1, and he won a h2h meeting this year in Marseille, given his good form, Gilles is the favorite for the round of 16.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Simone Bolelli, Marcos Baghdatis, Alexandr Dolgopolov/Gilles Muller, Ruben Bemelmans
Bolelli would need to defeat Nishikori, but if he pulls off that feat the Italian shotmaker will be the favorite in every possible match going into the round of 16, and there he would have a chance against Cilic/Isner. Baghdatis should reach the round of 16, and I wouldn’t put it past him to upset Wawrinka/Verdasco there.
Dolgopolov or Muller are reaching week 2 in my bracket, I don’t see them getting past Murray though ,while Bemelmans could reach the second week if Lopez comes up short. Upsetting RBA would be a big move for him.
Djokovic d. Anderson
Cilic d. Nishikori
Wawrinka d. Baghdatis
Raonic d. Gasquet
Nadal d. Pospisil
Murray d. Dolgopolov
Berdych d. Simon
Federer d. Lopez
Djokovic is 4-1 against Anderson and has a Wimbledon win, Cilic and Nishikori are rivals and Kei has a 5-3 edge in that one, that said this is grass and I feel Cilic has a small advantage now that he’s coming into form, just like his upset win at the US Open in the 2014 final.
Wawrinka is 5-0 against Baghdatis and has a grass court win, making me feel more at ease picking him. Raonic just beat Gasquet at Queens and leads the h2h 3-1 in that one, he should improve with each match he plays and serve his way into the quarters.
Presuming Nadal reaches the round of 16, his matchup there should be easy and the quarters is close a lock for Rafa. Murray is 3-0 against Dolgo and superior on grass, so he also should accelerate into the quarters. Murray beat Muller at Queens this year.
Simon leads the h2h 6-4 against Berdych but Berdych won their meeting this year, and has been solid this year, I feel he will overpower the Frenchman to reach the quarters. Fed is 11-0 against Lopez and I don’t see him losing before the quarters.
Picking the rest of the way
Djokovic d. Cilic
Raonic d. Wawrinka
Murray d. Nadal
Federer d. Berdych
Djokovic beat Cilic at Wimbledon last year in 5 sets, and he leads the h2h 12-0 in that matchup, Wawrinka is 4-0 against Raonic, but their matchups have been relatively close, and this is grass, a surface I feel swings the advantage to Raonic.
Murray shocked Nadal in Madrid this year and though Rafa is 3-0 at Wimbledon in the h2h, Murray is in some of the best form of his career right now, while Rafa is not, and with that being the case, I have Murray advancing in a battle. Federer has twice beaten Berdych this year, and tends to dominate that matchup on the mental side. Federer has a loss to Berdych at Wimby but leads the grass h2h 2-1 and I see the world #2 living up to his ranking and getting through.
Semis: Djokovic d. Raonic
Murray d. Federer
Djokovic is 5-0 against Raonic, it’s not out of the equation that he could be tripped up, but Djokovic rolled at their AO meeting this year, and Raonic has yet to prove he can rise up in slams and conjure up a level of play needed to beat the world #1.
Murray hasn’t beaten Federer since back surgery, but he famously beat him in the 2012 Wimbledon final and as mentioned, his form is at its peak at the moment. I’d be surprised if Murray can’t will himself into the final this year, given how solid he’s been all season, it’d be a deserved result for him to get past Fed.
Final: Murray d. Djokovic
I wouldn’t have predicted this result until Djokovic lost in the French Open final to Wawrinka. That result was a mental blow to him and I feel that result will reverberate through the rest of his 2015 season. He struggled under the pressure there, and he has show signs the loss is affecting him. He’s a more talented and skillful player than Murray, but Murray has will and heart on his side at the moment, he appears at ease with his game, and himself, and if there is any surface he can beat Novak on, it’s grass, as their previous Wimbledon final showed.
Novak hasn’t lost to Murray since his back surgery, but Murray appears back, and I was impressed by AM pushing Novak to five sets on clay at the French. Rather than pressure, look for Murray to feed off the home crowd and home cooking and take home a third grand slam title and second Wimbledon title.